Friday, 22 November 2013

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. Anyway let me take you back to what, by all accounts, was a very fine summer at Melton Mowbray, that of 1855.


A 'Levelling' playing field ...


    Take a stroll today along Saxby Road in Melton Mowbray and on the left hand side of the road, just on the edge of the town, one finds the wooden building which is now houses the town's RAF cadet Corps. Walk into the driveway there and just beyond lies the sports field which is known locally as the All England Sports Ground, late venue of the Melton Mowbray Rugby Club and currently home of Melton Mowbray Cricket Club. Each of these long-established clubs have proud histories of their own, having been providers of much of the towns recreation over many decades.

    In the early part of the 19th century, Saxby Road was known to all as Southern Lane and this area of level grass was recognised as 'Mr Burton's Paddock'.  Cricket was then the predominant sport, especially of the summer months and much enjoyed by the majority of the small population, whenever the weather permitted!  In a future blog I hope to write of the acquisition of this land at the expense of local philanthropist, Henry Bickley, who famously bequeathed a large bulk of his not inconsiderable estate to the people, especially the young and the poor, of the town.  On his death in 1912, his will instructed that land suitable at the Play Close should be purchased and adapted for cricket if possible, but otherwise the Executors should arrange to purchase the field on Saxby Road, "... for the purpose of first class cricket ...". Although it was many years later, the transaction eventually took place in concert and with the auspices of the Town Estate.

"Shops will be closed ....."

    But that is all by the by; as long ago as 1855, at a time when a young Queen Victoria was authorising Lord Palmerston to set up his new Tory Government and and an internecine war was raging in the far off Crimea, the good people of little Melton Mowbray were as one, welcoming another summer and learning of the imminent visit to the town by the all conquering,  'All England', cricket team.  Much excitement and anticipation was abroad as the locals relished the prospect of some excellent sport, whilst entertaining visitors from far and wide, many of whom would be arriving on the recently arrived new railway.  The finest of a selection of English and Welsh cricketers, these young men were obliged to test their skills on tours throughout the two countries.  Test matches would not commence until 1877 and it was not until 1861 when a representative team first travelled abroad, surprisingly, on a tour of North America.  Oddly it might seem today, but in order to create some sort of equality between the relative abilities of the sides visited, in a way, creating a levelling handicap for the 'stars', the All Englanders would pit their eleven men against a team of double that number.  As the time grew nigh, good weather would have been prayed for.


GENTLEMEN (with toppers) and PLAYERS (without)

All England cricket eleven of 1846 (Wikipedia)



ALL ENGLAND versus TWENTY-TWO OF MELTON MOWBRAY.

‘We were remarkably merry at Melton Mowbray last week, which was one of the gayest the good little town had seen for several years, and fairly fulfilled the saying that “it never rains but it pours,” pleasures being then indeed poured in abundance, and many made happy in partaking of them.  The Grand All England Cricket Match was the great centre of attraction which served to gather several other good things around it, viz., a concert at the Corn Exchange, succeeded by a ball on the following evening, and Gimrett’s celebrated circus, etc.  The cricket match commenced on Thursday morning and extended over three days during which 22 of Melton and the District tried their skill against eleven of England’s choicest cricketers, but sadly failed as will be seen by the score, though the play was pretty good and the game a most interesting one to the thousands who saw and admired it.  The match was played in a well selected six acre close adjoining the Southern-lane [now Saxby Road], and surrounded by a calico enclosure.  Spacious booths for refreshments, &c., were provided by Mr. Goodacre of the Crown Inn, Mr. Bolderson of the King’s head, Mr. Wells, White Lion, and  Mr. Darman, Malt Shovel, beside a numerous array of stalls.  Sixpence was charged for admission to the ground, and though the gate-keeper gave a good deal (£108.) for the “Spec,” it would probably pay its way and leave a pretty surplus, so great was the concourse of spectators.  Friday was the  finest, best and gayest day, and drew the greatest number of visitors, who thronged the place most pleasingly.  The shops and offices were considerately closed at noon, and “all went forth a holidaying.”  The bells too rang out merrily, and the Saxhorn Band daily enlivened the gay scene on the ground, upon which on Friday afternoon there could have scarcely been less that 4,000 persons present.  Returns were printed on the spot at the fall of each wicket.  All arrangements appeared exceedingly suitable and answered admirably well, and though they did not win, our cricket friends at Melton merit much praise for providing their fellow townsmen so great and gay a treat.  The following is the score:-‘
 (reproduced from the Leicester Mercury, 21st July 1855)

All England Eleven

Box, b F. Tinley 6
C.R. Tinley, c F. Tinley, b J. Warrington 5
Wilsher, b Gillett       16
G. Parr, b J. Warrington         5
Caesar, b F. Tinley       70
A. Clarke, leg before wicket, b Tinley, 3
Anderson, b F. Tinley       28
S. Parr, c Sykes, b Gillett         7
Stephenson, c Grasby, b Tinley,               10
Guy, not out,         4
Buttress, c W. Warrington, b Tinley,       10
Byes, 5; wide,4; no balls, 1               10

                                 Total             174


Melton And District twenty-two

Woodward, b Wilsher 2                                                              b Wilsher 2
J, Willis, b Wilsher, 1                                                            b C.R. Tinley 0
Christian, b Willsher, 0                                                               hit wicket 2
G. Knight, run out 6                                                                   b Wilsher 11
H. Hunt, b Buttress, 1                                                        l b w, b Buttress 1
Hogg, b Buttress 4                                                                            run out 9
J.Warrington, c Willsher b Buttress 3                      ct Box, b C.R. Tinley 0
W. Warrington, b Willsher 3                                              b C.R. Tinley 12
H. Gillett, b Willsher, 25                                                             b Willsher, 3
G. Beaumont, c Stephenson b  -“- 0                     c C.R. Tinley, b Willsher 0
F. Tinley, c S. Parr, b Willsher 0                                                  b Willsher 4
H. Marriott, b Buttress, 2                                                       b C.R. Tinley 0
C. Philips, b Willsher, 2                                                          b C.R. Tinley 0
T. Hourd, b Buttress 2                                                           b C.R. Tinley 5
W. Lamin, b Buttress, 0                                                              b Willsher 0
Read, b Buttress, 6                                                                           absent
Hopkins, b Willsher 2                                                 c Parr, b C.R. Tinley 3
Sykes, b Willsher, 14                                               c Anderson, b Willsher 5
Dickman, b Tinley, 4                                                             b C.R. Tinley 0
W. Grasby, b Willsher, 0                                     c Willsher, b C.R. Tinley 0
Fardell, b Willsher 6                                                                        not out, 0
T. Clark, not out, 0                                                                     b Buttress, 0

Byes, 1; leg byes, 1 2                                                           b 1; w 2; l b 2, 5

Total. 86                                                                                            Total 62

(Take notice that only the 'Gentlemen' had their initials placed before their names!)


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All England Eleven on tour in North America - 'Harper's Weekly'


Melton Town Notes - 1855

--------------------------------
    THE EGERTON BREWERY. - Messrs.Barclay and Perkin’s  Brewery is certainly not the least of London wonders - so largely do labour, skill and capital there unite in producing “stunning stout.”  Vast, however, as is that establishment, it has its copyists in the country, though of course on a much smaller scale; and such is the Egerton Brewery here - a place which the proprietors (Messrs. Adcock) have made most remarkably complete for brewing this national beverage.  Their extensive cellar is truly a sight worth seeing - a mine of liquid wealth - which, with its lengthy rows of porter casks and tall tuns, whose “holds” are counted by thousands of gallons, would assuredly surprise and please even a temperate Meltonian, let alone the longing delight it would also inspire in a thoroughly “thirsty soul.”  The locality, too, has kept good pace with the very surprising improvements surrounding their bonny brewery, for beside its own pillared entrance, the neighbourhood now shows a  row of Alma Cottages, with a Rutland Terrace, and Norman Street, Union-street, as evidence of the building energy of Messrs. Webster, Adcock and Evans.  The war will furnish many titles, for beside the Alma one above, we also have Cardigan-terrace, or Mr Dickinson’s tasty improvements at Mount Pleasant; and perhaps ere long have Sweaborg-row and Inkerman-alley.

(Re-printed from Grantham Journal, August 1855)




Tuesday, 8 October 2013

SPANNING THE CENTURIES


“A level-crossing system …”


In 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 the old bridge but as the years passed it all became a little anachronistic due in great part to the human frailties of those in charge.  Incidents of the watchmen sleeping on the job or just being absent from his post, frequently led to annoying delays in crossing the divide: a seriously contentious matter when 'Reynard' was about to be pursued!  This situation was especially exacerbated with the arrival around the turn of the century of the mostly rich motorists who would demand unfettered access for their internal combustion machines. 

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, with the earlier closure of the navigation canal to Oakham and the lingering presence of the now redundant stagnant body of fetid water at the the bottom of Burton End, known locally as the ‘The Basin’, the moment was set for a complete housekeeping moment when the local Town Estate and Council members were to swing into action: the result being the filling in of the hole and the establishment of the current iron railway bridge, the construction of which in 1899 was to sweep away all which had stood in its path. 



“ A rickety old wooden bridge …”


Almost two centuries ago, during the early months of 1818, the townspeople of Melton were no doubt delighted to learn that improvements were to be made on a rickety old wooden pile bridge which had long served to connect the North and South sides of the town.  Perhaps this was not too big a deal though, considering that old Mr Brown’s newly built ‘Hill House - the old War Memorial Hospital as we know it today - was probably the only dwelling of consequence on that side of the River Eye then: though within a very short period of time, work would commence on ‘Burton House’, the new home on Burton Road of the good Dr. Keal and his family which has only recently been beautifully renovated and re-designated 'Craven Court'.  


Plans for a new edifice were apparently well advanced and local money was available to replace the old wooden pile-driven overpass with something a little more substantial.  Local people were to be informed by their local newspaper - The Stamford Mercury - in a very pithy paragraph:

‘We are happy to state that the ancient bridge at the end of the town of Melton Mowbray leading to Oakham, which has long been in a dangerous state for passengers, is now taking down [?], and that a spacious new bridge will be built in its place.’

Some eighteen months later this promise was fulfilled and is often the case with the opening of new bridges , there was a certain amount of jubilation and fanfare.  In August of 1820, the newspapers would report:

MELTON MOWBRAY NEW BRIDGE.

'On Wednesday the 7th instant, a considerable number of ladies and gentlemen assembled to witness the gratifying spectacle of laying the foundation-stone for a new bridge at the South end of Melton Mowbray.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Thos. Ford, L.L.D.  A great number of ancient coins were deposited underneath; and the workmen all showed their readiness to assist the Reverend Doctor in the work of a mason.  Previous to laying the stone to its proper situation, the worthy divine addressed the bystanders on the generosity of the British nation, which was not to be equalled in the world for hospitality, liberality, benevolence, and the support given to public charities, and to all institutions which can in any manner benefit our fellow creatures, not forgetting bridges, which are of much public use.  Agreeably to an old saying, everyone might praise the bridge he got safe over; he (Dr. Ford) should also take an opportunity of speaking in a divine way on this occasion.  Here was a corner-stone, a firm stone, a stone on which all the others fitly joined together would make a good and substantial building: let not the persons present forget that Jesus Christ is the only foundation, the sure corner-stone for the sinner to build his hopes upon.  He exhorted his hearers to consider that before the earthly house of their tabernacle be dissolved, they should by repentance and faith lay their foundation upon Christ, that they may secure for themselves an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. -- An appropriate prayer was then offered up to Almighty God, and the stone was lowered by the workmen to its proper position.  The mallet was given to the Rev. Doctor, who gave the finishing blow in a workmanlike manner.  He then made a most handsome present to Mr. Morton, jun., the master builder, and the men drank his health in the afternoon with the loudest plaudits.'

Mr Ellis Mortin, master builder and civil engineer of some repute, a resident of nearby  Leicester, was contracted to carry out the sizeable project which was reported to be successfully completed within three summer months of that year.

And on the other side of town ...


The small market town of Melton Mowbray must have had deep pockets in the 1820s, as, having stretched the public purse for the South side bridge, plans were almost simultaneously in chain to secure another more suitable span, again over the River Eye but on this occasion carrying the road to Syston and Leicester and all points East.  Much wealth was indeed forthcoming from the town’s coffers which were then in a pretty sound state, predominantly emanating from the annual attendance of some of the richest and most influential people in the world who would flock to the town ostensibly to chase the little fox.  Considerable amounts were expended between these cross-country jaunts, on extra-curricular activities such as wining, dining, gambling and pursuing not only 'Reynard', but the opposite sex.  Untramelled access and egress to the town was obviously of prime importance, especially necessary in the wet and cold days of winter and it seems that unrestricted passage across this part of the River Eye - which was particularly prone to flooding - was equally important as that of the south side. 

The Eye Kettleby bridge - as it was initially called - was conceived in 1821 and under the stewardship and noted skill of builder Joseph Vinrace - of the quaintly named village of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in the North of the County - a man responsible for many of the stone bridges built in that era in this part of Leicestershire, a fine job was promised.  Reminiscing in a letter to the Editor of a daily newspaper some 70 years after the event, a reader was to write:
“ ... as I remember it perfectly well when building, and how a temporary roadway was made across a little higher up the river, with earth and wooden railings at the sides; and I frequently saw waggons and heavily loaded conveyances having much trouble to get across, the wheels of them often sinking deep into the soft earth... “
Once again, with habitual flourish and fanfare, a stone-laying ceremony was once more enjoyed by the excited townsfolk, as the Stamford Mercury of the 7th June was to report:
          ‘The first stone of the new bridge at Melton Mowbray was laid on Saturday last, by Richard Norman Esq. attended by most of the principal ladies and gentlemen of the place, and by a great concourse of the other inhabitants:  this bridge will contribute greatly to the security of the approach to Melton, and to the convenience of the public at large.  Under the superintendence of Mr. Vinrace, the architect, it is supposed that it will be completed in about three months.  The worthy Magistrate (Mr. Norman), accompanied by a part of his amiable family, delivered the following appropriate address during the ceremony:- 
          “Ladies and Gentlemen,  I wish your choice had fallen on some one more capable of addressing a few words to you than I am; but since some ceremony should be observed in laying the foundation-stone of this bridge, and you choice of speaker has kindly fallen on me, I accept the compliment with pleasure, and consider the office as an honour.  Public highways, canals, and bridges, which contribute to the comfort as well of the opulence of the inhabitants of every country, have always been held in the highest estimation; and it is in consequence of the improvement that has taken place in our roads and bridges, that we shall shortly have two royal mails passing daily through our town, which will give it consequence, and open an intercourse from the North to the South, from the East to the West.  The town of Melton Mowbray has contributed largely and liberally towards the erection of this new bridge; by which means it is placed in a more convenient situation than it otherwise would have been; and I have no doubt that through the skill of the architect and the experience of the builder, it will be rendered as commodious as possible.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I sincerely hope and pray that this bridge may contribute to the prosperity of the town of Melton, the county of Leicester, and the public in general; that it may be ornamental and durable; and that we ourselves and our children may pass over it in safety for many generations.”
Coins of the present Majesty’s reign were deposited under the stone.  A subscription was afterwards suggested in behalf of the workmen, to which the greater part of the ladies and gentlemen then present liberally contributed.’



'Fait Accompli'


Lady Wilton Bridge, as the new structure was subsequently christened, was officially opened for public use on Saturday, 5th October 1822, but a century later it was required to be widened in order to cope with the pressures of modern-day traffic and the increased requirement for footways as the land beyond it became developed and more populated; this was to result in a major expansion operation being undertaken in 1930.  It is of interest to discover that the original bridge which this replaced was in fact some 100 yards further to the north and ran pretty well straight into the grounds of Wilton Lodge.

Remaining much loved by the present generation, this old lady who is so much an intrinsic part of the town today bestriding the ancient River Eye, stands much the same now as when she was first conceived and constructed almost two centuries past and seemingly, proving as strong as ever.  See Listed Buildings

Saturday, 28 September 2013

"... 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 procedures which were practised in Victorian times.  They describe the apparently successful removal of bladder tumours (not necessarily cancerous) from both a male and female patient at Manchester Royal Infirmary.  I was considering abbreviating the document but I decided that it should perhaps be read as a whole, not just to make you squirm that little while longer, but to perhaps lay the lie to the fact that no progress has been made and this should perhaps keep your surgeon in some sort of good humour when your turn comes!   For those of a nervous disposition, or if you are personally pending such a visit to your particular local hospital,  I can assure you from personal experience that at least the medical instruments then utilised in the operations are rarely now used and I do believe that much of it would probably be illegal!  I will leave you to look up the unfamiliar, and often archaic, medical terminology used by these often pompous people and as they say in these enlightened days, "Enjoy".



REPORTS
ON
MEDICAL AND SURGICAL PRACTICE IN THE HOSPITALS AND ASYLUMS OF GREAT BRITAIN, IRELAND AND THE COLONIES.

-----------------------------

MANCHESTER ROYAL INFIRMARY.
TWO CASES OF TUMOUR OF THE BLADDER. 

(Under the care of Mr. SOUTHAM.)



CASE 1:   Papilloma in a male: Suprapubic Custotomy: Removal: Recovery. - W.S., aged 56, was admitted on February 29th, 1892 with the following history: About 12 months previously he first noticed the presence of blood in his urine, and since that date ha had suffered from frequent attacks of profuse haematuria, accompanied by any pain or difficulty in micturition.  In the intervals between the attacks, which usually lasted for several days, the urine always became quite clear.  Micturition had latterly become somewhat more frequent than usual, otherwise he was quite free from any evidences of irritation of the bladder, his only symptom being a painless haematuria.

    On admission he was somewhat anaemic, but in other respects in fair health.  The urine, specific gravity 1022, was alkaline and of a brick-red colour, containing in addition to blood, a small quantity of pus.

    A few days after admission  he was examined under chloroform.  Nothing could be felt on rectal examination or on sounding the bladder, but, on washing out the latter with Bigelow’s evacuator, a number of soft particles came away, some of which were twice the size of a pea, and to the naked eye easily recognisable as portions of a villous tumour.  Microscopical examination showed them to be of the nature of papillomata.

    The presence of a growth being verified, it was resolved to remove it by suprapubic cystotomy, but as a preliminary measure, in order to correct the alkaline condition of the urine, salol was given internally (10 grains 3 times a day) and the bladder was washed out daily with boric lotion.  The result of this treatment, combined with rest in bed, was that on the tenth day the urine had become acid, and the amount of blood had greatly diminished.

    March 21st. Suprapubic cystotomy was performed in the usual way,and, on exploring the interior of the bladder with the finger, a soft, pedunculated growth, the size of a pigeon’s egg, was felt springing from the left side of the trigone.  This was removed through the suprapubic opening by scraping through its point of attachment with the finger nail and a Volkmann’s spoon.  The bladder was then washed out with hot boric lotion until the bleeding, which was very slight, had quite ceased, and a tube was left in the suprapubic wound.  As regards the after-course of the case, all went on very satisfactorily, the temperature never rising above 99.8f  The bladder was washed out daily with boric lotion, and the tube was removed on the third day.  For the first few days the urine contained a little blood, but at the end of a week, it was quite clear, and afterwards remained so.  After the 21st day all the urine was passed by the urethra.  The patient left the hospital by the end of the fifth week, the suprapubic wound being quite closed.  He came afterwards on several occasions as an out-patient, and, when last seen in August, his general health was much improved, and there has been no recurrence of the haemorrhage since the operation.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

CASE II: Multiple Papillomata in a female: Dilatation of Eurethra: Removal: Recovery.  -  M.M. Aged 51 years, was admitted on January 4th, 1892, with a history of haematuria of two years duration.  Until about six months previously the bleeding had recurred at irregular intervals, the urine between the attacks being quite clear, and micturition being unattended by pain and not increased in frequency.  Latterly the bleeding had become more continuous and more profuse, blood being almost always present in the urine; she had also begun to suffer from constant acute pain in the region of the bladder, over which she had lost control, the urine continually dribbling away.

    On admission the patient was very anaemic and in extremely feeble condition.  The urine contained a large quantity of blood and pus, and was ammoniacal, with a very offensive odour.  To correct this condition the same treatment was adopted as in the preceding case.

    January 11th.  The urine having become much sweeter and almost free from blood, the urethra was rapidly dilated under chloroform until it would allow of the introduction of the finger into the bladder.  On exploring its interior the base was found studded over with numerous sessile growths, the largest being about the size of a walnut, of such soft consistence that they were readily removed, as in the last case, with the finger and a Volkmann’s spoon.  The haemorrhage, which was somewhat free, was arrested by washing out the bladder with hot boric lotion.  Microscopical examination of the growths showed them to be papillomata.

    Recovery took place without a single unfavourable sympton.  On the sixth day the patient was sitting up in the ward, the urine, though still alkaline, being free from blood.  At the end of three weeks she was sent to the convalescent home, being able to hold her water, which had become faintly acid, for two hours at a time.

    September. She enjoys excellent health, and has regained complete control over the bladder.  There has been no return to the bleeding since the operation, and she is quite free from any bladder symptoms.
(Article reproduced from THE BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL of October 29th, 1892)

It isn't like this now, honest to goodness!

Well done if you got this far!



Thursday, 19 September 2013

"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 reproduce it for your perusal, verbatim, unedited and complete!  As a post-note, I have briefly researched the letter writer's biography as I was initially puzzled at the circumstances of his leaving Melton home for the then distant wilds of Fifeshire.  A short synopsis of this is at the end.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

SEAMUS HEANEY R.I.P.

Blackberries and Prose



There 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 plucked and taken away, many more are maturing to provide an eclectic and eager queue of people, young and old who are ever-present to take home all they can carry.  These 'hunter-gathers' mostly end up in a very sorry state having had their skin torn open and legs usually stung by nettles which are also prolific at this time of the year.  Very often they have also sustained soaking wet feet from the boggy undergrowth into the bargain; but they will all claim that the prize is worth the pain.

Seamus Heaney
(13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)

In Memory


Related to this annual indicator of the oncoming Autumn season (or 'Fall' as you would perhaps say in Mountain View, CA), I would like to share my observations with the recently deceased Irish poet, Seamus Heaney who wrote of just this subject from his childhood memories.  I present this small poem as my contribution to the celebration of his past life.






"Blackberry Picking" by Seamus Heaney

'Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.'





Tuesday, 13 August 2013

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  Samuel made a life-changing commitment when, in 1934, he would travel half way around the earth to live and work at the small mining settlement of Tennant’s Creek, part of the wild and unforgiving outback of the Northern Territories of Australia. What was intended to be a six months return trip working ‘down-under’ to earn a few shillings in the 'off' season, became a one way migration when, after a very short period of flying action, all his plans and dreams were to evaporate in a local 'puff of wind'.  A hearing defect traceable to his exposure to an explosion in the early days of hostilities was deemed as sufficient to prevent him from obtaining a commercial pilot's licence in Australia which meant that he was never to fly again - personally disastrous and a massive, heart-breaking obtrusion for one so dedicated to his art.  With ideas of an alternative source of income, he would join immigrant prospectors and acquire a gold mine locally to become a ‘grubber’.   And it was here that he would die, alone, in 1967.


This is my account of all I have been able to discover of the remarkable life of this expatriate air pioneer extraordinaire, alas, now all but forgotten in his absence and the passage of time.  He properly lays claim to the soubriquet of ‘local hero’, not only in his home town of Melton Mowbray in England to which place he never ever returned, but also in that of his adopted township of Tennant’s Creek where he is at least remembered locally with some affection and where artefacts relating to his life and work in the outback are currently held in the local museum.  I hope I can do justice to Sam for whom, in absentia, I have acquired a great fondness and boyish admiration.


As this is one of my longer efforts at producing a story, it will, by necessity be split into probably (and hopefully) 3 sections.  I already feel great apprehension about laying out my deliberations and future intentions and thus I refuse to make any promises.  I believe that it is a significant little narrative and that Sam was a man to remember who deserves to have it told; so I will do my very best.  Bear with me!

__________________________________________

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

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.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

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 journeyman maltster.  By the 1860's, the family had moved on to New Street in the town, possibly to find extra room for the growing family, which, as a matter of pure interest  included their final offering to the world in the name of John Robert Mowbray who was born in 1863 just twenty years after his older brother and first-born child, Thomas.  It was in the middle of the 1860's when, then in his 20's, George's fancy was to be taken by a young servant girl who was working at the Sandiland's residence in the nearby village of Coston.  His life was apparently being dominated more and more by the church at the time, but marriage was definitely on his agenda and he was not to be deterred.

Hannah Elizabeth Mowbray


The village of Garthorpe, is only about 5 miles to the east of Melton Mowbray and small as it is today, it was a very tiny hamlet indeed on the 13th March 1843 when Hannah Elizabeth Harley was born as the middle sibling of five to Whissendine born Mary Ann (Matthews)  and her husband William Harley, a local agricultural labourer.  Hannah shared the communal home with her sister and three brothers until she reached the age of around 17 years when she was to get employment at a local home as a general servant.

William and Hannah courted awhile and were soon to marry in the summer of 1867 at Melton Mowbray; the following year their first born child arrived, a daughter, Anne Catherine (Annie).  Next born and their first son was given the same names as his father and he was followed by Mary, 1873, Grace 1875 and Lillie in 1879.  Mary Ann Harley was to know nothing of her daughters far-away adventures, nor apparently, to see the remainder of her grandchildren as she died in 1869 at the age of 66 and when the family had all departed the domestic hearth William, who at some time had become a grocer in the village, returned to spend his final days with his sister and brother, a frame knitter, in his birth town Loughborough, eventually passing on in 1885.

To the New World of America


My research is a little cloudy for the decade following the marriage of the couple as the family do not show up in any later British Census records. It seems that George being a Methodist preacher, paved his way for emigration to the exciting new world of America at a time that it was developing apace and Methodism was the religion of the time.  The young family seemingly first arrived in New York State and later moved on to Kansas where a promotion in 1888 was to see them move once more to the area known as 'Indian Territory' in the state of Oklahoma.

Wikipedia tells us that Oklahoma is a state located in West South Central United States and is the 20th most extensive and the 28th most populous of the 50 United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people".  It is also known informally by its nickname, 'The Sooner State,' honoring the European settlers, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 which opened the door for white settlement in America's Indian Territory.  The name was settled upon statehood when Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged and Indian was dropped from the name. On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the union. Its residents are known as Oklahomans or, informally "Okies", and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.
In fact, our Meltonians were arriving as pioneers in the semi-wild and dangerous area known as Tulsa which was by now linked with the main communication routes and desirous of becoming a city and part of the expanding United States of America.  Similar to the Aboriginal lands of Australia, the Red Indians of North America were being asked to amalgamate with the ever-growing influx of white, European settlers who were looking for land with opportunities.  The Rev. George Mowbray went to Tulsa as a pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church.

In relation to the very interesting history of this part of the New World, there is a nice little blog written by Tulsa Gal which is well worth a visit and is from where I have filched some of my information.  I have discovered that the Mowbrays went from strength to strength in the nascent State, but their only son George Jnr. was to forge a successful business and political career for himself remaining amongst the tall buildings of New York.  By far the most feted of his daughters, who all helped in the Church in different ways, was Annie, their oldest child who famously married a local pioneer and legend, Thomas Jefferson Archer.  The above blog tells of her short marriage to 'Jeff' who was later to be murdered by a drunken Red Indian youth.  Tulsa Gal (Nancy) writes in her blog:
   'When Ann Mowbray arrived at the Tulsa train station, having been summoned by her father to come play the organ at his church, T.J. Archer and some other citizens were sitting on the porch in front of his store. As Reverend Mowbray escorted his daughter past the store, T.J. said, “There goes my wife.” One of the other fellows said, “I’ll bet you a box of cigars that she’s mine.” Archer took the bet and sure enough, about a year later they were married. To meet Annie, Archer attended the Methodist church where her father pastored.  After they were married, they lived in a room in the back of Archer’s store for the first 3 years, where their first child was born. He then bought 32 acres in North Tulsa and built their first house in the 500 block of North Main.
   About 14 years later, a larger brick home was built in the lower lot at the corner of Easton and Main. It had 7 bedrooms, a parlor, a library, a dining room, a kitchen and one of the first modern bathrooms.'
To list all of the creditable achievements of William George Mowbray would entail a longer blog than I first envisaged but suffice to say that he had a hand in many Tulsa pies, not only owning a general store, a real estate business (Mowbray Realty) and an undertakers, he was very active in all aspects of local civic society being the town's 5th Mayor in 1905.  All of this of course was alongside and shared with his abiding and lifelong passion for the Episcopal Methodist Church and the construction of two of their churches.

Near to the end of his life, George gave up most of his life's church work and civic and businesses to superintend the very successful Archer Stores, which had been inherited by his daughter on the tragic and unexpected death of her husband.  He died in 1910 at the age of 63.  Not a lot more is told of Hannah who lived on until 1927 and is now buried alongside her life's love in a place far away from their native Leicestershire.


 Most of the photos [currently misplaced!] used in this blog are from the excellent Beryl Ford Collection. (Tulsa, Oklahoma)


Monday, 24 June 2013

MELTON TO OAKHAM - 1900


TIME FOR A CHANGE

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 Wreake, then the Soar, the Trent and finally into the River Humber on its winding way to 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 contrived 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 detailed and technical evidence, I still have places to visit and official records of the town require to be perused to find out how the decisions were arrived at by our fathers in their smoke-filled rooms. This is not to mention the all important working papers relating to the actual construction of the bridge which I sincerely hope do still exist somewhere.  But I am able to provide a general history as to the main aspects of the area's general evolvement into the 21st century scene which exists today.



The Canal.

    Multiple disparate factors are necessarily involved in the transformation of this part of the town, almost all related to the obvious need for an efficient system of transport which is so vital to a self-contained community and as homo sapiens first travelled by using his legs, he was for ever afterwards seeking refinement.  One of the most important methods from the very early days was the ability to use the natural assistance of water such as rivers and the sea, thus there are very few communities in this and most other developed countries around the world which are not founded and built upon rivers and thus it was in Melton.  In his 'The Story of Melton Mowbray', Philip E Hunt states: 
    '... from the 11th century almost up to the year 1800, the town, together with most other inland towns, must in spite of its weekly market and any other trading, have remained a very self contained community, supplying most of its own wants and using mainly local materials.
    With the commencement in 1791, and the opening in 1795, of the canal known as the Leicester to Melton Navigation, which in 1803 was further extended to Oakham, rapid industrial changes took place.  The wharf or basin as it was called in Burton End, became the commercial centre of the town.  This canal brought many blessings to Melton, one of the principal of which was the carrying of coals much more cheaply and quickly, resulting in great increase of trade in the area.  Many barges must have used this waterway, although facts and figures of this trade are very difficult to obtain.  We do, however, have one small illustration from the census of 1841, when we are told the population of the town of Melton included 14 occupants of barges, who were literally floating members of the community.
    The first detailed County Directory to be published was Whites compiled in the year 1846 and it gives us a good deal of information on trade and transport in the county, among which the Melton entries are very enlightening.  At this date, the railway had not reached the town, although it was on the way, but Melton was, nevertheless , not so isolated in 1846 as one would imagine. ...'

    So we know then that the canal was successfully utilised and much to the benefit of the town.  Many people regarded the venture as a good and secure financial investment with the result that many shares were sold in the Company which for a short while reaped in the dividends, but it was to be a short-lived bubble, about to be burst by the arrival of the railway.  Wikepedia tells us of its expiration thus:

'Railway companies arrived in the area in November 1844. When they were approached by the Midland Railway company about proposals for the Syston and Peterborough Railway, the shareholders recommended negotiation. A deal was struck, with the Midland Railway paying £26,000 and 200 fully paid up £40 shares for the canal. In 1844, the canal had carried 31,182 tons of goods upwards, with around 72 per cent of it being coal, and grain and wool amounting to 4,120 tons had passed down the canal. The lack of a proper water supply had resulted in the canal being closed for nearly five months during the dry summer of 1844. The construction of the railway was authorised by Parliament and a second act to allow the canal to be sold and abandoned was obtained on 27 July 1846.
The railway from Syston to Melton Mowbray opened on 1 September 1846. It would be more than a year before the sale of the canal was finally completed, on 29 October 1847, but just six months after that, the line from Melton Mowbray to Oakham opened on 1 May 1848. The purchase price enabled a final distribution of £44.35 to be made on each of the original shares.'


The Railways



    The ubiquitous railways, in the first half of the 19th century, were to spread like wildfires to all corners, cliffs, and coves of the British Isles like a giant spiders web.  Great excitement was abroad  in the country and millions of pounds were invested in the anxious and desperate purchase of shares in the various companies which scrambled and jostled to set up in the competition of providing transport for an excited and welcoming public.  This scenario was no different in the small market town of Melton Mowbray, where the locals envisaged the potential of a wider world opening up before them, with no limits as to the extent of their future journeys.  A barge was very romantic but they were desirous of getting to their neighbouring cities and places of business in minutes rather than hours or days.


    Almost overnight, the canal system ceased to operate as a Company and the District Council were  unhurried in removing all vestiges of the infrastructure which had developed in its wake, not least, the filling in of the small lagoon at the bottom of Burton End known as 'the basin', which lingered for many years, uncared for and existing as a general trap for watery filth and detritus from the past, not to mention the related reek of decay.  It seems that the Leicester route was to linger on for general use for a few more years, but for the Oakham section, owned and operated by the Wreake Navigation Company, with its scenic path winding through the smallest county in the country, it was sudden death.  In February, 1857, The Leicester Journal published its 'obituary' in the following item;


In The Meantime ...

    With the barge people of Melton now being squeezed out of a living - though they did continue to haul large items and bulk coal by water - their presence was being replaced by rail workers of all persuasions; mechanics, line workers, station staff and of course the drivers and firemen, entered what was a new profession for most and a career which would carry many of them comfortably and proudly through the remainder of their working lives into their pension.  In the map below it is interesting to pick out the points of interest at the time just prior to the arrival of the iron-railed Midland line branch from Leicester to Peterborough via Syston.  Spot the wash pen at the eastern side of the old stone bridge and on the other side of the road, access to a ford through the river which was passable at most times of the year.  Like the basin, the attractive old stone Burton Bridge was also destined to disappear and to later metamorphosize into the structure we all know today. It is this major Victorian construction event with which I now intend to deal, in conjunction with the demise of the old 'narrow bridge', shown below, close to the basin.  

    In the following picture which shows clearly the old and not unattractive stone bridge which dated from the 1770s, it is not possible to see the new arrangements used to control the safe passage of vehicles and pedestrians which were now required to pass over the newly laid railway tracks.  It was then operated as a gated level-crossing which was physically controlled by a gate-keeper similar to the tollgate operations on the trunk roads.  To the frequent chagrin of travellers, it was chained shut at night and this fact was just one major agitation in the escalating public clamour to ameliorate the situation in the coming years.  Another major factor was the arrival of increasingly popular new toy of the rich; the advent of the motor-car.
    
    Melton Mowbray, at the turn of the 20th century was established and recognised as the top place for fox-hunting on the whole planet and had long been a magnet for the very rich and the mega-rich, not to mention members of the world's royalty, stars of the stage and thrill-seeking celebrities from all walks of life.  During the season, the town was crowded with not a decent room to be had and the many stables were bursting with some of the finest equine bloodstock to be found anywhere and the tables of the hunting boxes, grand houses and restaurants would be overflowing with the finest of fine foods.  But, as the 19th century was rapidly drawing to a close, a new toy was becoming available for the man or woman who had everything and Melton was the scene of many of the new fangled motor-cars - of which was probably said at the time that they would 'never replace the horse drawn ones'.  People like the Prince of Wales and Count Zborowski, regulars in the town, would be the first to take up the option of being seen in the the steam-driven or petrol fired machines, ususally under the control of a handsome, liveried chauffeur.
    A quite recent arrival in town of very high society who had recently purchased the grand house known as Craven Lodge on the Burton Road, was military man Edward Holmes Baldock. One of the very first converts to the new form of transport, he seems to have not been too happy with the state of the road outside his house, a matter about which he was soon to write of to the District Council, complaining that the part of the road in question which was adjacent to the main entrance of his property, was too narrow and tended to impede his manoeuvres and progress.  He was one of the many who by the late 1890's was to become increasingly vociferous in their complaints about the inefficient service provided at the railway level crossing.  When it was not locked and chained, there were frequent moments when the gatekeeper was not to be found and tempers were raised.  Of course it was not good for business either.


The Town Estate intervenes.


Around the middle of the 19th century, Melton Mowbray, ever attractive to visitors and the hunting fraternity, was increasingly becoming tainted with problems of smells and sewerage, mainly due to the inability of the existing drains to evacuate the spoils of an increasing population.  The closing of the Oakham stretch of the canal was to create a stagnancy of the still-present basin which had by now become a dead-end.  Used increasingly as a rubbish tip, serious problems arose when the river Eye annually flooded its banks and plains, distributing the fetid contents far and wide.  Although not responsible for this aspect of everyday life in the town, the local body known as the Town Estate were to take up cudgels with the Midland Railway.  From their excellent web site, I have borrowed these few relevant 'Scrapbook' notes which the Estate retain in their excellent archives.  A visit to this site is well worth the  effort and very informative. Click Here


6th June 1877Moved by Mr Shouler and seconded by Mr Large that the Townwardens be empowered to take possession of the piece of land adjoining the Play Close as soon as at liberty and do so much of asphalting a path round it as they may deem prudent until the future occupation of the Old Canal is decided.
Melton Mowbray - 14th January 1880A Meeting of the Inhabitants was held, in the Town Hall, on Friday 14th January, in accordance with a memorial "to consider and determine as to the Expediency of memorialising the Crossing at Burton End, to substitute another in lieu of their pile Bridge and to improve the waterway bounding their property in the Parish. And in the event of Directors not complying with the Memorial - if adopted - then to authorize steps to bring all, or any one or more of the matters specified under the notice of the Board of Trade"The Chairman having opened the meeting, Mr John Gee, Honorary Secretary of the Flood Committee, read the following, as the suggested memorial to be sent to the Midland Directors:-
To the Directors of the Midland Railway Company:The Memorial of the inhabitants of Melton Mowbray, adopted at a Town Meeting, held on 7th January 1881, sheweth:-That the level crossing over your Railway at Burton-end, in this town, has been, for several years, a source of danger to life, and a great interruption to traffic, and that such danger to life and interruption to traffic has become intensified since the opening of your new route to the North and South, via Melton Mowbray; and the passing of many express trains, daily, over such level crossing.That your pile bridge, spanning the only waterway through Melton Mowbray, is a great obstruction to the flow of storm waters, and one of the principal, if not the main cause of Burton-end and other low-lying portions of the town being inundated; thereby causing destruction to life and property, with loss of trade, sickness and misery as attendant evils.That the waterway forming the boundary of your property requires to be widened and deepened, to facilitate the passage of the floods, inasmuch as in its present state it is contributory to the inundations and disastrous effects mentioned in the last paragraph.Your memorialists therefore pray that you will take the matters brought to your notice into your serious consideration, with the view of erecting such structural appliances as will obviate the necessity of the public using the level crossing. That you will substitute another for the pile bridge; and that you will widen and deepen the waterway forming the boundary of your property in Melton Mowbray; And your memorialists will ever pray.Lord Grey-de-Wilton moved the adoption of the memorial, which was seconded by Mr T Large, and carried unanimously.Signed John Dickenson Chairman
22nd June 1886...the following resolution were passed

  1. That the Feoffees and rate-paying inhabitants in meeting duly convened hereby authorize the Townwardens to accept the offer made by the Trustees of Court George and Dragon to sell the South portion of the old Canal now partly filled with soil for the sum of £30 in order to secure a Frontage to the Play Close and to the Canal purchased a few years ago for the sum of £650, conditionally upon the consent of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice being obtained to the application towards such purchase of the funds at present in hand of the Paymaster General.
  1. That the best thanks of this meeting be given to Herbert B. Praed Esq. for the interest he has manifested in the welfare of the town by securing funds for and otherwise aiding the carrying out the projected improvement in the Play Close.
22 March 1887Business The Road to the Play Close Moved by Mr Fitton and seconded by Mr Weaver that the offer of the Court George and Dragon of the Ancient Order of Foresters, to devolve a piece of land belonging to them to the widening and straightening of the Road from Burton Street to the Play Close for the sum of Five Pounds be accepted. Carried unanimously.
    Things were not to get into any higher gears as a result of tis intervention but as the new century beckoned, the plans for the construction of a new rail bridge seemed to have been well underway. The  Leicestershire Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury duly reported that on Wednesday night, July 14th 1897, the fortnightly meeting of the Melton Mowbray Urban District Council had convened and that present were the Midland Railway Bridge and Level Crossing Committee who were in attendance for the purpose of laying before the Council a letter which they had received from the engineers of the chosen company on the subject of the proposed work at Burton End.  The letter referred to read as follows: -

"In answer to your letter of the 5th inst., I have now had this matter looked into, and find that to make this bridge 30 feet wide throughout would increase the cost considerably, making it £13,000 exclusive of land.  I should like to know whether you would like me to lay the matter before the directors next week, or make any further remarks." - Mr. March, one of the deputation, said there was a meeting of the directors on the following day, and he thought it best that the Council should hear the letter before he replied, and to know whether they had anything to say before the matter went before the directors.  It struck him that the letter was tantamount to saying that "I will lay the recommendation before the directors, but you will hear nothing more of it if I do."  He pointed out that in the first instance the plan showed the bridge and approaches to be 25 ft. wide throughout, but at the request of the Council they agreed to make the approaches 30ft., and leave the bridge 30ft., and the engineer amended his plan accordingly, and at the same time adopted a suggestion by the County Council relating to the gradient on the Burton-road side of the bridge.  But now the Council had asked for something further, and he had no doubt that if they persisted in that the matter would fall through.  The Council appeared to be unanimous in their opinion that it would be better to adhere to the former plan, and on the motion of Mr. Gill, seconded by Mr. Manchester, a resolution was passed to that effect."  

(This account went on to report further, that the drains of a property at the west end of Victoria-street were in a very unsatisfactory condition!)


I am desperately seeking information or documents which relate to the actual construction of the large railway bridge, which must have been a massive project for the town.  Much of the infrastructure of the area was to change drastically and the railway company involved were to pay out much money in compensation for structures in their path which were in turn demolished.  A classic example being the Railway Hotel which had served the station almost from its inception in 1947, the site of which nestles exactly underneath the existing bridge at a point which would have been at the top end of the station driveway. As the illustrating maps suggest, the entrance to Ankle Hill was much extended and the Burton Road was diverted also when the whole route was moved some 20 to 30 metres to the east.  The road outside Craven Lodge was scraped out and the and the resultant fill was pushed forward to assist in developing the newly raised approaches to the bridge from both of these roads.  Aesthetically and architecturally incongruous but typical of the many thousands of its late Victorian era, it is constructed almost solely of blue engineering bricks and utilises 5 semi-circular arches either side of the main span which is supported by massive steel girders.  Above a swollen River Eye which should now have comfortably flowed - famous or infamous as it was for flooding the town on occasions - the job was completed in 1899 with little or none of the fanfare usually related to the opening of a new bridge.  Indeed there was said to be little money left in the Council coffers when the invoice finally arrived from the builders and it is recorded in the town records as a matter of fact and with some chagrin in various quarters, that due to this shortage of funds the payment of the bill was delayed for many months and almost became a matter of legal pursuit.  As a matter of passing interest the job is said to have cost about £15/18,000.
    Having displayed the earlier map of the area pre-railway, I have attempted to show by superimposition, a combined map of pre and post structure of the bridge which should assist in explaining just about all that occurred during those few years of change.

Of course, not everyone was pleased with the wholesale disruption brought about by the railway companies, but these were as big and powerful as anything that had ever happened in the country.  The Members of Parliament spent a great majority of their time dealing with the thousands of statutes appearing before them each day during the boom years and most were considered to be rubber-stamped with little problem.  Objectors and protesters were frequently given short shrift in response to any complaint they might harbour in connection with what was akin to an epidemic, with the wealth and the power being maintained and exerted by authority in getting the tracks laid as quickly as possible. But at the very end of 1900, the big blue bridge at Melton Mowbray was soon to be put to the test.

TODAY


AND FINALLY!

The Great Flood of 1901

On Friday, the 29th day of December 1900, within 12 months of the completion of the works, the good people of Melton were almost certainly looking forward to and planning festivities relating to the arrival of another new year and as they retired to their beds for the night, most would have been aware that heavy rain was beginning to fall on the town.  Not a particularly significant matter at that time but substantial rain did in fact fall throughout the Saturday and Sunday though apparently, most people thought little of this and as the River Eye downstream filled its banks and stretched its girths, it began to overflow them into the adjacent fields where farmers especially attuned to such situations warned of heavy flooding being imminent.  During the early morning of Monday, the final day of 1900, the townsfolk were horrified to discover that their town had finally succumbed to the relentless rains and that many properties, if not already under water, were rapidly becoming overwhelmed by an out-of-control body of water.  A detailed account of the deluge and its aftermath was duly reported in the Grantham Journal of Saturday, January 5th which was to touch upon upon the part which the new bridge might have played.  I hope to bring you more of this in a later blog.