Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Roman Bath?

Reading other people's blogs, I'm loving hearing about so many museums that I've never heard of before. Like the Flora Twort Gallery mentioned by Lisa in her post, 'Day Tripping' to Petersfield, read it here. That is now on my 'to visit' list.
Then there are the places you didn't even know existed until you stumbled upon them in a city you thought you knew quite well.
Like the National Trust Roman Bath just off the Strand, London.

I was heading to Two Temple Place with a friend, you can read about our visit here, when we spotted this small sign above an archway. 'ROMAN BATH, DOWN STEPS TURN RIGHT'.
So we did.

And found ourselves in Strand Lane, a tiny alleyway, at The National Trust Roman Baths.
Walking down these deserted alleyways, if it wasn't for the sign, it kind of felt like we were discovering this two thousand year old Roman relic ourselves. 

These baths are 'said' to be Roman.
But the bricks used to build them are more like Tudor bricks
and it lies four foot six below ground level, Roman remains would usually be deeper. 

The first written record of these Roman Baths dates back to 1784, a "fine antique bath" in the cellar of a house in Norfolk Street in The Strand. And "William Wedell, a collector, died from a sudden internal chill when bathing there in 1792".
Dickens mentioned them too, in 1850. David Copperfield took many cold plunges in the old Roman Baths, "at the bottom of one of the streets out of the Strand".

At the end of the 19th century, these cold plunging baths were recommended by the medical profession as "the most pure and healthy bath in London ensuring every comfort and convenience to those availing themselves of this luxury". 

Not so much luxury today, but still cold. They are fed by a stream, with the rate of flow being about two thousand gallons a day. I still think there's a risk of a 'sudden internal chill'.
And the windows could really do with a bit of a clean.

To see them you have to turn the lights on

and look through very misty, grubby windows.

They sit here silently, looking dormant, but there's a serious amount of water flowing through this pool.

Roman Baths?
Their origin is a mystery. I'll leave you with a challenge set by the National Trust,
"...meanwhile it is open to the visitor to believe that it is indeed a relic of Roman London or to accept some such theory as set out above".
If you're passing, check them out and make your own mind up.
And National Trust, if you're passing, please give those windows a clean.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Newton Abbot Museum

I'd been waiting to visit Newton Abbot Museum for a while. Waiting until we next went to Devon, to see my mum in the Easter holidays, as quite a few local museums in Devon are closed for the winter. 

It didn't bode well at first when, after we'd parked very close by, we asked someone where it was and they "didn't even know Newton Abbot had a museum".

It was so well worth the wait.
It was one of those museums that gives you a tingly feeling, a sense of excitement as it draws you in.
We were given the warmest welcome, in the smallest room, with the largest fire surround.

This is the Sandford Orleigh overmantle. Made in the sixteenth century from over twenty carved oak panels. It has been recently restored through the Heart of Oak project.  
We were invited to see if we could work out which wooden figures were new and which were original. You could sort of work it out. This didn't detract from the wonder of it. We just gained great admiration for the craftsman who re-carved the missing parts. 

In Newton Abbot Museum there have been other craftsmen at work, making things from wood. This time an eighteenth century replica diving machine, designed to be used to recover valuable cargoe from sunken ships.

John Lethbridge, a pretty unsuccessful local wool merchant, designed and used the original machine, becoming a successful salvage diver in his forties.

 This automation helps you get the picture.

However it could go down to depths of 22 metres.
"Apparently people died because of the pressure they experienced on their arms."

Not as far as a Sperm Whale,

and a military submarine knocks spots off that, at 3000 metres.

Fortunately you don't have to go to any depth for the obligitory museum selfie.

Absorbed in John Lethbridge's story, I lost the kids but I could hear bells, train signals.
I followed the sound to the most amazing room.

 Under the watchful eye of an encouraging volunteer, signals were being pulled...

...and bells rung.

There weren't any tracks to move but, spot the difference,

the signal moved.

I loved this signal. Undeterred by having to fit a full-size train signal into a downstairs room of, what was effectively, a large town house, they just dug down to get it to fit in.

We had such fun in this room with civil engineer dad sharing his stories of times
on the tracks.
"I've pulled those levers for real, in a signal box in Sussex. You have to put your weight behind them and pull really hard. They even use a tea-towel in an actual signal box, to protect your hands."

"I used one of those horns, working on the tracks, you have to blow really hard. When you hear the horn 'blow up' you stand clear, there's a train coming. Site wardens are trained to 'blow up', to keep look-out. Site wardens are a 'walking, talking fence'". Yes really.
That's the horn on the left. 

Dad's can be quite boring and they're more impressed with the Brunel hat!

The GWR room is jam packed with social history and stories of the impact the railway had on the local area.
My mum and I loved this book.

These photographs, the volunteer told us, were the views from both sides of the railway, so it sort of makes sense to have one view upside down.

Of course, we had to find Teignmouth. Still recogniseable today.
"There's the Ness and Shaldon Bridge."

A train spotters paradise. Even photos in 3D.

They really did look three dimensional, but not digitally photograph-able.

Then there's Newton Abbot's history of the First World War.

And the 'Noteable Newtonians', of which there are many.

What a tour, from sixteenth century wood carvings to the bottom of the ocean
to Brunel's Great Western Railway.
I would like this post to be widely read, not so much for the benefit of my blog, but for the benefit of this most lovely museum, telling genuinely local stories of achievement and history. Staffed by volunteers with such energy and enthusiasm. It does regional museums and Newton Abbot proud.

Check out the Newton Abbot Town & G.W.R. museum website, here, for opening times
as well as a wealth of information about what they've been up to.
Open mid-March until October.
And if you bump into a local who, "didn't even know Newton Abbot had a museum",
take them with you, they should know about it.  

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Fashion on the Ration

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, with the disruption of everyday life, fear of an imminent gas attack and invasion, and resources thrown into the war effort, people wondered if fashion would just 'go away'. But quite the opposite happened, clothing and fashion adapted to the time, retailers saw new opportunities, people made do and mended, the British government got involved and mass manufacture became more efficient, producing price regulated, decent quality clothes for all.
The exhibition, 'Fashion on the Ration' tells this story at the Imperial War Museum, London.  

The fashion landscape changed, more uniforms were seen on the streets, both the armed forces and women's auxiliary services. Some uniforms were more desirable than others which swayed people's decisions about signing up. 
The air force uniform was considered very smart, the men named the 'Brylcreem boys'. 

Apart from school, I've never worn a uniform, except perhaps for this one, for a very short time, in the Girl-Guides.
Like these Girl-Guides taking part in a fund raising parade in 1941.

If you hadn't signed up and been issued a uniform, there was a kind of home front uniform.
The housecoat, worn to protect your hard-to-replace everyday clothes. Funny how I've grown up thinking that a housecoat was kind of dressing gown.

Housecoats increased in popularity. These housecoats look to good to do the housework in. I wouldn't be drying my hands on them like I do with my grubby kitchen apron.

And aircraft factory overalls in Manchester weren't that bad either.

Retailers saw opportunities and jumped on the bandwagon, creating clothes and accessories for war conditions.

Like the 'Siren Suit'. Perfect for pulling on over your nightie for that middle of the night dash to the air raid shelter. This even has a drop down flap at the rear for convenience. Mind you how convenient was the lavatory back at the house when you were ensconced in a shelter down the garden? 

And luminous accessories for the Blackout. Buttons and flowers.
Plus checkout these handbags with gas mask compartments. 

Or you could just take the government's advice and wear something white, cheaper that way. This wasn't just a gimmick, one in five people were injured in the blackout. 

In 1941 rationing was introduced. Food had been rationed for over a year. The government wanted to safeguard raw material and free up labour and factory space for the war effort. The rationing of clothes was successful in ensuing decent quality, durable, price regulated supplies for all, resulting in clothes being distributed more fairly.  

You were issued with 66 coupons and a dress was 11. So the public were encouraged to 'Make Do and Mend'. This was the bit of the exhibition I was really looking forward to.

Two Sussex dressmakers made this from scraps.

Perhaps inspired by 'Woman'.

This dressing gown was made from an RAF silk 'escape map'. Surplus maps were sold off to the public in 1945.

Then you could also knit for yourself.

Fairisle was a 'useful for using up scraps of different coloured wool'. So they say, I reckon fairisle is more complicated and planned than that. I could well be wrong. 

'Make Do and Mend' has been embraced recently, capturing some kind of romantic nostalgic attitude to crafts and recycling, but this official rhetoric was not particulalrly liked at the time.

This wedding dress was made from pre-war silk intended for petticoats. It was first worn by Evelyn Higginson in 1943, who later lent it to fourteen other women, including her sister Linda in 1946.

I came to Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum with a little idea how the Second World War had impacted fashion in the forties, influenced by necessity, the need to protect what clothes they had, newly available jobs in the factories, lack of raw materials and the like. The most surprising thing I found out was that the government, in regulating the use of rubber, one of the rarest of commodities in war time, prioritised the use of elastic for women. 'Women's knickers were one of few garments where the use of elastic was allowed'.
Don't get to excited though, here's a pair of  'Utility peach rayon knickers'.

Fashion on the Ration is on at the Imperial War Museum, London until 31st August 2015.
Details on their website here.

Before they are accused of a one-sided look at fashion and clothing in the Second World War. There were men's garments and accessories, I just don't seem to have taken any photos of them.  
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...