A week in the heart of rural England…..part 5

20190326_135201 copy.jpgOn our last full day we drove south to Hednesford to meet F’s long-lost cousin Philip. Well a cousin she knew nothing about at all til recently. He had been in touch because of a clue thrown up in researching the family history. F’s grandfather was a miners leader and Mayor of Tamworth, and his brothers were all miners. Philip’s grandfather was one of the brothers. Thus it was that we met him for a nice chat and for him to show us where he had got to, and then he took us to the nearby Museum of Cannock Chase a lot of whose exhibits are to do with mining which proliferated around here. The museum site was once home to the Valley Colliery, the training pit for thousands of young men beginning their working lives in the local coal industry.20190326_133852 copy.jpgHednesford as with any ex mining community has seen better days and lost its soul along with the industry. What was impressive in terms of its buildings was, of all things, the Wetherspoons which was a summer retreat for the brother of Prime Minister Peel. A fine building indeed.20190326_140352 copy.jpegWe also liked the mining sculpture……20190326_140543 copy.jpgand the hundreds and hundreds of memorial bricks set around it and filling the square…20190326_140253.jpegAn interesting interlude which I hope will lead to further findings.20190326_141022 copy.jpgSo far, the following entry in Wikipedia gives some hope…..

George Henry Jones (1884 – December 1958) was a British trade unionist and politician.

Born in Hednesford, Jones began working as a pit-boy at an early age.[1] He became active in the Cannock Chase Miners’ Association, and was elected as its president in 1912. In 1914, he became the full-time general secretary and agent for the North Warwickshire Miners’ Association, and then in 1919 became general secretary and agent for the larger Warwickshire Miners’ Association.[1]

Jones was also active in the Labour Party, serving on Tamworth Town Council, and he stood in the Tamworth by-election, 1922, taking a distant second place, with 31.2% of the vote.[1][2] Eventually, he served as Mayor of Tamworth.[3] At the 1931 and 1935 UK general elections, he stood unsuccessfully in Lichfield.[4][5]

In about 1930, Jones was elected as secretary of the Midland Miners’ Federation, to which all his previous unions were affiliated; he remained leader of the Warwickshire Miners. He served on the executive of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB). He remained in post as the MFGB became the National Union of Mineworkers, but left his trade union posts in 1947, to become Labour Director of the West Midlands Coal Board, then in 1950 became its vice-chair.[3] He retired in 1952, although he continued to serve as a part-time member of the board until his death, four years later.[6]

  1. ^  a b c The Labour Who’s Who. London: The Labour Publishing Company. 1924. p. 94.
  2. ^ Debrett’s House of Commons & Judicial Bench, 1922
  3. ^ a b “Obituary: George Henry Jones”. Report of the 58th Annual Conference of the Labour Party: 52. 1957.
  4. ^ Kimber, Richard. “UK General Election results October 1931”. Political Science Resources. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  5. ^ Kimber, Richard. “UK General Election results November 1935”. Political Science Resources. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  6. ^ “National Coal Board: Changes at West Midlands and South Western Headquarters”. Information Bulletin. National Union of Mineworkers. 1952.

Our next port of call as it was near was a place I had always wanted to visit. The church and vicarage which were at the centre of the novel by Julian Barnes ‘Arthur and George’. This was based on a true story about a solicitor George Edalji whose mother and father’s home this was. Unusually his father the vicar was a convert from a Bombay Parsi family. Anyhow George was accused of maiming animals at night in and around the village, a series of events that came to be known as the Great Wyrley Outrages. In a case of gross injustice he was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years in prison. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took an interest and ensured that the matter of George’s conviction became a national issue. After a long campaign Doyle’s efforts led to a Court of Inquiry and a pardon. Some good came out of the whole affair as Edalji’s case and the associated campaign were factors in the creation of England’s Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907.        I have to say that our visit here was a great disappointment to me. There was absolutely no mention anywhere whatsoever of all of this case. I know the church’s business is religion and worship. But the vicarage and the church and Edalji’s father’s position were integral to the whole affair. Surely it might help draw people to this now anonymous suburb of Walsall to at least outline the story? Would that not be a good thing? Anyhow I am glad I came.

20190326_144956 copy.jpg20190326_145332-copy.jpg20190326_145050 copy.jpg20190326_145201.jpegOn the way back to our cottage we called one more time at Sandbach to have a further look around and shop at Waitrose for our evening meal (I said this town had everything!). It didn’t disappoint and we found even more lovely lovely areas….20190326_165719 copy.jpg20190326_165813 copy.jpg20190326_165851 copy.jpg20190326_170030 copy.jpeg20190326_170441 copy.jpgThe next day we set out reasonably early as we were undertaking the journey back to Cornwall not the way we had come by Motorway nearly all the way but on the ‘old’ route down the border country of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Gwent. It was a good decision. Marvellous weather, fantastic countryside and the bonus of stopping for lunch in Ludlow one of my favourite places…..20190327_135803 copy.jpeg20190327_140005 copy.jpgAs it happened, the Charlton Arms Hotel had just stopped serving so we made do with a drink and a bag of crisps, but with this view who cares?20190327_141112 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England…….part 3

20190323_110725 copy.jpeg A return visit to a pub I know well , Bells of Peover, but how its gardens have been transformed. They are absolutely beautiful. 20190323_110656 copy.jpg20190323_110747 copy.jpgThe church is rather good too in Lower Peover’s tranquil setting…20190323_110951 copy.jpeg20190323_111147 copy.jpg20190323_111032 copy.jpegand we loved the alert owl outside the local Primary School. As a matter of fact we saw many wooden owls during our week – must be someone who likes to carve them!20190323_112020 copy.jpgNext to Knutsford. This restaurant in the old town hall looked good.20190323_115755 copy.jpegBut we ate elsewhere….seemingly dozens of choices of eating places.20190323_121447 copy.jpegKnutsford was bustling, but it is the sort of place where peace and quiet is just round the corner….20190323_123418 copy.jpg20190323_123711 copy.jpg20190323_123927 copy.jpegand there are some lovely buildings…20190323_124105 copy.jpeg20190323_124239 copy.jpg20190323_124455 copy.jpgTatton Mere stretches from the town all the way up to the eighteenth century mansion Tatton Park  a beautiful long walk…20190323_124733 copy.jpgApart from the traffic, which however no doubt helps all the shops, a super play to live. Probably outside our price range unfortunately.20190323_125159 copy.jpgFrom there via super slick Wilmslow (champagne capital of Britain) to the magnificent viewpoint (and shopping centre) of Alderley Edge. 20190323_134654 copy.jpg20190323_135018 copy.jpgManchester is on the horizon.20190323_140300 copy.jpgOnwards then to Marton  a small hamlet with a Black and White church St James and St Paul…20190323_143003 copy.jpeg20190323_143207 copy.jpegIt was brilliant to see the survival of medieval wall paintings…..20190323_143343 copy.jpg20190323_143956 copy.jpgWe then chanced upon the picture-perfect little village of Astbury ………20190323_145747 copy.jpgUnfortunately the church was locked but it was enormous, a sight to behold in such a small place. I learned afterwards that its nave is forty feet wide, wider even than Chester Cathedral.20190323_145945 copy.jpeg20190323_150026 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England……Part 2

We couldn’t visit this part of England without going to Chester of course. I have been a good few times but forgot how charming it is. Beautiful streetscapes….20190322_113357 copy.jpgWonderful cathedral….20190322_113413 copy.jpgand the impressive walls….we started our walk of the two and a half mile circuit at the cathedral itself….20190322_113437 copy.jpegand were soon enjoying unparalleled views…20190322_113627 copy.jpgI suspect this was the Deanery with its beautiful gardens. It is now desirable but expensive apartments. What I wouldn’t give to live in a place like that!20190322_113923 copy.jpgAt times the walls soared on high. In this section you got a good idea of how formidable they would have been….20190322_114028 copy.jpgAnd sometimes just occasionally it is nice to look at the backs of houses. Have you ever see a prettier back view than this?20190322_114454 copy.jpegEverywhere we went was full of interest. Here, near Telford’s wharf is a sculpture of Captain Morgan’s cannon – he waste of the Royalist defenders of Chester during the Civil War.20190322_114650 copy.jpgWhen walking West we had excellent views in the  distance of The North Welsh mountains…20190322_115029 copy.jpegIn comparison with even York, Exeter or Berwick these walls are momentous…20190322_115352 copy.jpgand what you see from them is soul-lifting in this day and age….20190322_115644 copy.jpegPlenty of handsome Georgian houses….20190322_120135 copy.jpegand even the Victorian terraces were special…20190322_123053-copy.jpg….as indeed most of the modern buildings we saw….20190322_121048-copy.jpegThe walk passes very close to the race course…who would pay to get in with views like these?20190322_120544 copy.jpgand daffodils everywhere as at York..20190322_121517 copy.jpegHere the castle…….rebuilt in stone in the twelfth century…20190322_121537 copy.jpgand later used as the county hall and for courts, as at Lincoln….20190322_121724 copy.jpgThe River Dee made its presence felt for a good part of the way….20190322_122310 copy.jpeg20190322_122602 copy.jpgand whilst we didn’t manage to see much of the Roman remains on this visit we did glimpse the Roman Gardens from the walls…..20190322_123315 copy.jpgIt wouldn’t be possible that this was the perfect small city would it? Not when we saw two monstrous concrete car parks agreed by the Planners in, what, the Sixties or Seventies….I could see at the time what disastrous results they were inflicting on our heritage. Honestly, I would line all these so-called planners up standing on one leg in the blazing sun to gaze for ever at their works…20190322_123402 copy.jpeg20190322_123700 copy.jpegWe finished our walk at the famous Eastgate clock, it being lunch time. It really is rather special.20190322_123852 copy.jpeg20190322_143522 copy.jpegAnd whilst scouting out where to eat we had a good look at the famous Rows (sadly with one or two empty or run-down premises as is almost inevitable with first floor shopping20190322_124625 copy.jpegBut on the whole we certainly got the feeling that Chester was bucking the trend for city centres and was prospering. Good to see.20190322_123917 copy.jpg20190322_123930 copy.jpeg20190322_124315 copy.jpeg20190322_124501 copy.jpgWe made our way then to Tarporley, a small town which we enjoyed very much and which would be second equal in our list of places to live. Again thriving, busy, beautiful buildings and shops you want to go to.20190322_161612 copy.jpeg20190322_161953 copy.jpgWe couldn’t resist going into the sixteenth century Swan Hotel for a quick cup of tea, splendid both inside and out.20190322_170605 copy.jpgThen into deepest Cheshire where we saw the famous two castles the medieval  Beeston and Peckforton gazing at each other from their eminences…..Peckforton was a Victorian country house now turned into a hotel.two_castles_1000x666-2 copy.jpgon the way back we stopped at this very picturesque village with its lovely houses and pond complete with rare black swans..20190322_175115 copy.jpeg20190322_175112 copy.jpgWe were also held up for a long while by cows on their way to milking……but no bother!20190322_175650 copy.jpegHome at last….20190323_104744 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England……..Part 1

20190320_183454 copy.jpgLooking to the future, we decided to go house hunting in Cheshire. I would like to be within striking distance of Manchester where I come from, with its magnificent facilities, and Cheshire adjoins it and is the epitome of rural England. I have looked at thousands of houses on-line and know we can find one somewhere in Cheshire which will allow us to free up a bit of capital and give us a bit of leeway in our plans (mainly travel and going out – theatres, concerts etc). We weren’t scouting particular houses but looking broadly across the whole county to assess where we would like to live.                                                         I booked a converted barn for a week which looked great in Sawdays which is usually very reliable, and so it proved. We were greeted by Martin, who farms the land, and one of his lovely dogs Beth. Martin was a great host for the whole week and gave us lots of good tips on where to go.20190320_172020 copy.jpgWe settled in very quickly and were soon enjoying the March sunshine….20190320_172207 copy.jpgand on our first evening we drove to the local pub…the Swettenham Arms…just what the doctor ordered – a nice gastropub with good ales.20190320_183816 copy.jpg20190320_184601 copy.jpg20190320_185128 copy.jpgOutside, across the car park, was the church of St Peter’s which is very unusual and interesting with its stone build, but with a brick tower….unfortunately we never got around to visiting it. Another time.20190320_184524 copy.jpgOn our first full day we set out from our cottage in the grounds of Kermincham Hall past the pond and down its long drive which gave us a feeling of grandeur every time we used it, and…..20190321_102820 copy.jpegfirst of all explored Middlewich a historic town with its name suggesting a salt town and being the middle salt town in fact between Northwich and Nantwich. The Romans first mined salt here, and it was mined and processed til fairly recently. In reality the town itself apart from an attractive area by one of the three canals….20190321_110835 copy.jpgand by the green surrounding the church…was a bit of a dump – very poor High Street with downmarket shops and giving a depressing, run down feeling. Reminiscent in fact of many towns today.20190321_111151 copy.jpgOur mood lightened considerably however when we went next  to Sandbach, a peach of a town. The first great thing about it was free parking. To the two of us who have run shops in several places it is a no-brainer. But councils everywhere seek to bleed town centres dry with heavy rates and support for out-of-town developments and the results are as obvious as they were in Middlewich. We hit upon a lovely hotel for lunch – a gastropub and boutique establishment, The Wheatsheaf. We ordered something light and settled down to read our newspaper and do the crossword between us. Forty minutes later, having completed the crossword but without food, I caught the eye of  a member of staff and explained we were waiting. She could not have been more apologetic and efficient. Our open sandwiches and thrice-cooked chips appeared in no time. She explained that our order had been lost in a staff handover. Inexcusable of course, but I was gobsmacked when she again apologised and said we would not have to pay anything. Now that is, in the end, good customer service par excellence769b8318_z copy.jpg20190321_115629 copy.jpg20190321_115638 copy.jpegSatisfied and satiated, we strolled through town and discovered it was market day with lots of good food stalls….but we were more taken with the buildings….. 20190321_122158 copy.jpegmany of which were traditional Cheshire Black and White…20190321_122516 copy.jpegThe church and its grounds were exceptionally lovely…surrounded by Black and White houses on all sides…20190321_122541 copy.jpgand the pub opposite the church Old Hall where we called in for a quick half was amazing, believed to date from 1656 and once the residence of the Lords of the Manor of Sandbach. It is absolutely magnificent.20190321_122636 copy.jpegThe centre of the town is picturesque with its cobbles, more Black and White houses, good pubs on all sides (!)…..20190321_123234 copy.jpg20190321_124515 copy.jpgand a lovely Deli (amongst many other fantastic Independent shops in town)…..20190321_123400 copy.jpegand there were two impressive and massive Saxon stone crosses dominating the square. 20190321_123540 copy.jpeg They are elaborately carved with animals and Biblical scenes including the Nativity of Christ and the Crucifixion, and probably date from the 9th century. They were originally painted as well as carved, and they are among the finest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon high crosses. Later we found several towns and villages that we liked very much, but none of them matched Sandbach, our likely destination?                                         Anyhow, next stop was Nantwich. We had been before to have a chat to the local bookshop owner. It was as pleasant as we remembered. Again a great church and a pretty close surrounding it….20190321_145001 copy.jpg20190321_145115 copy.jpegThe streets were full of atmosphere and with a wonderful range of Independent shops again…and everywhere seemingly unspoilt and well cared for…. 20190321_145137 copy.jpg20190321_145429 copy.jpgEven the multiples were well hidden.20190321_150012 copy.jpg20190321_150219 copy.jpegAnd the range and quality of the buildings and streetscape was exceptional …20190321_145840 copy.jpeg20190321_150123 copy.jpegOne thing that wowed us was this boulder. 20190321_150717 copy.jpegThe inscription reads that it was  found during the building of the by-pass, is 400 million years old, and is probably from of all places Dumfries in Scotland, having been carried here by glacial action. Incredible.                                                                                              Having decided to look at a range of new houses here, we had a delightful walk along the river….20190321_150725 copy.jpg20190321_150944 copy.jpg20190321_151137 copy.jpgIt was a long walk so we were glad of a suitable place of refreshment back in town..A terrific medium-sized town but not quite as lovable as Sandbach was our conclusion.20190321_161238 copy.jpgThat evening we walked to the Swettenham Arms across three fields, by the nascent River Dane, 20190321_175322 copy.jpegsliding across the occasional fence to avoid the mud, 20190321_175332 copy.jpgand getting back just before sunset….20190321_184340 copy.jpg