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Osbornes witch swimming

A Hertfordshire witch-swimming

One day in 1745 in the hamlet of Gubblecote, near Tring in Hertfordshire, an elderly woman named Ruth Osborne went to beg for some buttermilk at a local farm. She lived in poverty with her husband, John, neither of them able to get much work or support from their neighbours. The Osbornes were shunned for the dual reasons that they were thought to be both witches and Jacobites (1745 also happened to be the year of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rising). Read More

Noose & Gibbet Inn Sheffield

Death of a highwayman

The gaffer sits by a lantern with his tools:
hammer; rivets; hood; a pot of tar.
He anoints the face with a thick brush,
stroking against stubble, sealing mouth

and nostrils. It’s like caulking a boat
he says. He dips the brush in,
sweeps down the eyelids. A further
thick layer all over and he’s done.

They lift him again and put him in the iron,
snapping a finger and flaying some skin
from the thumb. Finally he’s in,
the rivets hammered home.

(‘His Body is Put Up at Dead of Night’ – Rob Hindle)

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Barbican calthemites

The Barbican endures

Brutalist architecture mostly leaves me cold or repulsed but I’ve always had a liking, verging on an affection, for the Barbican Estate, perhaps because I worked there for six years and got to know its vastness, its labyrinths, and its hidden byways. I’ve always thought that if there was one structure in London that would survive nuclear war or natural catastrophe it would be the Barbican. Read More

Norwegian church Cardiff

Norwegian wood

A shipbroker is a kind of enormous shopkeeper for ships, and by far the most important item he supplies to them is the fuel on which the ship’s engines run. In those days fuel meant only one thing. It meant coal. There were no oil-burning motorships on the high seas at that time. All ships were steamships and these old steamers would take on hundreds and often thousands of tons of coal in one go. To the shipbrokers, coal was black gold.
My father and his new-found friend, Mr Aadnesen, understood all this very well. It made sense they told each other, to set up their shipbroking business in one of the great coaling ports of Europe. Which was it to be? The greatest coaling port in the world at that time was Cardiff, in South Wales. So off to Cardiff they went, these ambitious young men, carrying with them little or no luggage.

(Boy – Roald Dahl)

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