Archive for shropshire

Misty Morning in Ellesmere

Posted in out and about, Photography with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by suetortoise

I took my camera to Ellesmere on the bus, yesterday. There was heavy mist when I arrived, and although the mist slowly cleared a little, the sun stayed hidden and the air was chill. So I came back home after lunch. Despite the weather, I enjoyed my morning pottering around looking for pictures. The lack of easy views encouraged me to seek out subjects I might otherwise have missed. And although there was not a lot of colour, what there was seemed extra vivid. Here are some photos taken in Cremorne Gardens, at the edge of the Mere and in the Castlefields.







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.

Continue reading

A Strange Little Picture

Posted in Embroidery, museum, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2012 by suetortoise

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

When I caught a glimpse of this picture in the dark depths of the picture storeroom at Shrewsbury Museum in Rowley’s House, my first thought was: “Surely that’s not a piece of Jacobean stumpwork over there, is it?” Lifting it out into the light, I soon realised that it was not 17th Century embroidery, but was a most unusual imitation of the style; with paper filigree replacing metal thread embroidery and cut ribbon work instead of silk stitchery. As I put it carefully back onto the shelf, I noticed a nearly label pasted on the back. It was nearly illegible, but a date caught my eye among the writing – 1860.

I could not stop to examine the picture that morning, but I knew I wanted to spend time looking at it closely and recording it, and that most of all I wanted to share this quaint and curious little image with my readers on Tortoise Loft. Shrewsbury Museum have very kindly given me permission to do that, and I want to thank them.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

The label is in very faded ink but I have made out most of the writing. It says:

 This Picture was given to me in Shrewsbury August, 21st 1860 by Mrs
John Lawrence [?th]at was a Cousin’s Widow who got it from my deceased aunt Margaret Bowdler who resided with her and who brought it from her Father’s House at Munslow – and is the only relic preserved.
It is said [underlined] to have been in the family 300 or 400 years.
Rich\d Bowdler
Kirkham – Lancashire
Mr Edw\d Hughes of Shrewsbury has portions of ?Furniture made from very old timber – grown on the Marton Estate.

I don’t know if the mention of old timber refers to the frame? There are various branches of the Bowdler family in Shropshire, going back to medieval times. It would be interesting to know where Aunt Margaret’s family lived. Munslow is a parish near Church Stretton, including the village Ashford Bowdler, There is also a Hope Bowdler just south of Ludlow. There are several places called Marton in Shropshire, but I don’t know of one near Munslow. 

Let’s have a look at some details of the picture.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

The paper filigree (a craft sometimes called ‘quilling’) is made of paper with gold-leaf edges. The heyday of this craft was the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Bookbinders would sell the strips already gilded and cut, ready to be rolled or crimped and glued into place. A few coils are missing, but the glue used must have been good – the vast majority are still firmly in place. One of the four corners of the design has much less paper and more ribbon flowers than the other three. I wonder if the maker of the picture was running short of gold-edged paper? In the opposite corner, red ink or paint has been used on the board beneath the pattern. The dark marks around the top-left edge appear to be damage rather than deliberate tinting.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

The flowers and leaves are neatly cut from coloured ribbon and glued into place.  You can see from this damaged red and white flower that the petals of the main flowers  were assembled on a circle of paper before being fixed to the backing board.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewbury Museums

The cornflower is a common motif on seventeenth century embroidery, the carnation, and roses too, are very typical. This leads me to wonder if the artist adapted the design from an old piece of embroidery. Perhaps it was the original of this piece that was in the family for many generations? I would be surprised if this picture itself was more than 100 years old in 1860, but the craft of paper filigree was known in Jacobean times, so maybe…?

On the central figure, you can see the only stitching used in the piece – a few stitches to catch down the silk hair and the scraps of metal-thread braid used on the costume. Some of the ribbon has a fine pinstripe, some has neatly graduated shades (used to good effect on the cloud above the figure’s head, along with ink wash), and there is a white ribbon with a patterned weave used on the dress. All the other ribbon is in plain colours. Some red ink can be seen on the face and costume, as well as the black ink. There is also some paint, or ink, that is a light blueish-grey, used on some of the filigree papers and in spots on the ribbon-work. The figure’s hands are cut from pink paper, and there are two small birds near her head which appear to be cut from printed paper. The birds have been further coloured with red and black ink. Apart from the paper filligree, all the other details are made from ribbon. The edge of the board is also covered with ribbon.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

I am fascinated by this little picture (it measures 28cm wide and 35cm high, excluding the wooden frame). I have never seen anything else quite like it. Can anyone shed any more light on it? Who made it? Where? When?

All the pictures in this article are Copyright Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums, 2012. Used by permission. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited. For further information please contact Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Destination Uncertain

Posted in everyday life, out and about with tags , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2010 by suetortoise

A beautiful sunny April morning. I decided to catch a bus somewhere. I originally thought I might go to Ironbridge, but I had to queue at the ATM (no money, no bus ticket!) and by the time the machine finally coughed out my cash, I would not have been able to reach the bus station before the Ironbridge bus left. Except that I then remembered that the 96 comes up through the town, and I could probably just make it to the stop in St Mary’s Street in time…. I did. I even had a couple of spare minutes to catch my breath before it came into sight.

River Severn at Buildwas

It was a lovely run through the spring countryside. This is a pretty route, going through Atcham and Wroxeter and Leighton. Rolling hills, the River Severn meandering in great loops, and the Wrekin gradually coming closer. English countryside. I got off the bus at Buildwas, thinking I would have a look around there, see the ruins of the Cistertian Abbey, and then walk on into Ironbridge. I saw a sign to the abbey, and that road took me across Buildwas Bridge. A much replaced bridge: the original one, built by the monks, was swept away in 1795, Thomas Telford made the next one three years later – there’s still a small section of its iron arch by the side of the road. The third one was built in 1905, and finally the present bridge replaced it in 1992.

While I was leaning on this bridge, taking a picture of the river and the house beside it (avoiding the power station, the other dominating feature of Buildwas), a lady came along walking a couple of friendly beagles. She told me that she used to live in the house I was busy photographing, and her mother still lives there. It’s mostly 16th Century, she said. The roof tops and walls were a wonderful tangle of creepers and vines.

Tiles and tangles

I walked on up to the Abbey entrance, but it was not yet open for the day, so I decided to continue walking. There was very little traffic, and the grass verge was scattered with white dog violets and purple ground ivy. There were butterburs near the water and patches of salt-loving scurvy-grass at the road edge.

As I continued walking, the traffic was gradually becoming heavier. I spent more and more time waiting on the verge for streams of cars to pass. After a while, I passed a roadsign sign telling me where I was going; “Much Wenlock 2”, it said. So I was not on the road to Ironbridge after all. Well, Much Wenlock’s very pretty, and I could probably manage another two miles without much trouble. Although the traffic was getting annoying. Or I could walk back the way I’d come and see the abbey instead? Decisions…. I decided to walk as far as the brow of the hill before making up my mind.

Just before I got to the top of the rise, a Land Rover passed me and then pulled to a halt. It was David and Jen from the Shropshire Community Flickr Group, offering me a lift. “Are you going to Wenlock?” they asked. “It looks like I am now!” I replied. I was amazed that anyone I knew would pass me and would recognise me when I was so far out of my usual stomping grounds. I was very happy to accept the lift.

Thanks to their kind offer, I was soon at The Edge Arts Centre on the outskirts of Much Wenlock. They were there to attend a couple of events at the Wenlock Poetry Festival, a new venture for the town. I walked on into the town centre, had a look around the little museum and found a cafe for a second breakfast – scrambled eggs on toast and coffee. I needed that!

After further walking around the town, which was bustling with people, I went into Priory Hall. There I watched a stone carver, John Neilson, inscribing a piece of local stone with couple of lines from a poem specially written for the festival by Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate and the festival’s patron.

I went into Wenlock Pottery, and spent quite a long time sitting in the sun in its courtyard, talking to the lady in charge of it. This was the venue for a couple of free poetry events, but it was too early. Nearer the time, I moved inside but the Wirral Poets, who were to provide the first item, were still on their way. Instead I had the pleasant room almost to myself – I say almost, because there were a few people at a table to my left, and over in the far corner, Roger McGough and John Gorman were having a quick, quiet practice of some pieces they were to be performing later.

Poets and pots

Gradually more audience turned up. And finally the Wirral Poets arrived in force – a large group. They were handed hi-vis waistcoats, as they were going to be out and about, taking poetry around the town, after their short performance in the Pottery. More people turned up to watch, all the chairs in the audience were soon taken and still people were coming in. And then the poetry started. I listened. Afterwards I was back in the courtyard of the pottery, in the sunshine, with a very nice pot of tea, wondering where I would to go next. In the end, I decided that what I really wanted to do next was to go back home and think about things. So I did. A pretty run on the 436 bus, over and down Wenlock Edge and finally back into Shrewsbury in the now quite hazy sunshine. Happy.

The Holiday Report, 10th-17th September 2009

Posted in out and about with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2009 by suetortoise

I couldn’t afford to go away for a holiday this year, but I took a week off work and went out and about as a local tourist. Have bus ticket, will travel…

Castle, Church, Pub, Pond
I started on Thursday 10th September with a trip to Whittington on the number 70 bus. A beautiful morning. I wandered around Whittington Castle and sat in the sun with a coffee, enjoying the sunshine and watching the ducks and swans.

Then I went on to Oswestry. I didn’t stay there long: wandered around the town centre, bought some food and picnicked at the bus station while waiting for the bus back home. Another lovely ride.

The next day I was back on the number 70 again, this time just as far as  the Three Pigeons at Nesscliffe. A pleasant early-morning ramble up and around the hill. I saw Kynaston’s Cave — once  the haunt of a notorious local highwayman. It is not open to the public because it is home to a large colony of bats.
Kynaston's Cave steps
The colours of the sandstone on Nesscliffe were wonderful. I was a little disappointed that the morning mist did not lift enough to give me much of a view from the top of the hill, but it was lovely to walk through the peaceful woods.


A view from Nesscliffe
Saturday was a Heritage Open Day. I caught the 96 bus to Atcham to meet up with Natasha another member of the Shropshire Community group on Flickr, and to visit the National Trust property Attingham Park which was one of the places offering free entry for the day. We were given a short tour of the interior by one of the conservators, who was most interesting and amusing. As well as giving us the history of the house and its furnishings, she looked at things with the eye of one who has to clean them and protect them from deterioration. (The large, new, wine-red carpet in the picture gallery came in for particular criticism. I can imagine how much work it is to keep it immaculate – that colour will show every mark.) After our tour, we took a walk through the shrubbery and woodland around the central paddock, andHead on then went into the kitchen garden and the walled garden. Cameras came out, butterflies and other insects got chased and flowers and vegetables photographed.

A sweet song coming from deep inside a sculpture made of razor-wire turned out to be this little robin. It was not trapped, just using the wire as a place to sit and sing.
Another razor light song
Sunday was a stay-at-home day, catching up on chores. I’ve already recounted Monday’s adventure in my last post.

Moreton Corbet Castle 3Tuesday looked like it would be another grey, cool day, but by the time I had taken a bus to Shawbury and walked past the RAF station to Moreton Corbet Castle, the air was warm and there was a long fine interval, ideal weather for photographing the ruins. I visited the old church next to the castle and also had fun trying to photograph the pigs and piglets belonging to the Castle Farm. By the time I’d walked back to Shawbury, I’d had the best of the day.
Nine little piggies
Wednesday was another stay-at-home day, but Thursday was the major outing of the week, a day trip to Lichfield in Staffordshire, by coach, organised by the Friends of Shrewsbury Borough Museums.
Dr Johnson 300th
We started at Dr Samuel Johnson’s birthplace, on the eve of his 300th anniversary. The birthplace was full of ladies arranging flowers for the celebrations. After a quick look around there (I’m not very interested in Johnson), I went to Lichfield Cathedral. A wonderful place. Dedicated to St Chad, an early bishop of Mercia, it has three fine tall spires and an amazing wealth of high-Victorian sculpture decorating the medieval building. The West Front is packed with figures. Inside it is equally fine, with a cast-iron rood screen, all painted and gilded and decorated with musical angels. The Victorian restoration of the cathedral was done by Giles Gilbert Scott. It’s a sight worth seeing and for all the ornamentation and decoration, it excudes calm and peace and rest.
A Cardinal's Nest
The East Window has been removed for restoration, and stonemasons are busy repairing the structure. This made the inside a little too dark for hand-held photography, but the outside was a treat! I must go back sometime when the tarpaulins are off and the window has been replaced in the repaired tracery.
Erasmus Darwin's Commonplace Book
After an pleasant lunch in a little restaurant adjacent to the cathedral, it was time to visit Erasmus Darwin’s house. The house is nicely restored, and gives a good idea of the character and interests of Charles Darwin’s grandfather. This interested me very much. A fascinating man, and obviously a great influence on Charles. In the close in front of the house there is a beautiful garden, a mixture of herbs and flowers and medicinal plants, full of colour and interest. More food for the camera!  A fine day out and a fine end to my holiday.
Take a deep breath

Greetings From Broome

Posted in out and about, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 9, 2009 by suetortoise

A few months ago, my Australian friend Kevon Kenna went on a driving holiday from his home in Melbourne to Broome in Western Australia. He sent me a lengthy trip report and some postcards. I promised him I’d visit the town’s namesake, Broome in South Shropshire, and take some photos in return. Yesterday morning, I caught the Heart of Wales Line train from Shrewsbury.
Greetings from Broome
Kevon travelled to Broome by car – a journey of several days via Alice Springs and Kununurra in the Kimberley. My journey to Broome took less than an hour, and passed through Church Stretton and Craven Arms. A party of ramblers on the train were also getting off at Broome, so the single platform was quite crowded. A few moments later, they had vanished onto a footpath.
Broome platform
Station approach

The Railway Terrace dates back to Broome’s heyday as a rail depot. This was the nearest access to the rail line for the village of Aston on Clun, and Broome is little more than an offshoot of Aston, which is just up the road.



The post lady is delivering the mail from her red van.  The man has walked into Aston to pick up his newspaper. 
Morning news
The pub at Broome shows the hamlet’s railway origins.
Engine and Tender
A few minutes walk along a quiet road with flowers and butterflies in the hedgerows brings me to Aston itself.

Aston on Clun has a couple of unusual round houses. This shot shows one of them, along with the garage, the village shop and the inn. It’s a view that hasn’t changed a great deal for over a century.
Aston village centre
You can compare it with Old photos from Shropshire Archives

Aston inn signAnd here’s the inn sign. A link with Australia.

Aston is an attractive little village. Its main claim to fame is its Arbour Tree, which is decorated with flags every year in May on Arbour Day. The tree is a native Black Poplar, a cutting of the orginal tree which came down in a storm a few years ago. There are twelve flags decorating the tree this year.
Aston Arbour TreeFlags on the Arbour Tree
Including these two, sharing a flagpole:

Yes, this is a small village in the Clun Valley in South Shropshire, not a pearl-fishing town in western Australia, but somehow it seems there is a touch of Down Under even here.



 More pictures of Broome and Aston on Clun from my trip on Flickr.