Monday, 11 November 2013


Nowadays we think nothing of jumping into the car, onto a bus or train, or travelling to distant parts by sea or air.   It was not always so and some oddities remind us of man’s efforts
in the furtherance of travel :



The  Father  of  Aviation


Sir George Caley  (1773 – 1857), of Brompton-by-Sawdon near Scarborough in North Yorkshire, has been described as  The  Father  of  Aviation  and with good cause.   It is a little known fact that the world’s first aeroplane flight took place in Brompton Dale in the mid 19th century, and the plaudits go to Sir George, who had discovered that the old idea of flapping wings was of no use at all.  He decided that there must be a flat plane which depended on wind pressure and the angle of the plane’s surface, and his subsequent design boasted all the refinements of the modern aeroplane with the exception of wing flaps.   His prototype was tested by his protesting coachman when he reluctantly piloted the craft in 1852 and he is quoted as having said, ‘ Please Sir George, I wish to give notice.  I was hired to drive, not to fly.’   Sir George later designed a wheeled undercarriage and the first moveable tail.

A plaque on the wall of his workshop at Brompton Hall recalls this visionary pioneer.

The Spitfire
Immortalised in the WW2 Battle of Britain the Spitfire fighter aeroplane is an important part of our history and many of them have been preserved in various aviation museums, but not all of us have one in our garden. Take a stroll down  The Glebe, a suburban street in Moffat in Scotland, and you will be amazed to see such an aircraft in a front garden.
It is actually a full scale replica of a MK1X Spitfire PT462.
The original was built at Castle Bromwich in 1944 and joined 253 Squadron for service in the Eastern Mediterranian. It is now with the Dragon Spitfire Flight in North Wales.

The three wise monkeys don't look too impressed.




The  first  flying  priest

In May 1936 a German Zeppelin, The Hindenburg, was on a flight from America to Germany when it skimmed low over the West Yorkshire town of Keighley.  A parcel was then thrown overboard and landed in the High Street.   Two boys retrieved it and found the contents to be, a bouquet of carnations,  a small silver cross and a letter on official note paper dated May 22 1936.   The letter read :

‘ To the finder of this letter, please deposit these flowers and cross on the grave of

my dear brother, Lt. Franz Shulte, 1 Garde Regt, zu fuss, POW in Skipton cemetery

in Keighley near Leeds.   Many thanks for your kindness.

John P. Shulte, the first flying priest'.
In 1919 Lt Shulte was one of a number  of German POW’s who died during a Spanish‘Flue epidemic at Keighley War Hospital whilst awaiting repatriation and they were buried at Morton Cemetery, Bradford Road, Keighley. In 1961 these remains were transferred to a new German cemetery at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.
POW plot in Morton Cemetery


The  Stagecoach

An old stagecoach has been restored and stands outside the old coaching inn Tyn-y-coed at Capel Curig on the Holyhead Road through Snowdonia to remind us of a former uncomfortable and often dangerous method of travel.
Two stagecoach drivers are remembered on gravestone epitaphs :
A gravestone in the churchyard of St Mary at Haxby near York, bears the inscription:
In affectionate memory of
Late of York.  Died 21st June 1869
Aged 72 years.
Known as ‘Rash Tom’. He was the driver of the last stagecoach to run from Edinburgh to York.
William Rudston Faulconer of Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire,  known as ‘Ruddy’, was a stagecoach driver on the London to Brighton run in the late 19th century.  He died in 1928 and was buried in the churchyard at Langleybury close to the A41.   His gravestone is an old milestone bearing his epitaph :
In loving memory of
Of Abbots Langley
Who entered into rest December 27 1928 Aged 79 years.
( 2 Cor.11 26 )
The Mail Coach pillar
A memorial pillar, erected in 1841, to be seen in a lay by on the A40 some 3 miles east of Llandovery in Wales recalls an accident involving a mail coach in 1835. The inscription reads :
This pillar is called Mail coach pillar erected as a caution to mail
coach drivers to keep from intoxication and in memory of the
Gloucester& Carmarthen mail coach which was driven by
EDWARD JENKINS on the 19 day of December in the year
1835 who was intoxicated at the time & drove the mail on the
wrong side of the road & going at full speed or gallop met a
cart & permitted the leader to turn short round to the right hand
& went down over the precipice 121 feet where at the bottom near
the river it came against an ash tree when the coach was dashed
into several pieces.
The inscription goes on the name the passengers on the coach but does not say what became of them and the driver. This memorial is somewhat damaged and in poor condition.
 The mail coach pillar
The Postie Stone
A memorial stone situated beside  Cross Burn on the eastern side of the A701 road in Dumfriesshire, some 9 km north of Moffat commemorates two men, the driver and guard of the Dumfries to Edinburgh Mail Coach.
The story is told on  two similar grave stones in the old graveyard at Moffat.  The first epitaph reads :

'In memory of John Goodfellow, Driver of the Edinburgh Mail Coach, who perished on Ericstane in a snow storm 1st February 1831 in kindly assisting his fellow sufferer the Guard to carry forward the Mail Bags.'

and the second one reads :

'Sacred to the memory of James McGeorge. Guard of the Dumfries and Edinburgh Royal Mail, who unfortunately perished at the age of 47 years, near Tweedshaw after most strenuous exertions in performance of this duty during that memorable snowstorm 1st February 1831.'

Apparently the storm was so severe that they freed the horses and leaving the coach, the two men struggled doggedly forward on foot carrying the mail bags towards The Tweedshaws Inn at Tweedsmuir where they would normally have made a routine horse change. Whilst the freed horses survived, the two men did not and they succumbed to the awful conditions.


The  Guide  Over  the  Sands
The curiously named  Guide Over the Sands Inn at Allithwaite in Cumbria, overlooking the northern part of Morecambe Bay, reminds us of the ancient routes which actually cross over the wide bay when the tide is out.  Before the advent of more efficient transport, it was quicker for people to travel that way than overland.  However, the quicksands, shifting fogs and sudden tides, made the crossing of these routes a dangerous business and  The Queen’s Official Guides to the Sands of Morecambe Bay  were appointed to ensure the safe passage of travellers.  It is still possible to make such walks to this day, but always with a guide!    An old signpost at nearby Cartmel shows :  Lancaster over-sands 15 miles  &  Ulverston over-sands 7 miles.


The divided motorway

RIPPONDEN near Halifax in West Yorkshire is a large former textile village high on the Pennines close to the Lancashire border and situated on the A58 road this has long been one of the tortuous routes between the two counties. In fact the Romans used it, witnessed by the preserved Roman Road at nearby Blackstone Edge and it was also a well used pack-horse route before the advent of metalled roads.

Traffic relief came to Ripponden and the surrounding area in the 1970’s when the M62 motorway across the Pennines was opened, but it was not such a relief to all the residents.
At the time, Ken & Beth Wild lived and farmed in these remote Pennine Hills and unfortunately their house, which was a built in 1737, was directly on the line of the motorway. The Wild’s resisted the proposed demolition of their property and the east and west carriageways of the motorway had to be separated. Thus the farmstead was left in situe creating a small island with traffic speeding along both sides as it does today, with access to their farm land through tunnels under the motorway.



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