The Yank's Return Part 4

Monday June 25th - Hot Tub Delivery

The Big Day finally arrives. The hot tub is being delivered. Jim has arranged for a
full crew of guys anticipating that we'd have to carry the tub down across the garden. Turns out it couldn't have been easier. They attach a pair of independently steerable trucks and just roll it down hill. A bit of manhandling at the bottom and it's ready to hook up.
Dolly (glass of Buck's Fizz in hand) takes the
inaugural plunge. The only problem with a hot tub is whenever you take the cover off all sorts of vermin tend to hop in.


Tuesday June 26th - Witham & Clipsham

For his 40th birthday Jim's twin brother Andy got a
Bren gun to go with his Austin Champ reconnaissance vehicle. I fell in love with it and NEEDED to check out the place where it came from. Witham Limited carries ALL sorts of demilitarized gear. Everything from helicopters and tanks to machine guns to Brens and AK-47s. All at reasonable prices! A toy store for grown-up boys!

On the way back we passed
Clipsham Yew Tree Avenue and decided to stop. The trimming of the yew trees was begun by Clipsham Estate head forester Amos Alexander in 1870. Amos lived in the gatehouse and began trimming the trees growing around the house as a hobby. The squire was impressed, and instructed Amos to cut figures on all the trees. The half-mile long avenue leading to Clipsham Hall now contains nearly 150 trimmed trees. Dolly tests the chair carved into one of the yew trees.


Wednesday June 27th - Shopping & Black Horse Pub family dinner


This was another shopping day out, this time to DIY stores. I needed to get some of those really efficient angled brushes and some British pipe fittings. We also picked up the turducken that Dolly had ordered. The whole family went out to the Black Horse Pub in Foxton for dinner. I had a really good mixed grill that included black pudding. But I was already spoiled, it just wasn't as good as what Dave Croft had brought to Astle Park. As we were finishing dinner we got a real treat; a Dixie Land Band fired up. They were really good; and even played a couple of requests… Summertime and Hello Dolly. 8-)) Jan (Jim's mum) scored a nice bottle of wine in a fund raising raffle they held. During the evening hot tub session I spotted my first satellite.


Thursday June 28th - Walking tour of Kibworth Harcourt

Kibworth Harcourt stands on the A6 trunk road between Market Harborough and Leicester. The boundary between it and it's close neighbor Kibworth Beauchamp is almost indiscernible, the A6 being a rough guide to the boundary between them.
Excavations in and around Harcourt have provided indications that a farming and trading community was in existence here right back to the time of the Roman occupation. To this day, farming is still much in evidence. As befits a medieval agricultural village, at one time the village had many inns or ale houses. Today only two of the seven remain; the
Coach & Horses Inn and the Rose and Crown Hotel. The Rose and Crown is believed to have been built in the 18th century. It was a famous coaching inn with up to 24 coaches a day stopping for passenger's rest and refreshment.

We started our walking tour at the parish
church of St. Wilfrid. The cemetery fascinated me. The grave markers tend to be relatively thin carved slate or stone. A number had been broken in the past and repaired with iron straps.

Main Street was formerly the through route from Leicester to Market Harborough. Most of the cottages were built in the 18th century. The first two on the corner are unusual in that they still retain a
thatched roof.

15 Main Street, "
The Smithy", once housed the local wheelwright, a vitally important trade in the days of horse drawn transport. It was here that the wheel of a wagon belonging to the famous preacher John Wesley, was repaired when he passed through the village on one of his evangelical journeys. (How's THAT for local trivia?)

18 Main Street, "
The Old Bakehouse". The end of the building used to be perfectly square, but several coaching accidents occurred at this spot, and in 1810 the end wall was rebuilt at the angle you see today. At least one accident resulted in a fatality when a coach overturned and several outside passengers were pitched through the windows of nearby houses.

Beaconsfield Cottage dates to 1880.

31 Main Street was in earlier times the Admiral Nelson public house. The granite cobblestones in the pavement are evidence that horse drawn traffic once used the gateway.

24 Main Street, "
Harcourt Cottage" was at one time the Navigation Inn. The window above the arch is original and the shutter catches are an unusual feature.

And this brings us to
60 Main Street, Jim and Dolly French's digs. Their place is to the right, the garden and garage belong to Simon and Carolyn who live across the street. An interesting bit is the hobnail boot print in one of the bricks in the wall across from what was Dolly's bedroom window when she was a girl. Just beyond the garage is Zena's place. Home for visiting Yanks and the place where Dolly does her world-famous sewing creations. The narrow jitty (footpath) between numbers 60 & 62 leads to several points of interest. Folks walking the jitty can check out the goings on in the French's garden. In this pic you can the kissing gate that leads to the Munt. Dolly's making sure the garden gate is latched so Rogan (AKA Mr. Beastly) can't escape to visit his girlfriend. Here's a nice peek over the gate into the French's garden. Just before the kissing gate in the garden of the house to the right are the remains of a couple of outside privies. The kissing gate has an interesting dead-weight to automatically close it.

The Munt is a mysterious mound of earth that is situated alongside the jitty between Main Street and the A6 on the North side of the village. No one quite knows it's origins, but it's large enough to be the base for a small castle or fort, with what would appear to be a moat round it's circumference. Another theory is that it was at one time an ancient burial ground. Excavations have unearthed burnt wood, iron, teeth, bones, and traces of paved flooring. In any case, with a commanding view of Jim & Dolly's bedroom, it's a popular venue for those with high-powered binoculars and telephoto lenses on their cameras. [ picture deleted by Webmistress ]. 8->>

Paddocks Farmhouse is a working farm in the heart of town.

No. 69 (one for Dave perhaps?) was originally built as a farmhouse in 1704.

Just beyond the junction of Leicester Road and
Main Street is the White House which stands on the site of an original building of circa 1575. The present building dates from the 18th century when it housed the Kibworth Academy - a major place of learning for Nonconformists. Later still it served as a coach staging post and was known as the Crown Inn. Founded in 1715 by the Rev. John Jennings junior, Kibworth Dissenters' Academy became a center for education with a large number of pupils. Hmmmm, it seems that Dolly comes by her "nonconformist streak" honestly. 8-))

Built on the site of an older property, "
The Limes" is an extensive villa dated 1880. In among much older buildings, this imposing house is a good example of Victorian domestic architecture.

41 Main Street,
Priory Farm is another farmhouse building built around a timber framework. I really like the neat "bullseyes" in the door glass.

Manor Farmhouse has medieval origins. The
garden wall is decorated in a distinctive pattern of bricks known as "diapering" and to the left of the garden entrance are three dated terracotta plaques. Each signifies a major piece of construction or renovation. The date of 1475 represents the first stone building on the site, 1695 signifies when much of the brickwork replaced the original stone while 1860 signifies when further extensions were built together with the present garden wall. A nice example of an insurance plaque (Sun Insurance Company) is located on the front wall.

The
Village Pump is well cared for but not in working order. Part of the mechanism was removed when the water was found to be unsuitable for drinking.

Opposite the pump is another house whose
buildings date from the days of horse-drawn transport ... the stables, tack rooms and other horse-related paraphinalia would make perfect engine storage and workshops!

This is a
small park in town where Jim wants to have an engine rally. Looks like a good site to me!

The
Old House is a rare example in Leicestershire of a 17th century fully developed brick Renaissance house. The house was built in 1678 by William Parker who died in 1699. The front is particularly fine and has a nice fenced garden. In the back of the house is an extensive walled garden. Old House is considered to be one of the most beautiful houses of the Charles II period in the country.

The
Old Barn, converted in recent times to provide living accommodations, was probably built in the late 17th century. It is thought to be one of the original outbuildings of the Old House. Note the interesting key-hole air vents built into the end walls.

Extensive research has failed to discover the origins of the unusual street name "
The City." However it is known that this area was originally outside the village limits and housed the poorest section of the community. Today it's an area of tidy cottages that are closely packed with very narrow walkways.

Other things that caught my eye included lots of different lichens, assorted wrought iron fences, chains, and other bits, and one particular sign. Scrap prices must be good in England. 8-))

We had a delicious
Turducken for dinner, then headed back to the Black Horse Pub for "Classic Car Night." This is an unstructured affair that includes a bit of everything from classic cars showing off their engines and other attractive bits to classic trucks and bikes (Christian trying Jim's for size) to classic stationary engines like my Lorenz and Andy's Ruston which also sports one of Ron's (Jim's dad) hand-painted thistles. Dolly's eye catches the inherent beauty in an engine oiler.


Friday June 29th - Ironbridge Gorge and Blists Hill

In 1709, the original Coalbrookdale Company was formed by the great iron master, Abraham Darby. Coalbrookdale was chosen because of its ample supplies of coal, iron, limestone and clay and good river transportation and it was in this year that Abraham Darby discovered a way to increase production by smelting iron with coke (a modified form of coal) instead of charcoal. The charcoal method had been rapidly depleting England's forests and most historians identify this breakthrough as the beginning of the modern industrial age.

Others had tried, but it was the processes developed at the Coalbrookdale Works that led to the national revolution in the making of iron. From the initial output of humble cooking pots, successive Darby's expanded the Works to make wrought-iron, cast steam engine cylinders, bridges (the most famous, of course, being the Iron Bridge erected over the River Severn in Shropshire in 1779/80), and by the Victorian period, decorative metalwork of considerable intricacy and beauty.

As befits an area with a heart of iron, interesting ironworks are everywhere, even
chimney tops and tombstones.

The town of Ironbridge is a mix of
old buildings and narrow lanes overshadowed by a nearby power plant. Quiz Time: Can anyone guess why Dolly was attracted to this little house? 8-))

The
Iron Bridge was erected over the River Severn in Shropshire in 1779/80 (just three years after the US declared independence from England). And here we are 222 years later, one Yank and this lot traipsing all over England. Go figger. 8-))

Darby's workers adapted
woodworking techniques to take into account the different properties of cast iron. Blind dovetailed joints, where only half the thickness of the iron is in the shape of a dovetail, join the arched ribs to the radials. The rough surface appearance is the result of the open sand casting process by which the pieces were fabricated. The net effect was quite beautiful. Jim and I have a closer look.

Total construction cost was just over £6,000 of which £15 was for a celebratory beer on its completion. The breakdown was as follows:
378 tons of iron at £7 a ton £2,649
Stone for the supporting abutments £489
Direct labor costs £2,430
Ropes £65
Timber (for scaffolding, etc.) £153
Boat hire £24
Celebratory beer £15
Legal fees (Parliamentary Bill) £100
Architect's bills £46
Advertising (including paintings) £40
Sundries £2

Once in operation, the
Table of Tolls for crossing the Iron Bridge cut no one any slack. Even the Queen had to pay!

Before heading up the hill to Blists Hill Victorian Town we decided to
sample the local pork pie for lunch. Delicious, but more taste testing is required before I'll concede that it's better than Dickinson & Morris (as the owner claimed). 8-))

Blists Hill Victorian Town is the Museum's largest and most popular site, set in 50 acres of woodland. Industrial monuments are preserved in-situ alongside reconstructed Victorian buildings to recreate in an engaging way the environment of a late 19th century working town. A section of Shropshire Canal runs past the remains of a large brick and tile works to the impressive Hay Inclined Plane that from 1792 to 1894 transported boats up and down the hillside between Blists Hill and Coalport separated by a vertical drop of 207 feet. Built up against the canal were three enormous blast furnaces of the Madeley Wood Company which remained in blast until 1912. Their remains look like an abandoned castle.

A
replica of the world's first steam locomotive (built in Coalbrookdale in 1802 for Richard Trevithick) is in daily operation. Sure doesn't look like the later, more familiar steam locomotives! It's actually pretty small.

One of my favorite places was the
Grocer's. Beginning right at the entrance where they provided a cool drink for a thirsty pooch along with a bit of advertising just in case this was a smarter than average hound. I really liked all the period advertising even if it was heavy on mustard! 8-))

Especially the dreaded
Coleman's Mustard. 8-))
And speaking of period advertising, I GOTTA get a new
business card!!

The
Chemist offered up some interesting advertising as well. I wonder if this might be the forerunner of "Truth in Advertising." Just read the BIG BOLD PRINT.

Outside the machine shop we spotted some
serious cast iron cart wheels. Quite a bit different than the chicken coop wheels often used on trollys for stationary engines in England.

The
New Inn Public House was a good place to stop for a pint and it had an interesting roof. They apparently had Dave Rotigel in mind with THIS advert. And speaking of adverts, some are better than others.

Several shafts were sunk at
Blists Hill in the late 18th century reaching depths of 600 feet through varied seams of clay, coal, and iron ore. Coal and iron ore went to the blast furnaces and clay went to the brick and tile works. Blists Hill Mine used a steam powered winding engine to raise and lower miners and cart loads of iron, coal, etc. The engine house even had an interesting roof. As with industrial archeology sites in the US, there's always interesting stuff nearby that's not a part of the "formal" exhibit

The
Saw Mill & Carpenter covered ALL the bases. Power for the sawmill is provided by a 1920's vintage Fielding & Platt oil engine.

The G. R. Morton wrought iron works is
powered by a 230 hp Pollit and Wigzel steam engine with Corliss valve. The drive to the mill is by cotton ropes from the flywheel on the right side of the engine. Neat old oiler!

The beam engines David and Sampson form a gigantic blowing machine (12,500 cubic feet per minute) that served the furnaces at the Priorslee Ironworks between 1851 and 1900. David and Sampson are basically
two beam engines (Sampson is on the left and David is on the right) both joined to one 20 foot diameter flywheel and thus made to work together. Each 30-foot-long beam
is connected to a 39" diameter
steam cylinder at one end and a 78" diameter blowing tub at the other. Gorgeous columns supporting the beams. The engines ran at 12-16 RPM and operated with an 8-foot stroke. Each unit was controlled with a separate steam valve which made it impossible to balance the work equally between the two engines. Indicated horsepower for Sampson was ~83 hp and for David ~55 hp. Interesting looking pistons.

The Blists Hill
Blast Furnaces were built in 1832, 1840, and 1844. The furnaces were circular, made of refractory brick clad with wrought-iron plates and stood some 50 feet above the brick and stone bases. Beneath these ran pipes carrying air, blast from the blowing engines on either side of the furnaces. Dolly chirped happily that the blowing engines were purple (her favorite color). After the abuse from the menfolk died down, it was confirmed that they were, in fact, PURPLE (gawd knows why), and Dolly smugly had her picture taken with HER purple engine.

On the walk through the woods to the Hay Inclined Plane, we spotted a
thrush vigorously busting open snails for lunch. Maybe the bird's French? 8-))

The Hay Inclined Plane was completed in 1793 to connect the upper and lower portions of the Shropshire Canal. Tub boats were floated onto wheeled cradles on which they were carried up or down the 1000 foot-long steep slope on iron rails. A loaded boat descending raised an empty one. A full boat rising needed the extra power provided by a steam powered winding engine at the top. The path came out onto the tracks about midway. Jim, Tom, and Chris decide to head for the
bottom while Dolly and I head for the top. Upon reaching the top and looking back I think we made the right decision. Dolly took a breather and watched the ducklings making tracks in the duckweed while I checked out the remains of the engine house and a couple of weir gates. Getting worried, Dolly checks on the progress of the lads coming up the plane.

Walking near the Madeley Wood Co. Brick & Tile Works Jim and I heard a familiar sound echoing off the hills. We headed that way to track it down. Sure enough, the brick maker was powering his mud mixer and extruder with a lovely old Ruston Hornsby stationary engine.

Naturally any lover of food and old cast iron has got to be impressed by
Aga cookers that are still being cast in Coalbrookdale today. Dolly's Aga cooker consistently turns out yummy things to eat. 8-))

We finished the day with Indian takeaway for dinner. I had some blistering Vindaloo that was bordering on too hot to eat.

Next up for the weekend is an engine rally at the Abbey Pumping Station.

Stamford, Phil Laight's Engine Show
London, Boston, Duxford
Portsmouth, 1000 Engine Rally
Hot tub, guns, Kibworth, Ironbridge
Abbey Pumping Station

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