Archive for the History Category

Curious Inspiration

Posted in books, Embroidery, History with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2013 by suetortoise

I promised to write more about the story behind my embroidered picture Curis Tabescimus Omnes.

Curis Tabescimus Omnes unframed

I know I’d heard of “Emblem Books” as one of the many influences on Elizabethan and Stuart embroidery design, along with herbals and bestiaries. I’d never researched them further, having assumed that Emblem Books were books of heraldry and coats of arms. A couple of years ago, I was doing a web search for some Latin tag that had come up in my reading. I don’t recall which scrap of Latin it was now, because I got totally distracted. I found myself on the contents page of an online copy of an emblem book, Geffrey Whitney’s book A Choice of Emblems from 1586. Fascinated, I browsed some of the pictures and soon came across this one


Such a strange picture. What was going on? Who was the reclining figure in the foreground? Who was falling into the volcano? Who was the person in the toga, watching and not apparently trying to help? The accompanying verse explained a little, but left me with even more questions.

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Update on the Bowdler Picture

Posted in Embroidery, History, museum, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2013 by suetortoise

I promised I’d let people know when I had any more news about the Strange Little Picture  – the apparently 17th century piece with paper filigree and ribbon collage, which I found in Shrewsbury Museum’s stores last year.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

I spoke to the Collections Officer about it, yesterday. She told me that the Bowdler Picture has now been taken out of the old art store at Rowley’s House and into the dedicated conservation store at Ludlow Museum. So it will not deteriorate further. The Museum staff are all very, very busy right now: the exciting new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery is due to open at the end of the year. I don’t expect to have further news of the picture until after the big move is completed and the staff have time to do more research and get expert opinions. I am very glad that the picture is out of harm’s way. It has not been forgotten.

Don’t worry – I won’t let them forget it!

The Sand, the Station Master and the Station Master’s Dog

Posted in Family and Friends, History, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 20, 2013 by suetortoise

While looking though old papers of my Grandmother’s, we came across two copies of the L. & N. W. R. Gazette, a magazine subtitled “The Organ of the Recreative and Educational Associations of the L. & N. W. Railway Staff.” In the first of them, Vol. 4, No. 31, March, 1915, I came across the following article:


THERE are many stations situate in different parts of the country served by the London and North Western Railway which are subject to periodical visitations of floods, sandstorms, snowdrifts, &c.  Doubtless some account of the effects of such boisterous atmospheric influences and the manner in which they are met might prove interesting to railwaymen. Take, for instance, Swansea Bay Station, which is situated about midway between the stations of Mumbles Road and Swansea, Victoria.  This portion of line runs practically along the seashore, being subjected to very severe sandstorms, and great are the difficulties to be contended with by the Station Staff and the Permanent Way employees when a south-easterly gale is raging.  Sand extends on the sea front for some miles, and in rough weather it gets carried in clouds on to the railway and the station premises, sometimes blocking the lines and occasionally necessitating the adoption of single-line working. 

Immediately a storm arises the Permanent Way local gangs are called out, and, as is often necessary, men have to be requisitioned from each of the stations on the line up to Pontardulais, and even from places as far North as Llandovery and Knighton.  The shoveling of the sand from the metals, whilst it continues to enshroud the men, is very hard and difficult work, and great caution is necessary in watching the approach of trains.  Recently about 70 men were engaged in day and night shifts continuously for several days in the task of keeping the lines open, and it will give some idea of the effect of such weather when it is mentioned that several trainloads of sand are shovelled from the railway into trucks during and after a “fair gale,” representing many hundreds of tons all blown over the sea wall and fencing in the form of clouds.

The station lamps get badly damaged with the sand (which fact the Gas Department would gladly corroborate), and trying is the duty of the Station Master and Staff in attending to the trains and station duties, the sand even penetrating into the innermost recesses of the offices.  The only means of moving with safety outside during such storms is by wearing goggles as a protection to the eyes.

Mr A Thomas and his dog

Swansea Bay Station Master, Mr. A. Thomas, and his dog

We reproduce a photograph of Mr. Andrew Thomas, the widely-known and respected Station Master, who has been associated with Swansea Bay Station ever since it was opened in 1892.

In the photograph appears the Station Master’s dog, who is nearly as well known as the Station Master.  It is his practice to meet the trains, fetch and carry the ticket bag from one platform to the other, &c., but he always runs into the office when a goods train passes the station, having, we presume, recollection of once having been run over by a goods train.  On the other hand, he never runs away from a passenger train.

Mr A Thomas was my great grandfather. My father recalled being told about the dog being hit by a train. Apparently the dog was on the line between platforms when the train came along and Dad’s grandfather ordered him to lie down, which he did. However, it was a particularly long goods train and the dog stood up just too soon and was clipped by the brake van. Dad always thought that was the sad end of the dog’s story, so he was rather pleased to discover that the dog survived and carried on working at the station with Great Grandfather Thomas.

The other copy of the Gazette was Vol. 6, No. 61, September 1917. I found this piece in STAFF AND GENERAL NEWS:

On May 10th last, Mr Andrew Thomas retired after 40 [hand-corrected to 46 by my grandmother] years’ service with the Company. Entering the service as a young lad at Knucklas station, and after being employed in various capacities at many of the Central Wales stations, he was put in charge at Swansea Bay in the year 1890, which post he held for 26 years when, owing to ill health, he had to give up the position, and for some little time past he has been performing less arduous duties in the Swansea Goods Offices.  At the time he was appointed to Swansea Bay, the station was still situate at that part of the line known locally as “The Slip.” Two years later the station was demolished and the existing one erected some little distance from the site of the old one. 

Of the subject of our sketch it can truly be said that during the whole of his railway career he served his company well and honourably, and there is no doubt the Service and his fellow men will be the poorer by his retirement.  If any social function or any general collection was being made for the benefit of a necessitous cause, one was always assured of a most sympathetic and active interest on the part of Mr. Thomas. Of an unassuming personality, he did what he did unostentatiously, and there’s many a poor traveller who found in him a good friend.

For many years, until his retirement, he took a keen interest in the work of the North-Western Temperance Union and was the treasurer for the local branch. He also associated himself and took a keen interest in the St. John’s Ambulance.
The hope of all his friends is that now he will so far recover his health that both he and Mrs. Thomas may live long to enjoy his well-earned retirement.

And he did. Here he is with his wife Annie, as my father remembers them in the early 1920s.


Andrew and Annie Thomas

Finally, a couple of links: the London & North Western Railway Society has a website with a considerable amount of information on the rail line in its heyday. And the Heart of Wales Line Travellers’ Association (HOWLTA) works to promote the interests of passengers on the line today.

Screams from the Gallery

Posted in Digital Art and Fractals, History, museum, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2012 by suetortoise

Atcham Boot 1

Sometimes you don’t need a dark and stormy night in late October for a horror story. No ghosts, witches or vampires, just a pile of old leather boots in the stores of Shrewsbury’s town museum, and a little knowledge of their history.

Not a dark and stormy night, but a stormy afternoon. A Sunday afternoon in July, 1879. Atcham, a little village on the bank of the River Severn just to the east of Shrewsbury. It’s been opressive all day and now the rain and thunder have started and the sky is very dark. The weather has kept some parishoners away, but there’s a fair turnout for Evensong at St Eata’s Church. The Reverend Francis Barney Parkes is taking the service. Up in the gallery, the children’s choir are fidgetting and whispering, as usual, while the second lesson is read. And then….

Atcham Boot 2

On a separate page, I’ve transcribed the full story from the local newspaper, Eddowes Shrewsbury Journal, July 23rd 1879. (Copied from the reprint volume Salopian Shreds and Patches, volume 4, from a copy in Shropshire Archives.) It’s a very readable account. I suggest you go and read that now and then come back here and we’ll talk some more about it under the cut.

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