L A N D S C A P E S.
By RO S S PAXT ON , an E N G L I SH M A N
L A N D S C A P E S. VOLUME
Containing and account of a journey and the inhabitants within. Including translations from the earliest Times to the present.
By RO S S PAXT ON , an E N G L I SH M A N
For how hard it is to understand the landscape as you pass in a train from here to there and mutely it watches you vanish.
W.G Sebald Selected poems. 1964-2001
Good evening lady’s and gentleman and welcome to the tour! As our journey begins you will see some very old pre industrial buildings, which form the longest Facade in the country. It was the Romans who were the first people to settle here in Manch . . .
‘DON’T LISTEN TO HER SHE’S LYING!’
We are going to start this tour with a little bit of background history...
It was here in Edinburgh the beginning of the 19th century where all the men in the town began gathering in the local taverns talking and drinking. These meetings eventually led to an explosion of scientific, philosophical and creative imagination, which changed the western perception of everything. At that time the philosopher Voltaire wrote –‘It is now to Scotland that we look for all of our ideas for civilisation’. Men like James Hutton the father of geology who’s collection of stones from Arthur’s seat pushed back the estimated time of the earth’s existence. From six thousand years it was at that time to millions of years before that. Then there was people like David Hume, who’s thoughts on reason and consciousness explored whether or not our state of being and our world is in fact the creation of a creator or not?
Over on the right hand side now you will see a great place to walk the dog. Oh, and they have been fixing that roof for ages but it is going to be splendid when it is all done.
Ahead now we can see the lovely Victorian iron pier built in 1877. This pier was modelled on the one in Brighton. It provided a good birthing facility for the growing number of passenger ships arriving from large cityâ€™s like Liverpool. This is our second pier the original was built in 1858 as part of a plan to make Llandudno a major seaport for Ireland.
You can now see the 19th century home of Mr Bartram who once toured Edwardian England with what was known as a Patagonian Kap Dwa. The Kap Dwa a was giant man captured by Spanish sailors in 1673. His stuffed body has been on display in English sideshows since 1900. In the 1930s, two doctors and a radiologist examined the Kap Dwa at Mr Bartom’s home and found - “no perceptual evidence of it being a fake”. They conjectured that it was some kind of conjoined twin that could perceive the world from two different perspectives at the same time.
Shortly as the bus turns the bend, note the east gate to the right. Standing proudly above it is Chesterâ€™s most famous landmark the East Gate Clock. It is the second most photographed clock tower in the country.
If you look straight ahead you will see Shakespeareâ€™s birthplace. We know that a man called Robert Arden had a daughter Mary who was the youngest of seven. She was his favourite so he left her money and land. John Shakespeare heard of Marys good fortune and they were married and went to live in Henry Street in Stratford. There they had eight children the third of which was William. It is thought that the original stone floors in Shakespeareâ€™s birthplace are made from a stone quarry near Wilmcote. This stone was also used to build the floor of the Houses of Parliament in London.
To the right is where the forest of Arden once stood. In Shakespeareâ€™s time this would have been a track through a forest. Although it was a large dense forest it disappeared very quickly because the trees were chopped down and sent to the coast to build ships. Using this wood Henry VIII built many ships and so did his daughter Elizabeth I who also needed many ships to fight against the Spanish Armada. Today now all the trees are gone, you can see the beautiful view of the rolling Cotswold Hills, which stretch as far a Bath.
As we circle around this bend I will tell you a little bit a famous architecture of Bath. Much of Bath was designed by John Wood, the Elder and his son John Wood, the Younger. The Wood’s believed that their circular architecture was a development from biblical times through to the druids.
In 1740 John Wood the Elder created the most important survey of Stonehenge ever made. He believed that the Druid’s based their layouts on the Pythagorean planetary system. At that time Sir Isacc Newton’s friend William Stukeley strongly disagreed Woods ideas. He attacked woods concepts because he failed to see the significance of recording the stones in such detail. However woods drawing became vitally important later on as a section felldown in 1797. The ruins can now it can be reconstructed using computer-generated modles based on Woods survey. It also said that both Wood and Stukeley were masons.
Coming up on the right is a Masonic Lodge. Many masonic halls are based on the designs of Solmanâ€™s Temple in Jerusalem. The temple is said to have been, destroyed in siege of Jerusalem 587 BCE. Although there is no evidence for the existence of the temple, sketches of it are described in the Hebrew Bible.
The external facade of this building was transported from an old lodge in Durham, which had fallen into disrepair and was about to be demolished. The internal layout was partly reconstructed from collective memory and a single photograph.
Looking to your left you will see five standing stones. They were once part of a mysterious stone circle. No one knows how they got there?
The view on the right was once home to the third largest ship building port in the country. This was a time when you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other on top of boats full of Herring. In 1885 a Russian Schooner called the Demetrius was wrecked just outside the port along with it’s cargo of coffins. The next morning the townspeople found to their horror many bodies in various stages of decomposition scattered along the harbour.
The wrecked Russian schooner was name ‘Demetrius’ which is a tribute to Demeter the Greek Goddess of Grain, Mother Earth. Demetrius was one of the central figures of the 1400–1200 BC Eleusinian Mysteries. The Mysteries was an ancient cult in which anyone could join as long as they were free of “blood guilt”, such as committing murder. Although what events transpired inside their secret core rituals are unknown. Some theory’s suggest that these rituals involved fire worship and consumption of a powerful psychoactive ingredient contained in a kykeon drink.
We are now on Great George Street. In 1941 most of this street was destroyed in the Blitz, the last remaining house is coming up on your right hand side. It is a typical example of a rich merchants house. I have a photograph of this street before it was bombed and it was absolutely beautiful.
This last remaining building is now a one stop wedding shop. The original owner of that house was a slave trader, so it is still serving the same purpose now, as it did all them years ago!
Hold on a second, whatâ€™s Mooseâ€™s van doing there? He must have been drunk last night in my local pub, and left his van there? If anyone wants a pint I will be sitting in there after!
As you look right you can see the Scarborough Spa, which was discovered by Mrs Thomas Farrer in the 17th century. Thousands of visitors once flocked to the town to benefit from the waters medicinal qualities. It was not until the 1930s that the spa taproom was finally sealed off as the water was declared unfit for human consumption.
After this a popular reason to visit the town became extreme sports such as tuna fishing. Only the bravest men would set to sea to catch the giant tuna fish! A famous angler called Mr Stapleton-Cotton hooked two large yellow fin tuna estimated at well over 600lbs, but sadly lost both.
Straight ahead is the old Seaton junction railway line which was opened in 1886 and closed by doctor Beeching in 1964. Beeching closed a third of Britain’s 7,000 railway stations. His name later was to become the title and theme song of the mid-Nineties BBC TV comedy called Oh, Doctor Beeching!-
“Oh! Dr Beeching, what have you done? There once were lots of trains to catch, but soon there’ll be none! I’ll have to buy a bike, ’cause I can’t afford a car. Oh! Dr Beeching! What a naughty man you are.”
Now if you look to you right you can see the beautiful Axe valley, which is home to plenty of wild life. They say there are more birds and wildlife on this tramway than you will find outside the ODEON cinema in Exeter on a Saturday night, so keep your eyes open lady’s and gentlemen.
Where is the Bird that never flew, Where is the Tree that never Grew, Where is the Bell that never rang, Where is the Fish that never swam.
The hill on your left was constructed from layers of mud, soil, clay and stones. It was once fortified with a circular mote and wooden tower on top. It was originally built on the orders of William I to dominate the former Viking city. On several occasions it has been conquered, destroyed and refortified. It is now a heritage monument.
We are now passing over an underground bookstore, which has a tunnel connecting it to a building called The Radcliffe Camera. Camera is the Latin word for ‘room’. This room once held a large collection of both scientific and general books. The first book to be placed in the library was as Thomas Carte’s A General History of England.
In 2009 the Skegness Standard reported an April fools joke that suggested the Clock Tower was going to be moved to a museum. The locals were outraged with the thought that our famous landmark was going to be taken away, and many had suggestions for how we might save it.
Look over to the right now and you will see the area where the old Hancock amusement arcade once stood. It is said that these amusements had more light bulbs than any other in England. Local man Mr Frank Adey recalled the spectacle on a cold winters evening in February 1934 – ‘The rain was heavy and there was a biting wind but that did not stop us gathering in the street. The sea began to encircle the entire building with bright blue and red flashes sparking across its surface. Then there was a huge bang and the entire building went dark and floated away into the sea. The next morning we were all out on the beach looking to reclaim some of the penny’s that we had spent over the years in Hancocks’. It is said one old lady who did not escape the building that night was washed away glued to her favorite slot machine - Paradise Flush.
Up ahead you can see the old path that was taken on the bus journey to the Blaydon Races. A famous song was sung about these races, which refers to a race meeting in Blaydon on 9th of June 1862. The song describes the hazardous journey to get there.
Noo when we gat to Paradise thor wes bonny gam begun; Thor was fower-an-twenty on the ‘bus, man, hoo they danced an’ sung; They called on me to sing a sang, aw sung them “Paddy Fagan”, Aw danced a jig an’ swung my twig that day aw went to Blaydon.
Looking to the right now you will see the Old Stamp House where William Wordsworth once worked when he was a distributor of stamps. Later he was to become one of England’s greatest travel writers. Countless tourists have wandered the lakes looking through the eyes of Wordsworth words. A passage of his book called a ‘Guide to the Lakes’ reads-
DIRECTIONS AND INFORMAITION FOR TOURISTS
A foot road passing behind Rydal Mount and under Nab Scar to Grasmere, is very favourable to views of the Lake and the Vale, looking back towards Ambleside. The horse road also, along the western side of the Lake, under S Loughrigg Fell, as before mentioned, does justice to the beauties of this small mere, of which the Traveller who keeps the high road is not at all aware.
Behind those hills is Coniston water where Sir Donald Campbell lost his life attempting to set a world water speed record that would be unassailable to any foreign competitor. Campbell was keen to break the water speed record and to recapture his place in the limelight. He wanted to attract new sponsors to build his ÂŁ250,000 rocket car. He dreamed of beating the Americans by going faster than the speed of sound and topping 700mph.
Today Lake Windermere is used commercially as a reservoir to fill baths, wash cars and brew beer in the city of Manchester back where our journey began.