“Where’s your cap?”

Friday, February 10th 2017

A comment left on a post of mine that mentioned a school I once attended (see Nostalgia in Brighton) prompted memories of my school days. One of these in particular often pops into my thoughts for some strange reason and it is as follows.

For my primary education, I went to a school that was about ten minutes’ walk from home. It was a good school. I liked going there and I learned a lot, both in academic subjects and about life in general. This was in the days when pupils were still provided with milk at school. It was delivered in crates early in the day and at the morning break, each child was handed a bottle. At my school we even had straws for drinking the milk!

Then came a hard winter. It was one of the coldest and bleakest winters the country had known since records began. The problems it caused were exacerbated by coal shortages and as coal was still used more or less everywhere to heat buildings, many businesses and other organizations ran out of fuel and had to close their premises until the weather, and the coal supplies, took a turn for the better.

Our school was one of the establishments that closed, giving us pupils an unexpected extra holiday. Even though the school was closed, the supply of school milk continued and we went every morning to the school canteen, which was a separate building from the classrooms, to claim our ration.

There was snow on the ground and it was very, very cold. We were all dressed up in coats, scarves, gloves and hats. On the day in question, I entered the canteen as usual and proceeded through the crowd of school children towards the table where the bottles of milk were waiting. This time, though, I found myself confronted by the school caretaker.

“Where’s your cap?” he asked, somewhat aggressively.

Though I understood the words, the question seemed so strange that I thought I had misheard and I asked him to repeat it.

“Where’s your cap?”

Again, the remark puzzled me and again I asked him to repeat it.

“Where’s your cap?” he asked for the third time.

“Er, on my head”, I replied hesitantly.

“Yes,” he said, like one who has scored a point. “Take it off.”

In the modern age when people are free, as never before, to wear what they like, where and when they like, it is hard to remember that there was a time – within the living memory of some of us – when gentlemen were supposed to remove their hats on entering a building and that not to do so was considered a social faux pas. The caretaker may seem officious and overbearing to modern minds but in those days, many people would have agreed with him. Rules were rules and the rules required men and boys to take off their hats indoors, even when conditions indoors were as cold as they were outside.

What you learn in childhood is apt to stay with you for the rest of your life even though times and customs change and the adult mind acquires a more independent outlook. Though I no longer feel it necessary to take off my hat every time I enter a premises, yet the caretaker still lurks in a hidden corner of my mind and ever and anon pops up to enquire where my hat is.

For the most part, I ignore him, but there is one situation in which he always wins. When out exploring, we often visit churches for their aesthetic and historic interest. I do not believe there is a tetchy god looking down on me who requires me to bare my head on entering the church but I nonetheless do so. I would find it hard – maybe impossible – not to. Even when I visit the Tradescant Garden Museum which is an old, though decommissioned and once abandoned church, I have to dare myself not to remove my hat.

I tell myself that I remove my hat in church merely as a courtesy to my hosts, just as I remove my shoes when entering a mosque or wipe my feet on the doormat before entering a friend’s house, and that I could, were I so minded, keep it on. If I am honest, though, I think that it is the caretaker, or the childhood conditioning of which he has become the symbol, that still lurks in some secret corner of my mind and jumps out raising an admonitory finger when conditions provoke him.

Copyright © 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Hammersmith stroll

Saturday, February 4th 2017

For today’s outing we took a bus to Hammersmith Station and strolled from there. Here is a map showing the location of Hammersmith which resides on a picturesque loop of the Thames.

Hammersmith is these days part of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. As usual, I pondered these names and tried to find out their derivation. On the face of it, Fulham is the easier of the two because there is general agreement as to its origins. According to this theory, we owe it to an Anglo-Saxon farmer called Fulla who here carved out for himself a hamm, that is, ‘an enclosure or property at the bend of a river’. Case closed, would you say? Well, no, actually. There is another explanation which I prefer, if for no other reason than for the poetry of the language in which it is expressed:

The name of this place was anciently written Fullenham, or Fullonham, which, says Norden, “as Master Camden taketh it, signifieth volucrum domus, the habitacle of birdes, or the place of fowles. Fullon and Fuglas, in the Saxon toong, doe signifie fowles, and ham, or hame, as much as home in our toong. So that Fullonham, or Fuglas-hame, is as much to saie, as the home, house, or habitacle of fowle. It may be also taken for volucrum amnis, or the river of fowle; for ham also, in many places, signifieth amnis, a river. But it is most probable it should be of lande fowle, which usually haunt groves and clusters of trees, whereof in this place, it seemeth, hath beene plenty.”1

There also seems to be general agreement as to the derivation of the name Hammersmith. According to this, there was a smithy hereabouts that either used or made hammers and that the two words became conflated as ‘hammersmith’. That is just too pat for my liking but, happily, I have found an alternative. There was once a substantial watercourse, known as Hammersmith Creek (now, alas, covered up), which ran along what is now King Street and debouched into the Thames where Furnival Gardens are today. This suggest a possible settlement at the Creek’s mouth – mýðe (pronounced ‘müthe’) in Anglo-Saxon – and a Anglo-Saxon property owner called Hamer, making a putative Hamersmýðe, which is virtually identical with the modern name.2

Now for some pictures of the objects, scenes and buildings that caught my attention.

ETCETERA
ETCETERA
Crispin Guest, 1991

In the entrance hall of Hammersmith tube station we spotted this work of sculpture. Helpfully, a small plaque has been placed beside it on the floor stating the name of the artist(s). This is worded as follows:

‘ETCETERA’
PIECES BY CRISPIN GUEST 1991
PLINTH AND ARRANGEMENT
BY MICHAEL JOHNSON 2003

This seems to suggest that the work is made of separate ‘pieces’ that were not conceived to form a whole but have been serendipitously conjoined by someone other than the sculptor. Make of it what you will.

The Lyric Hammersmith
The Lyric Hammersmith

We walked along King Street (following the course of the buried Creek) and I did a double take on spying the above building. This because I am used to the Lyric Theatre being in Shaftesbury Avenue and was surprised to find it here. This one, of course is the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. It was originally built by theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1895 but in 1966 its history took a curious turn. Under threat of demolition, the theatre was saved as a result of a local campaign but was then moved, brick by brick, a short distance from its original site to where it is now. Would Frank Matcham notice the difference, I wonder. Yes, probably.

I photographed it because I liked it 
I photographed it because I liked it

Further along King Street, I saw this building and, as the caption says, ‘I photographed it because I liked it’. I know nothing about it, such as it date of construction or original purpose, but the shape and proportions pleased me.

The Salutation Inn
The Salutation Inn

Next to the the building I photographed because I liked it is the Salutation Inn. This was handy as we were feeling it was time for a tea break. Despite the parked vehicles, you might be able to see that the inn sports some rather nice blue and mauve tiling and, generally, a very handsome appearance. It was built for local brewers Fuller, Smith & Turner in 1910 by architect A.P. Killick. It is now deservedly a Grade II listed building. (For a less obstructed view, see the admirable Victorian Web.)

Stairway to nowhere
Stairway to nowhere

Continuing after our tea, we reached the Town Hall. Nowadays, this consists of the main building dating from the 1930s and a modern annexe. Here we found a pair of escalators, once no doubt intended for public access, but now blocked off. It gives one a strange feeling to see stairs leading nowhere.

Face of Father Thames Face of Father Thames
Face of Father Thames
George Alexander

As we walked along the side of the Town Hall, we saw a face staring at us. It was one of a pair decorating the stone staircase of an entrance. The figure represents Father Thames and was sculpted by George Alexander (1881-1940). Originally from Glasgow, Alexander moved to London and received a number of commissions for architectural sculpture though he was best known for his wood carvings. Alexander was also responsible for Sheffield’s City memorial for the First World War.

Hammersmith Town Hall
Hammersmith Town Hall

Finally, from the car park, I managed to find an angle from which to photograph the Town Hall as a whole. This Grade II listed building was designed by Ernest Berry Webber (1896-1963) in a mixture of Scandinavian styles referred to by a contemporary as ‘Swedish Georgian’. The foundation stone bears a date of 1938 and the building was finished in 1939. Though conceived as the town hall for the then Borough of Hammersmith it continues today as the headquarters of the combined London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

Friends' Meeting House
Friends’ Meeting House

Our path took us past this Friends’ (Quakers’) meeting house. The Quakers have a long history in Hammersmith and this is their third meeting house, built, I believe, in the 1950s. They will soon move (or maybe have already moved) to a spanking new centre (see here).

Church of St Peter Hammersmith
Church of St Peter Hammersmith

We now found ourselves on the Great West Road and walked west along it. This is not the pleasantest environment to ramble in, what with the dirt and noise of the constant streams of vehicles in both directions. The above is a fairly distant shot of the Church of St Peter Hammersmith. It’s a Grade II* listed building but we didn’t manage to visit it this time. It was completed in 1827 and the architect was Edward Lapidge.

We reach the Thames

Looking downstream
Two views of the Thames

We turned off the main road and made for the river where I took the above overlapping panoramic views. (I hardly need say that they need to be clicked on to see them in larger format.) The Thames here is quite different from what it is only a few miles downstream. The banks are not cluttered with tall, closely-packed buildings and there is a feeling of openness. Here, too, the water is accessible for rowing and yachting.

Pigeons taking their ease
Pigeons taking their ease

Birds of many species are attracted to the river, even non-aquatic ones. These pigeons obviously feel at home here and seemed to be enjoying sitting together. To take the photo, I went as close as I could without disturbing them. Unfortunately, soon after I clicked the shutter, along came a family with two young children who proceeded to chase the pigeons off the rails and from wherever else they settled. The parents took no notice, apparently accepting this behaviour. This is something that angers me. These parents are perpetuating in their children the attitude of casual bullying and lack of respect for animals that is such a blot on the human character. A gentle word telling the children to leave the birds in peace and to enjoy watching them instead of persecuting them would make a huge difference. It is scenes like this that make me despair of the race of homo sapiens (homo ignorans might be a better appellation for the species).

The Old Ship Inn
The Old Ship Inn

We turned in the downstream direction and soon encountered the Old Ship Inn. A glance at the menu posted outside showed that there were vegetarian dishes available so we went it for lunch.

As far as I can tell, there has been an inn here from at least the 18th century. Originally, however, the pub was sited between the walkway and the river and had access to the river. Part of that ancient inn survives but the building as it exists today dates from 1850.

Linden House
Linden House

Continuing in the same direction after lunch, we passed in front of Linden House. There were originally two houses here named Linden House and Grafton House but Grafton House was finally destroyed by enemy action during World War II. The Grade II listed survivor, Linden House, probably dates from the 18th century, perhaps as a merchant’s house, but may be even earlier as there is a possibility that it was built by a Dutch merchant called Isaac Le Gooch in 1685. It now belongs to a charity, The London Corinthian Trust, and, as well as acting as a ‘venue’ for events, is the home of the London Corinthian Sailing Club and the Sons of the Thames Rowing Club.

Race Starting Box
Race Starting Box

That explains the presence on the riverbank nearby of this unusual structure. It provides a view in both directions of the Thames and serves as a conspicuous place from which to start and supervise waterborne races. Access is via a trapdoor in the base. The box is not listed but, together with a housing development behind Linden House called Mylne Close it received a Civic Trust Award in 1964. (You can see the triangular Civic Trust plate on the side of the Box in the photo.)

Hammersmith Bridge
Hammersmith Bridge

We continued walking along the river in the downstream direction until we reached Hammersmith Bridge. This is a suspension bridge made largely of wrought iron. It is the second bridge on the site. The first, dating from the 1820s, had proved by 1870 to be too weak for the amount of traffic crossing it and a replacement was deemed urgently necessary. The replacement was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette to rest on the foundations provided for the previous bridge. It opened in June 1887 and is a Grade II* listed building.

Coats of Arms, Hammersmith Bridge
Coats of Arms, Hammersmith Bridge

From the bridge we made our way to the main road where we caught a bus to begin our journey home. First, however, I photographed one of the bridge’s anchorages whose ornamentation includes seven coats of arms. The centre of the display is occupied by the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom while on the outer ring, starting from the left (where the 9 would be on a clock) and going clockwise, we have the coats of arms of the City of London, Kent, Guildford, the City of Westminster, Colchester and Middlesex. Originally, these coats of arms were all painted in their correct heraldic colours but are now reduced to green and gold.

________

1The Environs of London: Volume 2, County of Middlesex, published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1795.

2Preface to Survey of London: Volume 6, Hammersmith, published by London County Council, London, 1915

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Westgate-on-Sea

Saturday, January 28th 2017

Tigger had arranged to go to the cinema with a family friend. I had been invited but was not interested in the film, so it was agreed that I would entertain myself while the others were in the cinema. The cinema in question is not in London but in a small seaside town called Westgate-on-Sea. This is in Kent and the maps below will help you locate it, should you wish to do so. Clicking on the maps will take you to the Google Map of the area.

Map showing Westgate-on-Sea Map showing Westgate-on-Sea
Maps showing Westgate-on-Sea

This was a purely rural area until the Victorian era when the vogue for seaside resorts brought in a phase of what we would now call ‘development’, with the building of houses and shops for both permanent residents and holidaymakers. Unlike Margate, Westgate has remained relatively small. Those who seek quiet and a calm environment will like it but those who prefer a livelier atmosphere and the typical entertainments of seaside resorts should patronize Margate instead.

I don’t know when Westgate acquired its name. Towns with ‘east’ or ‘west’ in their names are usually so called because of their position relative to a larger and more important neighbour. This suggests that Westgate is so called simply to distinguish it from Margate. The ‘gate’ in both names is claimed to come  from the Anglo-Saxon word geat, meaning a gate or, alternatively and more probably in this case, a gap between hills of cliffs allowing access to the sea. Westgate was just plain Westgate until the railway reached it in the 1870s when the station was named Westgate-on-Sea, an appellation that soon became applied to the town itself.

Waiting for the bus at Rainham
Waiting for the bus at Rainham

Even getting to Westgate proved unusually difficult today as the usual through train service was suspended. Information on the reason for this was conspicuous by its absence but rumour suggested that a goods train had been derailed, blocking the main line. As a result, we had to take the train to Rainham and board that traditional British stand-by, the Railway Replacement Bus. These are usually superannuated vehicles kept mothballed by transport companies for just such purposes. Ours was the yellow vehicle in the picture. This took us on a 45-minute run to Faversham where we could board a train to Westgate.

Westgate-on-Sea Railway Station
Westgate-on-Sea Railway Station

We reached Westgate’s typical suburban railway station at last and set off to meet our friend. We spent some time in a cafe restaurant called the Ice House. Happily, the welcome and the interior were warmer than the name might suggest. After catching up on our respective doings and adventures, we went our various ways, Tigger and friend to the cinema, SilverTiger to… well, to wherever I could think to go.

Fortunately, the weather wasn’t too cold and so I spent the duration of the film wandering around Westgate and taking the odd photo here are there. There isn’t a lot to see and do in Westgate and I think you could probably explore and photograph the most interesting part in about 30 minutes or less. I had to spin this out to about two hours.

Station Road and Ethelbert Square
Station Road and Ethelbert Square

Here we are looking at the corner of Station Road (going off to the right and over my left shoulder) with Ethelbert Square. Note the canopy to protect shoppers from inclement weather. This is a feature of the shops in Station Road. At this end of the street, the canopy is tiled but further down it is covered with corrugated roofing. I don’t know whether this is intended to indicate a greater prestige attaching to this end of the street. The canopy is no doubt a survivor from the Victorian era.

Roxburgh Road
Roxburgh Road

Wandering at random, I turned off Station Road into Roxburgh Road, a street of large and once elegant houses. They are still elegant to a certain degree though some look in need of care and attention.

To the sea!
To the sea!

Continuing along Roxburgh Road leads you into Sea Road where you are presented with a view of the sea. There is a path, its entrance barred to vehicles by concrete posts, that leads down to to the beach.

St Milred's Bay
St Milred’s Bay

I say ‘beach’ and perhaps there is a beach sometimes but while I was there, the waves were coming right up to the sea wall though by watching the ebb and flow carefully I deduced that it had been high tide and that the water was now beginning to retire again.

Looking west

Looking east
Looking west and east

To my eyes, the light seemed rather strange and then I realized why. Having lived my early life on the south coast, I was used to looking south from the beach, more or less into the sun. Here, though, as you can see from the map, looking out to sea from the shore we are looking north with the sun behind us. My own shadow impertinently tried to get into my photos!

Jackson's Stables
Jackson’s Stables

After watching the waves for a while, still having time to use up, I turned back towards what I think of as the centre of Westgate, Station Road. Instead of taking that road, however, I went down Westbury Road instead. It is separated from Station Road by the railway line, posing the question of how to cross from one to the other. The answer is that just before Westbury Road turns sharp right, there is a footbridge that crosses the railway line. (I suspect there was once a level crossing here – can anyone confirm this? – but if so, it is no longer extant.)

From the bridge I had a good view of some decorative wrought-iron work on a building in Station Road and was immediately intrigued. The lettering spelt out the words ‘JACKSON’S STABLES’. Who was Jackson and when did he run his stables here?

Once part of Jackson's?
Once part of Jackson’s?

I also photographed the building next to Jackson’s, thinking they were separate entities, but I now suspect that they were really part and parcel of the same enterprise. You can mentally place the above picture to the left of the preceding one to have an idea of the complete set.

So what about Jackson? I found only two references to him (and suspect that one of these was copied from the other) and from these I gather that Joseph Jackson started his stables in 1879 and built up a successful business which included running a stagecoach service between Westgate and Canterbury. Later, the stables transmuted into a garage capable of repairing and servicing motorcars and a showroom specializing in Austin models. The premises were modernized in 1937 and a new façade applied, which I take to be that of the building in the photo directly above. It’s nice that the building still recalls the origins of Jackson’s with horses.

Corrugated roofed canopy, Station Road
Corrugated roofed canopy, Station Road

For want of something better to do, I again cruised along Station Road where I took this photo of the corrugated-roofed canopies, imagining Victorian ladies in long dresses accompanied by gentlemen in top hats strolling and perusing as I was doing. In Victorian times, larger cities often acquired an elegant shopping arcade but for the relatively small Westgate, a canopy had to suffice.

Under the canopy
Under the canopy

Still having time to spare, I went and sat on the bench in the bus shelter, where buses to Canterbury called from time to time. Then I wandered up to the top end of the road and had a look at the parish church.

Parish Church of St Saviour
Parish Church of St Saviour

Historic England has not found much in Westgate worthy of listed status, fewer than 20 items. I don’t know whether they are not trying or whether Westgate really is that lacking in historical interest. Anyway, the church is one of the items that does merit their attention, scoring a Grade II listing. It was built in 1873-4 to a design by Charles Nightingale Beazley (1834-97), whose crowning endeavour it appears to be.

Main door, Church of St Saviour
Main door, Church of St Saviour

I thought of taking a look inside, not for any religious purposes, of course, but because local churches often contain matter of historical and aesthetic interest. It was not to be, as I found the entrance firmly barred by a metal gate.

The Carlton Cinema
The Carlton Cinema

This seemed also the opportune moment to photograph the cinema wherein my beloved was enjoying her film. The Carlton Cinema is arguably the gem of Westgate, as far as buildings are concerned. It comprises no less than three screens showing different films and a tea room accessible from the street. You might wonder why such an eye-catching building was erected here. The answer is that it was built as the headquarters of the local Rural District Council. Hence the grandeur of the place, nobly topped off with a clock tower. According to Historic England’s Grade II listing, it is late 19th century but other sources assigned it to the early 1900s. Originally called the Town Hall Cinema, it was renamed the Carlton in the 1930s.

I now betook myself back to the Ice House where I dawdled with a pot of tea until Tigger and friend emerged from the cinema. We had a meal and talked until we could no longer put off the rigours of the three-part return journey. Train, bus and train brought us finally back to London.

Westgate-on-Sea Railway Station from the footbridge
Westgate-on-Sea Railway Station from the footbridge

Westage may be small and quiet, but it has a character of its own and I am quite fond of it. We shall no doubt come back soon.

Copyright © 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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