Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade Barnaby's Famous Old Fairground Organ Returns

Hungerford Arcade

SUNDAY, 3rd MAY 2015
11.00 - 2.00

This much loved family favourite will be right outside the Arcade along with the new Farmers' Market. Do come along and have a great family day out. Don't forget to call into the Arcade and say 'Hi'.

James with his two neices and the man himself, Barnaby

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Hungerford Arcade Postcard, Stamps and more Valuation Day

10.00am till 2.00pm


Come along to Unit 7, Hungerford Arcade and meet Jonathan and find out all you need to know about your treasured collections.

Jonathan Edwards of Page Postcards
will be glad to advise you on your collection. He will be happy to purchase suitable items or advise on appropriate auction houses.

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Hungerford Arcade a and the Turkish Ladies

L-R Aunty Sirma, Bahar, mother Elif and Rita

At Hungerford Arcade, we really look forward to meeting our friends from around the World.  Bahar is a comprehensive Interior Designer and lives in Oxforshire. She is a frequent visitor to the Arcade and always brings people with her.  This time, Bahar brought her mother, Elif Deliktas and aunty, Sima Demir from Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey.  I looked up Izmir and found that it is Turkey's third most populous city and has the country's largest port after Istanbul.  Also, it is very beautiful.

It was wonderful meeting Elif and Sima and look forward to welcoming them back to the Arcade the next they come to visit Bahar.

Bahar Arts Interior Design has a beautiful website which you can visit at

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Hungerford Arcade Ragged Victorians - The Great Unwashed

We had great fun here at Hungerford Arcade, when actors from the ' Ragged Victorians -Victorian Great Unwashed' came in to buy.  They are the most amazing people and seem to know everything about the poor wretches they portray. Barbara Goodridge went into great detail about what they do and it was fascinating.

Back in the day when a shilling was a weeks wages, when even the 'Pure' (Dogs Dung) was a valuable source of income, lower class Victorians were living by whatever means they could. With no homes, no income and no benefit system for support, an honest days work, could mean labouring the most degrading jobs in the world, for little or scant reward. Is there no wonder then, that thieving, cheating, prostitution and even child selling, were sometimes the only options these unfortunate souls had.

Find out more about the Great Unwashed by clicking onto this link to their website 

The other website to look up is, Stuart Dukes, Seven Dials rapscallions at for Victorian Law and Disorder. Seven Dials Rapscallions, is both a Historical interpretation and Street Theatre - The Victorian underworld on the streets of today.

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St George's Day at Hungerford Arcade

Happy Saint George's Day from all at Hungerford Arcade!

Youngsters Polly, Kitty and their mum Rachael helping Adrian put up the St. George's Cross over the Arcade

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade An Interesting Trip to Kent

We at Hungerford Arcade, always look forward to Stuart Miller-Osborne's return from his travels with his lovely wife, Caron, as he writes wonderful stories while he is away. Here we have, as is usual, a great story written by Stuart while he was away visiting his daughter in Kent.  Time for tea and biscuits, I think.

My daughter lives in Kent and whilst visiting her, I have taken the opportunity to explore some of the county, especially on the Isle of Thanet. 

It was whilst I was planning a walk along the coast that I found myself in Birchington, which is roughly halfway between Margate and Canterbury.

Birchington is an agreeable coastal town which is a good starting point if you want to walk or cycle to the Reculver Towers, which are a few miles distant. 

As I made my way to the coastal path, I noticed that one of the roads was called Rossetti Road.

I knew that the artist and poet had retired to this part of Kent when he became seriously ill, but I did not know where he had died.

Enquiries revealed that the great man was indeed buried in the town and I found the grave with a degree of ease.

To find it, walk up the high street away from the railway station and keep to your right where you will find a church at the top of the street. 

If you follow the main path through the graveyard, you will come across a stone Celtic cross and this is where Rossetti rests in full view of the lovely church and the road to Canterbury.

It seems an odd place to find the last resting place of such a well-known figure and as far as I can see, he had no real connection with this part of Kent, apart from being there in his final days. 

If you are ever in Birchington and have a few moments to spare, then visit Rossetti and may be leave a small bunch of flowers to thank him for the works he left to us when he died over a hundred and thirty years ago in this small Kent town. 

Stuart Miller-Osborne
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Hungerford Arcade Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth II

Hungerford Arcade owners, Adrian and Hazel, staff and stallholders, wish Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a very, very happy Birthday.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Successful Toy Valuation Day At The Arcade

Gary poring over a price guide
As usual, the toy valuation day at the Arcade went off without a hitch.  Experts Gary and Alan were on hand all day to answer questions and give valuations on toy cars, trains, lead soldiers and much more.  Keep an eye on our "What's On" page to keep up to date with events and valuation days here at the Arcade.

Alan and Gary

Friday, 17 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade Toy Valuation Day

18th APRIL
10.00 - 3.30

Don't forget to come to Hungerford Arcade tomorrow (Saturday) 18th April and get a valuation on all of your collections from our resident experts and stallholders, Alan, Tony, Gary and June. They also purchase items, if you wish to sell them.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Hocktide in Hungerford Arcade

It's Hocktide in Hungerford and Tutti Day has been and gone for another year.  And if you don't know what that means, you're either not local, or you haven't been paying attention!

Adrian and Rod putting up the Hungerford Town flags

Yesterday could well have been the hottest day of the year so far and perfect weather for the Tutti Men (and women) to be walking the streets of Hungerford collecting collecting kisses and doling out oranges to the common folk of the town.  This might sound strange to the uninitiated but it is an annual event here in Hungerford and one that the whole town joins in with.  

The Tutti Men visit 102 properties in the High Street and beyond, traditionally to collect the rent, but these days they just have a little drink and a chat with the owners of the properties.  It is also traditional to take a kiss from the lady of the house.  They are accompanied by the Orange Man or Orange Scrambler who carries a bag of oranges to give to the townspeople.  They are followed by the Tutti Wenches who give out sweets and oranges in the street. 

Tutti Women Sarah and Angela with Orange Scrambler Paul

The more I write about it, the more absurd it sounds, but it is a lot of fun to be a part of and something I hope never dies out in Hungerford.

As of 2014, Hungerford is the only remaining town in England to recognise the ancient festival of Hocktide.  Hocktide is basically springtime.  It is the second week after Easter, when lent is over but summer hasn't yet begun.  It was one of the only times of year, along with Yuletide and Whitsuntide, when a landowner had, to put it simply, a bit of time off!  It was this time of year when the new agricultural year began and it was on Tutti Day or Hock Tuesday that the Tutti Men would visit the townspeople or commoners of the town to collect the rent.

Tutti Wenches Charlotte, Faye, Natasha and Chloe

It is a bit old fashioned and it's a bit strange, but we love it.  It's part of the identity of our town and the enthusiasm with which shop keepers and home owners embrace it just shows how popular it is.  We won't be letting this little tradition fade away any time soon.

Happy Hocktide!

The weather couldn't have been better!


Monday, 13 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade Welcomes The Artisan Farmers' Market

Market Organiser and Honey Specialist
Jack McLeod

Hungerford Arcade welcomed a brilliant new Artisan Farmers' Market yesterday,(Sunday) which was a great success.  The market organiser, Jack McLeod, together with the Town and Manor of Hungerford have given Hungerford back its Sunday Market, much to everyone's delight.  Jack, who also organises the very successful Summertown Market in Oxford, said that the Market will be outside both the Town Hall and Hungerford Arcade every Sunday from 10.00 am - 1.30 pm.  Jack has brought together farmers, local producers, bakers, local food makers and more, to give everyone the very best of local produce.

Chris Allen
OneDay Woodcraft
Chris Allen of OneDay 
Chris' beautiful Spring Spaniel
Woodcraft (Green woodworker), was with the Market, selling the wooden spoons and Gypsy Flowers which he had himself hand-crafted.

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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade: Stranded At Sea

It's 1942. You're a fighter pilot with RAF Coastal Command.  You've been forced to ditch your plane into the Atlantic Ocean and you've managed to scramble into your life raft.  But far from land and all alone, you have no way to call for help...  Or do you?

This bright yellow steel tube contains the answer.

This is an emergency kite designed to be used alongside the AN/CRT 3 or "Gibson Girl" Transmitter.  In 1941 the US captured a German designed portable transmitter.  Hand cranked and connected to a box kite for an aerial, this ingenious contraption could be used to send a distress signal from anywhere in the world, with no other power source necessary.  

The uniquely shaped transmitter.
The Americans took this design and improved upon it to come up with the Gibson Girl.  Affectionately named for it's curious shape it was named after the slim waisted young ladies as depicted by Charles Dana Gibson, a famous artist and fashion illustrator of the late 19th Century.
A typical Gibson Girl.
The shape was intended to enable the user to steadily hold the device between his legs while operating the crank handle.

According to the instructions on the side of the container, the kite is easy to construct, with only six easy steps to put it up. Unfortunately the frame of the kite is all that remains inside this particular container.  The canvas is completely missing, as is the line and the transmitter - although that would never have been carried inside the tube anyway.  

Assuming you managed to get yourself stranded on a windy day and had accomplished the challenge of construction, all that remained was to feed the line out to it's maximum height, hold the transmitter between your legs and crank the handle.  As you will read in the real-life report below, cranking could be a very arduous task. 
The transmission, which could be picked up 200 miles away, was an automatic SOS or alternatively hand keyed Morse if you had a specific message to transmit.  This signal could then be homed in on by the rescue aircraft radio compass.  

The assembled kite and original container

Today, the technology is obviously long redundant.  Satellite phones, GPS trackers and all sorts of other things I don't understand are clearly far more practical than this historical piece of equipment. However, the legend of the kite lives on!  Sometimes very cheap to pick up at car boot sales (or antiques centres!) it was simply a very well designed box kite.  Kite flying enthusiasts to this day swear that this is the best kite they have ever flown. So if you happen to pick one up somewhere, make sure you bring it down to the Arcade and we can take it up onto the common and see how it flies!


Below is a report from the 39th Bombardment Group flying for the US Airforce in which the Gibson Girl is mentioned. NB:  Please be aware that this report contains details of actual events and if you are likely to be affected by mentions of plane crashes, read on at your own risk. Nobody in the following report was hurt during the events.

Report by S/Sgt James Schwoegler, Radio Operator 39th Bomb Group (VH) Crew 30. 

The plane made it out over the ocean, but then the third engine's propeller broke off, slicing the plane's fuselage from the middle to the top and cutting the control the plane's fourth engine. 
They had only one working engine left. The pilot made the decision for the crew to bail out, and it was Schwoegler's job to radio in their location. 
They planned to ditch near a location code named "Lot's Wife," which was actually named Sofugan, described by Schwoegler as "a rock sticking out of the ocean." 
The crew began to jump out of the airplane through a hatch leading to the landing wheel well in the nose. The problem for Schwoegler was that lifting the door to the wheel well blocked him in the radio area. After the rest of the crew had jumped out, Schwoegler closed the hatch door so he could get through, much to the pilot's surprise. "The pilot said 'Jim, get the hell out!'" 
Schwoegler managed to swim to the surface where he attempted to inflate a lifeboat that was part of his gear. "I pulled it open and nothing.," he said. Fortunately he was able to manipulate the CO2 cartridge that inflated his raft and get it to work. 
The plane's crew was spread over a broad area, but thanks to Schwoegler's signal a B-17 rescue plane was able to locate the crew and drop them a Higgins lifeboat with food and medical supplies. Safe in the lifeboat, the ordeal of the 10 survivors was not over. "The morning brought so much fog, you couldn't see from here to the next house," Schwoegler explained. This hampered rescue efforts and forced the crew to use a "Gibson Girl," a shapely radio designed to be held between the legs and operated with a crank. When cranked, the radio sent out a constant S.O.S. To send the signal, an antenna was raised on a kite. As the radioman, the job of cranking fell to Schwoegler. "I don't know how long I cranked," he said. "I was real disappointed no one volunteered to take it except the navigator." His efforts bore fruit in the form of a submarine. "Is it Japanese or American?" Schwoegler wondered. "Then I saw a guy with a flaming red beard and I knew it was an American. It was the best sight I ever saw." He still has the kite antenna that led the rescuers to them, but he accidentally left the "Gibson Girl" on the first sub when they transferred. "The (sub crew) loved having us," Schwoegler recalled. "They gave up their bunks and everything. The first night (aboard) we ate chicken and steak. We hadn't eaten like that in a while."  

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade Update Langdon Hall Dolls House

A clever piece of photography showing
Len actually sitting in the Drawing Room
Do you remember the fabulous doll's house, Langdon Hall, the country seat of Lady Langdon, which took Len Martin 26 years to build? I first wrote about it in Part 1 of the story, showing the full glory of some the rooms inside the building on 13th May 2013.  This was followed up with more wonderful photographs in Part 2 on the 18th May 2013 and finally, on the 17th November 2013, the last instalment of the photographs. Langdon Hall had and still has a worldwide audience who continue reading about it and looking at it to this day.

Since then, Len and Langdon Hall have featured on Radio, in magazines, The Times and the Daily Mail. Len is now 68 and feels he can no longer keep this beautiful building with all its contents and has sadly, put it up for sale for £9,000 which is very little money for such a magnificent work of art.  

You can contact Len by e-mail at or by clicking on his Facebook link below.

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Hungerford Arcade Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

We are very lucky at Hungerford Arcade to have such a good friend and writer as our brilliant Stuart Miller-Osborne. Stuart has written this remarkable story which I am sure will have you riveted as it did me. Sit down with a nice cup of tea and enjoy.


Quite often when you stroll around the Arcade here in Hungerford or, if you are elsewhere, you will find a book about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which was essentially a collection of English painters and poets and critics which was founded in 1848. 

If you are lucky, you might find a framed print of their work. 

The brotherhood initially consisted of William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais (1829-1896) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882).

Its aim was to reject the approach adopted by the Mannerist artists.They considered the classical poses and compositions especially from Raphael to have been a corrupting influence on the teaching of the day.

Hence the title of the group. 

They drew up a doctrine in the early days which read as follows. 

1/ to have genuine ideas to express

2/ to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them (nature)

3/ to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote

4/ most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good picture and statues

In short, it was a freedom of expression with the members being able to express themselves without borders and by doing so, getting the work to breathe and be approachable.

If one looks at works by members (or later members) of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood then, I personally think that their ideas are still attractive. 

Although one must have something of knowledge of their work, I feel that these paintings still speak to us today as much as they did some one hundred and fifty years ago.

But what of the models. Do we ever consider the models who posed for these famous works? 

There are the famous ones such as Lizzie Siddal (1829-1862) who is forever connected with Rossetti.

But who was the girl in the centre of the Millais painting, Autumn Leaves (1856), it certainly was not the tragic Lizzie?

I first saw this painting in Manchester many years ago and was struck by the two figures to the left of the painting. Although unable to help, the gallery assistant did point me in the direction of a book which revealed that the models were in fact the sisters Alice and Sophie Gray.

I made a mental note of this and really forgot about the sisters for many years until I saw a copy of a painting completed a year later by Millais called simply, Portrait of a Girl.

The artist had used the same model as he had in Autumn Leaves and after further research, I found this was indeed Sophie Gray (1843-1882) whose life was equally as tragic as that of Lizzie Siddel.

What struck me about the portrait was the sensuality and erotic charge that this simple painting gave to the viewer.

I initially thought that the artist might have been the lover of the sitter, but there is no evidence to suggest that Millais and Sophie were ever physically involved and also, she was only fourteen when it was painted.

But this is where my researches became interesting, as did not John Everett Millais run off with a certain Effie Gray (1828-1897), the wife of the famed art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) and was Sophie indeed related to Effie and how long had she known the artist?

My research was easy, Effie was indeed Sophie’s sister, although some fifteen years her senior. Sophie had first met Millais in 1853 and he had completed a rather nice oval watercolour of her in 1854. 

Indeed, both she and Effie and her sister Alice sat for the artist. 

Millais was taken by Sophie’s prettiness and wrote to Sophie’s mother of this 

“…What a delightful little shrewd damsel Sophia is…I do not praise her to please you, but I think her extremely beautiful, and that she will even improve, as yet she does not seem to have the slightest idea of it herself which makes her prettier—I am afraid that ignorance cannot last long…”  

Indeed, when he painted Sophie in 1857, she was as I have noted, only fourteen but the charge of the painting hints at a much older model. The sitter of this unusual work looks as she has attained early adulthood.

Sophie occupies a large part of the canvas and is lit in a delicate fashion from the left which highlights her golden brown hair and hints at its auburn highlights. Her clothes are not memorable and are simply decorated with an embroidered heart containing three flowers within. 

I have often thought that this simple embroidery contained a secret message and to some extent, my enquiries continue. I believe that the artist left a quiet message in the decoration.

Maybe it is a declaration of his attraction or love for the sitter or, it might be my own fancy and it is a simple decoration and like others I am reading too much into it.
Sophie’s long hair frames the portrait and mingles with the dark background. There is a sniff of lace at her throat and her pale face contrasts with the darker colours used. 

She stares at the viewer with her cold blue eyes which are expressionless to the extreme. There is no clue as to what she was thinking or maybe she is challenging the viewer to probe her thoughts (or, this might have been Millais and Sophie’s jest who knows)?

Her lips and rosy cheeks again contrast the darkness and the light of the painting. Her lips are ruby red and are pursed in defiance and her rosy cheeks hint at fluster. These are all enigmatic clues which suggest things unseen.

Sophie’s chin is defiantly but subtly tilted, hinting at self-confidence (which might again be a jest). 

It is obvious that there was a connection between Millais and Sophie as the artist has produced a very haunting portrait which celebrates the beauty of the sitter and the fondness that he had for her.

One has only to look at his paintings of the other Gray sister's. These are excellent works in their own right but they are just portraits. There is no connection between the sitter and the artist and certainly no erotic charge. 

It is well known that Millais ran off with Effie Gray and many stories were created at the time especially the one about Ruskin’s horror at the sight of his wife’s pubic hair.

It was really a case of two people in a marriage not hitting it off and drifting apart. 

Victorian society was easily shocked at abandonment especially if the wife eloped with her lover, so stories were made up to cover some of Ruskin’s peculiarities.

Effie was the scarlet woman who had run off with an artist, although Millais was quite a respectable one. 

On researching this, I found out that Sophie actually helped her sister to elope by train (Effie travelled to Scotland whereas Sophie alighted at Hitchin where she met her father as they were to deliver a package on to their solicitors who would forward it on to Ruskin noting his wife’s actions).

This package included her wedding ring and the keys to the house.

Indeed Ruskin came across as being a rather nice fellow who I believe, understood in time why Effie ran off with Millais.

Others may disagree with my thoughts, but there are always two or three ways to look at everything. 

I personally think that if Millais had not met Effie, then he would have married Sophie and the story that I am about to tell might not have had such a tragic ending.

Sophie sadly had always been highly strung and was further damaged when she acted as a go-between between Ruskin and Effie. 

She was also indulged by Ruskin’s domineering mother in an attempt to turn her against her sister. But being loyal she kept her sister informed of everything that was said. 

Sophie began to exhibit major mental health problems in her mid-twenties and was, in 1868 sent away from her home to stay in Chiswick under the care of a certain Doctor Thomas Tuke who specialised in mental health.

Sadly, conditions such as Sophie’s were often diagnosed as hysteria which was thought to be quite common in young women.

What is known, is that Sophie suffered from Anorexia Nervosa which contributed to her overall condition.
In 1873 she married (unhappily it turned out), to a Scottish Jute manufacturer James Key Caird.

He was wealthy but neglected Sophie when she needed him most. They had a child Beatrix Ada (who was later painted by Rossetti) and she lived mostly alone with her daughter in Dundee and Paris.

As with patient’s suffering from this condition, she lost weight rapidly and her health deteriorated and she was again committed to the care of Doctor Tuke, but she never really recovered and passed away on the 15th of March 1882.

Her cause of death was recorded mysteriously as exhaustion and atrophy of the nervous system.

There were rumours of suicide but these were never really followed up.

I would like to think that given the right circumstances, Sophie might have been able to conquer or at least live with her demons and a late portrait by Millais painted in 1880, shows a much different Sophie.

She has aged and looks older than her thirty-seven years. Her once luxurious hair is showing evidence of greyness and is tightly wound. 

Sophie’s posture is nervous almost insular and she bends her fingers with nervous impression. She is dressed modestly and could almost be a spinster hidden away in the shadows. 

Her colours are sombre and Millais has almost created a ghost like figure in complete contrast with the sensuous portrait painted some twenty-three years previously.

It is one of the most tragic of his works and in my view, should be hung next to the 1857 portrait but this unlikely to happen.

Other interesting facts I found whilst researching this article was that sadly, Sophie’s daughter died in 1888 at exactly the same age as her mother had been when she sat for the famous portrait. .

Her husband, although neglectful of Sophie, helped to fund Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition (1914-1917) and was a major benefactor to the city of Dundee.

Although he has been painted as being neglectful of Sophie, the death of his wife and his daughter within six years of each other seemed to have hit James Caird hard and he became increasingly philanthropic in his later years (he died in 1916).

He contributed £18,500 to the Dundee Royal Infirmary so that they could erect a hospital for the treatment of cancer. This was one of his many generous gifts to the city.

I believe that James was just a typical Victorian businessman but in Sophie’s case, his neglect was not helpful. Maybe he did not fully understand Sophie’s condition and the dangers it presented.

If I had the funds available (and if the present owners would sell), I would purchase Sophie’s 1857 portrait and loan it to a gallery so that visitors could examine this astonishing work and maybe try to discover some of its secrets.

It is one of the most enigmatic of paintings. 

Stuart Miller-Osborne             

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Monday, 6 April 2015

Hungerford Arcade Toy Valuation Day

18th APRIL 2015

Hungerford Arcade Stallholders, Alan, Tony Gary and June are holding this special Valuation Day for you.  Please do bring along your lead soldiers, 

Dinky, Corgi military vehicles, trains and railways, vintage Action men etc and learn the history of your items and what their value is. They also buy items, if you wish to sell them.