Saturday, 23 June 2018

Historical Hereford Day

I'm just back from a pleasant day out in Hereford, dressed as a suffragette to celebrate Historical Hereford Day on Castle Green. The theme was celebrating remarkable women and Herefordshire history, and I wasn't the only suffragette there:

There was a very good display of local history information, including the history of the women's suffrage movement in Herefordshire and history of the River Wye and hop picking. One of the leaflets I picked up was for Herefordshire Life Through A Lens, about a film called Stories from the Hop Yards, inspired by the photo archive of Derek Evans, who died in 2009 after a long photographic career. There is a website at and Derek Evans' photos can be seen at
Also in the tent was a woman dressed as one of the Rotherwas factory girls from the Second World War - I didn't get a picture of her because she was busy talking to people while I was there. There is a book out about them, called Bomb Girls.

Out on the Green there were activities for children, including Have A Go Archery and a traditional Punch and Judy show, and stalls selling crafts and vintage stuff, as well as stalls for local history groups and campaign groups.
I'm now the proud owner of a badge saying "Save Mortimer Forest", for instance. A local group wants to stop the Forestry Commission from making a deal with Forest Holidays to build 68 holiday homes, with a shop, restaurant, bar and cycle hire facilities inside Mortimer Forest, near the border with Shropshire. They can be found at (with bird song!).
There was also a campaign group opposing the present plans for a Hereford Bypass. They are in favour of more cheap, reliable public transport, such as electric buses and trams, more trains and carriages, and safe cycle and pedestrian routes. Like the Mortimer Forest campaigners, they are against the destruction of the local environment, especially ancient woodland, along the route which will cross the River Wye on a high bridge. They can be found at

I also picked up the leaflet for this year's Three Choirs Festival, which is in Hereford this year ( One of the highlights of this year's performances will be Ethel Smyth's Mass in D - she was, of course, a prominent campaigner for women's suffrage. It's also the centenary of the death of Hubert Parry, local composer, and of 24 year old Lili Boulanger, who wrote a setting of Psalm 130 as a response to the horrors of the First World War.

I rounded off my trip to Hereford by having a bottle of Liberty Ale from San Francisco at the Hereford Beer House - while I still can. Many of the small businesses in that area have been forced to move out because of huge rent increases, and the Hereford Beer House may have to follow. I hope they're able to find another home in Hereford.

And finally I went to St Peter's Church, where a big suffragette rally was held over a hundred years ago. There was a photo of it in the exhibition tent on Castle Green, with a lady addressing the crowd from a platform that must have been just about where the war memorial is now. The war memorial was built in 1922. I'm not sure if the person in the archive photo was local campaigner Mrs Massey, or one of the Pankhursts who visited Herefordshire to campaign.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Celebrating the NHS

Owen Sheers has written a new play, To Provide All People, to celebrate 70 years of the NHS - and what a star--studded cast BBC Wales have assembled to perform it! The actors include Michael Sheen, Eve Myles, Sian Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Aimee Ffion Edwards, George Mackay, Martin Freeman, Meera Syal, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Grieg, Rashan Stone Michelle Fairley, Suzanne Packer, and Michelle Collins. It covers a day in a single hospital.

Copies of the book are available from the Poetry Bookshop.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Hay-on-Wye Rocks

That's the name of a new Facebook page for a group that is painting pebbles and leaving them around Hay for people to find. They are encouraging people to paint their own rocks to leave out, and anyone who finds a rock can either leave it where it is, or take it home, or put it somewhere else for another person to find.
Here's one, lurking somewhere in Hay....

Monday, 18 June 2018

HOWLS Meeting

HOWLS will be holding their AGM on Wednesday 20th June at 7pm, at what we must now call the Old Library.
It will be a time to say goodbye to the old Library, look back on the campaign, get updates on the new library, and plan for the future.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Dan the Elgar Dog and other Statues

When I was talking about statues around Hereford a little while ago, I was told about a statue of a dog down by the river, in King George V Playing Fields. So yesterday I went to find it.

This is the bulldog that belonged to the organist at Hereford Cathedral, who was a friend of Elgar's. The story goes that they were walking along the riverbank one day when the dog fell in. It's quite a steep bank there - there's another memorial nearby to all the people who have drowned in the Wye, adding sternly "Don't Let It Be You".
The dog paddled furiously to a place where he could pull himself out, and shook himself vigorously. The organist said to Elgar something along the lines of: "I bet you can't make a tune out of that!" Elgar took up the challenge, and the tune he wrote became part of the Enigma Variations.

I was also told last week about the three legged statue in Hereford Cathedral. I didn't take a picture, because my camera is a bit weedy indoors, but I went to pay my respects to Sir Richard Pembridge, 14thC knight, with his head resting on his great helm. One of the statue's legs was badly damaged at some point, and a wooden leg was carved to put in its place. Then in the 19thC an alabaster leg was carved as a replacement, and the wooden leg passed into private hands. And now it's back, donated by the owner, and propped up against the pillar beside the tomb.

A little way along the wall from the tomb (opposite the main door of the Cathedral) is the new SAS memorial, in rather beautiful polished blue stone, very plain, and with a modern window above it, also in blue, with the title Ascension.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Clifford Castle

What a wonderful evening!
Cusop History Group organised a trip to Clifford Castle, which is privately owned, yesterday. The present owners have been there for 7 years, and have just completed extensive renovation of the castle with the help of Historic England. As part of the agreement with Historic England, they have to open the castle to the public for 20 days a year. The castle is also open today and Sunday morning, though they do ask on their website for any group larger than 5 people to contact them in advance. The website is
Parking is limited in Clifford, so the group met up in the Co-op's car park for car sharing. Signs are now up in the Co-op car park restricting parking to one and a half hours for customers only, but permission was granted for the History Group to park there.
I've been to Clifford Castle before, many years ago, as the guest of Mrs Parkinson, who used to own it. The people who owned the castle after her were not well liked in the area - there were stories of them stopping local people from walking their dogs and so on - but the present owners seem both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the castle.
We were taken round by the owner, who had prepared laminated sheets with details of the castle's history and features, and a rather good reconstruction drawing. One of the group is an expert on Fair Rosamund, who was the daughter of Sir Walter de Clifford and mistress of Henry II. Henry was known to have visited the castle, and the owner commented that he couldn't see the king being entertained in the Great Hall of the keep, because it's really quite small. There is a possibility that there was a larger, wooden great hall in the outer bailey, though there would need to be more excavation to find out.

As part of the renovation work, several trenches were dug around the site, and the soil taken out of the tops of the walls was sieved, yielding mostly Victorian pottery. They think that Dr. Trumper, who owned the castle in the 19th century, and built the present house there, deliberately planted ivy in the walls to make the keep look more like a "romantic ruin". All that ivy, and the several trees that had burrowed their roots into the walls, have had to be removed to save the stonework from further damage. They also had to remove masses of brambles. The owner said that he only found one of the five towers by accident, when he fell into it while strimming - it was completely covered in brambles, and he went into them up to his waist.
The trench in the middle of the shell keep revealed, somewhat disappointingly, that the present ground level is about a metre above the original ground level - and across the courtyard stones from the castle walls had been neatly stacked on end. They assume that this was done by Dr Trumper, who probably intended to use the stone to rebuild some of the walls. When he came to sell the castle, not having used the stone he collected, he just covered them with earth. The owner said he wished he'd known the stone was there - they wouldn't have needed to buy in new supplies!
Other walls have primitive repairs, with little columns of stones holding up walls where there are gaps or the facing stones have disappeared. One wall, overlooking the river, has a solid buttress at one end, provided by the railway engineers who were building the railway down below, between the castle and the river, presumably so stones from the castle didn't fall down onto the tracks!

View of the entrance to the keep

And here's the reason that the castle was built on that spot in the first place - the ford across the river Wye, as seen from the walls of the castle. You can see how high above the ford the castle is, hence the "Cliff" part of the name.

There is a lot of potential for more work to be done to discover the secrets of the castle - they still don't know where the kitchen was for sure, and they don't really know the purpose of the hornwork behind the keep either - but the work that has been done has ensured the castle's survival for perhaps another hundred years.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Changing Banking Arrangements

Well, that was easier than I thought it was going to be!
This morning I went into Barclays and withdrew all the money from my savings account. I'm leaving the current account, because that's kind of essential for paying rent and direct debits and so forth, and there is no other bank in town I could transfer it to. The savings, though, went straight across the road to the Yorkshire Building Society, where I already have a small account. I suppose that means I don't count as one of the 67 people that the leaflet from Barclays said use the Hay Barclays branch exclusively for their banking needs, even though I do 95% of my banking through Barclays. The lady at the Yorkshire Building Society said that they'd been busier than usual over the last week or so. She banks with Barclays too, and said: "Don't mention that name to me!"
I had thought that I'd have to go into Hereford to get the Barclays savings account closed, but Helen did it all for me on the spot.