Sunday, 29 January 2017

Swithland slate in local churchyards

In last week's post about Swithland slate gravestones I promised you some photos!

Warning: this post is a photoblog of selected Swithland slate gravestones in various Leicestershire churchyards, as such, it may take a little while to load, but it's worth scrolling down to see examples of Belvoir angels, sculptor's signatures, symbolic pictures, Biblical verses, divided gravestones, margin-less gravestones, interesting occupational information, the rough slate-backs, Welsh slate, by way of comparison.

For photos of gravestones at Dishley, pop over to my blogpost about Dishley and Robert Bakewell.

A selection from the "parish church" some of which are standing, some lying flat, takne January 2014.

From the Old Rectory Museum on Steeple Row: the ones outside were rescued. Taken February 2014.

Hathern church of St Peter and St Paul, taken February 2014.

From Breedon on the Hill, taken January 2017.

The rough reverse of Swithland slate gravestones

I believe these to be Welsh slate

The smooth reverse of Welsh slate gravestones

From St Nicholas church in Leicester, taken January 2017.

An example of non-uniform sized writing 
From various Leicestershire churches, taken August 2013.

An example of a Belvoir Angel and a gravestone with no margin

On the left is a tomb of slate
You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2017). Swithland slate in local churchyards. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 29 January 2017]

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Swithland slate gravestones

So, 2016 now seems a long time ago, but it was in early December that I wrote about the use of Swithland slate for a variety of purposes - roofing tiles, hearths, milestones, plinths, window sills - but did not have time to elaborate on the use of such slate for gravestones (by which I mean, tombstones, headstones or memorial stones).

At the December meeting of the Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society (LAHS) Roger Willson came along and talked to us about gravestones that are found in Leicestershire, many of which, from the period up until about 1880, were made from Swithland slate. The heyday was around 1853, and the last quarry closed around 1887, competition from cheaper Welsh slate probably being one reason for the demise of the local material.

There are so many variations in Swithland slate gravestones that it is possible to outline chronological developments in its use. This ranges from the early, small, square headstones, through headstones with no margin and varying sized inscription, through double-paneled headstones used usually for husband and wife, through more elaborate lettering, to headstones quoting verses from the Bible, those including the occupation of the deceased, and those with the sculptor's name and the apprentice's practice alphabets. 

Swithland slate headstones often include much symbolism: urns, skulls, hourglasses, anchors, doves, olive branches, angels, crowns, and cherubs. Another unique feature of Swithland slate headstones is what's known as the Belvoir angels, so a highly stylised depiction of an angel with its face in the middle and wings coming out of either side. I believe these Belvoir angels appeared on the earlier headstones from about the 1690s to 1750s.

One of the other distinctive features of Swithland slate gravestones is that the front of the stone is completely smoothed, whilst, unlike Welsh slate, the reverse is left rough. This may have something to do with the way Swithland slate was split with a hand saw. 

There are many examples of Swithland slate headstones in our local churches, and I do here a few pictures of ones I've been lucky enough to see over the years. Unfortunately, although I can picture some of the churches I can't for the life of me remember what the names of all the villages were. Also, as I have a new pc I can't find a way to reduce the resolution of them, so they will take forever to load, so I will post these another week.
If you would like to read more about Belvoir angels here are a few interesting websites:

A report of a talk at Keyworth & District Local History Society in 2008
An article on tombstones on the Wolds Historical Organisation website
A report in the Nottingham Evening Post 
The website of St Mary's at Bottesford

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2017). Swithland slate gravestones. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 22 January 2017]

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Zeppelins, Loughborough, Heanor and Led Zeppelin

So, last week Zeppelins featured in my world again. It's almost 101 years since that fateful night - 31st January 1916 - when Zeppelin airships dropped bombs on Loughborough. It is believed their pilots were heading for Liverpool, but because of the inadequate navigation systems available to them at the time, and also because of the lack of orientation possible, due to the blackouts, our town was targeted, as we had left lights on.

In actual fact, there were a number of airships flying into and over Britain on that fateful night, and the raids have become known as the Midlands raid, so as well as bombs dropping on Loughborough, bombs were also released onto Birmingham, Titpon, Wednesbury, Dudley, Walsall, Ilkeston, Bennerley, Stanton, Trowell, Burton, Overseal and Swadlincote - though not necessarily a comprehensive list. 

I popped along to the Heanor and District Local History Society meeting last week to hear Stephen Flinders, Chair of Ilkeston and District Local History Society, talk about the "Terror from the Skies", an account of January 31st 1916, the night the Zeppelins came. And what an exciting talk it was too! Stephen had some interesting information to share with the audience - which numbered in excess of 100 folk - and had done some great work on mapping out the journey of each of the individual Zeppelins involved in the raids on that fateful evening, so we could see the exact route each travelled. We heard stories of lucky escapes, and unfortunate decisions. We heard accounts of Zeppelin-sightings from eye-witnesses, we saw adverts for post-raid Zeppelin attack insurance, we looked at satirical illustrations from the likes of Punch magazine, we heard the story of the message in a bottle, and we wondered at the marketing of Coleman's mustard!

Having listened to Stephen's talk, I now have a bigger picture of the Zeppelin raids of 31st January 1916 which saw so many bombs being released onto the Midlands, the overall death toll being around 71, and the casualties amounting to about 113. According to Derbyshire Life (see below), "the raid on the Midlands on the night of 31st January / 1st February 1916 [was] noted as one of the heaviest of the First World War."

Last year, following a walk led by Bob Stephens, a fellow accredited Leicestershire Tour Guide, I created a virtual walk around Loughborough which you can follow if you wish to visit the sites affected by the Zeppelin bombs. More information on Zeppelins from this blog can be found on the following pages:
And so to Led Zeppelin! The story of their formation seems a bit complicated (think Yardbirds, New Yardbirds, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, John Bonham, Keith Moon etc.). According to Wikipedia (oh go on, please give me a break, I don't actually know much about rock music so I had to look somewhere!!) one of the stories associated with how the band got its name revolves around the idea that a supergroup with Jimmy page and Jeff Beck would, according to Keith Moon and John Entwistle, not go down very well, in fact would be like a lead balloon. Dropping the "a" from lead, and substituting Zeppelin for balloon made for what was considered to be the perfect name for the group which Jimmy page had envisioned. Sounds plausible to me!  
Anyway,if you want to read more about the Zeppelin raids on the Midlands, here are a few websites you could view:
Thanks for stopping by!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2017). Zeppelins Loughborough Heanor and Led Zeppelin. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 15 January 2017]


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Why have I never visited before?

So, whilst the youngest was home for the Christmas vacation I looked around for some places close by to visit. We had already walked the canal from Melbourne to Shardlow and back again, and walked from home to Pilling's Lock, to the GCR station at Quorn and back to home, so this time we decided to drive to somewhere that might be exciting.

Well, I don't know why I've not been before, but we decided to go to Donington Park and have a look at the museum there. Now, in truth, I have been to Donington Park before, once to watch the touring car races, and once to take part in a Race For Life with chums from Hathern Band (yes, there is photographic evidence out there somewhere!), but I've not stopped to look at the cars before.

We were a bit late getting there, and it was a pretty cold day, but that wasn't going to put us off! And I'm glad it didn't, because the museum was absolutely brilliant! If you haven't been, I'd highly recommend it - even if you don't like cars much!

The museum is in a very large warehouse-type building that snakes around, before coming back the same way. This suits me well: I can never seem to look at things to the left and the right at the same time, so it was good to be able to concentrate on one side going out, and the other coming back! 

The first gallery was full of German vehicles - motorcycles, cars, tanks and amphibians. Then there were loads of racing cars, areas made up to look like old garages, some very old racing cars, and some quite up-to-date ones. There were also prototypes, a wooden model of a car (which reminded me of father-in-law's joke about the wooden car with the wooden body, the wooden steering wheel and the wooden tyres - which wouldn't go!) and a child's go-kart. Looking out of the windows on the right, was great as each window had a painting of a race-track on it, through which were hints of the grassy banks outside.

Ok, I admit, my account here simply doesn't do the collection justice, so you really must go and look for yourself! My particular favourites were the old green racing cars, and the pale, minty green one that reminded me of Babs. And then there was the cafe: a really lovely, relaxing place, with tables and dining chairs, or squishy leather settees, or high chairs made from old tractor seats. We had a late lunch of ciabatta with bacon, brie and cranberry - delicious and plentiful. Each seating area also had a puzzle on it - a riddle that could be solved: I enjoyed that as it was relevant to my Twitter dementia initiative - #delaytheonsetofdementia

Once we'd finished our very late lunch, and having sat chatting for a while, we decided it was time to go home. The sun was just setting, and the sky was a dazzling orange. Obligingly a bird flew in front of me, just above the sunset, and just as I was taking a photograph! 

I did ask, and we were allowed to take pictures inside, so here are a few to whet your appetite (with the usual disclaimer that I'm not good at taking pictures, and these were particularly difficult as there were lots of spotlights around and bright light coming in through the many windows).

See you next week!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Why have I never visited before? [Online] Available from: [Accessed 8 January 2017]