At the time of writing the world is in the grip of a pandemic – Covid 19. People are dying all over the globe and the social, political and economic consequences are huge. But it’s worth remembering this has happened before.
Shortly after the end of the First World War the Spanish ‘Flu swept through a generation who were already decimated by conflict. Unlike Covid 19 the Spanish ‘Flu affected young men most seriously.
Among them were 34 German prisoners of war who were due to be repatriated when they caught the infection. They all died, and are now buried in the cemetery at Castle Donington in Leicestershire. They share a separate peace garden area to one side of the site.
The Rev. Patrick Brontë was appointed vicar of St Michael’s and All Angels’ Church in Haworth, West Yorkshire in 1815. He and his family lived in the Parsonage, which is now a museum to them and their writing.
Sisters, Charlotte (1816–1855), Emily (1818–1848), and Anne (1820–1849) are well known as writers ad poets. Their brother Branwell (1817–1848) was an artist and poet.
In line with the times, the girls originally wrote under assumed names to keep their identities – and their genders – secret. They were known as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
Haworth was not a luxurious place to live and the cold, draughty Parsonage was not a healthy environment. Its water supply is believed to have been infected by runoff from the adjoining graveyard.
In addition, Branwell drank heavily and was addicted to opiates. He died in 1848 at the age of only 31. Within 10 months Emily and Anne followed him to their graves.
Charlotte married Haworth curate the Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols in 1854 and the two were reportedly happy, but she died from complications of pregnancy less than a year later.
Charlotte’s novels Jane Eyre, published in 1847 Shirley, published in 1849 Villette, published in 1853 The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, was first submitted together with Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. Subsequently, The Professor was resubmitted separately, and rejected by many publishing houses. It was published posthumously in 1857.
Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights published in 1847.
Anne’s novels Agnes Grey, published in 1847. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall published in 1848.
Richard Arkwright was born in Preston, Lancashire, a self-educated man whose career began as a barber and wigmaker, for which he was reputed to use genuine human hair. His industrial knowledge led him to adopt the idea of a water-powered spinning machine that he patented in 1769. Called the water frame, the machine allowed mechanisation of what had previously been a cottage industry and brought spinning into the factory age. By 1782 he employed more than 5,000 workers in his cotton mills.
In 1775 he patented a carding engine, based on a hand-worked machine that had been invented earlier by Lewis Paul. Arkwright’s machine incorporated a crank and comb mechanism that drove the comb up and down and lifted the combed fibres onto a cylinder to create a continuous fleece for spinning.
His first mechanised mill was built at Cromford, south of Matlock in Derbyshire. The site was developed only two years after the patent for the water frame was taken out and was the first water-powered mill in the world. The complex of workshops was powered by wheels driven by the Bonsall Brook, which flows into the River Derwent close to the site.
Arkwright was also generous to his workers, in common with other industrialists of later times, and built a number of houses in the nearby village for his staff. North Street is one of the best-preserved terraces, built in approximately 1777. One of the homes is now preserved as a Landmark Trust property and is available for holiday lets.
Coventry’s first clockmaker was William Watson who had a workshop in the city in the 17th century but it was not until a hundred years later that the trade blossomed. In 1747 the company of Vale and Rotherham was established in Spon Street. The premises was set up in the way that early factories throughout the Midlands began, as a collection of small workshops under one roof (like Matthew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory where Birmingham “toys” were made)
Craftsmen rented space from the owners and sold their finished goods wholesale to their landlords to be sold on to individual customers. It was not until 1889 that the factory was converted into the type of building that is understood by the word today.
By the 1840s watchmaking in the city had grown so much that the original craft quarter around Spon Street was unable to contain it. Workshops sprang up in Chapelfields and Earlsdon, two adjoining areas of town. Streets of old watchmakers’ houses still exist in both.
One of the leading watchmaking families in the city was Player. By the 1870s there were members of the family living at five houses in Craven Street, Chapelfields and workshops on the top floor of the buildings opposite.
The industry flourished until it faced imports of cheap watches from Switzerland and the USA. Coventry’s product remained a hand-made, labour-intensive business but continental producers took advantage of cheaper automated processes. In a bid to counteract the impact of foreign imports the Coventry Movement Company formed in 1889 to produce cheaper workings that could be placed in hand-made cases but the plan failed. By the start of World War I the industry was almost gone.
When Coventry Council wanted to give Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) a wedding gift in 1948 it was no longer possible to find all the necessary parts for one watch being made in the town.
In the 1780s architect Henry Holland converted an old farmhouse near the sea front in Brighton to be a pleasure villa. That building was altered, on the instructions of George (Prince Regent, later George IV) to become a glorious folly in which he could entertain guests. Work began in 1815 under the instructions of John Nash, but it was not until 1823 that the final flourishes were added to the building.
The site already had a domed structure in the form of the Stables, created in the early 1800s in the then fashionable “Hindoo” style. The design bore little or no resemblance to true Indian architecture and was rather more a dream of what England thought India was like – or should be like. In 1809 the fiirst Indian restaurant opened in London but it was never a huge success and closed three years later. All things Indian and “Hindoo” were therefore already falling from fashion when George gave the style his support.
While the exterior of the building is based on Indian influences, even if loosely, the interior is decidedly Chinese. Once again, however, the artists and craftsmen involved in its production knew very little about the country and the overall result is a dream of how they believed it was, rather than reality. Lots of dragons and bamboo but very little restraint. Overall the result is the architectural equivalent of a wedding cake – over dressed on the outside and extremely cloying on the inside. However, it is typical of Brighton, the home of Aubrey Beardsley.
In his BBC2 series Abroad Again in Britain historian Jonathan Meades pointed out that the building was never at the height of fashion and was certainly nothing like the commonly-accepted Regency style. He also called it an “ode to excess” and said: “It’s so rich it’s almost emetic”. That is probably true. It is, however, typical of George – Prince of Wales, Regent and dandy – overblown and extravagant.
Stainsby Mill stands on the Hardwick Hall estate in Derbyshire and is fully restored and in working order. It has a kiln, drying floor, three pairs of millstones and is driven by a cast iron waterwheel. The 17 feet diameter wheel is high breast shot, meaning that the water is delivered to it slightly above half way up so that the weight of water in the buckets drives it through gravity. The wheel in turn drives a wheel attached to the main shaft. Unusually the gearing is on the inner circumference of the wheel.
The mill leat is supplied by water from Stainsby dam as well as from Millers Pond in Hardwick Park and Stainsby Pond, which was built in 1762 specifically to boost supply to the mill.
The leat is supplied from a head on the opposite side of the road, controlled by means of the valve shown on the left. Flow through the leat – and hence the wheel speed – is controlled by means of a curtain valve across the wheel itself and worked from a handle inside the mill.
There has been a flour mill on or close to the site since the 13th century and from 1593 it was owned by Bess of Hardwick, the celebrated lady of the manor. It fell into disuse in the 1840s but was restored to working condition in 1849/50 when the present wheel, made by Kirkland of Mansfield, was fitted.
There were three pairs of stones, one of which is shown on the right. The bell on the front of the hopper was fixed to a strap thatwas released as most of the grain was milled. So the bell rang to tell the miller when the grain needed topping up. He was on the floor above and could fill the hopper through the cloth sleeve visible above the hopper.
The mill is currently owned by the National Trust.
Heage Windmill is the only stone towered, fully working, six sailed windmill remaining in the UK. It isn’t very tall, but at 410 feet above sea level it doesn’t have to be. It stands on quite a windy brow just above the village of Heage in Derbyshire, north east of the town of Belper. Although the photo shows it with only four sails it is, in fact, a six sailed mill but rot was found in one in early 2005 so a pair had to be removed to keep the balance. (If one of a pair is removed it makes the mill uneven.)
The first mention of a mill in the village is an advert in the Derby Mercury for 16 June 1791, which calls on any interested mason “inclined to undertake the stone building” to turn up at the site. The ad went on to say “all materials laid down in place” which basically means that stone for the tower was dug out of the side of the hill. Within seven years she was up for letting and in 1803 was put up for sale with an adjoining house, barn and six acres of land. By 1816 she (according to the guide book all mills are called “she”) was up for rent again, this time with only four acres alongside.
In the late 1840s the mill was bought by a pair of Sheffield brothers, Isaac and John Shore, who also bought a water mill in the valley below. They fitted a steam engine to that mill and so ensured that milling could go on in any weather – even if it was too dry to keep a mill leat running or if the wind fell. Heage is believed to have been the only village in the UK with wind and water mills owned by the same company. The Shore family still owned the mill when it closed in 1919. Heage is still used today to grind wheat and make flour but it is for tourism and not for commercial reasons. The mill is open to the public and it is possible to see the machinery in action.
Arbor Low, Derbyshire is a prehistoric henge monument, that is, it consists of a circle of stones set inside a circular ditch with a bank enclosing the complete structure. It is unclear what henges were used for but it seems likely that whatever went on there was designed to be seen only by a few chosen people. The bank around the monument would have made it impossible to see activities within the stone circle from outside. Perhaps observers sat on the inner side of the bank, but it would still have been available to only a restricted few.
The site is a Neolithic one, built around 5,000 years ago from locally quarried limestone. Superimposed on it is a burial mound dating from the Bronze Age, which was excavated in the 19th century and found to contain two urn burials. The stones would orginally have been upright but they are all now fallen over. There are a number of entrances to the circle that show as gaps in the bank and there is some evidence that a processional way might once have led from the south because there is a linear earthwork close to the southern entrance. About 250 metres away on a horizon to the south west is another Bronze Age burial mound called Gib Hill. It too lies over an earlier monument, a Neolithic long barrow that probably pre-dates the circle.
Arbor Low stands on private land behind a farm at the top of a fairly steep hill. The view from the site is extremely dramatic as it is possible to see for a very long way. Whoever built the site must either have wanted the mound to be visible from a great distance or to be able to see anyone approaching it.
The Albert Memorial is one of the best known monuments of the Victorian Age. Architect George Gilbert Scott wanted to set up something similar to a Medieval shrine and is believed to have been influenced by the Eleanor Crosses set up by King Edward I after the death of his Queen. Those crosses were built at all the places her coffin rested on her funeral procession. Few remain but there is a fine example at Geddington in Northamptonshire.
The memorial to Albert, Victoria’s Prince Consort, has 169 carved figures on a frieze as well as sculptural groups at each corner representing Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering and Manufacture. Other groups represent Africa, America, Asia and Europe. The figure of Albert himself, sculpted by John Foley, is seated at the centre and is covered in gold. The enormous edifice is highly ornate and typical of the overblown High Victorian design of its time. The whole thing is more than 170 feet tall.
Materials used in the construction include glass, stone, cast iron, lead and bronze as well as the gilding on Albert himself. The statue was re-gilded as part of a major overhaul of the monument in the 1990s and was officially reopened in October 1998.