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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Issy Blow - Titfer-topped Toff


Isabella Delves Broughton, fashion journalist and stylist: born 19 November 1958; married 1981 Nicholas Taylor (marriage dissolved 1983), 1989 Detmar Blow; died Gloucester 7 May 2007.

Flamboyant, fragile, yet completely, utterly fearless, Isabella Blow was the ultimate English eccentric. An unmissable sight on the fashion circuit, Blow was known for many things, but primarily for discovering the designer Alexander McQueen, nurturing new talent and obliterating the view of customers at the Paris couture shows.

Heads would invariably swivel as Blow entered any fashion arena - be it a run-down warehouse in the East End or a rarefied atelier in Paris. Her dress-code remained an elegant version of the fashion cliché " classic with a twist". Teetering on satin stiletto Manolos, wearing couture gown, feathered hat and smeared ruby lipstick,

Blow was a dishevelled bird of paradise who didn't give a damn about convention.

She discovered Sophie Dahl sobbing in a doorway; she bought Alexander McQueen's entire degree show, and had Philip Treacy design her wedding hat when she married Detmar Blow in 1988 - as well being credited with discovering Hussein Chalayan and Stella Tennant.

She also worked as Anna Wintour's assistant on American Vogue, then for Michael Roberts at Tatler, then British Vogue, then The Sunday Times - and ultimately she returned to Tatler as fashion director. Convinced she was ugly, she almost always wore a Treacy hat that would obscure her face, accessorized with her famous slash of red lipstick - MAC designed one in homage to her.

She loved to gossip, talking 20 to the dozen, dropping names, witticisms and acute observations, and invariably ending her sentences with a deafening roar of laughter. In the manner of penniless aristocrats everywhere, Blow was no good with money and identified with Oscar Wilde's assertion that "anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination".

Blow's role in the fashion industry was impossible to define. Incredibly perceptive, inventive and intuitive, she worked completely on instinct, her butterfly mind flitting from arranging a big-name fashion shoot to pursuing the unsuspecting mother of a young fashion student, aka the Next Big Thing.

Although her last official title was as Fashion Editor at Large at Tatler, Blow, flitting in and out of the office, with a life far larger - and more complex - than her job, was an agent provocateur.

She had, during her career, worked at The Sunday Times and been an unlikely consultant at Dupont, Lycra and Swarovski crystal. Her natural habitat, however, was Condé Nast. Emma Soames, former Editor of Tatler, who employed the 22-year-old Blow to work with her Fashion Editor Michael Roberts, says that she came into the world a fully formed fashion editor.

Utterly uncompromising. She just loved it. She just breathed it all. She once came in to see me wearing what could only be described as a pussy pelmet, suspenders and ripped stockings. I thought, "Oh, here we go again, creative person wants to leave." But in fact, she sat down and said, completely seriously, "I'm very, very worried about my pension." Of course, it was never mentioned again.

She was born Isabella Delves Broughton in 1958, daughter of Sir Evelyn Delves Broughton Bt and his wife Helen Shore - her grandfather was Sir " Jock" Delves Broughton of White Mischief fame, who was tried for the murder in Kenya of the Earl of Erroll (and acquitted).

Isabella was educated at Heathfield School and, after her A- levels, enrolled at a secretarial academy. In 1979 she decamped to the United States, briefly attending Columbia University to study ancient Chinese art.

In the early years of her career she led the life of a dilettante - dabbling in various jobs to make a living, eventually finding her métier when she was introduced to Anna Wintour at American Vogue. Isabella Delves Broughton became Wintour's assistant and Wintour her mentor. Wintour has described her as an "amazingly bright light in a world of increasingly corporate culture".

After a brief early marriage, Delves Broughton met Detmar Blow at a friend's wedding in 1988. She claimed he was initially attracted not to her face but to her outlandish hat. They were married in medieval style at Gloucester Cathedral in 1989.

They made an extraordinary couple at gallery openings and fashion happenings, with Detmar in bespoke pinstripe suits and Isabella a vision of aristocratic messiness, resembling a latter-day Miss Havisham.

In 1990, Blow made the transfer from Tatler to Vogue, then under the editorship of Liz Tilberis. She had already spotted and promoted the milliner Philip Treacy; he made the medieval headpiece she wore to her wedding the year before he graduated from the Royal College of Art.

Without a London workroom, Blow knew, Treacy could sink without a trace, and so she installed him in the basement of her home, secured him a contract to design for Chanel and continued to wear his outlandish concoctions for the rest of her life.

It was during this time that she not only discovered Alexander McQueen but reinvented him. Blow was sitting in the audience of McQueen's MA show at St Martin's and, taken with his collection, relentlessly pursued him.

She rang his home, his mother and his tutor, then wore his graduation collection in a Vogue shoot at the Blows' Gloucestershire estate, Hilles, in November 1992. It was she who persuaded the former Lee McQueen to change his name to Alexander (as in Alexander the Great, she said).

Although she secured financial security for McQueen - over dinner, she persuaded Tom Ford to convince the Gucci powers-that-be to back McQueen - Blow was left with nothing but reflected glory.

Despite her promotion of fledgeling fashion talent, she never made a bean. When her father died in 1993, leaving £6m, Blow discovered that she had been left only £5,000.

But she had many things that money can't buy: presence, style and legions of loyal friends.

She suffered from depression all her life, but after her separation from and then reconciliation with Detmar, the illness came to the surface with alarming regularity. She made suicide attempts, throwing herself off a bridge and trying to drown herself in a lake.

Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with cancer. Issy's sister-in-law Selina Blow told me on Friday that she had "the most star-studded visitor list in the NHS".

"There was something other-worldly about her," says Emma Soames. "I think it was a great sadness that she never had a child. Although she was from another world, essentially she was made of flesh and blood like the rest of us. The same things made her cry."

Isabella died on Sunday, May 6 2007, having been treated for cancer and severe depression for some months, at the age of 48. Philip Treacy designed a black feathered hat for her cortege and a funeral was held in The Guards Chapel where the whole fashion world descended in their most appropriate outfits to pay their respects

[Composite from: Linda Watson & Jo Craven]


The Broughtons are descended from the ancient Vernon family of Cheshire and in particular from Richard Vernon, fourth son of the 3rd medieval Baron Vernon of Shipbrook, Cheshire. Adam, his son, was of Napton, Warwickshire. Adams's grandson Roger acquired the estate at Broughton, Staffordshire, from which the surname derives, in the 13th century.

Their 'seat' Doddington Hall near Nantwich, Cheshire is a large private Grade 1 mansion designed by Samuel Wyatt built ca.1780. It is set in gardens landscaped by Capability Brown, overlooking Doddington Lake, a popular sailing venue. The 13th century castle is to the north of the Hall.

['The house is at the moment the subject of substantial building works which are being effected in four phases. Stage I (refurbishing the exterior) has been completed. Parties wishing to view the exterior (and the interior by appointment only because the site remains extremely hazardous) should write to: The Farm Manager, Doddington Park Farm, Nantwich'].

The first Baronet was the son of Thomas Broughton (died 1648) who was an ardent Royalist and supporter of Charles I and who was obliged to 'compound at a cost of £3,200', for the return of his estates following sequestration by the Parliament at the conclusion of the Civil War. His son was honoured with the Baronetcy at the Restoration of Charles II.

Isabella was the eldest child of Major Sir Evelyn Delves Broughton, a military officer, and his second wife, Helen Mary Shore, a barrister. She had three siblings: two sisters, Julia and Lavinia, and a brother, John, who drowned in the family's swimming pool at the age of two, and whose death contributed to the family's imminent fracture.

In 1972, when she was 14, her parents separated and her mother left the household, shaking each daughter by the hand. Her parents divorced two years later. Isabella did not get along with her father, who bequeathed her only £5,000 from his estate, which was worth more than one million pounds. Blow often said her fondest memory was trying on her mother's pink hat, a recollection that she explained led to her career in fashion.

I have a vivid memory of hearing the news of the death of her infant brother John in 1964, when I was 20 years old. Though, as I remembered the terribly sad story, the toddler had drowned in an ornamental pond at Doddington Hall.

Although the aristocracy was a separate breed, they provided the gossip that fuelled conversation back in the 1950s in the way that people now draw on the tabloids and trashy magazines to follow the problems and peccadilloes of Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie etc. In fact seeing the frontispiece photo spread of the latest debutante in the Cheshire Life - say The Hon. Arabella Hunt-Cropper – was about as close as many people came to a pin-up at the time.

I remembered the Cheshire connection when I went to see a special exhibition of Issy's hats that was being shown at the excellent Dowse Museum, Lower Hutt about a year ago.


Issy’s grandfather Sir Henry John 'Jock' Delves Broughton, 11th Baronet (1883 - 5 December 1942) inherited the baronetcy of Broughton in 1914. Sir Jock also inherited some 34,000 acres (140 km²) of family estate in Cheshire, but was forced to sell off most of it in the 1930s to pay gambling debts.

On the outbreak of World War I, as a captain in the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards, he was due to sail on the troop ship SS Novara, but was taken ill and had to be replaced before the ship sailed.

In 1939 he was suspected of insurance fraud after the theft of his wife's pearls and some paintings, on which he claimed the insurance.

He was married twice: to Vera Edyth Griffith-Boscawen in 1913, divorcing in 1940; then in 1941 to Diana Caldwell (d. 1987), daughter of Seymour Caldwell. After his death, Diana remarried twice, the second time to Thomas Cholmondeley, 4th Baron Delamere.

‘Jock’ is chiefly known for his trial in Kenya for the murder of 22nd Earl of Erroll, who had been conducting an affair with his wife Diana. These events were dramatized in the film White Mischief.

It appears that Erroll and Diana had something of a 'Some Enchanted Evening' meeting of needs 'across a crowded room' in the Muthaiga Club. One assumes that this was during an interlude in Lord Delamere's odd habit of chipping golf balls on to the roof of the Club with a 5-iron.

The Earl of Erroll was shot dead, by a single pistol bullet in the head, in his car at a crossroads outside Nairobi in 1941, the year after Sir Jock had moved to Kenya with his new wife Diana to join the Happy Valley set, a group of British colonials living in the Happy Valley region of Kenya (& 'ruled' it seems by Lord Delamere).

Alice de Janzé was initially viewed by the community as a suspect (a previous mistress of the Earl, she had shot and seriously wounded an earlier lover). But Sir Jock soon became the police's prime suspect and was tried for the murder.

He was acquitted for lack of evidence, a conclusion that hinged chiefly on the identification of the gun used. Sir Jock's pistol was a Colt with 6 rifling grooves, and Erroll was killed by a bullet with 5 grooves. No pistol was produced at the trial by Sir Walter Harragin, prosecuting attorney for the Crown, or by the defendant.

Broughton claimed that two of his pistols, a silver cigarette case and 10 or 20 shillings were stolen 3 or 4 days before Erroll's death.

Superintendent Arthur Poppy, a policeman dealing with the case, claimed that Sir Jock had stolen the guns from himself to give the impression that he had no .32 pistol at the time. Additionally, the fatal bullet's rifling was clockwise. Colts use anti-clockwise rifling.

A telegram was sent to the Colt Company in America to clear up the confusion. Another bullet also was fired at Erroll, missed and after ricocheting off a metal pillar in Erroll's car, ended up near the accelerator. It also had 5 grooves and clockwise turning.

A number of books have been written about the case, notably James Fox's investigation White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll, later made into a film White Mischief (1987).

In May 2007 in the Daily Telegraph, author Christine Nicholls described taped evidence claimed to be definitive proof that Sir Jock was the murderer.

The Cholmondeleys of Cholmondeley (or Chumleys of Chumley)


Although apparently quiet and decorously rural, Wettenhall (the village where I grew up in Cheshire) had actually been the scene of a serious rift between those who followed the Anglican (‘C of E’) communion and those who were Methodists in the tradition of John Wesley. The 15-20 farming families were more or less split down the middle.

By the 1950s, the distinction was becoming little more than a curiosity. There were however still complications. When my sister decided to marry her otherwise eminently suitable beau from a neighbouring farm, there was consternation that, as the Hollinsheads were ‘Methodees”, we might be reduced to serving orange juice at the wedding reception.

Anyhow, this storm passed over. But my brother-in-law John faced a challenging situation some years later after he had become the tenant of Bankhouse Farm on the Cholmondely Estate. In the early 1980s Lord Cholmondeley faced a problem in the Estate Chapel (a beautiful example of a Puritan Chapel that is the sole remnant of a former Jacobean Mansion).

The problem as explained by his Lordship was that ‘the current Verger is a bit past it’. ‘John’, he said, ‘You are the man for the job’. ‘But Your Lordship’, he protested, ‘I am Methodist’. ‘Not too worry’ was the reply, ‘I have already talked it through with the Bishop’. So that was that. And that also was very much how the aristocracy got their way – no ifs and buts were allowed.

The Hugh Cholmondeley known to my family was the 6th Marquess of Cholmondeley (1919-1990). He was the son of George Cholmondeley, 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley and Sybil Sassoon, of the Sassoon and Rothschild family. Cholmondeley's acceded to his father's land, estates and title in 1968, and his inherited title became Marquess of Cholmondeley.

Cholmondeley served in British army, initially in the Grenadier Guards and later in the 1st Royal Dragoons. During the Second World War, he saw action in the Middle East, in Italy, in France and in Germany. In 1943, he was decorated with the award of Military Cross (MC). When Cholmondeley retired from the military in 1949, he had attained the rank of Major.


The Cholmondeleys apparently trace their ancestry to William Le Belward, Baron of Malpas, who married Tanglust, the natural daughter of Hugh Kevelioc, Earl of Chester in the late 11th Century.

The family later prospered through its connections with the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy. In 1659, Robert Cholmondeley, 1st Viscount Cholmondeley succeeded to the estates of his uncle Lord Leinster and two years later he was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Viscount Cholmondeley, of Kells in the County of Meath.

Robert’s eldest son Hugh supported the claim of William and Mary to the English throne, and after their accession in 1689 he was rewarded when he was made Baron Cholmondeley, of Namptwich (Nantwich) in Cheshire, in the Peerage of England (which gave him a seat in the House of Lords).

At this time in history, the original Anglo-Irish (and generally Catholic) nobility was being replaced by ‘loyal’ Protestants and there were great fortunes and enormous estates to be won by those who played their cards right.

As Lord Cholmondeley, he was appointed Comptroller of the Household by Queen Anne in 1708. He held this post only until October of the same year, when he was made Treasurer of the Household. He was stripped of this office in 1713 but restored when George I became king in 1714. He died in 1725.

He was succeeded by his younger brother George, the second Earl. He was a prominent military commander and commanded the Horse Guards at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In 1715, ten years before he succeeded his elder brother, he was raised to the Peerage of Ireland in his own right as Baron Newborough, of Newborough in the County of Wexford, and in 1716 he was made Baron Newburgh, in the Isle of Anglesey, in the Peerage of Great Britain.

On his death the titles passed to his son, the third Earl. He was a politician and held office as Lord Privy Seal and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The current family is also directly descended from Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745), who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.

A Whig (i.e. Liberal) who was first elected in 1701, Walpole served during the reigns of George I and George II. His tenure is normally dated from 1721 when he obtained the post of First Lord of the Treasury; others date it from 1730 when, with the retirement of Lord Townshend, he became the sole and undisputed leader of the Cabinet.

Walpole continued to govern until his resignation in 1742 prompted by the Battle of Cartagena disaster, making his administration the longest in British history. Because of his homely ways and strong Norfolk roots, he was often known to both friends and detractors as the Norfolk Squire.

On 30 July 1700, Walpole married Catherine Shorter (died 20 August 1737), with whom he later had two daughters and four sons. His second daughter Mary Walpole (c. 1705—2 January 1732) married the 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley on 14 September 1723 and had two sons.

The Fourth Earl was a successful career politician and courtier who became the Earl of Rocksavage and the Marquess of Cholmondeley in 1815.


The most notorious of the recent Cholmondeleys was Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere (28 April 1870 - 13 November 1931) who was one of the first and most influential British settlers in Kenya. In this he appears to have sought to emulate the successes of his ancestors in ‘settling’ Ireland.

Hugh Delamere (the son of Hugh Cholmondeley, 2nd Baron Delamere, and Augusta Emily Seymour) moved to Kenya in 1901. He was as famous for his tireless labours to establish a working agricultural economy in Africa as he was for childish antics among his European friends when he was at his leisure.

He made his first trip to Africa in 1891 to hunt lion in Somaliland, and returned yearly to resume the hunt. In 1894 he was severely mauled by an attacking lion, and was only saved when his Somali gunbearer Abdullah Ashur leaped on the lion, giving Delamere time to retrieve his rifle. As a result of the attack, Lord Delamere limped for the rest of his life; he also developed a healthy respect for Somalis (and presumably lions!).

It is believed that on one of these Somaliland hunting trips, Delamere coined the term “white hunter” – the term which came to describe the professional safari hunter in colonial East Africa.

Delamere employed a professional hunter named Alan Black and a native Somali hunter to lead the safari. As the story goes, in order to avoid confusion, the Somali was referred to as the "black hunter," and Black was called the "white hunter."

In 1896, Delamere, with a retinue including a doctor, taxidermist, photographer, and 200 camels, set out to cross the deserts of southern Somaliland, intending to enter British East Africa from the north. In 1897, he arrived in the lush green highlands of what is now central Kenya.

In 1899, Delamere married Lady Florence Anne Cole, daughter of Lowry Egerton Cole, 4th Earl of Enniskillen. The couple soon sought to relocate to the Kenya highlands.

Around 1903, he received a 99-year lease on 100,000 acres (400 km2) of land that would be named “Equator Ranch,” requiring him to pay a £200 annual rent and to spend £5000 on the land over the first five years of occupancy.

In 1906, he acquired a large farm, which would eventually include more than 200,000 acres (800 km²), located between the Molo River and Njoro town. This ranch he named Soysambu. Together, these vast possessions made Delamere one of Kenya's "largemen" - the local name for the handful of colonists with the most substantial land holdings.

In 1905, Delamere was a pioneer of the East African dairy industry but most of his imported animals succumbed to diseases such as foot and mouth and Red water disease. Eventually, Delamere decided to grow wheat but this too, was plagued by disease, specifically rust.

By 1909, Delamere was out of money, resting his last hopes on a 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) wheat crop that eventually failed. He was quoted by author Elspeth Huxley as commenting drily, “I started to grow wheat in East Africa to prove that though I lived on the equator, I was not in an equatorial country.”

To supplement his income, he even tried raising ostriches for their feathers, importing incubators from Europe; this venture also failed with the advent on the motor car and the decline in fashion of feathered hats.

Delamere was active in recruiting settlers to East Africa, promising new colonists 640 acres (2.6 km2), with 200 people eventually responding. He persuaded some of his friends among the English landed gentry to buy large estates like his own and take up life in Kenya.

He is credited with helping to found the so-called Happy Valley set, a clique of well-off British colonials whose pleasure-seeking habits eventually degenerated into drug-taking and wife-swapping.

The story is often told of Delamere riding his horse into the dining room of Nairobi’s Norfolk Hotel and jumping over the tables. He was also known to knock golf balls onto the roof of the Muthaiga Club, the pink stucco gathering-place for Nairobi's white elite, and then climb up to retrieve them.

"The extension of European civilization was in itself a desirable thing," he wrote in 1927. "The British race... was superior to heterogeneous African races only now emerging from centuries of relative barbarism... the opening up of new areas by means of genuine colonisation was to the advantage to the world."

And a contemporary and former colonist said: “His ascendancy over the settlers of Kenya has been enjoyed long enough for him to expect all men – and women – to do his bidding, and do it promptly. He is their Moses. For 25 years he has been their guide.”

Delamere died in November 1931 at age 61, leaving unpaid bank loans totaling £500,000 (£15-20 million in today’s terms).


The Venerable George James Cholomondeley, sometime Archdeacon of Christchurch and Vicar of Opawa, belonged to a branch of one of the oldest and noblest families of England; he was closely related to the Marquis of Cholomondeley, and was a cousin of the present Lord Delamere. The history of these families dates back to the eleventh century.

The late Archdeacon's estate at Port Levy is named after the old family seat, “Vale Royal,” the residence of the present Lord Delamere. He was born at Peel, Isle of Man, in 1833, and came to New Zealand in the early 1850s. He was temporarily located as curate at St. Michael's, Christchurch, and afterwards became vicar of the pastoral cure of the Waimakariri.

In 1862 he was appointed to the parish of Heathcote, where he remained until 1875. He was Diocesan Secretary from 1887 to 1890, and became vicar of Opawa in 1875, a canon of the Christchurch Cathedral in 1882, and Archdeacon of Christchurch in 1890.

During his lifetime Archdeacon Cholmondeley published many valuable works on religious subjects, notably, “Retrospect and Prospect,” and “Church Work,” together with other single sermons.

In 1876 he wrote a reply to the tract, “Does the Church of England Sanction Auricular Confession,” and in 1885 he published a pamphlet, entitled, “Clergy Pensions.”

Archdeacon Cholmondeley was a member of the Historical Committee of the Canterbury Natives' Association, and the very complete work, containing the names of the Canterbury pioneers who arrived in the ships of the Canterbury Association, was compiled mainly by him.

After a long life spent in the service of the Church, Archdeacon Cholmondeley died at the vicarage of Opawa, on the 11th of December, 1901, deeply regretted by all classes and denominations.

He left behind the Cholmondeley Home which is still open.

‘Located down Cholmondeley Lane, overlooking the sea, Cholmondeley is a house full of love, warmth and hope. We support the children of Canterbury when their parents cannot. Our children are aged between 3 and 12 years. They come from families with issues including severe illness, substance abuse and addiction, or the death of a parent. Cholmondeley has been supporting the children of Canterbury for 85 years and we are very proud of the quality of care we provide.

Apart from the first impression of the grand old house overlooking the sea, you're also likely to be greeted by the wafts of home baking from the kitchen. At any one time, around 28 children stay at Cholmondeley for an average of 10 days. Regardless of the duration of their stay each child gets love, support, structure, nutrition and care of the highest possible quality'.

[Many thanks to my fellow NZ Blogger Sandy for the tip-off about the NZ connection.

I recommend Sandy's Blog:

RANDOM MEANDERINGS: My Taphophiliac, genealogy, heritage and hobby interests]

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hobbits meet 007


When I was working in the Middle East in the 1970s for an engineering consulting group with a Lebanese-Jordanian origin (Dar Al Handasah Consultants Ltd), I used to get good natured ribbing from my Arab workmates about being British / English. But, having previously spent 7 years in Australia, I was largely immune from what by comparison were very slight digs.

For example, I was admonished on the need to now change the name of the country as Great Britain was no longer ‘great’. I sometimes tried to explain the medieval geography which differentiated ‘Great(er) Britain’ from ‘Lesser Britain’ (i.e. Brittany in France) but this was really a bit too complicated and didn’t address the point they were making.

They also inquired politely ‘Why didn’t the Sun ever set on the British Empire?’ Because, it was claimed ‘God didn’t trust the British in the dark’.

Well, it has taken Britain an inordinately long time to face up to the confusion caused by the Past. It is a country that has a strange form of split personality that involves the coexistence of the famous British reserve and with an equally famous predilection for hooliganism - and one where a small and peaceful country on the edge of Europe was suddenly set upon by a Germany that questioned the fact that the unassuming British were ruling a quarter of the earth.

Well, what are the Brits then: ‘Hairy-footed Hobbits from the Shire’ or ‘James Bonds who are shaken but Not Stirred?’

In the light of this I was struck by some of the good sense in an article by Adrian Hamilton in The Independent of Friday, 26 February 2010: “Can we halt our slide to the margins?”


‘It is the collapse of the assumptions that have kept us going through the new century that should cause the greatest rethink. The "special relationship" with America has been tested to breaking point by the invasion of Iraq and the election of a new President who clearly does not believe that either Britain is special or that it is the US's most important ally in all things, at all times. A decade of continuous and unparalleled growth has come to a shuddering halt and with it the confidence that we had a unique command of finance.

Even our claim to a special global reach from our imperial past has been cast into the shade by a growth of China and India and Brazil that owes little to our assistance or involvement.

Historians, indeed, remain pretty divided on whether the empire as such ever meant that much to the ordinary Briton. The upper middle-classes certainly looked to it for position and occasionally wealth. Various parts of Britain provided troops. But the broad mass of the country had little knowledge or interest in the affairs of empire, more of trade. Certainly my father's family, engineers from the north, travelled widely in countries from Latin America to China, and brought back trinkets from them all. But empire as such was never much discussed. The world painted red was a matter of industrial dominance not military might.

The post-war years were harsh in terms of Britain's industrial and economic strength. But politically, the Cold War suited us. It kept us useful to the US as an ally who could be relied on, especially on the UN Security Council, and it kept alive the sense that Britain had special and far-reaching expertise because of its imperial past. We may not have had the troops any longer. When push came to shove Harold Wilson (wisely) refused to become involved in America's Vietnam venture. But, given that the rising economic powers of Japan and Germany were both neutered by their past in the war, Britain could still claim to be a country greater than its regional position in Europe.

And it was lucky. It was the North Sea, coming along just at the time of the energy crises of the 1990s, which enabled Mrs Thatcher to fund the economic policies which gave her, and the country, the reputation of a tough, modernising force in the world. It was the Falklands war which enabled Britain to declare a military triumph on its own. And it was the presence in the White House of a fellow-spirit in Ronald Reagan that allowed Mrs Thatcher to seem central to the final collapse of communism in the Soviet Union. She may have got the re-unification of Germany completely wrong. She was ambivalent and often confused on Europe. But in the bigger picture she was part of the winning team.

Tony Blair tried to repeat Mrs Thatcher's achievement and came unstuck. Like Mrs Thatcher, he was lucky in the economics. The end of the 1990s saw the beginning of a decade-long period of unparalleled and sustained growth, fuelled largely by the explosive growth in financial services based in London. We could afford, and Gordon Brown did, to regard Europe as a slow steam train chugging behind us.

Iraq and 9/11 changed all so far as Britain, as well as America, was concerned. The consequences of that war would be hard to overestimate. It isn't just the ramifications of the perceived failure of occupation, disastrous although they have been. As anyone who travels beyond these shores can attest, Britain is now widely dismissed – more often in sorrow than in anger – as just an American spear-carrier without any real force of its own. In the Middle East we are reviled, in most of Asia we are largely discounted.

That may seem harsh. But it is far nearer the truth than the current political discourse of "influence" and "role" would suggest. And it poses a direct question – just where and how do we see our future in the world?

For Britain, Europe has now come to be the one region where we have some kind of place and a pressing need to pool our resources on the bigger issues facing us. And if the EU is, as it is, all over the place at the moment, this at least makes it more open for us to take a constructive role in its direction.

To take an active part, however, we need to know what we're trying to achieve. In all the debate about "influence" and "power" and how we can have weight in the world, the one question that is never asked is just what we are offering.

Is it military prowess and diplomatic skill or is it the English language, skill in finance, some of the best universities in the world, or the longest experience of multi-cultures? At the moment we're busy ramping up the former and retreating from the latter. A brave politician might suggest reversing the order’.


Part of the issue of course is that there is likely to be a continuous relative decline of the West in general over the coming decades.

As I have previously commented with respect to New Zealand’s place in the world:

‘Stanley Fisher (The New Global Economic Geography) and Angus Maddison (extensive work for the OECD) present some interesting statistics about the reddening sun, setting on the heyday of the West.

In 1900, the West (Western Europe, USA and their ‘Western Offshoots’, i.e. Australia, New Zealand and Canada) held around 51.8 percent of World GDP. By 1950, this had risen to 56.8 percent but it fell to 46.8 percent in 1990 and 44.9 percent in 2001. It is estimated that it will have fallen to 33.2 percent by 2030’.

Extrapolating further, it falls to below 20 percent by 2070.

So let’s all get real. Maybe, as advised by Austin Powers, we have to be more careful to ‘Behave, Baby’. Though, I would like to think that everyone can gain if we can ramp up the ‘Groovy’.

Bankhouse Farm, Cholmondeley

A more recent farmhouse memory for the family. Sue and John farmed there as tenants in the period 1975-1990 or so. The farm formed part of Lord Cholmondeley's Estate and is close to the Castle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pool Owd 'All - The Darlingtons at Worleston


When I was back in England on a brief holiday in September last year, I arranged for my sister Sue to take my on a tour of the family’s sacred sites. We were accompanied by my oldest son Matthew and his partner Marie.

After a pub lunch and a few pints at the Royal Oak we went to visit my stepfather Horace Darlington’s grave at Worleston Churchyard – and pay our respects to the many Darlingtons who are buried there.

On the way back, I suggested that we should drive back past ‘Pool Old Hall’ as this had been farmed by Horace’s great grandfather Abraham Darlington.

By then, the conversation was deteriorating – not least as a result of Matthew and I competing in telling ‘We were so poor that’ stories [for the most original and best treatment of the theme see “The Four Yorkshiremen” skit by the Monty Python team which is available on YouTube].

My story was that the Cheshire term ‘The Back End’ which refers to the autumn, originates from the custom of white-washing kids bottoms for the winter when the cow shippons / sheds were cleaned up for the impending stalling of cattle in October – and that I vividly remembered brushing up with these occasions.

This led to some tut-tutting from my sister and we sped past Pool Hall which I just glimpsed through the hedgerows and oak trees.

Anyhow, it has been up for sale recently and I have posted a picture of it above.

Pretty posh - eh?

So let’s start with the family:

Looking at my Darlington family in the 1901 UK Census, we find my stepfather’s father Herbert (17) farming with his widowed mother Esther Darlington, and 4 brothers John (29); Thomas (22); Fred (20) and Albert (14) at Pool Old Hall, Worleston.

Esther (born Acton near Nantwich) was already a widow when she married Abraham as Esther Foster. She was 55 in 1901 and the household included her 78 year old mother Ann Scragg. There was also a 35 year old servant Mary Goosey (plus if I remember right a couple of farm labourers who were living in).

Going back to the 1881 Census, we can confirm that my Darlington great grandfather was Abraham Darlington (born c1841) at Willaston, near Nantwich. At the time of the 1881 Census, he was farming with Esther on '108 acres, employing 1 man' at Outlanes, Church Minshull. Herbert's brothers John and Thomas Darlington had already been born.

So they were pretty well connected?

Well, yes and no. For starters, Abraham was a tenant - and Esther was lucky to have had the tenancy rolled over after Abraham had died in 1889.

Secondly, Abraham pulled a smart move. He married money - as Esther was a widow who brought in the proceeds of her marriage to a timber merchant from Middlewich. This fulfilled the long-standing Darlington commitment to ‘never marry for money – but love where money lies’.

Third, he wisely procreated a whole army of sons to work on the farm.

And there’s another point that is really worth remembering. Dairy farms at that time were part factories. The back rooms of the house would have provided the space for cheese making and cheese storage – and the attics would have housed some of the non-family labour needed to run the operation.

Still, it is a nice house – but one can’t help musing about how Abraham would have reacted to its current price tag!

POOL HALL (agent’s advertisment)

CHESHIRE is smart but also populous. Although just six miles from Crewe, however, Poole Hall is set in 168 acres, without a building in sight, and offers a rare degree of seclusion.

Originally known as White Poole, the estate is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It passed to the Elcockes in the 16th century and two centuries later Elizabeth Elcocke married the Rev William Massey, of Norfolk. Their son William rebuilt the house to the designs (it is said) of Lewis Wyatt. It was completed just in time for William’s marriage to Mary Goodman, of Tynewydd in Wales.

The Regency house and outbuildings form a delightful private hamlet, with the house set in spreading lawns and the stables, coach house, barns and cottages looking on to attractive paved yards. There is even a substantial stretch of moat, though this looks more like a baroque canal surviving from a formal garden.

There is also the distinction of grounds that were laid out by a landscape gardener of note, the accomplished John Webb, who lived near Lichfield. By 1805 his practice was reported to be “all over England” and in Cheshire he laid out the grounds of such major ancestral seats as Cholmondeley Hall and Tatton Park.

But the fun of this house will be the constant look of surprise on the face of your guests – the restrained exterior gives little hint of the Regency splendours that lie within.

The drawing room is Cheshire’s answer to one of the most beautiful of all London’s rooms – Robert Adam’s Library at Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath, which has a similar shallow arched ceiling and screen of columns at the end. Here there are exquisitely delicate gilt palmettes in the frieze and acanthus scrolls on the vault that are pristine in their detail.

Tony Hill, who trained as a lawyer and worked as a commercial property developer, has a marvellous eye for theatrical furnishings. Any new owner should definitely buy the 15ft-long original Gillow sidetable made for the large niche at the end of the dining room.

Part of the fun of the house is that it preserves its character on both sides of the green baize door. There is an enormous old kitchen with built-in dressers and twin hearths containing vintage oven ranges and room for a billiard table at the end. Another intriguing feature is the “foothole” ladder that ascends to the attic.

“I bought the hall in 20 acres and have been able to build up the estate,” says Hill. His latest improvement has been a new drive planted as a lime avenue aligned on the front door.

“I was told if you buy a house, live in it a year before you touch it,” says Hill. The big question is whether the next owner will feel the same.

Poole Hall is being sold through Savills, 020-7016 3718; offers over £4.5 million

For more reviews of the finest country homes in Britain, go to timesonline.co.uk/marcusbinney

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kiwis forsake Baa'bara for Mau'ooreen


Apropos of my post about Soccer and Rugby, a question: ‘Why is it that Kiwi males are often shy about taking their girlfriends to Rugby matches?’

Because, the answer goes: ‘They are embarrassed when their companions graze the pitch at half time’. (One of many Kiwi-Sheep jokes that our Aussie neighbours love so much).

However, it seems that Kiwis have a new girlfriend.

The UK Guardian Weekly has recently picked up on the fact that the number of dairy cows in New Zealand has overtaken the number of human beings.

The Guardian article by Adam Gabbett under the title: “New Zealand’s cow numbers on the moo-ve” (19th February 2010) comments that:

‘New Zealanders have long endured jokes about the extent to which they are outnumbered by sheep. Now Kiwis can expect more variety in the gags, with the country’s national statistics office announcing that the population has also been overtaken by that of dairy cattle.

Statistics NZ’s agricultural production survey, released last week, reported that cow numbers soared to 5.8 million in 2009. New Zealand has human population of 4.3 million.

The number of sheep in the country has provided fodder for endless jokes. In the US TV series Flight of the Conchords – about two Kiwi musicians living in New York – the NZ tourism poster can be seen bearing the slogan: “New Zealand, ewe should come”.

In 1982, the national sheep flock peaked at 70 million. The number has since more than halved.

The survey also showed that the number of beef cattle was also close to that of humans, with 4.1 million recorded last year’.


Following this up: extracts from the official Press Release by Statistics New Zealand on 9 February 2010 “Dairy cattle numbers continue to rise” are given below:

New Zealand's dairy cattle numbers hit a record high in 2009 and there was one milking cow for every New Zealander, Statistics New Zealand said today. Sheep and deer posted lower numbers than in 2008, according to provisional results of the 2009 Agricultural Production Survey. Beef cattle numbers remained stable.

Total dairy cattle numbers hit a record high of 5.8 million in 2009, 4 percent higher than in 2008. Since 1979, numbers in the overall dairy herd have doubled according to the annual survey, which collects information on livestock and arable farming, horticulture, forestry, and selected farming practices, including fertiliser and cultivation.

At 4.6 million, the 2009 milking herd, identified as cows and heifers in milk or in calf, was 250,000 larger than in 2008. This expansion was due to both dairy conversions and growth in the number of milking cows in existing herds.

“Increased numbers in the milking herd have resulted in there being one milking cow for every New Zealander", said agriculture statistics manager Gary Dunnet.

Meanwhile, the national sheep flock was down 5 percent on 2008 to 32.4 million in 2009.

"Numbers were below half the peak of 70 million reached in 1982", said Mr Dunnet. “In 2009, New Zealand had fewer than eight sheep per person”.


So I guess that we will have to just re-write those jokes.

I’ll end with, in my view, one of the best.

The story has it that a Kiwi farmer on a trading voyage in the South Pacific, was the only survivor from a wrecked ship. He made it to a deserted atoll - along with his dog and a lone representative of his flock.

When they had recuperated, the three friends used to go down to the beach every night to watch the sun go down.

After a number of weeks, the farmer was feeling lonely and he reached out and caressed the sheep. This made his dog very jealous and he desisted.

Anyhow, his frustration took a different turn when there was another shipwreck and its sole survivor – a beautiful young girl – washed up senseless on the beach.

After the friends had nursed her back to health, all four of them recommenced the evening custom of watching the sun go down.

And once again, the Kiwi started to feel lonely. This time, he reached out to the beautiful girl and caressing her shoulder said:

‘Would you mind taking the dog for a walk?’


New Zealand sculptor Jeff Thomson, who confesses to a love hate relationship with the material, has made a number of different objects, both two and three-dimensional, out of corrugated iron, perhaps the best-known being his amazing animals.

In 1987 on Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national day, Thomson unveiled a small herd of corrugated iron cows on the lawns of the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra, Australia, where they became something of a tourist attraction until a subsequent High Commissioner had them removed.

It seems that they have moved to a winery in Victoria where they continue to graze happily.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Genealogy and Family History of Football

The likelihood is that all of the major ‘football’ codes that are played today worldwide can trace their origins back to Medieval England - and beyond to Britain’s Dark Ages, through the ‘town games’ that were played between factions of the citizenry.

The oldest of these town games – and in this sense the mutual ancestor or ‘concestor ‘ - was the town game played in the City of Chester, Cheshire (where I went to school).

Legend has it that its town game began when the Roman Army pulled out of Chester around 410. It seems the local citizens or ‘Cestrians’ were so incensed at being deserted by their erstwhile colonial masters that they attacked the stragglers and cut off the head of one of the departing legionaries. The head was then used as a football for a town game – and this in turn became an annual event.

However, lacking a regular annual supply of Italians, the citizens shifted to a stuffed pig’s bladder.

The regular ‘Gottesday’ football match was played on Shrove Tuesday in February on the river flats known as the Roodee that lie beneath the town wall. By 1533, the game had become so violent that it was replaced by horse racing on the same site in 1539 (with the consent of the Lord Mayor Henry Gee, whose name apparently led to the use of the term "gee-gee" for horses).

From the 16th Century onwards, town games gradually evolved into team games – and this trend was given impetus by the adoption of compulsory sport in the ‘public’ (i.e. private boarding) schools that educated the upper and upper middle classes.

The modern rules of football are based on the mid-19th century efforts to standardize the widely varying forms of football played at the public schools of England.

The Cambridge Rules, first drawn up at Cambridge University in 1848, were particularly influential in the development of subsequent codes, including association football. The Cambridge Rules were written at Trinity College, Cambridge, at a meeting attended by representatives from Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury schools. They were not universally adopted.

During the 1850s, many clubs unconnected to schools or universities were formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various forms of football. Some came up with their own distinct codes of rules, most notably the Sheffield Football Club, formed by former public school pupils in 1857, which led to formation of a Sheffield FA in 1867. In 1862, John Charles Thring of Uppingham School also devised an influential set of rules.

These ongoing efforts contributed to the formation of The Football Association (The FA) in 1863, which first met on the morning of 26 October 1863 at the Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, London. The only school to be represented on this occasion was Charterhouse. The Freemason's Tavern was the setting for five more meetings between October and December, which eventually produced the first comprehensive set of rules.

At the final meeting, the first FA treasurer, the representative from Blackheath, withdrew his club from the FA over the removal of two draft rules at the previous meeting: the first allowed for running with the ball in hand; the second for obstructing such a run by hacking (kicking an opponent in the shins), tripping and holding. Other English rugby football clubs followed this lead and did not join the FA, or subsequently left the FA and instead in 1871 formed the Rugby Football Union.

The eleven remaining clubs, under the charge of Ebenezer Cobb Morley, went on to ratify the original thirteen laws of the game. These rules included handling of the ball by "marks" and the lack of a crossbar, rules which made it remarkably similar to Victorian rules football being developed at that time in Australia.

The Sheffield FA played by its own rules until the 1870s with the FA absorbing some of its rules until there was little difference between the games.

The kicking and handling forms were later codified by The Football Association and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) respectively. Rugby football had its origins at Rugby School, Warwickshire, England.

The origin of rugby is reputed to be an incident during a game of English school football at Rugby School, Rugby, England, in 1823 when a pupil William Webb-Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it. Although this tale is apocryphal, the Rugby World Cup trophy is named after him.

Rugby football stems from a game played at Rugby School, Rugby, which old pupils initially took to university; with Cambridge believing that Old Rugby pupil Albert Pell was the first student to form a 'football' team.

During this early period different schools used different rules, with former pupils from Rugby and Eton attempting to carry their preferred rules through to their universities.

Significant events in the early development of rugby were the production of the first set of written laws at Rugby School in 1845, the Blackheath Club's decision to leave The Football Association in 1863 and the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The code was originally known simply as "rugby football"; it was not until after a schism in 1895, which resulted in the separate code of rugby league, that the name "rugby union" came to be used for the game itself.

Supporters of either code will frequently refer to theirs as merely "rugby", unless they are differentiating between the two.

The first rugby international took place on 27 March 1871, played between England and Scotland.

In 1895, a schism in Rugby football resulted in the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU). Although many factors played a part in the split, including the success of working class northern teams, the main division was caused by the RFU decision to enforce the amateur principle of the sport, preventing "broken time payments" to players who had taken time off work to play rugby.

Northern teams typically had more working class players (coal miners, mill workers etc.) who could not afford to play without this compensation, in contrast to southern teams who had other sources of income to sustain the amateur principle. There were similar movements in other countries.

In 1895 a decree by the RFU banning the playing of rugby at grounds where entrance fees were charged led to the famous meeting on 29 August 1895. Twenty-two clubs (plus Stockport who negotiated by telephone) met at The George Hotel, Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire and formed the "Northern Rugby Football Union".

Within fifteen years of that first meeting in Huddersfield, more than 200 RFU clubs had left to join the rugby revolution.

In 1897, the line-out was abolished and in 1898 professionalism introduced.

In 1906, the Northern Union changed its rules, reducing teams from 15 to 13 a side and replacing the ruck formed after every tackle with the play the ball.

A similar schism occurred in Sydney, Australia. There on the 8th August 1907 the New South Wales Rugby Football League was founded at Bateman's Hotel in George St. Rugby league then went on to displace rugby union as the primary football code in New South Wales and Queensland.

The history of American football can be traced to early versions of rugby football and association football. Both games have their origins in varieties of football played in the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century, in which a ball is kicked at a goal and/or run over a line.

Many games known as "football" were being played at colleges and universities in the United States in the first half of the 19th century.

In 1840, a reporter wrote of a Yale University game: "If the truth were told, the game would make the same impression on the public mind as a bullfight. Boys and young men knocked each other down and tore off each others' clothing. Eyes were bunged, faces blackened, much blood was spilt and shirts and coats were torn to rags."

By 1860 the game was abolished in many American schools, but in 1862 Gerritt Smith Hiller organized a group at Yale to play again, using rules that were a reasonably close imitation of soccer. Still, the game was often more an excuse to beat up freshmen than anything else.

In 1871 Harvard University started to play a variation known as the "Boston Game." This allowed a player to pick up the ball and run with it if he were chased, varying from the game that had been prohibited in 1840.

Harvard captain Henry Grant was anxious for his football team to engage in competition and had heard that a similar game was played at McGill University.

Consequently, he contacted the captain of the McGill team, David Roger, and invited them to play two games in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 13 and 14, 1874. These were to be the first real football games.

Until this time, Harvard had been playing a game that today would be considered very similar to what we call soccer football. McGill arrived in Cambridge several days prior to the game and practised each day.

The Harvard team was surprised when the McGill players kicked the ball and subsequently ran with it under their arms.

The Harvard captain pointed out politely that this violated a basic rule of American football. The McGill captain replied that it did not violate any rule of the Canadian game. When asked "What game do you play?" Roger replied, "Rugby." They then managed to agree to play the forthcoming games with half-Canadian, half-American rules.

The following day a notice appeared in the Harvard University paper: "The McGill University Football Club will meet the Harvard Football Club on Wednesday and Thursday, May 13th and 14th. The game probably will be called at 3 o'clock -admittance 50 cents. The proceeds will be donated to the entertainment of our visitors from Montreal."

Early in the first half, the Harvard team so enjoyed running with the ball that they agreed to play the remainder of the game with Canadian rules, which stipulated that the ball could be picked up and carried.

Harvard normally played with 15 players, but McGill could only field 11 athletes (the number fielded in the present game of American football). The first game was won by Harvard 3 to 0 and the game played on the following day ended in a scoreless tie. Harvard liked the McGill game so much that it adopted the downs as well as field goals. These rule changes, which included tackling, led inevitably to the physical contact of our present-day collision sport.

American football resulted then from several major divergences from rugby football, most notably the rule changes instituted by Walter Camp, considered the "Father of American Football". The introduction of the line of scrimmage and of down-and-distance rules were among the most important changes.

Canadian football is a form of gridiron football played almost exclusively in Canada. It is very similar to American football and the two sports have shared origins and are closely related.

As early as 1841, there is documented evidence of "foot-ball" being played in Australia. In 1858 English public school football games began to be played in Melbourne and surrounding districts. The earliest known such match was played on 15 June 1858 between St Kilda Grammar School (now defunct) and Melbourne Grammar School on the St Kilda foreshore.

On 31 July, a knock-a-bout match at Yarra Park was played between a "St Kilda scratch team" and "Melbourne scratch team". Trees were used for goal posts and there were no boundaries and the match lasted from 1pm until dark. There were no rules and fights frequently broke out.

Melbourne being a relatively young city, most of the early players were migrants and the media of the time noted that participants of each nationality played the game their own distinctive way: the English played in a fashion that resembled rugby football, the Scottish played recklessly, and the Irish preferred to kick the ball.

This led to the development of Australian Rules Football which has been described as ‘Gaelic Football played on a Cricket Pitch’ (the pitch is oval unlike all the other codes).

So the English city of Chester has a claim to be the source of all the main forms of football that are played internationally.

And, as I mentioned in a previous post, there is some evidence that the Celtic Leader Einion Yrth born around 445 AD was the original King Arthur, making Chester the model for Camelot. This in turn could mean that Einion Yrth’s father Uther Pendragon was the first football impressario!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bronze Age trade across the English Channel - Putting some Bones on the Science

I loved the story that ran today in the UK Independent about the Bronze Age cross-Channel trading vessel that has been found off the coast at Salcombe in Devon.

But it is a story that is all archaeology and interpretation – it doesn’t have much life in it. For sure, the trade led to inter-tribal disputes, conquests and dynastic marriages.

So I’ll complement it with a recent story from New Zealand and some brief comments on the trade in pounamu (Greenstone) across the deadly Cook Strait. This was the jealously guarded monopoly of the South Island Ngai Tahu tribe.


By Malcolm Jack, UK Independent, Thursday, 18 February 2010

A 3,000 year old Bronze Age trading vessel – the oldest shipwreck ever found in British waters – has been located off the coast of Devon in South West England.

It went down around 900 BC carrying a precious cargo of tin and copper ingots from the continent, and has lain undetected on the seabed in just eight to ten metres of water in a bay near Salcombe ever since. Experts have hailed the discovery – one of only four Bronze Age vessels found in British waters – as “extremely important,” and “genuinely exciting.”

Investigation and recovery work on the boat’s cargo was carried out by archaeologists from South West Maritime Archaeological Group (SWMAG) between February and November 2009, but the find was only made public this month at the annual International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth.

295 artefacts – with a combined weight of 84 kilograms – have been retrieved so far, including weapons and jewellery, alongside abundant raw metal.

This cargo points to a healthy and sophisticated trade network that existed between Britain and Europe during the Bronze Age. The find as a whole is testimony to the incredible seafaring capabilities of prehistoric Britons.

A Bronze Age settlement is known to have existed on the coast near Wash Gully where the wreck was found – the boat was probably attempting to land there when it came a cropper just 300 yards from the shore. The waters around this stretch of the Devonshire coast are notoriously treacherous. A nearby reef hints at the most obvious reason for the vessel’s demise.

Sadly none of the ship’s structure remains – most likely it has rotted away over the centuries. But experts have speculated that it was probably a “bulk carrier” about 12 metres long by almost two metres wide, and made out of long timber planks or a wooden frame with animal hide stretched across it. It would have been crewed by about 15 men and powered by paddle.

A narrow row boat might sound like an exposed and treacherous way of crossing the English Channel, but it’s thought that intrepid Bronze Age mariners would have used vessels like this to criss-cross the waterway with some frequency. And directly between Devon and France too, rather than skirting the coast up to the narrower stretch between Dover and Calais, as some people have suggested they did.

The large quantity of copper and tin found aboard the ship – which appears to have come from scattered locations as far afield as the Iberian Peninsula, Switzerland, France or Austria via a wide and complex trade network – would have been used to make bronze, which was the key product of the period. The bronze would in turn have been used to fashion all from tools to weapons and jewellery.

Among other artefacts in the boat’s cargo were a bronze leaf sword, two stone objects that might have been slingshots, and three gold wrist torcs. Four golden Iron Age wrist torcs of European origin were found last year by a metal detectorist in Scotland – these new finds hint at how far back trade in luxury items with the continent stretches.

Academics from Oxford University have taken charge of investigating the discoveries, to see if their exact origins can be determined. It’s hoped that more artefacts will be raised from the seabed yet.

This cargo would have made a tidy profit for the ship’s Bronze Age crew had it reached land; 3,000 years late, it’s finally set to be cashed-in. SWMAG stands to net a healthy return on their find, with the British Museum due to individually value and purchase each piece over the next few weeks.


By Rani Timoti, Norwest News, 11/02/2010

Painstaking preservation of a near full-length historic waka unearthed at Muriwai Beach continues. The future of the canoe, about seven metres long with some pieces missing, will be decided after consultation with Maori.

Malcolm Paterson, who has been representing Ngati Whatua o Kaipara in dealings with the Auckland Regional Council and conservator over the waka, says long-term they hope to see it based at Helensville Museum.

"These are the sorts of vessels which used to travel on portages like the Kaipara Harbour. It makes sense for the taonga (treasure) to rest in Helensville where it was found nearby."

"It’s important for our community, especially the local tangata whenua, to be part of the mix with its future. Various iwi can stake their claim on it. With Maori objects, the ownership is with Maori."

“Being involved in helping residents and regional council staff dig up and transport the waka has been really exciting. A lot of people saw it and have been touched by it. Everyone involved did a brilliant job moving the waka in a way that minimised damage, and they showed great commitment during the long hours we spent on site." says the Muriwai Progressive Association acting president.

Housed in a water tank in a secure council depot, regional council historic heritage specialist Robert Brassey says it’s difficult to date the waka because it may be carved from a tree hundreds of years old.

Anthropologist Dylis Johns has been working on its conservation, which could take more than two years.

"The salt will be slow to come out. Getting it completely desalinated is really important."

The Auckland University senior research fellow says she is picking up more interesting information the longer she studies the waka close up.

She believes context is extremely important – where things are in their place and where they belong means everything.

"We’re waiting to do tree-ring dating. Dating an age of the tree doesn’t date the cultural activity though."


Quoting from contemporary Maori leader, Hekenukumai Nga Iwi Busby:

'Ancestors of the Maori arrived in New Zealand from central Polynesia, bringing with them myths, legends, and traditions as they sailed an area of the Pacific known as the 'Polynesian Triangle'. To the north lay Hawaii, Easter Island to the east, and to the south, Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Maori place considerable importance on their origins and the exploits of their ancestors. Iwi (tribe) members pass stories of famous ancestors and the waka in which they travelled from one generation to the next.

Before the arrival of the first Europeans, waka were constantly sailing between islands of the Pacific and New Zealand. Descriptions of a vast temperate land with forests lakes and streams were welcome news for the inhabitants of the over populated Pacific islands.

Large voyaging canoes (waka haurua) of over 60 feet in length were quite capable of carrying ample provisions for early Maori on their 2000 mile journey to New Zealand. These craft were equipped with sail as well as the power of selected men, stout of shoulder to bear the strain of the deep sea paddle. The most important member of the crew was the navigator. His knowledge of star navigation and interpretation of wind, cloud and ocean current would determine a successful outcome.

New Zealand's great forests and abundant natural resources provided Maori with new materials that were to influence the design and construction of waka. As settlements flourished, the twin hulled ocean waka became redundant. In its place, much swifter and manoeuvrable single hulled waka were built and utilised for a variety of purposes. Foremost was the Maori war canoe or waka taua.

Exploration and trade also flourished along the lakes and waterways of the interior, rivalling that of many coastal settlements'.

Taking up the story:

The most important coastal trade route was the crossing of Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand – an extraordinarily treacherous stretch of water.

The South Island was the source of Greenstone (pounamu), from which the finest ceremonial weapons and jewellery were made. This led to recurrent warfare as different tribes attempted to control the trade.

The dominant tribe in the South Island, the Ngai Tahu, originated from the East Coast of the North Island but they eventually came to command Te Waka O Aoraki (the South Island) by conquest and intermarried with the Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha peoples.

Ngai Tahu were often involved in skirmishes with other tribal groups, but they were also skilful at making strategic marriages which led them to establish kin links across tribes and eventually form a huge network of relationships throughout Maoridom.

Through these extended relationships, Ngai Tahu became rich and powerful, establishing a trade in Greenstone throughout both islands.

The coming of the Europeans overlapped with yet another tribal feud over the pounamu trade – this time between Ngati Toa and Ngai Tahu.

Te Rauparaha (c. 1768–1849), the War chief of the Ngati Toa was an extraordinary man, with remarkable qualities of leadership.

Having subdued the tribes living on the west coast of Wellington Province, Te Rauparaha coveted the greenstone of the South Island. A satisfactory pretext for war was found when Rerewaka, a Ngai Tahu chief of Kaikoura, suggested that if Te Rauparaha dared to set foot on his lands he would rip his belly open with a niho manga (shark's tooth knife).

Towards the end of 1828 Te Rauparaha led a fleet of canoes to D'Urville Island and, after capturing the pas in Northern Marlborough, he surprised and took Kaikoura pa. At the conclusion of this campaign Te Rauparaha acceded to a Ngati Raukawa request to avenge Ruamaioro, who had been killed at Putiki some time earlier.

He went via Wanganui, and reduced Putiki-wharanui pa after a two months' siege. Flushed by these victories the Ngati Toa leader decided to punish Kekerenga – a Ngati Ira chief who had had an adulterous “affair” with one of Te Rangihaeata's wives, and who had later sought sanctuary with Ngai Tahu.

Using this as a pretext Te Rauparaha determined to take the strong Ngai Tahu pa at Kaiapohia (near Kaiapoi). The enemy, however, had been forewarned. Te Rauparaha therefore feigned friendship and sent Pehi Kupe and other chiefs into the stronghold.

Their plot, however, was discovered. Finding his force insufficient to capture the pa Te Rauparaha returned to Kapiti, where he persuaded Captain Stewart, of the brig Elizabeth, to convey a large war party to Akaroa.

There they seized and killed the Ngai Tahu chief Tamaiharanui. A well-armed force then besieged Kaiapohia, which fell to a Ngati Toa stratagem, and the ferocity of Te Rauparaha's revenge has since passed into legend.

The southern Ngai Tahu chiefs Tuhawaiki and Taiaroa arrived at Kaiapohia too late to save the pa. They followed the retreating Ngati Toa, however, and fought an engagement with them at Cloudy Bay (Marlborough). Here the Ngati Toa suffered a severe defeat and their survivors, including Te Rauparaha himself, escaped by swimming to their canoes.

Although not born to the highest chiefly rank, Te Rauparaha early won a reputation for cunning and audacious war leadership. He ranks with Te Whero–whero and Tuhawaiki in this because these were the two chiefs who came nearest to defeating him in battle.

He was renowned for the cleverness of his stratagems and for his unfailing habit of turning his enemies' tricks against themselves. In an age of fierce tribal wars Te Rauparaha was unmatched for his ferocity, and vanquished foes almost invariably ended their careers in the Ngati Toa cooking pots.

Te Rauparaha was a very short, wizened man, less than 5 ft tall.

He was buried near the church he had asked Bishop Hadfield to build at Otaki (on the coast north of Wellington), but, according to Maori traditions, his remains were later exhumed and reinterred on Kapiti Island.

There is also a legend that Te Rauparaha used to be a regular at the Thistle Inn in Thorndon, Wellington. The pub still exists though it nows stands a good distance from the old shoreline.

Apparently, Te Rauparaha would pull up his canoe or 'waka' on to the beach right outside the pub and wander in and order a whiskey - and no one had the courage to charge him.

Te Rauparaha died on 27 November 1849 and Thistle was built in 1840 and rebuilt after a fire in 1866, so he had nine years to drink at the pub. Of course he was in jail from 1846 to 1848 but it's still possible. But the failure by the bartender to demand the reckoning on the free drinks seems very believable!

Internet search on the Kenyon Family rings some bells


I am constantly intrigued and amazed at the power of the Internet.

After writing about my Kenyon family, I decided to see whether there was anything online about Boarshaw Farm – which was being farmed by my great, great, great grandfather George Kenyon in 1841.

Amazingly, I came up with a picture of some pack-horse bells that may well have belonged to George and his family. George’s son Oliver (my ancestor) was a Provisioner or Wholesale Trader (and later Grocer and Innkeeper), so he probably ran the packhorse side of the family business.

The pack-horse bells pictured above are on display in the Museum’s permanent exhibition at Touchstones Rochdale. The bells came from Boarshaw farm in Middleton, where they were used as sled bells.

Originally they would have been worn by the leading pack-horse and would have been in use between 1812 and 1890. According to the curator of the Bell Foundry Museum, these types of bells were known as ‘rumbler bells.’

I can't find a photograph of the farm at present on the Internet though I can see it in Satellite View on GoogleEarth. The farm hosts the 'Kenyon Farm Riding Centre' ("yard not the tidiest but a good range of horses").

There is a picture available though of a local sheep (see above).


The Arts & Heritage Service Museum Team manages the award-winning Museum at Touchstones Rochdale in addition to a number of outreach displays around the Borough of Rochdale.

As well as managing the permanent museum display at Touchstones Rochdale, the Museum Team also produces regular exhibitions in the Heritage Gallery at the Centre.

In addition there are local ‘Community Curate’ centres like the one in Middleton (Link4Life, Middleton Curators, Heritage Lottery Fund, Renaissance North West):

The Community Curators at Middleton is a two-year arts and heritage project funded by Link4Life, The Heritage Lottery Fund and Renaissance North West. The project will enable six Middleton community organisations to curate and display an exhibition of their choosing from the Borough’s arts and heritage collections in a purpose-built museum display case installed within the new Middleton Arena.

There are currently around 30-40 paintings in the arts and heritage collection that relate directly to the township of Middleton; either paintings by Middleton artists or of scenes of the local area. These include works by Frederick William Jackson, James William Booth and Edgar Wood. These works will form the centre point and inspiration for the project.

Community groups will be enabled to explore the themes of the paintings, their social context, subject matter, scenes and meanings with the support and assistance of specialist gallery, museum, local studies and education staff/ workshop facilitators. Through training and introduction sessions, participants will access objects and archives in the collections to be used in their exhibition.

This first display has been curated by the community group ‘Hollin Link’ which comprises of older residents from the Hollin Estate, Middleton.

Arts & Heritage Service staff are working with the people of Middleton encouraging them to explore, celebrate and learn about their rich and fascinating heritage.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Genes & Memes - Family Trees & the Undergrowth

I have been thinking for some time of writing about one of the shakier boughs in my Family Tree – the Kenyons.

'Shaky' - not that I have anything specific against them – more that I can’t quite place them in terms of achievements and attitudes.

I think we all have families in our backgrounds like that – we are not quite sure whether the oral history is simply putting a good face on things or possibly masking something.

And this set me thinking about the thoughts, thought processes and drives that cascade down from generation to generation - going ‘Into the Woods’ as it were.

Just as we are a mixture of the genes that we have inherited from our ancestors, our personal attitudes and the family cultures that we build for our children draw upon the ‘memes’ of those who have gone before.

Memes are chunks and strands of thought processes. A couple of definitions:

‘A meme (rhyming with "cream") is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another’ at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memes

‘meme: a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation)’ at:

I started thinking about this back in 1990 when I happened to be on a business trip in London, on behalf of my employer the Manila-based Asian Development Bank. I met up with my sister and brother in law and we went to see Stephen Sondheim’s Musical ‘Into the Woods’.

In the Sondheim Musical several parts are doubled. Cinderella's Prince and the Wolf, who share the characteristic of being unable to control their appetites, are played by the same actor.

Similarly, the Narrator and the Mysterious Man, who share the characteristic of commenting on the story while avoiding any personal involvement or responsibility, are played by the same actor.

Granny and Cinderella's Mother, whose characters are both matriarchal characters in the story, are also typically played by the same person, who also gives voice to the nurturing but later murderous Giant's Wife.

The show covers multiple themes: growing up, parents and children, accepting responsibility, morality, and finally, wish fulfillment and its consequences.

William A. Henry III wrote that the play's "basic insight... is at heart, most fairy tales are about the loving yet embattled relationship between parents and children. Almost everything that goes wrong — which is to say, almost everything that can — arises from a failure of parental or filial duty, despite the best intentions."

Stephen Holden writes that the themes of the show include parent-child relationships and the individual's responsibility to the community. The witch isn't just a scowling old hag but a key symbol of moral ambivalence.

James Lapine said that the most unpleasant person (the Witch) would have the truest things to say and the "nicer" people would be less honest. In the Witch's words: "I'm not good; I'm not nice; I'm just right'.

And as the stories meld together and cascade through time, characters go from hero to zero - and then on to legend if they are lucky. Just life real life and the subjects of real family histories then.

But Sondheim also made the point in one of his songs that we can actually inherit thought processes and patterns from our forebears. This of course is genetic rather than imitative but then Nature and Nurture are often Siamese Twins.

It is in some senses a comforting thought for posthumous or dislocated children like me who have never known one or both of their parents but in other ways perhaps a disquieting notion.

My sister and I recently had a related conversation when I was back in England on a trip late last year.

We tried to decide the genetic provenance of the abrupt and scathingly direct and often highly inappropriate interjections that sometimes exploded into family conversations. Generally, they were apparently ignored and life went on as before but pock-marked with shell holes.

My mother who suffered with this, referred to it as ‘nast’ using a Cheshire dialect term (i.e. a noun back-formed from nasty). And occasionally people would be admonished with ‘less of the nast’. She also used to talk about women who had ‘It’ – exhibiting a kind of histrionic and aggressive form of nagging.

Well, we couldn’t quite pin down the genetics but we did eliminate some of the possible candidate families.

But there were other subtler forces at work shaping our attitudes.

We definitely have an aristocratic streak. At the farmhouse where I grew up, there was a ceremonial front room that we called the ‘Green Room’ (even after it underwent an otherwise complete transformation into rusts and pinks).

As with many ‘front parlours’ in Northern English houses, it was almost entirely for show. And prominently displayed in a little antique magazine rack, for the occasional posh visitors, were relatively recent copies of upper crust magazines like ‘Cheshire Life’, ‘Vogue’, and ‘The Tatler’.

There is little doubt where the memes behind these aspirations come from. They stem from the Salters.

Asked whether she would like to be among a very select group who would be able to meet Prince Charles when he ‘saddled up’ for the Cheshire Hounds at my brother-in-law’s farm, my mother tutted and then declared that she would have attended for the Queen Mother but was not prepared to stir for the Prince.

And when John originally took the tenancy of the beautiful farm, nestled next to Cholmondely Castle, my grandmother commented, gazing at the elegant three-storey Georgian farmhouse ‘This is more what we are accustomed to!’

Well it was, in a manner of speaking.

But in 1881 the Salters, like 16 percent of the national workforce of England and Wales (including 1.3m women) were in domestic service. My great, great grandfather Joseph Salter was a Liveryman who helped run the Stables at Upham House, the ‘seat’ owned by the Hornsley Family in Hampshire.

[In 1881, according to Mrs Beeton's revised 'Book of Household Management', a man on £1,000 a year could afford five servants. Mind you, it was possible to hire a cook for as little as £15 and a maid for as little as £9 a year – and the 'General Report' of the 1881 Census commented on 'the increasing difficulty of finding suitable servants'].

So, given half a chance, the adopted, cross-spliced Hornsley memes kicked in downstream as the family prospered.

Well what about the Kenyons?

The legend there is that they were rich but that they were cruelly robbed by fate of their birthright.

The story goes something like this. My great grandmother Sarah Clarke (nee Kenyon) was the daughter of a wealthy businessman in Oldham. The family had built a street of tenanted houses there – Kenyon Street. However, there were problems with business partners and inheritances, and an unscrupulous intervention by a man with the name of Ormerod led to the loss of the family fortune.

And possible links were hinted to the family of Lord Lloyd Kenyon of Gredington, Flintshire and Kenyon Peel Hall, Lancashire. [During his long career at the Bar, Lord Chief Justice Kenyon was concerned with many interesting cases: as advocate he led the defence of lord George Gordon in 1780 ; as judge , he presided over the trial of Stockdale for libel, in 1789 , and, for a period, over the trial of Warren Hastings].

Trouble is I can find no inkling of this in the available data.

This is what I wrote in my Family History (blending census data and oral history):

‘My maternal grandfather David Clarke was born around 1888. David Clarke’s father (my great grandfather) was also called David and was born on 26th August 1842. Old David Clarke was a relatively wealthy accountant who made his money providing auditing services to the cotton milling industry.

He married a much younger woman, Sarah Kenyon on the 9th April 1882. Sarah was born in 1862. In the 1881 Census she was recorded as being 19 years old, and was then working as a dressmaker living with her married sister Elizabeth Nicholson at 119 West Street, Oldham).

The Marriage Certificate for great grandfather David Clarke and Sarah Kenyon records David as an Accountant. It confirms Sarah's address as 119 West Street, Oldham and her married sister Betty Nicholson was one of the witnesses. The other witness was George / Georgie Kenyon (presumably her brother).

Sarah's father Oliver Kenyon was already dead by the time she married (which may explain why she was living with her sister). We can't be at all sure of Oliver Kenyon's occupation. It clearly was not a common one that can be easily deciphered from Minister John Barry's quirky handwriting. [I am now pretty positive that it was ‘Provisioner’ (i.e. wholesale trader)].

There is a photograph in Roy Jenkins’ biography of Winston Churchill of Churchill speaking at the Shambles, Manchester before WW1 and the shop in the background has the inscription “Kenyon – Wines and Spirits” (the owners of this establishment may well have been relatives).

The data on my Clarke – Kenyon family that can be gleaned from the 1901 Census is as follows. They were then living at 20 Whitehouse Lane, Wistaston, Nantwich. By that time, my great grandfather David had already died and Sarah was the head of household, aged 39. She had been born in Oldham, Lancashire.

Her children are given as: Florence (Florrie) 17 dressmaker, born Oldham [never married]; Rossela A. (Rosie) 16, Teachers School Assistant, born Wermeth, Oldham; Lillian Annette (Nettie) 14, Teachers School, Assistant, born Wermeth, Oldham; David Kenyon 13, born Nantwich (my grandfather); Francies A. (Frankie) aged 5.

Apparently, the family was very well-respected and Sarah was offered the opportunity to become a Justice of the Peace - very rare for a woman at that time. There are also oral history memories of the family have a carriage / trap pulled by 2 white horses (today's equivalent of a Rolls or Jag).

However, inflation and children gradually ate into Sarah's resources and the family became quite impoverished.

My father ‘Jay’ was appalled in the late 1930s to find the family using old man Clarke's book collection for toilet paper’.

[I used to have a Box Brownie 'snap' of her at this time - sadly lost - that showed her as a rather stout Russian Doll with pinned back braids].

Census Records and BMD searches provide the following additional data:

In 1841, my great, great grandfather Oliver Kenyon was 23 years old and he was running a small farm with his elder brother Robert at New Springs in the Ashton & Oldham district.

Apparently, his father George (60) was still on the home farm at Higher Boarshaw in the Ashton & Oldham district, with his wife Esther (55) and their eldest son Major. There were also two daughters, Esther aged 14 and Mary aged 8.

Oliver Kenyon married Sarah Robishaw and in the records of the marriage (27th May 1844), Oliver is recorded as a Carter and his father George Kenyon as a farmer.

Sarah's father James Robishaw does not give his profession - in fact Robishaw is a very rare and specifically Oldham name and a subsequent Robishaw records himself as 'Squire Robishaw' in the 1881 Census (almost certainly though this is a rogue forename not a 'title').

The marriage of Oliver and Sarah took place at Oldham St Mary's, Oldham and my great grandmother’s sister Betty Kenyon married William H. Nicholson at the same church in 1876.

However, neither Oliver nor his bride Sarah Robishaw could write their names in 1844 - they signed with crosses.

It appears that Sarah senior had died before the 1871 census and as her youngest child in the 1871 census was Sarah junior, aged 9, she probably died in Oldham some-time between 1862 and 1871. A possible is a Sarah Kenyon who died in the June quarter of 1870 aged 42.

The basic family in 1871, as reflected in an earlier censuses comprised parents Oliver and Sarah plus Robert, Esther, Elizabeth, Major [again a repeat of the unusual forename] and Sarah Junior [the ancestor].

So there we have it - tales of fabulous carriages drawn by white horses, lost wealth and the buffets of fate. Or maybe, Sarah after her husband had died and being well distant from Oldham, decided to petit point a little embroidery on the family tapestry?

After all, she had a father who was illiterate and it is very unlikely it seems to me that a woman of her limited education would have been considered as a JP – particularly in an era when women could still not vote.

So what memes have come down to us from the Kenyons?

Maybe we get some story-telling capabilities from them; a preoccupation with inherited wealth; a certain chip on our shoulders; and even the risk of becoming ‘strangers to the truth’ if we don’t keep our feet on the ground.

I obviously get my respect for books and the written word from another source!



Kenyon is one of those locally common South Lancashire locative surnames. Like as not, a well-populated male-line ydna surname study would show that many of the families are directly related.

My Kenyons come from Middleton in Lancashire near Oldham – not far in fact from the site of Kenyon Peel Hall in Little Hulton.

The small hamlet of Kenyon is south of Wigan in South Lancashire. It is a place-name that apparently was originally Cruc Einion in Welsh, meaning Einion’s Mound.

It is possible that it was the capital and subsequent burial place of Einion Yrth, a Celtic chieftain in post-Roman Britain who may have been the leader who combined his forces with those mobilised by St Germanus to defeat Irish intruders around 470.

Einion Yrth’s son Cadwallon Llawhir is credited with finally dislodging the Irish from North Wales and Anglesey around the year 500.

There have been suggestions that Einion Yrth was one of the Dark Ages heroes whose exploits contributed to the legends of King Arthur. And that the River Douglas near Kenyon is the River Dublas that, according to Nennius, was the site of one of Arthur’s twelve famous battles.

The stories place Kenyon clearly in the Welsh-speaking Old North (Yr hen Ogledd), whose inhabitants were also known as the Race of Cole (Old King Cole no less – who as we all know was ‘A Merry Old Soul’)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brushing Up on the Family Trade

As my great grandfather Robert Edwin Shorrocks, my great great grandfather Walter Shorrocks and my great, great, great grandfather James Shorrocks (bca 1794) were all members of a dynasty of craft Brush Manufacturers in Salford, Lancashire, I have developed an interest in their trade.

And in the possibility of actually seeing how the brushes were made by viewing the film made by Sam Hanna in 1968 of the operations of a small company (similar one assumes to that of my family) - Baldwin's of Burnley in this case, rather than Shorrocks' of Salford.

One day, I hope to get to see the film or even buy a copy - in the meantime, I'll just provide the background and the sequence notes.


Sam Hanna was a Burnley born amateur film maker whose collection of 587 reels of mostly 16mm film was acquired by the North West Film Archive at the Manchester Metropolitan University in November 2005.

Sam, who has been dubbed 'the Lowry of film making', had a lifelong passion for cinematography. Born in 1903, he became a teacher of handicrafts and, against strong opposition from the education authorities, pioneered the use of film in the classroom.

Self taught Hanna had a film-making spanning six decades, from the 1930s to the 1980s. He is perhaps best known for the Old Crafts Series which forms a unique record of such long-forgotten crafts as brush-making, coopering, clog-making, and charcoal burning.

Also of great interest are his films of local events and customs, notably colour footage of the 'Busby Babes' in 1957, records of children's street games from the 1950s and footage of training exercises performed by his local Home Guard battalion during World War Two.

In 2009/10, the legacy of Sam Hanna will be brought to life again through online access, exhibitions, screenings and workshops. This new project links the North West Film Archive with partners in Lancashire Museums, Libraries and Record Offices, Towneley Hall Museum, and the MMU History Department.

Film No. 5100
Producer: Sam Hanna
colour , sound (sep), 12 min. 21 sec:

Depicts the dying craft of making yard and paint brushes by hand at Baldwin's Brush Makers, (established 1854) at Cog Lane, Burnley. It includes footage of a yard brush head being created by a stock knife, holes being bored using a treadle machine and bristles inserted skilfully using pitch and twine, before the brush is trimmed.

Also features the different process of applying bristles to a paintbrush, as they are strapped, levelled up, tacked and sealed to the handle. Other brush-making skills such as combing fibres, cutting bristles and wiring brushes are also shown.


Shot of a man inserting bristles into a red hand brush. "Mr Baldwin is the last of a family that have made brushes for over a century in this workshop".

Cut to shot of second man doing the same job in the same location. The man is shown dipping the ends of bristles into tar-like substance (pitch), winding twine around the dipped area, re-dipping the ends and inserting the bristles into the brush.

Cut to shot of a worker operating a stock knife (that is associated with clog-making) to cut and shape the heads of hand-made yard brushes. The knife is held on the workbench by a hook on the knife and an eye that is fixed to the bench.

Cut to shot of a worker inspecting wooden cones that are topped with curved drill bits. "The holes to receive the bristles in the brush head are made by means of a spoon bit, fixed into a wooden cone, which screws onto the head of a treadle boring machine."

Close up shot of one of the drill bits on a cone. Spoon bits vary in size from small to large diameters depending on the bristles to be received. A treadle machine (operated by a pedal) is shown. The operator stands on one leg, operating machine with other foot, as holes are drilled into the brush head. The drilling process is shown and a yard brush head with the requisite number of drilled holes is shown to the camera.

Cut to whitewashed walls, the brush maker's workshop. A vat of boiling pitch (tar-like substance) is in the middle of the workspace, the brush maker works with the brush head and bristles next to him. He judges the correct clump of bristles, dips the ends in the pitch and wraps some twine (or "thrum") around the end of the bristles. The twine is pulled tight on a steel rod that is fixed to the bench. He dips the ends in the pitch once more before inserting the bristles into one of the holes in the brush head.

In a different location, the brush is then shown to be trimmed by hand-operated bench shears to ensure that the bristles are the same length.

Fibres are then shown being cut by guillotine. A length gauge is set so that bristles are cut to required length.

New close up shot from a different angle showing bristles being inserted into a yard brush.

Good view of the bench-fixed steel rod that has become worn down from twine being pulled tight against it.

Explanation of the different types of materials used to make bristles and which countries they come from.

The inspection of the brush head after shearing is the final operation, the worker is seen passing his hand over the bristles to check for irregularities.

Cut to shot of a 'comb' device that is fixed to a bench. This is used if a mixture of fibres is required, for example animal hair and bristle. The mixture is drawn through the teeth of the comb to produce "hackled" or "combed" bristle. This action cleans the materials before dividing or multiplying the rows of differing components, until uniformity is obtained. The device also helps to remove small or extraneous lengths of bristle as the sample is "dragged" through the comb by hand.

New shot showing bristles laid out on a bench, narrator explains that the bristle materials are naturally bent and the craftsman ensures that the bends lie in the same direction.

Cut to bristles being put onto a paintbrush. The bristles are spread out on the brush handle - a narrow thong of leather is nailed on to hold them in place.

From a different angle, the same process begins. Once the thong has been nailed down once, the bristles are levelled up with a knife. The centre of the brush is marked with a knife which helps to stagger the placing of tacks on both sides of the brush and avoid them meeting in the middle.

Cut to the finishing process, where the ends of the bristles are welded and sealed on to the brush handle using a hot iron powered by a gas-fired heater.

The final scene shows the skill of a female worker wiring bristles on to a brush head, to produce a brush that will be used to groom horses. The narrator claims the action had to be "filmed in slow motion" as the woman was working so quickly. Once the bristles are wired, the woman is shown trimming the brush with shears that are attached to her work bench.