Saturday, 14 October 2017

Write - Edit - Publish Bloghop: Dark Places ...

Walls of violence continue to assault me … the force of iron manacles holding me in place … the thick, murky, smothering smoke lingers …

 … am I alive, or now gone … I no longer can see … images of dark-sky gray emblazoned still in my mind … my mind – OR my soul …

Michaelangelo -
Damned Soul    c 1525

… that n-o-o-i-i-s- e … the howl, ... the scream of terror … is that me … that s-m-e-l-l … burnt skin or tallow candles – both now mixed … a-g-o-n-y … excruciating agony – when will it end …

Josefina de Vasconcellos'
sculpture: The Young Martyr
(in the Cartmel Priory - Lake District)

Is that the steaming hay from the braziers, OR is that the smoke from the pyre … my senses have gone … my soul – the darkness … but I am remembered centuries on – behind bars … forever entombed in sculpture … an early martyr to the barbaric cruelty of man.

Dark night take my soul 

toward the forever darkness

... for I will be at peace.

To participate or visit other entries please go here to the 
Write Edit Publish Monthly blog-hop 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Bucket List - part 8: The River Thames its history and health ...

The River Thames rises near Cirencester, Gloucestershire and flows roughly eastwards for 215 miles (346 km) out to the North Sea.  It is our longest English river and the second longest, after the Severn, in the UK.
Course of River Thames across England

It drains the whole of Greater London and is tidal up to Teddington Lock … 68 miles from the sea … the rise and fall of the tidal section is 7 metres (24 feet).

It now has 45 navigation locks with accompanying weirs; there are over 80 islands; its waters vary from fresh to almost salt water as it reaches the North Sea.

River Thames flowing into Rhine

Surprisingly the River Thames can be identified as a discrete drainage line – as early as 58 million years ago.  Until about half a million years ago, the Thames flowed on its existing course through Oxfordshire, before turning to the north-east, reaching the North Sea near Ipswich, East Anglia … and was a tributary of the Rhine.

In those early days its course changed, the last ice age came and altered the landscape dramatically – creating the English Channel from the melt waters, leaving Britain as an island.  The river became more as we know it today … flowing ‘happily’ through our capital  - providing, over time, London with a great deal of history.

Our major rivers
It was a place of pilgrimage and devotion, a sacred river but also now a frontier between warring factions – those from the south could not cross, nor could those from the north – never the twain shall meet?  Well we know they did …

Heathrow – interestingly – has connections with Caesar following his expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC.  There is a ‘shrine’ at Caesar’s Camp to the north of Heathrow airport – they are doing a more thorough investigation now.

It is likely the Romans chose Londonium as the Thames, wider before it was tamed and contained, could be bridged, yet was still tidal … we are now at Cornhill, near Bank tube station. 

River Thames, with St Paul's in background ..
by Canaletto (1746)

There were two other ‘hills’ that of Tower Hill, site of the Tower of London, and of Ludgate Hill, crowned by St Paul’s Cathedral.  The highest point of Cornhill is 58 feet (17.7 m) above sea level.

As our knowledge and abilities increased the river and its tributaries was used for trade and transport – more movement up and down the river occurred … so when the Romans ‘bridged’ London at Cornhill in about 43 AD – London was in place to be the capital.

Old St Paul's with its spire before the
Great Fire of London 

Trade was very important to London and great use was made of the Thames’ tributaries into the city – bringing in coal, wood, silver, cloth, food stuffs for animals and peoples … while watermen acted like taxis.

However by the Middle Ages the trade routes around the world were expanding … we had tea, silk, spices coming in from the east; sugar from the Caribbean, timber from Norway and iron ore from Sweden.

London Bridge (1616)
by Claes van Visscher

The river became clogged up – but ships were getting larger and went from sail to steam … new docks were demanded.  As we’ve all seen in our lifetimes – so much change has gone on.

It’s interesting to remember the Little Ice Age which occurred from about 1540 – 1750 when occasionally the Thames froze over – some times for three months.

The frozen Thames (1677)
Frost Fairs were held and Henry VIII is said to have travelled to Greenwich by sleigh along the river, even Elizabeth I took walks on the ice in the winter of 1564.

The last frost fair was held in 1814 lasting just four days … but during that time they managed to lead an elephant across the river below Blackfriars Bridge.

As the river passed through ever increasing urbanised areas it became more polluted and by the Victorian era was in a sorry state.  It had until the early 1800s been a thriving salmon river.

Michael Faraday giving his card to
Father Thames - caricature commenting
on a letter of Faraday's on the
state of the River in 1855
The heatwave of 1857 sent the putrid stench of the Thames wafting into the House of Parliament – they tried to keep ‘the stench’ out … to no avail – they closed down … but a plan in 1865 for new sewers would be agreed.

The system worked in central London, but seriously fouled the water system downstream until a sewage treatment system was introduced in the late 1800s.

Bazalgette’s sewers (I just love that name!) were pretty mammoth … so large that they’re still effective today – just – London is a-growing and we’re not terribly responsible with our waste etc.

World War II’s bombing damaged the sewers and treatment plants, which together with the increasing use of detergents after the war, added to the river’s pollution.  A clean-up operation was begun in 1960.

Satirical cartoon by William Heath
showing a woman observing monsters
in a drop of London water in 1828

The natural flow of the river will break down sewage … but the bacteria use up oxygen in the process – leaving little for other life forms … so by 1957 the Natural History Museum declared the Thames biologically dead – that clean-up operation had not come too soon.

The river began to breathe again … and we became more environmentally aware of the damage caused by pesticides, fertilisers etc … there are stricter industry regulations … however occasionally another spin-off occurs – silver was a pollutant - but with people switching to digital photography this has helped nearly eliminate that polluting substance.

Oxygenating Barge

Now there are ‘bubblers’ in the Thames … these are oxygenation craft to be deployed during or after periods of heavy rain, when sudden storm water surges decreased the dissolved oxygen levels in the river.  These are still needed and provide reactive systems to ensure the continued improvement of the river Thames.


Simply by cleaning the river – the fish came back (naturally) and there are now 125 species of fish in the Thames, up from almost none in the 1950s.  The fish in turn feed marine mammals, including seals, birds and so the cycle of life goes on …

Sea Lamprey - ugly aren't they?!

We now get seals and porpoises in the Thames and on occasions a whale – which is not good news – they rarely survive, unless they can be turned around to head out to sea once again.

Short-snouted Seahorse

There are other exciting species that have returned – salmon have been seen, eels, the really ugly! lampreys and out in the reeds of the Kent marshes delightful sea-horses – all are very sensitive to pollution … another plus in the life of the Thames.

Yet, as we know plastic is now a serious threat to wildlife as a whole … it affects smaller creatures that are prey for the larger ones.

Trap on Thames to catch some of the
rubbish as it floats down stream

A Cleaner Thames campaign was launched in September 2015 to combat plastic waste … it’s a difficult battle, because there are so many sources.

There are other things … as more river taxi boats/cruisers use the river to transport people which disturb the river bed … also making the river noisy and crowded – while it is fast flowing (because of the high walls to contain the river) that makes another challenge for the wildlife …
London City Airport in a dock
alongside the Thames

But we go on looking after the Thames as best we can from its early origins as the Tamesas (from tamessa) recorded in Latin flowing out further north into the Wash, Lincolnshire/Norfolk.

Father Thames - a Coade stone sculpture
by John Bacon in the grounds of
Ham House, Richmond

Father Thames has called time on me and this post! … wild life is in a better position, the banks of the Thames flourish with birds, insects, plants … giving everyone who lives or visits the river and its environs a feast for the senses – 40% of London is green space … so let’s get out feel the wind in our hair and enjoy the great outdoors.

There will be one more of these Bucket List posts … as I have booked (later in October) to climb 60 feet into the scaffolding to check out the art work in the Painted Hall  (part 5) - as they make their restoration work – should be fascinating … my goddaughter’s mother is coming to join me… a good meet up ...

Once this series got going ... it became more about Greenwich than anything else - so perhaps I should end tidying up that side of harbourage (if that's a word) ... but I'll leave it to you to look at this brilliant site on the History of the Port of London - whose link is below: so I shall now retire.  

An adapted quote at the beginning of their site: "A plot of firm soil by the river's bank made a landing place, which became a port and city of the world - that is London."

Here are some links:

11th century delicacy - Lampreys - one of my very early posts in 2009

A Judge, Gardens and the Great Stink - another of my early posts 

St Alfege Church, Greenwich - Henry VIII was baptised here ...but there's a lot more history?!

Plume of Feathers pub in Greenwich Park

History of the Port of London pre 1908 ... 

The Londonist - gives us more details on Father Thames ... and the song 'Old Father Thames...' which you may find interesting ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bucket List – part 7: Chapel in Queen Mary’s Court, Old Royal Naval College and the Observatory …

The Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich built on the instructions of Queen Mary II (1662 – 1694), had been inspired by the sight of wounded sailors returning in 1692. 

Sir Christopher Wren and his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor were appointed architects of the new Royal Hospital.  Sir John Vanbrugh succeeded Wren as architect, completing the complex to Wren’s original plans.

Queen Mary portrait by
Sir Godfrey Kneller - 1690
Queen Mary (of William and Mary) had ‘with as much Indignation as her excellent good Temper would suffer her’ refused to have her view blocked … she wanted to retain its ‘visto’ of the Thames – which had only been gained once Charles II cleared the old Tudor palace of Greenwich … part of which has been found under the Painted Hall building and is now being excavated see my earlier post …

… so the quadrants (or Courts) were split providing the avenue we see today from the river through the hospital grounds up to Queen’s House and Greenwich Hill beyond, with its other historical features and buildings … eg The Royal Observatory – see link at end.  

The Chapel's interior

Queen Mary’s Court houses the hospital’s chapel … the original burnt down in a disastrous fire in 1779, being rebuilt and decorated with ‘Greek Revival’ architecture.

James ‘Athenian’ Stuart (1713 – 1788), as Surveyor of the Royal Hospital, was appointed to re-design the Chapel - was a stroke of good fortune for architecture and design that changed the look of buildings in the late 18th century onwards.

James "Athenian" Stuart - self-portrait

Stuart proved to be a talented artist, after the death of his father, supporting his mother and family, by becoming apprenticed to a fan maker.

After 20 years or so he walked to Italy (he still couldn’t afford to go any other way) to expand his artistic knowledge … where he was apprenticed, learning Latin, Italian and Greek, while studying Italian and Roman art and architecture.

He went on to Naples, round to Greece … cementing his interest in studying ancient ruins and designs.  Returning to London he co-authored with Revett a 'design sourcebook' – fuelling the Greek Revival Movement in European architecture … Grand Tours became popular as the love of antiquity spread.

An illustration in the 'design

Nicholas Revett (1721 – 1804) considered himself a gentleman and was probably sufficiently well-off not to have to earn his living … but he and Stuart documented the ruins of ancient Athens … further enhancing European knowledge of Greek architecture …

On his appointment as Surveyor to the Royal Naval Hospital Stuart was able to share his passion for this style of architecture when the new Chapel was built.

An example of scagliola - seen in the
Allen County Courthouse, Fort Wayne
This gave the Greek Revival Movement a real boost … master craftsmen were brought in … creativity came to the fore – but as the cost of Stuart’s design would have been way over the top … funds were scarce - a number of money-saving decorative effects were used … meaning design trickery. 

Scagliola came into fashion in Tuscany in the 17th century … this was used for producing the imposing marble-like stucco columns at each end of the Chapel.

Trompe L'oeil wall by
Jacob de Wet (1730s)

The life-sized figures of evangelists and apostles in the niches are paintings – not sculptures … using the Grisaille technique - artwork entirely in shades of grey or neutral greyish colour … 

The limestone, horsehair and sand plaster decorations on show in the chapel were made in moulds – some of the moulds surviving to this day …

Shire Books have produced
this little booklet about
Coade stone
Coade stone was an artificial ceramic, manufactured in Eleanor Coade’s Lambeth factory – sadly the technique has been lost.

Eleanor Coade (1733 – 1821) was an entrepreneurial businesswoman known for her methodical procedures to produce consistently high quality products.  She had managerial skills, entrepreneurial flair and a talent for marketing and public relations.

She is worth reading up about … her success may be gauged by Josiah Wedgwood’s complaint that he “could not get architects to endorse his new chimney- piece plaques”. 

Twinings: the original shop in the
Strand - the frontispiece is of Coade
stone - rediscovered under a century
of soot

The Chapel contains many Coade stone products … the angel heads and column capitals in the nave, the crest of the Royal Hospital on the balconies, while in the vestibule there are four life-sized Coade stone statues representing the virtues:  Faith, Hope, Charity and Meekness.

Duty reforms made imports cheaper; mahogany could be used more freely … when it was mixed with home grown woods … the art of wood-turning was discovered.

The Chapel's Aisle with the
organ pipes set into mahogany
and oak

The pulpit and the organ … both were made from local and imported woods – oak, mahogany and limewood … the organ is still used almost every day by organ scholars … and remains known for its beauty of tone.   Sadly the organ builder, Samuel Green (1740 – 1796), died in near poverty – how often that happens … yet the names of great craftsmen can live on.

The Chapel was extensively restored in the 1950s … and now looks almost as it did when it was built … it is a stunning and beautiful place of worship … hosting a regular Sunday service.

Plan of Greenwich Courts, Queen's House and
at the back Greenwich Hill

This completes my Greenwich posts … I need to visit again … but in the meantime there are some links, one of which is to another blogger’s recent excellent post on the Royal Observatory …

I will write up one more post in this Bucket List series on the health of the River Thames … then I change tack and carry on with whatever springs to mind.

Thanks for joining me on my various jaunts with the friend who was over from South Africa … it’s been a good journey and knowledge gathering time …

Blogoratti’s post on A Day at the Royal Observatory

Grisaille technique - particularly used in place of a sculpture ... 

More interesting information here on the hospital:  'A Refuge for All' 

Old Royal Naval College - Architecture ... details on the College's architectural development


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 29 September 2017

We are the World Blogfest ... # 7 - Cornwall Hugs Grenfell ...

I expect many of you will remember the terrible tragic fire that recently enveloped Grenfell Tower in west London …

I love this logo - so clever ...
Cornwall Hugs Grenfell
Holidays of Hope...
says so much ...

… who could have envisaged something as appalling as this happening in this day and age … I’m not going into the details – suffice to say about 80 people died … and the police are still investigating …

But at the time 280 miles away in Cornwall – and you know how my heart could easily reside in the far west – a mother of two, Esme Page, watched completely shocked as the information on the horror unfolded.

Cornish flags flying high for Grenfell

This has left a whole community bereft … of a loved one, a friend, neighbours and locals of knowing what happened, of trauma, with serious injuries, of post-traumatic stress disorder from the effects of this ghastly event … it is ongoing …

Esme set up a Facebook page “Cornwall Hugs Grenfell” … the response was magnificent … she had posted:

“Imagine if we could put a Cornish holiday on the horizon of every Grenfell resident and firefighter family: a time to rest, a time to let our beautiful county bless these people and work its gentle magic.”

Cornwall travel poster from the 1920s

… more than 200 pledges were received from local businesses – for accommodation, vouchers for attractions and meals, transport, water-sport opportunities, sight-seeing, et al …

The first holiday was hugely successful – the visitors won’t ever forget the devastating effects of the fire, but could now have some recent happy memories to share with each other and others …

St Michael's Mount off Marazion

… the intention is to run the project until 2019 … providing free holidays for those of the families and supporters who wish to take up the offer …

Cornish Cream scone and tea

… there were therapy sessions of massage, reflexology, sound therapy, sculpture and singing workshops … local foods of cream teas, fish and chips, ice creams, picnics on the beach … sightseeing trips to various sites …

It is just the sort of idea that should be sung out to the world … reminding us that we can all help in the background – there’s always a way to offer our comfort – there is a just giving crowdfunding link …


This epitomises We are the World people – who deserve to be recognised … Esme Page with her two children (7 and 10) – more details can be found in the links …

Thank you for participating in our monthly We are the World Blogfest – please join us next month … here's the link to join us - Damyanti Writes ... this is her post after the Manchester bombing earlier this year.

Visit Cornwall - Cornwall Hugs Grenfell 

Just Giving Crowdfunding site details - if you can give a little ... it would be greatly appreciated - the suffering and struggling on must be so difficult ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 25 September 2017

Bucket List – part 6: Boat trip back from Greenwich to Westminister …

Not so much history for the return trip … we now will note some sites of interest … probably a fair number of taverns!, gruesome tellings, literary connections …

… if we’d walked further east from Greenwich we would have come to the Trafalgar Tavern built in 1837 on the site of an even older tavern.  Charles Dickens frequented the pub and set the wedding breakfast in Our Mutual Friend there.

Brunel standing against
the launching chains of
the SS Great Eastern

Dickens, along with a great many Londoners, watched in great excitement the launch of the Brunel’s SS Great Eastern from Burrell’s Wharf in the afternoon of 3 November 1857 … he vividly recorded the event: see link below: it’s worth reading for the descriptions!

Great Eastern before launch

The launch was on the opposite side of the river on our return trip towards Westminster … there’s a site called the Drunken Dock – with no obvious derivation of the name ‘Drunken Dock’ but possibly because it was a tidal lock … so drowned on the tide, as regular as clockwork …

Aerial view of the Isle of Dogs

We’re going round the easterly meander of the Thames leaving the Isle of Dogs behind … to Canary Wharf, formerly the West India Docks, now one of two business and financial centres in London – the other being the City itself.

Canary Wharf
The three docks had opened in 1802 but by 1980 had closed to commercial traffic – when the new development started … this area of eastern London is still being revitalised – the new Cross Rail route (Elizabeth Line tube) will be completed by 2019.

The Grapes - at low tide

The next major pub of interest we come to is “The Grapes” which has stood on the pebbled Limehouse Reach for nearly 500 years.  It has a lot of history – best checked out at the pub’s site.  Raleigh, Pepys, Dickens … now Sir Ian McKellen and the owner of The Evening Standard, Evgeny Lebedev …

… the last two mentioned have teamed up with The Felix Project, the food waste charity recently launched, … in this instance ‘to re-use your loaf and make beer’ …. they get more ‘waste’ bread than the Project can give away … so are using the surplus to make beer: sold at The Grapes, amongst other outlets …

Bread Banger - outlet for
the Felix Project

The history of beer and bread are inextricably linked … as evidenced in a 3,900 year-old Sumerian poem describing the production of beer from barley via bread.  So the wastage our modern world ‘allows’ us … utilises that bread waste into various modern ales.

Execution Dock
The Prospect of Whitby’s pub name … comes from the coal-carrying vessels from the north east coast of England – possibly established in 1520.

The tavern’s history is long … and has a dubious reputation being situated next to the former Wapping Execution Dock.  “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys lived nearby so he could watch … as according to legend, criminals would be tied up to posts at low tide and left to drown when the tide came in – actually three tides … just to make sure?!  Not nice - if you want to read more: it is here!

Opposite in Rotherhithe (south side) – the Mayflower lay at anchor before departing on her voyage to the ‘New World’ in July 1620.  

The Mayflower painted by William Halsall in 1882 -
in Plymouth Harbour

This voyage has become an iconic story in some of the earliest annals of American history … those 102 Pilgrims with crew established a rudimentary form of democracy after their landing in the New England winter.

The Tower of London and
Tower Bridge

We cruise upstream ever westwards past numerous docks, admiring Tower Bridge as we go underneath it, passing the imposing Tower of London – a fortress, a royal residence, an arsenal, more famously a prison … finally the keeper of the Crown Jewels and major tourist attraction.

The Museum ship: HMS Belfast – the last big gun cruiser from World War 11 … which escorted convoys as part of the Arctic Campaign … dwarfs our tour boat as we pass her by …

Billingsgate Open Air Fish Market
beginning of 1800s

Old Billingsgate – had been London’s main fish market for over 900 years … it is situated in the City.  The new fish market is now within the Canary Wharf development, but outside of the 'City'.

Top of the Monument
with viewing platform

Fishmongers’ Hall is the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers (founded in 1272), one of the livery companies of the City of London.

Behind these two is “The Monument” designed by Christopher Wren, completed in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London 1660.  The column stands 202 feet (62 m) high – the same distance as from the starting point of the fire in Pudding Lane.

The Shard:
Check photo out for how
the composite of this image
was put together and where
the shots were taken from

Southwark Cathedral – you have to see and spend time in – so I’ll leave that for another day … but completely swamping this part of London is The Shard (shard of glass). It is 1,016 feet (309.6 m) tall … the picture has all the details of how and where from it was taken – worth a read … if you’re interested in photographic technicalities …

Borough Market – a foodie heaven – is just south of Southwark Cathedral … well worth a snack, coffee, dining interlude …

Another tavern – Anchor Tavern – dates back to Tudor times and has associations with both William Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson.

Borough Market - foodie heaven!

On the opposite side of the river sits the Livery Hall of the Worshipful Company of Vintners established in 1364 – it has an interesting history … see link at end.

The 'wobbly bridge' connecting
South Bank to the north with a vista towards
St Paul's Cathedral

The Vintners face Shakespeare’s Globe on the south bank, along with the house where Christopher Wren, the architect, lived whilst St Paul’s was being built …

… the spread of theatres, taverns, bear-pits and brothels were common in Southwark, free from the restraints of the City regulators … which have a history all of their own.

Gloomy as you can see ... but the scaffolding
is just visible as it surrounds the
tower of Big Ben

We now have the Millennium Bridge (often known as the ‘wobbly bridge’) … which allows pedestrians to walk across the river – tying together the Globe, the Bankside Gallery and Tate Modern on the south bank, with a clear view across to St Paul’s Cathedral …

We have passed lots of bridges, other sites of historical interest, new developments that seem to abound in London and on its skyline – and finally one last mention “The London Eye” – the Ferris Wheel – the tallest in Europe – something else I have yet to do …

Big Ben and its environs
We have arrived safely at our terminus – the Westminster Pier … could get our land legs back … as we walk up to Westminster Bridge … admiring the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben – now starting to be shrouded in scaffolding – as major repairs are effected.

Big Ben is in dire need of some restoration … actually that’s wrong … the Great Bell as it is correctly known, though affectionately called Big Ben by us all … the tower needs repair and is officially, as of 2012, known as the Elizabeth Tower.

Big Ben's clock face - the hour hand
is 9 feet (2.7m) long, the minute
hand is 14 feet (4.3m) long

I guess as I’m talking about Big Ben … I’ll add a few notes – the clock bells will remain silent for four years (except at odd times – New Year’s Eve, and Remembrance Day).  Do you know the ring of the 13.7 tonne bell can be heard ten miles away … some distance: I wouldn’t like to work in its close proximity …

Lamp posts on
the Bridge

Previously the clock has been stopped, or slowed the passing of time by starlings perching on the minute hand in 1949; by an explosion in 1976; for maintenance in 2007 … but life will go on now as then and when the bells return to ring in 2021 Big Ben will return to normal.

'Revolving Torsion' kinetic
sculpture/fountain by Naum Gabo

We walked over Westminster Bridge, walked a little way down the southern embankment noting St Thomas’ Hospital, Florence Nightingale Museum, and in the Gardens overlooking Parliament was Mary Seacole’s Memorial Statue …

Judge Jeffreys - I've no wish for
you to summon him!

Well – we have now returned, I expect you’re tired of my ramblings … but sometimes better ‘too much’ than too little ... and anyway guess what – we needed a drink!!  Well wine for one and water for t’other (me) … and then our train home – when I could have a slightly stronger drink …

Thanks for being with me along this journey – I will add a couple of posts after our We are the World Blogfest this weekend …. when contributing bloggers spread Love and Peace … please join us – all welcome!  Details in this post.

Description of the building of the SS Great Eastern, and Dickens' 'write-up' on its launch ... the expectations of the crowds on the river banks, on little ships, in the water ... including development in this area of the land of promise - do read!

History of The Grapes public house

The Felix Project .... reducing food waste and food poverty ... 

The Weird Beard Brew bread bangers ... recycle bread into beer for charitable purposes .... 

Origins and Development of The Vintners' Company 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories