Water Babies and an exclamation!

Westward Ho!, Devon (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:10,000 – published in 1903)
Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! is a seaside village near Bideford in Devon, England and faces westward into Bideford Bay.

The village name comes from the title of Charles Kingsley’s novel Westward Ho! (1855), which was set in nearby Bideford. The book was a bestseller, and entrepreneurs saw the opportunity to develop tourism in the area. The first hotel built was named the Westward Ho! Hotel, and the adjacent villas were also named after the book. As further development took place, the expanding area incorporated the name of Westward Ho!

During WWII Bailey Bridges were tested at Westward Ho! as part of the Mulberry Harbour project, as well as the The Great Panjandrum. The Panjandrum is probably best know for being depicted in the Dad’s Army episode, “Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel”, about a large, rocket-propelled, explosive-laden wheel. Unfortunately the real wheel had as many problems as the tv version and the idea never saw service.

Westward Ho! is also home to the Royal North Devon Golf Club, the oldest golf course in England and Wales.

The exclamation mark is obviously an intentional part of the village’s name. It is the only such place name in the British Isles, but although it may be unique in the UK Westward Ho! is out-exclaimed by Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Quebec, which has the distinction of having two exclamation marks in its name.

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Map of the month – Blackpool before the tower 1891

Blackpool

Blackpool (Ordnance Survey County Series 1:1,056 – Surveyed  C.1891, published in 1893)

For centuries Blackpool was a small hamlet by the sea. Its name stems from a historic drainage channel that ran over a peat bog, discharging discoloured water into the Irish Sea, which formed a black pool (on the other side of the sea, the name “Dublin” (Dubh Linn) is derived from the Irish for “black pool”).

By the middle of the 18th century, the practice of bathing in the sea to cure diseases was becoming fashionable among the wealthier classes, and visitors began making the trek to Blackpool for that purpose. The 1801 census records the town’s population at only 473, but by 1851 the population had risen to over 2,500.  However, Blackpool only grew into a substantial town when the railway was built connecting it to the industrial towns of the north. The first railway in the area opened in 1840 but it only ran as far as Poulton. In 1846 a branch line was built from Poulton to Blackpool, making it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach the coast.

Blackpool Tower was built between 1891 and 1894, but before the tower visitors flocked to Dr. Cocker’s Aquarium, Aviary and Menagerie, which had existed on the site since 1873. It was kept open to earn revenue while the tower building went up around it, and then became one of the tower’s major attractions. It housed 57 different species of fresh water and salt water fish and the largest tank held 32,000 litres of salt water. The menagerie and aviary, one of the finest collections in the country, included lions, tigers, and polar bears.

The Blackpool Tower Company bought the Aquarium on Central Promenade in 1890 with the intention of building a replica Eiffel Tower on the site. Two Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, designed the Tower and oversaw the laying of its foundation stone, on 29 September 1891

When the tower opened on 14 May 1894, 3,000 customers took the first rides to the top. Tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top (the option was 563 steps from the roof of the tower building to the flagpole at the top) and a further sixpence for entry to the circus.

The Tower Circus, which is positioned at the base of the tower between its four legs, first opened to the public on 14 May 1894 and has not missed a season since. The circus ring can be lowered into a pool of water that holds 42,000 gallons at a depth of up to 4 ft 6 inches, which allows for Grand Finales with Dancing Fountains. The Tower Circus is one of only four venues left in the world that can do this.

The tower was not painted properly during the first thirty years and became corroded, leading to discussions about its demolishing. However it was decided to rebuild it instead, and between 1921 and 1924 all of the steelwork in the structure of the tower was replaced and renewed.

With attractions like these, the building of the Promenade, the three Piers (North, Central and South), tram rides and the famous Illuminations, Blackpool continued to grow until by 1951 the population had grown to 147,000. Today the population of Blackpool has settled back to a healthy 142,000.

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Map of the month – Euston Station

Euston Station
Euston Station, London (Town Plan 1:1,056)

Euston was the first inter-city railway station in central London, opened on 20 July 1837 as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway.

The site was selected in the early 1830s by George and Robert Stephenson, engineers of the London and Birmingham Railway. The area was then mostly farmland at the edge of the expanding city of London. The station was named after Euston Hall in Suffolk, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Grafton, who were the main landowners in the area.

Before Euston was built the trains from Birmingham had an unsatisfactory endpoint at Chalk Farm, built in 1833. It was George Stephenson who planned the original station at Euston Grove with just two platforms, one for arrivals, one departures, sheltered beneath a massive wrought-iron roof. The building was designed by Philip Hardwick, fronted by a 72’ high porticot. This portico acquired the name Euston Arch.

There was a notable engineering oddity about Euston from its opening on July 20 1837: because Lord Southampton, master of the Quorn Hunt, Conservative grandee, and a major landowner locally, objected to the potential noise and dirt, no locomotives were allowed between Euston and Camden Town. Instead trains were pulled from the terminus to Camden by a cable device until 1844, when engines were at last allowed.

The station grew rapidly over the following years as traffic increased. It was greatly expanded in the 1840s, with the opening in 1849 of the spectacular Great Hall, designed by Hardwick’s son Philip Charles Hardwick in classical style. It was 126 ft long, 61 ft wide and 64 ft high, with a coffered ceiling and a sweeping double flight of stairs leading to offices at its northern end.

The pioneers who established the railway network built Euston Arch, the massive Doric portico, outside the first terminus in London, Euston Station; in the 1960s their ancestors knocked it down in what many consider to be an act of cultural vandalism. Perhaps there is hope for this generation as a campaign now exists to have the Euston Arch restored.

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Map of the week – St. George’s Chapel, Windsor

Map: Ordnance Survey County Series 1:1,056 – 1871
St George's Chapel, Windsor

 St. George’s Chapel, Windsor – burial place of Henry VIII

Henry Tudor was born in the royal residence of Greenwich Palace on June 28, 1491, son of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth York. Not much is known about his early life because he was not born first in line to the throne, a role destined for his older brother Arthur, but  in 1502, at the age of only 15, Arthur died in Ludlow Castle where he resided in his capacity as Prince of Wales. Arthur’s death thrust all of his royal duties upon his younger brother, the 10-year-old Henry.

Henry was crowned Henry VIII, king of England following the death of his father on 22 April 1509.

Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. His struggles with Rome led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and his own establishment as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

His contemporaries considered Henry in his prime to be an attractive, educated and accomplished king, and he has been described as “one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne”.
Later in life, Henry became obese, with a waist measurement of 54 inches and his physical decline can be traced to a jousting accident in 1536, in which he suffered a leg wound that never healed as well as head injuries.

Henry died in London on the 28th January 1547  and was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, next to his third wife Jane Seymour, who had given birth to Henry’s only legitimate son, Edward, the future Edward VI. Over a hundred years later, Charles I was buried in the same vault. All three still lie in the vault beneath the quire in St. Georges Chapel, Windsor.

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