15 April 2018

Inns and their signs: Dorset, 1


A few months have passed since my excellent Christmas holiday in the Dorset – Hampshire – Somerset area, yet I haven’t written up these pub signs I photographed. Time to remedy that!


The Tippling Philosopher, Milborne Port
Now admittedly this 16th-century pub doesn’t have a very inspiring sign, especially considering its wonderful name, but it’s because of that name and the fact that the pub’s website actually has some good detail about its history that I’m including this one. Oh, and my friend Sarah and I also enjoyed a very nice lunch here.


To summarise the website: A tippler was an ale maker, and a local tippler was plying his trade on this very site from at least the mid 17th century. It is likely that the actual ‘Tippling Philosopher’ was one Robert Boyle, an eminent physicist, chemist and philosopher (who developed Boyle’s Law  and whose father Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, owned much of the land around Milborne Port. It seems Robert may have spent his evenings in this very alehouse, pontificating on his theories of life, the universe and everything. (The website has even more fascinating snippets of history if you’ve a mind to know more.) 


The Grosvenor Arms, Shaftesbury
Though there has been an inn (previously named The Red Lion) at this location since the medieval era, the current building is elegant Georgian, rebuilt and renamed The Grosvenor Arms when purchased by the Grosvenor family in 1820. 

The pub sign shows the family’s coat of arms, whose motto Virtus non stemma means Virtue, not pedigree. 

The hounds supporting the shield are Talbot dogs, which were introduced to Britain as hunting dogs by the Normans.


The George, Sherborne
The sign claims that The George is the oldest pub in Sherborne and that may well be true, as the British Listed Buildings website states that the building may date from the early 16th century, when it formed part of Becket’s Chapel or Hospital. The building has since been much altered, though it retains enough of its original features to maintain its Grade II listing. The sign shows a very well drawn version of the traditional story of St George slaying the dragon


The Half Moon, Sherborne
Unfortunately I’ve found no information about The Half Moon. The building looks old, though not as old as many in Sherborne town centre, and I assume the inn is named after its location in Half Moon Street. The pub’s sign also appears modern but I like its stylistic simplicity.



The Plume of Feathers, Sherborne
Dating from around 1590, The Plume of Feathers enjoys a prime location immediately opposite stunning Sherborne Abbey. 

It is a building of two parts: the left side of three storeys retains its 16th- or early 17th-century stone mullioned windows, while the right side, of two storeys, dates from some time in the 19th century. 

The plume of feathers symbol, and its accompanying motto Ich dien (I serve), can be seen adorning many British pubs, and is in common use in many other contexts: it can be seen on the reverse of the old 2 pence coins, it’s the logo of the Welsh Rugby team, and, of course, it’s the official badge of The Prince of Wales. You can read more about the origins of the badge here.


The White Hart, Sherborne
Like the plume of feathers above, the white hart is another very common inn name – the fifth most popular, in fact, and another that’s associated with royalty. The white hart was the personal badge of Richard II, and the creature itself (a leucistic adult male red deer) has a long and interesting place in Celtic and later Christian myth and history. Sherborne’s White Hart is set amongst a row of Grade-II listed buildings in the very heart of that historic town, and looks a very nice place to enjoy a glass or two.

18 March 2018

Mad Jack’s Follies

Fancy a walk? Okay, let’s go! We’re in Brightling, a tiny hamlet sitting atop the Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, and we’ve come to discover some of the many follies of Mad Jack Fuller. For a brief intro to Jack, I’ll quote from the walk guidebook we used:

Born in 1757, John Fuller was variously known as ‘Mad Jack’, ‘Honest Jack’ and ‘Hippopotamus’, an irreverent allusion to his 22-stone bulk and waddling gait. The owner of a family fortune derived from shrewd investments made possibly by profitable ventures in the local iron industry in the 16th century, Fuller inherited the ancestral home – Rose Hill at Brightling – at the age of twenty and soon made a mark for himself as an MP. Pugnacious and outspoken at the despatch box, he ruffled numerous Parliamentary feathers, often referring to the Speaker as ‘that insignificant man in a wig’. By 1810, his days as a politician were over and he retired to a life of ease in Sussex, devoting his time and considerable fortune to twin interests in the arts and science, his appetite for the whimsical and absurd leading to the creation of a rash of follies.


The first of Jack’s follies that we’re visiting is his last resting place in the churchyard of the lovely Church of St Thomas Becket.


We enter the churchyard from the west and, as we approach the church, we get our first glimpse of the folly. Yes, that’s a pyramid-shaped tomb, in which Jack was apparently placed sitting upright on a chair, wearing a top hat and clutching a bottle of his favourite claret.


We’ll have a look in the barred entrance but I don’t think we’ll see Mad Jack today.


Here’s another glimpse of the church, from the eastern end, as we walk past and down Brightling’s main road towards the next folly.


At the crossroads, we head over to the kissing gate across the road ...


And from there it’s a stomp along the field boundaries, following a well-worn track. The weather’s perfect for enjoying the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside.


This is where we’re heading, to the Tower, a 35-foot stone construction.


We go right up to the Tower, have a look inside and around about – nothing much to see. Jack supposedly built this folly so he could see Bodiam Castle, which he had purchased in 1828 to save it from demolition. We can’t actually see Bodiam but maybe the view’s better from the top and, of course, the trees would’ve been shorter in Jack’s day.


Onwards across the field, across the road and then steeply downhill on a track past some farm buildings. There are pheasant breeding pens in the fields so the birds are a common sight hereabouts.


There are two possible routes here, through this woodland to enjoy the trees or along the edge of it. We’ll stick to the side track.


And there’s our third and final folly for today, on a hillside in a distant field.


Unfortunately we can’t get any closer as it’s on private property but my camera lens allows us to see a bit more. It’s a small classically styled temple, probably built in 1810 and possibly the location for some of Mad Jack’s discreet rendezvous with his female friends. What a character he was!

From the temple, we retrace our steps, back up that steep hill and along past the church to the car – a good strenuous stomp to finish off a lovely walk.


If you want to find out more about Mad Jack and his other follies, check out this link
Fancy a walk? Okay, let’s go! We’re in Brightling, a tiny hamlet sitting atop the Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, and we’ve come to discover some of the many follies of Mad Jack Fuller. For a brief intro to Jack, I’ll quote from the walk guidebook we used:

Born in 1757, John Fuller was variously known as ‘Mad Jack’, ‘Honest Jack’ and ‘Hippopotamus’, an irreverent allusion to his 22-stone bulk and waddling gait. The owner of a family fortune derived from shrewd investments made possibly by profitable ventures in the local iron industry in the 16th century, Fuller inherited the ancestral home – Rose Hill at Brightling – at the age of twenty and soon made a mark for himself as an MP. Pugnacious and outspoken at the despatch box, he ruffled numerous Parliamentary feathers, often referring to the Speaker as ‘that insignificant man in a wig’. By 1810, his days as a politician were over and he retired to a life of ease in Sussex, devoting his time and considerable fortune to twin interests in the arts and science, his appetite for the whimsical and absurd leading to the creation of a rash of follies.

The first of Jack’s follies that we’re visiting is his last resting place in the churchyard of the lovely Church of St Thomas Becket.

We enter the churchyard from the west and, as we approach the church, we get our first glimpse of the folly. Yes, that’s a pyramid-shaped tomb, in which Jack was apparently placed sitting upright on a chair, wearing a top hat and clutching a bottle of his favourite claret.

We’ll have a look in the barred entrance but I don’t think we’ll see Mad Jack today.

Here’s another glimpse of the church, from the eastern end, as we walk past and down Brightling’s main road towards the next folly.

At the crossroads, we head over to the kissing gate across the road ...

And from there it’s a stomp along the field boundaries, following a well-worn track. The weather’s perfect for enjoying the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside.

This is where we’re heading, to the Tower, a 35-foot stone construction.

We go right up to the Tower, have a look inside and around about – nothing much to see. Jack supposedly built this folly so he could see Bodiam Castle, which he had purchased in 1828 to save it from demolition. We can’t actually see Bodiam but maybe the view’s better from the top and, of course, the trees would’ve been shorter in Jack’s day.

Onwards across the field, across the road and then steeply downhill on a track past some farm buildings. There are pheasant breeding pens in the fields so the birds are common sight hereabouts.

There are two possible routes here, through this woodland to enjoy the trees or along the edge of it. We’ll stick to the side track.

And there’s our third and final folly for today, on a hillside in a distant field.

Unfortunately we can’t get any closer as it’s on private property but my camera lens allows us to see a bit more. It’s a small classically styled temple, probably built in 1810 and possibly the location for some of Mad Jack’s discreet rendezvous with his female friends. What a character he was!

From the temple, we retrace our steps, back up that steep hill and along past the church to the car – a good strenuous stomp to finish off a lovely walk.

If you want to find out more about Mad Jack and his other follies, check out this link. http://www.odd-stuff.info/follies/brightling.htm

06 March 2018

East Sussex: post boxes


Here is a small offering of post boxes I spotted during a recent week’s holiday in East Sussex (always looking!).


The oldest was in the tiny hamlet of West Dean, in East Sussex not West, a charming collection of ancient houses nestled in a secluded South Downs valley behind Cuckmere Haven, a location more easily reached on foot than by car, a place that time seems to have forgotten. Amongst its many old treasures – there were also a medieval dovecote and a gorgeous terracotta bird on a rooftop – was this lovely old Victoria wall box, set in a superbly crafted flint stone wall.



To get a photograph of the George V wall box at Birling Gap (below left), I had to brave a howling gale and light, driving rain – that’s post-box dedication for you! If you don’t know Birling Gap, it’s at the eastern end of the mighty Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on England’s south coast. My photo, above, of this impressive landscape was taken in the same howling gale.


On the right, above, is another George V wall box, this one discovered in the small village of Brightling. This box is slightly unusual as it is a Ludlow wall box, one of the wooden – rather than cast iron – boxes made by James Ludlow & Son in Birmingham. The large black-and-white enamel name plate is the giveaway and this box is even more unusual as it doesn’t have the plate that lists location, post box number and mail collection times – there were holes where the plate was originally attached but, as you can see, it looks like someone’s since stuck a couple of stickers on the front instead.

Brightling was interesting for another reason too ... more on that in my next blog post.