White Grit Engine Shaft

This is the White (or West Grit) Engine Shaft near White Grit(t), a village on the border between Shropshire and Powys. The village gets its name from the lead mine operated there and at the East Grit (a.k.a. Old Grit) shaft by the Whitegritt Mining Company. The West Grit shaft is located near Bishops Castle, in a field at the junction of the A488 and the road to Priest Weston (which leads to the village and to the stone circle at Mitchell’s Fold.

engine house 2

The A488 runs between the Engine Shaft and the hill with the copse at the top.

engine house

The shaft itself is completely blocked, and the tips have long since been removed for road building.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

 

Housmania

If you’ve looked through this site, you may have noticed that I’m quite fond of the poetical works of A.E. Housman, whose remains can be found in St. Laurence’s churchyard in Ludlow, not five minutes walk from where I’m sitting right now.

Which explains why I have a short-ish article in the January-February issue of Ludlow Ledger entitled While Ludlow Tower Shall Stand, about my personal voyage into the Housman’s world. The title of the article comes from A Shropshire Lad III (The Recruit) and while it’s quite suitable for the content of the article, I hadn’t realized at the time I wrote it that Clive Richardson had used a very similar line from the same poem for his book Till Ludlow Tower Shall Fall, or else I’d have used a different title. Sorry, Clive! Still, I don’t suppose my little article is going to affect the sales of your book adversely. 🙂

If this is of any interest to you, hopefully you can find a copy of Ludlow Ledger (it’s free!) from one of the outlets listed here, or order a single copy or subscription from the paper’s web site (but that isn’t free…), or view it online here.

If it isn’t of any interest, I shan’t hold it against you. 🙂

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Book Review: Pauline Fisk book on Shrewsbury

Title: Behind Closed Doors in an English County Town
Author: Pauline Fisk
Publisher: Merlin Unwin Books Ltd.
Published: September 2014
Price: £9.99

You might, seeing the title, expect this book to be an exposé of the sordid secrets of the residents of some dark corner of the English psyche with a made-up name like Mudchester. If Mudchester is what you’re looking for, there’s a long tradition of novels ranging from Trollope and Dickens to Jilly Cooper and beyond.

This is something a little different. On January 1st 2013 Pauline Fisk started blogging about her home town (nowadays) of Shrewsbury: more specifically, “things that have interested me, that have caught my attention, made me smile, made me angry, joyful, happy or sad; buildings that I love; people who fascinate me; events that have taken place, or extraordinary incidences of natural phenomena…”

The result is a well-written mixture of informal interviews, historical snippets and anecdotes. This is, in brief, a thoroughly nice (in the best sense of the word) book by a thoroughly nice person – or so I was told by the thoroughly nice lady who sold me a book. But it shouldn’t be mistaken for one of those well-meaning but slightly amateur publications that can sometimes be found on the ‘local’ shelves in small town bookshops. (Not that there’s anything wrong with encouraging local talent that hasn’t attracted blockbuster publishing budgets.) Pauline Fisk is an award-winning author with a track record of novels for the likes of Bodley Head and Faber & Faber, and she has a novelist’s eye for detail and people-watching, albeit with more empathy than some, and an eye for the interesting aspects of story that might, in other hands, seem mundane. And Merlin Unwin, though a relatively little-known regional press, has a reputation for publishing some very classy books such as their edition of Housman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’ with photographs by Gareth B. Thomas.

She points out more than once in that she’s no historian, but there are historical snapshots here that will appeal to anyone with an interest in local history. But this isn’t a ‘period’ piece. For every insight into Shrewsbury’s more-than-usual-absorbing history [example], there are several pieces on more contemporary issues, interviews and so forth. Non-Salopians may not be personally outraged by the encroachment of the aggressively modernist Princess House into the 13th Century charm of the Market Square, but they may well recognize the tone of the discussions

The spirits of Henry Bolingbroke, the young Princess Victoria, Darwin and Coleridge sometimes walk these pages, along with more contemporary names such as two recent leaders of the Labour Party, Robert Plant, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury. However, the interview pieces are not usually with top-ranking ‘celebrities’ (which is fine by me…) They do include notable writers (Peter MurphyMichael Morpurgo); musicians like Dan Cassidy (brother of Eva and a fine fiddler in his own right) and gypsy jazzer Robin Nolan (George Harrison was a fan) and Chris Quinn; artists (Aidan Hart , Svetlana Elantseva; ‘Legendary Shropshire Tweeter’ Shroppie Mon; and people who don’t look for fame beyond the community in which they live, but whose stories turn out to be just as interesting: market traders, booksellers, florists…

Not everyone will be interested in the minutiae of living in a not-very-large town in a large but not heavily populated county – I am, but then I used to live there and still write about the area – but if you think you might be, you won’t be disappointed by the quality of the content and writing here.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Bear Steps

This is a bit of an outlier. It’s a watercolour of mine based on a photograph but has subsequently been the subject of some experimentation in Photoshop, so currently exists in this form purely as a virtual artifact. Very Zen.

In any case, it’s very different to the drawings by my uncle Eddy Parker that I’ve previously put up on this blog. As anyone who has seen the cartoons I sometimes put up on WeLiveSecurity or Dataholics will (hopefully) notice, I put a lot more effort into this than I do into those (example below), but I’m not the draughtsman he was.

bearsteps mono lite

I can’t at this moment lay hands on the photograph this was based on, but here’s one taken at about the same time. Note the resemblance in the timber framing on the South-facing end of the building to the building shown in Eddy’s drawing of St. Alkmond’s Place, which leads me to believe that his drawing shows the same house. There’s a certain poignancy to this: it’s the house where my grandmother lived when she was first married, and where Eddy himself was born.

bearsteps house lite

So here’s one of the cartoons I mentioned, just to prove I have no artistic pretensions. 😉

munch

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow

 

St. Alkmond’s Place

This, I think, is the last drawing by uncle, Eddie Parker, that’s in my possession. It clearly doesn’t correspond to a contemporary view of St Alkmond’s Place (named after St Alkmund’s church – while the different spellings are a little confusing, I’m guessing the Place was named at a time when the spelling wasn’t entirely regularized).

My best guess is that the picture shows the housing around the Bear Steps, including the Gallery, before the houses were restored to show the original timber framing.

st_alkmunds_place lite

 

There are, however, other houses in the Place that have a somewhat similar construction. Again, I don’t know Eddy’s original source. Anyway, it’s an attractive drawing.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World