Monday, 17 December 2018




Discussion starter:
Top Ten Podcasts of 2018
Podcasts are a big part of my day, or rather night.  I go to sleep every night listening to one of them.  Quite why I find the spoken word so soporific I'm not quite sure.  Surly I'm not the only one who listens to podcasts.  Anyway here's my top ten for 2018.  What's yours?

1. Rhod Gilbert. I've been a fan of Rhod Gilbert for many years now even before the prize-winning mince pie encounter.  His podcasts are extracts of his weekly show on BBC Radio Wales.  Pure gold.

2. Inside Europe.  A weekly hour long English language news programme from German broadcaster Deutche Welle.  There is a lot more happening in the world than what we see on the TV news programmes.  Helps you see the world from other people's perspectives.

3. Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4. Rotates between the News Quiz, a satirical look at the weeks news (my favourite), the Now Show, and Dead Ringers.

4. Geogearheads.  A weekly American podcast on the technical aspects of geocaching. They tackle different topics each week.  Who would have thought that you could make an interesting podcast about finding tupperware in the woods. How they keep going I never know. 

5. The Danny Baker Show. I'm sure I remember watching Danny Baker on TV in the 80s.  He somehow manages to keep talking for two hours every Saturday.  The Sausage Sandwich game is usually one of the highlights - if I haven't fallen asleep by then.

6. Global News Podcast from BBC World Service.  Another news podcast that helps you appreciate that there is more going on in the world than Brexit and Trump.

7. From Our Own Correspondent.  BBC's foreign correspondents given an opportunity to be more prosaic than they are normally allowed to be in times of reporting of a crisis.   After all they have to be given something to do to justify their salaries in quiet times.  A successful and long lasting formula.  The spinoff From Our home Correspondent is also worth a listen.

8. The Podcast Show.  A monthly UK geocaching podcast.  Worth a listen if only for the lovely accents the hosts have.  I don't always find all the content gripping and the variable sound levels can make me jump just as I am drifting off to sleep.  Worth tuning in though if you are a cacher.

9. PodQuiz weekly trivia quiz.  I never know why there aren't more quiz podcasts.  This one has been going for ages.  The trouble is that if you drift off to sleep before the end you miss the answers.
 
10. Desert Island Discs.  The podcast version suffers from the fact that the music is shortened because of rights reasons.  This has slipped down my list in the past year but still makes the top ten.  I find some episodes are enthralling whilst others can make me squirm.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Cardiff Castle Air Raid Shelters


I own Cardiff Castle.  OK, strictly speaking it's me and everyone else who lives in the City of Cardiff.  It was left to Cardiff by the Marquis of Bute.  Then someone probably asked 'Why do I have to pay to get into the castle when I already own it?'.  Fair point.  So nowadays all citizens of Cardiff have free access to much of Cardiff Castle, provided that is they have purchased a  Cardiff Key for £5 which is valid three years.  So not strictly free I guess, and it's not a key either, it's a bit of plastic with your photo on it.  Anyhow, in an effort to go somewhere in Cardiff Castle we hadn't visited previously we headed for the wartime shelters. 

The Air Raid Shelters in Cardiff Castle

When the castle was still in the ownership of the Marquis of Bute he kindly let the citizens of Cardiff take shelter there when the WWII air raid sirens sounded.  Bomb shelters were traditionally underground but someone pointed out that the castle walls are pretty thick and anyone hiding in the passageways between the walls were likely to be fairly well protected.  In order for people to avoid having to enter over the drawbridge route, and I guess have to pay the entrance fee, they drove holes in the castle walls and constructed wooden ramps up to the shelters. It was even nicer of the Marquis to allow this to happen to his beloved castle, but then again he and his workers had already spent many years knocking it around so a bit more remodelling work wouldn't make much difference. 

The wooden ramp built into the wall of Cardiff Castle in WWII


I don't suppose I'm the first person to think that if 1800 people could shelter here in WWII then wouldn't the place be equally good today to help get Cardiff's homeless off the streets on cold winter nights.  The castle passageways were however bitterly cold and I quickly changed my mind about that being a viable option. 

A wartime kitchen - not keeping up with the washing up.

The exhibition is somewhat basic.  There are some photos of wartime Cardiff, the damage incurred by the raids and the ARP (air raid precaution) staff involved but none of it is labelled. Equally frustrating is the ear deafening noise of aeroplanes, bomb blasts and sirens that museums such as this feel is essential to emit from loudspeakers dotted around.  No it's not!  To me it is sombre and sad and I would prefer to experience it in peace or if necessary with some appropriate sombre and sad music playing quietly in the background. 

Albany Road, Cardiff, bomb
Bomb damage to one of the streets off Albany Road, Cardiff

The passage walls are lined with posters of the time encouraging people not to waste resources, not to gossip as there may be spies around and to grow your own vegetables.  There is a reproduced Anderson shelter built into the passageway. A couple of days later when wandering around Newport I passed an Anderson shelter preserved in someone's back garden.  I guess there aren't many remaining nowadays as most people would have been only too glad to see them removed when peace came.

Newport
A preserved Anderson shelter in Newport.

I'm lucky enough to be too young to have lived the war but recall my mother talking about her childhood here in Cardiff.  They used to have an Anderson shelter in the garden but I also remember her talking about sheltering under the stairs when the sirens went off.  She said that the theory was that the stairs often survived when a house was bombed so it was the safest place to be.  Maybe that was before their Anderson shelter arrived.

Some of those helping to protect Cardiff citizens in WWII


My grandfather wouldn't have been have been with the rest of the family in the shelter as he was an ARP warden.  His job was to patrol the local area to ensure people were complying with the blackout restrictions and check for any light escaping around the blinds.  I guess he was also involved in the aftermath of the raids but he didn't talk to us about that aspect. 

ARP Poster


My grandmother was a primary school teacher.  Again she didn't talk to us grandchildren about wartime experiences.  I doubt they wanted to be reminded about it..  My mother however told me that my grandmother's saddest experience was going into school when they reopened after the raids and seeing the empty seats of the children that had been killed. 

great coat, helmet
Bomb shelter exhibition

I often tend to forget that Cardiff was a Luftwaffe target. In Coventry, where I used to live for many years, it seemed to be more often discussed.  That's probably because Coventry was very badly impacted and the shell of the old Coventry Cathedral still stands in the city centre as a reminder.  Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff was also hit but subsequently repaired.


Bomb damage
Damage to Llandaff Cathedral

Some 355 people were killed during the air raids on Cardiff and 500 seriously injured.  Given the number of properties that were destroyed or damaged it is staggering that the number is so low.  Schools, the infirmary, ships in the docks and a cinema were hit as well as many houses.  Those air raid sirens and shelters must have done a good job. 

Blitz in Cardiff
Bomb damage to Albany Road, Cardiff.
Perhaps the biggest raid of the war on Cardiff was on the night of January 2nd 1941.  It was a clear moonlit night.  First to fall were many incendiary bombs hitting places including the Castle grounds.  Fires around the city lit up the night sky. This was followed by a rounds of heavy bombs that caused widespread damage.  A large bomb fell on the gasworks in Grangetown.  Some 165 people were killed that night and it took the city sometime to recover.  The air raid went on for some ten hours in total.  It must have been a horrifying experience to live through.    

Newspaper headlines from Jan 3rd 1941

The exhibition at Cardiff Castle concentrated mainly of wartime life, the food shortages and alike.  It's largely geared towards children and serves to teach them about our history.  It did motivate me to go away and read up some more about the raids but mainly made me thankful that at least as far as our country is concerned it is a largely peaceful era though sadly not for many in other countries. 


War time poster


Friday, 9 February 2018

The sad story of Harriett Fleming

Welsh Bicknor church
Wye Valley Youth Hostel, Welsh Bicknor

It had been a splendid weekend. We had rented out Wye Valley Youth Hostel in Welsh Bicknor, near Goodrich.  It's become somewhat of a tradition of mine to rent a youth hostel in January, something to look forward to after Christmas and a great opportunity to meet up with friends.  As the years pass it's become less of a question of 'Where can we put the cot?' to 'Would you mind putting me down for a bottom bunk?' Vacating a hostel by the midday deadline on a Sunday used to be a struggle as people recovered from a very late Saturday night.  This year however, after a day of walking or cycling in the Forest of Dean, people were clambering for their beds before midnight and up to experience the lovely Spring like day on Sunday.    

River Wye, Welsh Bicknor
St Margaret's Church and River Wye, Welsh Bicknor, from Wye Valley YHA

The Youth Hostel is the old rectory building adjacent to the idyllic St Margaret's church on the banks of the River Wye.  It is part of the Courtfield estate, rich in history.  A young King Henry V even lived here for a while after the death of his mother.   It must have been one heck of a rectory.  The hostel is on three floors and sleeps 46 not including the staff.  How much space does a rector need?  It's actually the 'new rectory' built in the 1800s.  The old rectory was adjacent to the church, which itself was also rebuilt in the 1858.  They had the sense to build the new rectory in an elevated position safe from any flooding. 

St Margarets, Welsh Bicknor


I took a peaceful stroll in the Sunday morning sunshine down to the River Wye and St Margaret's church. My eye was caught by one particular grave, not an ancient one and not a particularly attractive one.  It looks to be covered in concrete which has two holes in it as is the grave once had something on top of it.  The inscription is what interested me.  It reads:

In loving memory of HARRIETT, widow of John Fleming, Ninian Road, Cardiff
Died Dec 29th 1925, aged 60

Gravestones don't often have an address on and I began to wonder why this one did and why Harriett was buried here in Welsh Bicknor.  The obvious reason seemed to me to be the idyllic setting but was there more to it?  In the week after I got home I started researching Harriett Fleming.




Harriett Fleming 1911 Census, Ninian Road, Cardiff
Part of 1911 Census of John & Harriett Fleming, 3 Ninian Road, Cardiff

In the 1911 census I found Harriett and John Fleming living at 3 Ninian Road, Cardiff with three children and a servant.  John, aged 52 was a marine surveyor and born in Maryport, Cumberland.  On the census however it stated that John and Harriett had only been married six years and the children were 21, 18 and 15, so pointed towards them being step-children of Harriett rather than her children.  Harriett's birthplace was down as English Bicknor, just across the river from Welsh Bicknor.  There we are I though, mystery solved, she wished to be buried where she could look over to where she was born.  I almost left it there but felt pulled to do a bit more digging. 

Ninian Road, Roath, Cardiff
3 Ninian Road, Cardiff, as it looks today.

In the 1901 census we find the John Fleming was living in Glossop Road, Cardiff with his first wife Jane, their three children, John's father William, born Holywood, County Down,  and a brother, also called William.  Jane died two years later in 1903 aged 43.  The following year John marries Harriett in Ross on Wye.

1912 death of John Fleming will
Will of John Fleming


In 1909 John Fleming makes a will, witnessed by a Doctor living next door at 1 Ninian Road and a solicitor.  Maybe his neighbour suggested that making a will was a good idea for in February 1912 John dies and leaves his estate to Harriett, and then on to his children.  Some two years later in 1914 we find Harriett has seemingly moved from Ninian Road and living at nearby Shirley Road. Did her three step-children move with her or were they still at 3 Ninian Road?  And why if she had moved out of Ninian Road in 1914, was the address on her gravestone when she died in 1925?  Time for some more research.

I tried to find out a bit more about Harriett's background.  I knew from the 1911 census that she had been born in the village of English Bicknor in around 1865.  I hadn't at this stage been able to find her marriage so didn't know her maiden name.  Luckily there was only one Harriett in the census records of the right age from English Bicknor and that was Harriett Keene, daughter of Roger Keene a farmer and another Harriet Keene and farming at Cowmeadow Farm.  in 1881 at the age of just 16 Harriett is a school teacher in English Bicknor.  Her parents, Roger and Harriet Keene, had many children and by 1891 had moved away from English Bicknor to another part of the Forest of Dean.  So it still left me wondering why she was buried across the river from her childhood home.

It was then that I found the probate record for Harriett which sadly stated that her body had been found in the River Wye at Welsh Bicknor six months after she had disappeared.   At the time of her disappearance she had been living in Cheltenham.  I'm not quite sure how you can tell the cause of death was drowning is a body has been in the water for six months. 

Harriett Keene Probate
Probate of Harriett Fleming


Curious to know if I could find out any more I visited a local library, immediately across the road from 3 Ninian Road, the address on her gravestone.  I learnt how to access the newspapers online and found three articles, two explaining her disappearance and one the inquest. 

Harriett Keene Inquest
Inquest of Harriett Fleming nee Keene


The articles explain how Harriett was probably suffering from depression following the death of one of her sisters.  She had been living in Cheltenham but had decided to visit a brother, James Keene, the one closest in age to her and now running his own farm some eleven miles upstream from Welsh Bicknor.  She goes out for a walk but never returns.  A witness thinks he may have seen her on the bank of the flooded Wye and has a short conversation.  Her body is found tangled up in tree roots in the following June.  What a coincidence that her body should be found in the same place she was born some 60 years earlier.

Will of Harriett Keene Welsh Bicknor
Will of Harriett Fleming

The inquest into her death was held in the Rectory in Welsh Bicknor, the very building in which we were staying that weekend.  She had written a will just a few days before she disappeared whilst staying with her brother at Wier End Farm.  Her will appears to overwrite that of her late husband in that it leaves the bulk of her estate to brother James and her other brothers and sisters but also some to her step-children.    
Harriet Keene English Bicknor
Harriett Fleming mystery solved

A sad but interesting bit of research.  I'm still sort of left wondering why she was buried here.  Was it the fact that the family thought it was meant to be as her body was discovered here, next to her childhood home? 


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Ernest Willows Pub - and the man behind the name.

The Pub

City Road Cardiff


A Wetherspoons pub never is never small and cosy with a real fire burning in the corner.  Many are in large old buildings of notable architecture. I wouldn't describe the Ernest Willows  in City Road, Cardiff as being of notable architecture.  Art deco would even be stretching it.  The building apparently used to be a garage and also a bicycle shop.  It is however friendly, spacious and has an outside area with its own mini-Gorsedd Circle feature around the side.  



What the pub lacks in charm is more than made up for by its fabulous award-winning toilets.  Before you men get too excited, I'm mainly here talking about the ladies toilets, not that I've seen them firsthand of course. 

The ladies toilets in Ernest Willows.  Wish I could go in here!

The opulent ladies toilets are full of marble and mosaic tiles with a central feature that wouldn't be out of place in the middle of an Italian town. I'm not sure of the history of the ladies toilets but I imagine the builder was told 'If you do a good job for us here then we've a 1000 more for you to have a go at'.

Our visit.

We did a bit of exploring of the area by first visiting Roath Farmers Market and lunching on the tasty vegetarian bibimbap and beef bulgogi from Seoul Food Wales .   That meant arriving in the Ernest Willows on a cold day we were just in need of a coffee to warm ourselves up but then it was quickly on to sampling the real ale.  The pub serves a range of real ales, some originating from Wales.  I went for a tasty pint of Jemima's Pitchfork brewed by Glamorgan Brewing Co. The beer is named after the Welsh heroine Jemima Nicholas. At the 1797 Battle of Fishguard she rounded up and captured 12 drunk French soldiers, armed only with a pitch fork. 

A nicely poured pint of Jemima's Pitchfork

The walls of the pub are lined with pictures of famous Cardiffians, including of course our hero after which this pub is named. Ernest Willows was a pioneering airship designer born in 1886. His well-researched biography by Alec McKinty is entitled 'The Father of British Airships'. 

This would have been an apt beer to choose if it had been on.

Ernest Willows - the aviator

Ernest Willows constructed a number of airships, the naming of which probably didn't take up too much of his time.  Willows 1, powered by a motorbike engine, was constructed in his workshop in East Moors Cardiff in 1905 when he was just 19 years old.

Willows I in 1905
(IPC Transport Press)

In 1910, in Willows 2, he succeeded in flying it to the city centre and landing near the City Hall netting him a £50 prize for the first aerial voyage in Wales.   Buoyed by his success and now with a bit of publicity behind him, he did the same three days later, this time in front of a crowd of 40,000. 

Willows II landing outside Cardiff City Hall
(from Alec McKinty - the Father of British Airships)

 A new local hero was born.  Ernest advanced airship design in that he made his steerable, something that is no doubt a great advantage if you are trying to get somewhere in particular.

His next notable achievement was to fly from Cardiff to London in Willows 3 and become the first person to fly an airship over the Bristol Channel, something he could hardly avoid doing as it was on the way.



Channel hopping became all the rage and in November 1910 he was the first person to fly an airship from London to Paris and the first to fly an airship over the English Channel at night (and no I don't know who the first person to do it in daylight was but it probably made for a better spectator sport).  The flight wasn't without mishap and he had to put down soon after reaching France for repairs.

French magazine depiction of Willows landing in France - being charged customs duty for the gas he is carrying.


You would have thought by now that fame and financial success would no doubt follow but I'm afraid not.  A number of things happened which stopped this, most notably the outbreak of WWI and the invention of the aeroplane.   Ernest did however play a role designing the tethered barrage balloons which  prevented enemy planes getting too low over London to seek out their targets. He spent much of WWI managing the building of barrage balloons in Westgate Street, Cardiff.


The technical achievements of Ernest Willows and his airships  are well covered in McKinty's biography and also in a number of other blogs such as Then and Now. and Phil Carradice.  What interests me maybe more is his family history. 


Ernest Willows - Family History


Ernest Willows was born in July 1886 just around the corner from the pub at No.11 Newport Road in a row of houses known as Brighton Terrace that became part of the University.  His father, Joseph Willows, was a dentist who originated from Hull and his mother Evaline Willows, nee Garrett, was born in Bath.  By the age of four Ernest and the family had moved to Queen Street in Cardiff.  Young Ernest started school in Richmond Road and may even have gone to Cardiff High for a short period of time but most of his education was in Clifton College, Bristol where he lived with an aunt.  He was all set to follow his father's career and started training to be a dentist but evidently didn't take to it and soon working on airships became his passion, one his parents it seems fully supported. 

The young E T Willows
(South Wales Echo)
In 1908 Ernest marries sixteen year old Irene Davies from Haverfordwest in Lambeth, London.  Their first two children Evelyn and Clifford are born back in Cardiff.  Evelyn dies on the eve of her first birthday in Deri Road, Penylan, Cardiff in 1910.  Poor Clifford was to die in 1932 aged 22 in a motorcycle accident on his way to work as a draughtsman in Whitley aerodrome, Coventry.  They have two more children; Dorothy who was born in West Bromwich in 1912 and died in 1980 and Ernest Joseph Denman Willows born in Hendon, London in 1914 and died in 1989, neither of whom married, so unfortunately it appears there are no living decedents of our hero Ernest Willows.  Ernest did have two sisters, Daisy who died in infancy and Doris.  It is from this line where it gets interesting from a local history point of view where one of Doris's daughters marries into the Crouch family, the famous Cardiff jewellers.

Ernest Willows in 1911

Anyway, I digress.  What of Ernest himself I hear you ask.  Unfortunately he doesn't have a lot of luck either.  He never seems to make a lot of money from his airship business.  In 1921 he loses all his worldly belongings overboard from a ship in off the Isle of Wight and ends up living with his family in a schooner moored up in Chiswick on the Thames.  His post-war career appears to be based on giving people joy rides in balloons. One night in 1925, his balloon escapes from its mooring in the Wembley Exhibition and crashes into the house of Sir Hector Rason, a former Premier of Western Australia, wrecking the porch, knocking off the chimney pots and filling the house with hydrogen gas.

Ernest takes off on his journey from Cardiff to London
(Flight magazine)

Ernest Willows life is cut short at the age of just 40 when he died in a ballooning accident in Bedford when taking two others for a ride in the balloon.  The basket gets detached from the balloon and plummets to the ground.  He is buried in Cathays cemetery in Cardiff along with his parents and infant child Evelyn.

  
Willows family headstone in Cathays cemetery

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Cardiff University Queen's Buildings


Cardiff University Engineering Department  isn't where I was expecting to see a skeleton. There I was relaxing on the upper deck of the bus when I spotted it out of the window.  It's on the stone facade above the doors and looking very Gothic indeed.  The rest of the stone facade looked interesting too, comprising of two statues and four relief stone carvings of distinguished scientists.              

Engineering Department skeleton
Why the skeleton?
I did a bit of research, didn't find a great deal, so went back and took some photos on a dank December morning.  An ideal topic for a blog post I thought.  Four sculptured busts of scientists, Jenner, Lister, Hunter and Pasteur.  I could write a bit about each.  Then I did some more painstaking research and found a couple of blog posts.  One from Bob Speel looked at the sculptures in terms of the sculptor and style, the other from Pat English does pretty much what I going to do and looks at the scientists themselves.  Both blog sites are very good and I would recommend them.  I've little doubt that I can't hope to add much to their blog posts in terms of knowledge.

Relief Sculpture Cardiff University
Our four eminent scientists

I took the train up to Taffs Well a few months ago to take pictures and research the old viaduct only again to find someone had already posted an excellent blog on it. In that instance I abandoned my plans to write about it. Here however I think I will continue, if only to give myself some blogging practice. I purposely haven't read what Pat's post says about the actual scientists so as not to influence me.

Cardiff University Engineering Department
Cardiff University Queen's Building

The building in question is Cardiff University Queen's buildings on Newport Road. Much of the building is of modern construction but the old tower dates back to 1915. To give it it's proper description it is gothic Revival tower-facade retaining high-quality sculpture and I'm glad to see a listed building. There are two plaques on either side of the oak doors that indicate the first stone was laid in 1915 and then the building opened in 1921 by the then Prince of Wales. I say oak doors but that's a guess but they are decorated with what appears acorns, so hardly likely to be eucalyptus.




So if it's the engineering building, then why is it adorned with the statues and sculptures of four non-engineering scientists. Apparently the building was originally the Medical school which makes sense as it is close to the Royal Infirmary up the road. That would also explain the two life sized statues which are part of the Bath stone facade; Asclepius, Greek god of Medicine and I'd swear an oath the other one is Hippocrates . Asclepius is holding his staff and two cocks stand at his feet. It was traditional to sacrifice a cock to thank Asclepius for being healed. I would happily sacrifice a chicken or good piece of tofu if only I could get an appointment with my doctor.

Greek Gods Cardiff University
Asclepius and Hippocrates

There's so much on this facade to help keep you or your kids entertained if you are ever passing by on a bus or waiting at the bus stop. Get them to see how many carved animals that can spot just above the doorway. Among them I spotted a squirrel, lizard and mouse. And there's probably a live pigeon hiding away in there too.

Bird Mouse Lizard Cardiff
Carved animals on the Queen's Building

John Hunter


And so the scientists. Perhaps the least known is the 18th century Scottish surgeon John Hunter.  Now here's and interesting character.   

Surgeon Hunter
John Hunter

Throughout his career he collected many thousands animal and human corpses. It is said that his collection of live animals from around the world at his home in London may have led to the inspiration for the story of Doctor Dolittle. On the other hand his brother who obtained many of the human corpses for him has been accused of grave robbing and even worse calling into question whether Hunter was more like Dr Jekyll than Doctor Dolittle. To the top right of Hunter is a patient in a bed being watched over closely by a young man and a skeleton. Presumably this is to represent Hunter pioneering the importance of observations in medicine. But why the skeleton? I still don't know.

Dr Dolittle or Dr Jekyll - but which one was he?

Louis Pasteur.


Representing France is Louis Pasteur. People no doubt know Pasteur mainly for his work as a microbiologist but he started his career as a chemist and even obtained his first professorship in that field in the University of Strasbourg. His list of achievements are pretty staggering; vaccines for rabies and anthrax, inventing pasteurisation and an understanding of fermentation. After he died in 1895 he was buried in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but his remains were reinterred in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. I'm not convinced that's a move for the better if you ask me. Would I want to be taken back to work after I die? Before passing he asked for his laboratory notebook to be kept in the family and not shared. Only recently have historians gained access to them and are divided in what is revealed but seem to agree on the fact that a good summary would be "In spite of his genius, Pasteur had some faults". If I had an epitaph like that I'd be pretty happy.

Louis Pasteur Paris
Pasteur working away in his laboratory

Joseph Lister 


Joseph Lister was born in Upton House, West Ham, London. I bet I can guess which football team he supported. He's the man who realised that washing your hands, as every child knows, is so important. As the 'father of disinfection' he hailed the use of carbolic acid to sterilise everything in sight. Initially Lister's ideas were mocked by others in the health field who proudly wore their blood stained aprons as a badge of honour. The medical journal The Lancet warned the entire medical profession against his progressive ideas. Next time I smell the phenolic odour of Laphroig whiskey I will think of Joseph Lister and drink to him as a testament to his ingenuity.

Lister West Ham
Joseph Lister and his impressive sideburns

Edward Jenner


I suppose it's a sign of the times that when you put Jenner into a popular search engine everything that turns up is about Caitlyn Jenner, who is apparently an American sex-reassigned ex-athlete and now TV personality. A couple of pages down you come across our man, Edward Jenner, from the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire. His work on the smallpox vaccine has led to the much used quote that he 'saved more lives than any other human' and earned him the title 'the father of immunology'.

Smallpox Jenner
Edward Jenner


The Unanswered Questions


And so we have it, what is probably a unique collection of sculptures of these four heroic scientists, Jenner, Pasteur, Lister and hunter all in the same place.  Other than the outstanding question of the skeleton I have one other query.  Why is it called the Queen's Buildings?

After I initially posted this blog post I had some input from a friend.  His thoughts on the John Hunter skeleton are:


Hunter acquired the skeleton of the 2.31 m (7' 7") Irish giant Charles Byrne against Byrne's clear deathbed wishes—he had asked to be buried at sea. Charles Byrne is a principal character in - Hilary Mantel's 1998 novel, The Giant, O'Brien.

However the skeleton may just be a reference to how he was involved in the examination of the dead. This could be insinuated in the eyeless stare of the skull which signposts the man on the slab as a cadaver.


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A winding way to Cardiff Bay

Its probably less than a mile from the centre of Cardiff to Cardiff Bay, particularly if you count the centre as being the Cardiff Central train station or John Lewis. There are quite a few different routes you can take though walking on the wide pavement alongside Lloyd George Avenue is probably the most pleasant.  I took in a bit of that route today but also deviated off to see some other interesting sights.  Here's what I saw.

First up was a blue plaque to Tommy Letton. Who was he?

Tiger Bay Cardiff Blue Plaque


Tommy 'the fish' Letton turns out to be a fishmonger who used to pull his cart through the streets of Tiger Bay in former years.  He's even got a road named after him.  This blue plaque is on the underpass that leads from Bute Street to Letton Street.

Letton Fish Cart
Tommy Letton and his cart in the 1960s. 

On the other side of the underpass I came out on Lloyd George Avenue, a wide boulevard that's not too busy and with a wide pavement and cycle path.  It make a good way to walk down to the Bay.

I came across Looking Both Ways, a sculpture by English sculptor David Kemp based in Cornwall.  It seems to have stood the test of time.

Lloyd George Avenue Cardiff
Looking Both Ways, in place since 2001 and still looking good.

David Kemp alongside one of his other works in 2010

It is possible to continue walking down Lloyd George Avenue from here towards Cardiff Bay but instead I wanted to take a look at Bute East Dock so headed east along Letton Road, over the old canal feeder, and down onto Schooner Way. After a bit of a scramble I managed to get down onto the block paved path that runs around the dock.

The East Bute Dock looking back up towards the city

Bute East Dock opened in 1859 and marked when Cardiff turned from an iron exporting town to a giant coal exporting city.


Andrew Rowe Bench
The Yellow Bench
The Yellow Bench, designed and built by Andrew Rowe in 1999, is outside the Holiday Inn Express. Andrew is a South Wales blacksmith based around Carmarthen.

Andrew Rowe who sculpted the Yellow Bench, making poppies in 2016 to be part of the new Cenotaph in Ypres, Belgium. 
Looking across Bute East Dock you can see a preserved dockside crane. It is a lot younger than the dock itself and a plaque describes how this 15 tonne electric crane has been moved around various dockside locations in Cardiff including the Queen Alexander dock.

Built in 1933 and decommissioned in 1983

Cormorants enjoying the sun in Bute Dock


I arrived at the southern end of Bute Dock but found that from there its rather a tortuous route through to Cardiff Bay. The path takes you up into the car park of Cardiff Council buildings when suddenly all footpaths seem to dry up. I ended up crossing Hemingway Road and found myself in the car park of the Red Dragon Centre. Failing to find a way around that I entered the centre itself then out the side entrance and over the road to the Millennium Centre.

I was about to critisise the architect of the Red Dragon Centre but thinking about it I wonder if it ever had an architect. It looks like the builders turned up, couldn't find the plans so built an ugly box,  thinking that they would return later to add the outside once the plans had been found. It's main entrance faces an ugly car park, not the lovely Millennium Centre. And whilst I'm at it I may as well moan about the walk between the Red Dragon Centre and the Millennium Centre. The way is blocked by curvy bollard type things. What's all that about?

Millennium Centre Cardiff Bay
Torchwood HQ in Cardiff Bay outside the Millennium Centre


Mahatma Gandhi sculpture


From here I headed over to take a look at the new Mahatma Gandhi sculpture that is outside Craft in the Bay. It was unveiled in October this year on the International Day of Non-Violence. The sculpture appears to have been paid for by fundraising by the Hindu Council of Wales. I rather like it I must say. I think its a welcome addition to the sculptures of the Bay area.


Mahatma Gandhi statue Cardiff Bay
The inscription reads "Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man"

The unveiling took place on what would have been Gandhi’s birthday and was attended by the iconic statesman’s great-grandson, Satishkumar Dhupelia, who traveled from South Africa.

Cardiff to Cardiff Bay walking route

Route from Cardiff City Centre to Bay
A Winding Way to Cardiff Bay