Friday, 30 January 2015

Hungerford Arcade Mrs Beeton

Our resident author, Stuart Miller-Osborne has written a wonderful article about Mrs. Beeton and all that she achieved in her short life.  I enjoyed reading it very much and I am sure you will too.


Before I start, let me confess that I am probably the least qualified person on the planet to write about Isabella Beeton. I am one of those unfortunates who have no ability in the kitchen and if left to their own devices would most probably starve to death in an attic room. 

But why write of Isabella (as I shall call her)?  She has been at rest with her husband Samuel for nearly one hundred and fifty years at a cemetery in West Norwood but visit any cook shop or book shop and you will find many references to Isabella.

But why has Isabella travelled the years with ease whilst a contemporary such as Eliza Acton (1799-1859) is almost forgotten? I think the main reason was that she was really in the right place at the right time. A number of people think her writings inferior to Acton (Who was a great influence on Isabella). I am not in a position to discuss this but on researching Isabella’s life I can see their point. Whilst being ultimately a very unlucky woman she had many things going for her which I will reveal as I progress. 

Isabella was born on the 12th of March 1836 at 24 Milk Street in Cheapside, London. This was the first coincidence of her short life as her future husband Samuel Orchart Beeton (1830-1877) was also born in the same street some six years before Isabella. After her birth father died when she was quite young, her mother remarried a Henry Dorling who happened to be clerk of Epsom Racecourse. She attended a school in Heidelberg in Germany before returning to Epsom (where they were now living) after two years. 

Isabella, the eldest child of a rather large extended family (twenty one in all) and although a talented pianist soon became involved in many household duties which held her in good manner for famous book. 

Isabella met her future husband through her mother. Samuel was already the publisher of various books and magazines. He had an early success with the publication ofUncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852 and also published the successful The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine as well as The Boys Own Magazine

She and Samuel were married in Epsom on the 10th of July 1856 and soon moved to Hatch End in North London. Her first child (Samuel Orchart) was short lived but she had another child in 1859 (also named Samuel  Orchart). During this time she wrote articles on household management and cooking in general for her husband’s magazines including a monthly supplement to the The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.

In 1861 these articles were collected together and published in a book format with the huge title of The Book of Household Management, comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper Cook, Kitchen-MaidButlerFootmanCoachmanValet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady's-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort or The Book of Household Management for short.

As with certain publications today, it hit a certain vein with the public. It sold in excess of 60,000 copies initially and by 1868 (three years after Isabella’s death) it had sold some two million copies.  One would have thought that this success was the beginning of great things for Isabella and Samuel but sadly, it was in a way the beginning of the end. 

The book that was often known as Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management offered advice on a large variety of subjects ranging from the treatment of servants to that of animal welfare. It was an essential addition to any household of the time. It was some eleven hundred pages long with over nine hundred recipes noted. 

As photography was in its infancy the book was lavishly illustrated with engravings and its lasting name Mrs. Beeton’s Cookbook  was soon attached to the publication. This name has survived the test of time and the book is still known by that title today. 

The major difference (and what made it so popular) was that unlike Eliza Acton and the even earlier Hannah Glasse (1708-1770), the book was written in an easy format, very much like reading Nigella or Delia in the present day.  

Isabella was sadly accused of plagiarising other cookery related authors, but she and her husband never noted that the work was originally theirs. It was put together as a guide, very much as a travel writer might reference earlier writers in his work.  As with a collector, she was a complier of all the things she found.

But Isabella was more than that and a short piece from her half-sister (which is easily found on the internet), gives you felling of the person. I will quote it in full:

"Different people gave their recipes for the book. That for Baroness pudding (a suet pudding with a plethora of raisins) was given by the Baroness de Tessier, who lived at Epsom. No recipe went into the book without a successful trial, and the home at Pinner was the scene of many experiments and some failures. I remember Isabella coming out of the kitchen one day, 'This won't do at all,' she said, and gave me the cake that had turned out like a biscuit. I thought it very good. It had currants in it."

Referencing this passage I can see Isabella juggling everything but not dropping one ball and when disasters occurred, she just cleared up and started again. There is a photo of her online and to me she looks like a minor poetess of the day with dreamy distant look in her eyes (obviously the portrait was heavily posed). She might have been on the fringes of The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood or the author of sad romances but she was not, she dealt in the reality of the Victorian household and the success of her husband’s business.  

Sadly in January 1865, Isabella, after giving birth to her fourth child became ill with puerperal fever and died at the early age of twenty eight, a week later. What struck me was the amount she had managed to pack into her short life and how some one hundred and fifty years later she is still a household name mentioned in the same breath as all the modern cooks and chefs. 

After the tragic loss of Isabella, Samuel's life took a turn for the worse, You would have thought that the loss of his beloved wife would have been enough for the poor man to behold but in 1866 due to the collapse of a discount house he was attached to, Samuel found himself facing bankruptcy. To avoid this, he sold the copyrights of his publications for just under £20,000. His later years were marred by the onset of tuberculosis and he died on the 6th of June 1877 at the young age  (by today’s standards), of forty seven.  As I have previously noted, both are buried together in the West Norwood Cemetery. I believe, with their firstborn.

If you are off on the Beeton trail today there is, as far as I can see, very little to see. I am led to understand that their first home in Hatch End was destroyed during an air raid in 1940 although West Norwood Cemetery is still there with its impressive gothic inner gates designed by the architect William Tite who also designed a number of railway stations.

I visited the cemetery in the 1980s to see his work but at the time did not know that Isabella and Samuel were buried there. Should you want to pay your respects to the couple, then I would contact the cemetery directly for information as I will when I finally get around to visiting them.

I do have a scruffy copy of Mrs Beeton’s  All About 
Cookery  which I picked up in Newbury for a song quite recently. It is an Edwardian copy which has seen better days. It has the food stains of years as well as a newspaper cutting noting A Yorkshire Woman’s Recipe  from a certain Florence Ingillson and the recipes in the book range from Apple Ambers to White Rabbit Soup. As I exist in the black hole between McDonald’s and J D Wetherspoon’s,  this is totally lost on me although both seem quite jolly. 

Although widely published an original copy of Isabella’s 1861 publication can be quite expensive. I have never seen one but often come across later Victorian and Edwardian editions which vary quite widely in price. I have seen poor copies as cheap as £5.00 but normally they can be a lot more expensive than that. My tip for what it is worth, is to bide your time, if you are patient then you will come across one (as I did) for the price of a weekend newspaper.

I have noticed in the last five or so years the upsurge in interest in “All things cooking” each  town has one or more cook shops with lots of fascinating objects (most of which are a complete mystery to me). Cooking programmes proliferate on television and the presenters have become household names. My earliest memories were of the fearsome Fanny Cradock and her bullied husband Johnnie. Maybe that is what scared me away from the kitchen. I do not know but I am told I am the poorer for it. 

This said I do appreciate what I call the music of cooking which is my term for the artefacts of cooking. I quite often wander through antique shops and the Arcade and look at these instruments. Sometimes their use is obvious but on other occasions one does not  have a clue until a helpful soul points that you are holding a grapefruit corer or the like. The collection of these beautiful tools need not be expensive and you can quite often pick up these instruments very cheaply. My wife and I often pick up these mysterious and not so mysterious items (some of which you can still use). It is a hobby of kinds and great fun and if you are keen on the kitchen and cooking then I would recommend it.

Modern kitchen equipment (if it is not twee) is very functional (although I sometimes think the manufacturers are more interested in the branding and colour than the actual instrument), but lacks the feel of the older items. This is not easy to explain but I think you will gather my actual drift. To own an inter war mincer as opposed to a modern one or a Victorian saucepan is different. It has the function of history behind it to labour a point.

I wonder what happened to the many items that Isabella used. Do some still exist and are some still in use somewhere (I am not aware of any being in museums)?  I think it would be quite nice to hold an instrument she actually used but this is a fancy. I will leave the final word to Isabella through her memorial. Part of the inscription on her grave is quite poignant. I will not quote it in full as it is unreadable in parts but the flavour is there. 

And his wife and fellow worker in many of his literary enterprises Isabella Mary Mayson 

It was a joint enterprise that worked and even all these years later in a rapidly changing world, is the byword for Victorian attention to detail and thoroughness in preparation. We may have Nigella and Delia and Jamie and Gordon but nothing in my view beats Isabella and her famous book.

Stuart Miller-Osborne

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Hungerford Arcade More Ghostly Goings On

Our wonderful author, Stuart Miller Osborne, is fascinated with Hungerford Arcade and our ghosts, which inspired him to write this fascinating article.  Hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

I read with interest the front page article in a recent edition of the Newbury Weekly News about ghostly happenings at the Hungerford Antiques Arcade.

It did not surprise me that a ghost had been witnessed by the staff as although I have never seen a ghost at the Arcade, I have noticed an incredible silence and stillness in parts of the building which can be sensed even on busy days.

This is, in my view, most evident in the right hand passage near the unit that sells postcards. I stood there a few weeks ago and the silence and stillness of the area was very noticeable. 

Knowing of the history of the building, I am not surprised if there are ghosts that do not leave the premises at closing time.

Some people say that there are ghosts all around us which, to some extent, I agree with. As with many people, I sit on the wall as to whether hauntings actually occur or not. Although, if I was pressed, I would say that I do believe that hauntings occur.

One has only to visit the nearby Littlecote House and the rooms made famous by our friend Wild William Darrell to witness the heavy atmosphere. Indeed, last summer I was chatting to a South African couple who knew nothing about Wild William’s deeds and the subsequent haunting, remarked to me of the cold and heavy atmosphere in the bedchamber and in the nearby chapel. 

In connection with the report in the local paper, I thought it would be of interest to explore three recent hauntings. 

I have visited the site of two of these hauntings and have researched the other one which is the famous Borley Rectory in Essex.

The Haunting at the Borley Rectory 
Although I have been in the area of Borley, I have not had occasion to visit the rectory as sadly, after a fire in 1939, it was demolished in1944.

I have checked modern photographs of its site and little or nothing remains. Locals still report odd happenings although in this day and age, these reports may be for publicity only.

The rectory was a Victorian mansion built in 1862 in the Gothic style. In its time it became known as the most haunted house in England and was visited by the famous ghost hunter, Harry Price (1881-1948) in the late 1920s.  An account of his investigation was published in the Daily Mirror shortly afterwards, adding further to the notoriety of the building. 

In short, the first account of a haunting occurred in 1863 when unexplained footsteps were noted and soon there were reports of headless horsemen and other odd sightings.

In 1900, the four daughters of the then rector Henry Dawson Bull, saw what they believed to be the ghost of a nun who disappeared when they approached her.

When Henry Dawson Bull died in June 1928, the rectory became empty for a while but in the October of that year, the Reverend Guy Eric Smith moved into the building with his wife and that was when the fun really began.
One day, Mrs Smith was cleaning a cupboard when she found the skull of a young woman wrapped in brown paper and a number of unexplained incidents occurred which thoroughly unnerved the couple who left the rectory in July 1929.

However, in the period before they vacated the building, the couple had contacted the Daily Mirror and in turn Harry showed up and he immediately witnessed all kinds of hauntings such as poltergeists and ghostly messages being tapped out on mirrors. 

This said, as soon as Harry left the rectory, some of these occurrences mysteriously ceased which made Mrs Smith suspicious of what Harry had really witnessed and what he had instigated himself.

But something (apart from the publicity) must have forced the couple to leave in 1929 and one must also take into account their faith which they must have turned to..

Later accounts of hauntings at the rectory were later discredited as a cover story for an illicit sexual affair but something rather odd happened in 1943.

On the 27th of February 1939, the new owner of the rectory a Captain Gregson was unpacking boxes in the hallway when he accidentally knocked over an oil lamp which set fire to the building and it was left a ruin. This is where our friend Harry comes in again.

A Miss Williams from the nearby Borley Lodge contacted him and noted that she had witnessed the ghostly figure of a nun at an upstairs window.

So Harry being Harry, came to the rectory once more and conducted a dig in the cellars and discovered two bones believed to be part of the remains of a young woman. 

There was a lot of fun and games at the time and the poor woman’s remains had to be given a Christian burial in the Liston churchyard after the Borley Parish took notice of local gossip which supposed the bones to be those of a pig.

Although I am not sure what happened to the unfortunate woman’s skull, and whether it was buried with the rest of her remains, there was story researched by Harry about who the woman actually was.

It appears that she was Marie Lairre, a French nun who left her order to travel to England to marry a member of the Waldegrave family who lived at the Borley Manor House. It appears that she was murdered some time afterwards on the site of the rectory.

There may be an element of truth to this story as although Harry was not always to be believed, he did take his ghost hunting seriously and the earlier report of the ghostly nun in 1900 could not have been invented by Harry.

I do believe that the rectory was haunted as too many rational people (including the Smith’s) reported unexplained phenomena. As with anything of this nature, people are going to make up stories and if you are not careful you are going to end up with an episode of Most Haunted.

16 Montpelier Road, Ealing W5

For many years I used to live on the Ealing/Hanwell borders not far from the little known haunting at the above address. Again, the original building does not exist having been replaced by a block of flats some years ago.

The problems started in 1887 when a twelve year old girl named Anne Hinchfield threw herself to her death from the tower of the building without explanation.

This was followed in 1934 by the suicide of a nursemaid who had previously thrown her young charge to her death. Again, no reason was given for this tragedy which makes it much more sinister that the Borley hauntings. 

The house was requisitioned towards the end of World War Two and in 1944 a Mr Green and his father visited the house. Mr Green who later wrote a book about his experience, noted that as he climbed up the seventy foot tower, it seemed that unseen hands were helping him up the ladder. 

The most terrifying part of his story was when he was on the parapet, he received an unexplained urge to step into the garden as if it was only inches beneath him. He was in the process of stepping over the parapet when his father saved him. 

Another unexplained thing also happened later that day. After Mr Green had recovered his senses, he took a photograph of the house to show to friends
However, when processed, it showed the clear image of a girl aged about twelve looking out of an upstairs window. 

The house had such a reputation as a place of evil, it remained empty for many years with a number of people refusing to live there.

Even after the house died in the 1970s, there were unexplained smells in the new flats and odd noises.

I have visited the site of 16 Montpelier Road on many occasions most recently in 2012. Although I know the story well, there is heaviness in and around the flats (my most recent visit was on a hot summer’s day when everything was light and airy). 

Also, and I noticed this first in the 1970s, was whilst the nearby trees were full of birds and squirrels, very few (if any), seemed to spend any real time near the site of this most evil house.
Ickenham Underground Station  

Many years ago I used to go to college in Uxbridge (indeed this is where I met my future wife), and I remember being in the pub one evening with some pals and we ended up talking about ghosts. It was then I was told that Ickenham Underground Station was haunted. 

At the time I thought that I was the butt of a joke, but nevertheless I researched it for fun and yes, what I was told was true.
It appears that from the 1950s onwards, the ghost of a woman wearing a red scarf was seen on numerous occasions. My researches indicated that near the end of one of the platforms a woman fell onto the tracks and was electrocuted.

When seen, the woman appears to wave to others on the platform to attract their attention before disappearing.

I have visited Ickenham Underground Station on odd occasions over the last thirty years and have witnessed nothing although, I have noticed an unusual silence (as with the Arcade) at the Uxbridge end of the platforms (this is where I believe the accident/suicide occurred).

There is no real reason for anybody to make up a story about a haunting at a suburban tube station and also, there have been numerous witness accounts. 

I tend to believe this one. Nobody has made a big fuss about the story and it has yet to have more than a passing reference in the media.

The next time you are in the Arcade, do not look for ghosts (as it is unlikely you will see them) just let your senses take over and try to feel a possible presence even if it is a subtle change in the temperature of the air or an unusual stillness or silence.

You might just sense something that you cannot rationally explain.

Do not however be alarmed, as all you are doing is connecting with somebody from a previous year who,for whatever reason, has not moved on.  
Stuart Miller-Osborne

For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at

Monday, 19 January 2015

Hungerford Arcade "From Ghoulies, Ghosties and Long Legged Beasties and things that go bump in the night. Good Lord Deliver us".

Hungerford Arcade is a very old building and must hold many secrets amongst its original beams and dry timbers.  Over the centuries it has had a number of transformations, welcoming people in as a coaching inn, or housing families as a domestic dwelling.  For most of the 20th Century it was, as some may remember, a grocers shop and most recently an Antiques Centre.  It is no surprise that strange goings on have been witnessed over the years, from unexplained noises to objects being moved during the night, we have had our fair share in this most interesting building.

One such event happened just a few weeks ago as Owners Adrian Gilmour and Hazel Browne and Managers, Alex Rogers and Rita Kibble were working rather late after a busy day.  All the customers had gone and Rita and Hazel were upstairs in the office, putting their coats on and getting ready to leave while Alex and Adrian were securing the internal security shutters and turning everything off downstairs.   “Rita came rushing down from the office to tell me that she and Hazel had seen a man on the CCTV screen behind one of the shutters I had already secured.” Says Alex.  Worried that he had locked somebody in – Alex re-opened the shutters and proceeded with caution into the section of the building that the man had been spotted in.  “I looked round every corner and behind every curtain, making myself heard so as not to surprise anybody.  But there was nobody there.”

He locked up again and made his way up to the office to find Rita and Hazel staring at the screen.  They were adamant that they had both seen somebody on the screen and that he was there just moments before the shutters had been locked.   “I laughed it off and suggested that if they saw somebody then there will be footage of him on the computer.  I was sure that they were mistaken so I wasn’t expecting to see anything.”  So to put their minds at ease, he sat down at the computer and started searching through the recent footage.  Together, they watched as Alex made his way around the building, locking up behind him.  “We all saw Alex lock the shutter on the screen.” Rita explains,  “Then, just as the time when we had seen the figure was approaching, the clock on the screen jumped 15 minutes! A full 15 minutes of footage was missing!”  On investigation, no other cameras had the same problem, but none of them were correctly placed to capture the mysterious figure.  Everyone went home that night feeling a little uneasy, but with a great story to tell when they got there!

Hungerford Arcade: A Special Memory

Hungerford Arcade holds a particularly special memory for Richard and Irene Middleton. In 2006 Richard purchased a ring from one of the stallholders here, and immediately after paying for it, he got down on one knee and turned to Irene to ask for her hand in marriage. Right in front of the desk! Now every time they come through, they are reminded of this special moment. 

Richard and Irene recreating the special moment.

Richard likes to think his knee-print is still embedded in the carpet. I couldn’t let them leave without taking a picture of the moment re-enacted and of course, a picture of the ring that started it all. Now happily married and living in Cornwall, the arcade will always hold a special place in their hearts.

The ring that started it all.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Introduction Of Railway Time

"This valuable time chart shews at a glance the exact difference between Greenwich Mean Time and the local time at all principle towns around the world."

This time chart was produced in the 19th century to quickly determine the time in various parts of the world. Until the latter part of the 18th century, time was normally determined in each town by a local sundial. Solar time is calculated with reference to the relative position of the sun. This provided only an approximation as to time due to variations in orbits and had become unsuitable for day-to-day purposes. It was replaced by local mean time, which eliminated the variation due to seasonal differences and anomalies. It also took account of the longitude of a location and enabled a precise time correction to be applied.

However, such new found precision did not overcome a different problem – differing times in neighbouring towns and cities. The time differences between parts of Great Britain were as much as 20 minutes from that of London. For example, Oxford time was 5 minutes behind Greenwich and Ipswich was 5 minutes in front! These differences could be as much as 60 minutes in larger countries.

This was problematic as rail travel grew more popular and necessary. Railway time was introduced to eliminate confusion caused by having different times in each town and station stop along a quickly expanding rail network. You can imagine how confusing it would be if you had to change your watch by a few minutes each time your train stopped at a new station. Charts like this one were published and placed in railway stations to allow stationmasters to set their clocks to London time. In turn, train guards set their chronometers against those clocks. So, in around 1840, railway companies started to standardise their schedules in accordance with London time, set by the Greenwich observatory, already widely known as Greenwich Mean Time.

Exchange clock in Bristol showing two minute hands
Railway companies were met with quite fierce resistance from local people when railway time was first introduced. People didn’t like the idea that London was telling them how 
to set their clocks. As a result of this, stations often had clocks with two minute hands; one showing the local time and one showing Greenwich Mean Time, the latter being the time to schedule your railway journeys by.

Over the next couple of years, all railway companies throughout the country had adopted Railway time and the trains ran smoothly. It was not until 1880, when the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act received the Royal Assent, that a unified standard time for the whole of Great Britain achieved legal status and a singular time zone for the country was introduced.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Part 2 - Stallholders on Holiday

As promised, here is Part 2 of Adrian and Jane Jefferies' Holiday of a Lifetime!

The Mekong Explorer - or as Adrian liked to call it, The Black Pig!


Hi all,

Currently cruising down the Mekong heading towards Nong Khai where a massage awaits!!!!

Only 10 passengers on board with 15 crew, Captain Pugwash is jolly nice even if he keeps saying Heave ho me hearties....

Attached is a picture of our boat, The Mekong Explorer (aka the black pig) and a deadly tree viper we found on our excursion this morning ( make that 9 passengers now! ).
"Deadly Tree Viper"

I Think we are pillaging and plundering tomorrow but the itinerary changes due to the river depth and the sobereity level of the navigator.

Woken up each morning by J Arthur Rank who bangs his gong outside your door until you get up and thank him with a friendly wave.

Weather hatefully good and the on board comestibles top rate, oh how you abhor this......

Jane hasn't vandalised any temples now for 3 days.....I think it was a phase she was going through.

Oil or Thai massage? See what tough decisions we have to make.

Think of us while cash and wrapping

Adrian and Jane


Hi all,
I blame the Laos rice whiskey........................
Yesterday we moored up at a sandbank along the Mekong. An ideal opportunity to swim in the Mekong which we all did, it took 15 rinses to get the yellow brown colour out of your trunks so it was basically an instant suntan.....I still pray it was mud my toes were squishing in when you touch the bottom of the river.....
In the evening we had a barbeque on the sandbank and later the crew sang us songs (including the Laos "we love the government" national anthem). Then the passengers had to sing a song.....we are Dutch, German, Swiss, Norwegian and Luxemborgian (?) so finding a universal song was difficult. Someone had to lead it, someone had to start a conga and start singing Hokey I say I blame the rice whiskey.
Two armed Laos army guys suddenly appeared to investigate the caterwauling and as we were technically illegal immigrants on this sandbank we had to bribe them with a few beers and some food. They disappeared into the jungle and we survived!
Unbelievable day, firstly at a Buddhist statue park and then a fantastic Chinese festival ....dragons, firecrackers and all sorts of colourful being at a Kiss concert!
Still enjoying this trip immensely and to quote a wise Monks words...."you work hard so i can relax it's all a question of balance.
Adrian and Jane


Hi all,
The cruise has now ended and we are marooned on a large island in the Mekong. We left the cruise a couple of days ago, the last excursion being hair raising as we (actually me as Jane has a fear of heights....took 3 chaps to peel her off the cliff, she is now nicknamed gecko!) walked around a mountain cliff on a less than robust wooden walkway.

We also visited a local village and interrupted the primary school, what they thought of a lot of camera wielding foreigners I will never know but they were cute and in my best Thai I asked them how old they they were and got them to guess my age......the average was around a hundred!
Spent overnight in a Thai hotel near the border and then crossed back into Laos (legally this time...the armed army guys were enough for me) and transfered to this hotel...what fun that was!
First we drove to Pakse then caught a boat to Don Daeng (Red island) having to change boats as the first one couldn't make it to the shallow shore. Then we boarded a tractor pulled cart to get us up the sizeable beach to the hotel reception....really bizarre. We are on a 7 mile long island, we borrowed 2 bikes yesterday and rode to the local villages stopping for a beer with the locals, only beer no more rice whiskey!!!!!!

Atlas Moth

Great wildlife. Saw an atlas moth; this was a small one, they can reach 30cm across and is the largest moth in the world and today we saw a rare irrawaddy dolphin in the thousand islands (where the dressing comes from.......only had salad cream today!). Hotel room on stilts,typical teak construction with a palm leaf roof, even thrown in a local family to make it more realistic....grandma is a hoot!

"Tricycle" Taxi

Todays transport included an open sidecar attached to a moped, they call this a tricycle, fascinating way to travel, no helmets, no seat belts and totally open....I think our driver was only 10 as well.....and we survived even when the back moped tyre got a puncture halfway through.....It's like going back many years and its fabulous (just had to clear a grasshopper off the keyboard!).

Tractor and boat to Champersak tomorrow where we are reliably informed there is a massage shop............wheeeeeee!
Keep up the good work
Adrian and Jane

Monday, 12 January 2015

Hungerford Arcade Jewellery Valuation Day

14th FEBRUARY 2015
10.00 to 4.00 

Our jewellery specialists, Adrian Jefferies and Frances Jones will be holding another one of their very popular jewellery valuation days on the 14th Febuary.  Do come along, bring your items of jewellery and let Adrian and Frances tell you about them.  

As well as valuations, Adrian and Frances also buy jewellery. So, if you wish to sell your jewels, Hungerford Arcade is the place to be.

For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at

Hungerford Arcade: Walking Sticks (Things Often Found)

Here is a fascinating article on walking sticks from our very own, Stuart Miller-Osborne.  Hope you enjoy reading it - I know I did.

In my life so far, I have had only one occasion to need a walking stick. This was about thirty five years ago when I managed to do something unpleasant to a muscle in my left leg when I was involved in a rather nasty collision with another player when playing football. 

After being treated by the very nice staff at Wexham Park Hospital, I was given a crutch so that I could support myself until the injury mended. It was here that my problems started. Although I am some six feet tall, the crutch appeared to have been designed for Robert Pershing Wadlow and by the time I had made my way back to Slough, not only was my leg hurting but also my shoulder was complaining. 

It was time for an initiative I thought, so I set about looking for a walking stick. Now Slough might be all things to all men but, after a while I had begun to agree with Mr Betjeman’s thoughts on the town. There were no walking sticks to be found. 

It was just as the stiff upper lip was beginning to cut in and my bus was arriving, I noticed a small junk shop hidden in a Victorian side street. Painfully, I limped across to the premises. As soon as I opened the door, I found what I was looking for, an umbrella stand full of walking sticks. 

Most of the sticks were, unfortunately, unsuitable for my height but there was one cane dating from, I would have guessed, the Art Nouveau period. It had an ivory handle and gold protectors on each end, with intricate nouveau patterns added. After a little haggling with the owner, (I did not take much money with me when playing football, for obvious reasons) I was able to purchase the walking stick for nine pounds.

It served me well and soon I was fit again and able to participate in the beautiful game. Looking back on this incident, if I had injured myself in the Hungerford area, I would not have experienced the problem.  Just to take Hungerford Arcade as an example, there are many walking sticks to be found ranging from the plain old canes to the rather odd examples with the heads of various animals and birds carved into the handles. The range is endless and I would expect that you could walk into any antique establishment in the country and expect to find a walking stick. Hopefully in less painful circumstances that I had to endure all those years ago. 

But what of walking sticks? We all see them each day of our lives either in the countryside or used by people less fortunate than ourselves. But like aircraft in the sky, we ignore them. They have become commonplace. But like all items, they have a history and that is what makes them interesting.

he encyclopaedia notes that a walking stick is a device that is used by people to facilitate balancing, which is fair description but, they are much more than that. Historically, they have been used as weapons (sometimes they can hide a sword or a similar weapon) or used in the countryside to clear obstacles when rambling. Indeed last summer, I used a stick to test the solidity of an area of sand that my wife and I were crossing. In short, they have many uses. 

Like all items, walking sticks originated from various sources, these could have been religious as many churches have Staffs of Office. Moses in antiquity, raised his staff to facilitate the parting of the Red Sea. These sticks/staffs quite frequently were used to illustrate the superiority of office. One has only to stand back to think of their uses in military circles (Swagger Sticks) and schools (The dreaded cane), to see how sticks could denote authority and even fear. I recently saw a movie where a landowner thought nothing of using his stick to employ a degree of discipline into his workers. 

Thankfully, walking sticks now have much more benign uses but, were once even a fashion item. About three hundred or so years ago, the walking stick had begun to replace the sword as part of a gentleman’s wardrobe. Like a cloak, it was an accessory but in those times whilst a cloak might keep you warm, a stick still had its uses. I can remember reading a book as a child where the hero saves a young maiden from a wild boar by beating it with his walking stick. The beast retreated but the cane breaks and is mourned by the devoted couple. A poet I admire, Alexander Pope, also had some fun at the cane’s expense in his work The Rape of the Lock

“Sir Plume, of amber snuff box justly vain
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane”

As far as I can see from the internet, a clouded cane was a cane made from ratten stems. Whereas a normal cane, was just made of rattan. I think I will leave Mr Pope and Sir Plume to figure this one out.

These days, walking sticks/canes/staffs do not have decorative uses. I think you would look distinctly odd walking down Hungerford High Street using a walking stick as a decorative accessory. Nowadays, walking sticks have much more functional uses. As I have already noted, they are used as an aid to balance or in the countryside to help the user when they are walking in a difficult terrain. Whilst you are very unlikely to meet a wild boar these days, sticks are incredibly useful when pushing nettles from your path or testing the depth of puddles during a normal British summer.

If you are at the Newbury Races, then your stick can second as a seat (if adapted) as you watch your ride come last. Quite a few walking sticks these days are adorned with badges and other mementos. The stick I currently own, has records ranging from Fort William to Somerset. I recently met a fellow rambler near Westbury White Horse whose stick was covered in memories of his visit to the Alps so much so, that when I examined it, it seemed a burden to carry.

I only have one walking stick which I have described but, if I was a collector, I am told that I would be called a rabologist. The nice thing is that even if you do not collect walking sticks, it is fun to own one or two and in the long run, they may be useful if you find a fox in your garden scaring Kitty once more. Or if you are unfortunate enough to have a condition/injury that necessitates the use of one for the short term. 

Over the last few weeks, (trying to escape the mayhem of Christmas), I have looked more closely at the walking sticks available in Hungerford and the immediate area. There is great fun to be had as some of the sticks are very curious and exciting. They are not always that straight (its almost as if they were cut immediately from the wood). Some have beaks and eyes added, others have compasses (quite useful when on the Salisbury Plain). There are those which have blunt ends, (as with my stick). Then there are the ones which have metal pointed ends. Sometimes, you just do not have any idea what to make of certain walking sticks; they are in my view, just rather surreal.

A few sticks I have found are works of art with exquisite handles using precious metals and quite intricate finishes. Ivory was quite often used historically which, although unpopular in this day and age (and rightly so), did add to the beauty of the item. 

To some extent, walking sticks reflect their age. Modern ones are very minimalist (almost the Samuel Beckett of walking sticks). They are no longer made of wood but of other materials. Quite frequently people use two when walking. The colours can vary.

My football injury necessitated the purchase of an Art Nouveau type of stick (which, many years later, was accidentally left on a train in Cornwall). The choice is endless. Even if you do not purchase one, the next time you are in an antiques shop, Arcade or just at a jumble/boot sale, examine these sticks as this can be quite rewarding. 
Stuart  Miller-Osborne

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Arcade Stallholders on Holiday

When stallholders Adrian and Jane Jefferies went on holiday to Laos in December, they kept us informed and entertained with an email holiday diary of their adventures. Please excuse the bad jokes as I share with you the messages I received from the other side of the world.

Part 1

Dec 14th 2014

Hi all,

I am sat in the exercise yard of cell 23 D block (the hotel used to be a prison) in Luang Prabang listening to the 4:00pm temple drums from the local temple. We are feeling very relaxed as is the way of life here. Bangkok was good, we got upgraded at the hotel to a room with an electronic toilet (the bumwasher 2000) which combined the comfort of a heated seat with either a colonic irrigation or an enema depending on the water pressure.

In Laos we have been to umpteen temples, given alms to the monks (pre dawn....), visited the spectacular Kuangsi waterfalls and visited the Pakou caves after a 2 hour trip along the Mehkong.

Weather glorious and the Laos food very good especially the riverweed and the local sausage. Off for another massage soon followed by dinner at a Laos-French restaurant......

Ventiane tomorrow for 4 nights before embarking on the cruise.

Keep the sales going, they help us suffer these long holidays...!!!

Adrian and Jane

With the exception of the washroom facilities, Adrian really knows how to make us jealous!

Dec 16th

Two monks taking pictures of each other at the waterfalls

Hi All,

We have been released on parole from Luang Prabang prison (aka Hotel de la paix). I got time off for good behaviour and Jane bribed the warden with a half eaten jelly baby. We flew down to Vientiane on a new airbus which was slightly better than the Sopwith dromadary (had two propellers) we flew to Luang Prabang in. Ventiane is the smallest capital in the world. Makes Hungerford look like a metropolis.....The hotel is quite nice, now the air con is working, and the mango jam at breakfast was worth travelling 6000 miles.
I have a strong body according to my Nepalese masseur and very handsome according to my laos masseur. Unfortunately the latter was a chap so perhaps that might not count, he did have good hands though and my feet really appreciate his touch.
The weather for the next few days is ......."Scorchio!" - bright blue skies and temps around 30 degrees C (oh the hell of it!!!).
I have attached a photo (taken by Jane) of a couple of monks taking each others photo at Kuangsi waterfalls, its so typical Laos.
Tour of Ventiane tomorrow, more temples and a Buddhist statue park.
Food is still terrible, Jane had homemade pork pate last night. Just a starter but was a massive slab. My crab gratin was just as terrible as was the duck in mango and pepper sauce!
Must go, its gin on the balcony whilst we count the number of bird species (so far 2, sparrows and a little brown one), the Lao catch and eat the rest.
Adrian and Jane

Dec 18th

A smug adrian having a pedicure on the banks of the MeKong

Hi all,

Just had dinner at the restaurant.....terrible...frozen mango and lime daiquiri, pork and eggplant red curry and pineapple in palm sugar caramel with coconut ice i suffer to keep you amused. The attached photo is moi having a mobile pedicure whilst watching the sun go down over the Mekong. How enterprising these Lao are, my feet were scrubbed, pumiced and my toenails cut and filed to perfection.....I rejected the nail polish bit!
The tour of the city was very good yesterday although Jane did manage to vandalise one of the temples and then told off a tourist for touching a buddha statue.....our guide nearly died laughing when the tourist said sorry in a high pitched whine!
Tomorrow we are heading off across the river back into Thailand to board the cruise ship (I think its the Black Pig) for a week of plundering and pillaging along the Mekong.....I don't mind the plundering but the pillaging......I'm getting too old!
We may be out of wi-fi range for a week but if we can we will let you know of our latest adventures.
Adrian and Jane

Watch this space for Part 2 of the journey in a couple of days.