From Pickaxe to Paver


Recently I came across an estimate from 1843 for repairing and ‘Macadamizing’ parts of the High Street and it made me think of the difference between the process of road surfacing today and in early Victorian times. Everyone who has been into Poole in the last few months must have noticed that there have been a few road works in progress. Drivers into the town centre found themselves waiting in queues or undertaking unexpected little tours around the town centre, directed by lines of red barriers and bollards. At first the pattern changed every week but once the resurfacing started, it was every half day or even every couple of hours. Bus stops were in and out of use like yo-yos and pedestrians learned to watch out for traffic on the wrong side of the road, smoking tarmac beneath their feet and rapidly approaching rollers.

At one stage, the resurfacing vehicles were parked at the end of our road in all their colourful splendour. The most intriguing one was a strange hybrid beast with two sets of tracks, an extended body and a long conveyor belt stretching out in front. Each morning, the kitchen cabinets would start to vibrate as this machine trundled past, like some pre-historic creature from a dead-end branch of the evolutionary tree. Some minutes later it would trundle back in reverse, but the precise purpose of this excursion, I never discovered. However, I would get to see the beast in action a couple of days later.

Workmen in upper High Street

Back in 1843, the stone paving of the High Street was in a poor condition and the Borough Surveyor had requested a specification for resurfacing, using the relatively new technique of macadamizing. John Loudon McAdam was an experienced road engineer who had learnt his trade on the turnpike roads of Scotland and the West Country. Adapting the techniques of road builders like Thomas Telford, he believed that massive foundations were unnecessary as long as the road surface was strong and waterproof. An underlying 20cm layer of stones 7.5cm or less in diameter was covered by a 5cm thick layer of stones only 2cm in size, much narrower than the iron wheels of the carts and carriages that travelled over it. This top layer was spread very carefully and evenly with only a slight rise to the centre of the road. No binding material was applied and it was found that the passage of the traffic alone would create a strong weatherproof surface.

The corn market fountain later in the century

Twenty years or so after the first macadamized roads were laid down, Frederick Easton of Oakley wrote out his specification and estimate for the High Street job. The stretch to be resurfaced was from Weston’s Lane to the Quay and Easton proposed that the present paving should be broken up ‘and the stones cracked on the spot to a size not exceeding one Inch & a half in Diameter’. The road as far as the corn market was to slope at least six inches from the centre to the sides with new border stones for the gutters where necessary. The top layer of stones was to be carefully laid ‘at the rate of Eight yards in every perch and to have at least one yard of clean sand mixed with it’. From the corner of the corn market to the Quay, the road (being narrower) would slope not more than 3 inches from the centre to the sides. The corn market was ‘to be curved and formed to the pleasure of the Surveyor’ and there were some adjustments such as lowering the road near Morcom’s house about 6 inches and eliminating a dip near Fish Street (now Castle Street). The cost for the whole job, ‘to be performed in a workman like manner and to the satisfaction of the Surveyor’ was £140.

If the present road works have caused some inconvenience, imagine the situation of the High Street residents and shop-owners in the 1840s. The road in front of their premises was to be torn up, presumably by a team of men with pickaxes and then the area would become a stone breaking yard with men hammering away all day long to reduce the stones to the size of small pebbles. How long they and their customers would have to put up with the disruption, dust, mud and noise is anyone’s guess.

Today the process of breaking up the road surface is much more streamlined as I discovered the day I saw the beast at its work. Hitching itself up on its tracks it manoeuvred into place and then with an unseen claw, started carving away the surface of the road with amazing speed, sending the broken fragments of tarmac up its conveyor belt neck into a truck moving slowly in front. No pickaxes, shovels or wheelbarrows needed. As I understand, this creature is called a road planer or as I like to call it, planersaurus.

Roller and paver on Longfleet Road

To resurface to road, the paver is brought into action. These square tarry machines move forward at a snail’s pace, emitting steam and leaving a trail of sticky black tarmac behind them. The amazing thing is how such cumbersome vehicles manage to avoid grids and manhole covers so skilfully. Then the rollers are deployed to compress and smooth the final surface. The truth is of course that the machines are operated by men as skilled at their different jobs as the workmen of the 1840s. Nevertheless it was somehow reassuring to see a few awkward sections that the vehicles could not reach being tended by men with wheelbarrows, long-handled shovels and hand rollers.

Jenny

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The Physician’s Art and the Surgeon’s Skill

Hearing about surgical techniques and medical treatment in the 1600s can be fascinating – from the distant viewpoint of the 21st century. It must have been a very different story to be a patient at the time.

In advance of a forthcoming talk on the subject at Poole Museum (Wednesday 20th September at 7.30) here is a short taster:

https://poolemuseumsociety.wordpress.com

 

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Poole’s Ghost Walls

Scraps of evidence about Poole’s ancient defences still exist in the town’s archives and also in the street pattern and place names, although mysteries still remain. Find out more at: http://poolemuseumsociety.wordpress.com

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Gold, Oak and Adventure

gold-lozaage-flikrNews of a few current happenings at Poole Museum might cheer the gloomy days of winter. The first is a free talk at the Museum on 25th February at 2.00pm by David Dawson of the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Gold from the Time of Stonehenge will outline the story of the World Heritage Site and its ritual landscape and feature the remarkable craftsmanship of objects found in the burials of chieftains, important women and priests who used the area for their ceremonies. Many of the objects discussed are on display at the Wiltshire Museum, home of the best Bronze Age collections in Britain. Booking is essential. To secure your place, please contact: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk and search under Poole.

Books for Boys: Heroism, Empire and Adventure at the Dawn of the First World War is a new exhibition running at the Museum until Sunday 23rd April which celebrates a golden age of books for children in the decades leading up to the war. In particular, it considers the influence of the stories of the time on the young men who so readily volunteered in 1914. There is also a special event for World Book Day on 3rd March. For more details see: http://www.poolemuseum.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions .

mermanLastly – it’s back! The rudder of the Swash Channel wreck has returned to Poole from its conservation process in York and is now installed in the Museum. I would like to say it’s impossible to miss but actually that’s exactly what I did, wandering past it with my mind on something else. The massive piece of oak stands on the ground floor near the entrance, opposite the log boat. With a cross section of about 48cm x 34cm and a height of 4m to 5m, its top is above first floor level. Also on display nearby is a carving of a merman from above one of the gun ports of the vessel. This is a strangely androgynous figure with the body of a mermaid and the head of a man with beard, moustache and helmet, just one of a number of carvings retrieved from the wreck site.

rudder-head-1Looking down at the rudder from the first floor you get a better impression of the sheer size of the vessel, and yet this is only a section of the piece. The whole rudder is nearly twice as tall at over 8m. The most striking feature, however, is the larger than life-sized carved head on the top. The face is of a man of middle years, bold and tough, with the flamboyant moustache and long curls of the period and his eyes rolled upwards as if scanning the sails and the sky. It’s tempting to think that it might be the portrait of a real person, perhaps the Dutch owner of the ship, revealed once more after lying on the bottom of the sea, staring blindly out for nearly 400 years.

For more about the ship, see: https://poolemuseumsociety.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/poole-and-the-swash-channel-wreck/

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Poole Plaques – How Unfortunate was Monmouth?

alcatraz-plaqueThe number of information plaques in Poole has multiplied recently, giving  speaker, Steve Roberts, quite a challenge in tackling the subject at his talk on 15th February at Poole Museum. The latest crop of bright blue discs adds to the many types and styles of plaques already in existence. In fact the more you look, the more you find. They are mounted on walls and buildings, set into the pavement, on posts and plinths, indoors and outdoors. Some are made of stone, some of metal, ceramic tiles, wood or plastic. A purist might wish that they were all of one style but I think that would be a shame because the style of the plaque says as much about the time they were put up as the subject they are commemorating.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome are consciously antique in style, like the one recording the visit of Charles II in 1665 or the one on the old library. Others are contemporary like the tiled ‘Welcome to Poole’ signs and the decorative plaques round the walls of the Civic Centre which evoke the 1930s. The oldest one I could find is the one on the Guildhall which presumably dates from 1761 and is very much of its period which we are told was during ‘the mayoralty of George Wefton Efquire’. One or two are hard to read like the Sea Music sign which I believe is due to be splendidly restored.  The Overlord plaque on the Custom House is classic and restrained while the 1994 plaque further down the Quay also commemorating D-Day is abstract and artistic.

antelope-plaqueWording on the signs is also diverse and interesting. Some are technical ‘. . note the eye-bolt terminals’ or rather convoluted ‘. . . which formerly ran through this point in a direction slightly north of west to the shore.’ There are unexpected nuggets of information: ‘. . . these 83 foot boats, made entirely of wood . .’ or ‘. . . the crew was taken by horse brake to their station at Sandbanks, which is now the site of the Royal Motor Yacht Club’. One plaque is in Latin and another quotes from a document dating from 1579. Some are poetical: ‘. . . a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace’ or religious ‘. . . suffered six months’ imprisonment for conscience sake’. Some express themselves in a way we would not choose today: ‘. . . devoted to the use of the poor for 500 years’ and some allow a little partisan feeling to creep in: ‘King Charles II and unfortunate Duke of Monmouth . . .’.

Mixed bag or not, the streets of Poole are richer for their plaques and I am looking forward to finding out more about them. The talk is at 7.30 pm and all are welcome. (£2 to non-members of the Poole Museum Society).

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Quiz Solution

How far did you get with the answers to the quiz? Here is the solution and I hope it all works!

Connections

  1. Bus routes from Poole and their destinations.
  2. Four Marys: Mary Anning (fossil hunter) / Lady Mary Bankes (defender of Corfe Castle) / Mary Llewellin (first female mayor of Poole) / Mary Spencer Watson (sculptor of Dunshay).
  3. Inaccurate place names: Isle of Purbeck (not an island) / Maiden Castle (not a castle) / Luckford lake (not a lake) / Nine Barrow Down (has more than 9 barrows).
  4. Shopping centres: Castlepoint / Dolphin Centre / Sovereign Centre / Brewery Square.

conns-sequs

Sequences

  1. Christopher Spurrier, 1816 (owners of Upton House in reverse date order).
  2. Crawford (Tarrant villages in sequence eg. Tarrant Rawston, Tarrant Rushton etc.).
  3. Falkland Square (eg.) (Places and buildings named after national events in successive centuries).
  4. Picture of house boat (eg.) (Market Street / Street light / Lighthouse / House ?).

Connecting Wall

  1. GORSE DODDER LING BRACKEN (heathland plants)
  2. THICKFURZE HAM HAVEN TOTTENHAM (old forms of local place names: Heckford, Hamworthy, Sandbanks, Tatnam).
  3. FLAKE JIGGER QUINTAL TRAIN (Newfoundland salt-cod trade terms: a flake was a platform for drying cod, a jigger was a weighted fish hook, a quintal was a measure of salt fish, about a hundredweight and train was train oil or cod liver oil.
  4. WOOD POUND HENGIST BAD (add  …bury to get four ancient sites, Woodbury, Poundbury etc.)

wall

Missing Vowels

  1. Mottos: Who’s Afear’d? / Ad Morem Villae de Poole / Pulchritudo et Salubritas / For Fidelity and Freedom.
  2. Live entertainment: The air show / Poole Pirates / Beach polo / Boo Bamboo.
  3. Reading matter: Daily Echo / (A) good book / Poole Advertiser / social media.
  4. Poole pub crawl: Angel / Butler and Hops / Bermuda Triangle / Blue Boar.

Jenny

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Easy Peasy or Google Buster? Clues by order of the Quiz Wizard

WizardDid you find the Christmas quiz ridiculously easy or fiendishly hard? I must say that by the time it was compiled I no longer had any idea which it might be. Anyway, I have had notification from the Chief Christmas Quiz Wizard that I must issue some clues to help anyone whose quizzing faculties have been weakened by turkey, pudding, chocolate or alcoholic beverages. So here are the clues and in line with the pantomime season they are of course in rhyme. Sorry about that!

  • My connections to unravel
  • Choose a public form of travel.
  • Try the shops in each location.
  • Give four ladies admiration,
  • But these local places rated
  • You might find not quite as stated.
  • Sequences their clues deliver
  • Following the winding river,
  • Old events commemorated,
  • Owners of a mansion, dated,
  • Phrases over-lapped deduced
  • And the final clue produced.
  • In the wall, four names discover
  • And their modern forms recover.
  • All around, four more are growing
  • With some salt-cod terms worth knowing.
  • Use the final four remaining –
  • Buried, ancient sites obtaining.

Enlightened or further mystified? Some or all answers to Jenny at j.oliver48@btinternet.com . Answers will be supplied next week. Happy New Year.

Jenny

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