Tag Archives: Hillmorton

Northumberland, Seaton Delaval Hall

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A year ago we went to Northumbria for a weekend break, bought National Trust membership and visited as many places as possible just to get our money’s worth.  One of these was Seaton Delaval Hall.

I liked this place immediately. I could imagine living there. Sadly the main block is almost derelict, destroyed by a massive fire in 1822 but even though it is soot blackened and blaze scorched (it reminded me of one of my garden BBQ attempts) it remains a magnificently impressive building.

I liked it so much that we returned for a second visit a year later in the Summer of 2018.

What a tragedy that a place has magnificent as this should be destroyed in a single night and after two hundred years or so still be left as a great ruin.  Now it is a place frozen in time, agony twisted metal, flame seared alabaster statuary, fire coloured bricks of multi-colours and ash blackened floor tiles.

It was designed and built by Sir John Vanbrugh who had been previously responsible for Castle Howard in Yorkshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and although this one is much smaller in scale historians and architects today consider it to be his finest works.

The Delavals were rich landowners and early industrialists who made their money from coal, salt and glass and by all accounts they worked hard and partied hard and weekends here of parties and shagging went together like dog’s tails and wagging! Everyone in Georgian society looked forward to an invitation to a weekend rave popping through their letterbox!

Of all the places that we had visited this weekend this was my favourite, I could have stayed and poked about in the corners and the recesses for a whole day. The west wing (not destroyed by the fire) was lived in until relatively recently by a member of the modern day aristocracy but upon his death the owner had a huge bill for inheritance tax and unable to afford it sold the place to the National Trust.

If you missed the full post first time round then you can find it here…

Northumberland, Seaton Delaval and George Washington

School Day Memories

Andrew age 10

When I first began blogging in 2006 I started with some posts about growing up.  This was on a bogging platform provided by AOL.  In 2007 they closed it down and I transferred my posts to Blogger.  I never really liked Blogger so I moved again to WordPress.

I have posted these ‘growing up’ posts three separate times but no one has ever read them so I thought I might tray again.

This is my story of Primary School days.

Read the Full Story Here…

Northumberland, Seaton Delaval and George Washington

Seaton Dalaval Hall Northumberland

We were leaving the caravan this morning and I wasn’t especially sad about that.  It was nice enough but disappointing compared to the luxury accommodation that we had enjoyed a couple of months previously in Norfolk; the constant sickly smell of calor gas reminded me of childhood caravan holidays and was giving me headaches, although Kim accusingly suggested that it might alternatively have been the Stella Artois!

We started the day by making a third attempt to visit nearby Seaton Delaval Hall which had been inconveniently closed for the last two days. We arrived at ten o’clock but it didn’t open until eleven (Kim said that I should have checked the web site and I couldn’t argue with that but I blamed the Calor gas/Stella Artois headache) so we walked around the gardens and then sat in the pleasant sunshine in the garden until the ticket office opened.

We didn’t need tickets because now we were members of the National Trust so we flashed our temporary paperwork and walked straight through without stopping even to look in the ridiculously overpriced gift shop.

I liked this place immediately. I could imagine living there. Sadly the main block is almost derelict, destroyed by a massive fire in 1822 but even though it is soot blackened and blaze scorched (it reminded me of one of my garden BBQ attempts) it remains a magnificently impressive building.

What a tragedy that a place has magnificent as this should be destroyed in a single night and after two hundred years or so still be left as a great ruin.

Seaton Delaval Great Hall

It was designed and built by Sir John Vanbrugh who had been previously responsible for Castle Howard in Yorkshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and although this one is much smaller in scale historians and architects today consider it to be his finest work.

The Delavals were rich landowners and early industrialists who made their money from coal, salt and glass and by all accounts they worked hard and partied hard and weekends here of parties and shagging went together like dog’s tails and wagging! Everyone in society looked forward to an invitation popping through their letterbox!

Of all the places that we had visited this weekend this was my favourite, I could have stayed and poked about in the corners and the recesses for a whole day. The west wing (not destroyed by the fire) was lived in until relatively recently by a member of the modern day aristocracy but upon his death the owner had a huge bill for inheritance tax and unable to afford it sold the place to the National Trust.

Taxes! We pay taxes all of our lives to the Government and then when we die we pay them all over again. Bloody outrageous if you ask me, reminds me of a film I once saw with a great line – “There is nothing more certain in life than death and taxes – unless you are Greek!”

Seaton Delaval Staircase

As we walked around the West Wing my eye was drawn to a painting which described the subject as Baron Astley of Hillmorton in Warwickshire and why that poked my interest is because I lived and grew up in Hillmorton in Warwickshire.  None of the guides could give me any information on that point and that was not especially surprising because as it turns out the Baronetcy of Hillmorton was/is just a convenience title and the man who enjoyed it actually lived in Norfolk.

There is however a street in Hillmorton called ‘Astley Place’.

After visiting the Hall we walked around the grounds and the formal gardens, which didn’t take especially long and then we left Seaton Delaval and Northumbria and headed for the Tyne Tunnel and the journey back home.

Before driving into Yorkshire we stopped briefly at Washington Old Hall, another National Trust property and the ancestral home (allegedly) of George Washington of American Independence and First president of the USA fame.

Washington Old Hall Tyne and Wear

It has to be said that the link is quite tenuous because George’s ancestors left Washington Old Hall almost a hundred years before he was born and he himself apparently confessed had little interest in genealogy or his English heritage.

I have said before that I always like to see how far a place name has travelled and not unsurprisingly there are a lot of Washingtons in the USA and thirty States have a place named after the town in Tyne and Wear or, more likely of course, the first President of the USA.  These are the nineteen that don’t – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Minnesota does however have a statue of Leif Ericson.

We spent a very pleasant hour or so at Washington Old Hall and as we finished with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the café I did some final reckoning up and was happy to find that we had fully recovered the cost of National Trust membership and we had a full year ahead of us to make a tidy profit.

I wonder where my next caravan holiday will take me?

Washington Old Hall Eagle

 

Village Cricket

W G Grace

“I’m getting into cricket. I love the way you stop for lunch and afternoon tea. I’ve had strawberries already and some Pimms.” – Judy Murray

23rd October 2015 is the one hundreth anniversary of the death of probably the World’s most famous cricketer – W G Grace.

“Our bag is green & made of canvas, strong and leather bound,                Overfilled with kit we’ve purchased, borrowed, begged or found;               Emptied out on summer evenings when it doesn’t rain,                                                But frankly half the stuff it holds we’ll never use again-                                          Worn out gloves with pimply rubber stitched up to the knuckles,                    Floppy pads with leather straps & little jingly buckles,                                                  All marked ‘Brookfield School’ in pen in prominent positions,                                  And some with names of other clubs, nicked from the opposition.”  –  Arthur Salway

20 Over Village Cricket

Like my dad before me I worked for the local council and one of the nicest things about this was the social aspect because I worked with a lot of people with similar interests.

One of these was cricket and like most organisations the council had a twenty over cricket team that used to play weekly fixtures against other councils, banks and other businesses in the town.

Village Cricket 20 over competition

Before I started work I used to get a guest spot in my dad’s team, Rugby Rural District Council, this was pre 1974 and the reorganisation of local government so there were a lot of small local authorities who sometimes struggled to field a full strength team so there were always places to fill and I was more than happy to go along every Wednesday night for a bat and a bowl and a glass of bitter shandy afterwards.

In 1975 I started work at Rugby Borough Council and my boss, the Borough Treasurer, John Lord, was the captain of the cricket team so amongst my other duties he gave me the job of team secretary and it was my job to arrange the fixtures, book the pitches, look after the kit and make sure we had a full squad every week.

Throughout the summer every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had to allocate a fair amount of my time to phoning around and putting the team together, arranging the catering and making sure all the kit had been returned the previous week.  We had three or four old bats, a collection of balls of varying age and quality, battle scarred batting pads and some old fashioned batting gloves with green rubber spikes sewn onto the fingers.  Best of all were the protective boxes which were several years old and it was a good job we were not too concerned about personal hygiene because these things had been slung around several sweaty groins in the past I can tell you!

Village Cricket

On Wednesday we would worry about the weather because many a match was washed out without a bowl being bowled but hopefully it would stay fine and we really didn’t mind playing through a bit of drizzle now and again.

Twenty overs each side meant about three hours of cricket and if both sides used up their full allocation then we had to get a move on towards the end of the season when the days were getting shorter.

We were reasonably successful and joined the local twenty over league where we were not.  I used to produce an annual review of the season and the 1976 yearbook tells a sorry tale of played 10 and lost 8 and finished bottom of the league.

This didn’t really matter because it was the cricket that was important.  Taking to the field to bowl or just sitting waiting for your turn to bat, someone lovingly keeping the score book up to date and wives and girlfriends turning up towards the end of the game just in time to go to the pub afterwards where we would review and assess, exaggerate and rue our mistakes.

Twenty over evening cricket was one of the best things about the summer and was always missed during the long winter months!

The sorry tale of the 1976 season:

“It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. …It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players-more if they are moderately restless.”    – Bill Bryson

Birmingham – More Canals than Venice

Birmingham Canal Boat

When visiting Birmingham it is almost inevitable to come across the proud boast that the city has ‘More Canals than Venice’.  Birmingham has been called the ‘Venice of the North’ but this isn’t a title that it holds uniquely because it has also been applied to Saint Petersburg, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester and Edinburgh amongst others.

It is important to understand that the city makes this claim on the basis of waterway length because it has over one hundred miles of navigable waterways compared with about sixty in Amsterdam and just twenty five in Venice. But thinking in terms of the number of canals, it is wrong; Birmingham only really has six canals whereas Amsterdam has 165 and Venice has 177. I am just saying.

After walking around the Civic Centre we made our way now to Brindleyplace which is at the heart of the canal infrastructure of the city and which has been regenerated and thoroughly reinvented as a tourist attraction.  By the 1970s Birmingham’s canals were in a serious state of disrepair, crumbling away, dirty and smelly and lined by derelict warehouses and  the City Council even considered a proposal to fill them in and turn them into cycle routes but canal enthusiasts would not allow this to happen and instead they approved a multi-million pound restoration scheme.

I have always been fond of canals because when I was a boy we lived near the Oxford Canal that had been commissioned in 1769 and built by the canal builder James Brindley.  The canal was an incredibly dangerous place really but of course we didn’t realise that at the time.  During the summer we used to wait at top lock and offer to open and close the gates for passing canal craft in the hope that we would receive a few pennies for our labours.

If the canal was dangerous then the locks were doubly so but this didn’t stop us from daring each other to jump from the elevated tow path down about three metres and two and a half metres across to the central section of the double locks.  I shudder to think about it now.  We used to swim in the canal too and that was a stupid thing to do as well.  Not only was the murky water about two metres deep and lurking with danger but it was also full of bacteria and germs especially in the black cloying mud on the bottom that would ooze through your toes so it’s a miracle that we didn’t catch typhoid or something else really, really awful.

Talking of catching things, we used to go fishing down the canal and this wasn’t quite so dangerous except when my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a homemade rod and line.

One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

The last time that I had lunch by the side of a canal was in Venice at the Ristorante Da Raffaele and although there were no gondolas gliding by in Birmingham it was just as nice to sit by the side of the water in the sunshine and enjoy a pasta in the UK Midlands and after lunch we walked for a while along the towpaths before heading back to the city centre, New Street railway station and a short return train ride.

I had enjoyed the day in Birmingham and look forward to going back some time soon.

Canal Boat British waterways