Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The old gas works house

My house used to be the old gas works house, the place where the manager for the gasworks lived until the end of the 1960s.  I've been trying to find out as much as I can about the history of the house since I moved in, but it is tricky - both the numbering for the street and the name of the house has changed a few times in the course of 164 years.

At the auction last week I bought an aerial view of the town which was a still from a Grimsby Evening Telegraph.  I'm not sure of the date, but it shows my house, the garden before the end of it was sold off, and the Gasometer.  It isn't where I was told it used to be (at this time, anyway).  It seems to be where the doctor's surgery around the corner is.  The area beside the house which is now filled with a row of houses, seems to have been barren and fronted with a hoarding.

There have actually only been three private owners of the house, despite its age.  The Market Rasen Gas and Lighting company built it, and the companies which owned it changed names fairly regularly over the course of the years until gas was nationalized and the house became one of the assets.  Then in the late sixties, the house was sold into private ownership and between them and me there are only the people I bought it from.

I thought that Market Rasen was a relatively new town, as most of the visible architecture in the town is Victorian, which certainly seems to have been the most prosperous time for the town.  I remember a friend telling me that there is a very curious division in Totnes of the new town and the old town, with the much older houses having survived in the poor end of town because they couldn't afford to replace them, while the old houses in the rich end of town were all torn down and replaced.  Maybe that's what went on here:  the town became prosperous int he 1850s and so all the buildings were replaced in short order. 

Of course, I know there are some much older buildings in and around Market Rasen, but a lot of what can be seen dates from then.  However, I've discovered that there were roman potteries in Market Rasen, and anglo-saxon gold has been found in fields near the town.  It's curious to me that the town barely seems to have grown in all the time since it was founded, whereas other towns around the wolds have expanded. 

I need to see if I can find information about what was here before the 1850s... although it is likely that the street was called something different, as I presume the name Chapel Street came from the building of the massive Methodist chapel in 1852. 

Sunshine and showers at home in Market Rasen

It's been a funny day - first wet and windy and then sunny and warm and then back to dark and showery again.  I've got rid of a load of old tiles which were clogging up the washroom, all the old paint tins left by the previous occupant and some miscellaneous metal supports which could have gone to the metal dealer, but life's too short frankly.  They're all gone.

Catching a sunny period, I put the vegetable peelings in the compost bin and then planted up the herbs I got from the Mr Big market last weekend - mint, lovage, oregano and chives in one planter and tangerine sage, coriander and parsley in the other.

I've started pulling up the wild geranium in the front garden as it is taking over the place, and trimming back the holly, and intended to go on with that, but it started raining again.  This is April's showery weather arriving halfway through May....

I received my book about permaculture yesterday and bought a book on organic gardening in the Lincolnshire Cats shop during the week.  I think the weather is just right for a cup of tea and to read them and plan out my course of action with the garden.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Auction day in Market Rasen

It's auction day in Market Rasen today, at Perkins George Mawer in the High Street.  John and I went to the preview yesterday and looked at a few lots that we were interested in.  There was a big variety of stuff there, both fine art and antiques and junk.  We went around and marked the things we were interested in, and then collaborated on a limit for each of the items.  He's there this morning, bidding on things for both of us.

Antiques and secondhand furniture always seem very expensive when you are buying, and very cheap when selling.  Looking around the auction room, there were a few things I'd have bought if the price was right... but I know I would get carried away, so I'm keeping away from the auction.

Hemswell and Hemswell Cliff

Hemswell May Fair
I forgot to blog about our visit to Hemswell on Monday, for the traditional May fair.  Hemswell is one of only three villages in the country to have a permanent maypole.  I was surprised to see it was in the middle of the road at a crossroads, but this was apparently a traditional spot for a maypole after the restoration of the monarchy in the 17th century.

Different places have different traditions, and I am used to the southern tradition that the maypole should be specially erected on the commonland.  Still, the maypole in Hemswell was dressed with coloured ribbons and the children about to dance around it were dressed as Victorian children, which in keeping with the 19th century date for the maypole in the village.

Hemswell is a domesday town, and the population hardly seems to have changed.  At just over 300 people, I think the whole village was out in force at the fair.  We bought a few books and I bought a patchwork bag made out of upholstery fabric scraps, which I like a lot.  The weather wasn't great but it was dry and there was a great atmosphere at the Fair.

There was a delay to the starting of the maypole dancing as there were more children than ribbons, a problem which we left the village to resolve as we drove to Hemswell Cliff.  Once an RAF camp and decommissioned in 1967, it has become a trading centre with a lot of antiques shops of the type very common in Lincolnshire, where different dealers all have a room or cabinet to sell from the shop.

Having driven through Hemswell Village and around a lot of unmarked roads in our search for Hemswell antique centres, I can tell you that the postcode is  DN21 5TJ.

We looked around the Canberra antiques centre, and Thomas bought a knife to add to his sword and knife collection.  He also found a gun he'd rather like if anyone has an odd £700 to spare.  He enjoyed posing with it anyway....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Watkinson Clay Pipe Factory in Market Rasen

George Spencer Watkinson was the builder of the Market Rasen Clay pipe factory, which he built in 1843.  The factory made clay smoking pipes in a variety of designs and was very successful from the 1840s to 1893, when the introduction of wooden pipes began to make clay pipes obsolete. 

What makes the Watkinson factory unique is that George Spencer Watkinson's son of the same name, made a journal of his memories of the factory, including a number of naive sketches of the processes in the making of clay pipes.  In general, there is very little known or written about the operation of clay pipe factories, and so to have the record made by George Spencer Watkinson junior is very special.  The illustrations from his journal are not of good quality, but they offer more information for the Market Rasen factory than can be found anywhere else.  A short biography of George Spencer Watkinson junior and some copies of his illustrations are included in the booklet Market Rasen in the eighteen fifties.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, clay pipes were provided by pubs to their clientele.  The customers would break off the end of the pipe, and then fill it with tobacco and smoke it, returning it to the pipe stand for the next person to use.  Thus it is that clay pipes are usually discovered with short or none existent stems, even when the bowls survive.  They were disposable.

Each clay pipe factory would produce their own designs, sometimes with the name of the manufacturer or the place where they were made, inscribed on the pipes.  Some of the pipes made at Market Rasen are plain, but many of them have "Watkinson - Rasen" or "Market Raisin" or "Market Rasen"  on them.

Some of the decorated designs show a trophy, maybe a racing trophy?  Others show acorns and oak leaves, or geometric designs.  Some of the rarest are anti-slavery pipes, showing a slave in chains on one side, and Liberty, a standing female in Greek dress, on the reverse.

Anderby Creek

Anderby Creek
I've wanted to visit Anderby Creek since I first saw some people raving about how lovely it is.  Yesterday the weather was a bit changeable in Market Rasen - I gardened until it started to rain on me - and the prediction was for good weather on the coast around Mablethorpe and Skegness, and so I persuaded Ali to drive me out to Anderby Creek.

The journey was lovely - one of the most picturesque roads through the wolds to Louth and then a country road to Alford and through some pretty villages with fairytale thatched cottages to Anderby Creek.  The SATNAV postcode wasn't on the website for the Creek, but I found it on a guide to beaches and it took us straight to the little carpark.  It's PE24 5XT.

Anderby Creek is a small unspoilt beach which has sand dunes behind and some houses, but none of the razmatazz of Skegness or Cleethorpes.  There is a public loo in the carpark which was clean and serviceable, and there are a row of little shops although they were all closed when we arrived.

The beach is reached by way of a steep slope and then is delightful, sandy with a bit of coarser sand in a band before it becomes fine sand again.  The tide was going out when we arrived, but I started beachcombing along the layer of deposits which had been left by the departing tide.  I found some driftwood, some smooth pebbles, and lots and lots of tiny tiny shells... in far greater quantity than I have ever found elsewhere.  There were tiny cockles, but not in great quantity, tiny whelks and winkles in large quantity and more scallops and cowries than I have ever found on an English beach.

Although there were smooth pebbles and bits of shell which had been smoothed by the sea, I didn't find any ceramic or glass.  I can't tell if that is because the beach is so clean, or because someone else had got there first.  There were a few people about - a couple of sea canoeists, a couple of people walking the beach with dogs, but generally it was quiet and the sun was warm and I had a fantastic time collecting tiny shells, a few pebbles and some driftwood.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cleethorpes and shells

As a southerner, the names in this part of the country sometimes sound odd to me: Scunthorpe, Skegness, Cleethorpes all have a bit of a foreign sound.  The Viking heritage of the counties which formed part of the Danegeld is apparent in some of the place names all around the county.

I adore beachcombing, and I have quite a bit of experience around the beaches of the southwest, and hardly any experience in the north east, and so I was delighted when a trip to pick up curtains and a rug in Grimsby made it possible to visit the beach at Cleethorpes, which is just about half an hour's drive from Market Rasen.

There's the same seaside town vibe in the centre of the town, with amusements and fish and chip shops everywhere, but if you drive up the seafront to the car parking at the leisure centre, the beach is quiet and deserted at this time of year.  It's a sandy beach, an when the tide is out, it's a long (wet) walk to the sea, with the bracing winds from the east.  But I loved it.

I beachcombed along the beach while my sons walked back to town to buy some chips and look at the shops.  I found a lot of winkle and whelk shells, some necklace shells, tiny cockle shells, and lots and lots of pink tellin.  There is a good guide to identifying British sea shells here.

Some of my Cleethorpes fnds

On a second visit, I found a lot of driftwood, more tellin shells, and noticed the things I don't find here that I have found in other places... no sandwashed glass, the edges of the glass on the beach are still sharp... very little ceramic, no fragments of large cockle shells smoothed by the sea either, although as you can see from the above picture, I did find quantities of the lily-like centres from whelks.  For anyone who wants tiny tellin and cockle shells to decorate something, it's a fantastic place to collect.

The roads and Lincolnshire Airfields

Photo copyright John Firth, licenced under creative commons licence
When we first moved to Lincolnshire, I was amazed by the curves in the roads.  A road will be straight for some distance and then suddenly take a right hand bend, followed by another right hand bend in the opposite direction.  It's what seems to attract bikers from all over the country to Market Rasen (particularly Willingham Woods on Wednesdays and at the weekends).

John was told that the strange road layout was due to the airfields that were built in the second world war.  I found some defunct airfields on a map, and thought that would account for one or two of the sharp bends, but surely not all of them? I was a bit sceptical about this explanation, I must admit.

However, on a visit to Horncastle recently, we had a lovely tea in the Bridge teashop there, and saw a map showing all of the airfields that were in use during the war - and there were dozens all over Lincolnshire - 46 according to Patrick Otter, who has written a book on the subject, although there were also dummy airfields and secret airfields which may not be included in that number.  The teashop sells maps which show the position of all the airfields... and I don't seem to be able to find a link to that online.  I have found this list.

Many of the airfields have been dug up and returned to their original state as farmland, but there are some which still exist and others which are now derelict but remain. Certainly there is a growing body of work for family historians who are interested in the subject because a member of their family served in the RAF during the war.  Patrick Otter's book seems to be a good starting poin.