Sunday, 31 May 2015

So who was John Nichols?

There have been many people over the years who have written about Leicester and Leicestershire, many of whom have described their journeys from one part of the country to another, and some of these have included Leicestershire. Here's a selection:
  • William Camden (1551-1623) - a Londoner who travelled widely throughout the UK, and whilst teaching in Westminster wrote the first topographical survey of the country, county-by-county, rather than describing an individual journey. 

  • Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) - the author of Robinson Crusoe was born in London and became famous for writing political pamphlets. In the 1720s he wrote a three-volume account of his travels through the UK.

  • Celia Fiennes (1662-1741) - Celia Fiennes was born near Salisbury, and lived all her life in the south of England. Her travel journeys included two long ones to the more northern parts of the country which she did side-saddled, accompanied only by a couple of servants. Her travels were mainly for health reasons, and she later wrote up her account of her visits.

  • Karl Moritz (1757-1793) - This young Prussian clergyman visited England in 1782 and wrote letters home, which were later published as an account of his travels.

  • Arthur Young (1741-1820) - born in Suffolk, Young moved to London when he was 20, where he wrote four novels. His main interest was in agriculture, and he travelled the country, describing the changes he found in agriculture, society and politics.    

  • John Wesley (1703-1791) - although Wesley was a Methodist preacher, he travelled widely, and wrote a dairy of his travels.

There were, of course, other people who wrote about Leicestershire, even though they lived there, and these included:

  • John Throsby (1740-1803) - Throsby was interested in local history and the study of antiquities, which led to him writing the six volumes of "The Memoirs of the Town and County of Leicester"  in 1777. This was followed by "Select views in Leicestershire, from Original Drawings" and by various other writings.

But, John Nichols was a bit different!

  • John Nichols (1745-1826) - was born in London, and was a printer - and an antiquarian - and an author - and a publisher - and a literary scholar - and a bibliophile, amongst other things! He married twice, each time to ladies from Leicestershire, so he had an strong interest in, and connection to, the county. He wrote many county histories, but his History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, published in eight volumes, is one of the best. Unlike the writers mentioned above, Nichols didn't visit all the places he writes about: Of course, much of it he wrote himself, but as he had extensive connections in the county, he asked these people - clergymen, nobles, gentlemen, friends and relatives etc. - to research things for him, and much of their information appears in the books. He also incorporated some of Throsby's work in his own. Nowadays, Nichols' history of Leicestershire is often the first port of call for the researcher looking into the history of the county.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sunloch: A winning horse!

Ah, sorry! Last week I promised to tell you who John Nichols was, but there is more exciting news since then! [Huge apologies also for the type face which seems to have a mind of its own this time].

Sunloch, the horse from Loughborough who won the Grand National in 1914, has been awarded a green plaque by Leicestershire County Council. Sunloch was originally a hunting horse, but entered the steeplechase aged 8. His home, Gainsborough House on Nottingham Road, is still standing, and I'm guessing this is where the green plaque will be hung. Over the last couple of years there have been a variety of newspaper reports about Sunloch, but below, I've picked out some of the choicest articles from the time. Towards the end of the article are some links to websites of interest. Enjoy! 

Before the Grand National

From the above it will be seen that my predilections lie in the direction of F Harigan’s, Hastings’ and Whitaker’s stables, with Sunloch as the best of the light weight outsiders. At this distance of time it is most difficult to select a candidate from the above establushemnts, but, taking my courage in both hands, I hope I shall not be far wrong if I pin my faith in Ilston, and name Bloodstone and Sunloch as the most probable source of danger."
Article with No Title in The Observer, 22 Mar 1914: 19.

3.30 Christmas Handicap Steeplechase of 130 ? Two miles:
DRINAUGH by Springtime-This (Mr H. de Trafford), a, 12st … Trudghill 1
SUNLOCH (Mr T Tyler), a, 11st … Tyler 2
ORANGEVILLE (Mr G. Smith-Bosanquet), a, 12st 7lbs, … Gregson 3


The race and soon after

Far and away the most interesting article on the Grand National of March 1914 appeared in the Daily Telegraph of 28 March 1914, pg 18. It describes Sunloch's race in some detail, and talks of his and his rider's win, as well as giving a run-down of the horses that came in 2nd-4th and those who didn't finish. Mention is also made of his parentage. There is also a picture of horse and rider on page 14.

"The Grand National Steeplechase was won by Mr T Tyler’s Sunloch. Mr H de Mumm’s Trianon III
Being second and Mr J Hennessey’s Lutteur III third. Won by eight lengths; time, 9 min. 58 2 6ths of a second."
From: Annual Register: A Review Of Public Events At Home And Abroad, For Year 1914.

it is impossible to forget the marvellous ease and flippancy with which Sunloch, now owned by Mr. W. W. Vivian, did negotiate the formidable Aintree fences.”
Article called Racing notes, written by Trenton, which appeared in Country Life, Jan 23, 1915: 8

"Sunloch was the last 9st. 7lb. horse to win the race [Grand National], but it was generally agreed that he was very favourably handicapped, as he had strung together a nice winning sequence, even if they were minor races."
From an article entitled: An admirable Grand National Innovation, in Country Life, Jan 7, 1922: 29.

An article entitled: The Grand National, in The Manchester Guardian, 27 Mar 1915: 11.

Grand National 1914: "JUST four horses completed the race with the Tom Tyler-owned and trained Sunloch, under jockey Bill Smith, winning. Trianon III was second, Lutteur III third and Rory O'Moore fourth. Tyler had turned down a substantial offer from owner Charles Assheton-Smith for the eight-year-old prior to the race. But shortly after the Aintree triumph, Tyler relented and sold him to Assheton-Smith. Although Sunloch was never the same again."
From: Evening Chronicle [Newcastle] April 1, 2014 Tuesday Edition 1; National Edition Article by Chris Wright, Four-star heroes.


The hunter and the steeplechaser

"While steeple-chasing – and the earliest ‘chases were real point-to-points – had its origins in hunting and is to-day just as dependent upon the hunting field for some of its best recruits, hunting is not directly dependent upon steeplechasing. The translation of the hunter into the steeplechase horse has, as we know, been a success in many cases – Sunloch, Serjeant Murphy and Master Robert may be said to furnish three leading instance …"
Article called: The past point-to-point season, by Harborough. In: Country Life, May 3, 1924: 679-681.

"Beyond all doubt the success of Sunloch has done much to do credit to the British hunter, as until ten months ago he knew practically nothing about steeplechasing, but had, I understand, been regularly ridden to hounds and occasionally exhibited with success at shows. No doubt, therefore, his victory will inspire other owners of hunters to emulate the example of Mr Tyler and thereby enter their horses for steeplechases over long courses and big jumps. Is, the defeat of the more fancied candidates on Friday may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as it must materially benefit British horse breeding and the great sport of hunting."
From: An untitled article in The Observer, 29 Mar 1914: 21


Long after the race

A letter which appeared in Country Life

Grand National bridle
"Sir, how long does a good saddle last? In 1914 a surprise horse from Loughborough, Sunloch, won the Grand National wearing a snaffle bridle which is still in good condition and is worn every day by the cob in the accompanying photograph. …"
B C Ridley, The Ramblers, Woodhouse Eaves, Loughborough, Leicestershire.
Country Life, Mar 13, 1958: 518.


And finally, an interesting snippet!

According to Gerald Rawling in an article about Bottomley, who was running a betting “agency”:
"First prize was once again £5,000 but the whole event was rigged and all the tickets for the fancied horses were held by members of the stable. To everyone’s surprise the race was won by a total outsider, Sunloch."
Rawling, Gerald, Swindlers of the century. In: History Today. July 1993, Vol. 43 Issue 7, p42. 7p.

Sunloch's parents were Sundorne and Gralloch: try searching this site for other horses if you want to know their pedigree. Unfortunately, it would appear that Sunloch died in 1920 when he broke a forelock. Apparently, he's buried in Sketchley, more or less where he fell.

There are lots of photographs on the internet of Sunloch: I've read that there has been a little confusion over whether or not some published photographs are really Sunloch. If this really is him - and given the description in the Daily Telegraph article which says he has three white fetlocks, I'm pretty sure it is - then this is my favourite! This one was painted by Basil Nightingale, a hunting and racing artist, who was also a horse and houndsman, and briefly lived in Melton Mowbray. Anyway, I'll leave you to hunt out more pictures for yourself!

See you next time!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

What have Hathern Band, LMVC, the BCM, the carillon, ceramics and John Nichols got in common?

This week I am spoilt for choice, and having a difficult time deciding what to share with you!

Since my last post I’ve been lucky enough to listen to the Hathern Band, not once, but twice!! Last week, Hathern Band played in the bandstand in Queen’s Park, directly after the Carillon recital, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of VE day. This was a lovely performance, with glorious sunshine and a large, appreciative audience.

Last evening, I was lucky enough to find a seat in the Trinity Methodist Church for a joint concert of Hathern Band with the Loughborough Male Voice Choir. Hathern were on top form – especially the trombones, but I am a bit biased!! I particularly loved the rendition of “76 trombones”! The choir did themselves proud too, and their numbers have swelled recently since they had a pseudo recruitment drive earlier this year. I think they’re still on the lookout for new members, so if you’re looking for something to do, check out their webpage.

Yesterday we took a trip to the Black Country Museum in Dudley. Hadn’t been before, but had heard good reports about it, and it didn’t disappoint. Lots of exciting things to see and do, including a ride on a 1948 bus, and a Midland Red double-decker, a tram (but this was closed for maintenance), reconstructed terraced houses, dressed accordingly, and with volunteers making soup over the open fires. And gardeners tending their little plots, and producing beautiful pink sticks of rhubarb which the children dip in sugar. Then there’s the authentically 1940s shops, including a chemist, a greengrocers, ironmongers, confectioners, bakers etc., some of them actually selling things, like the little fish and chip shop. The café was in the Worker’s Institute, and had a wonderful selection of food, and we enjoyed a steak and Stilton pastie with mushy peas and new potatoes coated in yummy salt and pepper.

Lots of remnants of the days when Dudley had iron founders (I think there was a saying about the area, black by day, red by night, which related to the smoke and grime in the daytime and the glow of the iron works in the night). This reminded me of John Jones the iron founder in Loughborough, who owned the Britannia Foundry. I think he lived in that very large house at the junction of Meadow lane and Clarence Street, which now appears to be a health spa (sounds like the beginnings of a future blog post … !). The mine at the Black Country Museum was open, but I’m afraid I couldn’t go down there: The last time I went, or rather tried to go, down a mine, it was a tin mine in Cornwall, but I had to turn back pretty sharpish, when even I had to watch my head! Trips on the canal boats were also available, although they seemed to be doing quite a lot of work on the canal, so we thought we’d leave that till our next visit!! When will I ever find time?!

I’ve also giving up a bit of my spare time in helping out at the Carillon Tower and Museum again this year. This is such good fun, as I get to meet so many interesting people from all over the world, and who all have such interesting tales to tell! I also finally got to learn what the copper boots in the Airborne room were all about, and I get to hear the carillon being played (guessed what day I’m there, yet?). If you fancy helping, the museum is always on the lookout for volunteers so they can keep all floors of the tower open to visitors.

Talking of the carillon, today, I also heard the carillon play as I walked into town to take a peek at the ceramics market. It’s an annual event and I blogged about it last year, so I shan’t say anything about today’s market other than to say there was a lovely variety of pottery, and it’s difficult to go and not spend any money: Well, that’s a few birthday and Christmas presents sorted!!

Now, what have I forgotten? Oh, yes, the banquet in celebration of the bi-centenary of John Nichols’ History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, an 8-volume work, written by Nichols in 1815. What a glorious event that was, but, I’ve run out of time to tell you about it tonight, so I will save this one for next time!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Great Central Railway Museum

A visit to the GCR

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the wonderful museums we have in our town: I hope you’ve managed to visit and experience them for yourselves.

The Charnwood Museum has now got an even lovelier Ladybird corner than before, complete with talking chair. And, incidentally, there’s a Ladybird exhibition in the public library at the moment, until the end of May.

What I missed from that blogpost was mention of the small but perfectly formed museum at the Great Central Railway, this, probably because I’ve never actually been in! When the other half and I decided to go for a walk on May Day, I little thought we’d end up at the GCR, but end up there we did! Splashing out £3 on platform tickets, we excitedly skipped down the steps (only because we weren’t allowed to slide down the luggage ramp!) eager to see what train enthusiasts found so inspiring!

First, we walked along Platform 2. We’d been walking along the canal for nearly two hours, and I’d promised OH a drink, but we walked past the café and headed off towards the engine sheds, passing strategically placed stacks of suitcases and steamer trunks (stacks in which Charles Deeming’s steamer trunk wouldn’t have looked out of place), old metal advertising signs and various other things.


The first thing I noticed when we reached the engine shed, and were greeted by one of the volunteers, was the smell of grease! I don’t know why, but the smell of grease always appeals to me: Maybe it reminds me of events from my childhood. Anyway, the engine shed was full of, ummmm, engines, in various states of repair, and there were tools and bits of stuff everywhere! I was fascinated by the pits too, something that I loved from my Nan’s old cottage and her 1930s house. Lots of voluntary contribution boxes too: Restoration is not cheap.

Outside there were all sorts of wooden carriages, caravans, and piles of indistinguishable things that would probably have meant something to people in the know.

Walking beyond the end of the engine shed, I came to the end of the line. Some of you might know that the GCR are raising money to replace the bridge at this point, and somehow connect the Loughborough line to the Ruddington steam line, so it was good to see where the current line ended and realise what the aspirations were. If I’ve got my bearings right, then I think I saw the horses who graze in that triangular piece of grass opposite the entrance to the Brush, which I think Sid Powell used to use.

Along the way I also think I passed the Jacksons Coachworks place that is on Queen’s Road.

Walking back towards the platforms, I couldn’t help stopping to wonder at the signal box and the signal wires that were operated from the box, and the Grade II listed water tower! I also find red, white and black signals against a blue sky quite stunning! I’m wondering if this is an improvement on taking pictures of electricity pylons?

So, back on the platform, I paid a visit to the “facilities”, mostly because I wanted to see if they were anything like I remembered, and then we went and hunted out the tea. We timed it perfectly, and while we were sitting on the platform-side, supping our cups of tea, a train pulled in, and lots of excited people alighted. It was a joy to see train staff, including the stationmaster and the chef rushing around organising things, to be ready for the next departure.

Tea drunk, we headed off to the museum. Inside was a joy to behold with old railway signs reaching from floor to ceiling, a working model train, display cabinets full of interesting railway memorabilia, pictures of trains on the walls, and train bells and whistles on the window ledges. There were a couple of exhibits that really interested me, one of which was the advert for a journey to Stratford-on-Avon, the home of “England’s greatest poet” - Shakespeare (another subject of a recent blogpost). A friend recently told me of another Shakespeare / Loughborough / GCR connection, which I shall quote in full for you:

“Loughborough GCR is home to the Standard Britannia Class locomotive 70013 Oliver Cromwell. Another member of this Class that did not survive was 70004 William Shakespeare that appeaered at the 1951 Festival of Britain, was one of two locomotives dedicated to working the famous "Golden Arrow" express train and in the 1960s, when based at Newton Heath in Manchester, was a regular performer through Loughborough Midland Station on the Midland Main Line to St Pancras”.

If you want to read more about the Standard Britannia Class locomotive, there’s a decent article over on Wikipedia. But back to my visit to the GCR Museum -

The other thing that really interested me was an account of payments to W.E. Woolley in connection with the purchase of land for the construction of the GCR line. Read more about Mr Woolley in a future blogpost – but you might have to remind me to write it!

So, we visited the engine shed and the museum, and we saw a train come in and go out again. Now all we have to do is ride the GCR sometime …


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Remember Lymeswold?

May Bank Holiday weekend

Without the traditional Canal Festival, I was at a bit of a loss to know what to do with the Bank Holiday weekend: I read in the local paper that The Boat Inn was having a bit of a do, as indeed they did last year, but this didn't appeal to me so much.

Leafing through my page feed on facebook, I was alerted to an Artisan Cheese Fair taking place in Melton Mowbray over the weekend, so hubby and I headed out on an unseasonably cold Saturday at the beginning of May, fondly remembering such days in the past when we'd got sunburnt at the Rushcliffe Country Park in Ruddington (slight diversion here, but Zena over at Zena's Suitcase writes a lovely blog, and reviews RCP).

Well, if you like cheese (and coffee, and cakes, and alcohol and alcoholic ice-cream, and bread, and bread boards, and cheese-making kits, and preserves, and chocolate and old-fashioned lorries with old-fashioned cheese-making kit on board, and Morris dancers and ukulele orchestras) then you'd love the Melton Artisan Cheese Fair! It was almost like a mini food festival, but concentrating on cheese.


Walking around the various stalls, which had come from almost all over the country, including Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire, Kent, Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland, Somerset, Wiltshire, North Yorkshire - and those are just the ones I can remember, there was a heady smell of cheese and alcohol in the halls! Little tiny chunks of cheese with cocktail sticks adorned most stalls, and we tasted and tasted, with each mouthful regarding ourselves to be better and better cheese connoisseurs! Erroneously, of course! I've done a course in wine-making and tasting (taught by the wonderful Andrew Hill) and got a certificate in it from Loughborough College, but I've no such qualifications in cheese-making and tasting!

Anyway, we bought everything we needed for a delicious tea for the evening - bread, butter, coffee, oh, and some cheese! All the cheeses tasted so good, it was really hard to pick just the one or two that wouldn't blow our small budget, and we settled for some goats cheese, a blue cheese (aptly named Battlefield Blue and made by the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company at Upton, near Nuneaton), a very smelly cheese (from Cardiganshire) and a wedge of mature cheddar: I'd post a picture, but half-eaten cheese doesn't really look very nice!

The most local-to-Loughborough products that I spotted were Chocolate Alchemy, who are based in Churchgate Mews, and Burleigh's [London Dry] Gin, which is a micro-brewery based at Bawdon Lodge Farm, Nanpantan Road.

So, having chosen and bought what we wanted, we watched the Morris dancers for a little while: What an energetic bunch, and so talented! Then, we listened to the Melstrum Ukulele Orchestra do  few numbers: Very entertaining! All cheesed-out, we made our way into town and had tea in one of the many teashops in Melton town centre, and then did a little bit of shopping with the teeny bit of money we had left, before driving home, keen to start cooking tea!

We took the scenic route home, and coincidentally drove through Wymeswold, a village which has always confounded me with it's layout! Driving past the church brought back memories of that lovely Lymeswold cheese, an English brie-type cheese, made in Cannington, Somerset, by Dairy Crest, not in Wymeswold as one might like to think, given its name!

The next foodie thing to happen in Melton will be the Melton Mowbray / East Midlands Food Festival, taking place on 3rd-4th October - another one well-worth a visit if you like your food!

Here's a couple more photos from the cheese event.