Ballooning at Crystal Palace, 1872

by The Curious Scribbler

Long before the days of instant messaging the Victorian family might keep its dispersed members entertained by producing a journal to which its members contributed choice memories, sketches, verse, and family news.   One such family were the Palmers, a tribe of 19th Century printers, teachers and clergymen  one of whom, George Josiah Palmer is remembered as the Founder of the Church Times.  At the beginning of the 20th century the Palmer family journal “The Pilgrim” was laboriously typed, bound and circulated by post around ten or more family members.  It appeared intermittently between 1901 and 1907.

'The Pilgrim' a family journal produced by the Palmer family in 1901-1907

‘The Pilgrim’ a family journal produced by the Palmer family in 1901-1907

A stirring reminiscence was provided by Carey Linnell Palmer, and published in two installments in Volume 1 No 5 and Volume 2 No 1.   It must be acknowledged that the  account of the two young men’s adventures at Crystal Palace (George aged 26 and Carey aged 17) may have been embroidered a little in hindsight, for the story reproduced here was written by Carey Linnell Palmer in 1902, thirty years after the alleged events. However since the target audience included family members who had been present in the Palmer home at 6 Percy Circus, Clerkenwell on the fateful day in 1872, I incline to the view that it is probably not entirely a work of fiction.  I reproduce it here for the edification of today’s balloonists.

AFTER MANY DAYS

It was a steaming hot day in the August if 1872 and a holiday.  The house at Percy Circus as was its wont, looking uninviting, and the back garden didn’t offer much in the way of a jaunt.  George, who was always keen on engines and trains, voted we should spend our pocket money going up and down the underground.  “Well”, said I, “that’s pretty good fun, but I think it’s possible to go one better. How about the Captive Balloon at the Palace?  It’s only a bob a head, & a jolly tough rope, and heaps of other things to see besides.”  Dear George didn’t often use slang, but this time he said he was ‘All there’, and with the help of the train we soon arrived at Sydenham and its great glasshouse.  No side shows tempted us: we shouldered our way through the holiday crowds to the filling ground to find the men in charge blowing up the monster balloon for its trial trip.  “My aunt”, said George, – a very favourite expression of his, “but what do you feel like now?”  By this time the unwieldy creature was swaying backwards and forwards overhead, straining at the ropes that held her, and the car looking the frailest place of safety under the circumstances.  “ Oh well it’ll be alright when we are once down again” said I, “in for a penny, you know, and we shall get a good view, see Kings Cross perhaps, and all the places we’re used to” but my heart was sinking.  “ Now gentlemen!” shouted the proprietor through a fog horn “ Jump in and we take the money on board, – no vittles or drink allowed, as we shall be back in half an hour!”.  But the people wanted a lot of coaxing and unaccountably hung back.  The man caught sight of our faces, upon which a fearful joy and expectancy was painted, and started again to harangue. “Here are two to start with” he shouted and almost bundled us in.  The people grinned, but didn’t follow us, and sooner than lose any more time, and mentally meaning to give us a short journey, he and the man jumped onto the car gave orders for the ropes to release her and away we went.  But at the moment of mounting, to our dismay, one of these men with incredible swiftness swarmed down the side of the car and dropped to the ground, and we shot up.  “What is the meaning of this?” cried George and we weren’t left long in finding out.  The man’s face was white with rage.  A jeering shout was sent up, and looking overboard we discovered that the captive rope was severed, and with its end trailing beneath us the balloon was rising with ever increasing velocity towards cloudland and the sky beyond.  We were thunderstruck and turned to the ‘Captain’ for explanation or help of some sort.  But to absolutely no purpose.  He was dazed with fright – or something stronger, and muttering something about “His mate Bill” and that “he’d be even with him yet,” he sank in a speechless heap on the floor of the car and there remained. We looked at each other in amazement.  The minutes went by without either of us speaking, but at last, with as equable heads and hearts as we could manage we proceeded to take in the situation.  Up above us the great swaying canvas was shouldering the wind, the breeze singing through its cords, as the car cleft its path through the sunlight and blue sky that lay about us.  Below was the kindly earth and safety, the vanishing Palace and its thousands shining through the simmering haze of heat.  The practical problem emerged. “Chance it”, said I, and taking a pendent cord in our hands we pulled for all we were worth.  Out with a hissing and roaring rushed the gas and we descended – too quickly indeed for our breathing powers.  We held her up and looked over to see if any bearings were available.  Yes, there towards the south west was a town, Croydon we thought, and knew enough not to come down amidst bricks and mortar: so having let the valve go, we looked about for ballast.  Nothing to be had.  The only thing we found was some bread and butter and cold tea.  We weren’t too upset to appropriate this, and without any scruple, but there was nothing to throw out.  Luckily the wind kept us moving south west, and at a safe height.  On we went, the first feeling of not unnatural alarm giving way to a certain fearful joy at our extraordinary venture.  We could see people gesticulating at us, trains running about like little white tailed rabbits, houses and buildings looking all too funny from our standpoint, and the immense sweep of landscape all round us.  “Well” said George at last, “how long is this to last, think you? And what will they do at home? We must get out of this somehow.”  “ I’m agreeable”, was my reply “so long as we don’t land in the sea”.  “Oh stow your jokes”, said George “and say what we’d better do with this snoring hulk”, and he prodded the ‘Captain’ with his foot.  He only grunted.  If we could only have got from him his story, and why his partner had played such a wicked trick it would have been something.  Presently we could see the houses thinning and the country becoming more open, and at no very great distance some farm buildings.

“Here goes”, said George, “I’ve got a good idea”: and with that he set to work to haul in the captive rope.  I joined him hand over hand.  “ Now then, let the gas go and tie this old fellow up”, said he.  And that’s exactly what we did do.  All unresisting the ‘Captain’ let us coil  that rope round him from head to foot, making it fast about his middle.  The wind dropped, the gas escaped, and we descended gently for a farmyard.  Coming within hailing distance, the shouts of labourers reached us, and making an arch of our hands, we trumpeted “ Hullo there, where are we?”  Back came the ready answer: “Why, you’re in a ballune, bor!”.  Which wasn’t exactly what we wanted but it served to make them merry.  “Well, catch then” shouted George.  And using all our strength we hoisted the ‘Captain up to the edge of the car and slowly payed him over.  That did it, down, down he went till within a yard or two of safety, all the yokels expectant, – when the balloon gave a lurch, our muscles relaxed, and bang he went into a pond among some ducks.  “That will wake him” said George.  There were plenty of willing hands about us now. The ‘Captain’ was a fine makeweight; the rope was laid hold of, and when within sight of twenty yards, we didn’t wait for a second venture, – no we didn’t, we swarmed down that rope quicker than usual and then for the first time critically took in the dimensions of that balloon.  We explained matters to the open-mouthed farmer, saw to the deflation of our airship, and having sent a line to the Palace authorities as to where they would find the man and his charge, railed it home.

“Well” said George, that evening at supper, “ Carey and I are jolly hungry I can tell you, but Charlie, I’ll tell you a story afterwards.”  “ Oh bother!” was Charlotte’s reply, looking up from a Miss Young.  “You’ve said that so often: you’ve only learnt some more poetry and want me to hear you.”  “No, no” said I, “ It’s not poetry this time, – you listen.”  …..She listened, and in the waning hours, when “night’s candles were burning out” and the casement was a glimmering pane, Aunt Charlotte was still listening, but Uncle Fred (the youngest at home then) who began well, had to be carried to bed at half time.  He hears the story now, perhaps for the first time, after many days.

xxxxxxx

Carey Linnell Palmer became a master printer at 23 Jesus Lane, Cambridge.  His brother George went on to be a clergyman and Doctor of Music. The ten year old ‘Uncle Fred’ who fell asleep during the narrative, succeeded his father and elder brother to become the proprietor of the Church Times.

 

 

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The Gothic Arcade at Hafod

by the Curious Scribbler

The Hafod Trust has recently completed the restoration of the Gothic Arcade, a three arched eyecatcher which frames the view where Thomas Johnes’ Chain Bridge spans the narrow gorge  on the upper Ystwyth.

The Gothic arcade, Hafod, under restoration

The Gothic arcade, Hafod, under restoration

The arcade was something of a puzzle, being represented on the ground by the remnants of four basal pillars, only one of which reached high enough to show the first springer stone of the former arch.  For almost a decade it has been enrobed in blue plastic awaiting a decision on its conservation.  A earlier attempt at stabilising the stone pillars with lime mortar had failed to prevent further deterioration.  The ruin was listed among the built features of Hafod, with Ancient Monument status, so Cadw  had to authorise any changes to be made.

In 2010 The Gothic arcade pillars were conserved under blue plastic.

In 2010 The Gothic arcade pillars were conserved under blue plastic.

There is tantalisingly little evidence as to exactly what the Gothic Arcade looked like, or when it was built.  It was awarded this name by John Piper, in 1939, who was there to photograph the architectural remains of Hafod as part of a tour of threatened buildings, and who also sketched and painted in the grounds. There are three versions of this artwork, “Looking down the Ystwyth Gorge, Hafod”  which show it as a three arched rather spindly structure, on the edge of the gorge, but no aspect of his picture is precisely representational.

John Piper 1939.  Looking down the Upper Ystwyth Gorge. ( Private Collection)

John Piper 1939. Looking down the Ystwyth Gorge. ( Private Collection)

Exhaustive appeals have so far not revealed a single box brownie photograph of the structure, though many people are likely to have passed or picnicked there in the 1950s. Worse still, the accounts by visitors in Johnes’ time, even Cumberland in his An Attempt to Describe Hafod, failed to mention it.  The only possible exception is an unclear account by the Revd H.T. Payne, Archdeacon of Carmarthen, who in about 1815 alluded to a “rude arch of stone“.  But a literal reading of his description would place his arch on the opposite bank, or even identify it as the Rustic Alcove near the Peiran Cascade.

It remains uncertain whether this eye catcher was part of Thomas Johnes’s Picturesque design at all.  (Though we do know that he  built a rustic  arch commemorating George III over the approach road from Devil’s Bridge).  Until further evidence crops up it must be conceded that it could date from the ownership of The Duke of Newcastle, or even that of John Waddingham in the late 19th century, or his son, TJ Waddingham in the early 20th.

The restoration was led by the overall shape as indicated by Piper’s sketch, and the shape dictated by the remaining fragments. It was built with locally sourced, undressed stones by Abbey Masonry and Restoration, Llanelli.

The Gothic arcade, Hafod, almost complete

The Gothic arcade, Hafod, almost complete, May 2016

Piper composed his view from upstream of the Gothic Arcade.  He speculated, on the basis of the House’s history,  that its gothic style might be the work of John Nash.  The compilation below shows the restoration in the context of his drawing.

Gothic arcade 2 viewssm

The Gothic Arcade represents the penultimate item on the Hafod Trust’s current restoration objectives.  Still under development is the plan to put a flat timber span across the bridge abutments of Pont Newydd, the old carriage drive which crossed the Peiran just above the famous falls.

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A portrait of Elizabeth Inglis Jones

by The Curious Scribbler

The guest of honour at the recent opening of Mrs Johnes’  garden at Hafod was new supporter, Giles Inglis Jones, a great nephew of the author Elizabeth Inglis Jones,  whose  account of Hafod did so much to resurrect the memory of Thomas Johnes when Hafod was at its nadir of destruction.

Giles Inglis Jones, assisted by his daughter, reads an extract from Richard Payne Knight's poem The Landscape a didactic poem (1794)  in praise of the Picturesque to the guests of the Hafod Trust.

Giles Inglis Jones, assisted by his daughter, reads an extract from Richard Payne Knight’s poem The Landscape a didactic poem (1794) in praise of the Picturesque to the guests of the Hafod Trust.

 

Inglis Jones’ book, Peacocks in Paradise, published by Faber in 1950, was a fictionalised biography of the Johnes family  which drew heavily upon the large collection of personal letters between Johnes and his friend Sir James Edward Smith which she discovered at the Linnean Society.  These letters have been among the most valued resources for subsequent historians and some are reproduced in Richard Moore Colyer’s A Land of Pure Delight ( Gomer 1992).

Miss Inglis Jones was approaching fifty when she turned her hand to this, the first of her biographies, and later went on to write well researched accounts of the lives of other notables,  Maria Edgeworth (1959) and Augustus Smith of Tresco Abbey in the Scilly Isles (1969).  However her debut novel in 1929 was far steamier fiction, which roused in equal parts the admiration and the indignation of the readers of Cardiganshire.  I have just finished reading Starved Fields with very considerable enjoyment  and even a little surprise that such insight and earthy sentiments should flow from the pen of an innocent young woman of good family.

Starved Fields  deals with the families of two Cardiganshire Squires, the baronet Sir Uryan Williams, squire of the crumbling eighteenth century mansion Bryn, and farming landowner Owen Morgan of Lluest his relative and neighbour.  Just as one cannot read Wuthering Heights without realising that the author had a close understanding of alcoholism, depression and mental illness, it is hard to believe that Inglis Jones’ pageant of male and female drunkenness, incompatible marriage, illegitimacy and adultery was not informed by close observation of her neighbours or even family.

Giles Inglis Jones has loaned to the Hafod Trust an oil painting of his great aunt as a young woman, painted by the New Zealand portrait artist Cecil Jameson.  She is a pretty girl with a short 1920’s bob of hair, wearing a simple shift and a necklace of amber beads.  She was brought up at the south Cardiganshire mansion of Derry Ormond though I have heard it said that she and her brother considered their childhood deeply unhappy and shed few tears at the eventual demolition of their family home.

The portrait of Elizabeth Inglis Jones by Cecil Jameson

The portrait of Elizabeth Inglis Jones by Cecil Jameson

The men she depicts in her first novel tend to be spineless, inconsistent characters, at best charming but wet, and at worst drunken and entirely selfish.   Perhaps that is why she never married.  The strands of her story all paint entirely believable characters, but only one for whom the author shows real compassion.  This is her heroine, Gaynor, daughter of the baronet, who ends up balancing the role of adulterous mistress and farm manager to her feckless first love, Owen Morgan, with that of dutiful daughter to her enfeebled and alcoholic parents.

Also loaned from Giles Inglis Jones’ deceased great aunt’s possessions came a number of deeds and notebooks some of which I have been perusing. One contains a transcription of 21 letter received in 1929 as a result of the publication of Starved Fields. While all the writers congratulated her on her work, readers struggled with such depravity set in the Cardiganshire of the 1890s.  The Principal of St David’s, Lampeter, Canon Maurice Jones  wrote     “Where you have gone wrong,  if I may venture to say so,  is in setting your period a century late.  I cannot believe that the life you describe is true of Cardiganshire only 30 years ago, whereas the book gives a fairly clear and honest description of life in many parts of Wales in the 18th Century  …. I’m afraid you will not be popular with the “county” after your remorseless revelations of what life can have been like in Cardiganshire at any period in its history”.     Mrs Perrin ( author of 21 novels ) declared “What you must cultivate if you want a wide public is more restraint  –  your construction and technique are good but remember too much realism isn’t art”.

Miss Mary Lewis of Trefilan tempered her congratulations with a rebuke “Now there are aspects of Starved Fields I don’t like my dear Elizabeth, but I’m not going to enlarge on what is a matter of taste except to say that Society in Cardiganshire during the Nineties wasn’t really at all what your book implies – You weren’t born then, but I was (unfortunately) grown up and going about in those days so I know .  The Spectator’s reviewer took the view that the novel could only have been written by a man.

On the basis of these letters, it seems that actually the gentry were less offended than the middle classes.  A letter from her cousin, Wilmot Vaughan of Trawscoed  states “I do think you have got the Welsh country people to a T, let alone strange, weird drunken squires who one has known in the flesh.”

Lady Lloyd of Bronwydd  was simply thrilled.  “ What an amazing child you are!  I must congratulate you on your wonderful book, not a nice character in it!!  But your perspectives are quite an astonishment and it is terribly true and interesting and I own to simply screaming over it until Marteine  got quite angry, but he couldn’t put it down!! “  More prosaically she added “ I expect your mother is very proud of you, I should be. Will you dare go back to Derry [Ormond]?”

I don’t know whether Elizabeth did return home, but certainly by 1937 she was a permanent resident in London.  I believe that the remoteness of their homes and the relative poverty of even the premier families in Cardiganshire made it very difficult for many gentry girls from West Wales to secure suitable husbands.  Elisabeth certainly made her escape into London and literature, and by her middle years had started mining the historic record rather than her own life for what are now her better known books.

Her pretty portrait will soon be presiding over new nuptials in the Hafod Estate Office  which is now a venue for civil marriage ceremonies.  Inoffensive young woman that she appears, her clear gaze should make brides closely inspect their motives, and keep new husbands on the straight and narrow!

The critical gaze of the young Elizabeth Inglis Jones

The critical gaze of the young Elizabeth Inglis Jones

 

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More on Rutelli’s sculptures

by The Curious Scribbler

I’ve had a lot of interesting comments arising from the blogs on Rutelli’s Aberystwyth war memorial sculptures. In this town we like our handsome nude woman, and people often stop to take her photograph.  She is more eyecatching than the traditional assemblage of weapons or the lone and gloomy soldier of so many other towns.

It was a real find to discover she also exists in a garden in Rome ( see Truth comes out of the Bushes) .  But as correspondent ‘dredwina’ points out, it is not unusual in the 20th century  to make five or six editions of a bronze, declaring them at the outset, but not actually creating them all until buyers turn up.  Just as there are at least three Rutelli winged victories in the world, there are, for example, two locations where Churchill and Roosevelt chat upon a bench. Spotting the duplicates could become an absorbing hobby.

The original model, however, was a one-off and  sources have come up with several  oral histories on the subject.  Helen Palmer  writes:- I had a story that the model for the busty lass was a Belgian girl who – as a very elderly lady – visited Aberystwyth some time in the 1980s, but I cannot remember the source and maybe it was all baloney!

While historian Gerald Morgan had a slightly different version – When showing a group around Aberystwyth I was told that the naked lady had been modelled on the wife of a local shopman, Ernie’s Chips or some such, and that as an old lady she had returned to Aberystwyth in the ?1990s and been interviewed by the Cambrian News! Again, I’ve never checked it out!!

Possibly these are both spurious claims.  More likely the girl in question was in Rome, and since she would have been  at least 16 when she modelled she must have been extremely old by the 1990s!

By contrast ‘Tone’s account of repairing the part-severed head of Edward Prince of Wales on the seafront stands up to robust scrutiny. ” At the time when I was employed as a Art/Ceramics technician at the then Visual Art Dept. Llanbadarn Road, on more than one occasion I had to travel to the “Old College” to repair Edward’s neck as an attempt was made to remove his head at the end of the academic year by, it was said, students from Pantycelyn Halls of Residence.
He wasn’t a tall prince, though could be described as handsome, It was an easy to repair as I could reach the damaged area without the aid of steps.
Although as you say “seldom remarked upon” he is certainly marked upon by the use of the hacksaw!

I climbed up the plinth to verify, and established both that Tone is a good deal taller than myself, and that the repaired hacksaw groove on the back of the neck is plain to see.

The green line of corrosion marks the repair to the Prince’s neck

I don’t think we will find other editions of this sculpture tucked away incognito.  It is generally understood to be the only life-size bronze of Edward VIII anywhere.  His abdication in favour of marrying Wallis Simpson put paid to what might otherwise have beena lustrous career in commemorative statuary.

Statue of Edward Prince of Wales at Old College Aberystwyth

Edward Prince of Wales, Chancellor of the University College of Wales 1922, by Mario Rutelli

Arthur Chater also comments  “And I believe that students once sawed off, or tried to saw off, his head. There is certainly a nasty scar on the side and back of his neck. The statue as a whole is rather good I think, with a nice art nouveau trail to his gown, but the face is appallingly weak – maybe though this is in fact a perceptive insight into Edward’s character on the part of Rutelli?”

His gown is indeed very fine, and richly ornamented.  His face looks strangely faun like, though it is true that in photos as a young man his tip tilted nose and and boyish look is indeed apparent.  If this was modelled in 1922 he was less than 28 when the likeness was taken.

A close up of Edward's face

Detail of Edward Prince of Wales, a likeness from or before 1922

The Prince of Wales photographed by Hugh Cecil Saunders in 1925

Speaking of fauns, Mary Burdett Jones has reminded me that I have so far neglected Rutelli’s first commission in Aberystwyth, the war memorial to 10 members of the Tabernacle chapel who died in the First World War.  Tabernacle Chapel?  Yes, that is another story…

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Bring in the bulldozer!

By The Curious Scribbler

There is a smallholding for sale not far from Aberystwyth near Lledrod.  With customary overstatement the local agent, Jim Raw Rees begins their particulars “Rarely does such an opportunity come to the market..”     The price has been reduced to £150,000 for 12 acres, a bungalow and outbuildings.

But what buildings!  If there is something that Ceredigion has excelled at in the 20th century it is mean rural dwellings.  Set on a south facing slope is a small red brick bungalow of repellent appearance, not that old, just small and ugly, but with planning permission to become less so.  Paul White, who has devoted much of his life to photographing ruins in Wales, both grand mansions and modest farms and outbuildings has been along to take these evocative photos in black and white.   He suggests it looks like a railway cottage escaped from its natural habitat.

The derelict red brick bungalow at Lluest Newydd, near Lledrod
Copyright Paul White

Blocking the view, or more poetically  “in the eye of the sun” to quote Raw Rees, is a range of even stranger out-buildings – part masonry, part corrugated iron.   Why those three tall doorways and above each the domestic style upstairs window? Why does the roof sit directly upon these windows?  Is this one of those abortive self-build projects which ran into despair?

If the whole site were razed to the ground the south facing hillside would warm the cockles of a horse or goat owner, or make a happy field for a great assortment of poultry.  And today far more attractive modern vernacular buildings are being put up for more enlightened owners.

Paul’s pictures distil what is ugliest about Lluest Newydd.  It has a place in history, but let us hope is soon loses its present foothold on the hillside.  According to Zoopla it has received 500 hits in the last month.  Surely salvation, notwithstanding our almost incessant rain, is in sight?

Outbuilding at Lluest Newydd

Outbuilding at Lluest Newydd

 

Pictures copyright Paul White see http://www.welshruins.co.uk

 

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