Steam powered flight

Luke Perry died today. I remember wondering whether Dylan and Brenda would get together again (and again) and how the only American postcode I knew was for Beverley Hills. Luke Perry was only 52 but he suffered a massive stroke a few weeks back and died today as a result of it. Another chip away at my cultural identity.

Meanwhile, in Hewood, the morning was spent in thesis writing and war research…pretty much like yesterday. The weather was much improved given the departure of Storm Freya into the North Sea. Actually, Storm Freya was a bit of a damp squib if you ask me. At least here in the South West where it was just a bit windy and occasionally wet.

After lunch and needing supplies, we set off for the tiny village of Thorncombe. Having parked on a remarkably steep road, we wandered through the churchyard of the Victorian St Mary’s church and visited the Thorncombe Village Shop.

While the ad in the cottage claimed that you could ‘…visit the shop for all your shopping…’ the truth is it was good for most of our shopping. Essentials like toilet paper, wine and meat were adequately catered for but the olives and balsamic vinegar were not. Though it didn’t really matter. The ladies who I had running around after me were all lovely and helpful and made the visit most pleasant.

Of course, before heading off, I had to visit the church so Mirinda sat on the Singing Bench with the puppies while I went in.

The Singing Bench is actually called June’s Singing Seat and is in memory of local songstress, June Ede who died in 2009. I don’t know if she sat on the bench and sang or she sang in the church and they just dedicated a bench to her. I like to think she sat and sang on the bench. Whichever, it’s very peaceful, particularly on a sunny afternoon.

The present church was built in 1886-1887, replacing a much older one which stood about 50 metres to the south. The decision to build a new one was because of the increasing size of the congregation. The old church, built in around 1239, only had room for about a quarter of the population. I can only assume the new church is, these days, only a quarter filled given attendance is no longer mandatory.

There is an interesting link with Farnham though. St Mary’s church and nearby Forde Abbey were both superintended by the Cistercian monks of Waverley Abbey, which as well as being the first Cistercian monastery in Britain is also a part of Farnham and a place we’ve visited many, many times.

But, back to the church…

A fun fact about John Bragge, the vicar from 1644-1647. He was deprived of his living because of his involvement in a royalist plot against Cromwell. We was transported to Barbados because of it. While obviously seen as a punishment, I reckon life on a beach in
the Caribbean has to be better than sitting in a damp, cold church during the Civil War. The initial British colony had been set up in 1627 so it wouldn’t have been so very awful a punishment.

Having filled ourselves with the history of the church in Thorncombe, we piled back into Max and headed for Chard. We were mainly headed for Chard because they have supermarkets. Not a Waitrose, to be fair, but a Sainsbury’s which will do at a pinch.

We managed to avoid any tractors along the narrow country lanes and soon found ourselves parked up in a council car park opposite the local Lidl which seems to be frequented by the kids of the town after school. Sort of like we hung around Penrith Plaza in my day though a bit more down market.

Chard seems quite nice while not reaching the dizzying heights described by JC who works for Mirinda in the college. He insisted we visit because it’s such a lovely town.

Chard once had a flourishing lace making industry which began in the 1820’s. It also had a fair few iron foundries specialising in farm implement manufacture.

The remains of Bowden’s Lace Mill

The reason why Chard was chosen for lace making was largely because of the riots in Nottingham where they weren’t happy about machines taking over from humans. The mill owners needed other less volatile populations and so they moved away from the industrial heartland into the largely agricultural south west. That showed the Luddites.

Before heading for Sainsbury’s Mirinda wanted a drink so we headed for the only pub we could see (there are other pubs in Chard), The Choughs Hotel. The pub was empty so getting served was not a problem. They also welcomed dogs.

The front room at the Chough

While the only real ale was Doombar (not a favourite of mine) they did have Moretti on tap, something I’ve never seen in the UK before. A pint was perfect. Mirinda had a gin and tonic. When she ordered it, the barman happily rattled off a very long list of gins to choose from, all infused with all manner of botanicals and fruit. Being a bit confused, she opted for old reliable Gordon’s.

Something else that Chard is known for is for powered flight. Way back in 1848, John Stringfellow flew steam powered models to the gasps, cheers and whoops of the population of Chard. Born in Sheffield, John moved to Chard, following the lace industry in its journey south. He made bobbins.

Along with William Samuel Henson, Stringfellow built a couple of models which ran on steam. Propellers provided enough forward movement to fly them long enough to qualify as powered flight.

Henson was also involved in the lace making world, having patented a machine which improved the lace making process enough to make him a wealthy engineer with enough time and motivation to attempt powered flight.

I’m thinking that the link between British Airways and lace making has never really been fully explored. A book entitled ‘Doily Air’ might be a possibility. It also occurs to me that the Luddites were responsible, albeit indirectly, for the invention of powered flight, some of the most amazing technology the future would create. That’s some amazing skills for a bunch of people who were petrified of change.

We then popped into Sainsbury’s…or rather Mirinda did. Afterwards she told us how much she hates supermarket shopping. We drove back to the cottage for the big unpack and discovery of how many off-list items she’d bought.

Settling in for the night, I made pork chops and roast veg and we started watching the new season of Homeland.

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