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CREAM FLANNELS AND ICE CREAM

With the latest 'War of the Worlds' currently underway in that far-flung island on the opposite side of the world, much spiced with the pontificating and bragging exhibitions being exercised by each of the contenders, might I draw your attention to an England eleven who regularly swept aside all those who dared to pick up the challenge.  So confident was this national selection of 'gentlemen' and mere 'players', ( Plebs they might be termed today in current Parliamentary parlance!) that the teams chosen to play against them would habitually consist of 22 of the best the locality could produce on a given day. Test matches were not yet happening and the first trip abroad for Queen Victoria's squad would be to the New World of North America in the 1860's. Take a look below at that fine band of young men who were preparing to take on the world at this so-English game, it looks by the headgear as if there were only four 'players' amongst them. An

SPANNING THE CENTURIES

“A level-crossing system …” I n a recent blog - ‘ Melton to Oakham ’ - I outlined my account of the construction of Melton Mowbray’s railway road-bridge which today straddles the Leicester to Peterborough railway line and the River Eye - both are in close proximity - conveying the A606 road out of the town to our neighbouring town of Oakham and all points south.  I explained that the old stone bridge of around 1820 which had traditionally carried foot passengers and horses and carts for over 80 years, had increasingly become inadequate for its purpose since the arrival of the railways in 1847.  In later years and far more consequential to an increasing number of important winter residents, was the arrival of the new-fangled steam and petrol propelled motor-cars, albeit they being restricted to a speed of just 20 mph.  With access requiring to be controlled for the dangerous trains crossing the paths of unwary equestrians and pedestrians, a level crossing system was utilised on t

"... A SOFT PEDUNCULATED GROWTH"

DEFINITELY NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH! Action on Bladder Cancer I have recently discovered an article which was published in 'The British Medical Journal' of 1892 which I feel should be placed alongside my personal account of 21st Century surgery (see, 'The Tale of a Tumour' ).  I am cognisant of the fact that the current procedure for bladder cancer has not advanced significantly over at least three decades and 21st century surgeons on both sides of the Atlantic will readily confess to the fact that progress has been slow. (Though as time goes by I might yet be required to remove these words - I hope so!) At the last count, it is still required in the majority of cases that a sharp knife be taken to open up the torso in order to detach the little devils, often casting out important and precious anatomical organs - which we always wanted to retain! - in the process. The reports which I have reproduced from the journal are a spine-tingling example of such proce

"TWOPENNY WOODEN HORSES"

A Wistful Contribution       Recently, I came across a passage of correspondence within a collection of ' Letters to the Editor' in an archived newspaper and was immediately struck by the nostalgic tone of its writer and especially, of the subject being addressed.  As I scanned the long newspaper column I discovered that it was a wistful contribution from a retired 'gentleman' resident in Scotland who was now in his seventies and probably retired from a long life of work: It proved to be a beautifully crafted effusion of the writer's still-vivid memories of childhood days spent in Melton Mowbray.  I pinched myself when I realised that he was recollecting an era now two centuries past, when he wrote of his observations on the gay celebrations held on the day of the coronation of the controversial King George IV on the 19th July 1821.     Those interested in the history of Melton should especially find the piece interesting and I resurrect and repro

SEAMUS HEANEY R.I.P.

Blackberries and Prose T here is nothing more likely to indicate to us folks in the temperate climate of middle England that Summer (if we have been lucky!) is coming to an end, than the arrival and full ripening of the wild blackberries ( rubus)  growing in public - usually neglected - spaces.  This particular Summer has borne a plethora of green growth and a lot of excellent fruit has followed due to the wonderful combination of extremely rainy days interspersed with more than its usual quota of hot and sunny ones.  I was out in the fields near to my house just the other day and saw that the blackberry brambles were absolutely rampant and overborne with fruit. Their heavily laden stems are reaching far above the grasp of the average picker and offer a challenge to those acquiring the supreme prize of gathering in the fattest and most luscious berries, whilst avoiding the ever pernicious and unforgiving thorns! As the ripest and juiciest black specimens are carefully p

WERE AEROPLANES MADE IN MELTON MOWBRAY?

THE BUTCHER'S LAD, THE BARNSTORMER AND THE GRUBBER. Samuel Summerfield was one of eight siblings born in South Derbyshire in 1894 into a farming family. In 1900 when he was just six years of age, his family re-located a few miles south to the small market town of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire where his father was to set up in business as a grazier and butcher providing meat for the local market. As a very young man, Samuel set himself the task of teaching himself to fly a heavier-than-air machine in the nearby fields and was later to obtain one of the first ‘British Aviators Certificates’ issued. During the Great War as a Captain in the Royal Flying Corps, he assisted in the training of the brave young pilots, who from all walks of life would fight and die in great numbers over the killing fields of France and Germany. In later years ‘Sam’ was to earn a living ‘barnstorming’ and providing leisure flights with a travelling air circus. At the age of 40 and unmarried  Sam

CLEARING THE DECKS

1 A fair chunk of Melton Mowbray has been missing from Burton Street for quite a while now and for a longer time than most of us might have wished it has remained an ugly and unwelcome blot on a very historic part of our old market town.  Like a front tooth missing from a pretty lady's face, a portion of the footpath has been fenced off, with bright green laurels implanted in a vain attempt to maintain a certain tidiness or decorum.

GONE AND ALMOST FORGOTTEN

Expatriates both. Having been an amateur student of Melton Mowbray local history for more of my mis-spent latter years than I would wish to admit to, I recently came across this rather attractive gentleman and his lady wife whilst searching for a other things in the American newspapers.  Expatriates both, William and Hannah Mowbray - how could they be forgotten with a name like that - seem to have slipped out of the old town over 130 years since and today, almost without trace in their home town, whilst their celebrity appears to be lauded and lionised in the USA for their pioneer efforts in the settling of the then new and semi-wild red indian dominated city of Tulsa in the State of Oklahoma. George Mowbray George William Mowbray was the second child born to John and Catherine Mowbray in 1843. One of seven siblings born over a period of 20 years, the family began their life in Norman Street Melton Mowbray where his father, originally from nearby Loughborough, worked as a

MELTON TO OAKHAM - 1900

TIME FOR A CHANGE      I live within a stone's throw of the railway bridge at Burton End in Melton Mowbray which serves to convey traffic and pedestrians across both the Midland railway line and the River Eye which passes underneath on its way to join the rivers Wreake, Soar, Trent and finally into the River Humber on its winding way and wide estuary into the North Sea.  On many a Sunday morning I can be found to be scratching around beneath the large blue-brick and steel structure which was contructed over 100 years ago, or in and about the nooks and crannies of our railway station, or the hospital fields in an effort to discover how much the original topography of the area has changed since the dying days of the 19th century.  My curiosity was initially aroused when I first saw the now iconic - and very early - photographic view of the Burton End Basin and began to realise just how much the area has adapted to its more modern needs.  In the matter of discovering the more det