Category Archives: Out Of London

74 Miles from London

Before getting into this week’s post, can I thank readers for all the feedback on last week’s post, and the mystery building to the left of the National Theatre. This was identified as the curved riverside end of a multi-storey car park and some of the comments included links to photos which clearly show the overall building, and the end wall that was in my photo.

The building partly visible behind this structure was the London warehouse of HMSO and also the Cornwall Press print works. This building can still be found along Stamford Street, and is  now part of King’s College.

Again, my thanks for all the feedback.

Now for today’s post. I have always been interested in London’s relationship with the rest of the country. Frequently, this is seen as a negative. The north / south divide, London getting the majority of available infrastructure investment, higher wages in the city etc.

London’s central role in the country started many hundreds of years ago with the founding of the Roman City of London, located on a crossing point on the Thames, and where the new city was accessible from the sea.

Roads spread out from London, and the city became a cross roads for long distance travel. This was accentuated with the city becoming the centre for Royal and Political power, the Law and also a centre for trade and finance.

Look at a map of the country today, and the major roads that run the length and breadth of the country still start in London (A1 – London to Edinburgh, A2 – London to Dover, A3 – London to Portsmouth, A4 – London to Bath and Bristol, A5 – London to Holyhead).

Many of these major roads have been upgraded and follow new diversions, but their general routes have been the same for many hundreds of years. These A roads have now been mirrored by a similar network of Motorways.

The railway network follows a similar approach, with the main long distance routes running across the country to stations in London – (Waterloo, Liverpool Street, Euston, Paddington, St Pancras, Kings Cross etc.).

There are still tangible reminders to be found across the country’s roads that London has long been a destination for long distance routes, and in this post I will explore examples from around the counties close to London, starting with this 18th century milestone to be found in Southampton, indicating that it is 74 Miles from London.

Milestone

A number of these milestones can still be found in central London. There is a very fine example on the side of the Royal Geographical Society at the junction of Kensington Gore and Exhibition Road:

Milestone

This rather fine example, with pointing hands, dates from 1911, with Hyde Park Corner being the London point from where distances have been measured.

Milestone

To get really geeky, on the same wall as the above milestone, there is another marker that was used to measure the country. Loads of these can be found across London, and in the days before GPS they had an important role with accurately mapping and surveying the country.

This is a benchmark.

Milestone

It was used during the 1931 to 1934 re-levelling of Greater London, when the height of the city above the Newlyn reference point in Cornwall was measured. The flush bracket rather appropriately on the side of the Royal Geographical Society was on a survey line from Staines to the British Museum, and was levelled at a height of 67.8260 feet [20.6734 metres] above mean sea level at Newlyn.

This was how the Ordnance Survey were able to show all the contour height lines on their maps.

The above milestone measured the distance to Hyde Park Corner, and before there was any standard for where distances to London should be measured, routes usually used the first point at the boundary of the city that the route reached.

The Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe has a milestone set into the wall of the building.

Milestone

This example indicates a distance of 2 miles to London Bridge, which would have been the entry point to the City of London.

Milestone

The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows the Mayflower milestone marked as M.S. to the front of the pub (P.H.) in the following map extract, and includes the distance to London Bridge.

Milestone

For centuries, London Bridge was the main crossing point from south of the River Thames into the City of London, and then to the northern routes which stretched out from the City, There is another fine example of a distance marker in Rochester, Kent where, on the front of this 1928 building above the word Furniture:

Milestone

Is this example, indicating a distance of 29 miles from London Bridge.

Milestone

Although the building dates from 1928, it replaced an earlier milestone or wall sign, as the OS map revision of 1896 shows a marker and distance of 29 miles at the same spot as the above building. This is circled red in the extract below (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Milestone

Milestones marked the long distance routes from London. Camberley in Surrey is on the road that now has the designation of the A30. This was originally the main London to Exeter road.

The following photo shows the A30 at the eastern boundary of Camberley. Traffic lights, road signs, a car dealers – all the signs of 21st century travel, but look to the lower left of the photo and an old stone can be seen.

Milestone

Indicating 29 miles to London. If you were a coach traveler from Exeter, bumping along poorly maintained roads for many hours, you would be counting down these milestones till you reached your destination.

Milestone

As well as London, the milestone indicates the next village, town, turnpike boundary etc. that would be found on the route. These are shown on the side of the milestone facing traffic heading in the destination of the name. So, for example, Bagshot is on the opposite side of the milestone to the town of Bagshot as if you were travelling to Bagshot you would see the name and distance as you were heading to the town.

Coach travelers passing the above milestone would have to tolerate a very tough journey. In 1790, the typical times for a journey from London to Exeter would be:

  • Leave London at 8pm
  • Arrive Bagshot at 11:55 pm
  • Arrive Salisbury at 7:15 am
  • Thirty minute stop in Salisbury for breakfast
  • Arrive Blandford at 10:45 am
  • Arrive Dorchester at 12:55 pm
  • Thirty minute stop in Dorchester for dinner
  • Arrive in Honiton at 6:40 pm
  • Arrive in Exeter at 8:50 pm

So if you were traveling the full journey from London to Exeter, you would have been on the coach for 24 hours, 50 minutes, covering a distance of 179 miles. We can now fly from London to Australia in the same time.

In the days before any form of electronic communication, these long distance routes supported mail coaches, and individual riders who were carrying important news and information to and from London.

A good example of this is commemorated by a plaque to be seen in Salisbury which commemorates the route taken by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere in October 1805 when he brought the news of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the death of Nelson from Falmouth in Cornwall to London. A journey that took 37 hours to cover the 271 miles with 21 changes of horse.

Milestone

Although Camberley is not mentioned on the map, Hartford Bridge and Bagshot are listed. These are the two locations shown on the Camberley milestone, so Lieutenant Lapenotiere would have passed along the same road carrying the news to London.

Signs indicating distance took many forms. In Wroxton, Oxfordshire, there is an unusual example:

Milestone

This Guide Post dates from 1686 and is a marker on one of the routes from Wales and the west to London. Allegedly used by salt merchants, the route follows the A422 down to Wroxton where it breaks from the road and heads to the south of Banbury.

The top of the guide post was originally a sundial and around the middle of the post are carved hands pointing to the towns along the adjacent roads.

The guide post was restored in 1974 and still looks in good condition with the directions and carved hands clearly visible.

This would have been the route to travel between London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Milestone

As well as milestones and guide posts, the first printed route maps were of the strip map form showing the full route of a road from source to destination. John Ogilby was one of the first to produce this type of map in the 17th century and the following is one of his maps showing the route from Chester to Holyhead, one map of a sequence showing the complete route from London to Holyhead (Attribution: John Ogilby (1600–1676), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Ogiby map includes the incremental distance in miles marked along the road, and milestones would have provided physical verification as the traveler passed along the road.

Many routes out of London still have lots of milestones tracking the distance from London.

This is the village of Ingatestone in Essex.

Milestone

Ingatestone was on the original London to Colchester road, and has now been bypassed by the dual carriageway of the A12. In the centre of the village is a Grade II listed milestone from when the road was a turnpike and carried traffic from London to north Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.

Milestone

23 miles to London, 6 miles to Chelmsford and 5 miles in the direction of London to Brentwood.

Milestone

The passing coach trade was often a reason for the expansion of villages on major roads, as they needed Inns and horse changes to serve the coaches.

Today, if a house for sale is close to a train station with a good service to London, it will increase the value of the property, and estate agents will emphasise the fact in their advertising. This was exactly the same in 1822, when the following advert appeared in the Morning Post:

“Stock Lodge, near Ingatestone, Essex – To be Let, handsomely Furnished or Unfurnished, for a term of five or seven years. The above healthy and cheerful Villa Residence, erected within these five years, for the reception of a Family of respectability, in the pleasant village of Stock, 26 miles from London, six miles from Chelmsford, three miles from Ingatestone where numerous coaches pass daily”.

Although this was almost 200 years ago, proximity to a good transport network, with numerous coaches passing daily was just as important as it is today.

Coaches would depart London for Essex from multiple Inns. In 1804, the Spread Eagle Inn, Gracechurch Street, was advertising:

  • Chelmsford, Ingatestone and Brentwood Coach, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoon, two o’clock
  • Chelmsford, Ingatestone and Brentwood Post Coach every morning, half past seven o’clock

Today, the train has replaced the coach to carry commuters between Ingatestone and Liverpool Street station, and the eastern end of Crossrail terminates at Shenfield, one stop towards London from Ingatestone further improving connectivity for this part of Essex with London.

This stretch of the London to Colchester road still has many milestones in place. These were frequently installed at each mile point, and were often a mandatory requirement when the road was administered by a turnpike. A turnpike trust was responsible for the maintenance of a major road, and for collecting fees from those travelling along the road to fund the upkeep.

Heading out of Ingatestone towards Chelmsford is a milestone that has the original stone marker to the rear, with a later metal marker in front. We are now 24 miles from London.

Milestone

Then 25 miles from London.

Milestone

Heading from Ingatestone towards London and 21 miles:

Milestone

The coach route through Ingatestone went to Colchester, a town from where you could transfer to other coaches heading across north Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Many milestones extended their London connection on past Colchester. This was often the case where the end point was of some importance, and there would be frequent direct travel to London.

An example can be seen with the following milestone in the village of Bradfield in north Essex on the road to the sea port of Harwich.

Milestone

Harwich has long been an important port, serving northern Europe and also serving as a Royal Naval dockyard for periods, dependent on who the country was at war with at the time. A good coach service between Harwich and London would have been essential, and the milestones along the route between Colchester and Harwich provide a reminder.

The perils of travelling along these roads is clear from an inquest held in the Spread Eagle Inn in Ingatestone in 1828:

“Friday an Inquest was held at the Spread Eagle Inn, Ingatestone, on the body of a Yarmouth pilot, named Simkin, who was killed by the Telegraph coach, about nine o’clock on Wednesday night. The deceased was returning from London as an outside passenger on the above coach, and when at Ingatestone, the coachman, perceiving he was very much intoxicated, prevailed upon him to get inside; but this, it appears, was rather against the will of the deceased, who frequently expressed a wish to be ‘aloft’, and opening the door whilst the coach was proceeding at a brisk rate, he fell out, and the hind wheel passed over his thigh and across his body. He expired in a short time”.

There are still plenty of these milestones to be found across the country, however so many have been lost over the years. Road widening, vandalism, hit by passing vehicles, general lack of care, have gradually reduced their number.

They serve no purpose today. Travel these roads and a SatNav is probably guiding you to your destination, and telling you exactly how many miles you have to go, however they are an important link to when road travel was far more difficult than it is today, and coaches provided an important link between London and the rest of the country.

What has not changed is the importance of good travel connections, and looking at estate agent adverts for houses around Ingatestone and Stock today, they still list the benefit of frequent connections to London, but this time by train rather than by coach.

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Pickfords Wharf and the original Seven Dials Pillar

Pickfords Wharf and the original Seven Dials Pillar. A strange title for this week’s post about two subjects. The only relationship they have is one with London. The original Seven Dials pillar is a follow-up to my post on Seven Dials a couple of week’s ago, and Pickfords Wharf is the subject of the following photo that I took from London Bridge in 1979.

Pickfords Wharf

The same view of Pickfords Wharf from London Bridge, forty one years later, in 2020:

Pickfords Wharf

Much of the south bank of the river between London Bridge and Southwark Bridge is unrecognisable compared to the late 1970s. Some of the outer walls of some buildings have survived, but as can be seen with Pickfords Wharf, where they have, they have been subject to very substantial rebuild.

In my 1979 photo, there are two named buildings on the site. Pickfords Wharf and Cole & Carey.

Pickfords Wharf was originally Phoenix Wharf and comprised four warehouses that had been built and modified at different times over the life of the complex. The original riverside warehouse was built in 1864, however, as can be seen in the 1978 photo, the front of the building does have very different architectural styles, with the section to the right almost looking like an early example of facadism, where the ornate columns and facade have been retained on a modified building behind.

Some of the warehouses of Pickfords Wharf were on the other side of Clink Street to the rear of the building seen in the photo, and included parts of the walls of the original Winchester Palace.

Originally built by wharfingers (an owner or operator of a wharf) Fitch & Cozens, with the wharf being named Phoenix Wharf. The Pickfords name came in 1897 when Pickfords & Co purchased the site and renamed the wharf.

Although the wharf still carries the Pickfords name today, the company only owned the building for twenty four years as Hay’s Wharf Ltd. took over the site in 1921.

Pickfords Wharf was used for the storage of a wide variety of different products over the years. The 1954 edition of the Commercial Motor publication “London Wharves and Docks” has the following details for Pickfords Wharf:

  • Cargo dealt with: General canned goods, sugar
  • Cargo specially catered for: General
  • Maximum cranage: 60 cwt
  • Storage space: 400,000 cubic feet
  • Customs facilities: Sufferance and Warehousing privileges
  • Parking facilities: Yes
  • Nature of berth: Quay
  • Maximum length of ship accommodated: 150 feet
  • Depth at High Water: 17 feet

The building to the left of Pickfords Wharf with the Cole & Carey sign was St. Mary Overy’s Wharf. Originally built in 1882 for a George Doo, for use as a granary.

He would only use the building for eight years as in 1890, Cole & Carey, listed as general wharfingers would take over the building. It was purchased by the company behind Hay’s Wharf in 1948 to add to their adjacent Pickfords Wharf building.

Cole & Carey were still operating at the wharf when the 1954 edition of the Commercial Motor guide was published and the details for the wharf are recorded as:

  • Cargo dealt with: General canned goods, dried fruit
  • Cargo specially catered for: Canned goods
  • Maximum cranage: 25 cwt
  • Storage space: 380,000 cubic feet
  • Customs facilities: Sufferance and Warehousing privileges
  • Parking facilities: Yes
  • Nature of berth: Quay
  • Maximum length of ship accommodated: 60 feet
  • Depth at High Water: 17 feet

Cole & Carey had the benefit that their warehouse was alongside the river and also had a small inlet, St Mary Overy’s Dock alongside.

Both warehouses ceased to be used from the late 1960s, and they were left to slowly decay. There was a fire at the Cole & Carey building in 1979, not long before I took the photo, and the exposed metal frames of the roof, a result of the fire, can be seen.

The Cole & Carey building (St Mary Overy’s Wharf), and the core of Pickfords Wharf were demolished towards the end of 1983. Pickfords Wharf was substantially rebuilt to leave the building we see today, St Mary Overy’s Wharf was not rebuilt.

A wider view of the south bank of the river, east of Southwark Bridge, with Pickfords Wharf in the centre:

Pickfords Wharf

One of the 1950s editions of the Ordnance Survey map shows Pickfords Wharf with St Mary Overy’s Wharf alongside, with St Mary Overy’s Dock. Note the walkways constructed over Clink Street to the warehouses on the southern side of Clink Street which were part of the same warehouse complex (maps ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Pickfords Wharf

The 1894 edition of the Ordnance Survey Map shows the building with its original name of Phoenix Wharf. St Mary Overy’s Wharf is labelled as a Warehouse and is alongside, but is yet to be extended out, and to be integrated with the jetty running along the river facing side of both buildings.

Pickfords Wharf

In 1894, the inlet alongside the warehouse appears to have been named St Saviour’s Dock. I need to research further, however perhaps the name was changed to avoid confusion with the St Saviour’s Dock to the east of Tower Bridge in Bermondsey.

The inlet that was St Mary Overy’s Dock is still there, but is now semi-closed off from the river and the space is used as a dock for the Golden Hinde, the early 1970s replica of the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the world between 1577 and 1580.

The masts of the ship can just be seen in the following photo:

Pickfords Wharf

The replica Golden Hinde had a remarkable couple of decades sailing, including a circumnavigation of the world and a number of crossings of the Atlantic.

The following photo is of the bow of the Golden Hind, the eastern side of Pickfords Wharf, and some of the new buildings, built to resemble warehouses.

Pickfords Wharf

This is a fascinating area that needs a more detailed post. Winchester Palace could be found here, and the short distance between London and Southwark Bridges form a key part of Southwark’s history.

That will be for a future post, as for today’s post I also wanted to follow-up on my post of a couple of week’s ago on Seven Dials, as I went to find the:

Original Seven Dials Pillar

A couple of week’s ago I wrote about Seven Dials, and the pillar that now stands at the junction of the seven streets. The current pillar is a recent replica, as the original had been removed around 1773 as it had become the focal point for so called undesirables and the Paving Commissioners ordered the removal of the pillar to prevent this nuisance.

The remains of the demolished pillar were stored at the home of the architect James Paine, at Sayes Court, Addlestone.

In 1822, the demolished pillar was re-erected at Weybridge, Surrey, and last week I was in the area so a short diversion took me to the place where the original, 1694, Seven Dials pillar can still be seen today:

Pickfords Wharf

The pillar stands appropriately on Monument Green, alongside the street that leads to Thames Street, which leads down to as you have probably guessed, the River Thames.

Pickfords Wharf

An information panel provides some history of the original location of the pillar (note the map of Seven Dials), and the reason for its relocation to a green in Weybridge, which was to commemorate local resident “Her Royal Highness The Most Excellent and Illustrious Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina Duchess of York” who lived in the parish for upwards of thirty years, and died on the 6th of August 1820.

Pickfords Wharf

Panels added to the base of the pillar also explain why the pillar was erected in Weybridge:

Pickfords Wharf

The Duchess of York came to be living in Weybridge as her marriage to Prince Frederick, Duke of York was not a long term success and there were no children which as is often the case with royal marriages, having children appears to have been the main reason for the marriage. They separated towards the end of the 1790s, and the Duchess moved to Oatlands in Weybridge, a house owned by the Duke of York.

Pickfords Wharf

Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Duchess of York and Albany  by A. Gabrielli, after Edward Francis Cunningham (Calze) stipple engraving, published 1792 NPG D8581 © National Portrait Gallery, London

One of the panels at the base of the pillar implies that she must have been charitable to the poor of the parish as “Ye poor suppress the mournful sigh, her spirit is with Christ on high”.

Pickfords Wharf

When plans were being developed for the renovation of Seven Dials in the 1980s, which included the return of a pillar at the junction of the seven streets, attempts were made to move the original pillar back from Weybridge, however the local council were against the move and refused to allow the pillar to leave.

Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina Duchess Of York, a Prussian Princess who married a British Prince, is buried in St James Church, Weybridge, and still commemorated 200 years after her death by a pillar that was originally erected in the late 17th century development of Seven Dials by Thomas Neale.

Pickfords Wharf and the original Seven Dials pillar – two very different subjects for today’s post, but share some similarities in that they have both survived an amount of demolition, and they are now serving very different purposes to those which were intended at the time of their creation.

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Tintern Abbey – Summer 1947 and 2019

As long-term readers of the blog will know, as well as photographing London, my father also took many photos across the country, on National Service and whilst cycling the country and staying at Youth Hostels. For this week’s post, I am visiting a site photographed in 1947. Tintern Abbey in South Wales. I returned in August of this year on a hot sunny day, when a clear blue sky emphasised the beauty of this part of the country, that runs along the valley of the River Wye.

It seemed the right time for the post, on the weekend with the shortest day of the year and the winter solstice, to remember and look forward again to long, sunny summer days.

This was the 1947 view, approaching Tintern Abbey on the road from Chepstow:

Tintern Abbey

A closer view of the abbey:

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey is alongside the River Wye which forms the border between England and Wales, so the abbey sits just inside the Welsh border. The River Wye runs through a valley carved through the hills that run along both sides of the river. The majority of the hills are covered in trees, indeed there seems to be more tree cover in 2019 than there was in 1947.

The following map shows the location of Tintern Abbey (circled). The River Severn is the large area of water to the right. the new Severn Crossing is at the bottom of the map and the River Wye curves and loops up from the Severn to create the most wonderful landscape, and to pass alongside Tintern Abbey  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Tintern Abbey

Within the grounds of the abbey. The surrounding hills provide a tree covered background to the ruins.

Tintern Abbey

The origins of Tintern Abbey date back to 1131 when Walter Fitz Richard of Clare, the Anglo-Norman Lord of Chepstow founded the abbey for Cistercian monks who established a basic abbey consisting of timber buildings, alongside the River Wye. Stone buildings soon followed, but it would not be until 1269 when construction would start on the abbey we see today.

The borders between England and Wales were a frequently contested area and Marcher Lords, appointed by the Crown, held land in both Wales and England on either side of the border. It was the patronage of one of the Marcher Lords, Earl Roger Bigod, Lord of Chepstow, who contributed significantly to the funding of the abbey built from 1269. The Bigod family were also responsible for much of the construction of nearby Chepstow Castle.

Work continued through to the early years of the 14th century, when the stunning Gothic church was completed, surrounded by the building and infrastructure of an important Cistercian Abbey of the 14th century.

The abbey would last for a further 200 years, until King Henry VIII’s Reformation when Tintern Abbey was taken by the Crown in 1536.

There then followed centuries of decay. The lead roof was melted down, the arches supporting the roof of the magnificent nave would collapse, the surrounding buildings would be demolished, mainly down to foundation level and much of the stone of the abbey would be robbed and reused for other construction in the area.

The following photo shows the view in 1947, looking along the south transept. The group of men in Army uniform in the foreground were probably with my father, as from other photos he was also in uniform, as part of his National Service was in nearby Chepstow.

Tintern Abbey

After centuries of neglect, Tintern Abbey was rediscovered in the 18th century. The ruins were covered in ivy, small trees and plant growth. The remains of parts of the roof and stone work from the walls covered the abbey grounds.

This “Romantic” view of the British countryside, and antiquities from the past, were the fashion of the time, and became the focus of early forms of tourism.

The romantic view of Tintern Abbey was fed by authors such as Reverend William Gilpin, the poet William Wordsworth, and by the artist JMW Turner, who in 1794 completed the following painting of the east window of Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey

The Chancel and Crossing of Tintern Abbey, Looking towards the East Window 1794 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D00374 Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

By 1947, tree and plant growth had been removed, rubble and stone covering the floor of the abbey had been cleared, but the east window still looked exactly the same as when Turner visited the site at the end of the 18th century.

Tintern Abbey

And the east window in the summer of 2019:

Tintern Abbey

The central church of Tintern Abbey looks glorious on a sunny summer’s day. Although the roof has been lost, there is enough of the medieval architecture and craftsmanship remaining to understand what a significant building this must have been.

What is not obvious today, is that many of the standing piers of the abbey ruins have a steel core. After the abbey was handed to the Crown, many of the walls were found to be in such a state that temporary piers were built below the arches. This allowed the original piers to be dismantled, with steel stanchions then being installed, with the original facing stones then being replaced around the new steel core.

The following photo looks along the nave towards the west window.

Tintern Abbey

Although the nave is clear today, when Tintern Abbey was in use, the nave would have been split into separate areas with partition walls, and passages running along the length of the side walls.

The view looking towards the south transept.

Tintern Abbey

Substantial columns, arches and walls, again demonstrate the scale of the original church.

Tintern Abbey

The eastern view of the central church, with the east window:

Tintern Abbey

The view from the north is shown in the following photograph. To the north of the central church, there are the foundations and many of the remaining walls of the buildings that once supported the many functions associated with the abbey – living spaces, store rooms, kitchens etc.

Tintern Abbey

The location contributes so much to the history of Tintern Abbey. The following photo, taken slightly further north, shows the River Wye, the surrounding hills and to the right, the tops of the walls of Tintern Abbey can be seen.

Tintern Abbey

This helps understand why Tintern Abbey was built in such a location.

It was probably a suitable area of flat ground, but being next to the River Wye provided easy access to the River Severn, and therefore out to sea. The River Wye also provides access inland with the town of Monmouth being further north along the river. Transport along the river would have been so much easier than along medieval roads, and probably much safer. The river also must have provided a supply of fish to supplement the monk’s diet. The surrounding hills provided a large supply of timber and wood for burning.

As well as the painting by Turner, Tintern Abbey was the subject of a large number of paintings and drawings that focused on the Gothic / Romantic nature of the ruins.

Tintern Abbey

A south view of Tintern Abbey after S.C. Jones and dated to 1825:

Tintern Abbey

An 1805 hand coloured print of Tintern Abbey:

Tintern Abbey

From the late 18th century onward, Tintern Abbey has attracted significant numbers of visitors. Although the abbey today is not the overgrown, romantic vision which attracted early tourists to the site, it is still remarkably impressive, not just the abbey ruins, but the location which seems to complement the abbey perfectly. The 12th century monks could not have picked a better location.

Tintern Abbey was sold to the Crown in 1901 and is now the responsibility of Cadw, (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service).

Although much of the surroundings of the abbey, not occupied by the church, walls and foundations, are grass lawns, there is a large oak tree that dates from 1911, and the plaque demonstrates that the abbey grounds were seen as the appropriate place to commemorate national events.

Tintern Abbey

The abbey is named after the village of Tintern, which is strung out along the road that passes the abbey, and in the surrounding hills. Evidence of occupation in the Bronze Age can be found in the surrounding hills. In the 6th century, the West Saxons had started to expand into South Wales and in 765 a small church is recorded at Tintern Parva (little Tintern, at the northern end of the village).

According to the Penguin Dictionary of British Place Names, the name is of Celtic origin. The Welsh form of the name is Tyndyrn and means “king’s fortress”.

According to legend, Tewdric, the King of Gwent won a battle against the Saxons near Tintern. In 1849 a sculpture of the event was exhibited in the Sculpture Room of the Royal Academy. The work by J.E. Thomas shows the wounded King Tewdric urging on the pursuit of the fleeing Saxons, attended by his only daughter, Marchell and an aged Welsh bard.

Works such as this, as well as the many prints and paintings of the abbey added to the historical and romantic interest in visiting the area.

From the mid 16th century, a number of iron works were established in the surrounding hills and brass was produced for cannons. Iron works and wire production continued to the late 19th century.

Construction of the Chepstow to Monmouth road in 1829 improved access to the abbey and village, which was further enhanced in 1876 with the opening of the Wye Valley Railway. This must have been one of the most picturesque railways in the country, however it seems to have permanently run at a loss and passenger services closed in 1959, with the line continue to carry limited volumes of production from quarries close to the route, however this trade also finished in 1990 when the railway closed.

To the west of the abbey is a large, relatively flat field:

Tintern Abbey

Goal posts on the field give a clue that this is a community resource. The field also backs onto a pub and cafes between the field and Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey

My father also took a number of photos in this field during his visit to Tintern Abbey in 1947:

Tintern Abbey

I have no idea what was happening, whether this was some village event, or perhaps part of the facilities put on for tourists visiting the abbey on a sunny, summer’s day – I suspect the later.

Tintern Abbey

Today, the road leading to the abbey, to the side of the field, is lined with a couple of cafes, gift shop, pub and car parks. The location is popular not just for the abbey, but for walking along the River Wye and the surrounding hills. In 2019 though, there were no horse rides available.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Whether for the history, architecture, the River Wye or the surrounding landscape, Tintern Abbey is a fascinating place to visit. And revisiting on the weekend of the shortest day of the year, after weeks of rain and overcast skies, it is a reminder for me that the days will now get longer and the sun will start to rise higher in the sky.

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London Stone Upnor, Rochester Castle and Cathedral and Cooling Church

A couple of week’s ago, I wrote about the Crow and London Stones that marked the boundary on the Essex and Kent coasts of the City of London’s jurisdiction over the River Thames.

The City of London also claimed part of the River Medway. This ran from the southern end of Yantlet Creek to a point at Lower Upnor just to the east of Rochester. Lower Upnor also has stones marking the City’s claim, so I went to find these stones, and also took the opportunity to visit a number of other sites in north Kent, and understand how London has influenced the development of this part of Kent.

The following map shows the City’s boundaries on the River Thames and River Medway, and the other places I will visit in this post (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors)..

Rochester Castle

The upper red line shows the City of London’s boundary between the Crow Stone at Southend and the London Stone at Yantlet Creek at the Isle of Grain.

Yantlet Creek did provide a navigable route between the Thames and Medway, and it is this short cut that seems to have formed the basis for the City’s claim over part of the Medway.

The eastern boundary on the Medway was from the southern end of Yantlet Creek to the opposite shore, as shown by the lower red line.

The western boundary on the Medway was at Lower Upnor, a short distance before Rochester, see the short red line on the map. This was where the City of London’s claim over the Medway met the Liberty of Rochester.

The lower black circle on the map highlights the location of Rochester which I will visit in this post, and the upper black circle covers the church of St James at Cooling which I will also visit.

Lower Upnor London Stone

My first stop was at Lower Upnor to find the City of London’s boundary stones:

Rochester Castle

There are two stones marking the City of London’s western boundary at Lower Upnor, on the roadway alongside the River Medway. The smaller stone to the right in the above photo is a footpath marker.

The stone at the rear is the older of the boundary markers and is believed to date from the 18th century.

The year 1204 is carved at the top of the stone. The refers to the original charter which granted rights over the River Thames, given by King John to the City of London, although the charter was dated a couple of years before 1204.

Rochester Castle

The City of London’s crest is also on the front of the stone, and on the rear is the legend “God Preserve the City of London”.

Rochester Castle

This section of the Medway has a rather strange history, and at times it was a very contentious issue that the City of London regarded the stretch from Yantlet Creek to Lower Upnor as within their jurisdiction.

As one point, a local landowner’s name was carved into the boundary marker stone to replace the City’s claims. This was discovered on one of the routine visits of the Lord Mayor to the stone, to re-assert the City’s claims.

The following print is dated 1830 and is titled “View of Upnor Castle near Chatham, Kent, with boats on the River Thames and figures on the river bank in the foreground“.  Upnor Castle is further to the west of the boundary stone, close to Rochester, yet the print references this being on the River Thames.

Rochester Castle

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: k124617x

Although in Southend, the older stone was removed when a replacement was installed, at Lower Upnor, the new 1836 pillar was installed adjacent to the 18th century pillar which was left in place.

Rochester Castle

The visits of the Lord Mayor of the City of London to the Lower Upnor stones seem to be even more theatrical than their visits to the stones at Southend and Yantlet. Possibly this was down to the dubious claim of the City of London over the waters of the Medway, and therefore the need to make this claim very visible and impressive to the citizens of Rochester.

The following text is part of a report from the Illustrated London News on the 21st July, 1849 detailing the visit of the Lord Mayor and representatives of the City to Rochester and Lower Upnor. The report lists the number and roles of City representatives who attended the ceremony at the boundary stone and illustrates the impression the event must have given to the people of Rochester.

The City representatives had already been to Southend, and on the ship across from Southend to Rochester (during which there had been dancing), we now join them in Rochester:

“Shortly after ten o’clock, the Mayor and Corporation of Rochester proceeded to the Crown Hotel; and the Recorder having briefly stated the object of their visit, introduced severally to the Lord Mayor, the members of the Corporation. His Lordship expressed the gratification he felt at receiving the Mayor and Corporation of Rochester; and, after a brief address, invited them to dine with him that evening, and then introduced the members of the Corporation of London.

At the conclusion of the visit, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, accompanied by their guests, proceeded on board the steamer down the Medway, and shortly after anchored opposite Cockham Wood, near Upnor Castle, where the City boundary-stone is erected. The Lord Mayor and Aldermen landed, attended by the civic officers, and a procession was formed in the following order:-

  • Police Officers
  • Six Watermen in state liveries, with colours
  • The Band
  • The Lord Mayor’s Bargemaster in state livery, bearing the City Colours
  • City Marshal in uniform
  • The Engineer of the Thames Navigation and Port of London Committee
  • The Water-Bailiff
  • The Sword-bearer
  • The Right Hon, the Lord Mayor
  • The Aldermen (seniors first)
  • The Sheriffs
  • City Officers
  • Six Watermen in state liveries, with colours
  • Police Offices

Having made the circuit of the stone three times, his Lordship directed the City colours and the state sword to be placed thereon, asserting his right to the jurisdiction, as Conservator of the River Thames and waters of the Medway, by charter, prescription, and usage confirmed to, and enjoyed by, the City of London from time immemorial; and directed the Water-Bailiff, as his sub-conservator, to have the date of his Lordship’s visit duly inscribed on the stone. His Lordship then gave as a toast, the ancient inscription on the boundary-stone, ‘God preserve the City of London’. The band played the National Anthem, amidst the shouts of a large number of spectators who had assembled to witness the ceremony, and who were delighted by a distribution of wine, and some coin being scattered amongst them. 

The colours were placed upon the stone by Mr J. Bishop of St. Benet’s Hill, Doctors’ Commons.

The civic party returned to the steam-vessel, which then continued its progress down the Medway. On arriving off Sheerness, the company went on board Her Majesty’s ship Ocean, the guard-ship. where they were received with great courtesy; the Lord Mayor’s band, which accompanied them on board, playing the National Anthem and Rule Britannia. The Lord Mayor having also visited the Wellington, by steamer returned up the Medway, and reached Rochester in time for his Lordship to receive his guests at the Crown Hotel, facing the bridge.”

No idea how much these visits must have cost, however the expenditure in re-asserting the City’s rights must have been considerable.

The following print shows the City of London’s party at the Lower Upnor boundary stone. Upnor Castle is in the near distance. The steam-ship Meteor is lying offshore.

Rochester Castle

This print is titled “The distribution of money”, part of the ceremony at the boundary stone as money was distributed to the local citizens, although it seems to be basically throwing coins into a fighting scrum of people.

Rochester Castle

The visit in 1949 was by Sir James Duke, the Lord Mayor of the City of London between 1848 and 1849. In the report above, the water-bailiff is instructed to have the date of the Mayor’s visit carved on the stone, and we can still see this today towards the base of the pillar.

Rochester Castle

The following photo shows the view eastwards from the pillar along the River Medway in the direction of Yantlet Creek. It was these waters over which the City of London claimed jurisdiction.

Rochester Castle

These stones, along with the stones at Southend and Yantlet Creek mark the eastern boundaries of the City of London’s claimed jurisdiction.

Whilst I can understand the City’s claim along the River Thames, standing at Lower Upnor and looking out over the River Medway, the City’s claim over this river does seem rather stretched and I am not surprised that the regular visits to reinforce the claim were as theatrical as the 1849 description.

I suspect that whilst the civic authorities in Rochester participated, they were not particularly happy with the City of London approaching almost up to their town.

To follow in the Lord Mayor of London’s footsteps, it was to Rochester that I headed next.

Rochester Castle and Cathedral

Rochester is a lovely town, and one that I have not visited enough. An impressive Norman Castle and a beautiful Cathedral, along with a High Street of historic buildings make this a place worth spending more than a few hours exploring.

At the north western tip of the town is Rochester Castle, despite being almost 1,000 years old, it is still a domineering structure, built to overlook the River Medway and river crossing. This is the view of the castle from in front of the Cathedral.

Rochester Castle

As well as wanting to explore the town, I had a specific reason to visit Rochester as my father had taken a photo of the castle in 1952 from across the river. I could not get to the same place as there was construction work along the road from where the following photo was taken, however it does show how the castle appeared to anyone travelling along the river, and the nearby river crossing.

Rochester Castle

The original castle was constructed during the 1080s by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, and consisted of an earth mound and timber ring work fortification. The Great Keep dates from the 12th century when Henry I granted the castle to the Archbishop of Canterbury, on condition that the Archbishop constructed a stone castle.

Bishop Gundulf has a London connection as he was appointed by King William I to oversee the construction of the White Tower at the Tower of London.

Rochester dates from Roman times when it was the town of Durobrivae, built on an important crossing over the River Medway for a road from London to east Kent. The Norman fort was constructed for the same reasons as the Roman town, in that it protected the route from London to Dover, the channel ports and therefore to the Continent.

The Great Keep is today still a remarkable structure and apparently is the tallest such building in Europe.

Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle was involved in a couple of sieges during the 13th century. Firstly when the castle was occupied by William de Aubigny and Robert Fitzwalter, as part of the Baron’s revolt against King John. The castle was put under siege by King John who ordered that tunnels were dug under the castle walls and keep. Fires were then set to burn the timber props within the tunnels leading to the destruction of part of the castle walls and a corner of the keep.

The second siege was when the castle was held by Royalist forces in support of King Henry III , who were defending the castle during the second Barons Revolt when Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester attempted to take the castle.

The defenders held out to the point where Simon de Montfort had to withdraw.

From the mid 16th century, the castle started to fall into decline, as a defensive position adjacent to the Medway river crossing was by now redundant. Stone was robbed from the castle to build nearby Upnor Castle (which was needed to defend Royal Navy moorings on the River Medway from attack by French ships). A later fire and general deterioration furthered the decay of the castle, until it was purchased in 1884 by the Corporation of Rochester and it was opened to the public.

The interior of the keep is today open to the elements and consists of the surrounding walls and a central wall that divided the keep into two sections.

Rochester Castle

Although only the walls remain, it is very clear from the architecture, carvings, holes cut into the walls to support floors etc. that this must have been an incredibly impressive structure.

Rochester Castle

Walkway along the top of the castle:

Rochester Castle

Which provides some brilliant views over the surrounding countryside.

In the photo below is the key river crossing over the River Medway. A crossing here dates from Roman times when the road from London onward to Canterbury and the channel ports crossed the river at this point. The importance of the crossing is the reason for Rochester’s location and the justification for the castle, built to defend the crossing.

Rochester Castle

The castle provides some magnificent views of Rochester Cathedral, which was my next stop in my exploration of Rochester:

Rochester Castle

On walking into the Cathedral I was greeted with a rather surprising sight. The nave had been taken over by a mini golf installation, arranged for charity, and there were families with children playing golf in a most unusual setting. The following photo is the view along the nave, above the heads of the golf players.

Rochester Castle

The earliest church in Rochester dates from 604, when King Ethelbert donated land for a church.

Building of the Cathedral we see today was commenced in 1083 by the same Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester who was responsible for the construction of the first castle.

The nave was the first part of the Cathedral to be completed, with consecration of the cathedral in 1130 in front of King Henry I.

The cathedral was badly damaged during the sieges of the castle in the 13th century, and there was further restoration work and building during the following centuries. The cathedral was damaged again during the Civil War by Parliamentarian soldiers.

George Gilbert Scott carried out major restoration work during the late 19th century and the present tower and spire were dedicated in 1904.

Rochester Castle

Rochester Cathedral has a remarkable wall painting, only part of which survives. This is the Wheel of Fortune dating from the 1200s.

Rochester Castle

The missing part of the painting was destroyed during the Civil War. It was then covered by a Pulpit and only discovered again during 19th century restoration work.

The Wheel of Fortune was a common medieval representation of how a rise in status in society could just as swiftly be followed by a fall. The women in the middle, controlling the wheel is Fortuna. The three men holding on to the wheel represent those at different levels of success within life. The man at the top of the wheel is wealthy and powerful.

The two men on the left are working their way up in life, starting from the lowest level of society at the bottom of the wheel.

The man at the top of the wheel is sitting down, an indication that he has reached the peak of society, however he is looking to the right, possibly where a warning to the powerful would be seen. Based on similar representations, on the right of the painting there would have been a man falling to the bottom of the wheel – a warning that no matter how rich and powerful you become, the risk of a fall to the lowest levels of society are always lurking in the background.

A powerful Medieval representation, but one that is also very relevant today.

There are numerous interesting memorials across the cathedral. This one was unusual with a hand originally pointing to the seal of office of Frederick Hill, who was responsible for “Providing for His Majesty’s Sick and Wounded Seamen at this Port. So Fair, So Just, Such His Love and Care for them”. A reminder of Rochester and nearby Chatham, along with the River Medway’s part in supporting the Royal Navy over the centuries.

Rochester Castle

Part of the Crypt:

Rochester Castle

This remarkable door is the entrance to the Cathedral Library.

Rochester Castle

When Henry VIII dissolved the priory attached to the cathedral, the books in the library were taken into the King’s own collection, and then into the Royal Collection and the British Library, however a number of the books have since returned to the library at Rochester.

The detail of each carved figure is fascinating, and show the level of craftsmanship that went into the Cathedral in the 14th century.

Rochester Castle

Gardens to the south of the cathedral mark the original location of the priory attached to the cathedral, and the chapter house.

Rochester Castle

Original 12th and early 13th century walls surround the gardens.

Rochester Castle

This archway originally led to the 12th century Chapter House. After the dissolution, the chapter house had briefly become part of a Royal Palace for King Henry VIII, however the roof was later removed and it fell into decay.

Rochester Castle

Although worn by centuries of weathering, it is still evident how ornate and carefully carved these walls, arches and doorways were from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Rochester High Street

Rochester High Street retains the look and feel of an important, provincial town. A straight, relatively narrow road runs along the centre of the High Street, leading originally from the crossing over the River Medway (there is now a wider road bypassing the centre of the town).

The High Street is lined by a variety of architectural styles from the last few centuries and the buildings support a variety of shops and businesses, fortunately, many still local.

Rochester Castle

In the above photo, on the left, is the type of shop that always damages my credit card. Baggins Book Bazaar is one of the most remarkable second-hand bookshops I have been in for a long time. A standard shop front, but once inside, the bookshop extends a long way back and offers multiple levels stacked high with books – I came out with several.

The building in the following photo was erected in 1706 “at the sole charge and expense of Sir Cloudsley Shovel” who represented Rochester as MP during three Parliaments in the reign of King William III and one Parliament during the reign of Queen Anne.

Rochester Castle

The following rather plain looking building has an interesting history.

Rochester Castle

The building has the name Abdication House and the plaque on the front provides the background as “King James II of England stayed at the house as a guest of Sir Richard Head before embarking for France on the 23rd December 1688 when he finally left England”.

The following building is the site of the French Hospital Almshouses.

Rochester Castle

The Almshouses were founded in 1718 for “poor French protestants and their descendants residing in Great Britain”.

This was a quick run through Rochester High Street – there are many more buildings that tell the history of the area and the importance of Rochester as a town. The above examples – King James II before leaving for France, and the almshouses for protestant refugees arriving from France highlight Rochester’s’ role as a gateway town, where people would leave and enter the country, with one of the main roads to London running through the town providing easy access to the capital, alongside the River Medway.

There was one final place that I wanted to visit whilst in this part of Kent.

St James Church, Cooling

North of Rochester on the Hoo Peninsula is the village of Cooling and it was St. James Church that was my intended destination.

Rochester Castle

Cooling church was the inspiration for the setting of the encounter between Pip and Magwitch in the opening of Charles Dickens book Great Expectations. In the book Dickens describes the area:

“Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.”

The river is still visible from the churchyard, flat fields and marshes provide an unobstructed view, although the traffic and business on the river is now very different to anything that Dickens could have seen, or expected.

Rochester Castle

The large container ships docked at the new London Gateway port are clearly visible to the north. A very different form of transport to Dickens’ time, but the river is still a major artery for seaborne trade in and out of the country.

My visit was during a warm and sunny day, very different to the “bleak place overgrown with nettles” on a “raw afternoon towards evening” as described in Great Expectations. It must be a very different place on a late winter’s afternoon, with rain and wind blowing in from the east, along the Thames estuary and across the Hoo Peninsula.

Among the graves surrounding the church are a tragic collection of small graves that were well-known to Dickens.

These are the graves of babies and children from the Baker and Comport families who died between 1771 and 1779. Three of the children died around the age of one month. The graves are a very visible demonstration of the dreadful infant mortality rates that must have inflicted terrible anguish on parents in the centuries before the standards of health we perhaps take for granted today.

They are lined up in what Dickens described as ” little stone lozenges each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their (parents) graves”.

Rochester Castle

Ten smaller graves are on one side of the headstone and three larger graves are on the other side.

Rochester Castle

The church of St. James’ Cooling dates from the 13th century. It is no longer an active church, and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust

The interior of the church is open and the white walls provide an impression of light and space. The following photo is looking along the nave, with the 13th century font in the foreground.

Rochester Castle

The pulpit dates from the 18th century, and in common with nearly all churches, there was 19th century restoration work, the majority of the church dates from between the 13th and 15th centuries.

Rochester Castle

The wooden door on the right of the photo below is around 500 years old, and there are benches that possibly date from the 14th century.Rochester Castle

The Churches Conservation Trust now offers the opportunity to stay overnight at St James Church, Cooling on one of their “Champing” experiences. I would rather like to do that on a wet and windy night.

This has been a very quick tour of a number of fascinating sites, and I have not been able to do justice to them in a single post, but there is a theme to these sites.

It is how London’s influence extends far wider than just the City. The boundary markers at Lower Upnor tell of how the City of London tried to exert authority over a much wider area than just the River Thames.

Rochester is a town that probably owes its existence to being on the site where the road from the channel coast and Canterbury to London crossed the River Medway. A crossing that dates back almost 2,000 years to the time of the Roman occupation of Britain.

The exception is St James, Cooling, however the church connects in some ways to the River Thames as the church has seen the changes in river traffic over many hundreds of years.

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The 6th June 1944, D-Day in Maps

Firstly, an apology. This post in nothing to do with London, however on the 75th anniversary of D-day, I wanted to write a post that brings together my interests in history, books and maps to commemorate such an important event, and the sacrifice of so many in what was one of the defining days of World War 2.

In 1946 the British Field-Marshal Montgomery published his personal account of the campaign to liberate Europe, from the landings at Normandy on D-day to the eventual defeat of Germany. The book is a detailed account of the operations, the battles, the logistics of the campaign to open and fight a second front from the west.

Reading the book, the logistics of D-day are staggering. The volume of men and equipment that had to be landed, the secrecy to ensure the landing sites were a surprise to the defenders, the bravery that ensured a bridgehead had been established by the end of D-day, and the challenges of then extending that bridgehead and fighting from Normandy to Germany.

Normandy to the Baltic consists of 222 pages of text, but what makes this book rather special are the two pockets to the front and rear of the book which contain a total of 47 coloured maps and 3 diagrams. The maps detail the campaign from D-day through to the closure of the war.

The front of the book’s dust wrapper – lovely bold colours and very evocative of the time.

D-Day

The book was published when paper for publishing was still in short supply, and the book notes that “this book is produced in complete conformity with the authorised economy standards“.

The first map highlights the invasion coast – the area from Dunkirk in the north to Cherbourg in the west that was considered as possible landing sites for the invasion. Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne were the obvious locations as these were only a short distance across the channel and would therefore make the crossing easier, however this was a very heavily defended stretch of coast.

D-Day

The logistics of managing such a large invasion force are remarkable. The army groups and all their equipment were marshaled across the south of the country, stretching from Wales through to East Anglia, and to the west of Cornwall. The following map shows the areas occupied by individual Corps and Divisions. They all had to be then transported to coastal embarkation points for transport across the channel on D-day and during the following weeks.

D-Day

This map of German forces in France and Belgium shows the heavy concentration of forces along the French and Belgium coast where the distance across the channel was shortest.

D-Day

To avoid the heavy concentration of forces across the shortest stretch of channel, the plan for the assault was to land in Normandy, which would involve a lengthy sea crossing, but hopefully maintain an element of surprise and allow the Allied forces to establish a bridgehead before the defending forces could be reinforced.

D-Day

The organisation was incredible. The following diagram shows the assault technique and covers the various different types of specialised craft that had to be moved from the south coast of England to Normandy, arranged in the right order and to perform their role at the right time.

D-Day

Although in reality, conditions such as the weather on the morning of D-day meant that the assault was not as precisely choreographed as the above diagram suggests. Landing craft often did not arrive at the right place, and in some instances, troops left landing craft when still in deep water, and many drowned as they were loaded with heavy equipment.

At the front were Landing Craft Support (LCS), craft that provided fire support to troops as they landed on the beaches. Behind them was a line of D.D. Tanks, or Duplex Drive amphibious tanks. These would be launched some distance from the shore and would make their way under their own power and flotation to the beach.

Behind then was a line of Landing Craft Tank (LCT), landing craft that carried tanks and other mechanised equipment for transport to the shore. Further back was a line of Landing Craft Assault (LCA), landing craft that carried the assault troops. As well at the LCTs, this line included Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE), landing craft carrying specialised equipment such as tanks fitted with flails to clear a path through mines, bridging equipment etc.

The assault was supported by Landing Craft Gun (LCG) artillery ships and destroyers tasked with bombarding the enemy positions before the landing, and providing supporting fire once the assault troops had landed.

Landing Craft Flak (LCF) were anti-aircraft variations of the landing craft, fitted out with anti-aircraft guns to defend against enemy aircraft.

After landing and establishing a bridgehead, the plan was to quickly strike in land, with the US Third Army moving south and the US First Army, British Second Army and Canadian First Army moving east and north towards northern France, Belgium and Paris.

D-Day

The distribution of German forces on the 6th June 1944, showing how every section of the coast was defended, with reinforcements inland.

D-Day

Bombing on and after D-day aimed to frustrate the move of German reinforcements to the front by destroying railways, bridges and attacking columns of transport.

The following map again highlights the challenge of attacking Normandy. A lengthy sea crossing and the coordination of forces from across the south coast, including follow-up forces from Cornwall , the Thames estuary and Felixstowe.

D-Day

The US assault on the 6th June included airborne drops of parachute forces in the early hours. They suffered heavy casualties during the landing on the town of Sainte-Mère-Église as many buildings across the town had been set on fire which illuminated the descending paratroops.

D-Day

By the end of the 6th June 1944, a bridgehead had been established and the push inland had started. 156,000 troops had landed on the first day, and an estimated 4,400 had died.

The following map shows the situation at the end of D-day.

D-Day

In the book, Montgomery described the situation at the end of the 6th June as follows:

“As a result of our D-Day operations we had gained a foothold on the Continent of Europe.

We had achieved surprise, the troops had fought magnificently, and our losses had been much lower than had ever seemed possible. We had breached the Atlantic Wall along the whole Neptune frontage, and all assaulting divisions were ashore. In spite of the bad weather the sea passage across the Channel had been successfully accomplished, and following this the Allied Naval Forces had given valuable support by fire from warships and craft; the Allied Air Forces had laid the foundation of success by winning the air battle before the invasion was launched, and by applying their whole collective striking power, with magnificent results, to assist the landings.

In spite of the enemy’s intentions to defeat us on the beaches, we found no surprises awaiting us in Normandy. Our measures designed to overcome the defences proved successful. But not all the D-day objectives had been achieved and, in particular, the situation on Omaha beach was far from secure; in fact we had only hung on there as a result of the dogged fighting of the American infantry and its associated naval forces. Gaps remained between Second British Army and V United States Corps and also between V and VII United States Corps; in all the beachhead areas pockets of enemy resistance remained and a very considerable amount of mopping up remained to be done. In particular, a strong and dangerous enemy salient remained with its apex at Douvres.

It was early to appreciate the exact shape of the German reaction to our landings. The only armoured intervention on D-Day was by 21 Panzer Division astride the Orne, north of Caen. Air reconnaissance, however showed that columns of the 12 SS Division were moving west.

To sum up, the results of D-Day were extremely encouraging, although the weather remained a great anxiety. I ordered the armies to proceed with the plan; First United States Army was to complete the capture of its D-day objectives, secure Carentan and Isigny so as to link up its beachheads, and then thrust across the base of the peninsula to isolate Cherbourg as prelude to its reduction, Second British Army  was to continue the battle for Caen, develop the bridgehead southwards across the Bayeux-Caen road and link up with the V United States Corps at Port-en-Bessin.”

Montgomery’s comments on the fighting at Omaha beach demonstrate how parts of the invasion were a close run thing.

That the bridgeheads had been achieved by the end of the 6th June was down to the considerable bravery of those involved in the assault, and the logistical achievement of transporting thousands of troops and tons equipment.

The 6th of June was just the start of a long campaign that would take British, American and Canadian armies all the way into Germany.

The breakout from the bridgehead would still take some weeks.

The following map shows the situation during the week following D-day with the start of the push inland from the beaches.

D-Day

The advance after D-day was slow going. The nature of the countryside (wooded, hollow lanes, hedging lining the lanes) and growing enemy reinforcements meant that after establishing the landing, the push inland would be very challenging with considerably more killed and injured than during the initial landings.

The initial development of the bridgehead during the second week after D-day:

D-Day

By the end of June, the Allied forces had made limited progress and were now up against an enemy force that was more coordinated than on D-day and with further arriving reinforcements. The following map shows the situation at the end of June, just over three weeks after D-day.

D-Day

But progress was being made – the push up the peninsula by the American forces to capture Cherbourg:

D-Day

The British and Canadian forces start to push inland and to move towards the city of Caen:

D-Day

The US Army operations during the two weeks after D-day:

D-Day

The capture of Caen:

D-Day

Operations of the Second British and Canadian Armies in July:

D-Day

Moving south after the capture of Caen in the third week of July:

D-Day

When the break out happened from the initial bridgehead, it was rapid and resulted in a breakdown in enemy resistance which resulted in the liberation of Paris when the German forces in the city surrendered on the 25th August 1944.

The following map shows the break out by the First United States Army between the 25th July and 4th August.

D-Day

After the August breakout, progress would then be relatively rapid, however the overstretched supply lines and regrouping of German forces would cause delays and set backs, for example with the failure of Operation Market Garden in September 1944 to reach Arnhem, cross the Rhine and turn into Germany.

Montgomery’s book is a fascinating account of the campaign, which started on the 6th June 1944, and would end on VE Day, the 8th May 1945. The rest of the maps in the book follow the course of the campaign between these two dates.

That D-day was a success was down to a phenomenal achievement in logistics and planning, long before the days of instant communications, computers and spreadsheets, allied with the incredible bravery and sacrifice of those who took part.

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A City Relic In Deepest Hampshire

Do you ever wonder what happened to the contents of all the City churches that have disappeared over the centuries? Probably not, however this rather obscure interest took me recently from the Minories in the east of the City to a small village in deepest Hampshire.

The Minories is currently the name of a street leading from Tower Hill to Aldgate High Street. The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and their religious house as the Minories, and it was one of these houses or abbey that occupied the area to the east of the street currently known as Minories.

The abbey had an associated church, and following the dissolution, the church became the parish church  and was known as the Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories. It is the later name that was most commonly associated with the church.

Holy Trinity was located at the end of a street leading from the Minories. The street is currently called St. Clare Street  (taking its name from the religious order).

The book “A History of the Minories” written by a vicar of the church and published in 1922 provides a fascinating history of the abbey and the church. It also includes a drawing of the church at the end of the side street leading from the Minories.

Minories

This is the same view today. The church was at the end of the street, with the front of the church just in front of the building that terminates the end of the street.

Minories

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of the church, in the centre of the following map extract, at the end of what was then Church Street (now St. Clare Street).

Minories

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

A map of the same area today. I have marked where the church was located by a red rectangle  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) .

Minories

You will see on the 1895 map that there is a public house on the southern corner where Church Street meets the Minories. The building is still a pub – The Three Lords:

Minories

The current pub building dates from around 1890, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for much longer. The earliest newspaper reference I could find to The Three Lords dates to the 11th January 1819 when the Evening Mail reported on the arrest of a man for robbery. He was formerly a respectable man with carriage and servants, one of whom in 1819 kept the Three Lords and a pot from the pub was found in the room of the alleged thief.

The view from the far end of St. Clare Street looking back towards the Minories. The street is still cobbled.

Minories

Holy Trinity church was closed in 1899. One of the closures of City churches under the Union of Benefices Act of 1860 where churches were closed and their parish amalgamated with another parish (St. Botolph’s Aldgate for Holy Trinity).

Closure of churches was a very controversial act for the Vicars of the churches involved along with their parishioners. There is an interesting letter in the London Evening Standard on the 30th May 1893 from the Vicar of Holy Trinity. The letter addresses errors about the history of the church in an earlier article, and demonstrates the passion resulting from the way in which the closure was managed. It is a long letter, but provides some fascinating insight into a small parish at the end of the 19th century. It also demonstrates the interest of a parish vicar in their church. Frequently the image of the Vicar is of a remote character, mainly interested in the income that could be generated from the role.

The letter reads:

“HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, MINORIES – Under the above title an article has gone round the papers purporting to give particulars of my church and its past history, some extracts of which appeared in your Morning and Evening Editions of the 25th instant. Will you permit me, then, to say that none of the statements in that article are correct.

In the first place, the name of my church is not ‘St. Mary in the Minories’ but  Holy Trinity, Minories. Secondly, the mummified head which we have could not be that of the Duke of Norfolk, as the writer states, for that nobleman never had anything to do with the abbey or the church that I am aware of; but it may be the head of the Duke of Suffolk, to whom the abbey was given for a residence, by Royal letters patent, in the reign of Edward VI, and who, whilst resident there, was beheaded for attempting to place his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, upon the throne. The head was found in 1853 in one of the vaults, in a box of oaken sawdust, which, acting as an antiseptic, has marvelously preserved the skin of the face.

(The book “A History of the Minories” includes a rather gruesome photo of the mummified head)

Thirdly, the writer says that ‘the ancient Priory of Holy Trinity was founded by Matilda, Queen of Henry I, in 1108 whereas we know that the abbey (not priory) and its church was built in 1293 by Queen Blanche, widow of Henry le Gros, King of Navarre, who afterwards married Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. The arms of the Queen, with those of the Earl of Lancaster, are now in our vestry.

Fourthly, the writer states that on ‘the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII, the priory and its precincts were given to Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor of England, who after pulling down the church, made the place his residence until his death in the year 1554’. These mistakes are even worse than the former ones, for Henry VIII gave the abbey to the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Dr. John Clerk) for a place of residence, where he died and was buried in the vaults of our church, though afterwards his body was, for some cause, removed to Aldgate Church. This was the man, who took to the Pope of Rome a copy of King Henry’s book against Luther, which led to that Sovereign receiving the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’, still used, though with a very different meaning.

The church was not pulled down on the dissolution of the abbey, but remained until 1706, when, being in a very dilapidated state, it was taken down and rebuilt from the ground with the exception of the north wall, upon which the chief monuments are placed.

Then the writer says that the parishioners of St. Katherine Cree, in 1622, obtained leave of Charles I to rebuild the priory church with the assistance of Lord Mayor Barkham.

From this it is quite evident that the writer of the article has mixed up our church and the abbey with another church and some priory. What in the world could see the parishioners of St. Katherine Cree have to do with Holy Trinity, Minories? Also, as the church was not rebuilt until 1706, Lord Mayor Barkham certainly did not assist to rebuild it in 1622, but Sir William Pritchard, who was Lord Mayor in 1683, purchased the abbey, and resided in it during his mayoralty, calling it, I believe, the Mansion House.

May I add that I was at first greatly opposed to the amalgamation of Holy Trinity, Minories, with St. Botolph Aldgate, and wrote a little history of the church in order to raise funds for its restoration, when the Charity Commissioners came down upon us and confiscated the church property devoted by the churchwardens to the maintenance of public worship, leaving them only thirteen pounds a year to pay the salaries of organist, pew-opener, bell-ringer, fire insurance, repairs, gas, coals, water, &c. ? Also they seized funds for giving every Christmas all the widows living in the parish five shillings, accompanied with coal and bread tickets.

This unrighteous impoverishment of the church led me to consent to the amalgamation scheme now about to take place, but I shall leave my parish and people with much regret.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, Samuel Kinns, Vicar.”

I walked down St. Clare Street, to where the street takes a sharp right turn. In the following photo, the front of the church was just behind the gates, roughly in line with the red bin on the left.

Minories

Nearly all the buildings at this end of the street are relatively recent.

Holy Trinity, Minories closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

Taking the sharp right turn on St. Clare Street, in front of where the church was located, and there is one remaining building, an old warehouse that would have probably been around at the same time as the church.

Minories

Finally, getting to the theme of the post, does anything remain of the church?

The following drawing of the interior of the church from the book “A History Of The Minories London”, shows a pulpit on the left, where the rows of pews end.

Minories

The pulpit can still be seen today, but in a very different location to the Minories.

The church was closed in 1899, and in 1906 the pulpit from Holy Trinity, Minories was presented to All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

East Meon is a village in Hampshire, to the west of Petersfield in the South Downs. It is close to the source of the River Meon. In the following map extract, the location of the village is indicated by the red circle.  (Maps © OpenStreetMap contributors) 

Minories

Zooming in further and the following extract shows the village in the centre of the map, the River Meon flowing through the village, which is surrounded by countryside.

Minories

A couple of weeks ago, I headed out to East Meon to find Holy Trinity’s pulpit.

East Meon is best reached either via the A3, turning off near Petersfield, or from the A32 at West Meon. The final few miles of travel along either of these routes is along country lanes with very little traffic and the rolling hills of the South Downs on either side.

In the centre of the village is a finger post showing the nearest villages and towns and also signposting the village shop, school, village hall and car park.

Minories

The River Meon flows through the centre of the village.

Minories

The first view of All Saints’ Church, East Meon from the centre of the village. The church has a rather dramatic location, on raised ground overlooking the village, and with the towering Park Hill rising directly behind the church.

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A closer view of the church.

Minories

The church was built between the years 1080 and 1150. Although with later renovations, repairs and changes, the layout of the church is the same cross-shaped design as when originally built. A central tower dominates over a nave, chancel and transepts which lead off either side from the base of the tower.

Major restoration was carried out during the early 20th century, and as part of this restoration, the Holy Trinity pulpit arrived in East Meon.

The main entrance porch to the church provides a superb view looking back over the village of East Meon.

Minories

On entering the church, the pulpit comes into view.

Minories

A close up view of the original Holy Trinity pulpit. At first sight, perhaps not very impressive, but it dates from 1706 and spent almost 200 years serving the parishioners of the Minories in the City.

Minories

This is the pulpit from which Edward Murray Tomlinson, the author of the book I have on my desk – A History of the Minories London – would have preached from during his time as a Vicar of Holy Trinity.

A brass plate on the door of the pulpit confirms the origin, and provides some background as to how the pulpit found its way from the Minories to East Meon.

Minories

The Rev. Edmund Murray Tomlinson who presented the pulpit to the church must have noticed a considerable difference between his 12 years as Vicar of Holy Trinity, Minories and his following 12 years as Vicar of East Meon.

The pulpit arrived at a time when the East Meon church was undergoing considerable renovation. The East Hampshire Chronicle on the 3rd November 1906 reported that the church had just reopened for public worship and that restoration had cost £1,130.

Restoration included major works such as the lowering of the floor to the original Norman level to reveal the “dignity of the massive Norman arches”. The article also references the arrival of the pulpit from Holy Trinity, Minories to confirm the facts given on the brass plate.

The interior of the church is fascinating, not just the architecture, but also the decoration and furniture of the church.

The church provides a home for the East Meon Millenium Embroidery. Started in 2002 and completed in 2008, the embroidery provides a wonderful snapshot of the village, created by local people. Unfortunately, no matter where I stood, I could not take a photo without a reflection in the glass.

Minories

Windows and Easter decorations:Minories

There is a strange stone set into one of the interior walls of the church. the words “Amens Plenty” inscribed.

Minories

The church guidebook provides an interesting local legend about the stone. It was lifted from the floor of the church in 1869 and underneath the stone was found the remains of four men. They were buried vertically which added to the mystery. The local legend is that they were four Parliamentary soldiers killed in the village before the Battle of Cheriton on the 29th March 1644. Cheriton is about 12 km to the north west of East Meon.

An interesting feature of the central tower is that access to the tower is via stairs up along the wall in one of the transepts, with a small balcony and doorway at the top of the stairs providing access to the tower.

Minories

Some very large capitals on the crossing arches that support the tower.

Minories

View along the central nave of the church with the Holy Trinity pulpit on the left at the end of the pews.

Minories

The church has two fonts. The first is a very plain stone font of unknown date. As with the Holy Trinity pulpit, churches seem to accumulate from other religious buildings and this font came from the ruined chapel of St. Nicholas near Westbury House in East Meon. Although being of unknown date, it looks very old.

Minories

The second font is much more ornate and has a more identifiable history. This is the Tournai font:

Minories

The font derives its name from the location of manufacture – Tournai in Belgium. It was delivered to the church in East Meon around the year 1150, and probably was a gift from Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester. The fact that East Meon has such a font illustrates the importance of the church and village in the 12th century. There is another Tournai font in Winchester Cathedral.

Minories

The font is highly decorated, although this was rather difficult to photograph in the strong light streaming through the windows. Two sides of the font tell the story of Adam and Eve whilst the other two faces and the top of the font are covered in symbolic designs.

The following photo shows the west side of the font. The pillars are holding up the flat earth above which some rather strange monsters or dragons are carved.

Minories

The east side of the font relates part of the story of Adam and Eve. Rather difficult to see in the following photo, however the structure on the right is a representation of the Gates to Paradise. There is a figure to the left holding a large sword. The figure also has wings and is a representation of an angle who has expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise. Adam and Eve are to the left of the angel and are both trying to hold their fig leaves in place.

Minories

The font is a remarkable example of 12th century craftsmanship.

In the outside wall of the church, there are some gorgeous doors:

Minories

Minories

The central tower of the church. The spire dates from 1230 when the final additions were made to the church including the Lady Chapel and the south aisle.

Minories

Detail from the top of the tower. Wavy carving around the clock, open windows and along the wall of the tower.

Minories

The rear view of the church shown below includes the original chancel on the right, with the 1230 Lady Chapel on the left.

Minories

The straight line distance between the location of Holy Trinity, Minories and East Meon is not that far, only 88km, or 55 miles, but they are very different places and that difference must have been even more apparent in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the Vicar and Pulpit moved from the Minories to East Meon.

A modern day comparison of living in a village such as East Meon with living in the city is the difference in public transport. The bus stop timetable highlights the limited bus service to take residents to the nearest town.

Minories

Although the City still has a remarkable number of churches, so many have been lost over the years, from the Great Fire, the wave of late 19th century closures that included Holy Trinity, the Blitz and other occasional closures and parish amalgamation.

Church contents would have been lost through fire and bomb damage, but there must still have been a considerable amount sold or relocated to another church. The 1706 Holy Trinity pulpit is one item that can still be found, and continues to serve the same function as its makers intended over three hundred years ago.

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Chichester Market Cross And The First Fatal Railway Accident

The main aim of this blog is to trace the location of my father’s photos of London. He also took many photos across the country whilst out cycling between youth hostels in the late 1940s and early 1950s and I occasionally take a trip out of London to explore the location of these photos. For this week’s post I find the Chichester Market Cross, a link with London and the first fatal railway accident.

This is the Chichester Market Cross photographed in 1949.

Chichester Market Cross

The same view of Chichester Market Cross, 69 years later in 2018.

Chichester Market Cross

Market crosses were mainly built during the medieval period and often formed a hub for a market, with the Cross providing a location where transactions could be formerly validated. They also served other functions in the daily life of a town, for example as a central point for meetings, preaching, proclamation through both verbal announcements and the use of posters.

They came in many forms, from a basic cross through to the highly ornate structure that forms Chichester Market Cross. The complexity of the design was usually down to the level of funding available and the importance of the primary sponsor.

A view of the Chichester Market Cross in 1797 (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Chichester Market Cross

The Chichester Market Cross was constructed in 1501 and was funded by Bishop Edward Story who allowed the poorer residents of the town to trade basic goods without payment of a toll, provided they did so within the confines of the market cross.

The stone market cross we see today is not the first, it replaced a wooden structure that dated from the 14th century.

The market cross is much the same as when first built, however there has been damage to the decoration of the cross over the years, particularly during the Civil War. The market cross has been repaired over the years and in 1724 a belfry and clocks were added so the market provided a central reference for the time.

The Chichester Market Cross is Grade I listed, and the English Heritage listing states that the cross is believed to have originally stood in a large market place, rather than the small space within the town centre of today. Over the centuries, surrounding buildings have gradually encroached on the structure and taken up space allocated to the market, particularly after 1808 when the market moved location to find a larger space to serve the growing town.

The central location of the market cross is indicated by the names of the fours streets that radiate out from the market cross. They are North, East, South and West Streets with Chichester market cross sitting in the centre of a compass laid out in the streets.

Another drawing of the market cross, with the spire of Chichester Cathedral in the background (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Chichester Market Cross

Chichester Cathedral is a magnificent building. It is believed to be built on an earlier Saxon church dedicated to St. Peter. Construction of the cathedral was down to a decree by the Council of London in 1075 that seats of Bishops should be in towns rather than villages. The local bishopric was based in the village of Selsey so in the early 12th century the construction of the new cathedral building commenced.

Chichester Market Cross

The majority of construction was completed by the early 15th century when around this time the spire was completed. Over the centuries the building has been through numerous renovations, additions and changes. Fires during the first centuries when construction was ongoing, and severe damage to the internal decoration during the Civil War, however the most significant event occurred in 1861 when the original central tower and spire collapsed.

Cracks had been observed in the piers supporting the tower and spire in the months preceding the collapse, and the Illustrated London News of the 2nd March 1861 recorded the events that led up to the collapse:

“After the usual Sunday services in the nave, which had been temporarily screened off, the church was taken possession of by workmen, who have, with but little intermission, pursued their task by night and day down to the hour of the final catastrophe. It soon became evident that the heart or core of the piers was rotten; the task of sustaining a weight on each pier exceeding 1400 tons thrust forward the facing on every side, and when the masonry was restrained in one place by props and shores the restraint caused it to bulge on the adjoining surfaces faster than it was possible to apply remedies. The terrific storm of wind on Wednesday night caused these difficulties to increase with alarming rapidity; but the efforts of sixty workmen appeared still to offer some possibility of ultimate success when, at three hours and a half past midnight they quitted the building.

On their return however, after less than three hours’ absence, it was found that the shores and braces exhibited many signs of suffering from the enormous strains to which they had been subjected. The force of men was increased, and various expedients to strengthen what was strained were put into requisition.  The crushing and settlement of the south-west pier poured out, crushed to powder, and the workmen were cleared out of the building, and the noble spire left to its fate. Not more than a quarter of an hour later the tower and spire fell to the floor with but little noise, forming a mass of near 6,000 tons of ruin in the centre of the church, and carrying with it about 29ft in the length of the end of the nave, and the same of the transepts and choir.

The spire in its fall, at first inclined slightly to the south-west, and then sank gently into the centre of the building. The appearance of the fall has been compared to that of a large ship quietly but rapidly foundering at sea.”

The Illustrated London News quickly dispatched one of their artists to draw the following print of the collapsed tower and spire, and the severe damage to the building.

Chichester Market Cross

The spire was quickly rebuilt in 1866 by Sir George Gilbert Scott and reaches the height of 82 metres.

Entrance to Chichester Cathedral:

Chichester Market Cross

Surrounding buildings makes it difficult to get a good view of the cathedral, however this view from 1812 provides a good impression and shows the original tower and spire, confirming that the later 19th century rebuild is very similar to the original (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Chichester Market Cross

Chichester Cathedral is unusual for the location of the bells. In the above drawing, there is a large tower to the left of the cathedral building. This is the separate bell tower:

Chichester Market Cross

There is no firm date for the construction of the tower, however it appears to date from the early 15th century. There is no written explanation from the time as to why a separate bell tower was needed. One theory appears to be concerns that vibrations from the bells in the main tower could have caused damage to the tower and steeple, therefore a separate tower was constructed to house the bells.

Time to visit the interior of the cathedral. The view along the nave to the main entrance.Chichester Market Cross

The screen separating the nave from the choir.

Chichester Market Cross

The choir.

Chichester Market Cross

As could be expected in a church of this age, numerous monuments, tombs, carvings and artworks can be found around the church.

This is one of two carved panels, currently under restoration, depicting the raising of Lazarus. Dating from around 1125, they were concealed for many centuries, only being rediscovered in 1820 and installed in their current location.

Chichester Market Cross

There is one historical display that personally, I found the most interesting in its dimensional representation of layered buildings and time. Set into the floor is a clear panel with the interior space brilliantly lit.

Chichester Market Cross

Peer below the surface of the floor to find part of a Roman mosaic.

Chichester Market Cross

An adjacent information panel informs that this is a section of a second century mosaic belonging to part of a large Roman building that extended under the cathedral wall. Remains of part of the Roman city of Noviomagnus which lies about a metre below the surface of modern Chichester.

It is a brilliant way to display the mosaic. It demonstrates the physical layers of history in that the Roman city is below the current cathedral floor, as well as the layers of time, standing in the 21st century on the floor of a cathedral started in the 12th century, looking at the remains of a building from the 2nd century – it gets the imagination going.

There are many tombs around the cathedral, including that of Joan de Vere, daughter of Robert, Earl of Oxford who died in 1293.

Chichester Market Cross

In the south transept are a series of paintings on wood from the 16th century by Lambert Barnard, court painter to the Bishop of Chichester.

Chichester Market Cross

This is the Arundel Tomb with the figures of Richard Fitzalan, the 3rd Earl of Arundel and his second wife Eleanor “who by his will of 1375 were to be buried together without pomp in the chapter house of Lewes priory“. After the dissolution the tomb, along with some others now in Chichester, were moved from Lewes into the cathedral.

Chichester Market Cross

To understand one of the unique aspects of the Arundel Tomb, you need to look at the detail of the two figures:

Chichester Market Cross

The legs of Eleanor appear crossed and turning towards her husband. The right hand of Richard is across to Eleanor and they are holding hands. A sign close by the tomb informs that the hand holding was originally though to have been due to 19th century restoration, but recent research has confirmed that it is original.

This display of affection by a knight is highly unusual for the 14th century.

Close by there is a monument from several centuries later. This is the monument to William Huskisson.

Chichester Market Cross

The text underneath the statue provides some background:

“To the memory of William Huskisson, for ten years one of the representatives of this city in Parliament. This station he relinquished in 1823. When yielding to a sense of public duty he accepted the offer of being returned for Liverpool for which he was selected on account of the zeal and intelligence displayed by him in advancing the commercial prosperity of the empire. His death was occasioned by an accident near that town on the 15th of September 1830, and changed a scene of triumphant rejoicing into one of general mourning. At the urgent solicitation of his constituents he was interred in the cemetery there amid the unaffected sorrow of all classes of people.”

William Huskisson has the unfortunate distinction of being the first fatality from a railway accident in Great Britain. The following extract from “The Face of London” by Harold Clunn explains:

“Huskisson was killed by a locomotive at the ceremonial opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on 15 September 1830. The procession of trains had left Liverpool, and at Parkside, the engines stopped for water. Contrary to instructions, the travellers left the carriages and stood upon the permanent way. Huskisson wanted to speak to the Duke of Wellington, and at that moment several engines were seen approaching along the rails between which he was standing. Everybody else made for the carriages, but Huskisson, who was slightly lame, fell back on the rails in front of the locomotive Dart, which ran over his leg; he was carried to hospital, where he died the same evening.”

The London connection is that there is also a statue of William Huskisson in Pimlico Gardens. The following photo is from my post on the area and shows Huskisson in a very similar style, looking more like a Roman senator than an English MP.

Chichester Market Cross

There must be a Roman theme as a statue of Huskisson was also commissioned for display in Liverpool. The following drawing from the Illustrated London News shows the Liverpool statue looking very similar to those in Pimlico and Chichester.

Chichester Market Cross

The text with the drawing provides a possible explanation in that the Liverpool statue was cast in Holland from a statue executed in Rome by Gibson (John Gibson, the sculptor born in Wales in 1790, and who provided works of the Duke of Devonshire and a statue of Queen Victoria for Buckingham Palace). So poor old Huskisson has ended up in all his public sculpture looking like a Roman Senator, although I suspect he will always be known as the victim of the first, fatal railway accident.

The interior of Chichester Cathedral is magnificent, however there is more to explore outside as the cathedral has extensive grounds surrounding the building.

Firstly a wonderful set of cloisters, walled on one side and perpendicular windows on the opposite side.

Chichester Market Cross

Alleys and lanes thread their way through the buildings in the cathedral grounds, and provide wonderful glimpses of the cathedral. This is St. Richard’s Walk. Hard to imagine the sight described in the Illustrated London News of the collapse of the tower and spire.

Chichester Market Cross

Canon Lane runs roughly east to west along the southern edge of the cathedral grounds. At each end of Canon Lane there is a substantial gatehouse.

Chichester Market Cross

This is the gatehouse leading from Canon Lane into South Street, one of the four main streets radiating out from the market cross.

Chichester Market Cross

The gatehouse as seen from South Street,

Chichester Market Cross

Chichester market cross is another of my father’s photos I can tick off, but by going to these locations they provide the perfect opportunity to explore the wider area and Chichester is a fantastic place to explore and I have only touched on the cross and cathedral.

The Roman mosaic on display beneath the floor of the cathedral was for me, the most fascinating. Seeing this type of feature always heightens my awareness that we are walking on layers of history and time. Southwark Cathedral has a very similar feature, as does All Hallows by the Tower.

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Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Today, Remembrance Sunday, the focus will quite rightly be on the 100 year anniversary of the end of the First World War. 1918 was the end of what was hoped to be the “war to end all wars”, however in just over 20 years time, the world would descend into yet another global conflict.

The Second World War would add to the cemeteries created for the victims of the first war and during my visit to the Netherlands this year I went to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, a place that my father had already photographed during his visit to the Netherlands in 1952, not long after the cemetery had been created for the dead of Operation Market Garden and other  conflict in this part of the Netherlands.

In 1952, this was the sign at the entrance to the cemetery:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The entrance to the cemetery today:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The following photo provides some indication of the size of the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. A central grassed space runs down to a cross at the far end. On either side there are row upon row of gravestones, each representing a person, someone who died in the fighting around this part of the Netherlands.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

When my father was at the cemetery in 1952, it was still being completed. At the end of the war, the task began of recovering the bodies and burying them in the cemetery. During Operation Market Garden, the dead would usually be buried where they fell, and the grave marked with a temporary wooden cross made from whatever materials were to hand.

Identities had to be confirmed and stone gravestones were made for each grave. In 1952, a number of graves still had the temporary crosses used for the initial burial at Oosterbeek.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

There were a number of graves that I wanted to find as the names were clear in my father’s photos. The first was Lieutenant J. C. Crabtree, named on a cross at the end of a line of graves towards the far end of the cemetery. In 1952, this section of the cemetery still had the temporary crosses.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The same graves today:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

J.C. Crabtree was Jack Colin Crabtree who died on the 21st April 1945 at the young age of 20.

The son of Herbert Beaumont Crabtree and Dorothy Crabtree, in the 1939 census they were recorded as living at 13 St. Margaret’s Avenue in Luton, the house is still there. Jack’s father was listed as a Suprt Body Builder Motor and was obviously employed in Luton’s car manufacturing industries. Dorothy was described as Unpaid Domestic.

Jack Colin Crabtree was a Lieutenant in the Green Howards (Yorkshire Regiment). His death was in the closing months of the war, the Netherlands were fully liberated in May 1945 when the surrender of the German forces in the country was negotiated on the 5th May 1945.

Another grave I wanted to find was of a soldier in the Polish Parachute Brigade. The Polish parachute forces landed south of the river, opposite Oosterbeek in the closing days of  Operation Market Garden when the British forces were being pushed into a tight perimeter in Oosterbeek. The Polish landing date had been delayed by fog on the English airfields and when they landed the Germans were prepared for their arrival and the Poles suffered terrible casualties.

They managed to establish and hold a perimeter south of the river until the arrival of the main land forces which enabled the withdrawal across the river of the surviving British troops from Oosterbeek. A number of the Polish soldiers made it across the river to help man the ever shrinking Oosterbeek perimeter,

This is the original, temporary cross at the grave of Private M. Blazejewicz:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

This year, I photographed the permanent gravestone:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Some of the details on the original cross appear to have been corrected on the later headstone. The date of death has changed as well as his rank.

The grave is of Mieczyslaw Blazejewicz, with a rank of Starszy Strzelec (this seems to translate to a Senior Private or Lance Corporal) in the 3rd Parachute Battalion of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. He was born on the 24th November 1920 at Lancut, a town in south eastern Poland.

He was killed whilst trying to cross the River Rhine to get to Oosterbeek on the 26th September 1944. As with many of those killed whilst trying the cross the river, his body would drift downstream and his body was recovered from the river at Rhenen on the 9th October. He was 23, just two months short of his 24th birthday.

There are a number of Polish soldiers buried in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Their gravestones are distinctive by having a more dome shaped top, unlike the other gravestones.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

As you walk along the rows of graves, reading the inscriptions, one thing that always stands out is the very young age of those who fought and died. The majority are in their twenties, however there are many who were 18 or 19.

This is the grave of Private Dennis William Harrison of the 2nd Airborne Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Dennis was 18 years of age when he died on the 24th September 1944, the day before the survivors who still held a shrinking perimeter in Oosterbeek were given the order to withdraw across the Rhine.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The South Staffordshire Regiment arrived over two days. The majority arrived in the first day of the campaign, Sunday 17th September, with the remainder of the regiment arriving on the following day. It is probable therefore that 18 year old Dennis William Harrison was fighting from the 17th September until his death on the 24th September.  In the 1939 census, Dennis father was recorded as a Coal Mine Charge Hand and his mother Annie was recorded with Unpaid Domestic Duties. They lived at Ballinson Road, Blurton Stoke-on-Trent, in a house that is still there.

This is the grave of Leading Aircraftman R. J. Eden in 1952:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The same gravestone in 2018:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

It is lovely to see that the Jewish tradition of leaving stones on the gravestone to show that you have visited the grave is in evidence on R.J. Eden’s grave, as well as a number of other graves of Jewish soldiers in the cemetery.

According to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery records, R.J. Eden was Roffer James Eden, serving with 6080 Light Warning Unit as part of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

The Light Warning Units were one of the many specialised roles in an airborne force.  They were equipped with Light Warning equipment which was used to signal and coordinate with fighter aircraft providing cover for the ground forces. The Light Warning equipment was just about small enough to fit into a pair of Horsa Gliders. Four gliders were used to transport the Light Warning equipment on the second day of the campaign. Each pair of gliders held a complete set of equipment so in theory loss of one, or a maximum of two gliders would allow one set to arrive safely, however the transport plane for one glider was hit by flak and crashed, and the second glider was also hit by flak and crashed. By chance, both the crashed gliders were the same one from each pair, so the two gliders that arrived safely were each carrying the same half of the equipment needed to build an operational Light Warning Unit.

Once on the ground, and if they could not perform their primary role, Roffer James Eden, along with other roles such as glider pilots would fight alongside the other forces.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Roffer was the husband of Annie Eden of Victoria, London. Despite the unusual name, I have not been able to track down any details of Roffer James Eden. The transcript of RAF deaths records his first names as “Roffer J or Eckstein Jacob”, however I have also not been able to find an Eckstein Jacob Eden.

There are many graves across Oosterbeek cemetery where the identity of the person is unknown.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

In the following photo from 1952, a block of graves have the temporary crosses. The grave nearest the camera is marked as ‘unknown’ that on the right only has a date. Behind there is the grave to a Corporal, but with no name, and a bit further to the right another unknown soldier.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

In the following photo from 1952 there is a cross on the left with 6 names.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

I checked the names which are fully visible and they are all from 570 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. and they appear to be a full crew from a single plane.

Robert Carter Booth, aged 22 was a Flying Officer, Navigator. Francis George Totterdell, aged 24 was a Pilot Officer, Wireless Op./Air Gunner. Dennis James Blencowe (no age recorded) was a Flight Sergeant, Air Gunner. John Dickson, aged 24 was a Flight Lieutenant, Navigator.

To add to the evidence that they were all on the same plane, their date of death was the same, the 23rd September 1944.

570 Squadron was based at RAF Harwell in Berkshire. They flew Short Stirling aircraft and during Operation Market Garden they operated as tugs for the Horsa Gliders for the initial drops, then until the force at Oosterbeek was withdrawn they ran supply drops. Most of these were unsuccessful as the Germans had overrun the drop zones and the soldiers on the ground had no working radios to communicate with the aircraft.

Written accounts from those on the ground at the time tell of the bravery of the RAF crews making the supply drops. They would fly in relatively low and slow and many aircraft were lost after being hit by high levels of German fire from the ground and attacks by German fighter aircraft.

In his book Arnhem by Major-General Urquhart, the commanding office in Oosterbeek, he writes of the supply drops:

“Twice in the afternoon the RAF tried to get supplies to us. Their first mission at 12:45 pm was disastrous. The aircraft were shot up by ME109s before our eyes and there was some evidence that the Germans were using our signals to attract some of the supplies. The second mission at 4 pm was much more successful and we acquired a small proportion of the sorely needed ammunition and rations as they fell. It was a costly day for the RAF, whose losses were twenty per cent of the aircraft taking part”.

Also on another drop “Again, the ground signals were laid and lit, and the troops held out parachute silks. But the aircraft kept to the planned dropping points and the Germans again found themselves receiving gifts from their enemies. only the overs reached us. Some crews, overshooting, came round in the face of most appalling flak. Some aircraft were on fire. Hundreds of us saw one man in the doorway of a blazing Dakota refusing to release a pannier until he had found the exact spot, though the machine was a flaming torch and he had no hope of escape.”

As their date of death was the 23rd September, this was towards the end of the campaign and would have been during one of the attempted supply drops.

Another of my father’s photos of the cemetery in 1952.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

And another of the many graves to unknown soldiers.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Temporary crosses:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Some of the graves have photos of those buried.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

This is the grave of Private Ivor Rowbery of the South Staffordshire Regiment. He was 22 years old when he died on the 22th September 1944 when a mortar hit his gun pit near the Oosterbeek Old Church.

By the gravestone is a copy of a letter he wrote just before leaving the UK for Oosterbeek and Arnhem. It was the letter that would be sent to parents, wife, next of kin in the event of the soldier’s death in battle. Ivor Rowbery addressed the letter to his “mom”. (Click on the photo for a larger photo – it is a letter that should be read)

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

It is a wonderful letter, no nationalistic flag waving, just a quiet pride in his home and family, and concern for his mother should he be killed in the conflict.

Next is the grave of William Frank Lakey, aged 23 and a private in the Parachute Regiment. He came from Upper Holloway, London. A photo provides a reminder that all these gravestones are for individuals who died at far too young an age.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Looking down from the entrance to the rear of the cemetery:

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The view from the cross at the far end of the cemetery towards the entrance. Row upon row of gravestones for those killed in action during Operation Market Garden or from other fighting as this part of the Netherlands was liberated.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The events in and around Arnhem and Oosterbeek in September 1944 are still commemorated every year with events such as the Airborne Wandeltocht and other commemorative ceremonies. One of which is when children of the area place flowers on all the graves in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. A plaque in the entrance commemorates this annual event.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

A photo from the Imperial War Museum archive shows the first time this ceremony took place.

Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

THE BRITISH AIRBORNE DIVISION AT ARNHEM AND OOSTERBEEK IN HOLLAND (BU 10741) Dutch children pay their respects to the fallen and lay flowers on the graves. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192049

The ceremony still takes place, and this year on the 23rd September the children whispered the name of the person buried as they place flowers on the grave.

It is too easy to be overwhelmed by the number of graves in war cemeteries, however it is so important to remember that each one was an individual with hopes and ambitions for the future, with a family, with a life back in their home country.

Today, as well as my Great Uncle Arthur who died in the First World War, on the 30th October 1918, I shall be remembering William Frank Lakey, Ivor Rowbery, the crew from 570 Squadron on a resupply mission in their Short Stirling aircraft, Roffer James Eden, Mieczyslaw Blazejewicz, Jack Colin Crabtree and all those buried in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.

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The Airborne Wandeltocht

My final post from the Netherlands before returning to London for next Sunday’s post. The Airborne Wandeltocht (or Airborne Walking Tour) is an annual event on the first Saturday in September where a series of different length walks takes participants around the sites in Oosterbeek that featured in the events of September 1944.

The first walk took place in 1947 and walks have been held annually since, to commemorate and remember those who fought and died around Oosterbeek and Arnhem, and to raise money for charities associated with military veterans and youth projects.

Airborne Wandeltocht

This year, on the 1st September, the 72nd walk took place and 32,809 walkers took one of four route options around Oosterbeek. The routes start at 10km with longer options up to 40km. All routes take in the Hartenstein Hotel (now the Airborne Museum), the Oosterbeek War Cemetery (which I will write about in November) and the Oosterbeek Old Church on the edge of the town and river which featured in the defence of the critical length of river needed to escape to the south.

The 40km walk extends to include the landing grounds to the north west of Oosterbeek.

The walk formally starts at 11 o’clock with a parade along the main road in front of the Airborne Museum, although many of the longer distance walkers will have started earlier in order to complete the walk during the mid-afternoon.

Across the whole event the flags of Poland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are very much in evidence to commemorate the airborne forces, the resistance and the civilians who fought and died in and around Oosterbeek.

The opening ceremony makes very clear that this is not a glorification of war, it is to remember those who fought, were wounded and died in the liberation of the Netherlands and the restoration of freedom and democracy.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The parade to formally start the walks includes a wide range of groups – those from the emergency services, scouts, charities along with current armed services and cadets, including representatives from the UK,

Airborne Wandeltocht

In between there are groups of walkers. The walk is very much a family day out.

Airborne Wandeltocht

Along with marching bands – a Dutch specialty.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The formal start / end point on the Utrechtseweg, the main road running through Oosterbeek and one of the roads taken by the airborne forces as they moved from the landing grounds towards Arnhem.

Airborne Wandeltocht

A number of British veterans attend the event each year, they have pride of place in the marquee next to the start / end point. Here, they are standing by the memorial to commemorate the 65th Airborne Wandeltocht – 74 years after they fought in the surrounding area.

Airborne Wandeltocht

All around Oosterbeek there are permanent signs telling the story of September 1944. In the following photo of a house on Utrechtseweg, a pillar can be seen on the pavement to the right of the front door.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The pillar records that the 10th Parachute Battalion fought here to virtual extinction, and that on the 23rd September the remnants of the battalion were withdrawn.

Airborne Wandeltocht

A key point on the route is the Oosterbeek Old Church. The church is on the outskirts of the modern day town, close to the flat stretch of open land that runs between town and river. The church is one of the oldest in the Netherlands, dating at least back to the year 900. In restoration work after the war, pre-christian features were found under the church so the site has been of importance for many centuries.

The church is open on the day of the Airborne Wandeltocht and all four routes pass by the church. It makes a good resting point and a fascinating location to explore.

Airborne Wandeltocht

As well as the permanent pillars, there are also photo signs at various points along the walk showing what the site looked like following the events of September 1944. The church was badly damaged in the fighting.

Airborne Wandeltocht

There are still plenty of bullet holes to be found in the walls.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The church was a central point in the fighting to defend the gradually shrinking pocket of land held by the airborne forces. Keeping a length of the river and the route open to withdraw to the river was critical in making sure that the airborne forces were not cut off in Oosterbeek. Towards the end of the battle, the width of land occupied by the British, and the Polish forces that had made it across the river was down to 700 yards.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The restored interior of the church – very busy on the day of the Airborne Wandeltocht.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The Pegasus emblem of the Parachute Regiment can be found across Oosterbeek and Arnhem. In the Oosterbeek Old Church it is on the kneeling cushions, wall memorials and on the font.

Airborne Wandeltocht

Another view of the church.

Airborne Wandeltocht

A small plaque underneath the tree reads:

“In the thick of the fighting when a patrol of five Airborne warriors was standing by this lime tree, a mortar shell hit the place and killed four of them.

Only Mark Leaver survived. Staff sgt. G Squadron, Glider Pilot Regiment, born 20th January 1920, died 31st October 2000″

Another memorial in the churchyard to the British, Polish and Dutch men and women “who fought a grim battle around this ancient church to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi tyranny.”

Airborne Wandeltocht

The flat lands between the church, the southern edge of Oosterbeek and the river in the distance. A bridge over the river can be seen in the distance. It was over this land that the final overnight withdrawal took place, across the river to the southern shore where advance parties of the British 2nd Army and the Polish forces who had landed a few days earlier, had taken the river bank.

Airborne Wandeltocht

The Airborne Wandeltocht threads its way through the streets of Oosterbeek, walking through streets that were once the scene of deadly fighting. Pegasus flags of the Parachute Regiment fly from the majority of houses.

Airborne Wandeltocht

Another example of the information posters along the route showing the same scene in 1944.

Airborne Wandeltocht

Crowds of walkers returning through the central streets of Oosterbeek:

Airborne Wandeltocht

Returning through the formal end point of the Airborne Wandeltocht. The walkers return to the main assembly field to collect their medals.

Airborne Wandeltocht

Not something you expect to see, a bagpipe band in the Netherlands. These are the Seaforth Highlanders of Holland. They were formed to commemorate the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, who were part of the Canadian armed forces who liberated parts of the Netherlands during 1945. They were formed in Vancouver in 1910 following the large number of Scottish immigrants to Canada.

Although the Airborne Wandeltocht is just one of many events held during September to commemorate the impact of Operation Market Garden in Arnhem and Oosterbeek, it is by far the biggest event with this year well over 32,000 people of all ages taking part.

The walk does an excellent job of weaving together the history of September 1944, events at key locations and remembering the sacrifices of the British and Polish airborne forces and the Dutch civilians.

Next year’s event will take place on the first Saturday in September and details can be found on the web site of the Airborne Wandeltocht. (There is an English version, but Google translate does a good job with the full site).

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Operation Market Garden – Arnhem And Oosterbeek

For my last Sunday post from the Netherlands, I have reached Arnhem, the final bridge in the chain of bridges that were to be taken during Operation Market Garden, and by doing so, clearing a path across the rivers to a point where the Allied forces could turn east with an unobstructed path into the heart of industrial Germany.

As well as Arnhem, I will also visit Oosterbeek, a suburb to the west of Arnhem that became the centre for British forces during the operation when German attacks prevented the majority of the airborne forces from fighting their way through to the bridge.

Operation Market Garden involved the landing of airborne forces that would capture key towns and bridges from Enindhoven in the south through to Arnhem. Capture of these towns and bridges would allow the British 2nd Army to break out from the Belgium border and drive north along the corridor of captured land through to the final bridge at Arnhem.

The 101 US Airborne Division would capture the city of Eindhoven and key points north where they would meet up with the 82 US Airborne Division which would capture the route from Grave through to the bridge at Nijmegen. This would allow the British 2nd Army to move on to Arnhem and the bridge that was to have been taken by the 1st British Airborne Division and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade.

The plan was that the bridge at Arnhem would only need to be held for two to three days before the ground forces reached the airborne forces, however delays along the route, as well as the failure to immediately capture the bridge at Nijmegen and the fighting in the town before the bridge could finally be taken resulted in significant delays.

The expectation was that only light German forces would be found in Arnhem, however the quick reactions of the occupying forces along with SS Panzer Divisions being in the area meant that the British airborne troops faced much stronger defending forces than expected.

The British Airborne forces also had to land several miles to the west of Arnhem. The area chosen was the only flat land suitable for both parachute and glider landings, as well as being away from a German airfield to the north west of Arnhem, with significant anti-aircraft fire.

The operation started on the 17th September 1944 with parachute drops and glider landings to the west of Arnhem. Troops were organised to hold the landing grounds for future drops and to move forward to capture both the bridge and other strategic locations around Arnhem.

The following map from the book Arnhem by Major General Roy Urquhart shows the Drop Zones and Landing Zones to the west of Arnhem along with Drop Zone K to the south for the later drop of the Polish airborne. The map shows the intended plan to capture the bridge and the defensive positions to be taken whilst waiting for the 2nd Army to reach them from the south. The suburb of Oosterbeek can also be seen just to the west, alongside the river.

Arnhem

The German forces were much stronger than expected, with more, experienced and better equipped opposition both already in the area, and hastily assembled.

The 2nd Battalion led by Lt. Col. John Frost reached the bridge on the first day and took the buildings either side of the northern end of the bridge, however stiff resistance prevented the rest of the 1st Parachute Brigade from reaching the bridge, and fighting would take place from the landing zones through to Arnhem as the Germans pressed in on the attacking force.

The small force from the Parachute Brigade would hold the northern end of the bridge from Sunday 17th to Wednesday 20th September. Intensive attacks on the occupiers over the four days with a gradually shrinking perimeter and occupied buildings being demolished by German tank and gun fire, as well as very high numbers of dead and wounded and running out of ammunition resulted in the remnants of the parachute battalion being taken into captivity in the early hours of Thursday 21st September.

My father only took a few photos of Arnhem, not as many as Nijmegen, so I am not sure if Arnhem was to the end of the route he was taking through the Netherlands and he was running low on film.

The first is of the bridge, and includes his two friends and their bikes:

Arnhem

During my visit I walked over the bridge to the same position:

Arnhem

The bridge as seen from the east, just in front of a new, and very busy “Airborne at the Bridge” visitor centre:

Arnhem

The view from the bridge looking north east into the city. The buildings that originally stood here were occupied by the parachute brigade:

Arnhem

Fighting took place at several sites across Arnhem as British forces attempted to get to the bridge. On the right in the above photo can be seen the tops of two church towers. My father took the following photo of the church in 1952. Whilst the church had been repaired, the surrounding land has been cleared of buildings damaged during the fighting.

Arnhem

I could not get the same view of the church today, as buildings obscure the view, so the following shows the front of the church as it is today:

Arnhem

Back to the bridge – on the lamp post on the left can be seen a sign with the Pegasus symbol of the Parachute Regiment and that the name of the bridge is John Frostbrug.

Arnhem

After the war, the bridge was named after John Frost, the commanding officer of the Parachute forces who lasted so long on the northern end of the bridge.

On the right, there is a small building, again with the Pegasus symbol and a plaque:

Arnhem

The plaque reads:

“On the 17th of September 1944, the 1st British Airborne Division began to land some eight miles to the west of Arnhem with the object of forming a bridgehead north of the lower Rhine.

The 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment fought its way into Arnhem and occupied the buildings which commanded the site of the bridge. Here it was joined by elements of other units of the division.

For three days and four nights the bridge was held against far greater numbers of the German 2nd Panzer Corps, until with ammunition expended, with few survivors unwounded and all the buildings destroyed around them they were finally overwhelmed.

The gallant defence of this detachment, cut off by enemy action from the remainder of the division had a marked influence on the conduct of the campaign in Holland, and the delay imposed on German reinforcements moving south to stem the allied advance enabled crossings over the Rhine at Grave and Nijmegen to be firmly secured.”

Another plaque alongside the bridge gives some background as to the naming of the John Frost Bridge, finishing that “the bridge with his name in now proudly wrought.

Arnhem

One of my father’s photos shows one of his friends looking at what appears to be a monument in Arnhem with the 17th September 1944 date engraved on what looks like a damaged pillar from a building. There were no identifying features so I was dubious that I would find the location of this photo:

Arnhem

However walking north off the bridge and through some pedestrian tunnels under the roundabout at the end of the bridge revealed the same monument:

Arnhem

I have no idea if the monument is in the same position today as in 1952. The area around the bridge has been significantly altered and rebuilt with a number of large roads converging on the spot.

The Imperial War Museum have a number of photos showing the bridge during the battle. The following two photos show the northern end of the bridge in the early days of the battle. The debris of the initial German attack over the bridge can be seen.

Arnhem

THE BRITISH AIRBORNE DIVISION AT ARNHEM AND OOSTERBEEK IN HOLLAND (MH 2062) An aerial view of the vital bridge at Arnhem, taken immediately after the operation. This shows more clearly the wrecked German vehicles at the north end of the bridge. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205084668

The buildings either side of the bridge are occupied by the Parachute Brigade. In the coming days, German tanks and guns would systematically destroy these buildings.

Arnhem

THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939 – 1945: THE ALLIED CAMPAIGN IN NORTH-WEST EUROPE JUNE 1944 – MAY 1945: THE BRITISH AIRBORNE DIVISION AT ARNHEM AND OOSTERBEEK IN HOLLAND (MH 2061) Aerial view of the bridge over the Neder Rijn, Arnhem; British troops and armoured vehicles are visible at the north end of the bridge. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193321

After leaving the centre of Arnhem, we then traveled out to Oosterbeek.

After the initial success with the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment reaching the bridge, German defences responded quickly and built a blocking defensive line between Arnhem and Oosterbeek to prevent further British forces from reaching Arnhem and the bridge.

The main body of the 1st British Airborne Division therefore started to collect around Oosterbeek, building a defensive perimeter leading up from the river to north of the main road from Utrecht into Arnhem.

Adjacent to what was the main Utrecht to Arnhem road through Oosterbeek was the Hartenstein Hotel. When the airborne forces were landing, the hotel was being used by the German General, Field Marshall Walter Model. Thinking he was the target of the airborne attack he quickly left the hotel.

The hotel was taken over by Major-General Roy Urquhart as his headquarters for the 1st British Airborne Division operations in Oosterbeek and Arnhem.

The hotel continued to be used until the point where the airborne forces were running out of ammunition and the number of dead and wounded were severely reducing the numbers available to fight and hold and gradually reducing perimeter. On the evening of Monday 25th September, 9 days after the initial landings, those who could were finally withdrawn from Oosterbeek across the Nederrijn as by then allied forces had reached the river bank south of Oosterbeek.

My father’s 1952 photo of the Hartenstein Hotel:

Arnhem

The building today:

Arnhem

In 1978 the building opened as the Airborne Museum, a role it continues to this day, indeed in a much expanded format.

Directly opposite the hotel, across the original Utrecht to Arnhem road is a memorial to the events of September 1944:

Arnhem

During my 2018 visit, the memorial was decorated ready for a major annual commemoration which I will cover in a mid-week post. The flag of the Netherlands, along with the flags of the United Kingdom and that of Poland fly together at the base of the memorial.

Arnhem

The Polish flag is in recognition of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. The Polish brigade’s flight from England was delayed due to weather and when they did land they were met with heavy fire from German forces and suffered significant casualties.

A number of Polish forces did make it across the river to support the 1st British Airborne Division  and they also helped with the link up to the advancing British army from the south.

Around the base of the memorial are representations of the participants in the events around Oosterbeek (the bright background sunlight resulted in the two photos on the right being in shadow).

Arnhem

From left to right:

  • the attention given to the wounded by the women of Oosterbeek
  • the landing
  • the support of the Dutch underground resistance
  • the last stand in Oosterbeek

The original Hartenstein Hotel building has been magnificently restored and recently considerably extended to add additional displays to tell the story of the events around Arnhem and Oosterbeek. The view of the rear of the building:

Arnhem

During Operation Market Garden, the building was used as headquarters for British operations. It was constantly under attack with shelling, mortar fire and snipers who had infiltrated into the surrounding woodland.

In the first days of occupation of the building Major-General Roy Urquhart was photographed standing at the rear of the building. The photo is from the Imperial War Museum archives:

Arnhem

OPERATION ‘MARKET GARDEN’ – THE BATTLE FOR ARNHEM, SEPTEMBER 1944 (BU 1136) Major-General Robert E Urquhart, commanding 1st British Airborne Division, with the Pegasus airborne pennant in the grounds outside his headquarters at the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, 22 September 1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192016

The same view today:

Arnhem

The Airborne Museum provides a very comprehensive overview of Operation Market Garden and the events around Arnhem and Oosterbeek, using a mix of display items from the time of the battle, as well as multi-media recreations of the events. The museum was very busy during our visit and is a perfect example of what a small museum can achieve.

The following map from the museum provides an overview of the battle and the location of British, Polish and German forces.

Arnhem

There are several rooms full of weapons used during the battle, uniforms, documentation as well as items recovered from the battlefield, including this piece of wallpaper from a house at Pietersbergweg 34 in Oosterbeek showing the dark humour of the battlefield:

Arnhem

There are recreations of the rooms within the hotel during the battle, including this view of how the cellars were used as the headquarters offices during the battle:

Arnhem

And there is a large multi-media recreation of street fighting during the battle. A single photo does not recreate the intensity of walking through with the sounds of battle all around.

Arnhem

A large memorial outside the museum, erected in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the battle. The memorial is from the British and Polish forces in recognition of the impact that Operation Market Garden had on the people of the area, the support of the women of the Oosterbeek and Arnhem in helping the wounded and the Dutch resistance who supported the British and Polish forces during the battle.

Arnhem

After the battle had ended, the Dutch people continued to help by hiding members of the Parachute Brigade who had escaped capture and there was a slow trickle of soldiers returning back to allied lines as soon as it was safe to do so.

The Imperial War Museum has a number of photos from the battle in Oosterbeek. Along with the fighting troops, three Army Film and Photographic Unit photographers landed with the 1st Parachute Brigade and documented the fighting as it took place in the days leading up to the withdrawal across the river. Despite taking photos in the front line, all three survived.

The following photo shows Sgt D M Smith, Sgt G Walker and Sgt C M Lewis the day that they arrived back at the Army Photographic Unit at Pinewood. Sgt. Smith had been wounded in the shoulder.

Arnhem

OPERATION ‘MARKET GARDEN’ – THE BATTLE FOR ARNHEM, SEPTEMBER 1944 (BU 1169) The three Army Film and Photographic Unit Photographers who took the graphic still and cine pictures of the 1st Airborne Division epic fight at Arnhem. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192044

A small sample of photos, the initial advance along the road entering into Oosterbeek from the west:

Arnhem

OPERATION ‘MARKET GARDEN’ – THE BATTLE FOR ARNHEM, SEPTEMBER 1944 (BU 1089) Men of the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment entering Oosterbeek along the Utrechtsweg on their way towards Arnhem, 18 September 1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205216205

The same street today, the area is wooded, there are trees lining the streets and houses set back from the road. Very different to when the perimeter was roughly across this photo in September 1944:

Arnhem

A 6-pounder anti-tank gun of No. 26 Anti-Tank Platoon, 1st Border Regiment, 1st Airborne Division, in action in Oosterbeek, 20 September 1944. The gun was at this moment engaging a German PzKpfw B2 (f) Flammpanzer tank of Panzer-Kompanie 224 and successfully knocked it out:

Arnhem

OPERATION ‘MARKET GARDEN’ – THE BATTLE FOR ARNHEM, SEPTEMBER 1944 (BU 1109)  Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205203182

The German forces had over run the planned drop zones for resupply of the airborne forces. The aircraft were under instruction to ignore signals from the ground as they could have been enemy diversions so the majority of dropped supplies landed in German held territory. There was also significant loss of the aircraft dropping supplies.

1st Airborne Division soldiers use parachutes to signal to Allied supply aircraft from the grounds of 1st Airborne Division’s HQ at the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, 23 September 1944.

Arnhem

OPERATION ‘MARKET GARDEN’ – THE BATTLE FOR ARNHEM, SEPTEMBER 1944 (BU 1119) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205203183

The same view today is shown in the photo below. The grounds have been beautifully landscaped. The large construction extended from the ground is the recent extension to the basement which holds the multi-media exhibitions.

Arnhem

Another example of front line Photography by the Army photographic unit during the battle. Troops of the 1st Paratroop Battalion take cover in a shell hole in Arnhem, 17 September 1944.

Arnhem

OPERATION ‘MARKET GARDEN’ – THE BATTLE FOR ARNHEM, SEPTEMBER 1944 (BU 1167) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192043

There are reminders of the battle to be found all around Arnhem and Oosterbeek, from superb museums, to memorials large and small and bullet market buildings.

Of the 8,905 officers and men and the 1,100 glider pilots who had originally landed west of Oosterbeek, only 2,163 would escape. Over 1,200 officers and men died in the battle and the rest would be taken into captivity.

There is a major Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Oosterbeek – I will report about my visit to the cemetery in a post later in November.

I will also have a mid-week post on the major commemoration held in Oosterbeek in September.

Next Sunday I will be returning to London, and hopefully for my long suffering e-mail subscribers, shorter posts (thanks for bearing with me during my visit to the Netherlands.)

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