Sunday, 30 June 2013


What can I say about Stuart Miller-Osborne that you don't already know?  How would you describe him?  An author, poet a historian.  He is, in fact, all of these and much more.  He arrives at Hungerford Arcade and heads immediately to the book section and there you will see him studying each book that catches his eye with a passion for the written word etched on his face.  We are very fortunate to have such a good friend as Stuart and look forward very much to reading his articles.    Stuart wrote the following fascinating article before he and Caron went on holiday.  Enjoy your reading.

  The Poem Tree 

As you get older, I believe that one thinks that they have a rounded view of the world. We have seen it all before and the contemporary mistakes are mistakes made by former generations. Nothing we see surprises us anymore. My daughter calls this the pipe and cardigan stage of life.

Well I extinguished my pipe ( I do not smoke, so why start now ?) and I have given my cardigan away. By accident I came across something really interesting in the Arcade when loafing through a book on British Art. It concerned an artist who thought I was reasonably familiar with namely Paul Nash (1889-1946).

I was aware that he had worked on a series of paintings of Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire (which is about a hour from Hungerford) as well as Avebury. Although I have visited the latter on many occasions, I have never visited Wittenham Clumps which is where I found in this book a comment about The Poem Tree. At first I thought it was something connected with Nash, but it was something totally different.

The detail in the book was sketchy so I decided to research this reference. What was the mystery of The Poem Tree?  From that short piece in the book on British Art I had found something that I had been unaware of previously. A poem carved into a tree.

I have always loved poetry, it is the music of words. We are lucky to speak a beautiful language which like our famed weather is full of different moods. I particularly like dialect poetry and am lucky enough to own a book of poems by Edward Slow (1841-1925) the Wiltshire dialect poet and have studied William Barnes (1801-1886) who wrote poems in the Dorsetshire dialect. But I had never heard of  Joseph Tubb (1805-1879) who created The Poem Tree.

If you tread through books of Victorian verse you will not find him. Apart from an obscure reference in the Paul Nash section of the art book I have never seen anything on him in all my reading, which makes this discovery all the more exciting.

The reason is quiet, Joseph Tubb was a maltster who lived in our neighbouring county just under two hundred years ago. Like many people of his generation he would have lived and died in obscurity but for one act. His carving of a twenty line poem into a beech tree on Castle Hill at Wittenham Clumps.

The story is a simple one, Tubb’s was heavily opposed to the enclosure of the commons and was known to have destroyed fences in protest (He served an enforced holiday in Oxford Gaol for his efforts). On a more tender note he decided carve a poem into the lucky tree and did so during the summers of 1844-45. He took a ladder and a tent and began the task. Initially I thought Tubb’s to be another of those delicious English eccentrics but on studying him I found him to be much closer to Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) and Alfred Williams (1877-1930) in thought and outlook.
Like Jefferies love of Liddington Hill, Tubb’s had a deep love for the glorious Oxfordshire countryside. He might have written other poems ( I have never seen any, but do look hard in those dusty Victorian books) but this is the one he is remembered for. I have quoted this poem in its entirety below for you to enjoy:

As up the hill with labr'ing steps we tread
Where the twin Clumps their sheltering branches spread
The summit gain'd at ease reclining lay
And all around the wide spread scene survey
Point out each object and instructive tell
The various changes that the land befell
Where the low bank the country wide surrounds
That ancient earthwork form'd old Mercia's bounds
In misty distance see the barrow heave
There lies forgotten lonely Cwichelm's grave.
Around this hill the ruthless Danes intrenched
And these fair plains with gory slaughter drench'd
While at our feet where stands that stately tower
In days gone by up rose the Roman power
And yonder, there where Thames smooth waters glide
In later days appeared monastic pride.
Within that field where lies the grazing herd
Huge walls were found, some coffins disinter'd
Such is the course of time, the wreck which fate
And awful doom award the earthly great.

Excited by this discovery I thought it would be fun to travel to Wittenham Clumps and seek out the tree. But sadly I was too late as during the 1980s the tree became ill and by the 1990s it had passed on to the great forest in the sky. The actual poem had become distorted due to the growth of the tree but due to the foresight of  a Henry Osmaston in 1965 a rubbing was taken and the verse was recorded. This can be found on a stone nearby which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the original carving.

The Poem Tree sadly collapsed in 2012 and after being made safe is being left to return to the ground where it originated. I plan to visit the remains of the tree sometime in the near future, maybe next spring when the bluebells flourish or on a hot summers day when the lazy insects hold their flight in the air. Or it might just be a spur of the moment decision when I am nearby, time will tell.

Is this the only poem tree in existence ? I do not know but I suspect that deep in some our many woods and forests there are ancient rhymes carved into ancient trees. It is just a matter of finding them. The next time I am in the Savernake Forest I will keep a closer eye out . Maybe, just maybe I will find the verse of some forgotten poet forged into the bark of a tree. If so I will make a record of it for future generations.

This is the beauty of loafing in antique shops and arcades, you will never know where a finding will send you. Mine was an innocent browse into a run of the mill art book. I might have a found a reference to the tree in a book of poetry or the like. But this was the chosen opening and now pipe less and slightly chilly without my cardigan I have found another new area to study and my long suffering wife will have to accompany me on verse hunting expeditions in future.

If you require further information as to the poetry tree then there are a couple of excellent websites on the internet as well as some informative reports in the local Oxford press. Maybe I will meet you there as we study the remains of Tubb’s decaying poem.

Stuart Miller-Osborne
The Poem

The Poem Tree
Wittenham Clumps

Nash Witt Clum

Nash Witt Clum

Paul Nash

We are very sorry that some people did not see the pictures when going to this Blog from our website. This has now been fixed and hope you will now enjoy them.

Friday, 28 June 2013


it was a colourful day outside the Arcade with the French Tricolour flying alongside the Union flag in anticipation of our impending visitors from France.  All of us at Hungerford Arcade were very proud and excited to welcome a party of French School Children and their teachers from Le College Maurice Genevoix in the city of Liqueil.  The trip was organised by one of the teachers, Dany Bosek in order to let the children meet the people and explore the town of Hungerford in England which is twinned with their city, Liqueil in France.   

There were fifty school children and four teachers in all and much to their surprise and delight, upon arrival at the Arcade, managers, Alex Rogers and Don Greenslade presented each child with a pouch containing a very old English coin and a leaflet which told them what that coin was and what it would be worth in today's money!  They were absolutely thrilled!  

The children then went off with their teachers to explore the Arcade and its many nooks and crannies, marvelling at the many curios that make Hungerford Arcade the special and fascinating place that it is!

The children from Liqueil had a fabulous time and I think the teachers enjoyed it as much as the children!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the children and the teachers of Le College Maurice Genevoix and to teacher, Dany Bosek organising the visit and making our day special.  Thank you. 

French School Children presented with pouches of old English coins
by Managers Alex Rogers and Don Greenslade

Arcade Manager, Alex Rogers presenting
old English coins to French School Children

School Children and Teachers
Le College Maurice Genevoix in the city of Liqueil, France

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


It is always a good fun day from the time the BBC arrive at Hungerford Arcade for filming to the time they leave.  On this occasion we had them here filming twice in one week!  The first day featured, television antiques expert, James Braxton and the second day, later in the week featured, television antiques expert, Jonty Hearnden.  They were here at the Arcade to film 'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is'.  This is the programme where the experts buy items as cheaply as possible and then sell them on to make as big a profit as possible.  All the profit they make goes to their chosen charity.

First, Adrian Jefferies and Frances Jones, stallholders at Hungerford Arcade, met up with James Braxton and after some friendly banter and to their delight, Adrian was able to purchase two silver christening mugs and Frances an envelope card table from James.  James then met Stewart Hofgartner from Below Stairs just across the road from the Arcade in Hungerford.  Stewart is also a television antiques expert on ITV.   Stewart bought a Victorian item from James to which Stewart commented, "I should be able to scrape a profit out of it!".  The item being a boot scraper!   

On the second day of filming, Jonty Hearnden arrived and met up with Pete Marsh, also a stallholder at the Hungerford Arcade.  Pete was very excited by what Jonty had for sale and after the usual wheeler dealer bargaining, he purchased a 19th century brass and copper military flask and a pair of 19th century silver epaulettes.  

Great fun was had on both days of filming and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves, much to the amusement of the customers!


James Braxton  and proud owner
of two silver mugs, Adrian Jefferies

Envelope card table bought by Frances Jones from James Braxton
Where are you Frances?  Must be camera shy!

James Braxton taking a break during filming

Jonty Hearnden during filming

Left to right: Adrian, owner of Hungerford Arcade with Jonty Hearnden and Pete Marsh holding the silver epaulettes

Brass and copper 19th century powder flask also bought by Pete Marsh from Jonty Hearnden

Saturday, 22 June 2013


I am sure you are all familiar now with the wonderful articles written by Stuart Miller-Osborne.  Stuart is a great personal friend and customer of Hungerford Arcade.  Here we have a story about the Railway Bridge just down the road from Hungerford Arcade.  Many of our customers travel by train when they visit the Arcade and will be very familiar with its bridge.  Please enjoy the  story and pictures.  I have included a picture of some Edie Stobart trucks at the end!

View From The Bridge 

Something has changed in Hungerford High Street. If you look left as you leave the arcade you will see a rather odd looking mass of white sheeting and a complication of scaffolding. No, the artist Christo has not chosen our small Berkshire town for his next installation. The truth is much more ordinary than that. Our railway bridge is getting a new lick of paint, some essential repairs and I believe the addition of a Hungerford crest.

The first I knew of this was one morning about seven when a family of glum looking resident pigeons walked past me with their suitcases heading in the general direction of Salisbury. The father, the last in the group looked sadly down the hill and with a weak smile told me that they had been seven days notice to move and would only be allowed to return in ten weeks. I looked over his shoulder and there it was (or rather was not) our beloved bridge was covered in a mass of white sheeting and was silent except for the passing of the odd train. 

But what of our railway bridge? We all accept its presence but usually ignore it and only glance up if a train is passing. It is actually the third bridge to cross the high street and rather eccentrically crosses a road that is on a considerable hill. The first railway had reached Hungerford in1847 (and Hungerford was to remain the terminus until 1862 when the track was extended towards Seend, not far from Devizes). This necessitated the building of the bridge over the road to Salisbury which was a considerable undertaking due to the width of the high street in the town. The embankments we see in the town today were created and further smaller bridges were built. These were located over the Croft, Parsonage and Marsh Lanes. 

Originally designed for a single track this bridge was replaced in 1896 when the line was doubled.  The bridge we see (or do not see) today dates from the mid sixties and replaced the late Victorian structure which I am told had developed structural problems. 

Although quite plain it is a handsome structure and reminds me of many of the older bridges built well over one hundred years ago which we frequently see on the railway network. It is supported on both sides by a solid brick abutment (which dates from 1896). If you pass under the bridge walking towards the canal and turn immediately left then you will see a very impressive retaining wall (strengthened over the years) made of what I believe to be Somersetshire Red Brick. Although weathered it still retains the softness and colour of the original. I am not an expert on bricks, but have noted that a large number of railway related structures tend to use Staffordshire Blue Brick (which is very hard wearing). It appears here that a West Country stone was used. 

The bridge is as familiar to Hungerford as is our splendid Town Hall and without it the town would feel naked. For one I cannot wait until it is unveiled again. Hopefully this would take place on a warm summers day . I would like to be walking towards the structure as a steam train raced across the bridge at full speed on whistle. At the same time an Eddie Stobart lorry would be passing underneath easily fighting the gradient of the hill. In my jacket pocket perhaps, there would be a first edition of poems by Hart Crane which I would read from as I sampled the local ale at one of the nearby inns.

Stuart Miller-Osborne
Replacing the Railway Bridge in 1966

Replacing the Railway Bridge in 1966

May/June 2013 Railway Bridge getting a makeover!

Railway Bridge refurbishment completed June 2013"GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY"1862

Famous Edie Stobart Trucks

Sunday, 16 June 2013


What a wonderful weekend we have just had at Hungerford Arcade.  The crowds seemed to flock in every day and we loved every minute of it.  

Today, we had a very special visitor, Mark Stacey, the famous antiques expert and auctioneer, not to mention TV star, who lives in Brighton where he also has an antiques shop.  Mark came into the Arcade where he was duly made a great fuss of and of course, the customers recognised him right away from his television work and were very excited to see him.  Mark, is a great character with a terrific sense of humour and everyone loves him for it.  Mark stayed for quite a while and made some purchases and whilst at the counter, a young 8 year old boy approached him and asked,  "Will you autograph my baseball cap for me please Mr. Stacey?"  Mark smiled and said "Of course, I will be delighted".   The young boy left with a huge smile on his face and a skip in his step, clutching his now treasured cap!  It was great to see Mark again.  Hopefully, it won't be too long before his next visit.  Probably, when the BBC are back at the Arcade to film one of the antiques programmes. As you know, Mark does a lot of television work which takes him all over the UK and Europe!  Thank you Mark for making our day!

Mark Stacey being helped by Estelle Harris

Friday, 14 June 2013


In this world there are collectors of just about everything you can possibly imagine.  Many of them come to Hungerford Arcade in search of that elusive piece for their collection or, they may have just started their collection.  
Some of the Collectors have been coming to the Arcade for many years.  We have actually been told by a few of them that their collection started with an item they purchased here!  Well, that came as no surprise to us as you can buy virtually anything you can think of in the collectables field!
Poole Pottery is one of those collectables that are highly sought after and as we like to keep our customers informed of interesting articles relating to their treasured collections, Sue Smith and Roger Hartley of the Poole Pottery Collectors Club have kindly written the following article which will also appear in one of our Newsletters.  You can find lots of other information on their website.  There is a link at the foot of the article.
Identifying your Traditional Poole Pottery  
When Carter and Co. first started to develop their range of decorative wares they used a grey clay body and any identification marks were scratched into the base. These usually consisted of the Carter trade name and the date, with very little other information added. If the collector is lucky other marks in pencil can also be found – for example, I have several pieces with the price pencilled on by the retailer. Although there was one impressed mark in use from 1900 on some of the lustre wares, and another elaborate impressed mark for teapot stands, they were not universally used. By 1908 impressed marks started to be used on the tin glazed and unglazed items. If a piece was commissioned for Liberty’s London store or another retailer no Poole mark was used.  
Once the company became Carter Stabler and Adams the impressed stamp became the norm although there are many variations as shown on the Club Website. It can be confusing for the collector as many marks were used after this period including the use of both the CSA and Poole names in the same years. I have been unable to ascertain why this was done and would welcome any theories anyone has on this. From this point on it is often necessary to use other indicators to establish the age of any given piece. 
The grey clay changed to red (terracotta) clay body in 1922 and continued until 1934 when a white body replaced it. Between 1934 and 1937 a pink slip was added as a covering to both the base and insides of the pots to emulate the previous red clay and perhaps disguise the change, but the white clay base can still be seen where the 3 digit shape number has been etched through the pink slip. From 1937 the base was left white but the pink slip inside the pot continued for sometime and can be found in some pots up until the 1950s when it was dropped altogether.   
Other indicators of age are the decorators’ monograms. Care must be taken with this method due to the practice of reassigning marks to new decorators when former ones left the factory. These marks were for quality control and piece work for the company’s benefit and, although of great interest to the collector, this was not the original purpose of the monograms.  
So it is a combination of these marks that allow the collector to pinpoint within a few years the age of any piece. To do this it is important to have good reference data and the most extensive range of marks can be found in the Poole Pottery book by Leslie Hayward and Paul Atterbury, or alternatively on the Club’s website –  
Other marks on the base of pieces include the design code which is normally 2 letters, although a single letter was originally used, presumably until all 26 letters had been used up, and the letter G was also used as a prefix to reflect the colourway – for example, GUY stands for the green colourway of design UY. Examples have been found of the wrong code being placed on a pot in error and it may be that some of the earlier pattern codes were reused. A very good reference for these codes can be found on the Club’s website. If you have a pattern that is missing please let the club have a picture of the piece and its base. From 1951 to 1966 the pattern code was prefixed by S, M or E to indicate whether it was a simple, medium or elaborate version of the pattern in question.   
There is also a shape number consisting of 3 numbers scratched onto the base of the piece before it was fired. This was changed in 1947 to impressed numbers that were used until the 1960’s when printed numbers were introduced.  The first shape numbers were used between 1921 and 1928 when a second series was started using some of the previously allocated ones. It was Margaret Holder who initially allocated the numbers to each shape, and later it was Pat Summers who maintained the pattern books and the paintress’ monograms record.  
From the 1950’s you will sometimes find a potter’s mark impressed into the base. Modern Poole always has an impressed or a raised mark which is built into the mould. Designer’s marks are also sometimes found painted under the glaze. 
Other marks found on some pots are factory trial and control marks although further research is needed to be certain of their true meaning. These include a black or white glaze spot, and impressed marks of an anchor, a star, and a hexagon (like the end of a hexagonal shaped pencil).
The combination of all these factors allows you to date each piece to within a few years of production and add to the joy and interest in collecting Poole TRADITIONAL pottery.
Sue Smith and Roger Hartley
Poole Pottery Collectors Club
Vase in a golden lustre glaze
Marks on the base of the Vase
were in use 1900 - 1908


Friday, 7 June 2013


As you will all know, here at Hungerford Arcade, we are in a very privileged position when it comes to the 'weird and the wonderful!  Many amazing things have been made from the remnants of war, most popular for these were from shell casings.  Here, we have a most unusual and beautifully made ring made from a Spitfire windscreen!

"I say old chap, what will they think of next!"

Was this ring a 'one off', made during WWII from a crashed or damaged Spitfire by a romantic gentleman for his sweetheart?  I like to think so. 

As well as the ring, I have also included some pictures of the Spitfire and a Supermarine Spitfire.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013



A young lady, Poppy Dent, came into the Arcade looking for vintage tennis rackets.  She searched every unit and there are 115 of them, until she found what she was looking for.  As she walked around, the bundle in her arms got bigger and bigger!  Seeing that she was in need of some urgent help and being a gentleman, Adrian went to her rescue and relieved Poppy of her rackets.  

Having brought the tennis rackets to the counter where I proceeded to take off the tickets, I couldn't help but wonder what Poppy was going to do with them all and so I asked her.  "Are you off to the French Open with all these rackets Poppy?"  "Oh no!" exclaimed Poppy.  "I am going to make them into other things!"  Well, I couldn't imagine what she could possibly make from them or indeed turn them into until I looked on her website.  Suddenly, it all became clear, 'game, set and match'!

Rita helping Poppy