Travels in an Unwrecked Landscape : Elmley Castle, Worcestershire

The book “England : travels in an unwrecked landscape” published in 1996 is a collection of essays by the late Candida Lycett-Green which first appeared in The Oldie magazine.

unwrecked

My well-thumbed copy

If you enjoy discovering lovely places here in England this book can act as a guide. But I’ve also enjoyed just reading it from cover to cover.

Continue reading

Marshall Howman (1887 – 1915)

War Memorial

A Dead Statesman

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling

After last year’s “Remembrance” post about the life and death of and memorials to Norfolk heroine Nurse Edith Cavell I decided to carry out some research of my own. I chose to follow the life to death of a young man born in Norfolk who died on the battlefield far away on the Turkish Gallipoli Peninsula. I managed to visit several of his Memorials in England and maybe one day will visit Gallipoli itself. 2015 will be a big year for visitors to the area to pay their respects. The significance of the Gallipoli Campaign is felt strongly in both New Zealand and Australia.  ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day (25 April) is commemorated annually by both countries.

Marshal Letter

Private Howman in a letter home :

[… we get a lot of prisoners & rioting sometimes there are hundreds of Australians & New Zealanders wounded here from The Dardanelles. its  a terrible sight to see them maimed for life you would not think it possible how some of them could live …]

Marshall Howman was born in June 1887 in Whitlingham, just south of Norwich. He was the eldest child of Mark and Celia. Mark was a herdsman and Celia was in service at ‘the big house’ wherever they moved to and the family did move around the country. By 1901 Marshall and his parents were living at Stenigot in Lincolnshire with additional sisters and brother : Lena (born in 1891), Hilda (in 1894), Maxwell (in 1895) and Kathleen (Kit or Kitty) who was born in Cheadle [Staffs] in January 1900. Later, in a letter home Marshall tells his family that he ‘came across an old pal I went to Cheadle School with he is in the 6th Manchesters back from the Dardenelles.’

By 1911 when Marshall was 24 he had three further siblings, born  at Strensham in Worcestershire where his family had been living for several years : Ruth (born in 1903), Mabel (in 1906) and Norman (in 1910). By this time, although Marshall was still living at home (and adored certainly by his little sister Kit then aged 11), Lena (aged 20) was already making her own way and living in London as a domestic servant in the Mumford Family home in Westbourne Park Crescent, Paddington.

Strensham

Strensham and its War Memorial

 © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Next year will see the Centenary of The First World War; the, so-called, “war to end all wars”. When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 Marshall (then 27) and his parents and most of the rest of his siblings were living in Corner Cottage, Strensham in Worcestershire. At some point very soon after; Marshall volunteered to join the Worcestershire Yeomanry The Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars. He was assigned to No. 2 Troop, D Squadron.

The 1st Worcestershire Yeomanry was mobilised in Worcester on August 4, 1914 as part of the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade. On August 11 the regiment moved to Warwick, with the rest of the brigade and on August 14 the brigade proceeded to Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. The brigade moved to Newbury, Berkshire, on August 30, where it joined the 2nd Mounted Division. On November 17 the regiment and the rest of the division moved to Barningham, Norfolk, then on to Kings Lynn. Mention here of King’s Lynn and Norfolk reminds me of :

The 1999 BBC film “All the King’s Men” tells the story of the men of the Sandringham Estate who signed up in 1914 and fought in the Gallipoli Campaign

On the reverse of a picture postcard of Bristol dated 9 April 1915 Marshall tells his family that he’s due to sail at midnight from Avonmouth :

Reverse of card

In fact the records state that it was on April 11, 1915 that the regiment sailed for Egypt from Avonmouth, Gloucestershire, on H.M. Transport Saturnia, arriving in Alexandria on April 24.

ALEXANDRIA EGYPT Fort Kom-El-Dik c1910 Postcard

After disembarking the regiment went into camp at Chatby, near Alexandria. Here is a letter dated 6 June from Kom el Dik Fort and another dated 13 June (his birthday was in June) from Chatby Camp, Alexandria. In civilian life Marshall had been an assistant herdsman and he seems happy to have charge of horses at the Camp.

Marshall letter from Egypt

His letters home show that he had neat, clear handwriting  and a very nice turn of phrase reflecting a reasonably good standard of education for an assistant herdsman a century ago. He was a loving and caring brother and son.

Marshall letter

However, when the regiment was notified that it would be going on active service on August 10 its horses would be left behind. This must have been a blow for Marshall. On August 14 the regiment – 366 men strong – embarked for Gallipoli on H.M. Transport Ascania.  On August 17 the transport arrived at the Greek island of Lemnos, and there the men transferred to the H.M.S. Doris. The following day (August 18), the regiment landed at “A” Beach, Suvla, under shellfire.

Suvla Book

Here is what happened on 21st August 1915 :

The 29th Division assaults 112 Metre Hill and Scimitar Hill, and 11th (Northern) Division assaults Green Hill and the “W” Hills in the Suvla sector, with the 2nd Mounted Division and the 10th (Irish) Division in reserve, out of sight of the Turks. The intention is to capture Scimitar Hill and to proceed on, if possible, and ultimately is to capture these positions, and thus protect the units scattered across the Suvla Plain from Turkish shellfire. At 3:30 p.m., after the failure of the 29th and 11th Divisions to take their objectives (due to strong Turkish defences, lack of adequate artillery support, lack of proper orders and lack of rest) the Worcestershire Yeomanry, along with the rest of the 2nd Mounted Division and the 10th (Irish) Division, is detailed to proceed against the original objectives. The assault is organized in five waves, each wave consisting of one of the five mounted brigades and spaced 200 yards apart. The Worcestershire Yeomanry, along with the rest of the division, moves off across the Salt Lake, under fire from Turkish artillery (the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars advancing behind the Worcestershire Yeomanry). Halfway across the Lake orders are given to advance at the double. Due both to Turkish resistance and confusion, the regiment is able to advance only as far as the line held by the 29th Division. The regiment digs in on Green Hill, but at 2 a.m. on August 22, it is ordered to retire to Lala Baba. No ground is gained in the assault.” [Information from The Gallipoli Association]

The regiment reported 26 men killed and wounded in the assault, though only two fatalities were known to have occurred. One of these was Private Marshall HOWMAN, No.2613, aged 28.  He was killed in action in the assault on Chocolate Hill, Suvla, on August 21, 1915. His name is commemorated on Panel 19 of the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula.

Helles Panel 20f

Marshall listed on the Helles Memorial [Photo kindly supplied by Keith Edmonds of The Gallipoli Association]

Helles Memorial

The Helles Memorial 2013 [Photo kindly supplied by Keith Edmonds of The Gallipoli Association]

Back home Marshall’s family were devastated. Marshall’s name was eventually listed on the wall-mounted Honours Board in St George’s Chapel at Worcester Cathedral and was inscribed in the Roll of Honour there.

St George's Chapel 4

St George’s Chapel, Worcester Cathedral. The Honours Board hangs below the flags.

M on Honours Bd

Marshall’s name on the Honours Board

Marshall in Roll of Honour

Marshall listed in the Worcestershire Regimental Roll of Honour Book described below

Roll of honour

He is also listed on the Honours Board in St John’s Church, Strensham :

Honours Board Strensham Church

Close up M Howman

Strensham war memorial original

Original War Memorial in Strensham

More recently his name, and those of the others who fell in both World Wars, has been inscribed on the War Memorial  in the village of Strensham itself.

Strensham War Memorial close up

Names recently added to the Strensham Memorial including  Pt M. Howman

Marshall’s parents soon returned to Norfolk. There had been mention of their going in the letters between Marshall and his mother. Towards the end of the decade they paid for this memorial to him in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Trowse-by-Norwich.

Marsahll's Memorial Trowse after

Trowse churchyard memorial now overgrown, weather-beaten and almost forgotten

[In Loving Memory of MARSHALL the dearly loved son of Celia and Mark Howman. There was more but sadly the rest of the text has disintegrated]

MARSHALL HOWMAN was my Great Uncle and KIT (KATHLEEN) was my Grandmother.

I have memories of Gran telling me about her beloved brother Marshall and her pride in the memorials to him in both Norfolk and Worcestershire. I have a number of Marshall’s original letters but sadly no photograph has materialised.

Acknowledgements

I’m extremely grateful to the following for information and inspiration. My sister Kathy for her research into the broader Howman family. My friend Ann and her husband who have been to Gallipoli and lent me books and sent me links on researching military records and helped in many other ways. My three contacts at The Gallipoli Association who provided me with material about the Worcestershire Yeomanry’s movements and Marshall’s final days; thank you Stephen, Keith and Mal.

“We have done that which was our duty to do”
[St. Luke XVII.10]

Croome Park, Court and Church

Last Thursday I met up with a good friend of mine at Coleshill Parkway Station for a couple of days’ adventures in Evesham and Tewkesbury.

Croome Court

Croome Court

Our first port-of-call on meeting up was an hour’s drive away – the National Trust owned Croome Park and Court in Worcestershire. The park was the responsibility of ‘Capability’ Brown – he crops up everywhere, of course. The house has only been in the possession of the Trust for about 4 years. They have carried out an awful lot of work during that time and a lot more is ongoing. It will be interesting to revisit in a year or so to see what has been achieved/improved/changed using the £1.8m granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund under the programme “Croome Redefined”.

Coventry and Capability

When you arrive the visitor centre seems to occupy what appear to be black painted army Nissen huts but on closer inspection are in fact restored RAF buildings which once served the nearby airbase as their sick quarters.  Exhibition rooms tell the story of RAF Defford.

Defford

After our picnic we headed into the Park and the first stop was the church. The church of St Mary Magdelene, Crome d’Abitot is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and just celebrated its 250th anniversary in June. Gothick in style the building, like the house, is attributed to Robert Adam.

Croome d'Abitot Church

From the church, as time was limited and the house would close to the public at 4pm (the park stays open until 5.30), we made straight for Croome Court itself, missing a large selection of follies and the lake.

Croome Park

The Park from the Church Door

Church from shrubbery

The Church from the Evergreen Shrubbery

Our walk from the church to the house did take us past some follies notably The Temple Greenhouse and the Dry Arch Bridge. We noted Coade Stone had been used in several places. And as we walked along I was reminded of Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire and indeed it turns out that Brown moved from Stowe down to Croome.

Temple Greenhouse

The Temple Greenhouse

Dry Arch Bridge

The Dry Arch Bridge with Coade Stone Façade and Keystones

To me the house was a refreshing change from the usual ornate furniture, furnishings and priceless contents and restricting ropes. You could go anywhere and touch everything. Of course, there was nothing of value to touch and that may change as renovations and restorations continue but for the moment it suited me fine to read about the house and family; to listen to recordings of workers and hear what the inhabitants might have said; to dress up; contribute a few pieces to a jigsaw puzzle.

Donor Flowers

Flowers – given by a generous donor

Jigsaw

The Croome Park Jigsaw

Listen and read

Read and hear about former inhabitants

Croome Room

A Corner of Croome

Croome Bookshop

Bookshop Browsing in the Basement

One of the rooms is now a tea room with some tables outside but we only had time for a quick browse and buy in the secondhand book shop before heading out into the park and a longish walk around the perimeter via the Rotunda and Park Seat.

Rotunda

The Rotunda and Ha-ha (Cedars planted by Brown)

Park Seat

Park Seat has the best views across the Park and the Court

We managed to leave at about 5.30pm knowing that we had left a few things to enjoy on a future visit!

A Great Time in Malvern : Books, Tea and a Theatre Visit

Last Saturday I arranged to meet up with a couple of members of my online book discussion group for our annual ‘Summer Meeting’ away from London (last year we were at Chatsworth).  This year’s venue was Great Malvern in Worcestershire. I had never been there before, nor I believe had Carol, but Simon (Stuck-in-a-Book) used to live not so far away in Eckington so he was pretty familiar with the town and its book shops, of course.

Malvern Map

These meetings generally follow a similar pattern. Meet for tea and cake, head off to a book shop or two, decide to have a light lunch, followed by more book shopping and ending with more tea (and often, cake). Anyway the theme is always of tea, cake and books in some kind of order.

gmvdetailing

Picture Source

As I was dropping off another friend at Great Malvern Station I arranged to meet Simon there. The station is probably one of the prettiest I have ever been to – there is a tea shop (Lady Foley’s Tea Shop) with tables and chairs outside on Platform One and as it is a listed building you can imagine it still has the signs and furniture of a bygone age. The station is slightly out of the town centre though so we drove, uphill, to a more convenient car park.

Priory Church Malvern

Great Malvern Priory Church

Malvern Hills

Malvern Hills

There are two very prominent features  that dominate the town: the Malvern Hills that rise straight up vertically behind the town to the west and Great Malvern Priory right in the town centre and which is also the parish church.

After our first tea and cake at Mac and Jac’s near the Priory and a visit to the friendly, helpful and well-stocked Malvern Bookshop :

The Malvern Bookshop
7 Abbey Road
MALVERN Worcestershire WR14 3ES
tel: 01684 575915 fax: 01684 575915
Open: Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 5.00, closed Thursday and best to ring first in the winter.
Several rooms carrying large diverse stock. Quality books bought and sold. Music a speciality. By the Priory steps near the Post Office.

we decided to head up, straight up, vertically up to St Ann’s Well for lunch.

St Ann's Well Cafe sign

St Ann's Well

For me it was well worth the climb to see the original well/spring and enjoy lunch on the terrace. The trees are very tall and block the view from the cafe itself but we had fantastic views each time we stopped for breath and looked back across what must be The Vale of Evesham.

View as we start our ascent to SAW

The View as begin our ascent to St Ann’s Well

View from our descent into Malvern

View as we return down to Malvern

In bygone days Malvern water was remarkable for its healing virtue, an efficacy that was held to be supernatural. How early the waters gained local repute it is impossible to say; but the fact that the old spring at Great Malvern is dedicated to St Ann, and that the well at Malvern Wells is the Holy Well, carries their reputation far back into the Middle Ages at least; while documentary evidence exists that they were in exceptional request early in the seventeenth century, especially for skin diseases, as public open baths.” So says my rather old copy of Ward Lock & Co’s “Malvern” illustrated guide book.

Ward Lock Malvern

Surely everyone has heard of Malvern Natural Spring Water – the only bottled water used by our Queen Elizabeth II, which she takes on her travels around the world. Or does she still? There are still many natural springs around the town – some with warning signs.

Safe Malvern water

‘Safe’ Malvern Spring in the Town

Natural spring water but beware

Natural Spring Water – but beware!

Spring Water

St Ann’s Well

Simon suggested a slightly less steep descent into town and a visit to Books for Amnesty :

Books For Amnesty
3 Edith Walk
MALVERN Worcestershire WR14 4QH
tel: 01684 563507
Open: Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 5.00.
Large general stock of donated books in all categories and at reasonable prices. Malvern has two other secondhand bookshops.

As we arrived he pointed out to me the world’s smallest theatre building in a converted Gents public convenience. I was intrigued and left the hard core book buyers in order to investigate. I bought a ticket for the five minute show and was entertained by The Deep Sea Diva and Stradi and his Various Voyages amongst others. After the show there is a photo opportunity which I couldn’t resist! [Pictures below]

Eventually we bought ices from the shop next door and headed to a park to eat them in the sunshine and for a final ‘show-and-tell’ of the books we’d bought before going our separate ways at around 5.30pm. We all agreed that it had been a most perfect day. We’ll soon be planning the next one …

Theatre of Convenience

The Theatre of small Convenience

Theatre sign

About the Theatre

The Theatre

The Theatre

Photo Opportunity

Photo Opportunity!

Worcester Cathedral and Strensham Church Services

Worcester Cathedral

Another port of call during the weekend was Worcester. I wanted to visit the Cathedral in connection with my family history researches. It’s a lovely cathedral and you can see its tower from a distance so not hard to find in the centre of the city.

Worcester Cathedral

It was wet and cold on my visit the Saturday before last (9 March) so this photo of the Cathedral with blue sky behind is taken from the Worcester Cathedral website. Here is Dean Peter Atkinson’s Welcome Message introduction from that same website :

Worcester Cathedral is a magnificent sight as it rises majestically above the River Severn. Worcester has been the seat of a bishopric since the Seventh Century, and the Cathedral was served by monks until the Reformation. St Oswald and St Wulfstan were among the bishops. Since the Eighteenth Century, the Cathedral has been famous for its part in the annual Three Choirs Festival, the oldest choral festival in existence. Today the Cathedral is the centre of a vibrant community of clergy and laypeople, offering the praises of God each day, serving the city and the diocese of Worcester, and attracting visitors from all over the world.

St George's Chapel

St George’s Chapel, Worcester Cathedral

I had contacted the Vergers in advance in order arrange to see the Roll of Honour in which my relative is listed and introduced myself to a volunteer welcomer on arrival. A Verger was summoned and soon I was able to inspect the book and find his name. I then took some time to look around the St George’s Chapel where the Roll of Honour rests.

King John

The most significant tomb in Worcester Cathedral is that of King John.

Mrs Henry Wood

In addition, in the “Poets Corner”, I found the memorial to Victorian author Mrs Henry Wood. A prolific writer, she is perhaps best known for her book “East Lynne”.

Flags St George's Chapel

St George’s Chapel, Worcester Cathedral
The Church of St John the Baptist, Strensham
Church Key
For most people the name of the village of Strensham is synonymous with the Motorway Service Station of the same name on the M5. But for me it is the village where my relatives lived during the early years of the last century. More about them later. Strensham is divided in more ways than one; there’s a Lower Strensham and an Upper Strensham and the M5 motorway cuts between the two. However, far from the noise of the Services and the Motorway, Strensham church lies down a long lane across fields and even far from the Strenshams. It stands on cliff overlooking the River Avon. Now that I have visited I notice that you can see its creamy white tower as you drive up and down the motorway.
St John's Strensham
The Church of St John The Baptist, Strensham is listed in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches and given one star. It is also cared for by The Churches Conservation Trust. And there is a whole page about it in Jonathan Keates’ The Companion Guide to The Shakespeare Country. 
Companion to Shakespeare Country
One remark in this book that I rather like is his “More Norfolk than Worcestershire (it recalls Ranworth), this set of twenty-three paintings is extraordinary “.
Painted panels
Well, my family came from Norfolk to live in Worcestershire for possibly a couple of decades in the early twentieth century, returning to Norfolk before 1920. In addition to these painted panels the church boasts some impressive monuments, superb linenfold panelling and early 16th century pews.
Linenfold panelling and pegs
The chancel lights up as you enter but elsewhere it looks as if the gas mantels are still in use during the occasional services that are still held here.
Interior St John's Strensham
Keates goes on to say “Next to these is my favourite Worcestershire tomb, a great piece of English art,  full of unrivalled zest and excitement. Edward Stanton’s superb fantasia on the death of Sir Francis Russell in 1705 is as much Gothic as baroque in its marble schadenfreude. His face (a portrait, surely) a wrenched simian mask, he is shown half-lying as his kneeling wife beckons him towards a heaven blobbed with clouds and putti whirling a coronet.”
The Baroque Sir Francis Russell and his wife
The Baroque Sir Francis Russell and his wife
River Avon and Eckington
The Church is perched on a cliff and overlooks the River Avon

The Battle of Tewkesbury: The Bloody (Muddy) Meadow

32 St Mary’s Lane

32 SM Lane

Last weekend, to break my journey between South Wales and home in Leeds, I stayed in the lovely old town of Tewkesbury. 32 St Mary’s Lane is tucked away between the main road through town and the River Avon. Beyond the river is a large expanse of flat, grassy land called Severn Ham (‘Q’ mentions it in his poem ‘Upon Eckington Bridge‘) bordered on the other side by the River Severn. The two rivers meet at Tewkesbury and it’s liable to flooding sometimes in summer.

Severn Ham

River Avon and Severn Ham

Beyond the main road, on the other side, is the great edifice of Tewkesbury Abbey which dominates the town in the nicest of ways.

Tewkesbury Abbey

The house in St Mary’s Lane was formerly a framework stocking-knitter’s home dating back to the 17th century. The row of cottages, of which no. 32 is one, were in a parlous state by the 1970s and The Landmark Trust stepped in to help a local conservation group who were unable to raise the funds required to restore the houses. No. 32 only joined Landmark’s collection of properties to let in 1982.

32 Kitchen

Welcome to St Mary’s Lane : The Kitchen

SML Sitting room

The First Floor Sitting Room

It’s a lovely warm and comfy house on 4 floors each of the upper floors accessed via steep, narrow, twisting staircases; but you soon get used to them! On the ground floor is the kitchen and a cloakroom (and there’s a backyard with picnic table for the summer months), on the first floor is the sitting room, above that is a bedroom and a bathroom and on the fourth floor is another bedroom with magnificent view of the Abbey through one tiny window.

upstairs day view

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by day

32 upstairs window

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by night

In fact there is another Landmark Trust property in Tewkesbury – The Abbey Gatehouse.

The abbey gatehouse

To Battle!

Battlefield-Trail-949x1024

The Battlefield Trail at Tewkesbury (photo)

On Sunday morning, having found a Battle Trail leaflet at the house, I decided to leave its cosy confines and venture out into the cold, windy fields on the edge of Tewkesbury to discover the location of The Bloody Meadow – scene of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 between the House of York and the House of Lancaster saw the death of 2000 soldiers, including Edward, Prince of Wales, who was just 18 years old. It was a defining battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey from The Battle Trail

Crossing the main road and taking Gander Lane behind the Abbey I soon found the first Battle Trail sign. It was easy to follow and well-waymarked BUT there were some very very muddy parts and at one point I was unable to reach the exit gate from the Bloody Meadow due to two rather frisky-looking ponies. I had to take a detour, give them a wide berth and climb over a fence. There’s an information panel at the Meadow itself and towards the end of the trail is a monument to the town recording important events in the history of Tewkesbury.

Battle Trail

The Bloody Meadow

The Bloody (and muddy) Meadow

Info Board

Muddy Field

Horses and Mud block the Trail

Tewkesbury Monument

The Tewkesbury Monument and Abbey at the end of the Trail

Close-up of panel

Close-up of the Monument

Tea at Lock Cottage

I was pleased to get back to St Mary’s Lane for a wash and brush-up before heading up the M5 to partake of afternoon tea with Landmarking friends who just happened to be staying at Lock Cottage which lies between locks 31 and 32 of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Lock Cottage

I have to concur with the comment in Lock Cottage Log (Visitors) Book, namely, that “Sitting in the cottage with a cup of tea and watching the boats go by is infinitely preferable to jumping on and off a boat watching the cottages go by.”