Monday, 30 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE: AN ARMY LIFE - PART TWO




Our wonderful author, Stuart Miller-Osborne, has completed Part 2 of his historical article "An Army Life".  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.  I found it extremely captivating.
Rita


WILLIAM IN INDIA



What did William find when on that day over one hundred and thirty years ago he first set foot on the soil of India? Obviously, he would not have been prepared for the heat even though at an educated guess, he would at the very least been given salt tablets, 

My father who served in both India and Burma during the latter stages of World War Two told me that for all the preparations, inoculations and warnings, nothing quite prepared you for this vast country. 

Although I am not certain of William’s actual movements during his stay in India, my father noted that he was stationed in the northern part of the country for a while which in contrast to the oppressive heat further south, was surprisingly cool. He further noted that when stationed in Bombay, it felt he had visited two completely different countries within five months of his initial arrival.

I have never visited India but a contemporary observation from my daughter sticks in mind. On her way to Australia she was diverted to Calcutta as a fellow passenger suffered heart problems whilst travelling. Although she did not leave the plane she was shocked at what she saw from her window. Literally metres from the airport there was the most appalling poverty. This was an image that has haunted her ever since. 

This was in 2002 over one hundred and twenty years after William first set foot in India (strangely enough almost to the date of Williams’s arrival. Jenai’s unplanned visit was on the 15th July 2002 whereas I have already noted that William first set foot in India it appears on the 12th July 1882.


But apart from obviously from the airport was the poverty my daughter witnessed very much different from what William would have discovered in 1882. My father said that India was a country of extreme contrasts and I think that is as true today as it was in 1882. 

In 1882 we were at the heart of Empire where on maps most of the world seemed to be coloured red. Britain was at the top of the pile and controlled many thousands of miles of territory. In India’s case this would last for another sixty five years until the rushed independence of 1947.




But for anybody in India in July 1882 this would have been the last item in their thoughts although I would think that some more enlightened men may have seen the signs of decay even then. 

The British involvement in India really began to take off in the eighteenth century. In the early part of that century we became influential in trading along the coast. But then we began to move inland and were successful even though we were involved in great deal of conflict. Books on the period note that by the end of the century we had subdued most Indian states either by conquest or by making them subordinates. 

This was not by far our first involvement with India. We had been via the East India Company been given a monopoly of all our trade to Asia since its foundation in 1600. I will quote a short section from the BBC British History internet site which will give the reader a flavour of how important India was to us.


Towards the end of the 17th century, India became the focal point of the Company's trade. Cotton cloth woven by Indian weavers was being imported into Britain in huge quantities to supply a worldwide demand for cheap, washable, lightweight fabrics for dresses and furnishings. The Company's main settlements, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta were established in the Indian provinces where cotton textiles for export were most readily available. These settlements had evolved from 'factories' or trading posts into major commercial towns under British jurisdiction, as Indian merchants and artisans moved in to do business with the Company and with the British inhabitants who lived there.

But this came at a price as there were a large number of regional states and whilst some remained stable and saw the great advantages that the British had to offer, others were different. 

There were many conflicts and uprisings as power and influence were chased. An Edwardian book I once read called these Small Wars were in most cases, put down with bloody consequences. The situation was not helped that by the 1740s we were also bickering with our closest neighbour, France. 

But let us travel forward some one hundred and forty years to the 1880s when William was in India. How much had it changed?

Well although the East India Company was still in existence and had helped enlarge the Empire beyond the shores of India with the acquisition of Java (1811), Singapore (1819), Malacca (1824) and the defeat of Burma in 1826, the British Crown began to have a greater influence in the company's affairs. 

Various acts were passed which regulated the company’s activities and confirmed the sovereignty of the Crown over acquired territories. The real nail in the coffin was the wholly avoidable Indian Rebellion of 1857. This was a bloody conflict with heavy losses on both sides. 

One still reads of stories of the way British women and children were treated during the rebellion but little is mentioned of the bloody retribution that the British took on the rebels once the uprising was crushed.

In 1858 the company was dissolved through the Government of India Act 1858. The British Raj came into being and a Governor-General was appointed. Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India and India in turn was known as the Jewel in the Crown, a well-known term.

But all was not well, as with today there were the very rich and the very poor. There were widespread famines and millions of people died (some estimate fifteen million deaths over a fifty year period) As per all things British, commissions were set up to investigate these catastrophes but really, the situation (which had its roots in The East India Company) was not really under control until the early twentieth century. 

I wonder what William would have made of all this when coming from his ship and standing on Indian soil for the first time. He may well have had a good idea of what he was going to face and would have known India via the newspapers and other journals of the time. Or, on the other hand William might have had no idea at all with Her Majesty's Rules & Regulations governing his every movement. 

It is hard to tell, but what I do know is that William was involved in a war in Burma during 1885-86. His discharge papers tell me that he was entitled to a medal for his part in the Third Anglo-Burmese War (Third Burma War) of 1885 (Although clashes occurred for another two years). 

This was the the third and final of three wars fought during Victorian times between the Burmese and the British. This war resulted in the final loss of sovereignty of the independent Burma under the Konbaung Dynasty.

Its rule had been severely damaged due to the loss of Lower Burma in 1853, the result of the Second Burmese War (1852). After this war Burma (as with India) was ruled under the British Raj as a province of India. This was the case until 1937 when the British then treated Burma as a separate colony. In the aftermath of World War Two Burma achieved full independence in 1948 a year after India. 

The third conflict also involved our neighbours the French. About five years prior to the actual war, the British were getting increasingly concerned with the cosiness between Burma and France. It appears, through intelligence, that we became aware that the Burmese were trying to purchase military equipment from the French.

This triggered off a number of petty disputes including border disputes with India. The French actions in Burma convinced the British to take firm action against Burma as it began to note the seeds of rebellion taking root.
.
The British gave the Burmese an ultimatum that amongst other things required the Burmese to submit to British control its foreign relations and various other commercial aspects of the country.

As you can imagine this was rejected and another Small War had begun. 

The war was short and very bloody lasting from the 7th to 29th of November 1885. 

Whilst researching this war on the internet I came across an amusing mnemonic which might have helped a brighter schoolboy in later days to remember the exact date of the war.

It concerns a Burmese defence minister called Kinwun Mingyi U Kaung (1822-1908) and reads as follows

U Kaung lein htouk, minzet pyouk ("U Kaung's treachery, end of dynasty": U=1, Ka=2, La=4, Hat=7 in Burmese numerology i.e. Burmese Era 1247 or 1885AD).

I think this mnemonic would have been the last thing on William’s mind whether at the time or in 1886 when Burma was annexed. I can only guess at Williams’s role in this complicated uprising.

He may have been involved in combat or his influence might have been behind the lines although, the award of the medal does give me the impression that William did see combat.

He does not seem to have suffered any wounds and his discharge certificate shows his conduct as exemplary. He was the perfect soldier as many, many were during their service.

William received his discharge certificate in Winchester on the 10th of May 1887 and for the time being I have lost track of him. Did he return to the Isle of Wight a wiser man and take up his previous occupation or similar?

Strangely, I would have thought that a soldier by the name of William Colenutt would have been easily enough to trace but there were a good number of William Colenutt’s serving with the British Army in the nineteenth century.

In view of this, I have decided to extend my researches further to see if I can track William down after his release from the army in 1887. I am looking to research his life afterwards, whether he married, had issues.  In short, what happened to him? 

I will call this, I hope – A Civilian Life – Part Three - (William’s Return).

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HUNGERFORD ARCADE THAI ROYAL FAMILY

Hungerford Arcade was very proud and privileged to welcome the Thai Royal Family on their visit to Hungerford.  As well as coming to the Arcade, they visited the Antiques Fair at the Town Hall and other antiques shops in the town.  

All of us in the lovely market town of Hungerford, look forward very much to the next Royal visit.
Rita


For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at www.hungerfordarcade.co.uk

Thursday, 26 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE VINYL RECORD VALUATION DAY CANCELLED


DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES, ADAM HAS HAD TO POSTPONE THIS VALUATION DAY UNTIL JULY
Please accept our apologies
Rita



HUNGERFORD ARCADE
VINYL RECORD VALUATION DAY
SATURDAY, 28TH June 2014
10.00 - 4.00



Hungerford Arcade stallholder, Adam Thompson (Unit 50) is holding a Vinyl Record Valuation day this Saturday at the Arcade.  Do come along with your record(s) and he will tell you their value.  Adam also buys records if you wish to sell them.

DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES, ADAM HAS HAD TO POSTPONE THIS VALUATION DAY UNTIL JULY
Please accept our apologies
Rita


For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at www.hungerfordarcade.co.uk

Monday, 23 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE ARMED FORCES DAY

HUNGERFORD ARCADE

ANTIQUES & COLLECTABLES






Today, Monday, 23rd June is Armed Forces Day in the UK.


The managers, staff and stallholders here at Hungerford Arcade, are very proud to give our full support to the service men and women of our Armed Forces on this special day, in  recognition of their sacrifice and commitment to our country.







Sunday, 22 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE: COLLECTOR OF BICYCLES

Matthew Mansfield is a frequent visitor to Hungerford Arcade and is a very keen collector of bicycles.  In fact, he purchased and old bicycle from Arcade co-owner Adrian Gilmour, which you will see below.  I asked Matthew, if he would write an article for us which he kindly agreed to do and also gave us some wonderful photographs.  I hope you enjoy reading about these lovely old machines.
Rita


BICYCLES
My fascination with bicycles began in 1975 when my parents gave me a Raleigh Chopper for my 8th Birthday.  Freedom at last to travel with no constraints.  I remember that I used to ride along a track beside the seafront at Hamble and watched the QE2 as she left Southampton waters.  The beach was only a ten minute bike ride away, but an hour on foot.

Fast forward 36 years to 2011 when I visited my first Early Cycling Auction, the Michael Radford collection at Reading. My passion for cycling was reignited as I viewed the bikes and tricycles from the mid-Victorian time right up to the 1950's - spanning a whole century.  At the time, I wanted to buy at least 10 bikes and trikes, but due to constraints on storage space, I settled on a pair of tricycles.  A 1920's Abingdon King Dick and a 1950's James Fothergill touring tricycle with cyclo three speed deurralier.

Since then, I have amassed almost 30 bikes and trikes including three butchers bikes, a Japanese racing bike, Hercules Balmoral, Elswick, the inevitale Raleigh "all steel", an RAF base bicycle, BSA's and Raleigh 20's - the ubiquitous shopping bike.  The wonderful thing is, they are all usable and practical - in fact, an 80 year old three speed BSA is probably better to ride than most modern bikes.  It is more comfortable and easier to ride up hills than your average Mountain Bike or more expensive light weight road bike.  

In the two World Wars, bicycles were an important form of transport for all the armies around the world.  Even now, the Swiss Army use the "Swiss Army bike" as well as the Swiss Army knife.  They are also used by the Police, Paramedics (especially in built-up areas like London), Couriers and even Taxi firms - again, especially in London.

To sum up, the bicycle is the link between the horse and cart and the car.  It was here before the motorcycle and has provided cheap and reliable transport for the masses since its invention.  In its heyday, the bike was a feat of engineering and design, many being used as advertising gimmicks and fashion statements to this day.  Take the Pashley Guvnor - modern take on the 1930's Path Racer.  A work of art in its own right, made by a British firm and a lovely bike to ride.  What more could you ask for?  All this and they keep you fit, are cheap (free) to run and can last forever!

Matthew Mansfield






















 For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at www.hungerfordarcade.co.uk












Friday, 20 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE WIRE WHEELS


Another one of our very interesting customers came into Hungerford Arcade and when he told us what he does for a living and where he works, I told him that I just had to Blog it.

"George the Wheel" (right) with a representative from
Morgan Motor Company (left) in the early 1980s
Dan Cooksley is the Workshop Manager for Motor Wheel Service International. Renowned worldwide, the company was founded at Becklow Road, Shepherds Bush, London in 1927. George Smith (aka George the Wheel) took ownership of the company in 1947 and it has remained a family owned business to this day.

This is a fascinating company.  They  can restore almost any wire wheel ever made.  They also build wheels for specialist cars. In 1998 the company moved its Headquarters to Langley, Slough and in 2012, MWS celebrated their 85th Anniversary.

If you follow the link below to their website, you will find it full of photographs, history, and the full range of what they do and what they can do.
Rita




For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at www.hungerfordarcade.co.uk

Saturday, 14 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE LIVERPOOL CREAMWARE POTTERY

Our wonderful author, Stuart Miller-Osborne has written a brilliant article on Liverpool Creamware Pottery.  It is fascinating and I am sure you will enjoy it.
Rita

Liverpool Creamware Pottery      

“ I am all for the short and merry life”  (Fitzgerald) 


When one thinks of Liverpool, one thinks of The Beatles, the two football clubs and maybe of Cilla Black, but how many of us consider a Liverpool pottery. But yes, there was one once located in the unfashionable suburb of Toxteth next to the River Mersey. It has been closed for over one hundred and seventy years but its impact is still being felt.


Whilst I had heard of Creamware, it was not until recently that I found out about the short life of the Liverpool Pottery and when researching the subject I found something of a Pandora’s Box of information hidden just under the surface.
I have only been to (or through) Toxteth twice in my life, both times when returning from football matches. Like many areas it has suffered over the years and would be the last place that you would connect with a pottery. Yet, its location next to the river was by far the most logical place for it to be. If you were looking for it now then you would be hard pressed to find any trace of it as after its closure in 1840, the area in time became what was known as the Herculaneum Dock (it even had its own station on the network of the famed Liverpool Overhead Railway) before the dock in turn closed in 1972. I am told that the area is now covered by a riverside development as well as being used for the Liverpool Garden Festival.



Creamware itself was created in the 1750s in Staffordshire and proved popular for domestic use and it was inexpensive against the Chinese export pottery of the time. A name forever connected with creamware  
was that of Josiah Wedgwood. But it was not Josiah who was involved in the Liverpool Pottery but a Richard Abbey who in the early 1790s could be found as an apprentice to an engraver named John Sadler at Toxteth Park.
In 1793 he branched out and started the pottery with a friend from Scotland named John Graham. Three years later they sold the business to a concern named Worthington, Humble and Holland. Little is known about this business although they did employ some forty men from the Staffordshire potteries who they transported to Liverpool by boat. The initial buildings that were purchased from Richard were enlarged and considerably improved and the pottery was named The Herculaneum Pottery partly because Josiah had called his works Etruria. Both these imaginative brandings are remembered to this day. 


Their early productions were of printed earthenware, which, because of its deeper shade could be differentiated from Josiah’s products. As I have already noted the location of the pottery on the shores of the Mersey was important as the business did a very good trade with America. Many of the early designs were devoted to American themes. English themes were also produced with landscapes being especially popular.

As advances were being made the company moved with these producing Terracotta items as well statuettes and figures in relief and a number of other products. The company expanded again in 1800 and was enlarged even more in 1806. The reason for this may be, apart from its home popularity, the American and Canadian markets relied on Herculaneum a great deal for their fine wares. There is a very readable book called simply, The Herculaneum Pottery  (Liverpool’s Forgotten Glory) by Peter Hyland, which covers the subject in far greater depth. 

It came as a bit of a surprise to me that just over thirty years later in 1833 the company was dissolved and sold for just £25,000 to a certain Ambrose Lace who in turned leased the works to a Thomas Case and James Mort. Their legacy was that they introduced the Liver trademark (the crest of Liverpool) onto their products. The company lingered on to around 1840 when it closed its doors forever. One of the reasons for its closure after such a short period I suspect was the rapid growth of the Staffordshire potteries. They could not compete with their rivals.   


 It was a brave attempt in the first instance and for a few short years it was a shining light in Liverpool. If I am not mistaken, there would have been other much smaller potteries dotted around the country but like The Herculaneum Pottery, these would have been swallowed up by much bigger concerns. We all like the idea of small independent businesses but what is true today, was just as true then. 


Although I do not collect Creamware one of the features that I do enjoy is the actual freshness of the design and the lack of actual colour. There is an example at the V&A of a Creamware plate dating from c1780/90. On a first viewing the plate looks almost under designed but on closer study the design is quite complex. Two peacocks and an unidentified bird in flight are featured but the positioning of the birds and use of the foreground detritus and the background trees (not forgetting the bird in flight) together present an exquisite scene. The bordering of the plate only adds to the effect.


Whilst Herculaneum and other potteries did not exclusively work in monochrome, (blue was often used especially when copying Chinese patterns) the effect of what could be loosely termed black on white was quite memorable. Whilst researching this article, I have found many examples of the Liverpool pottery. Some of the earlier ones are in their way quite haunting. When showing scenes (of the areas around Liverpool for instance) there is a vacancy, yet the views are full of detail. Where buildings and the urban sprawl now exist, there were fields and the area was as rural as the areas around Hungerford are today. The medium was perfect for this representation. 
As tastes changed in the nineteenth century, in my view, the designs became very complicated and the simplicity of the earlier works was lost. Many people like these baroque designs but whilst appreciative, they are not for me. It is almost looking back into your childhood and thinking of Those Blue Remembered Hills.


Scenes of the rural life were not the only decorations applied to the works from Herculaneum. The medium presented myriad opportunities. If there was a grand civic event then this would have been recorded on the commemorative pottery of the day. Obviously, anything royal would have been celebrated. As Liverpool was the gateway to America and the last city many emigrants saw before they left, it is likely that the many ships may have been represented (although I have not seen examples). The trade of the city would have been celebrated also.  


Liverpool was foremost an industrial city and with this came the rise of the trade unions who, as they do today, tried to ensure that the average working man was treated fairly and with the respect due to him. As these unions grew then they too celebrated their achievements and commissioned various items of pottery (jugs etc) to commemorate themselves. 


One thing that the people in Liverpool are renowned for is their sense of humour and an example that I recently noted was the Old Maids into New Maidens theme that was frequently used. There are very likely to have been many variations on this theme and explorations into the lands of Hogarthian and Liverpool wit. Figures of fun such as jesters would have been represented widely as well as, I would imagine, satires on many famous Victorian figures.


Obviously due to the relatively short lifespan of the Herculaneum Pottery, the pieces produced are highly collectable and sought after. I believe that there are examples in a museum in Liverpool as these are prized relics of the city’s past. The exportation of many works to the USA and Canada also means there is a market overseas and this in turn will drive the prices higher. I have looked on the internet and there is a whole raft of prices but some of the pieces on sale do look quite worn. It is very much like most things, the better the condition of the item (and taking into account its rarity) the more one is likely to pay.


It is not an item that you are likely to come across at a boot sale or jumble sale (although never say never). You are more likely to see examples in antique establishments. If you know what you are looking for then you will know your purse. If I was to buy a piece of Liverpool Creamware, then I think I would choose an early piece (pre1806). I would not greatly care of its condition as I would like to connect with its origins in Toxteth next to the River Mersey, before this area was swallowed up by the city of Liverpool.   

The Jolley Miller, Grinding Old Women Young

Behold the crowd that prefs to fill,
Our wondrous youth restoring mill,
To have their faded charms renew’d,
And tempt the fellows to be rude,
In ev’ry feature may be found,
The Dame’s impatience to be ground.
See one renounce her favourite Gin,
To plump her cheeks & form her chin,
With eager haste a second burns,
A third can hardly wait for tunrs,
Whom fourscore years have rendered blind,
Can grope the way to take a grind.

Whom scarse her crutches can support,
Will even pawn those crutches fort,
And bedrid Age would give her Gold,
To be no longer counted old,
The vigorous youth attend below,
And each receives his blooming Doe.

By one effectual grind restor’d,
To be a second time ador’d,
O did this Mill in publick stand,
Twou’d have the trade of all the land,
It must eternally go roun’d,
For each Old Woman would be ground.


Stuart Miller-Osborne


For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at www.hungerfordarcade.co.uk

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE: HUNGERFORD BOOKSHOP EVENTS



Hungerford Arcade are very proud to let you know that the award winning Hungerford Bookshop are holding a series of events during June and the beginning of July 2014.  As you will see below, there are some very famous people coming along to talk about their new books.  Do come along and enjoy these wonderful events.
Rita

HUNGERFORD BOOKSHOP EVENTS

Tuesday June 17th:
Discover the family behind the myths with historian Leanda De Lisle as she talks about ‘The Disappeared: Richard III, Henry VII and the Mystery of the Princes in the Tower’ and her bestselling book Tudor: The Family Story.
7:30pm The Three Swans Hotel. Tickets £7 from The Hungerford Bookshop (includes a glass of wine). Call 01488 683480
Friday June 20th:
Avoid common errors in English with historian, journalist and self-proclaimed pedant, Simon Heffer, as he gives a lunchtime talk on his new book Simply English.
1:30pm. Tickets £7 from The Hungerford Bookshop (includes tea or coffee). Call01488 683480
Wednesday July 2nd:
During Independent Bookseller’s Week broadcaster and author, Jeremy Paxman will be talking about his latest book, Great Britain’s Great War a moving and often surprising history that reveals the real British experience of the First World War
7:30pm in Hungerford Town Hall. Tickets £7 from The Hungerford Bookshop (includes a glass of wine). Call 01488 683480. Booking early is recommended.
For more details about all of these events please visitwww.hungerfordbooks.co.uk

Sunday, 8 June 2014

HUNGERFORD ARCADE: THE AFRICAN CONGO

Our great author, Stuart Miller-Osborne gets the idea for his articles from many different sources.  Here we have a story which came into being by a visit to Bath.  It is brilliant and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Rita



About a year ago I had occasion to visit an exhibition of works by Matthew Smith at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. After I had viewed the paintings I found myself at a loose end as I had arranged to meet my son much later that afternoon. As there was no rugger on, I decided to explore the city.

It was not long before I found myself at an outdoor antique fair which is held in a car park next to the River Avon on most Saturday’s. I had visited this fair many times before and had purchased the odd item but on the whole, I found it a little expensive. 

As I was leaving I noticed a battered trunk half hidden under some sacking. Just out of pure curiosity I lifted the sacking to see the labels attached. They were interesting but pretty run of the mill labels of Empire ranging from Southampton to Ceylon. Its initial owner, although well-travelled, remained anonymous.

What did catch my interest however was a fading destination marked in while chalk on the corner of the trunk.


Brazzaville 

To many people the city of Brazzaville would mean little (apart from the location of the rather odd Guinness advert currently being shown on television). 

But as person interested in African history it meant a lot to me as I had studied the almost forgotten Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (1852-1905) and was very aware that the capital of the French Congo had been named after him. To this day it retains its name which is evidence of the esteem that this Italian born, French naturalised explorer is held in. 

But who was Pierre De Brazza? I did not discover him immediately when reading about the great African explorers. It was when reading about the much maligned Henry Morton Stanley that I discovered that he had met this rather eccentric Italian. 

What attracted me to Pierre was the account of his manner, totally unique in the explorers of his day. He is recorded as having a charming personality and although European, was able to blend in with ease with the Africans he encountered and was known to walk through the jungle barefoot as his hosts would have done.
  
Pierre first visited Africa in 1872 when involved in an anti-slavery mission off Gabon. He later visited this country on a different ship and explored a couple of rivers, He proposed further exploration of the Ogooue river and this was funded by some of his friends in high places (he was of noble birth) as well as from his own pocket.

But this is where he differed. A number of explorers were funded by their countries with the aim of securing the lands they discovered. One must remember that the colonial mindset was at its height and most European countries were trying to spread their influence over Africa.

It has been well documented what happened in the Belgium Congo and how unwittingly Henry Morton Stanley became involved in King Leopold’s schemes. As I have noted before, this poor Welshman (who I believe to be the great African explorer) has been tainted by this blood ever since.

Stanley was a pragmatist and realised that if you were being attacked during your travels then it was essential to shoot back. Because of this his trains were heavily armed and again, some isolated incidents helped to blacken his name and this is part of the reason he is not buried in Westminster Abbey.

Pierre on the other hand went inland without arms (possibly not the best of ideas), only taking with him various textiles for barter and being accompanied by a couple of other Frenchman as well as some Senegalese laptots and a few interpreters. Using his considerable charm his mission was a success. 

Spurred on by this, a second one was soon proposed. This took place from 1879 to 1882 and really was a benign attempt to spread French influence in the areas explored. The idea was to ensure that as many kingdoms as possible were placed under the French flag without straying across other European borders. One must remember that although far from perfect the French aims were not as hostile as some other European influences in the area.

No European country (even our own) found their hands unstained by some blood during the Scramble for Africa which took place between 1881 and 1914 and that history can still be felt to this day with the various conflicts in Africa. The Europeans took no notice of historical tribal borders and substituted their own causing many unresolved problems which still haunt us. 

This said, I remember a priest who visited my school noting that whilst the annexation of many African countries did a great deal of harm, he remembered being in the Belgium Congo in the 1950s prior to independence and noted that our neighbours had, after the bloody beginnings, laid a firm infrastructure in place in the country with many schools, hospitals and a railway network. “Out of the salt will come sweetness, but always be aware of the sour taste as it is never far away”, he said in as many words to a class of interested boys, including myself. His words were prophetic as one only has to look at the country now and see that many of the problems have returned with a vengeance. 

Pierre reached the River Congo in 1880 and not long after met Stanley and whilst they did not become firm friends, they respected each other although I am led to believe, that Stanley was rather surprised that Pierre and his peaceful methods had succeeded so well. 

This rather eccentric Italian had done well and on the 30th November 1882 the areas he had influenced and some others became the French Congo. In geographical terms the area was huge and was composed of the present day Republic of Congo as well as Gabon and the Central African Republic (which sadly has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons. (It is interesting that the French Military have become involved in the conflict as well).

Pierre De Brazza was named governor of the French Congo in 1883 and really his influence for the good meant unusually this was something of a success story for the inhabitants of the areas governed. Yes the French exploited the area as all the European powers were doing but to some extent, they were giving something back which was in direct contrast to what was happening across the river in the Belgium Congo where atrocities were common place and accepted.

Although fiction, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) gives the reader a feel of what was happening in this part of Africa, Mr Kurtz and all.

But this was not to last and in 1897 Pierre was dismissed from his post due to poor profits but it was also thought that the inhabitants were treated too well.
As far as I can see, he returned to Europe in retirement a disappointed man. Yet there was a sting in the tail.

In 1905 there were reports reaching Paris that the new governor an Emile Gentil was turning a blind eye to injustices and brutality in the colony. Pierre was sent to investigate the situation and his report condemned what was happening. His good work had been undone. But when the report was given to the National Assembly it was sadly suppressed. 

But the journey and the investigation had also taken the toll on the ailing Pierre and on the return journey in Dakar, he died of fever (although there is a strong rumour, never disproved, that he had been poisoned because of his findings). 

Rather cynically he was given a state funeral and interred in the cemetery of Pere Lachaise. His widow disgusted at the politician’s behaviour had his body exhumed and reinterred in Algiers. His epitaph read “une memorie pure de sang humain” I will not translate this as I think it reads better in Pierre’s adopted language.

This however was not the last of Pierre’s post death travels for on the 30th September 2006, his remains were exhumed once again (along with those of his wife and children) and returned to Brazzaville to be placed at rest in a new marble mausoleum. This caused controversy due to the cost (in the region of five million pounds) and that the Congolese who fought for independence were ignored. 

Pierre would not have liked this as he was simple man with charm to spare, who cared greatly for the African people. He helped to stop slavery and was an ardent humanist.

Whilst it is always nice to see a hero celebrated, this was done with the wrong motives in mind. A stunning mausoleum is not the way to remember this man. He would have wanted the finance put to better uses in this poor country. Improvement comes through education not monuments. Improvement comes through a better infrastructure. Improvement originates in people’s minds. I think he may have thought this way.

But what of the scruffy trunk? Well I did not purchase it as I would have done myself an injury carrying it around Bath and I would have most probably accepted some inquisitive glances.

I did not even photograph it as I had let my mobile run out of charge (as normal). I just recorded it in my memory.

To have studied the African explorers was always a pleasure but to have met this lyrical Italian with his musical voice was special. He may not have covered the miles of Stanley and Burton or lived in the memory as Livingstone and Park but he was the most unusual of African explorers and to an extent this is the reason that outside of France he is somewhat forgotten.

Strangely enough one can, if they look hard, still find memorabilia connected with De Brazza. He was an extremely handsome man and to finance some of his expeditions had photographs taken by Nadar, amongst others. He was celebrated on postcards and stamps and even had a ship named after him, the Savorgnan De Brazza. His letters are collected in books and there are many other artefacts to be found.


I have not yet found any of these items in Hungerford yet but I will keep on looking. As I left that small antique market in Bath it started to rain. I had covered the trunk in its sacking again so that the small chalk destination would remain on its decaying surface at least for a few more years.    
           
 Stuart Miller-Osborne


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