Jan 252021
 

The last week of January has begun, and I think it’s a good time to have a look at how people have been responding to the first of our new one-place study blogging and social media prompts, #OnePlaceLandmarks. This post features the efforts of our bloggers, set out in alphabetical order of place name. That means we begin with a bang, thanks to Richard Ewing’s contribution and the YouTube video embedded therein.

There are more contributions to come – including my own – which I will capture, along with a summary of social media contributions, in a follow-up blog post early next month. If you have a #OnePlaceLandmarks blog post which I’ve missed, or if you’re a member with a story to share based on our prompts but no website to share it on, let me know!

Armitage and Handsacre in Staffordshire, England (Richard Ewing)

My disappearing landmark. Power station cooling towers might not be the most attractive landscape features, but they certainly make unmissable landmarks. Richard tells us about the history of Rugeley Power Station, sites A and B, the towers of which are in the process of being demolished. Maybe those ‘unmissable’ landmarks – including the 600 foot tall chimney toppled on Sunday (check out the YouTube video!) – will be missed after all?

Axedale in Victoria, Australia (Jennifer Jones)

Lake Eppalock #OnePlaceLandmarks. A huge man-made reservoir with a surface area of 3.011 hectares (pictured below) is the subject of Jennifer’s one-place landmark blog post.

Bledlow in Buckinghamshire, England (Julia Wynn)

Bledlow Landmark: The River Lyde and Lyde Garden. For the very first blog post on her new one-place study website, Julia has chosen to write about a landmark which is in fact a hidden gem – a sunken aquatic garden.

Burnley in Lancashire, England (Joanne Kenyon)

Landmarks. Joanne takes a quick look at three Burnley landmarks: The Singing Ringing Tree (yes, you read that right), Turf Moor (home of Burnley FC), and Towneley Hall and gardens.

Long Buckby Wharf in Northamptonshire, England (Julie Groom)

Canal Bridge Number 12. As Julie’s Place is centred on the canal which passes through it, a canal bridge is a great landmark to start with! Julie has chosen bridge number 12 – small, little-used, and also protected through being Listed.

Village Hall. Julie looks at the history of a building which was built and presented to the community in 1931 – then locked up immediately after it was opened and left unused for more than 15 months!

Moreleigh in Devon, England (Nicola Byrnes)

One-Place Landmarks: Stanborough Hillfort in Moreleigh, Devon. One of three #OnePlaceLandmarks blog posts published here on our own blog, this one focusses on the remains of the ancient hillfort of Stanborough Camp.

Sorell Municipality in Tasmania, Australia (Sue Wyatt)

Blog prompts for 2021. Sue outlines her thoughts on possible subjects for our blogging prompts for January to June 2021.

Carlton Congregational Chapel. The congregational chapel at Carlton turned 180 years old this month. Sue writes about the history of the chapel and the people connected with it.

Sorell Windmill. A long-gone landmark from the early 1800s is the subject of this blog by Sue – a windmill built by former convict Robert Nash.

Springhill in Lancashire, England (Janet Barrie)

Springhill Landmarks. Janet takes a look at an unusual type of landmark – crosses erected in Springhill and the surrounding area.

Sticklepath in Devon, England (Helen Shields)

#OnePlaceLandmarks: Sticklepath Bridge. A look at bridges in Dartmoor generally, and Sticklepath in particular, with lots of information on Stickepath Bridge, its history, and some of the people and events connected to it.

“Drinke and be thankful” #Oneplacelandmarks: Ladywell and other watery considerations. “Ladywell […] represents both a physical landmark and landmark in history, before piped drinking water came down the street or into our houses.” Find out more about Ladywell and the story of Sticklepath’s water supply in this blog post.

#OnePlaceLandmarks: Sticklepath Village Hall with 20 images. With a plethora of pictures, Helen describes the early history of Sticklepath Village Hall and explores the people involved in bringing it into being, before considering the social function of the institution.

The Crescent, Taunton, in Somerset, England (Lucy Sarson)

Society of One Place Studies – Blogging Prompts. Introducing Lucy’s focus for this prompt, the Listed Buildings of her One-Place Study.

The history of Unison House. One of this study’s listed buildings, Unison House was named for the trade union which occupied it until 2017. In researching the property, Lucy discovered how valuable planning applications can be for house history and one-place studies!

Turner’s Retreat and Woodlands Place, in London, England (Chris Jolliffe)

OPS: #OnePlaceLandmarks. As Chris noted when announcing this blog post on Twitter, “It’s hard to write about my #OnePlaceLandmarks when the whole area has been redeveloped”. There is however a building which “is one of the few remaining landmarks that the residents of Woodlands Place and Turner’s Retreat would have been familiar with.”

Wing in Buckinghamshire, England (Alex Coles)

The Nature of a Landmark. Although ‘alphabetical discrimination’ places this entry last in my list, this was the first #OnePlaceLandmark blog post to feature here on the Society’s own blog. In it, Alex considers what makes a landmark, and how to identify landmarks in a Place where you don’t live, before suggesting and providing a picture of a landmark for Wing.


I have enjoyed reading all of these blog posts, thank you to everybody who has taken up the challenge! I await further contributions to our #OnePlaceLandmarks theme with great anticipation, and look forward to completing my own.

Steve Jackson
Social Media Coordinator
Waters Upton one-place study


Picture credits

Lake Eppalock Yachts, by Wikimedia Commons contributor Mattinbgn – CC-BY/3.0 – Modified

Footbridge, River Taw, Sticklepath, by Geograph contributor Richard Dorrell – CC-BY-SA/2.0 – Modified

Jan 232021
 

“What goes up, must come down.” The old saying certainly applies to a landmark in Richard Ewing’s one-place study. Rugeley B Power Station is coming down in stages – the main, 600 foot tall chimney was demolished on the morning of Sunday 24 January at 8.30am. Watch the demolition via the embedded YouTube video here, and read Richard’s account of his Place’s disappearing landmark.

 

When the last cooling tower at Rugeley B Power Station in Staffordshire comes down, the skyline that I have known nearly all my life will be gone forever. It has been visible for miles and seeing it on your way back home told you that you would soon be able to put your feet up and have a cuppa.

The power station is built partly in the Parish of Armitage (the subject of my One Place Study), and partly in the local town of Rugeley. The first indication that a power station was going to be built there came in 1952 when it was announced that a new pit, Lea Hall Colliery, then still under construction, would be complemented by a power station in the first joint venture between the National Coal Board (NCB) and the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). The coal from the pit would be fed by conveyor straight to the power station.

Over the next four years the design of the power station was finalised for the 900 acre site, two thirds of it being in the parish of Armitage. There would be five generator sets each capable of producing 120,000KW for a total of 600,000KW. Water would be drawn from the adjacent River Trent and there would be five cooling towers (350 ft high) and two boiler chimneys (450 ft high). The base diameter of four of the condensing cooling towers would be 225 ft but the fifth would be an experimental design – a dry cooling tower with a base diameter of 325 ft.

This tower would have nearly three million feet of tubing in it which would act as giant radiator and ensuring that no water would be lost. It was hoped that this design would remove the need for so much cooling water and enabling power stations to be built in dry regions of the world. The design was developed by two Hungarians, L Heller and L Forgo. Most of the site was set aside for five ash lagoons which would be in the north west part of Armitage Parish near the River Trent.

Work started in 1956 and the civils side soon ran into trouble with water-logged conditions in the ash lagoon area. This part of Armitage had originally been the site of Hawksherd Hall, a home of the de Ruggeleys who held a sub-manor under the manor of Handsacre. It had been surrounded by a moat and was reported as a dark, dank building and was abandoned in the mid-17th century. The outline of the hall was clearly visible in 1950 after it was first ploughed by tractor but no archaeological digs were needed before a development in those days and now all such traces are lost beneath enormous lagoons.

After raising the ground levels and sorting out wells the building began in earnest and over the next four years the buildings rose and the towers soared. January 1961 saw the first generating set start work and the station was fully on stream by December 1962.

Before the Power Station was even officially commissioned (in Oct 1963) the CEGB stated that a second Power Station (B) would be built with four normal condensing cooling towers. It would have two 500,000KW turbo generators and one 600 ft chimney. Construction began in 1964 and at the same time a council boundary review was announced, the first since 1934.

Having a Power Station was excellent for the council rates and Rugeley Urban District Council submitted a proposal that would absorb 90% of Armitage Parish into the Rugeley District. The rates in Armitage (which was in the Lichfield Rural District) were considerably lower than in Rugeley so it wasn’t surprising that the proposal was not met with favour in Armitage. The Boundary Commission decided that the part of Armitage Parish that was in the village of Brereton would join the rest of Brereton in the Rugeley District. But Armitage retained their portion of the Power Station site.

Lea Hall Colliery and the Power Stations were major employers and it led to a big increase in the population of Armitage Parish, which largely consisted of the villages of Armitage and Handsacre (now a combined village called Armitage-with-Handsacre). The NCB built a 300 house development at Tuppenhurst Lane in Handsacre and private developers built 52 bungalows off Old Road in Handsacre and 38 at the site of the old Rectory in Armitage. Not to be outdone, Lichfield Council joined in and decided to replace the prefabs in Armitage with brick and tile houses and add some bungalows. The 1961 census showed that the population of Armitage Parish was 2,100 but by 1966 it was about 3,500.

Rugeley B Power Station was commissioned in 1970. Given the rapid change in technology and engineering, the life of a Power Station is only about 25 years. Rugeley A Power Station ceased production in September 1994 and was demolished the following year. Big upgrades like the installation of a flue gas desulphurisation plant in 2009 enabled B Power Station to extend its life but it too ceased production – in 2016.

Demolition has started and buildings such as these divide opinion and excite comment – social media sites are a great place to hear the diversity of opinions. Here’s a flavour:

  • You know you’re home when you see the giant eggcups, will be sad to see them go.
  • Grew up under the shadows of those bad boys.
  • ICONIC
  • I shall maybe not miss them? tbh… a landmark yes but not overly attractive.
  • Cathedrals of industry
  • An ugly blot on our landscape.

The photo below shows a December 2020 sunset over the remaining buildings of Rugeley B Power Station – by this December the towers will be no more and the landmark will have disappeared forever.

Richard Ewing
Armitage and Handsacre one-place study


Picture credits

Rugeley Power Station as viewed from Castle Ring on Cannock Chase, by Wikimedia Commons contributor Bs0u10e01 - CC-BY-SA/4.0 - Modified

Sunset over Rugeley B Power Station, by Dave Edwards of Max400 Aerial Photography - Used with permission

Jan 202021
 

As you will know from our directory of member studies, and from posts on this blog, many Society members have set up websites or blogs to share data and stories relating their one-place studies. More of our members want to join their ranks and would like some guidance, judging by feedback from our online meetings and our recent members’ survey. We know too that several members who are in the early stages of setting up new websites would be equally grateful for some support.

There are several ways in which we could address this need, but here’s what I personally have decided to do: I’m going to start a brand new one-place study, create a website for it, and blog about the process right here. I invite you to follow my progress and contribute your thoughts and questions along the way. I have no fixed route map for this journey, and while the decisions I make will be my own, your input will influence what I do.

I have already chosen my Place. It’s local to me and is somewhere I’ve visited many times over the years, so I know the area and have photographs of it already. Another important factor contributing to my choice, given other pressures on the time I have available, is that my new Place has a very small population! I’ll reveal the location of this Place in due course – for now, we’ll be focussing on the website for my new study.

Before we start planning this journey however, let’s take a step back and think about why we’re making it at all. Although one of the ten steps to a one-place study is to disseminate the results of our research, this can be done without a website or blog. Those looking to share the fruits of their OPS labours have several other ways of doing so, such as writing articles for magazines or journals (including Destinations), publishing a book, putting on exhibitions, or giving presentations. (Of course, at the time of writing the last two of the aforementioned options could be ruled out for many by Covid-related restrictions.)

The advantages of publishing your work online, on a website or blog (or both), fall into two main categories. One is greater flexibility:

  • You can add to your website or blog as much or as little as you want, when you want
  • You can update the content you have posted at any time
  • You can embed media content from other online platforms, such as YouTube
  • Many blogging platforms allow you to change the layout and appearance of your site by switching to a new theme

Unlike an article, a book, an exhibition or a presentation, for as long as you are able to work on your website it need never be a ‘finished product’. (That said, what you publish online might eventually form the basis for a book!)

The other advantage of an online home for your one-place study research is the larger, wider audience you can reach:

  • Your work is accessible to anyone with an internet connection
  • With that reach comes the potential for greater interaction with people who share your interest in your Place
  • Some of those people may want to know more about the history of the area in which they or their ancestors live or lived
  • Some may offer information, documents or images they can contribute to your OPS.

Family history bloggers talk about their blogs or websites acting as ‘cousin bait’ because of the way they attract contact from people connected to their families. I’m not sure what the one-place study equivalent of that term would be (suggestions please!), but the principle can definitely translate to our field of research.

There are of course potential problems and pitfalls too. Some of those related to sharing family trees online also apply to sharing one-place study data and stories – the pros as well as the cons of sharing family trees online are summed up neatly by our member Jane Roberts (St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church War Memorial, Batley OPS) in her recent blog post Public or Private Family Tree?). The issues flagged up by Jane which could translate to OPS websites include:

  • Information control (the potential for others to copy/download your work and use it elsewhere, perhaps even passing it off as their own), and a related issue…
  • Photo ‘theft’ (people copying/downloading photos – which you may have been given individual permission to use on your site – and using them elsewhere), which leads on to…
  • Copyright (not just abuse of copyright by those taking content from your site, but also potential copyright issues with the material you have put online), and finally the possibility of…
  • Reduced contacts (which might happen because people who share your interest in your Place find everything they want on your site and so don’t ‘reach out’ to you).

Overall, I personally think the positives of blogging and sharing data online – for the one-placer and for the wider family history and local history communities – outweigh the negatives. However when setting up your own website or blog, you may wish to consider what you are comfortable with sharing online, and what you would prefer to keep offline. (There’s also the possibility of putting information online and making it accessible by logging in with a password – see our member Anna Darelli-Anderson’s One-Place Studies as an example. Be sure to comply with data protection legislation, such GDPR in the EU and UK, if such a system gathers personal data from users / members.)

Besides the issues outlined above there may also be others, concerning the skills needed to create, maintain and add content to a website. The steepness of the ‘learning curve’ depends in part on how tech-savvy you are, and in part on how you choose to set up your website. Don’t let any of this put you off! Choosing a ‘vehicle’ for our journey to a one-place study website will be the subject of the next instalment of this series of blog posts.

Steve Jackson
Social Media Coordinator
Waters Upton One-Place Study


Members—you can chat about this project in our forum! Make sure you're logged in and post in the Building a one-place study website and blog topic on the General discussion board.

Jan 172021
 

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘landmark’ as ‘an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognised from a distance’ or, historically, ‘the boundary of an area of land, or an object marking this’. In view of this, I’m not sure my choice from Moreleigh really qualifies as a landmark at all!

The remains of Stanborough Hillfort or Camp itself are not easily identified as such close up, let alone recognisable from a distance… unless it’s from above. Neither do they define or mark a boundary. However, it can perhaps be argued that the fact that the Camp has all but disappeared, marks an important change to the nature of the dangers faced by the inhabitants of ancient South Devon.

Imagery ©2021 Google, Imagery ©2021 CNES / Airbus, Getmapping plc,
Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky, Maxar Technologies, Map data ©2021

Although not situated on the coast, the inland settlements of the South Hams area of Devon were, once upon a time, at serious risk from invading Norsemen, whose boats could sail up from the Kingsbridge Estuary along a number of creeks to join rivers inland such as the Avon, Dart, Erme, Plym, Teign and Yealm.

Stanborough Camp is situated on the old parish border between Moreleigh and Halwell (they are now one, combined parish) and was one of many Iron Age hillforts built in the South Hams, indicating the dangers faced from maritime invaders. In his 1901 paper ‘On some Earthworks in the South Hams…’ [1], EAS Elliot suggests that there was an attack on nearby Halwell by the Danes in 835AD, who subsequently took over the camp at Stanborough. Dr Elliot mentions a number of large tumuli (burial mounds) close to the camp which are ‘suggestive of terrible slaughter’.

Stanborough Camp was described in around 1630 as ‘an old fort now no better than a heap of stones called by the name of Stanborough from whence the Hundred hath name’ [2], indeed the Hundred Court had been moved there from Diptford [3]. By 1906, it was more sympathetically described in the ‘Victoria County History of Devon’ [4]:

… a compact ellipse of single vallum and fosse [defensive wall/ rampart, and ditch], enclosing about 3½ acres. The height and depth of the rampart and ditch vary considerably; the former rising 10ft from the interior, descends 14ft into the fosse, which is 3ft in some places and in others 5ft 6in. Due east is the strongest defence, guarding the entrance on the south-east.

It is situated on the highest point of undulating ground commanding a view of the shipping in Start Bay, and was probably used as a signalling station between Slapton Castle, Woodbury Castle, Dartmouth and Dittisham, on one side, and the inland strongholds of Halwell and Blackdown. Coins and pottery are said to have been found within its area… Several large tumuli are in an adjoining brake [thicket].

This clearly shows the ideal strategic position occupied by the hillfort. Interestingly, there was once also a standing stone, known as ‘The Old Man’, just outside the Camp but it had disappeared by 1906 [5], although a number of historical maps show it in position. The remains of a large bowl barrow (a funerary monument) with a central stone chamber, enclosed by the later hillfort, still survive to the southeast of the hillfort's centre [6]. Stanborough Camp Iron Age hillfort and bowl barrow were listed as a scheduled monument in August 1923 [7].

I said at the beginning that Stanborough Camp could not itself be accurately described as a landmark. However, what’s left of the ramparts on the hilltop are covered with large mature beech trees [8] and it is these that are a landmark for many miles around – the beauty of nature marking the site of this remnant of Devon’s bloody past.

Photos of Stanborough Camp used with kind permission of Twitter user @Monk_Po.

Nicola Byrnes
Moreleigh One-Place Study


References

[1] EAS Elliot, ‘On some Earthworks in the South Hams, Probably Concerned in the Irishmen’s Raid, and others in the immediate neighbourhood belonging to Judhel de Totnais’; Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, Volume 33, p483; 1901

[2] T Risdon, ‘Choreographical Description of Devon, 1580-1640’, 1811; www.heritagegateway.org.uk – Devon and Dartmoor HER; accessed 9 January 2021

[3] Rev. O. J. Reichel, ‘The Hundreds of Devon. XV. Stanborough or Dippeforda in the Time of Test de Nevil, A. D. 1243’; Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, Volume 45, p198; 1913

[4] William Page, Editor, The Victoria History of the Counties of England, A History of Devonshire, Volume 1; Archibald Constable & Co Ltd; 1906; p607

[5] EAS Elliot, ‘On some Earthworks in the South Hams, Probably Concerned in the Irishmen’s Raid, and others in the immediate neighbourhood belonging to Judhel de Totnais’; Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, Volume 33, p483; 1901

[6] Historic England, www.historicengland.org.uk; accessed 9 January 2021; list entry number 1019314

[7] Idem

[8] Idem

Jan 062021
 

Landmarks are odd things, really. You initially think they are something physical, fixed, defined in space, available to all and experienced much the same by all. But what they define is more ephemeral – they define movement, they define emotion. They are the blackened tree, split by lightening decades ago, standing in the field you pass by, signalling you've completed the city part of your trip and are now entering the rural portion. They are the "humpty bridges", giving your children a brief moment of fun to look forward to during the journey as the car flies just a little bit too fast over them – not quite airborne because you’re a responsible driver but enough that you get the physical sensation of taking off. They are the farm gate that indicates you're nearly home.

This is why identifying your #OnePlaceLandmarks is actually pretty difficult if you don't live, and have never lived, in your place. You haven't approached your place over and over and over in all different seasons at all different ages from all different angles, so you just don't know what actually is a landmark for your place's residents. Sure, you can speculate about particular built or natural features that seem like they'd be a marker, but you don’t have the emotional connection or the layers of memories that really mark out something as a landmark.

Here's a thing that seems to me that it might be a landmark for my place of Wing in Buckinghamshire. This is (a terrible photo of) Wingpark Clump. It’s a clump of trees in a field just to the south of the village, and if you’re approaching from the south it would be the visible thing that, once you can see it, you know you’re nearly there. You’re almost home. Just that last climb up the hill to go.

Wingpark Clump (c) Alex Coles 2013 and used with permission

Alex Coles