Friday, 24 January 2014

The BHO Blog has moved!
The IHR's new blog has now been launched, covering news and activities from across the whole Institute. All of the old posts from the BHO blog can be found at the new location, and there will continue to be frequent updates covering BHO news and developments.

The IHR Blog can be found here.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

October photo competition

This month again we have two runners-up. In no particular order, as always, they are Levant Tin Mine Stack by Joyce Macadam:

The placement of the stack in the composition is what is important here. There is always something poignant, I think, about ruins by the sea, such as the pollarded columns of Roman temples that can be seen at various places on the coast in Libya. In fact this particular mine went nearly two miles out under the sea, according to Wikipedia, so the impression that the stack is somehow stranded on the coast is misleading: it is really an example of engineering ingenuity.

Talking of great engineering, our other runner-up photo was The 4.50 from Paddington by Richardr.

Richardr captures the elegance as well as the grandeur of Brunel's great structure, and reanimates the cliche that such buildings were the cathedrals of their age. Personally, this picture reminds me happily of one of my favourite novels, Austerlitz by WG Sebald (named not for the battle but for the Parisian station). Sebald habitually used photographs in his fiction - although grainy ones that he degraded by photocopying them, rather than the pellucid image that Richardr has achieved here.

Our winner this month is Ouse Bridge from Skeldergate Bridge by woodytyke:

What the judges particularly admired about this picture was the light (the reflection of the white rails on the left is like a Sisley painting) as well as the splendid panorama. There is a tremendous amount of historical information in this picture, and I can imagine a future historian finding it a rich source. The photographs in the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments series provide an important historical record (supplemented by expert commentary and drawn plans) but the many photographs being taken now, attested in a small way by the BHO Flickr group, will provide far more detailed evidence.

As I announced on the group page, we're going to run together November and December and pick a winner in January. The reason for this is that in December no one will be in the office with the technical savvy to be able to upload a winning picture to the homepage. But please do keep adding your photos to the group!

Friday, 25 October 2013

September photo competition

It is no reflection on the quality of submissions for September, but this month we only had one runner up (it's to do with the way the number of votes fall).

Our runner up is by a stalwart of the Flickr competition, Richardr, and is The Jesus of Lubeck:

This ship had an interesting, if not very creditable, history, being used first by the Hanseatic League and then bought by Henry VIII. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says, in the entry for Sir John Hawkins:

Hawkins, possibly using his connections with the court through west-country gentry like the Carews, managed to get the queen's backing. He was allowed to charter one of the largest ships in her navy, the 700 ton Jesus of Lubeck, purchased from the Hanseatic port under Henry VIII (but now riddled with dry rot), and to sail under the royal standard.

The ship was used by Hawkins for his activities in slaving trades, activities which seem to have descended on occasion to gangsterism:

After lading a cargo of hides at Cura├žao, which he left on 15 May, Hawkins traded profitably at Rio de la Hacha, after again using force to dictate slave prices.
One thing I like about this picture is the bricks reflected in the glass above the ship - bricks which, I imagine, are older than the painting itself.

Our winner this month is Stott Park Bobbin Mill - the main workshop by the-frantic photographer:

It's difficult to get a scene as cluttered as this into an effectively composed picture. I think what particularly works here is the tension between the order of an efficient workshop and the requirements of the place: there is a lot of stuff here, but nothing is out of place. The large windows are important too, in humanising the space: despite it being empty there is still an impression of bustle.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

August photo competition

Somewhat belatedly, following a couple of weeks off in September, I am able to blog about the winner and runners-up of our August photo competition. The judges thought this was a particularly strong month, so thanks to everybody who added photos to the group - and please keep doing so!

We had four runners-up this time. In random order they are:

A near-symmetrical shot of The Stern of the SS Great Britain at Bristol by Jayembee69:

This picture makes it very clear how ship design has often tried to imitate fashionable architectural details. The SS Great Britain was the largest ship in the world when it was launched and something of the grandeur comes through even in a detail shot like this one.

What I like about this picture is that is very organic: at first glance it could (almost) be a gnarled old face of a boulder in a field, left stranded by some geological process. But the inclusion of the second stone to the right disabuses the viewer of any such suspicion. The angle of the clouds and blue streak of sky remind me of the time-lapse shots of scudding clouds in films.

Next we have The Albert Memorial by richardr

Richard's photo captures the excess of the memorial: not just gold and marble but mosaics and inlaid jewels. I must admit that until looking up the monument on Wikipedia I hadn't realised what an elaborate allegorical scheme it has. In Richard's photo I think we can see the 'Agriculture' group and the 'Engineering' group of marble sculptures. I will certainly look more carefully at the monument next time I am in Kensington.

The last of our runners-up is Southwell Minster by the-frantic-photographer.

I have fond memories of visiting Southwell Minster on a cathedrals tour about 10 years ago (that was in my wild youth, when anything seemed possible). It is a quiet place and the persistent foliage theme in the decoration - for example in the beautiful chapter house - fits the setting nicely. This close-up picture by the-frantic-photographer shows a honeycomb-like door from which the quatrefoil motif emerges as soon as you look at it carefully. This is the kind of close-up picture that I always try to take but always end up with disappointing results, but here we have a good example of how it can be done.

That crazy cathedrals road trip that my partner and I took ended at Lincoln and, coincidentally, this month's winner is a picture of Lincoln Cathedral by uplandswolf:

Many of you will know that the cathedral is at the top of a steep hill, and here we get a tremendous sense of the way in which the building seem to be reaching up even higher. The exuberance of all this stonework is heightened by the choice of the gothic arch through which to frame the main subject. Congratulations to uplandswolf for winning with a very different photograph from his Derelict signal box in March.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Andrew Minting on RCHME, Salisbury

In the latest in our series of posts on the RCHME series, we have a guest post by Andrew Minting, conservation officer in Salisbury, about the importance of the Salibury volume. Andrew writes:

If there’s one source of information I commend to those researching the buildings of the city of Salisbury, it’s the Royal Commission’s volume on the historic monuments outside of the cathedral close.

Its recent online publication is excellent news and makes the information much more readily accessible to the general public. The copy on my desk is well worn from use on a near-daily basis for many years, providing an understanding of individual buildings and the development of the city from its foundation.  As an historical record of the city in the mid twentieth century, it is invaluable, including buildings that had been demolished from the 1950s onwards.  In comparison with modern mapping, one can trace some of the dramatic redevelopments and losses of the last half-century – the extensive demolition to facilitate the ring road, the Old George and Cross Keys shopping malls, for example.  Many buildings are brought to life through excellent detailed drawings of their timber frames, such as the Plume of Feathers, while plans showing chronological development are particularly useful for those considering the sensitivity of sites to proposed alterations.

The introduction and footnotes provide very useful pointers to all of other primary and secondary sources available, many of which are now to be found at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.

One important note for those unfamiliar with the hardback version of the volume, the planned grid layout of much of the city centre led to the adoption of names for the blocks of the grid, known as chequers, in addition to street names. Where appropriate, the Royal Commission organised the monuments of the volume by chequer, rather than following the lengths of individual streets.  Perhaps the most useful image for users of the online version is to be found in Plan 1, which shows both chequer and streetnames, although the Naish plan of 1716 is a beautiful alternative.

Andrew Minting

Friday, 6 September 2013

July photo competition

Here are the results of our photo competition for July are now in. We have two runners-up this month, and they are (as ever) in no particular order:

Exeter Cathedral by richardr:

This Exeter angel strikes me as a melancholy one. Presumably leaning back in awe and admiration, in this photograph the angel seems rather to be going through some moment of existential angst - an impression given, I think, by the strong contrast in light and the cool tone of the stone.

Our second runner-up is, like richardr, a veteran of our BHO photo competition, uplandswolf. His Burghley House 2 has a sunnier palette:

Burghley House, in Lincolnshire, was the seat of the Cecils, secretaries of state who were powerful advisors to Elizabeth I and James I. The connection may not have been in uplandswolf's mind, but we have made the complete series of the calendar of the Cecil papers freely available on British History Online, for those who'd like to know more about their affairs of state.

Our winner for July depicts a less grand dwelling. Scotland 2013 by rachaellazenby shows part of Inchcolm Abbey on Inchcolm, one of the islands on the Firth of Forth:

The judges loved the light in this photograph, which lends the austere and rugged stonework grace and warmth.

Our thanks go to these three contributors, and all the other people who have included their photographs in the British History Online group. Please do keep adding your pictures.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Sarah Rose on Westmorland

In another in our series of posts by experts in particular counties, Dr Sarah Rose of Lancaster University writes for us about the RCHME volume for Westmorland:

I would like to reiterate the comments made by Professor Dyer, written in response to the online publication of the RCHME’s Northamptonshire volumes, regarding the general importance of this series. The number of architectural features included in these volumes, dating from the prehistoric era to the 18th century, together with the sheer breadth of research conducted by the Royal Commission, make them an essential starting point for anyone interested in landscape and place, whether they be actively engaged in research or merely curious.

Since its publication in 1936, the importance of the Westmorland volume has perhaps been underscored by the absence, to date, of a VCH volume for the county. As such, RCHME Westmorland has become a vital source for those writing in-depth local studies to county-wide surveys, including Matthew Hyde’s revised volume of Pevsner’s gazetteer for the ancient counties that make-up Cumbria.(1) The RCHME volume for Westmorland is particularly important as a pioneering survey of the county’s vernacular architecture, highlighting, for example, the rich legacy of plasterwork in traditional buildings:

Cumbria’s past is currently being explored in great detail by volunteer researchers working for the Victoria County History of Cumbria project, now in its third year. The RCHME volumes are cited at a national level as an essential resource for VCH researchers. This is as true for the volunteers working on Westmorland as in any other county. The RCHME volume often serves as an initial guide to the history of major local buildings, such as the parish church, for example, but also outlines important historical features which may be less obvious to the untrained eye.

In rural areas like Cumbria, an online version of RCHME for Westmorland tackles the issue of accessibility to resources of its kind, which are invariably limited to reference libraries and archives. For VCH volunteers, many who do not live in easy distance of such facilities, this online publication should be particularly welcome.

(1) M. Hyde and N. Pevsner, Cumbria: Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness. The Buildings of England (London, 2010).