Monday, 23 April 2018

How do you pronounce 'Leominster'?

I recently visited Leominster for the first time and wondered if the pronunciation of its name would provide the genus of controversy that Shrewsbury does. (Is it 'Shrowsburry' or 'Shroosbery'?)

Of course we are happily familiar with Leicester (Lester) Loughborough (Luffboro) and Towcester (Toaster) all of which still trip up the unknowing so working on that knowledge I calculated that Leominster would probably be pronounced 'Lemster'.

Well, blow me down, I had not expected an exhibit outside the town museum to answer my query so substantially. My next question is, if the town was called 'Lemster' then why and when did they decide to spell it 'Leominster'?


I should have asked the question in the tourist information centre but arriving at the counter I was distracted by the prominent display of a handbill advertising my imminent talk. And at the corner of the street was another.

What a lovely place Lemster is, however they spell it!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Cumberland pencils.

When I was at primary school I was given a set of coloured crayons made by the Cumberland Pencil Company. I think that there must have been about fifteen colours in the set. I had shades such as, spring green, grass green, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, yellow ochre and crimson.

The crayons and pencils were made in Keswick in the Lake District. This was because of the discovery, centuries earlier, of very pure graphite in the hills around the town. I visited the Lake District for the first time in my life a few days ago. I was pleased to be there outside of the tourist season – it must be hell in Summer – and I went to see the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick.

My entry ticket to the museum.
The museum is set in the grounds of the former factory. The latter is now awaiting redevelopment and production has been moved to another location in the same area.
The disused Cumberland Pencil factory in Keswick.



If you are in the area, visit the museum and you will learn how pencils are made and a lot more besides. You might have to elbow your way through hordes of schoolchildren doing 'projects' but it is worth the effort.

And for a good light lunch, served quickly, go to the upstairs restaurant of the bakers in the high street.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Kendal is not just mintcake

If you say 'Kendal' to many people it will conjure up the flavour of Kendal Mint Cake which is a confection of mainly sugar and peppermint but the town of Kendal in the Lake District has other curiosities.

The Carnegie Library in Kendal, Cumbria.
The Carnegie Library in Kendal is one. Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish American who started work as a telegraph boy in Pittsburgh at the age of 14 and progressed to become a millionaire in iron, steel and oil. He spent much of his wealth on endowments to universities and in other educational projects.
This library in Kendal was financed by Carnegie, designed by a Kendal architect and opened in 1909.


Iron house fronts in Branthwaite Brow.


The fronts of these buildings in Branthwaite Brow are iron faced. Installed in 1863 as part of a street widening scheme, the plates were cast by a local iron founder, John Winder.











And exploring the many alleyways that creep between the buildings one can sometimes come across evidence of a former activity. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

I didn't know Daleks were bronze coloured.


When I arrived at BBC Broadcasting House for my recent interview, apart from the security search, baggage scan and the issue of a pass, I was met by a Dalek. This was the first one that I had seen in the flesh and I discovered that they are bronze coloured. Well I never knew that. I had always thought that they were a silvery colour.

When Dr. Who came on television in the early 1960s the picture was in black and white and by the time colour TV had arrived, I had moved on (grown up) as it were.

You live and learn don't you?

Friday, 23 March 2018

De la Rue? Gemalto? Blue passport? Who cares?


Yesterday evening I was called in precipitously to BBC Broadcasting House to be interviewed live on BBC TV News 24 Hours about the De La Rue/Gemalto controversy.

Martin Lloyd being interviewed by Ben Brown on BBC TV News 24 Hours.
The problem was that De la Rue had submitted a bid for the tender to print the next British (and blue) passport and had been outbid by a Franco-Dutch company called Gemalto. The latter had succeeded by the simple procedure of offering to do it for less money than the other bidders. De la Rue are incensed that the British passport should be manufactured abroad and I was called in to opine about it. Which I did.

I timidly suggest that this is how the business of tendering actually works. The bidder who can satisfy the requirements of the customer at the lowest price will win the contract; as would appear to be the case here. It is a little hypocritical of De la Rue to complain, given that when they won the contract to print the British blue passport in 1921, they did it by undercutting the current supplier, Harrisons & Co. Ironically, once they had the job they found that they could not fulfil it unless they ordered a Chambon roll (an expensive piece of printing equipment) from? Guess which country? Yes, France.

And this morning, BBC Tees. local radio, had me on just after their MP had been complaining that the British passport should be made here, in the De la Rue factory in his Gateshead constituency. A British passport should be made in Britain. I pointed out that De la Rue made passports for over forty foreign countries. Did he now want those countries to withdraw their custom from Gateshead and make their own passports?



Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Rising Sun in Watford.

Premier Inn, Watford.
We recently stayed at the Premier Inn in Croxley near Watford. It is called the 'Rising Sun'.  I remember riding with my mother on the top deck of the London Transport bus to Watford as a pre-school child. Where the road crossed the canal there existed two or three quite distinct hump backed bridges which I referred to as the 'water hills', presumably not having 'bridge' in my vocabulary at that age.

Sun clocktower awaiting restoration.
Opposite the hotel I noticed this clock tower and I remembered the Sun Printing Company which must have occupied a site near here. At one time the Sun Engraving Co. was the largest engraving and rotogravure plant in the world. When the Sunday Times launched their 'colour supplement' it was the Sun who printed it.

I went for a stroll around the block and found a couple of signs suggesting that the hotel and associated shops had been built on the site of the Sun Printing Works.








The Sun clocktower in the middle of this aerial photograph. It is surrounded by allotments.
Above it, the Sun Printing Factory, now the Rising Sun Premier Inn Hotel.
A fascinating history of the Sun Engraving and related companies can be found by clicking here.


Monday, 26 February 2018

Ice on the Winding Pond

Ice on at the Winding Pond, Clowes Wood, Canterbury
As the weather forecast was for a wind chill of minus 8 degrees C,  John and I decided on a short ride along the Crab and Winkle Line to Whitstable.

Readers of this blog with good memories will know that this pond was excavated to provide water for the stationary steam engine which hauled the trains up the incline from Whitstable in 1830. As a relic of the steam railway age, you will not find many older. To read about the Crab and Winkle line, click here.