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Three Days, Three Quotes Day 3 “Adlestrop – only the name”

Yes, I remember Adlestrop,

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop – only the name

Edward Thomas

And so begins Adlestrop, gentle, uneventful and simply one of the most beautiful poems in the English language, do read more. But as well as the perfect description of the stillness that can settle on the English countryside on a hot summer afternoon, it also shows a fascination with one of those aspects of England that we who live there often forget, the wonderful legacy of names.

Adlestrop – only the name

For Thomas understood the inherent poetry of names, another of my favourite poems of his begins.

If I should ever by chance grow rich

I’ll buy Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch,

Roses, Pyrgo, and Lapwater,

And let them all to my eldest daughter.

For English names can be wonderful, they can provoke humour because of apparent crudity. Living on the downs above the river Piddle I know how so many laugh at villages that take their name from the river. Names have been changed, would the pioneering trades unionists be so well known if they were the Tolpiddle martyrs? They could have been as Tolpiddle was the older name of the village, Tolpuddle becoming the standard form only by the mid nineteenth century.

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The ‘road’ to Frome St Quintain

Some can be beautiful, Rhyme Intrinsica or Frome St Quintain a tiny village where there is now no road to the church (there used to be but the houses alongside were demolished a couple of hundred years ago, and the land turned into a field with a footpath to the church).

Others are decidedly odd, Margaret Marsh sounds more like the name of a gym teacher, than a hamlet in Dorset at the end of a long road that goes nowhere else.

And when names are invented, unselfconsciously, not trying for anything grand the effect can be wonderfully poetic. My favourite group of this type of names can be found in varieties of fruit, especially apples. A list of old varieties almost forms itself into poetry.

Crimson Newton, D’Arcy Spice, Downton Pippin and Easter Orange.

Emneth Early, Feltham Beauty, Goodwood Pippin and Hanwell Souring

You can feel the local pride in the Keswick Codlin. Or perhaps imagine Mrs Lakeman, in the final years of Queen Victoria’s reign cutting the first apple from her new tree (Mrs Lakeman’s Seedling or Lakeman’s Superb) and saying, ‘I think that will do.”

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As Kipling was to write in another ‘name’ poem, this time on herbs.

Excellent herbs had our fathers of old,

Excellent herbs to ease their pain,

Alexanders and Marigold,

Eyebright, Orris, and Elecampane,

Basil, Rocket, Valerian, Rue,

(Almost singing themselves they run)

Vervain, Dittany, Call-me-to-you,

Cowslip, Melitot, Rose of the Sun,

Anything green that grew out of the mould

Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old.

And with the names ‘singing themselves’ I will end this three quotes in three days challenge set by Willowdot21, many thanks for the idea, and no I won’t be throwing a big book either at you, or down in disgust (I would never do that anyway – it might damage the book).


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Three Days, Three Quotes Day 2 “Back the mizzen topsail!”

In 1797, the Minerve frigate, captain Horatio Nelson, was being pursued by two Spanish vessels. A man fell overboard, in order to save him Lieutenant Thomas Hardy and another sailor scrambled down into the jolly boat and pulled towards the drowning man. They rescued him and began rowing back, however the wind had strengthened and the Minerve was pulling away from the boat. Seeing this Nelson uttered the wonderful order.
“By God, I’ll not lose Hardy, back the mizzen topsail!”
This slowed the ship, the pursuing Spanish were amazed. They immediately suspected a trap and slowed themselves allowing Nelson and Hardy to escape.

For over two hundred years enemy nations have long been suspicious of the British, believing them to be brilliantly devious and great at deceit. Wellington would retreat on several occasions, leading his enemy into a trap. In Portugal he led the French deep into enemy territory, then when their supply lines were very stretched, and being harassed by local guerrillas, led them onto the massively defended lines of Torres Vedras, which Wellington had kept so secret that not even his own government knew about them!

Before the Second World War the German’s had an almost superstitious belief in the efficiency of the British Secret Service. However even they didn’t know how good they were, it was only after the war that it was discovered that the entire German spy network in Britain was run by the British!

However one brilliant intelligence coup occurred by accident. Churchill was very concerned about maintaining British moral, and this included food supplies. Marmalade is a staple of the British breakfast and is made from Seville oranges, from neutral Spain. So Churchill ordered the British Embassy to ensure the supply of these oranges, the Germans naturally got wind of this and wondered why they were so important. The oranges are bitter and cannot be eaten directly so the Germans suspected that there was a chemical in them of military importance. For six months several top German chemists were involved in trying to discover what Seville oranges were good for, wasting months of time!

Hence the joke, first recorded in the far East in the 1920s.
‘Why does the sun never set on the British Empire?’
‘Because God can’t trust the British in the dark.’


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Three Days, Three Quotes Day 1 The Honest Serving men

I keep six honest serving men,

They’ve taught me all I know,

Their name are What, and Why and When,

And Where and Who and How. Rudyard Kipling

As you may have guessed, from what I have already written, I keep the honest serving men well employed.

I love curious and bizarre information, and when I come across something really odd it tends to stick in my mind. For example, in the plethora of newspaper and magazine articles on the Battle of Waterloo one small story caught my imagination. When the Unites States ambassador, John Quincy Adams, read Wellington’s dispatch after Waterloo, it was so understated that he thought that the allied army had been defeated!

If I am always using the honest serving men, so are my children, and they use them on me, even now when they are grown and long since left home. I suppose I only have myself to blame, being able to answer a question like.

‘How big was Charlemagne’s empire?’

When asked at the breakfast table, might suggest to my children that I am a suitable repository of knowledge. My younger son, known in the blogsphere created by my brother and I, as the Teacher, was perhaps the best, or worst, at asking questions.

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The Teacher, and the Civil Servant (Mrs Teacher)

‘Dad, what’s the difference between the Arian and Pelagian heresies?”

Was one of his best, however after I had explained, he commented.

‘Oh, the Pelagian is similar to the Arminian heresy.’

Even after he went to university I was the source of useful information. One afternoon I received a phone call, asking me where a quotation came from. I heard noise in the background and asked him where he was.

‘I’m outside the Bod.’ (the Bodleian Library, Oxford)

‘You are outside the greatest library on Earth, to which you have free access.’ I responded, ‘and across the road is one of the finest academic bookshops. In both you will find a book called the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, where you can easily find the answer. Why don’t you look it up instead of ringing me?’

‘You are much quicker.’

A little while ago willowdot21, nominated me for the Three Day Quote Challenge

The rules of the challenge are:

Post your favourite quotes or your own quotes for 3 days in a row.

Thank the person who nominated you.

So thank you willowdot21.

Also the Teacher commented that I had written about our dog, but never mentioned him. So I have here.

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Five Photos Five Stories – day five. There is a corner of some English field …….

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Just to the east of Dorchester, if you turn off the main road onto a narrow lane that is only to easy to miss. Then turn onto what looks like the drive to a house, park in an open spot under a group of trees then walk down a narrow path, now over-hung with Elder trees in full blossom. You will come to the tiny church of Winterborne Came. Described as a ‘church is of little architectural interest’ it attracts visitors from all over the world because of one person who is buried there.

In fact there are three monuments of interest, one tells a remarkable story, one is known all over the world, and the third is hardly known at all.

The remarkable story is told on a monument on the north side of the altar, to George Dawson Damer.

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‘In 1812, on the staff of Sir R. Wilson, was present with the Russian army at the retreat of theFrench cavalry from Moscow: in 1813, with the allies at the battles of Dresden, Lutzen, Rautzen, Wurtzen and Culm: also at the operations before Hamburg and Holstein: in 1814, entered France with the allies; was then employed in the low countries, then appointed Quarter Master General to the Prince of Orange, under whom he was present at Quatrebras and Waterloo, where he was wounded and had two horses shot under him.’

He is known in Dorchester, less for his remarkable military career, but as one of the founders of the County Hospital, the hospital restaurant is named after him.

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The well-known monument is that of the poet William Barnes, a friendly, gentle man who was rector of this tiny church for a quarter of a century. He was also a pioneering conservationist who led a protest against the destruction of ancient monuments by the Great Western Railway, the protest group won, and decided that had so much fun they would carry on meeting, and their society is still going strong today.

The final monument tells of a local tragedy.

Charles Dannett, Died August 7 1870, aged 31.

Erected by his fellow workmen.

I know nothing more than is told on the stone, and would love to know more. Why was he so well liked that his friends paid for the stone? There is a story there but what is it?

Featured imageVisiting Winterborne Came Church today, on Waterloo day

There are wonderful stories everywhere, just get out and look.


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Five Photos Five Stories – day four Explorers and Authors, a matter of connection

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The Cloud Sea

Sometimes, when I am portraying a Victorian Scientist, I ask a question, normally it takes a bit of lateral thinking but I think you will get it right away.

‘In 1862, the explorers Henry Coxwell & Dr. James Glaisher made a terrible journey that almost killed them, they travelled nearly seven miles from Birmingham, where did they go?”

The pictures is a big clue, the answer is, straight up!

Coxwell was the balloonist, Glaisher was a scientist, a meteorologist, he wanted to know where clouds formed. They set off in the afternoon of September climbing rapidly their balloon pushed through, what these early aeronauts called, the Cloud Sea, and then upwards. As they passed 20,000 feet they entered regions no one had ever entered before, and kept on climbing.

They knew it was going to be cold, so they wore tweed jackets and woollen scarves, but made no preparation for lack of oxygen, in fact they were about to discover what oxygen starvation meant. Glaisher was affected first, as they passed 30,000 feet his hands lost all feeling, his sight went and then he passed out. Then Coxwell began to lose feeling in his hands, realising that if they didn’t begin to descend soon they would both die. He pulled the release cord that would let gas from the balloon, and nothing happened. The cord was caught in the rigging, so – with hands that didn’t work, he climbed into the rigging of the balloon, seven miles above the ground, to free the line.

He did it and, the balloon began to descend. After a few thousand feet Glaisher regained consciousness, and immediately returned to his instruments to make notes, after all, he realised he would never go into these regions again.

And no one did, even in fiction few explored these regions. One was the unfortunate aviator Joyce-Armstrong, whose terrible story is related in The Horror of the Heights by Arthur Conan Doyle. He describes how flying up to these regions he finds it inhabited, by giant jellyfish type creatures, long thin serpents and massive predators with long tentacles. On his second flight he fails to escape the predators.

In reality the next person to explore these regions was another magnificent scientist, the Belgian Professor Auguste Piccard, who in the 1930’s built an aluminium sphere and, under a giant balloon, flew it to the edge of space. He was Herge’s inspiration for the wonderful Professor Calculus in the Tintin stories. He realised that his sphere could be adapted to descent into the deep ocean. His son, Jacques Piccard, took it to the logical condition and, in the 1950’s piloted his bathyscaphe to the deepest point in the ocean, the Challenger Deep.

The Challenger Deep takes its name from HMS Challenger, the world’s first oceanographic research vessel, during its three year voyage it mapped the deep oceans and discovered hundreds of thousands of new species of animals and plants. The vessel was so important that the Space Shuttle Challenger was called after it, as was Professor Challenger, the scientific explorer invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who found The Lost World.

And so, from a photograph taken out of an aircraft window, we have gone from heroes of Victorian Science, via three famous Belgians, to a space ship and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


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Five Photos Five Stories – day three A Breed Apart

Featured imageSpud

Meet Spud our dog. He is small and black and white, as he is constantly moulting any dark flooring is covered in white hairs and light coloured floor in white hairs, and the vacuum cleaner is full of grey fluff.

He can wrap us round his little paw, ever since my wife saw him at the Rescue Centre, where he put his head on her lap and looked up at her with big brown eyes. He is clever and loves bread. This has caused us to alter our behaviour in the kitchen, always push the chairs under the table. If not he will be on it, he is too small to jump on the table but can use a chair as a step to get on the table. And if there is bread or toast on the table, its gone. He also likes tea and patches of sun in which he will lie, careful rolling across the floor as the sun moves.

In other words he is a character, and therefore a classic example of a Jack Russell Terrier.

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Spud in a Spud sized sun patch

But, how can a rescue dog, of no clearly identified parentage, be a classic example of one of the best known breeds of small dogs. Simple, there is no such breed as the Jack Russell Terrier!

About 150 years ago a group of Victorian gentlemen, formed an organisation called the Kennel Club and began to classify the known breeds of dogs. Before that time dogs were known for the jobs they did, a foxhound chased foxes, a bull dog baited bulls etc. But now they were to be defined as breeds, size, shape and colour was to be listed so a dog could be judged on how closely it matched the ideal. But not the Jack Russell Terrier, and this was very strange as a founder of the Kennel Club was a Devonshire clergyman called John (or Jack) Russell, he helped write the description of many breeds. However he refused to describe the breed he had created and since then the Kennel Club has respected his wishes and never created a breed description for the Jack Russell Terrier.

Why, simply a breed description can list size, shape and colour, but not intelligence and character. Parson Jack held that these were more important than anything else in the dogs he bred, so Spud is intelligent, a great character, and definitely a Jack Russell Terrier.


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Five Photos Five Stories – day one The Way through the Woods

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An old road on the edge of the village, earlier today.

The Way through the Woods

They shut the road through the wood, seventy years ago,
The weather and the rain, Have undone it again,
And now you would never know,
There was once a road through the wood.
Before they planted the trees,
It is beneath, the coppice and heath,
And thin anemones. Only the keeper sees,
That where the badgers roll
And ring doves take their ease
There was once a road through the wood.

But if you enter the wood,
On a summer’s evening – late,
When the night air cools, on trout ringed pools
And the otter whistles his mate
(they fear not men in the wood, because they see so few.)
You may hear the beat, of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew.
Steadily cantering through, the misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew.
The old lost road through the wood.
But there is no road through the wood.
Rudyard Kipling

At the bottom of the garden, a gate led onto the field. On the other side of the field was a wood. Her parents told her that she should never go into the wood, though she had heard her grandmother say.

“Oh, Mary’s a polite little girl, she would come to no harm in the wood. SHE would never harm her, in fact she would probably like to see her there. I saw her several times, and it did me no harm.”
Mary didn’t understand, but kept away from the wood all the same.

Until one summer afternoon, she had been walking across the field, and came to the old fence that ran round the wood. The field was so hot, and it looked so cool in the wood, the dappled sunlight was so beautiful. In a patch of sun she saw big black and white butterflies gliding across the glade. She slipped through the fence and walked into the glade, there was a path leading deeper into the wood. She followed it, deeper and deeper. Then suddenly she felt afraid, looked around, and suddenly realised that she couldn’t see the path back. She was lost. She turned and tried to find a way though the trees, but there was no way. She pushed between the trunks, branches tried to catch her, they pulled at her dress, they caught in her hair. Suddenly there was a lighter patch in front of her, she forced her way through the branches and found herself on an open ride, a broad strip of grass.

She fell on her knees, grateful to be free of the trees, and burst into tears.
She knelt there sobbing, and didn’t notice the noise of a horse approach, in fact she was so wrapped up in her misery that she didn’t notice anything until she was gently tapped on the arm. She looked up to see a young woman looking down at her.

“Whatever is the matter pretty maid?” The Lady asked, Mary knew she was a lady.

“I’m sorry.” She gulped through her tears.

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because I was told not to go into the wood. I am so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, you can come into this wood whenever you like.” The Lady smiled, and raised her head.
“You are free of this wood for as long as you live, do you understand?”

Mary nodded, but she had the strangest feeling that the Lady wasn’t talking to her, rather she was talking to the trees. As the Lady bent to her again, the wind whispered through the branches, as though acknowledging the Lady’s orders.

“Now what would you like?” she asked.

“I want to go home now, please.”

“Of course you can.” The Lady replied, and pulled her to her feet. Mary now realised that the Lady was dressed very oddly. She was all in green, in a long old-fashioned riding dress. She put one foot in her stirrup and pulled herself up on the saddle. Seated side-saddle she bent down and pulled Mary up onto her lap, she was certainly very strong. They cantered down the ride, Mary felt completely safe and very happy.

Suddenly they were at the edge of the wood, the Lady lifted her and gently placed her on the ground, then she felt in her pocket and gave Mary something, before she could say anything she heard her mother calling her name. She turned to look, and when she turned back to thank the Lady, the Lady had vanished.

As she told her mother the story, her mother went very silent. She didn’t say anything, but rang Mary’s grandmother as soon as they got back to the cottage. The grandmother listened to her story and smiled.

“I knew she would be safe.” Then she turned to Mary. “Now you can go in the woods whenever you want, you will be safe there, as long as you are polite to her, and I know you will be.”

Mary suddenly felt a weight in her pocket and pulled out a large, bright coin.
“The Lady gave it to me.”

Her father looked at it closely.
“It looks brand new – and its more than one hundred years old.” He said quietly.

This story began in the traditional way of many stories, I made it up to tell my children, after they wanted to know more about the wood in the poem. They would naturally ask further questions, but my reply was always the traditional one – ‘That’s enough for now, it’s time to go to sleep.’

I was nominated to take part in this photo challenge by my brother, TanGental. He considered that my ‘eclectic mix of pictures and stringy thinking is sure to entertain us’ – well I hope I manage it.
The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!


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Colour on the Cards

Do you like Charity Shops? I do as you never know what you might find in them, and in my case where the discovery might take you.

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A little while ago I was in a local shop when I spotted a pack of playing cards in a glass case. I could see that the numbers had been written on, which told me that they were of some age as I knew numbers had been added to cards in the nineteenth century. Incidentally this had led to the term ‘Jack’ becoming socially acceptable, before this the lowest value court card had been known as the Knave in polite society, Jack was a much more lower class term (like using serviette instead of napkin). Thus in Great Expectations;

“He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy!” said Estella with disdain.

But when there was a need to put a letter on a card to identify it, K couldn’t be used for both King and Knave, so Jack had to become the official name of the card.

I naturally had the cards taken from the case to look at the court cards, since at the beginning of the century the figures had legs, then about the middle of the century they became double headed. These cards were double headed, so I guessed they must date from the middle of the century, I therefore paid a few pounds so I could investigate them further.

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A little searching soon revealed that the cards dated from between 1862 and 1865, and then I was surprised to discover that the pattern on the back had been designed by Owen Jones.

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Jones was one of the finest, if least known, Victorian designers. He was an early pioneer of colour theory who had designed the colour scheme for the Crystal Palace, in order to make the interior look bigger than it was. He had also designed the decoration of one of the most delightful Victorian church in Dorset, Sutton Waldron.

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The walls are painted dark red and light blue. Whilst the floors are covered with wonderful mosaic patterns. Looking at them, it is easy to see that Owen Jones was one of the first people to appreciate the decoration of the Alhambra in Spain. In fact his work almost killed him, he was making drawings of the designs in the building when cholera broke out in the area, he refused to leave until the work was done, other people at the Alhambra at the same time died. Returning, he published a magnificent book on the Alhambra, which led to its international recognition, and made the Spanish take more care of it (local people were chipping bits off the mosaics to sell to tourists.

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And that is where you can go with something picked up at a charity shop, I will doubtless discuss these shops again, how they vary from town to town, and some of the more curious objects I have picked up from them. After all if you saw a piece of pottery labelled, ‘A puzzle jug with a lithophane’ you would naturally want to see what the lithophane showed – but that is another story.


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A Tale of Discovery or, A Discovery of Tales

Every so often the newspapers record a new ‘literary discovery’, these fall into three categories;

Real discoveries like previously unknown letters (these are very rare).

Something that had been known for years, but the ‘discoverer’ wasn’t as well read as he or she thought (these are quite common).

Complete and utter twaddle (the great majority).

A few days ago it was announced that the first ‘contemporary portrait of Shakespeare’ had been discovered. The initial publication was made through the unusual medium of the magazine Country Life (for those outside the UK this is a very upmarket countryside magazine {and I mean upmarket – the house adverts at the front of the magazine rarely include properties going for less than one million pounds}) .

I am afraid that I think that the theory falls into the third category.

The portrait is one of four on the title page of the first edition of The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes by John Gerard, this is one of the most important botanical works ever published, and is a still a wonderful read. The identification is based on the discovery of various clues and ciphers in the picture, but the discoverer gives no good reason why Shakespeare should be on the cover of a book about plants. I tend to agree with the head of the Shakespeare Birthday Trust in doubting any combination of Shakespeare and hidden ciphers, these are the favourite sources of ‘evidence’ for those who think that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, but someone else did.

On the other hand if someone had said they found evidence that Shakespeare had read Gerard’s Herbal, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Shakespeare clearly loved plants and his works are full of references to them. Indeed some of his references to plants provide additional evidence that William Shakespeare (or at least someone who had spent a long time in the countryside of the West Midlands) wrote Shakespeare.

For example Honey Stalks for clover is found in Titus Andronicus, whilst outside the play it has only ever been recorded once, in the late nineteenth century, in Warwickshire. Whilst the beautiful couplet from Cymbeline;

Golden lads and girls all must,

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust

Makes sense when one knows that in Warwickshire and Gloucestershire a Dandelion flower was known as a Golden Lad and the seed head was a Chimney Sweeper.

          Featured image         A Golden Lad

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Three Chimney Sweepers


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A Tale of Two Towers

The traveller, on the road between Dorchester and Wimborne Minster in Dorset, will occasionally glimpse the silhouette of a tower on the top of a remote hill. A hundred years ago the same sight was visible from the train. It was this view of a lonely tower that inspired (if that is the right word) one of Thomas Hardy’s rightfully lesser known novels Two on a Tower. Despite the questionable literary quality of the novel I have long been curious about the building, but it lies in the middle of Charborough Park, with no public access.

However this weekend the woodlands were opened for charity and, at last, after wandering through a wonderful collection of ancient rhododendrons in full flower, I glimpsed the tower in the distance. As I approached it looked stranger and stranger. I knew it had been built in the 1790’s, but hadn’t realised that it had been built in such a strange form of gothic revival (I tend to call this gothick).

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An octagonal tower with weird windows and curious beasts carved on the label stops, the addition of mobile phone aerials on the top only adds to the strangeness of the creation.

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As soon as I saw it I was immediately reminded of pictures I had seen of the great tower of Fonthill Abbey. This was built at about the same time as this building, fell down twice before being finished. It towered 90 metres (300ft) high, and dominated the surrounding countryside for a few years, before finally collapsing in 1825, destroying Fonthill Abbey in its fall.

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If this tower was little known, the other one is very well known. Clavell’s tower stands on the cliffs above Kimmeridge Bay on the Dorset coast. It had been built as a summerhouse, became a coastguard look out, then was abandoned and fell into ruin. A few years ago it was in danger of collapse as the cliff it stood on was crumbling. A campaign to save it was started, with high profile support from the crime writer P.D James.

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Clavell’s Tower before restoration

She got involved because the tower had been the inspiration for one of her novels. The story she told was that she was on holiday with her family, everyone else was admiring the view of the bay, whilst she imagined a man in a wheelchair falling over the cliff (she also claimed that she had thought like that all her life, on hearing the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, she wondered if he fell, or was he pushed). This was the stimulus for The Black Tower. When a TV company came to film the novel they found that, in reality the tower was grey, so it was coloured black with food colouring as this would wash away in the rain.

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The tower today, the ring shows where it once stood.

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The very unusual holiday home.

Clavell’s tower has been saved, was moved away from the cliff edge and rebuilt – and is now a very unusual holiday home.


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