Thursday, 17 December 2015
Having got myself on the bike this morning, I had to get myself on the bike as no-one would help, and cycling around for thirty minutes, it may have been five but it felt like thirty, and finished by coming up the slope in the park and near killing myself I found climbing the stairs back home enough for the day, or so I thought.
Exercise is a good thing when you are young and fit, it is less entertaining when a short bike ride leaves the rider looking for a defibrillator! However I made it and more will occur if I remember tomorrow and at the weekend. I am now searching the weather forecast hoping for rain!
During the afternoon I decided my knees, now aching with stiffness required a walk. Off we hobbled across the park as the clouds that have covered us for a week thinned out and pretended they were going to let the sun shine through, they didn't!
There is an old picture from around 200 years ago showing this park as a field, a cow or two grazing idly and a yokel wandering about. In the distance the new Congregational church building stands alongside one or two grand houses, the church the only remaining memory of that time. All else has changed. Probably owned by a wealthy type and farmed by tenant farmers the field was turned into the grounds of the large house built by one of the Courtauld family of weaving fame. His grand large home lasted for around forty years before it passed into the hands of a school in whose possesion it remained for many years. Near one gate there was a grass verge and one day I saw a lady of undetermined age walk across this grass quite deliberately.
"I was never allowed to do this while at the school so I am doing it now," she laughed and went on her way. In recent times the house became flash flats with a few houses alongside owned by folks who can afford half a million, I did not apply.
Passing the school gym which now serves as the registry office usually with a flash car dressed for a bride outside, I walked slowly past the few large houses that stand alongside the church. The names and uses have changed with the years, one superb house is now used by the Salvation Army to rehouse people with specific difficulties, another rebuilt by a painter and decorator and the only one I can identify used by a Council 'Community' office whatever that is. The gray brick community building was built by one John Brown, his initials in the Latin version 'IJ' and seen above the door, Latin was the trendy Victorian manner, and it is clear he did well for himself in his day. As far as I can gather he began as a brickie and later made bricks near the railway and made his money that way. It is clear he had talent and was seen by the later years of the nineteenth century as one of the towns more important people. He would be shocked by the house today. In fact several other houses have similar styles if not the same bricks and possibly he built them, or got his men to do so, and established his reputation. He is not there now of course.
I strolled against the wind along the Roman Road called Stane Street (which also lies outside my window) heading east. I passed the 'Horse & Groom' a pub where one Saturday lunchtime two workmates ran outside and pulled me through the door and made me join them! Even in 1937 this pub was where people gathered if they wished goods to be taken to the villages round about. Most pubs continued the tradition of carriers, by vehicle in the thirties no longer plodding horse and carts, delivering goods near and far, well into the big towns at least. The 'Horse & Groom' appeared to be best placed for the villages within a ten mile radius. UPS and a variety of others can find their beginnings in men plodding along at two miles an hour beside a pair of carthorses with loaded cart.
The rest of this side of the street contains many houses from the past including further along a row of weavers houses, the narrow homes contain windows designed to aid weavers. It is said that once upon a time the attic roof had no divisions as long rolls of cloth would be stretched out up there. On the other side of the street all was demolished and a new roadway capable of dealing with increased traffic established, also the new shopping centre sweeping away generations of buildings. However the museum benefited from this as an archaeological dig must take place before building work and many items were found. There is a Iron Age, Roman and Anglo Saxon finds from there. A hamlet of some sort containing roundhouses was later joined by Roman dwellings. When Rome withered and the Saxons arrived the may well have farmed much of this area although it is possible there were houses at this spot also. Now there is a variety of modern day shops in the usual style, sometimes I wish the one time inhabitants were still around.
I wandered about the town for a while and made my way home. I came back via the park, the sun still striving to break through as it dipped in the west but the clouds were not relenting. A couple of new houses are being constructed nearby right next to the road and not far from the skatepark. How the new tenants will love those brats come summer! Along Stane Street, but a different part my aged home stands, just. The houses nearby go back some distance also, at least two hundred years but possibly more. It is possible to discover something of those who lived there in the last hundred years but going further back this is harder. When I have time I will seek more re the doctors who used this building as a surgery and the woman who made corsets in the 1920's, I wonder how she made enough for this place! Maybe their story will always be hidden.