Collectables

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We are very fortunate here in Sherborne to have an independent bookshop – and not just an independent book shop but an award winning independent bookshop at that. Winstone’s was crowned Independent Bookshop of the Year in the British Book Industry Awards for 2016.

The bookshop has some very enjoyable talks and book signings and I attended one of these last week held, appropriately, in Macintosh Antiques in Newland where Judith Miller and Mark Hill gave a fascinating insight into the world of collecting, both ancient and in some cases surprisingly modern to promote Miller’s Collectables Handbook and Price Guide 2016-2017. I have had a copy or two of this guide in the past which I really enjoy being able to dip into over time. The book contains over 4,000 listings with photographs, detailed descriptions and valuations. You will find ceramics, dolls, teddy bears, pens, advertising, posters and much more. Some items are valued as low as £15 and I was looking forward to buying the latest edition.

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Judith and Mark are well known to many from their appearances on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. Judith started collecting from an interest in history which she studied at university and is the only one from amongst the Roadshow‘s experts to have come from a collecting background. Mark, on the other hand who is another inveterate collector, began his career as a porter at Bonham’s having studied history of art and architecture at university. They regaled us with lots of stories and gave helpful tips about collecting. Mark held up an etching he had bought in Sherborne for £20, telling us he is unable to travel anywhere and go home again without buying something. He explained the etching process and told us that he pays anything from £20 to £40 and he has many such lovely inexpensive pictures on the walls of his home. Judith on the other hand had told her husband that she will not return home with another single chair!  Both of them stressed that it is often the quality of a piece and the design and workmanship that went into it that can make something valuable. It must also be desirable to someone else, should you wish to sell it, and it is this that governs whether or not something is marketable and has value. We had been asked to bring along items for valuation and I thought I would take a little something in my handbag that may or may not qualify as ‘collectable’ but I sat tight when I saw lots of people ahead of me with, to my untutored eye, some large and valuable looking items. While watching the valuations I flipped open a copy of the guide and there I saw some familiar looking 1960s Hornsea Pottery pieces valued at £35-£45 so I thought why not and joined the back of the queue. When I unwrapped my object Mark exclaimed ‘what a cool piece!‘ which was most gratifying. I had taken along my late mother’s little Cornish Ware kitchen jar with Angelica inscribed on it. Mark said I had done all the right things as I had chosen to bring along a jar with a rare inscription that was also small and undamaged. Had I chosen sugar or flour it would not be anywhere near as collectable. He showed it to Judith who also pronounced it ‘cool’ so I was doubly pleased. Then came the verdict on the value – Judith said £200 but Mark said £200-£300 as he had never seen another one like it – how very thrilling. Judith suggested I got hold of a copy of Paul Atterbury’s book Cornish Ware and Domestic Pottery by T G Green currently out of print but available via the second hand market. This I will do as I can then learn more about the canisters that I know my mother loved and that I value beyond their monetary worth. However, now when I look at the little angelica pot I think to myself that there is more to this little beauty than actually meets the eye!Angelica pot

You can take a virtual tour of Winstone’s Book shop via Google Streetview – it is a very surreal experience and I challenge you to give it a go. Looking at Streetview via an iPad or  tablet is especially satisfactory. To access Streetview on an iPad find Cheap Street on Google maps and press your finger somewhere on Cheap Street and a red dropped pin appears and at the same time a small photo of where you have dropped your pin comes up on the lower part of the screen. Press the little photo and instantly you will be at your destination. If you ‘walk’ up Cheap Street until you reach Winstone’s, using the arrows, you will see that it is not Winstone’s as we know it today but the builders are at work getting the shop ready. There are a couple of arrows pointing towards the door and before you click on one of these make a note of what a nice sunny day it is. Then click on one of the arrows, enter the shop and have a look around.  When you leave the shop you will see it has been raining but that the shop you have just left is most definitely Winstones’ but with one more click on the arrow to take you on up Cheap Street the sun comes out again and Winstone’s has dematerialised! You can visit other shops on Cheap Street – Parsons, Circus, Occasions, Abbey Pharmacy to name a few. Have fun!

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new Winstones

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Abbey Pharmacy

Barbara Elsmore

21 May 2016

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Steam and Waterwheel Centre

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I am very biased I know but when we were growing up my Dad could do anything. He could mend, he could make, he would ensure things worked properly – he was a marvel. When it snowed he built my brother and I a sledge, he mended our shoes using segs. Anyone remember segs? He kept our car on the road as his father had before him,  I could go on and on. But then again he was pretty typical of his time because if you couldn’t do it yourself, and you certainly couldn’t pay someone else to do it for you, then it just didn’t get done and that wouldn’t do when the television stopped working on the morning of the Coronation when half the neighbourhood was about to squeeze in front of it – off came the back and he rootled around until it got going again. Yes he was a great rootler, tinkerer and, as I used to call him in his old age, ‘an arch potterer’. He would have absolutely loved ‘Steam Up’ day at the Castleton Steam and Waterwheel Centre in Sherborne which took place recently on a glorious sunny Sunday. The sheer joy of getting something to work and then glowing (quite literally in the heat of the engine shed) with pride was evident all around me. The great pleasure that was shared by volunteers and visitors alike in seeing something that has played such an important part in Sherborne’s past brought back to life again is what this opening is all about.

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The first volunteer I talked to was secretary David Wilkins, who was manning the gate, then in the heat of the boiler room I met Richard Cross. Richard used to manage a 100 man workshop on the Isle of Portland until his retirement and getting to grips once again with engines and moving parts clearly had him enthused as he explained how it all works.

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I then met a man who bought his first old penny farthing bicycle way back in 1969 and now has a collection of 200 assorted bicycles.

Jordan Humphreys

By far the youngest person I met was Jordan Humphreys driving the steam engine that his great grandfather had built. I was in awe of, and at the same time greatly heartened at, the expertise that this seventeen year old has amassed while working closely with the older members of  his family. It was so good to know that here was someone who would likely be able to turn his hand to so many things in the years to come, having picked up such useful skills at his father’s knee. This got me thinking back to my dad again as this is just the way that he would have learnt all those years ago.

The exhibition at the Centre tells us of the importance of the pumping station, which opened its doors in December 1869, and finally brought clean water to the inhabitants of Sherborne. A stark reminder of what it must have been like before this is encapsulated in the 1866 cartoon ‘Death’s Dispensary’. There are some deeply disturbing figures for the death rate in Sherborne in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In 1860, a particularly shocking year, nearly 400 people died in the town from typhoid and cholera.

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A poem, written by a member of Trent WI, in praise of the pumping station really sums up its significance:

The water in Sherborne was tainted

Early death and ill health were acquainted

So they pumped up deep water

To diminish the slaughter

The Great Wheel, some said, should be sainted.

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Robertwater

Please see the website for more information and for details of the monthly opening dates and times

By the way there is even a website for ‘Segs’. Who’d have believed it!

Barbara Elsmore 14 May 2016

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The old family Breadcrock

Cross Road Pottery VerwoodI was looking through the beautifully presented book Dorset Barns by Jo Draper and David Bailey, published by Dovecote Press, when I came across a photograph (above) of the Crossroads Pottery at Verwood and I could see the pots lined up outside the barn.  Some of the shapes looked very familiar indeed to me and so I went straight out into the garden to take another look at my granny’s breadcrock which has been used for plants for over forty years. It has withstood all manner of weather, unlike newer pots which have come and gone, and whenever I look at it I remember how it used to stand on a chair in the larder at granny’s house in Nether Compton where it had been in continual use for storing the bread over very many years. Just how many years I began, through the discovery of this photograph, to perhaps get more of an idea about. From reading through Pottery by Penny Copland-Griffiths, another Dovecote Press publication, and by checking the website  I discovered that the Crossroads Pottery was the last working pottery in the East Dorset pottery industry known collectively as ‘Verwood Pottery’ whose major production was of domestic earthenware. Until the Crossroads pottery closed its doors in 1952 the methods of production had not varied from Roman times with all the processes being carried out with no mechanisation or electrification.   The clay was always trodden by foot, the wheel was turned by an assistant with a pole or handle and the kilns were wood fired. So granny’s breadcrock is very likely to have been made originally in a pottery somewhere in the Verwood area maybe even at the Crossroads pottery itself.  How can I be so sure you may ask? I will explain. The granny I knew was actually my grandfather’s second wife and she was a lovely lady who married when she was 50. His first wife and my father’s mother died when my dad was 13. My ‘real’ grandmother was the daughter of the wonderfully named Eliza Mathilda Lavender who arrived, as the first certified school teacher, at Verwood School in 1875. Eliza entered into a large extended family when she married local farmer’s son Arthur Blandford in August 1878. My grandmother Mabel was born in 1882 and it is Mabel who, I believe, may have been the original owner of the breadcrock as it might have been given to her by one of her many Blandford relatives when she married my grandfather in Christchurch priory in April 1908. So is my breadcrock originally a piece of ‘Verwood Pottery’ and could it just be that I still have one of my grandparents wedding presents?

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Grandads WeddingThis realisation got me wondering whether I still have any of my mother’s wedding presents and yes I have her treasured Cornish Ware storage jars in the distinctive blue and white stripe. My mother was a wartime bride marrying in June 1943 and I think some of the ingredients on the jars speak of the times  and in particular ‘angelica’. Iced sponge cakes were often decorated with little yellow mimosa balls each with two little diamonds of angelica. I think you would be very hard put to find candied angelica on sale today.

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Wedding partyI then considered our own wedding presents and what I could find in use around the house today and I must confess to finding very little as our gifts had been mostly of practical and useful everyday items which have now long gone. I did however locate in the back of a cupboard some lovely little coffee cups by Susie Cooper for Wedgewood that look very redolent of the 1960s (we were married in 1966) plus a distinctive red metal coffee pot given to us by some friends from London which they might have found in Heales or perhaps in Terence Conran’s fairly recently opened Habitat.

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Image1I leave you with a magnificent breadcrock made today at John Leach’s Muchelney Pottery. What a wonderful and potentially very long lasting wedding present this would make.

John Leach breadcrock Barbara Elsmore

7 May 2016

 

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iPad photography workshop

image1-1I was keen to try one of Anne King’s courses and so I signed up for ‘iPad Photography and Other Stuff’ to be held at the Digby Hall in Sherborne. There were eight of us attending and Anne gave us an informative and fun afternoon where I discovered much that I had overlooked in my rush to get on and ‘do’ things on my iPad. When I first got an iPad I had a play with the camera but soon returned to the little compact camera I carried with me at all times. The video camera, however, was far superior to the one on my camera and taking little videos around my garden on sunny days and then replaying them later I really enjoyed. One afternoon a humming bird hawkmoth came into the garden and fluttered around the catmint and I dashed indoors picked up the iPad and filmed it and this really is the way to catch a humming-bird hawkmoth in action rather than taking a ‘still’ with a camera. I uploaded to Vimeo.com directly from my iPad and you can watch the video below, or click on this link.

Anne took us all back to basics and introduced the camera to us properly, showing us what it can do together with the excellent editing possibilities that come built into the iPad. She showed us how to use the timer so that you can put yourself in a group photo and how to take ‘selfies’ which I have to say none of us, being of a certain age, were especially keen on but at least we now know how! We learnt how to make some editing changes that may become necessary such as cropping, straightening, lightening, giving special finishes like turning a coloured image into black and white and more. She then took us through how to email photographs, how to file in albums and what to do if you have too many photos on your iPad. It was a very good grounding using the techniques built into the iPad and a great way to learn in a small group.

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Anne, who has taught in adult education in the past, left her role as Librarian at Leweston School after almost 10 years to become self-employed, launching ‘iPadery’ in December 2014. This coincided with a ‘new in business’ course, Dorset Women in Business Go Digital, a great start for her new venture. She offers one-to-one lessons and is taking her workshops and iPad Clubs from Yetminster and Chetnole into nearby towns and villages. She has a website with helpful tips and produces a useful monthly newsletter packed with information for iPad users of all levels. Newsletters can be read via her website, ipadery.co.uk. I am very much looking forward to visiting one of her clubs to get a taste of what goes on there so do watch this space.

Following on from the course I decided to look again at the camera on the iPad and I experimented with photographing some old postcards and you can see the results below. By holding the camera as steady and straight as possible, with no lighting interference or shadows, I took several photos. The best one can then be cropped and straightened using the basic editing tools and the remainder discarded. The photo can be emailed with the ability to reduce the size if necessary. The result is just as satisfactory as using a scanner and a desktop computer with the great benefit of being able to carry this out wherever you need to. It can also be very useful to photograph documentation and I have been playing around with an App called CamScan which then allows for the photographs of documents to be turned into PDFs and can be read once again as a document and not as a jpeg image which would have been the case had I used my traditional camera.

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Barbara Elsmore

1 May 2016

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Creative pruning, bees, birds, flowers and more….

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Yew hedge at Montecute planted in the 1850s.

At the end of March I read in my Sunday paper that in barely two weeks time there was to be a garden festival at Highgrove, the private country home in Gloucestershire of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. I remember the first time we visited the gardens at Highgrove and it must be around fifteen years ago. As secretary to our local gardening club I had been urged to get our names down for a group visit and after a wait of a year or so we got a place. No-one knew a great deal about what to expect from these early visits and we had half a dozen spare seats on our coach despite asking other gardening clubs to take them up. I still remember our amazement at the fabulous time we had arriving first at the magnificent Orchard Room, built for entertaining guests to Highgrove, with its huge stone pillars based on the old market building in nearby Tetbury. Here we met our guide and would later be served tea and Duchy biscuits, very new to the market at the time. There was no charge for visits in those days as by giving us the opportunity to see the results for ourselves Prince Charles wanted to share with gardeners and others what could be achieved by gardening only on sustainable and organic principles and by setting aside harmful chemicals and sprays. We bought items and plants in the shop, where all profits went to the Prince’s Trust, and had a thoroughly good day and with these memories still firmly in mind I went on-line and booked two tickets for the very first garden festival at Highgrove, held in April this year.

There were various tickets available and we chose the full deal with a speaker, a lunch and a guided tour of the garden and I just knew it was going to be very special. We booked a couple of nights at the Premier Inn in Stroud and, yes, Lenny Henry is right – the beds are very comfortable! On Saturday 16 April, we arrived early at the Westonbirt Arboretum to pick up the shuttle bus to Highgrove. It was very cold and we would discover later that snow had fallen and settled not far to the north of us. We first went into the plant pavilion and I was enthralled by the magnificent display all along one side at table height. Visitors are not allowed to use cameras at Highgrove, because of the security, and so I have to carry a picture of this beautiful arrangement of plants in my mind. Backed by a low yew hedge, there were examples of wildflowers, garden flowers, vegetables, herbs, old tree stumps, moss, dried leaves, chestnut palings, trimmed box, statuary and more. All this was woven together to produce a living tapestry to represent the garden at Highgrove and I wanted to stand in front of this for as long as possible, soaking it up, but time was getting on and it was off to coffee in the Orchard Room before our talk. I had chosen to hear Jake Hobson speak about creative pruning.

Jake, who now lives in Shaftesbury, studied sculpture at London’s Slade school and then went on to be inspired by the tree pruning techniques he encountered in Japan and following further study of topiary, pollarding, hedge laying and more in use here and abroad he showed us many an inspiring photo to illustrate his experiences and techniques. He also encouraged us to appreciate how the farmers’ flayed hedges hug the landscape and create patterns across the countryside. I had attended one of Jake’s courses, about ten or more years ago, and I remember taking a small twiggy shrub, poking out of the top of a plastic carrier bag, home with me on the train. When we moved to Sherborne my creation lost its top, which is now growing again and I am pleased with my very own little piece of creative pruning. Following the talk there was a delicious lunch of salmon and an appropriately regal ‘Queen of Puddings’. There were ten of us at each table and there was much stimulating conversation mostly centred around what a great time we were all having. The glasses had bees on them to remind us of the underlying message of the day and later I bought four glasses to take home. After lunch we finished with a guided tour of the garden. I have been lucky to see the garden on two other occasions in high summer but I think it was even more beautiful on this cold, sunny day when the leafless trees looked magnificent under planted by delicate narcissus and all manner of Spring flowering bulbs and plants. All the way round we could hear the song of a thrush and various little trills and outpourings from the many birds who inhabit the garden. The driveways now have grass growing up the middle as the only way this can be removed organically is by hand weeding or using a flame gun and so Prince Charles has decreed that this should now be left and is a very good example of the more relaxed approach that must be adopted when ‘working in harmony with nature rather than against her‘ the words spoken to us in the welcoming address recorded by Prince Charles and relayed before the start of each talk.

All the speakers involved gave their time for free and all profits went to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. It was a fabulous day all round and next year, all being well, I am going to book one of the later talks which will give the opportunity to indulge in an afternoon tea.

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Above: Topiary – my own rather humble offering on the left and the real thing on the right.

Below: Hedges in the local landscape in May.

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To encourage wildlife friendly gardens, you can make a ‘Bug Hotel’. Here (below left) is a new one recently opened at Castle Gardens in Sherborne to coincide with the announcement of this year’s Wildlife Friendly Garden competition run by Dorset Wildlife Trust. For the story see here. My own much smaller bug house is below right, where nearly all the drilled holes are currently home to overwintering insects.

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Barbara Elsmore

April 2016

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What is a smartphone?

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Do you remember the remark supposedly made by an out of touch judge ‘who are the Beatles?’

The unknowing can feel much the same in many circumstances when it is assumed that everyone knows what a smartphone is or what an iPad can do.

Let’s take telephones – we are all familiar with a landline and how it works – we could see the lines running to our houses from a telegraph pole and although we may not have understood the finer technicalities we knew that if we wanted one installed we contacted the GPO who sent a man round and fitted one up and plugged in the current model and our names usually went into the telephone directory. Easy. Then along came mobile phones. The first mobile phone call was made by Motorola in 1973. The early phones were the size of a brick. By the 1990s the development of the mobile phone started to really get underway and many people bought a ‘pay as you go’ phone to make phone calls on the move or send text messages.  Mobile phones then started to get ‘smarter’ and offered a camera,  so that photos could be taken and sent, and more besides. You would have to have a contract with a mobile phone network provider. Around the same time the ‘portable audio player’ appeared. The name ‘Sony Walkman’ comes to mind. All over the country people could be seen listening to their own choice of music through a set of tiny headphones. These portable audio players also started to develop and Apple’s iPod Touch was the first to have the interactive touch screen. It is having a glass screen without a set of buttons that seems to have been the major breakthrough for the casual observer like me and also the most scary to the uninitiated.  The iPod was connected to the Internet via wifi and you could check and send emails from any wifi point anywhere in the world. It also had computer programs that could be downloaded called apps. These apps meant you could choose what you wanted to carry with you. The iPod did everything that the developing smartphone could do apart from providing a phone. Meanwhile the smartphone was truly getting underway and it had everything that the iPod had to offer and a mobile phone too. If you see someone listening to their own choice of music these days they do not need a ‘portable audio player’ as this technology has been absorbed into the smartphone. So where does the tablet fit into this? The much larger iPad, using a wifi connection, does everything a smartphone can do and more, apart from the mobile phone element, although it does have an app for face to face visual phone calls instead. The iPad is adaptable to the varying requirements of the user and a separate keyboard can be added if need be or it will react to your voice when you ask it to do something. Its main advantage is it is so much bigger and easier and more convenient to use at home.  Confused? I bet!

It seems to me that many people come to mobile technology via the mobile phone route upgrading from a basic phone and eventually taking up the smartphone and I certainly have a couple of friends appreciating that travelling with such compact and mobile technology can give great benefits to them. Richard tells me that while visiting family in Kenya in January he sat on the beach in glorious sunshine catching up with what had been going on in his world and in the world at large via his smartphone which picked up the wifi signal from the hotel adjacent to the beach.

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Richard using his mobile phone with special operating pen.

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The apps Richard travels the world with on his smartphone.

I also became aware at some point that the desktop computer, the laptop, the smartphone, the iPad, a satellite navigation system (often Tom-Tom) and more were all being known collectively as ‘devices’ and that one device could ‘talk’ to another via wifi transferring information collected on one device to another device. This is very useful if you keep your diary on your phone and your desktop computer, and it also means that something you do on your smartphone or your iPad can be ‘synced’ back to your main computer and vice versa. I find this very useful for my family history research and will be writing here soon about how this works.

Robin

I would like to tell you about my friend Robin. Many will remember Robin from his days as reference librarian at Yeovil library. He has a deteriorating eye condition which he describes as giving him “very poor and misty vision – rather like viewing the world through a net curtain” and he was registered blind five years ago. His use of the iPad and how it has helped him adapt is an inspirational one.  In his own words ‘with my failing eyesight my son suggested that an iPad might help me and so I went off to the Apple shop in Bath where I took the first tentative steps and purchased my iPad”. He then demonstrated how he uses ‘voice over’ to get himself around the iPad. By pressing the only button on the front of the iPad three times he activated ‘voice over’ and then as he ran his fingers over the display the voice told him what he was touching. I watched in amazement as he called up his emails and found the email I sent him previously and I heard the disembodied voice using my words to confirm our meeting. Robin then showed me how he replies to his emails and how he uses his own voice to dictate them or he might use the keyboard and by tapping the screen, double tapping the screen, swiping the screen with two or with three fingers he gets his email recipients selected, writes and sends emails. It was amazing to watch him in action. One of Robin’s great interests is the American Civil War and he uses the Internet to search for and seek out material that he can then read and study. Books and papers can be read back to him with a swipe of the screen, relevant photos can be found and retained and notes can be written all on the iPad and all while sitting on the sofa with the rest of the family around him. Robin then completed his demonstration by saying  “the iPad has enabled me to tentatively go back to giving illustrated talks. The facility of being able to search the Internet for suitable images, coupled with then being able to send them as email attachments to better sighted friends, to enable a PowerPoint presentation to be assembled, has given me the personal satisfaction of giving three presentations in as many years. Something that I had thought I would never be able to do again! Talk about life-enhancing…!”  I remember the first of these talks when Robin collected up the photos that he wished to use and emailed them to me and I put them in the order he requested in PowerPoint so that they could be projected onto a screen and we in the audience could sit back and see the photos that illustrated the talk that Robin gave to us. It was quite amazing and I am sure that there could well be some amongst the audience who might not have realised that Robin has such poor quality vision.

Barbara Elsmore

April 2016

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Farewell to the HSBC Bank

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Photograph by kind permission of Jim Johnson.

In February 2016 the HSBC bank on the corner of Cheap Street and Long Street closed its doors for the final time. It is a sad sign of the changing times that we have lost a bank that has served the people of Sherborne for around ninety years. I have a vested interest in this bank as in our family it is known as ‘Grandad’s Bank’ as he helped to build it but I knew little more than this family anecdote and so I set out to learn what I could. The plaque on the side of the building states that the original building on the site was demolished in 1926 and replaced by the building we see today with the Midland Bank opening in the new building and HSBC taking over in 1999. How did my grandfather fit into this and how would I find out more?

Luckily I have had the pleasure of meeting Harry Brewer and he has told me that his late wife’s grandfather, Frederick Pippard of Montecute was the builder of the bank and that my grandfather was the Clerk of Works. It was Frederick who uncovered the timbers of the original 16th century shop front and arranged for them to be saved and re-erected at the side of the building. What a wonderful thing Frederick did and I wonder if it was because he was originally a plasterer by trade, as his father and grandfather had been before him, and they had all worked extensively in and around Montecute, including at Montecute House, over the years and so when the plaster was removed Frederick could well have realised that these old timbers warranted saving. Katherine Barker, in her book Sherborne Camera, tells us that prior to the demolition of the old building ‘C D Parsons Licensed Dealer in Game’ occupied the corner premises. I have an old postcard that shows an open window at the front minus the Parsons sign above with lots of large joints of meat hanging there. According to Alec Oxford’s book The known History of the shops in Cheap Street the photograph would be taken during the time of Walter Sawtell, butcher, who preceded Parsons and traded there circa1870-1910.

I have examined the building closely searching for stone masons’ marks but can see nothing. When I knew the bank was closing I asked if I could photograph on the inside some of the original handiwork of the local craftsmen who would have contributed to the construction but sadly this was not permitted. I have to contend myself with a close examination of the ancient restored timberwork at the far side of the building in Long Street and I can see where the hands of the craftsmen, in 1926, carefully added some new oak where the ancient timbers were in need of some sensitive repair.

Does anyone else have any memories to share I wonder?

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Photograph by kind permission of Sherborne School. C D Parsons is the name above the shop window.

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An old postcard c.1905 – Walter Sawtell, butcher, is trading.

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Frederick Pippard playing cricket for Montecute Cricket Club in about 1900. Photograph by kind permission of Harry Brewer.

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My grandfather, Arthur Collings, is pictured left on his next building project in 1929 at Hethfelton, Dorset.

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Up for Sale—what will happen next?

 

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