Wednesday 29 June 2016

Camera Day

29th June is Camera Day.  No better day for taking photos but I think mine are going to have to be indoors.  It's peeing down!  So for the moment I shall settle for a sunny day from last week as Son-who-watches-films got the barbecue out.


Sunday 26 June 2016

The Falcon Inn, Chester

Many of the inn signs I have photographed are just one small part of a fascinating building.  Sadly many inns have closed in recent years and equally sadly, from my point of view, some which have remained open have lost their signs (for whatever reason).

One such is The Falcon in Chester, England.   The above photo was taken in 2011 when on a trip around the city with GB.  That sign, formerly on the North side of the building, has now gone but there remains a simple wooden board with the name on the East side of the building.

It might seem obvious why an inn should be called The Falcon (especially when next door to The Golden Eagle) – some local interest in falconry, the so-called sport of kings, perhaps.  But there are a number of other potential reasons.  At Bude, in Cornwall, The Falcon was named after a stage-coach that went across the Devon border and the sign depicts a coach not a bird.   Falcon was a popular name for a ship – indicating, like the stage-coach, that it was swift.  A monarch, local lord or dignitary might have a falcon on his crest as did Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare.  (There is no falcon on the Grosvenor family / Duke of Westminster’s crest.)  

The Falcon  stands on the west side of Lower Bridge Street at its junction with Grosvenor Road, within the City walls.  The Falcon is a designated Grade I listed building.  The building formerly incorporated part of Chester Rows, but it was the first building to have its portion of the row enclosed in the 17th century.  The next two photos show The Rows elsewhere in the city centre where they remain and are now protected. 

The Falcon building originated as a house in about 1200 and was later extended to the south along Lower Bridge Street, with a great hall running parallel to the street. During the 13th century it was rebuilt to incorporate its portion of the row. It was rebuilt again during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The house was bought in 1602 by Sir Richard Grosvenor who extensively altered it some 40 years later to make it his town house. During the English Civil War he moved his family here from his country home, Eaton Hall. In 1643 Sir Richard petitioned the City Assembly for leave to enlarge his house by enclosing the portion of the row which passed through his property. This was successful and it set a precedent for other residents of Lower Bridge Street to enclose their portion of the rows, or to build new structures which did not incorporate the rows.

In the late 18th century the building ceased to be the town house of the Grosvenor family. It continued to be owned by them, and between 1778 and 1878 it was licensed as The Falcon Inn.  In about 1879 alterations were made by John Douglas. At this time it was known as The Falcon Cocoa House  and it was re-opened as a temperance house.    Originally the brainchild of the Society of Friends- the Quakers- local cocoa houses came about due to pious concern that Chester's working folk were preferring to spend their time and money in warm and cosy pubs and 'gin palaces' rather than staying in with their families in their cold, damp homes- or even going to church. Interestingly, prominent among those reforming Quakers were the Cadbury and Fry families- chocolate manufacturers! Their concern, evidently, was as much about profits as moral improvement.  

By the 1970s the building had become virtually derelict and in 1979 the Falcon Trust was established, and the Grosvenor Estate donated the building to the Trust. Between 1979 and 1982 the building was restored and in 1983 it won a Europa Nostra award. 

On the side of the building is what is described on one website as a road sign but it doesn't reflect the current road names.  Perhaps the area adjacent to The Falcon was once known as South M...l Place?  Any help in solving that little riddle would be appreciated.

This is a view of The Falcon (far right) as shown in a painting of Louise Rayner (1832-1924). 

Saturday 25 June 2016


Why do our cats always have a mad half hour and often attack  each other immediately after breakfast and yet live in harmony for most of the rest of the day.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Conwy, North Wales

Partner-who-loves-tea and I recently had a trip to Conwy on the North Wales coast so she could do some clothes shopping and I could take some photos.

The Castle is a medieval fortification in Conwy, on the north coast of Wales. It was built by Edward I, during his conquest of Wales, between 1283 and 1289. Constructed as part of a wider project to create the walled town of Conwy, the combined defences cost around £15,000, a huge sum for the period. Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in several wars. It withstood the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn in the winter of 1294–95, acted as a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399 and was held for several months by forces loyal to Owain Glyndŵr in 1401.

Following the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I, holding out until 1646 when it surrendered to the Parliamentary armies. In the aftermath the castle was partially slighted by Parliament to prevent it being used in any further revolt, and was finally completely ruined in 1665 when its remaining iron and lead was stripped and sold off.  UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe", and it is classed as a World Heritage site.

Llywelyn the Great, founder of Aberconwy Abbey.

But seagulls are no respecters of age or rank!

What is this enchant for hanging bicycles on walls?  There was one on a solicitor's at Abergavenny and now this one.

Typical British icons.

A bake sale for charity - the little cakes were lovely.

And I added to my inn sign collection.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Ken Johnson - one in a million

When a famous figure, a celebrity, dies there is, quite rightly, a great outpouring of sympathy for his family and lots of newspaper eulogies. The Internet ensures that folk around the world know within hours that they have passed away.  But what happens when Mr or Mrs Unfamous dies? 

There is a funeral – more frequently referred to nowadays as a celebration of their life.  There may be a notice (paid for) in the local newspaper.  Grief-stricken and harassed relatives have to phone around friends and colleagues of the deceased – assuming they know who they were.  And twelve months later only the very closest of their family are likely to recall the anniversary of their death. The Times won’t publish an Obituary and in a couple of generations folk researching their family history will wonder who he or she was and what they were like.

On Saturday I learned of the death of a former colleague at Knowsley Borough Council, Ken Johnson.  He died at the end of February but I wasn’t aware of it until meeting mutual acquaintances last Saturday. Ken held a very senior position within the Council but definitely, like most of us, ranked among the 'unfamous'.

 Ken and I swapped Christmas cards and the occasional Facebook message and he is one of the Council officers I held in the highest regard.  He was honest, skillful, personable, helpful, caring and did his job to the very best of his ability, notwithstanding long-term health issues about which he made no fuss.  A man I am proud to have known.  One could hardly ask for a better eulogy than that. 

His first wife, Sue, died when his son, Matt, was quite young and more recently he became engaged and seemed blissfully happy.  So my sympathies go especially to Alison and Matt but also to Ken himself that he should have missed out on a potentially wonderful future and that his name will hardly go down on record anywhere in a way that will capture what a special person he was.  He may have been 'unfamous' but he was nevertheless one in a million.  

Monday 20 June 2016

Plas Coch, Llanychan, Ruthin

Plas Coch, Llanychan, Ruthin

Opened under the National Gardens Scheme for a weekend in early June this year the garden at Plas Coch is delightful and the small charge to the visitors raised thousands of pounds for nursing and caring charities.

It is a well established country garden with deep and varied herbaceous borders, vegetable garden and fruit trees with recently planted heritage variety small orchard. Other sections include a small yard garden, pond areas, three-seater tybach (outside privy), all in the centre of the vale of Clwyd with extensive views towards the Clwydian Hills.

Plas Coch is the original 1606 house with Georgian and Victorian additions which was at the centre of the Plas Coch farm estate.

The long established gardens comprise a large lawn area surrounded by herbaceous borders abutting the house with a very old yew hedge backdrop with arch leading to kitchen garden and fruit trees and soft fruit cages. There is a recently restored pond area and yard garden which backs onto old piggeries which form part of the outbuildings . Beyond the kitchen garden and fruit trees is a tennis court and paddock with spinney which has been turned into a small orchard in recent years.

Sunday 19 June 2016

MG TC 1949

Partner-who-loves-tea does like her classic sports cars.

In this case it belongs to friend and former colleague Sir David Henshaw who took her out for a spin on Sunday.

MG TC Midget 1949
Body style 2-door roadster
Engine 1,250 cc (1.3 L) XPAG type I4 ohv[4]
Length 140 in (3,556 mm)
Width 56 in (1,422 mm)
Height 53 in (1,300 mm) 
The body was approximately 4 inches (100 mm) wider than the TB measured at the rear of the doors to give more cockpit space. The overall car width remained the same resulting in narrower running boards with two tread strips as opposed to the previous three. 

The TC Midget was the first postwar MG, launched in 1945. It was quite similar to the pre-war TB, sharing the same 1,250 cc (76 cu in) pushrod-OHV engine with a slightly higher compression ratio of 7.4:1 giving 54.5 bhp (40.6 kW) at 5200 rpm. (Hands up if you understood any of that!) The makers also provided several alternative stages of tuning for "specific purposes". 

10,001 TCs were produced, from September 1945 (chassis number TC0251) to Nov. 1949 (chassis number TC10251), more than any previous MG model. It cost £527 on the home market in 1947.

Fuel consumption was 28 mpg-imp (10.1 L/100 km; 23.3 mpg-US).   Its 0–60 mph time was 22.7 seconds, a respectable performance at the time. 

Returning, hair blowing in the breeze!

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