Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Baubels and Beads

The History of a German Glassmaking Industry

The Fichtelgebirge is a district of Upper Franconia, a region in the eastern part of the State of Bavaria. This is a mountainous country, deeply forested where small villages and towns dot the hillsides. It is a land that earns its living from farming and logging.

Fichtelgebirge was once home to an extensive cottage industry, that of glassmaking. The product of the workshops or "glashutte" as they were known was principally glass beads, buttons and christmas tree decorations. Most glashutte were small family run businesses although a few workshops did employ a considerable number of people.  The history of local glassmaking may be traced back to the 16th century when the first glashutte was established in the town of Bischofsgrun.

The glashutte illustrated below housed the works of Christian Hermann established in 1882. It is now a private house. At its peak, the glass works employed more than 30 people and its output was 18,000 glass beads per day. Much of this production was for export especially for markets in America and Africa, particularly to Ethiopia. The glass was coloured using a variety of minerals such as lead, arsenic, copper, nickel and proterobas a dark green stone found locally on the slopes of the Ochsenkopf mountain.

The largest works was that of Greiner & Co founded in Bischofsgrun in 1857.Their production was largely for export markets all over the world. The glasshutte was the last in Bischofsgrun to close, in 2004.

At the other end of the scale was the works of the Kaiser Brothers, Karl and Fritz. Their speciality was christmas tree decorations. It was here in Bischofsgrun that the method of silver plating the glass baubles, was pioneered. The process was invented by Dr Hartwig Weiskopf in 1853 and employed by the Kaisers. Although they sold products throughout Upper Franconia, most of the stock went to the shop in their own home.

A marked footpath starts in Bischofsgrun and extends several kilometres passing through the towns and villages associated with this industry. Information boards along the way tell the history of each former glass works that one passes.  Small museums in Bischofsgrun and Fichtelberg exhibit examples of
the products of the glashutte including decorative glass vessels from the 17th century..

The town of Bischofsgrun and the Ochsenkopf Mountain

The former glashutte of Christian Hermann

A selection of glass beads

Manufacturing Christmas tree decorations

Silver plated Christmas tree baubles

Monday, 12 September 2016

Tea More Expensive Than Gold

In the east of China, not far south of Shanghai, is the city of Hangzhou.

The city lies on the bank of the West Lake, a World Heritage Site that attracts millions of visitors every year, attracted by the picturesque landscape dotted with temples, pagodas and pavillions.

Just across the water, set amidst rolling, forested hills, are some of China's most famous tea plantations. Here on the terraced slopes, women wearing traditional conical hats are seen tending the bushes or picking the leaves.
Longjing tea is among the most expensive drinks in the world costing up to £800 per kilo.
The village of Longjing takes its name from The Dragon's Well a small pool of water fed by a spring and in which the movement of water on the surface is said to resemble a dragon. Another legend tells that a dragon lives in the water and can reach the sea through an underground channel. Just above the well is the tiny Dragon Well Temple.
The village street is lined with tea houses where women entice passers-by to try the beverage. A popular museum is devoted to the history of tea.
Longjing has the status of an Imperial Tea, granted by an 18th century Emperor. On a visit to the West Lake, he sampled the brew and being so impressed, granted protection to 18 tea bushes. These same plants are still producing leaf which when auctioned fetches a price higher than gold.
Longjing is a green tea, roasted shortly after picking and prepared by hand. The tea is said to
be at its best when infused in a special clay teapot in water at a temperature of 80 degrees.

You perhaps wont find Longjing tea in your local Tesco but if you would like to try the drink, Twinings, and other suppliers, offer a 100g pack for the modest price of £15 - £18.




Saturday, 16 April 2016

A Desirable Address: Manchester

 Mosley Street was laid out in the 1780’s and named after the lords of the manor. The area had been entirely residential and very fashionable.  Here lived Manchester’s greatest merchants and businessmen. Hugh Birley was a cotton spinner and manufacturer of rubber goods. S. L. Behrens was the founder of the firm of shipping merchants and Nathan Meyer Rothschild was of the banking family.
                                             Mosley Street 1825

In 1827 Henry Charles Lacy converted a house at the corner of Mosley Street and Market Street into an hotel and allowed rooms in the building to be used for warehousing.  A rash of house conversions and warehouse building followed over the next decade as property values soared. One house was sold in 1832 for eight thousand guineas, twice its’ vaue of only five years earlier. By the end of the thirties, Mosley Street consisted almost entirely of warehouses, the former resident having moved to the new suburbs such as Victoria Park and Didsbury.

Victoria Park was opened in 1837.  An area of 140 acres had been obtained by a company of gentlemen in order to build villas which would be let for between £100 and £250 per annum. The notable architect, Richard Lane was engaged to design the park, laying out roadways, boundaries and landscaping and designing the gate lodges. The park had its’ own tollgates, walls and police.
                                  Plymouth Grove Toll Gates

By December of the following year only nine houses had been completed and the company was bankrupt. A new group, The Victoria Park Trust was founded. Within the next five years a further sixty five houses had been built.  These were often large mansions with extensive gardens and required a sizeable staff to maintain them.  By the end of the nineteenth century, these villas were already being converted into hotels, colleges and nursing homes. Their weathy residents had been tempted to move further from the city to the newly fashionable area such as Bowden and Alderley Edge.

The building of Victoria Park was by a number of architects in addition to Lane,  Edward Salomons built “The Gables” and this was to become his home.
                                    The Gables, Hope Road
                           First Church of Christ, Scientist
In Daisy Bank Road is the Grade 1 listed “First Church of Christ, Scientist” built by Edgar Wood in 1903 and on Lower Park Road the Xaverian College by Alfred Waterhouse, now a Roman Catholic school for 2000 pupils.

The park was home to a number of notable residents. 102 Daisy Bank Road was home to Charles Halle and was later occupied by Ford Madox Brown at the time when he was painting the murals in Manchester Town Hall.
            Daisy Bank Road. 102 is the first door on the right.
Richard Cobden was a calico printer and political activist. In Newton Street lived Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragette movement and in nearby Plymouth Grove was the home of author Elixabeth Gaskell. Marie Nordlinger and Martin Solibakke were both writers; Elias Bancroft, a painter and  George Hadfield a lawyer and radical polititian who played a leading role in establishing the Anti Corn Law League. People from a number of nationalities lived in Victoria Park including a large chinese merchant community.

                                       Lower Park Road

Today many of the buildings are used as university residences whilst others have been converted into flats. Victoria Park is a conservation area and twenty of its’ buildings are listed.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Architecture needn't be boring

His work may be controversial or eccentric but can never be considered boring.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian artist and architect famous for his unusual buildings. He opposed straight lines and standardisation. He was an environmentalist who belived that vegetation should be allowed to flourish both inside and outside of his buildings. He was an early advocate of green roofs. His Hundertwasserhaus apartment block in Vienna has uneven floors, trees growing from inside and a grassed roof. The Waldenspiral in Darmstadt has over 1000 windows, not one alike. In Osaka, the waste treatment works is a building of beauty, vibrant with colour.

Hundertwasser believed that the individual should have the freedom to build. His "Mouldiness Manifesto" written in 1958 claimed "If such a fantastic structure built by the tenants themselves collapses, it will usually creak beforehand, anyway, so that people will be able to escape".  He encouraged individuality :  "The tenant must have the freedom to lean out of his window and as far as his arms can reach, transform the exterior of his dwelling space. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and as far as his arms can reach paint everything pink, so that from far away, from the street, everyone can see: there lives a man who distinguishes himself from his neighbours..."

Hundertwasser was also an artist. He studied briefly at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. One can quickly see the similarities between his architecture and paintings. He described his artisitc style as transautomatism, focussing on the experience of the viewer rather than the artist. He designed stamps, clothing, coinage and posters. 

Born Friedrich Stowasser in 1928 to a Jewish mother, he escaped persecution by being baptised a catholic  and joining the Hitler Youth. Hundertwasser was an active environmental campaigner who opposed the European Union and advocated the restoration of the monarchy. He spent his later years in New Zealand and died in 2000 whilst aboard the QEII.

The Hundertwasser Turm is an observation tower at a brewery in Abensberg, Southern Germany. 

The cellar of the tower is just as decorative.
Also in Abensberg, the Hunderwasserhaus.
Uelzen Railway Station where a traditional building has been transformed.
The Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, perhaps his most famous building is covered in vegetation.
The Waldenspirale in Darmstadt. 1000 unique windows.
The Grune Zitadella. Magdeburg. The final project completed after his death.
Waste treatment plants are usually shunned for good reason. This one in Osaka, on the other hand, is celebrated.
Malerei. Typical of Hundertwasser's style of painting.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Sculpted in Brick

"To Build a Community" and "Dome in the Sky" at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.A
the work of artist Brad Spencer
Detail from another piece by Brad Spencer

Not so comfortable perhaps, this sofa by Rod Harris in Bristol

Appropriate that this 40 metre long locomotive should be in Darlington, home of the steam railway. The sculpture contains 180,000 bricks

A 5m long scupture by John McKenna depicts the history of Rugby

"Taliesin" by Gwen Heeney a public bench outside the leisure centre in the
 Powis village of  Llanfair Caereinion.

Also in Wales is the "Sirhowy Wyvern" a scuplture by Rebecca Buck. Designeed in collaboration with the people of Tredegar.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Standing to Attention

A Swedish soldier standing to attention in the southern town of Simrishamn. I walked past twice before I noticed this art installation. Few people seemed to see him.


Cromer in North Norfolk was largely developed as a resort in the Victorian period. The town perhaps reached the height of its popularity in the 50's and 60's when large numbers of visitors from London and the Midlands holidayed there. Cromer was once important enough to have two railway stations with direct services from many parts of the country. This is not a large town, the population is less than eight thousand so it must have seemed quite crowded in the summer time. Cromer has a pier, a lifeboat station and a few boats still go out fishing. Crab has always been an important catch and there were once many shops and stalls selling fresh or dressed crab to locals and visitors.
Fewer visitors come these days although new attractions have been introduced to try to revive the trade. Many of the former hotels and guest houses now provide accommodation for social services.
This is still a very attractive town, the rolling countryside is quite different from the flat plains of much of Norfolk.
Out of season Cromer can be cold. The vicious east wind seems to carry shards of ice which penetrate the heaviest of clothing.

Watercolour painting by David Easton

San Giorgio Maggiore

This scene will be familiar to all who have been to Venezia. The busiest part of the city is the waterfront near Piazza San Marco. Here gondoliers may be hired to transport you through the picturesque canals, taxis are for hire for a speedy journey across the lagoon or a vaporetto boarded for it's waterbus journey around town.
This is the view across to San Giorgio Maggiore, a small island dominated by the 16th century church designed by Palladio. The frontage is of gleaming white marble. The campanile or bell tower was rebuilt in 1791 after the original 15th century tower collapsed. There is a lift to the top in addition to a ramped walkway. The interior is bright with natural light and contains large canvasses by Tintoretto: "The Last Supper", "The Fall of Manna" and "The Entombment of Christ". Tintoretto was an important renaissance style painter who lived in Venezia between 1518 and 1594.
There was originally an important Benedictine monastery here although in 1806 the monks were expelled by Napoleon's army and the buildings became an artillery depot. Since the 1950's the monastery has been occupied and restored by the Cini Foundation. This organisation was founded by Count Cini ,a World War II concentration camp inmate. His release had been secured by his son through bribary with valuable jewels. The buildings now house literary and theatrical archives and an important library. The civilisation of the former Venetian republic is studied in teh Foundation's school. La Foresteria is the luxury guest house established by Count Cini which continues to be used by notable visitors including many heads of state. The building contains an important art collection.

watercolour painting by David Easton

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Church of Agios Lazarus, Larnaca

Lazarus of Bethany was a devoted follower of Jesus. The Gospel according
to John gives an account of a miracle. On hearing of Lazarus's illness, Jesus
travelled to Bethany only to find that he had died and had already been
entombed for four days. John tells us that "Jesus Wept"; the origin of that
expression. Jesus is said to have visited the tomb and ordered the entrance to be opened. After a prayer, he called upon Lazarus who came out still
wrapped in his burial cloth. This resurrection caused anger amongst Jewish priests as it increased Jesus's following.

According to Greek Orthodox tradition, Lazarus was forced to flee to Cyprus
where he was appointed Bishop of Kition (present day Larnaca) by Paul and Barnabas. He was to live on the island for a further thirty years. The Church of St. Lazarus was built on the site of his burial and the tomb is to be seen in the crypt.

Another tomb claimed to be that of Lazarus is to be found in Palestine. The
site has long been occupied by a Mosque although Roman Catholic and
Greek churches have been built alongside.

The Byzantine Church in Larnaca was founded in the 9th century. For some
time during Venetian rule, this became a Roman Catholic place of worship and then under the Osmanli Empire, it was converted into a mosque. It was sold back in the late 16th century to the Orthodox Church who shared it with the Roman Catholics. Outside the church are monastic buildings and cells. The latter were sometimes rented to tradesmen and craftsmen. The buildings also house a museum.

A watercolour painting by David Easton

He felt those icy fingers reach out to touch him.

William Terriss was murdered. Due to perform in the play "Secret Service" on a December evening in 1897 he was stabbed by a jealous rival actor at the stage door of London's Adelphi Theatre.

Richard Arthur Prince had been helped on many occassions by Terriss both in finding acting roles and with gifts of money. He started drinking heavily, became erratic and could not find employment. He and Terriss started to argue and on 13th December, unable to raise any funds, Prince waited at the stage door. As Terriss arrived, he was stabbed in the back, his side and chest . He died in the arms of his lover, Jessie Milward, a member of the same company of actors. His dying words were "I'll be back".

Tried at the Old Bailey, Prince made the most of the publicity. He claimed that he murdered Terriss out of revenge. His defence tried to prove insanity calling on the evidence of doctors and family. He was found guilty and sent to Broadmoor. Here his stage career was more successful for he regularly entertained the inmates until his death in 1936.

William Terriss was as good as his last words for he has been back many times. He regularly haunts not only the Adelphi but has been seen many times at Covent Garden underground station across the road. He looks quite distinguished wearing a grey suit an old fashioned collar and white gloves. At other times he has been witnessed wearing a sombrero hat and flowing tie and once dressed as a soldier. He has been seen by a number of actors and has even appeared on stage. Often he will knock on the door of the dressing room that was occupied on the fateful night by Jessie Millward. On one such occassion he even attacked the occupant, a young actress.

One member of staff at the station has met him 40 times and has grown quite used to the apparition although one of his colleagues was terrified when in the dark, he felt those icy fingers reach out to touch him.

Terriss is at least in good company at the Adelphi for Ivor Novello also treads the boards of this theatre.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Great London Beer Flood

 Last year was the 200th anniversary of a tragic London event when 8 died in a huge flood of beer.

 Henry Meux and Company had been established in 1764 as the Horseshoe brewery at the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road in London. It had been purchased by Sir Henry in 1807 and was one of London's major suppliers of porter. On the death of Sir Henry, his son took over the business until being declared insane in 1858. The company continued to operate until through mergers they became Friary Meux in 1956. They were acquired by Allied Breweries in 1961.

 The brewery had a number of enormous fermenting vats, the largest being 22 feet high and holding over half a million litres of porter. On 17th October 1814 a storehouseman reported that on of the iron hoops had fallen off of the vat. There were 29 hoops in all and it was not uncommon for one to fail. On this occassion however there were serious consequenses. About an hour later he was standing close to the vat when it burst. He found himself standing in beer which reached above his knees and first had to rescue his brother and a labourer who had become trapped. The force of the escaping beer caused a number of hogsheads to burst open (large barrels) and to knock out the cock of an adjacent vat which was almost as large. In all, almost one and a half million litres of beer escaped. A brewery wall 25 feet high collapsed as did the side of a nearby pub, the Tavistock Arms where a barmaid was buried in the rubble. Two houses were completely demolished. Many people in this poor locality lived in cellar rooms which were quickly inundated by the 15 ft tidal wave. A mother and her daughter were taking tea and were drowned. A funeral wake was submerged. Eight people died in this tragedy and many more had to be rescued.

 Stories abounded of people lapping up the beer in the streets, collecting it in pots and pans and fighting over it. These tales proved to be no more than rumour.

 The brewery had already paid duty on this vast amount of beer but Parliament allowed a refund in order that the business might survive.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Tunel and the Tram. Transport in Istanbul

Although part of Istanbul's transport system the Tunel and the historic tram offer an enjoyable journey from Karakoy to Taksim.

Tunel is the second oldest underground railway in the World having opened in 1875. It is perhaps also the shortest being just 550 metres in length. This is a funicular railway climbing 62 metres up the steep Galata hillside. Modernised in 1971 it is now electric powered and the cars run on pneumatic tyres, guided by traditional rails.

Emerging from the upper station in Tunel Meydani, one can board the heritage tram waiting at the terminus for the trip along Istiklal Cadessi, the city's bustling main shopping street. Istanbul's extensive tram network closed in 1966 but a number of cars were kept in storage. Route T5 was restored in 1990 and runs along a single track 1.6 kilometres to the transport interchange at Taksim. There is a passing place at Galatasaray and several stops en route although passengers jump on and off at will. Children are often seen taking a free ride by hanging on to the back of the cars.

Ferries constantly ply the Bogazici linking European Istanbul with the Asian suburbs. Take the boat to Kadikoy for another tram ride. Route T3 is a restored line which follows a 2.6 kilometre circuit serving Moda and the terminus of a new Metro line. The trams on this line originated in Germany. This is a residential district which sees few tourists so the trams are really for the benefit of the local population.
Trams pass at Galata
Cars wait outside the upper station of the Tunel
The Kadikoy to Moda tram
Kadikoy Ferry

What The Papers Said

John Allen sold his wife for 3s 6d; the electric fluid entered a cottage and smashed the furniture; a bear and a deer absconded from a boat and The Bugsworth Nick Club terrified local women.

One Saturday evening, not long ago, a man who had been making a little too free with "John Barleycorn", had to pass through Taxal churchyard where a deep grave had been dug (for an interment on the morrow), close to the footpath over which the jolly fellow had to pass on his way home; and being rather unsteady in his gait, and not quite able to maintain his true perpendicular, he unfortunately fell into the grave; and being unable to get out again, he quietly resigned himself to his fate and went to sleep. Shortly afterwards, one of his boon companions, in passing the same way, had the misfortune to fall into the same grave and rouse the first occupant from his sleep, who feeling himself offended at the intruders visit, muttered out in an angry growl "It's strange one cannot lie quietly in the grave".

Read about these and other curious stories in "What The Papers Said" a selection of news reports from the 19th and 20th centuries about the Derbyshire villages of Bugsworth, Furness Vale and Whaley Bridge.