Sunday, 27 March 2016

William Railton's Bavarian gates

Every time I have a holiday from work I get excited and think I'm going to have plenty of time to write the best blog post in the world ever, but every time I end up presenting you with very quickly written, half-finished research.

So, during this break from work I've been lucky enough to have the other half home with me, so over these last three days we've been out doing a lot of walking. It's good walking with him because I'm a bit of a scardy cat, and always afraid I'm going to lose my way, walk through private property and get shot at, walk too far and then be too tired to get home again, or embarrassingly walk around with the map upside down, back-to-front and inside-out!

Anyway, OH hadn't been well, but I needed a walk, so I decided to walk to Charterhouse in Shepshed - oh, sorry, I mean Armstrong's Mill. Now, if I'd gone on my own, which was what I'd planned, I'd have walked exactly the same route as I would have driven, so along Epinal Way, down the A512, over the M1 roundabout into Shepshed, a car journey taking about 10 minutes or so. However, OH, having been bedridden, decided a bit of fresh air would do him good, although a less traffic-busy route would be better. Hmm, I was not convinced!

We started off ok, walking up Epinal Way, up Holt Drive, past Lodge Farm, and up Badger's Walk (I may have got the names slightly wrong, sorry!). Then up Nanpantan Road, along the footpath just before the Priory that takes you out onto Snell's Nook Lane, and then along the path off the other side of Snell's Nook that tales you through Longcliffe golf course. At the end of the path through Longcliffe, we followed a path to the right and came out on the A512 at the big M1 roundabout. We took our life in our hands and crossed around this, walked on the pavement past the trucker's cafe, and then joined a path that went down towards Shepshed town centre, but which ran parallel to the A512, eventually coming out opposite the cemetery on Charnwood Road, just above Armstrong's. 

After a cup of tea in the cafe, I had a quick walk around the store: no clothes or shoes that took my fancy, which was a good job, because OH never likes to make a return journey that retraces any steps, so we set off on an even longer walk home!

The route home took us down into Shepshed town, up the other side to a path that ran along the side of Hind Leys, and led us over the M1, and onto the Garendon Estate. Now, I've walked from Dishley Grange to the Bavarian Gates of Garendon a couple of times before, but never approached from Shepshed. Coming to a row of poplar trees, I realised if we turned right we would see those gates again, in all their splendour. 
The Bavarian Gates on the Garendon Estate, designed by William Railton
The Bavarian Gates were designed by William Railton, an architect who worked in London, and won a competition to create Nelson's column, which is probably his most famous work. However, he did much work in our area, where as well as designing the Bavarian Gates, he also designed the two Garendon estate lodges, the first abbey at Mount Saint Bernard's before the one that we see today (designed by Pugin), the neo-Tudor manor house at Grace Dieu, the churches at Copt Oak and Woodhouse Eaves, and Beaumanor Hall.

Continuing our walk, we followed the path alongside the wall to our right, which then turned to the right. We didn't go over the stonebow bridge, following the Blackbrook, but instead followed the path that led to Booth Wood. What a joy it was to finally happen upon the Obelisk, which I had previously only seen from within the wood (there I go, afraid of trespassing!) and from a distance on the path towards the Bavarian Gates. 

The Obelisk, designed by Ambrose Phillips
What a thing! Designed by Ambrose Phillips, I can only suppose that the obelisk is a folly.

So, we walked through Booth Wood, across Old Ashby Road, out onto Ashby Road, through the university, and out by Towers onto Epinal Way. All-in-all, we walked for 3 hours and covered 12 miles! We could have gone in the car, but we wouldn't have seen such interesting sights! How lucky we are to live where we do! the only downside of walking with Oh is that he really doesn't like me to stop and take photographs! 
Beaumanor Hall, designed by William Railton


Sunday, 20 March 2016

A little bit of magic in Loughborough!

These last 7 days or so have been very busy, and most interesting for me!

On Tuesday I went to a talk in Leicester about Luddite activity in Nottingham, at which, of course, Loughborough was mentioned. On Friday I went to a session in the public library focussed on people's memories of working in local firms, or firms that were based in Loughborough. Yesterday saw me venture further afield into the world of the back streets of an alternative Leicester. But the strangest thing of all happened on Monday, when I got a phone call:

Caller: "Lynne, do you know about the magic tree in Loughborough. You must go and see it now, because it'll be too late in a couple of day's time!"

Me: "Ummm, no. A magic tree, you say? How is this magic? Where can I find it?"

Caller: "Well, it's been widely reported in the Echo. How come you don't know about this horse chestnut tree?"

Me: "I don't know. I must have missed it. I've been an avid reader of the Echo for over 30 years, so perhaps I've read about it, but forgotten!"

Caller: "Well, there's a legend associated with it, something to do with a mother and a young child, but maybe the explanation is more plausibly because there might be water pipes, or a warm water spring under it."

Me: "So how is it magic then?"

Caller: "Go and have a look, and you'll see what I mean!"

So, at my earliest opportunity, and before the end of the week, I went off in search of a horse chestnut tree. Now, like a lot of people I can recognise a horse chestnut tree in September time, when the floor beneath is littered with green spiky pods containing shiny brown conkers, but I wasn't too sure I'd be able to recognise one towards the end of Winter, when all deciduous trees look a bit alike - bare branches. So, I armed myself with my pocket book of trees (actually, I admit, I used my phone and did an image search on the internet) and went off on a horse chestnut tree hunt!

The directions I'd been given were accurate enough to lead me to a tree which when I checked against the images on my phone, did turn out to be a horse chestnut tree! And what was special about it, was that it was already bursting with leaves, well before any of the other trees in the area! 

Going through my books on local legends and folklore I hunted for something about a horse chestnut tree, a woman and a young child, but I didn't find anything. 

During the course of my search, I read legends, stories and ghost tales, about Lady Jane Grey, Richard III and Richard Smith; concerning Leicester, Loughborough and Husbands Bosworth; about beds, follies and wells, but nothing about early leafing horse chestnut trees!   

Since viewing the tree, I have been told that there are several areas in Loughborough where trees seem to leaf early. These days, with snowdrops, daffs and crocuses all flowering at the same time, it seems times they are a-changing in the natural world, and we should no longer be surprised by what Mother Nature shows us. 
Crocus, snowdrops and daffs, 20 March 2016
As my caller said, the Echo have covered this story extensively over the years, but I haven't had time to go to the public library and check old copies of the Echo, and the ones on the web are subscription only, so that's not an option either. So, if you've heard the story associated with the early leafing horse chestnut tree on the A512, do let me know!


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Loughborough and its cinemas

I recently had the good fortune to attend a lecture session and picture show in the Phoenix in Leicester. Lots of great stuff in the lectures, but I was particularly interested in Matt Jones's work to uncover the history of the many cinemas that have been in Leicester. There have been a number of books written on the history of Leicester cinemas, but Matt's own research discovered that many cinemas had been built along the routes of public transport, especially along the tram routes, so it was easy for people to get to the cinema. He also discovered that at first there were lots of small cinemas, in about the 1970s many were converted into two screens, and in the 1990s many introduced further screens. Some of the cinemas were known as flea pits, because people didn't have the opportunity to bathe so often in the earlier days of the cinema, so fleas were quite common in the buildings. Also, there seems to have been lots of name-changes going on!  

A friend, who has recently moved to Belper, told me all about the Ritz Cinema there, which was originally built as a municipal hall, and at various times has housed the library and a theatre, and has been a court and a meeting hall. Apparently there used to be two cinemas in Belper, and both The Ritz and The Palace were owned by the same family, the Morley family. 

Both these recent conversations reminded me of the cinemas in Loughborough, and that they have a very similar history to those in Leicester and in Belper. 

At one time there were 3 cinemas in the town: The Victory in Biggin Street (opened 1921, demolished 1967), The Odeon (built 1936, re-named as The Classic in 1974 and converted to a Beacon Bingo in 1977) on The Coneries, and The Empire (opened 1914, and still going strong as an Odeon) in Cattle Market. 

At one time both The Victory and The Empire were owned by Charles Deeming,  who also owned several other cinemas, for example The Olympia / The Regal in Coalville. 
A suitcase belonging to Charles Deeming

In its day, The Victory was known as the "flea pit", and like cinemas in Leicester had those famous "double-seats" in the back row!! I think The Victory has been immortalised in the 1957 film "The Last Show on Earth", a small "flea pit" situated in Sloughborough, and suffering a bit of a decline! Watch it, see what you think!

The Empire, which opened in 1914, was originally called The New Empire Palace of Varieties, although advertised as The Empire. In 1929 the façade was changed, and in 1936 extra space was added, the frontage again changed, to the Art Deco façade we see today, and the name changed to The New Empire. In 1954, when Deeming sold The Empire (as it had then become known) to the Essoldo chain, it became known as The Essoldo. 
As The Curzon
Then in 1972 the Essoldo chain sold The Essoldo to the Tigon Group who also owned the Classic (which is what the original Odeon became), but since there was already an Classic in town (the former Odeon), The Essoldo became known as The Curzon, before becoming The Classic when The Classic (i.e. the former Odeon) closed in 1973. Also in 1973 the cinema was spilt into three screens. The Classic name didn't last long though, and it reverted to being The Curzon in 1974, and a new screen was also opened. In about 2009 it was taken over by the Odeon chain.
The former Odeon, now Beacon Bingo
So, today we still have our Odeon cinema, with its Art Deco façade, but we are also about to have a Cineworld multiplex cinema, opening on the site of the former Baxter Gate general hospital. Not only is there going to be a cinema, but there will also be lots of restaurants and bars. The building work seems to be going well, and I believe things are scheduled to open in May. Here's a couple of pictures of how the site looked recently:
Taken from Jubilee Way

Building works on the former general hospital site Baxter Gate

The multiplex cinema will be set back from the former nurses' home on Baxter Gate


Sunday, 6 March 2016

Binns Family, The Blackamoors Head, The Blackboy, and the Burnaby Family

I've committed what I consider to be a cardinal sin: I've lost a couple of books, and I've lost a reference! Those of you who know will know that this has caused me considerable grief! How can I write a blog post with vague references to something I remembered reading a long while ago, without being able to tell you exactly where and exactly what was said?! Ah well, here goes, an ill-conceived, ill-prepared, ill-researched blog post on something I read somewhere and on a name that triggered a reminder of a blog post I was going to write, but hadn't quite got round to!

Last week I went on the Luddite walk that was arranged on facebook, and I had a really great time. I translated that walk into a virtual walk, so if you didn't manage to come along, you can experience a flavour of the walk over on my virtual Loughborough, Luddites and Lace Trail.

I think it was on this walk that someone mentioned the Burnaby family - or maybe I just dreamed that! But, it reminded me of some research I'd done in March last year, but never got round to posting! So, despite some very careful cataloguing and shelving of my books, I've lost most of the ones on local pubs and inns, apart from Billy Wells' one which is always close to hand! Eric Swift has gone missing, as has that lovely book on East Midlands pubs with lavender on the cover (although what that's got to do with the contents, I'm not sure).

Anyway, Burnaby's reminded me that I'd read somewhere that local pubs called The Blackboy were possibly named after something in the crest of the Burnaby family, and probably those Burnabys who lived at Baggrave Hall. You may already know that The Blacksmiths Arms in Ward's End, was previously called The Blackboy, being renamed around 1875. Well, I've done a bit of hunting around, and established that there are a number of theories associated with the name The Blackboy, and that there are still quite a few pubs around that still bear that name, for example in Shinfield Reading, in Knowle near Solihull, in Hungarton etc..
The Blacksniths Arms as Baroque
The theories around the origins of the name include the idea that they were:

  • named for people who worked in the coal mining industry
  • named after chimney sweeps
  • named after servants who worked for well-to-do families
  • named after Charles II, who was apparently quite dark skinned

Generally, I suppose these could all contain an element of truth, but it's also important to put the pub and its name into the local context: if your locality is not a mining area, then the first option listed above is probably not the likely source for the name of your pub!

If I could find my books, I'd be able to tell you where I read the idea that The Blackboy in Loughborough was named after the crest of the Burnaby family. Now that suggestion has sent me on a quest to find out about that particular family, but that research is in its infancy, and the link between the Robert Burnaby who is buried in Emmanuel churchyard, and after whom the city in British Columbia, Canada, is named, and the Burnaby family of Baggrave Hall, Leics., is yet to be proved (in my research, at least).
The memorial to Robert Burnaby
I've had a good hunt around, and I can find no information to support the idea that our Blackboy is in any way related to the Burnaby family, but, what I have found is that the crest of the Binns family in Yorkshire (and as soon as I heard that name I remembered from my late teenage years that there was a Binns House of Fraser in Harrogate, North Yorks.) does indeed include an image of a black person, although quite what the connection between a small market town in Leicestershire and a gentrified family in Yorkshire is, I don't know. 

Anyway, further investigation also reveals that the likely pub name associated with part of the Binns family crest is the Blackamoors Head, which was in the Market Place, next to the current Lloyds Bank. So perhaps this is more likely? If this is the case then what was the background to the naming of The Blackboy?

Answers on a postcard please!!

There are some similarities between our Blackamoors Head, and The Blackboy as both buildings were demolished in the 1930s and rebuilt. The Blackamoors Head is, of course, no longer there, but the Blacksmith's Arms is. 

Well, that's it for today!!

See you next week!