Tuesday, 25 November 2014


We escaped down a snickelway in York the other day. We had both been in danger of over-dosing on all this stuff...

This particular snickelway (a recent addition to the Yorkshire vocabulary, snickelway is a combination of snicket, ginnel and alleyway, coined by Mark W. Jones in 1983) is called Hornpot Lane.
Cow horn has always been a cheap and plentiful material. It has been made into many useful items over the centuries: spectacle frames, spoons, window panes - and pots. Here is one we found recently.

This pot - or beaker - was made to commemorate the opening of the Thames Tunnel in early Victorian London, circa 1843. Back in York, the snickelway led us to the 12th century Holy Trinity Church, close by the Minster.
17th century box pews.
This squint hole is in the wall of an enclosed chapel, where lepers were once permitted to attend church services.

15th century stained glass.
Restored, we left peace behind and got back to what was required of us that day.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


I love to buy antique albums. Sometimes they are full of coloured scraps, sometimes drawings and watercolours by the owner or by friends. If you find a name and some dates it might even be possible to discover a secret story.
This one had a name,
Anne Mayers Burton.

Inside there was a painting of Anne's home, Taverham Rectory in Norfolk, where her father Robert was vicar - and a date, 1852. I was able to find out that Anne was born in 1839 which means she was 13 when she painted the Rectory.
She filled the album with charming pictures, some of country life and others of Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast, where she probably spent summer holidays.
There was another clue - a drawing of a genteel house in Brasted, Kent. This was owned by Anne's maternal grandfather, John Pollard Mayers who was born in Barbados, as was his daughter Sarah, Anne's mother.
Anne died in 1856 aged just 17. I wonder if she knew about her grandfather's family history? His family had owned sugar plantations and slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries and, in the early 1830s, John Pollard Mayers fought for compensation after slavery was finally abolished. He owned over 700 slaves and received at least £16,000 from the British government - which would be worth around £10,000,000 today. 
What would a well-to-do vicar's teenage daughter have thought about slavery, 20 years later, in the 1850s?
Perhaps she would have preferred playing with Spot to contemplating the past.

Monday, 3 November 2014


I've said it before, I know, but the top-most room at Nilly Towers, with its prime position on the Great North Road, affords a view of all manner of bizarre and bewildering activities (quite handy if you have time for an addiction to curtain twitching.) This was the scene at midday on Saturday.

"Quick Daddy, they might go before we get there!"

This is a serious business!

We never did find out who ploughed the straightest furrow, but they all looked very smart - except for my rusty antique favourite, there, in the middle!