A visit to Regent’s Canal would not be complete if you haven’t found yourself on the floating bookshop, Word on the Water. The first impression is pure eye candy, with cascading pot plants and bookshelves hanging perilously over the side. But step aboard, browse the books, chat with the owner, and you could go deeper than you expected.
Think railways, and what do you see in your mind’s eye? All too often a boarded-up building. If it’s old, leave it to rot or knock it down. For decades that’s been the way of the railways. Worse, rebuild it in steel and glass, bus-shelter style. But times are changing. Railway renovation is coming.
Do you find eating peas with a fork tiresome? Insert cooked peas into the pea machine, turn the handle and wait as the peas travel through funnels and pulleys to land on a spoon and pour into your mouth. How simple. How very Heath Robinson!
You are at the controls of a Union Pacific Big Boy, the largest steam locomotive in the world. Using the interactive levers, valves and gauges in this Train Simulator, you too can drive a Big Boy. You have 7,000 horsepower at your command. Are you ready for the challenge?
For a week at the end of July, Oshkosh, Wisconsin is the busiest airport in the world. Its annual air show, which runs from 26th July to 1st August this year, attracts aircraft fans from around the world to watch daily aerobatic displays by top teams including the US Air Force Special Operations Command.
Big Boy is warmed up. It’s been out on test runs. On 5th August it will depart Cheyenne, Wyoming on a month-long tour through 10 Southwestern states. Thanks to the steam team led by Ed Dickens, we can take you inside the cab of Big Boy 4014 and give you a feel for what it is like to operate the biggest steam locomotive in the world.
When we commissioned Bernard Higton to design the book that became Logomotive, we never imagined it would be his last. He was a designer committed to his craft, always looking for a new challenge, a turn of the page that would captivate an audience. We are saddened to announce that he has bid us farewell.
This house north of Santa Cruz, California, was destroyed by the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, as photographed by the US Geological Survey. Neville Denson from St Bees in Cumbria was driving nearby when the earthquake struck. He recalls how it felt in the following piece, which won our Wildest Travel Story Competition.
If you’re driving from Oxford to London, as I was privileged to do as a third-year undergraduate with a car, you have two main routes: the A40 via Stokenchurch and Beaconsfield, nowadays more often the M40, or the A4130 following the river via Dorchester, on to Nettlebed and down the hill to Henley-on-Thames.
Douglas Botting, who died on 6th February, was the author of Wild Britain and General Editor of our Wild Guides series. You see him here soon after leaving Oxford, working away at his desk in Ship Alley, Strand-on-the-Green, Chiswick, in London. Starting out as he meant to continue!
‘There can be no denying the importance the Victorians placed on first impressions,’ says Robin Guild in his masterful guide to home repair and decoration, The Victorian House Book. ‘It is the entrance door which captures the eye of the visitor as he waits to be admitted.’ In keeping with this tradition, we have had our door freshly painted and enhanced by stained-glass panels featuring our eponymous sheldrakes.
In March we launched a Kickstarter campaign for our great big humour title Very Heath Robinson and raised £7,581 towards the costs of the book, which was published on 4th May. We are enormously grateful to all those who answered our call and helped us complete ‘Adam’s whopping (1.9 kg), wonderful new book’, as one reviewer has called it, to the standard we intended. We have pleasure in listing them below.
People have often criticized Mrs. Beeton for the enormous quantities she recommended in her recipes: take six fowl, two dozen eggs, 4 lbs. sugar and so on. When we started work on The Shorter Mrs. Beeton, we were pleasantly surprised to find that her recipes were mostly modest in scale and perfectly suited to a modern family. In the case of her medium stock, however, you do really need a two-gallon pan.
The opening of the Heath Robinson Museum on 15th October was a delightfully parochial event.
Cavaliers and Roundheads
Ollie Cromwell, aged just three
Just loved the Diamond Jubilee,
He’d wear a saucepan for a crown,
But soon it stuck there, upside down.
His Mother tugged, the boy turned pale,
Her efforts were to no avail,
The problem was, his Mother said,
That Ollie had such a round head.
Henry’s party in the street,
Would be a lovely royal treat,
To celebrate the Jubilee,
With flags and music, games and tea.
The food was good, he could not stop,
He ate until he went off pop,
From looking much like Henry Eight,
He ended up just Henry. Late.
Royalist vs Republican
A royalist simply through and through,
Fred turned his house red, white and blue.
It really was a sight to see,
All dressed up for the Jubilee.
But Mabel (maybe with good reason)
Showed inclinations close to treason.
Then with an axe found in the garden,
Fred refused to grant her pardon.
He smiled and said ‘Off with her head,
I’ll buy a corgi pup instead.’
Gorkhaland’s Wild West by Liz Cleere
The freshly brushed floor of compacted cow dung was smooth and cool under foot. I crossed the room, climbed into the heavy wooden bed next to Jamie and blew out the candle. Night crept in through the open window bringing with it the intoxicating scent of gardenias, and quietening the moths and insects that had been dive-bombing the candle’s flame. Curling up under the blanket, my body relaxed on to the hard mattress, while outside pale moonlight whispered through the forest on the other side of the valley. Somewhere on the horizon Kanchenjunga’s five tiger-toothed caps glinted silver against the black sky.
Wild in Cressbrook Dale by Helen Moat
‘Wake up, little fellow. It’s time…’
My child of four sat bolt-upright in bed, eyes glassy from dreams of wild things.
‘…It’s time for our wild night out,’ I whispered.
It was a warm summer’s evening in June, the light of the day gently fading out; the air beginning to cool. Jamie’s small chubby hand fitted perfectly in mine, like a Russian doll within a Russian doll, as we slowly descended the stairs. On the kitchen table, a rucksack sat ready, the items needed for our adventure laid out beside it.
A New Year’s Hobby
Margot declared, ‘new year, new me!’
Her new interest? Taxidermy.
She caught and stuffed her children’s rat,
Posed on a plinth the family cat.
Their guinea pig she slit in half;
Her husband lowered his Telegraph.
‘You’re making quite a mess, my dear.
Perhaps just join the gym next year?’
Aunt thought she’d make a contribution
to uncle’s New Year resolution.
She put his bottles out of reach
amongst the polish, soap and bleach.
How on earth could she have guessed
that in his alcoholic quest,
without his specs his sight was dim.
It was the bleach which finished him.
George’s New Year’s Resolution
New Year, he thought, was just the chance
To buy a little place in France.
When Mavis once again said no,
George knew that she would have to go.
His beating heart was all a-quiver,
As George pushed Mavis in the river.
And as she floated down the stream,
George shrugged and muttered, ‘Vive la dream’.
After Harry Graham’s Ruthless Rhymes
The practitioners of the modern architectural establishment are on the march again. Like matron, they are determined to force another dose of utilitarianism down our throats.
In our Architectural Mini-Quiz, launched on 23rd August, we asked you to say which of these three buildings you preferred: (from left) A, B or C. We can now report that 71% of respondents chose A, 20% B and 9% C. There is a lesson here.
Walter Crane was born in Liverpool on 15th August 1845. His prolific career reached its zenith with his brightly coloured toy books, created for children but prized by connoisseurs of design. The popularity of these books was hardly surprising, given the care that went into their production and the colours which glowed from every page.
Last Thursday, as a member of the Railway Heritage Trust Advisory Panel, I toured the works at King’s Cross, where Lewis Cubitt’s 1852 terminus is being restored and a new concourse added.
Up on the roof, as we walked along the valley gutter between the twin trainshed arches, we saw new plate-glass and solar-voltaic panels being installed. From the parapet of the station façade we could survey the entire battlefield of 19th-century railway rivalry, the plain engineering style of the Great Northern at King’s Cross facing the Gothic upstart of the Midland’s St Pancras across the road. Further west, now converted into a concrete hulk, lies the terminus of the North Western at Euston, on which the statue of Britannia atop St Pancras turns her back.
Today is the bicentenary of the birth of Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect who designed the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens and the soaring hotel at St Pancras station. The hotel re-opened on 5th May, with many of its original features restored.
In Japan, frogs were thought to bring good fortune, allowing money to return to a person (the Japanese word for ‘frog’ is the same as ‘to return’). This little frog certainly looks as if he might have special powers, as he gazes up at the starry sky. This is our favourite design by The London Stained Glass Company. You can see more designs by visiting their web-site, which can be reached from Victorian House Decoration in Links.
A front entrance with original tessellated tiles inevitably looks tired after more than a century of use, as this house in Dagnan Road, south-west London, demonstrates (above). Replacing like with like will generally produce the best result, as can be seen from the front entrance of a neighbouring house.
Everyone knows how the Victorians built and finished their houses. After walking down hundreds upon hundreds of streets, you imbibe the style as if by osmosis, so trying to pretend you live in a slick minimalist pad by putting down slate, white gravel, flag stones or other non-original surfaces is unlikely to work. The new will probably jar with the old. A really well-finished job, like the one below, will look far superior.
Workmen have started installing new windows in the house next door. What a relief: they are putting in the correct, wooden, box-sash windows! These closely match the originals and will raise the value of the house, unlike UPVC replacements, which would have lowered it.
Two of our neighbours in Cavendish Road have relaid their front paths in true Victorian style, and what an entrance they have made! They have used the right tiles with square-cut edges, not the rounded modern alternatives which never look as good.
The humorous verse of Harry Graham was an early hit with several 20th-century literary figures, including W. H. Auden, George Orwell and Agatha Christie. The hilarious rhymes they adored as children remained with them, popping up unexpectedly in their heads during their writing careers.
This is an excerpt from the Publisher’s speech at The Victorian House Book launch party, Brunswick House, Vauxhall Cross.
Why did we do a book on Victorian houses? There are more of them in Great Britain than any other period house. A quarter of the British housing stock is Victorian. Nearly six million of us live in them and we all have to look at them when we walk or drive through our cities and towns. When I was a small boy living in Kent, my grandfather used to drive us up to London for a Christmas treat – Peter Pan on ice or Bertram Mills’ Circus – and as we made our way through the Victorian suburbs of Catford, Lewisham, New Cross, Peckham and Camberwell, I witnessed scenes of sad dilapidation. What had been Class I gentleman’s villas now had cars parked in their front gardens, garden walls crumbling, paint peeling off the windows, brickwork dark from London soot, front doors drab and cluttered with inappropriate ironmongery. Rows of plastic doorbells testified to the scourge of multi-occupation.