A (not so) Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham. Part Three

June 16, 2017

 

 

 

Aviation cartoon in ‘The Sphere’ 8th July 1911, showing the dangerous nature with which observers regarded the flying craze.

Returning to May 1911, the aviators based at Shoreham were keeping busy flying all across the south coast, testing their machines, honing their aviation skills, and entertaining the local populace. Of these aviators, judging by the news reports of the time, Gilmour and Morison were among the busiest of these young men. Going through the old newspaper archives, it seems barely a day goes by without one aviator or another taking up column inches in the publications around the country. Britain had aviation fever, and any news of these intrepid airmen was eagerly digested.

Douglas Graham Gilmour, aviator, based for a time at Shoreham Aerodrome.

Of these two aviators, Gilmour was blazing a trail which would result in a bill being rushed through parliament by none other than a certain Winston Churchill, to “provide for the protection of the public against dangers arising from the navigation of aircraft”. On the 1st April, 1911, a number of aviators had taken the opportunity to fly over the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, reported in the Reading Mercury, 8th April, 1911:-

‘Huge crowds and several aviators witnessed the annual race between Oxford and Cambridge from Putney to Mortlake on Saturday.’ Further on it writes:-

‘The race was accompanied for the first time in its history by an aeroplane, which circled over the rival crews at a height of about 300ft. There were several other aeroplanes over the course. The aviators who had a view of the boat race from their aeroplanes were, Mr. Graham-White, who carried a passenger on his biplane; M. Hubert (biplane), and Messrs. G. Hamel, C.H. Gresswell, and Prier (monoplanes). These all started from Hendon. Mr. D.G. Gilmour, flew from Brooklands over the course.’

The Framlingham Weekly News, Saturday 8th April, 1911, reported:-

‘The presence of the aeroplanes pleased everybody, and one aviator, accompanied by a passenger who took several photographs while in full flight, responded to the hearty cheers of the huge crowd at Putney by waving his hands’

Further on it describes Douglas Graham-Gilmour’s exploits:-

‘The Bristol biplane, driven by Mr. Gilmour, followed the boat race from start to finish. In great circling sweeps Mr. Gilmour crossed and recrossed the river, and in this way kept fairly level with the crews, although he was travelling at about thirty five miles an hour. “I wanted to see the race” said Mr. Gilmour in an interview, “so I went straight down to Brooklands, jumped into my machine, and came right away. I was in such a hurry that I had no time to fill up my petrol tank. I had four gallons, and that lasts about an hour. I should not have come down at all but for that. Yes it is a novel way of seeing the boat race, and I was the only aviator to follow the crews all the way up to Mortlake. It is far the best way to see the struggle, and I was able to follow all the changes of position easily. The distance between the two boats can be gauged as easily as between two points on a map. It is a curious site to see the swing of the crews and the sweep of the oars from above, and it was the dark blue of the Oxford oars that distinguished the two boats.”

 

On May 15th, Police Inspector Marsh of Shoreham was given the task of arresting Gilmour at Shoreham Aerodrome, to face charges relating to the death of a young boy in a motor accident. Having been bailed, he flew from Shoreham to Salisbury to face trial on the 26th May, circling Salisbury Cathedral on his arrival. After evidence, he was acquitted by the jury after just ten minutes of deliberation. This was also the day that Churchill tried to have his ‘Aerial Navigation Bill’ rushed through Parliament.

Between the arrest and the trial, Gilmour flew from Shoreham to Hove, reported in ‘The Scotsman’ Monday 22nd May 1911, it states:-

‘Mr Gilmour’s Exciting Experience.

Mr Gilmour, the aviator, paid a surprise visit to Brighton yesterday, flying from Shoreham and landing on Hove Gardens. Mr Gilmour had an exciting experience during the flight. When well out to sea the engine stopped, and the machine began to drop, but fortunately the aviator was able to set the engine in motion again before the aeroplane hit the water. Later in the day Mr Gilmour, accompanied by a passenger, flew back to Shoreham Aerodrome. Thousands of people watched the flights.’

Douglas Graham-Gilmour at Hove lawns. May 21st 1911

 

The Great Aviation Race, June 1911.

Otherwise known as the ‘Four Kingdoms Race’, and the ‘European Circuit’, this was the biggest air race to date, with total prize money of £20,000, starting in Paris, and finishing at Hendon. Only two English aviators were entered, O.C.Morison, and Mr. James Valentine, both flying French built aeroplanes, although Morison appears not to have actually started. The Courier reported on Thursday 15th June 1911:-

‘Sixty aviators will start from Vincennes, near Paris, on Sunday morning next to compete in the great aerial race across France, Belgium, Holland and England, known as the European Circuit. The course is via Rheims, Liege, Verloo, Utrecht, Breda, Brussels, Roubais, and Calais to London. The competitors are due to arrive at Calais on June 26th. On June 27 they leave Calais early in the morning and fly across the channel to Dover, thence to the Shoreham Aviation ground at Brighton, and finally to the London Aerodrome at Hendon. There they will be met by a distinguished committee, and entertained on the following day in London. On the 29th they start for the final stage of the journey from Hendon to Paris; proceeding via Brighton and Dover.’

 

18th June 1911 Start of the European Circuit. Stage one, Paris to Liege.

R.Dallas Brett sets the scene in his, History of British Aviation 1908-1914, page 78:-

‘It was an imposing array of forty-three aeroplanes that lined up in three rows at Vincennes, ready for the start at 6 a.m. Since midnight a vast crowd, estimated at more than half a million people, had waited in driving rain to see the departure. A guard of 6000 soldiers and police had all their work cut out to keep control.’

Further on he continues:-

‘The perilous nature of the contest was shown up in terrible fashion on the first day. Before the control at Rheims was reached, three pilots had been killed and another badly injured.’

Flight magazine of  24th June 1911, writes:-

‘Altogether 43 of the 52 competitors who figured on the official programme were started, and 21 got through without trouble to Rheims, the “halfway” control for the day. Unfortunately, a fatality occurred during the starting operations to Lemartin on one of the Bleriots. He had made a good start, and was heading off to Joinville at a height of about 80 metres, when the machine seemed to suddenly collapse and fall to the ground, the aviator being so terribly injured that he died very shortly after admission to the hospital. Almost at the same time that this accident occurred came the news that Lieut. Princeteau, one of the officers who had received permission to follow the course, had met with a fatal accident while starting from Issy for Rheims. He had only risen to a height of about 30 metres, when apparently the carburettor of his machine caught fire, and in the sudden landing rendered necessary the monoplane capsized. The wrecked machine at once burst into flames and before anything could be done the unfortunate officer was burned to death. The third fatality occurred at Chateau Thierry, where Landron met his death in somewhat similar fashion to Lieut. Princeteau. The machine fell from a great height and the wreckage immediately burst into flames, making it impossible to rescue the pilot.’

Tabuteau flying at Dover, European Circuit 1911

Arriving at Calais on Thursday 29th June, the competitors were told that the stage across the channel to Dover had been postponed until first thing Monday morning, which allowed the stragglers to catch up. Flight magazine continues its coverage:-

‘At four o’clock exactly, as soon as the starting rockets were fired, Vedrines was in the air, and shaping his course by the great arrow laid down at Les Baraques, he soon disappeared out to sea. At three minute intervals he was followed by Vidart, “Beaumont”, Kimmerling, Gibert, Garros, Renaux, Train, Tabuteau, Barra, and Valentine. After the last of the aviators had gone, the crowd still remained at the arodrome awaiting news of the cross channel flyers, and at six o’clock a message was received by wireless telegraphy that ten of the aviators had arrived.’

 

The Courier, Tuesday 4th July 1911 reported the arrivals at Dover:-

Aviators Make Safe Passages

Leaving Calais at four o’clock yesterday morning, and subsequently at four minute intervals, the competitors engaged in the ‘Standard Journal Europe Aviation Circuit’ made safe and speedy passages across the channel to Dover, from whence, with a stop at Shoreham Aerodrome, the journey to Hendon Aviation Ground, in the north of London, was to be made.’

It seems amusing now, but was doubtless deadly serious at the time, but to be sure the aviators would find their way on the course, as stated in The Sphere, 24th June 1911:-

‘The organisers of the forthcoming European aviation circuit have sought the assistance of the Automobile Association and Motor Union in connection with the work of marking the course to be taken by the competitors in the English portion of the circuit. The route is chosen from Dover to Shoreham and from Shoreham to Hendon. The route will be marked by a series of large white arrows, 72 ft. in length by 12 ft. in width, placed at intervals on the ground in conspicuous places; smaller arrows, 36 ft. in length, will be used intermediately. Captive balloons are also being utilised at certain points along the route.’

(Authors note:- The imp in me wonders if they had to hurriedly turn those arrows round ready for the trip back after the last competitor had passed on his way to Shoreham?)

Cartoon in ‘The Sphere’, 8th July 1911, depicting the arrows laid out for the contestants in the European Circuit

 

Preparations at the Brighton-Shoreham Aerodrome

In the same edition of Flight magazine, (Saturday 1st July 1911), which announced the official opening of the Brighton-Shoreham Aerodrome at Lancing, it reports on the work carrying on to ready the aerodrome for the first arrivals of the European Circuit race:-

‘Owing to the very bad weather this week, nothing has been done in the way of flying, though the inventor of the Valkyrie, (Horatio Barber), has been down here all week with a machine waiting for the first reasonable opportunity to get into the air. Although nothing has been done in the way of flying, great progress has been made on the ground itself in preparation for the large crowd which is expected to witness the arrival of the aviators in the great European Circuit on Friday this week. During the last few days the grand stand and ten new hangars have been completed. Refreshment booths are in the course of erection, and the band stand is nearly complete. Visitors to the aerodrome during the week, therefore, will be well catered for; they will be able to see exhibition flights every day by the Valkyrie, and the arrival and departure of those flying in the European Circuit, both on their way from Europe and on the return journey to France, which is down for tomorrow (Sunday).’

 

 First in at Shoreham on the European Circuit: 7th and 8th Stages

Only two weeks after the official opening of the Brighton-Shoreham Aerodrome, it has the prestigious honour of being one of the control point stops in the world’s greatest air race to date, not once, but twice, as the race continues up to Hendon, then returns on the way back, back across the channel, before the finish line at Paris.

The Courier, Tuesday 4th July 1911, relays the latest race details:-

‘There was great interest and excitement at Dover, where people were astir at an early hour, and each arrival was the signal for outbursts of cheering. Leaving again at 6 a.m, Vedrines was first in at Shoreham at 07.16, and all the other competitors, with the exception of Train, who, losing his bearings, injured his machine in a descent at the village of Heighton, had reached Shoreham by 07.55.’

Train at Newhaven after experiencing problems on the European Circuit, July 3rd, 1911

Aviator, Monsieur Train, (identified by his racing number, 67), at Newhaven after experiencing problems on the European Circuit, July 3rd, 1911

The Aberdeen Press and Journal, Tues 4th July, 1911, picks up the story:-

‘Vedrines led off in the stage to Hendon at 07.33, and, was the first to receive the congratulations of the officials and the general public at Hendon, in which there was a large sprinkling of the French element. He effected a graceful landing at 08.34. Vidart, who left Shoreham at 07.43, was the next in at 09 o’clock. Kimmerling, who departed at 07.50, followed at 09.04. Altogether, seven completed the journey yesterday morning.’

Regarding the aviators that had been held up on this short stage, it remarks:-

Mishaps to Airmen

Tabuteau lost his way, and came in from the north, and in addition to Train, Barra, Gibert, and Renaux carrying a passenger, met with minor mishaps. Barra had to descend at Heathfield, near Eastbourne, and eventually arrived at Shoreham at 5.45 p.m. He left again at 6.25, and ultimately reached Hendon at 7.40 p.m. Gibert, who won the trophy for the fastest cross channel flight, 37 minutes odd, was found in a hayfield near Dorking. The machine was removed to Holmwood Common, which he left at 5.35 p.m. and gained the goal at Hendon at 6 p.m. Renaux, who had to come down at Bodiham Park, just over the Kentish border, obtained mechanical assistance from Shoreham, and took two hours and a quarter in the flight from there to Hendon, which he reached at 8.33 p.m. still carrying his passenger, M. Senouques. Train, the only competitor failing to finish, sent a message from Newhaven saying it would take him a day at least to repair his machine, damaged by collision with a wire fence at Heighton.  Renaux was cordially greeted by the few remaining spectators at Hendon, among whom was his wife in a state of considerable anxiety.’

French aviator, Barra’s, biplane awaiting repairs at Heathfield, Sussex. 3rd July, 1911

 

 

 Meanwhile, over the Thames:-

On the 5th July, Douglas Graham-Gilmour flew his Bleriot monoplane up and down the Thames, causing a sensation which filled column inches throughout Britain and beyond, the first time an aviator had dared to try such a thing. Two days later, he flew down the Thames over the Henley Regatta course, The London Daily News, Saturday 8th July, reported the incident:-

‘-there were a few moments of great excitement when a Bristol biplane appeared over the course between the two races. It was manoeuvred beautifully, descending so that the starting wheels touched the water and sent up a shower of spray. It rose again, and the cheering at least equalled that given to the closest race of the day. Mr. Graham-Gilmour is believed to be the aviator.’

Gilmour’s daring display was considered a step too far, and brought him in to inevitable conflict with the Royal Aero Club, who hauled him before their committee and issued him with a flying ban for one month. This proved a most unfortunate situation for the popular aviator, as it precluded him from taking part in the coming ‘Circuit of Great Britain’ air race, organised by Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail, which carried a prize of £10,000.

There was understandable concern regarding the possible dangers of aviation, especially where crowds were gathered. As recently as 21st May, 1911, the French War Minister, Monsieur Bertreaux was killed by an aeroplane whose pilot had lost control of his machine. ‘The Daily News, Monday 22nd May, 1911, reports the scene:-

‘The tragic event occurred at the aviation ground Issy-les-Molineux, where huge crowds had gathered from the early hours to witness the start of the Paris-Madrid flying race. M.Train, one of the aviators, was seen to be in difficulties from the moment he rose from the ground. He had turned back in the direction of the sheds, and was endeavouring to avoid a squadron of cuirassiers who had been clearing the course, when he lost control and dashed in to the Ministerial group of sightseers with appalling results. M. Bertreaux, the Minister of War, was killed instantly, his arm being completely severed. M. Monis sustained a double fracture of the leg, and is believed to have received internal injuries.’

 

The European Circuit race finale

The competitors were now closing in on the final stages of the Four Kingdoms/European Circuit air race, flying from Hendon to the control point at Shoreham, before heading east to Dover, and crossing the channel and on to Paris for the finish line. The Evening Telegraph and Post, Wednesday 5th July, writes:-

‘From a very early hour this morning a stream of motors and other vehicles conveyed spectators to Hendon Aviation Ground to witness the start of the ten competitors in their return flight via Shoreham and Dover to Paris.’

Further on it continues:-

‘As six o’clock approached the aeroplanes were brought out, and practically as the hour struck Beaumont got away in fine style. Garros, Vidart, and Vedrines followed in quick succession. Then came Gibert, whose red coloured machine had a striking appearance. Renaux, the only competitor to carry a passenger was next, and apparently found his burden no obstacle to his progress. Tabuteau, Valentine, and Barra got off in the order named, and thus nine men had started within half an hour. There was some little delay owing to Kimmerling’s machine requiring attention, but the last of the ten starters got away by a quarter to seven/- Vedrine Leads– The order had changed by the time Shoreham was reached, Vedrines being the first to arrive at 06.56, and the others arriving in the following order:- Garros, Beaumont, Vidart, Tabuteau, Renaux, Kimmerling, and Barra. Valentine Missing– There was no news of Valentine at Shoreham up to 08.30, by which hour all the other competitors had left for Dover./ Vedrines Wins £200 Prize– The prize of  £200 for the fastest flight between Hendon and Shoreham was won by Vedrines.’

World’s first air freight

Aviator Horatio Barber made the news for the inaugural transport by air of goods- ‘The Sphere’ 22nd July, 1911, writes:-

‘Brighton and Hove’s people have had the distinction of witnessing what is believed to be the first time in the world’s history that aerial transport has been accomplished, the flight having been made on July 4 from Shoreham to Hove. Notwithstanding that a large number of people were disappointed at the flight not taking place on the 3rd, which was due to the absence of a searchlight arranged to be in Marine Park, Hove, to show the aviator where he should land, hundreds of people assembled in the park in the evening to watch the flight and descent. They were not disappointed either. The aeronaut was Mr. Barber of Hendon, and the novel and interesting exhibition was arranged in conjunction with the General Electric Company, LTD, of 67 Queen Victoria Street, London, E.C., Mr. Barber carrying on his powerful Valkyrie, type B, No.5, monoplane a consignment of Osram lamps for delivery to Messrs. Page and Miles, LTD, Western Road, Hove. Arrangements were to have been made to enable the monoplane to be illuminated with Osram lamps, but this was not carried out.’

Harold Barber 4th July, Osram lamps to Hove

European Circuit final stage, 7th July.

This race had highlighted how far ahead France were from Britain in aviation design, construction, and piloting, with James Valentine, the only Briton who actually started, and despite his valiant efforts to continue in the race, eventually gave up after encountering problems on the Hendon to Shoreham leg. So Britain’s only involvement at the final stage was Maurice Tabuteau, who was flying a Bristol biplane, built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, Ltd, at Filton, Gloucestershire. Flight magazine of 15th July, 1911, describes the Paris finish:-

‘At Vincennes there was another huge crowd, among whom was General Roques and several other highly placed Government officials. At half past eight an extra sharp eye detected a speck in the sky, while an expert ear caught the sound of the unmistakable hum of a Gnome motor. Within a few seconds the news had spread round the concourse, and the cry went up, “They are here!”. The next question was “who could it be” as the news of  Vedrine’s accident had come through, and it was realised he could not be the arrival. It only needed a few minutes, however, to bring the monoplane nearer in to view, for it to be seen that it was the Deperdussin monoplane, and of course piloted by Vidart. He landed at 8.37, and was at once carried shoulder high to the Deperdussin shed to the strain of the Marseillaise. There was then a delay of seven minutes before the arrival of Gibert, who it should be remembered is the only monoplanist who had completed the full distance on the one machine, whereas the others have changed their machines several times. The third to arrive was Garros, at 9.15, and then the others came in at fairly lengthy  intervals, “Beaumont” being fourth at 9.26.’

‘The overall winner was Andre Beaumont, with a total race time of 58 hours, 38 minutes, followed by Roland Garros*, on 62hrs, 17 mins, 3rd place was Vidart, on 73hrs, 32 mins, and Vedrines, who had led for much of the race, came in fourth with a time of 86hrs, 34 minutes, having damaged his machine while landing on the next to last leg. 

* (This was the Roland Garros whose name would be given to a rather famous tennis arena in Paris).

Beaumont wins the European Circuit 1911

Oscar Morison flies from Paris to Shoreham.

While the  worlds press followed the race around Europe, aviators elsewhere continued to push the boundaries of what could be achieved in their fragile looking aeroplanes, and O.C.Morison was one of these intrepid aviators. He had hoped to race his new Morane monoplane in the European Circuit, but it wasn’t ready in time, and actually picked it up from the factory in Paris just after the race had finished. ‘The Daily News’, Monday 10th July, 1911 reports:-

Paris to Shoreham in 5 Hours

A remarkable feat was accomplished by an English aviator on Saturday (8th July), Mr. O.C. Morison (one of the most successful flying men in this country) getting from Paris to Shoreham with only two brief stops, and setting up what must almost be a record. Mr. Morison showed considerable pluck, for he did not announce the attempt, and there was consequently no tugs or torpedo boats out to render assistance should he require it. In five hours the aeroplane covered 250 miles, giving the high rate of 50 miles an hour, and this included the stops. Mr. Morison started his monoplane at Paris shortly before noon, and averaged a mile a minute to Calais. Stopping just long enough to replenish his petrol tank, he went on straight for Dover, and mounted at a great speed to a height of nearly two thousand feet, seeming through the heat haze to be almost among the lower clouds. The channel was crossed in half an hour, and, passing over Dover Castle, Mr. Morison made straight for Eastbourne, and descended in a field there at ten minutes to four. A quarter of an hour was occupied in once more taking in petrol, the engine was again restarted, and just before five p.m, the machine descended at Shoreham.’

Coming up in part four:- Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail, offers £10,000 as a prize for the aviator that wins a Circuit of Britain race. Shoreham gets busy, more top aviators set up at the newly expanded facilities.

 

A Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham. Part Two

June 11, 2017

Harold Piffard and friends with his own designed and built hydroplane at Bungalow Town, Summer of 1911

 

1911

 

In the summer of 1911 Piff was back in Shoreham, but this time he used a large shed on the shingle peninsula known as ‘Bungalow Town’, on the beach front, near Ferry road. Thanks to fellow local history enthusiasts, Howard Porter and Roger Bateman, the bungalow has been identified as ‘Palghar’, and the shed they used to house his hydroplane, was the old Lifeboat House.

Piff’s next designs were forerunners of the seaplane, but the challenge now was to be able to ‘unstick’ from the sea. Flight magazine of 22nd July 1911 reports:-

Hydro-Aeroplane at Shoreham.

Mr Harold Piffard, who last year experimented at the Shoreham Aerodrome with an aeroplane, has now had another machine built, and this is fitted with airbags so that the experiments may be made over water. On Saturday evening Mr Piffard had it out on the sea at Shoreham for the first time, and although no flight was attempted, six people took their place on the machine and successfully tested its buoyancy. Motive power is provided by a 40-h.p. E.N.V. engine’

Piff, at the front, wearing the Boater hat, on Bungalow Town beach (Shoreham) with the latest hydroplane design. Summer 1911

 

A month later, Flight magazine of 19th August 1911 writes:-

Mr Piffard’s Hydroplane Capsizes.

After making one or two alterations to it, Mr Piffard had his hydroplane taken down to the sea at Shoreham on the 8th inst. Almost as soon as it was launched however, it capsized; but this was an emergency for which Mr Piffard and his assistants were well prepared, as they are all expert swimmers, and they soon had the machine ashore.’

Before Piff and his band of friends returned to carry on their hydroplane trials at Bungalow Town, on Shoreham beach, the nascent Shoreham Aerodrome had already become ever more popular with the British flying fraternity, with a number of aviators making it their base. 1911 was also turning out to be a ground breaking year for British aviation.

One of Harold Piffard’s hydroplane designs capsizes at Bungalow Town, Shoreham. August 1911

Earlier in 1911:-

Brooklands to Brighton Flight, Harry Preston get a Memento, 14th Feb

The Northern Daily Mail reported on Thursday 15th Feb, 1911, that Oscar Colin Morison flew his Blériot monoplane from Brooklands to Brighton, a distance of 40 miles, in 65 minutes the day previously. The flight would have been quicker had Morison not gone via Worthing, although he insisted, “there was not a hitch throughout the journey”. He had only intended to fly to Cobham, but as the weather was so fine, on arrival he phoned up Harry Preston, (owner of the Royal York, and Royal Albion, hotels), to let him know he would be landing in front of the Royal Albion that afternoon. Descending on to the beach between the Palace, and West Piers, he mistook the pebbles for sand, and his plane crumpled under him on landing, damaging the undercarriage and prop. No injury was incurred, but Harry ended up with the broken propeller hung up in his hotel smoking room as a memento of the landmark occasion. A reporter on the spot informed Morison that, “you are the first aviator to drop down on Brighton beach”, to which he replied, “So I am told. I have no particular impressions about the flight except that it has been a jolly fine trip” .

In Harry Preston’s book, ‘Leaves From My Unwritten Diary’ 1936, page 79, he recalls:-

“In my smoking room I have many air mementoes, among them a broken propeller. Oscar Morison gave it to me- he smashed it on Brighton beach, on an historic day in February, a quarter of a century ago, when he flew from Brooklands to Brighton”

He continues:-

“The intrepid aviator told me at luncheon at the Royal York that followed, that he would have made better time, only he had got off his line of flight. He was circling to land, when he noticed that there was only one pier, and he knew Brighton had two. “Wrong town,” said he, and flew along the shore line until he sighted a town with two piers. It was Worthing he had mistaken for Brighton. Air navigation was not quite what it is now’

This lunch at the Royal York had been quickly arranged by Harry as a member of the Sussex Motor Yacht Club, in Morison’s honour. Afterwards they presented the aviator with a silver cigarette case in memory of his historic flight.

Oscar Morison flies from Brooklands to Brighton to see Harry Preston. Feb 15th 1911

The Daily Graphic, Wednesday 1st March 1911, writes about Morison’s exploits, and his patronage of the new aerodrome at Shoreham:-

‘Brighton for the past week has been entertaining her first visitor to arrive by air, in the person of O.C. Morison, who safely landed  upon the beach at Kemptown after a surprise flight from Brooklands. The aviator is now stormbound, and his 50 h.p Gnome Bleriot is causing great interest among the visitors and residents who have inspected it in its temporary home in a local garage. When the present gale has blown itself out- and to judge by the “glass”, this will not be for some days- the Bleriot will be wheeled along the front to Hove lawns, and from this spot Mr Morison intends to fly to Brighton and Hove’s new aviation ground, where during the coming summer the town hopes to have the pleasure of receiving all the air’s conquerors.’

After repairs had been carried out, Morison took his Bleriot to Shoreham, on 7th March 1911 becoming the first aviator to fly in to the Aerodrome, from there, flying over to Lancing College at the invite of the Headmaster, Reverend Henry Thomas Bowlby. He put down on the College cricket field but the bowling green surface meant the plane hurried on a tad more than he expected, running the Bleriot in to a grass bank, breaking the elevator and thus rendering the machine temporarily inoperable. Morison put this opportunity to good use, showing the captive audience of schoolboys over the aeroplane, and the explaining the purpose of the controls. Given their former pupil, Piffard’s, exploits the year previous, a foundation of lasting aviation interest had surely now been cemented.

 

James Valentine sets up at Shoreham

With a new railway station having been built at Shoreham airport, called the ‘Bungalow Town Halt’, the previous October, Shoreham Aerodrome was now attracting aviators of distinction, among them, James Valentine, who, as the Daily Graphic, Weds 1st March, 1911, reports further on from the previous article:-

‘Mr Valentine, who flies a passenger carrying machine of his own design, has decided to make the new ground his headquarters, and during the summer will conduct a series of week-end trips between Brooklands and Brighton, a distance of 34 miles, via Leatherhead, Dorking, and Horsham. The railway line will make a splendid guide, and prevent any chance of the machine and its occupants arriving at some rival seaside resort by mistake. Mr Valentine’s spare time is to be given to perfecting a machine of English make which will land and rise from the sea, so that he could not have chosen a better ground for his work.’

 

The Brooklands to Brighton Race, 6th May

The Brighton beach landing had inspired Harry and his brother, Dick, (Hugh Richard Preston, who helped run the two hotels with Harry, the Royal York, and Royal Albion), to put up a prize for a race from Brooklands to Brighton via Shoreham as the turning point, on the 6th May 1911, a large balloon was attached to the Palace Pier acting as the finishing marker for the competing aviators. The proprietor of the Palace Pier, Mr Rosenthal, put up £80 for first prize, while Harry Preston put up £30 for second place. There was also a third prize of £20.

There were 8 entries for the race, but for various reasons only four aviators started, Graham Gilmour on a Bristol biplane with Gnome engine, Lieutenant Snowden-Smith on a Farman biplane with Gnome, Howard Pixton on an Avro D type biplane with a Green engine, and lastly, Gustav Hamel on a Bleriot monoplane with Gnome. It was a handicap race, with Gilmour starting first, followed by Snowden-Smith 4 minutes later, Pixton ought to have been next, but was at the time trying to win another prize, while Hamel took off 12 minutes after Gilmour, who was already out of sight, and Snowden-Smith was disappearing in to the haze ahead. Pixton got going 8 minutes later, having completed his flight with passenger, competing for the Manville Prize.

The four aviators missing from the starting line up were:-

J Ballantyne (Farman biplane)

Mr Gordon England (Bristol biplane)

Mr C.H.Cresswell (Bleriot monoplane) Got lost in fog flying from Hendon to Brooklands.

Mr Hubert (Farman biplane) Also lost in fog flying to Brooklands.

 

Interest in the race had drawn crowds along the route, The Globe, 6th May, 1911, reported:-

 

“All the competitors made two circuits of the course before heading for Brighton. There was great enthusiasm among the spectators, and there were high hopes that a fine race would ensue. – Along the route- Holmwood (three miles from Dorking)- Four aeroplanes passed here at 3.40. Large crowds had assembled in the town, and loudly cheered as the machines passed. Lancing.- Three aeroplanes have passed here heading for Shoreham. Shoreham.- Mr Hamel passed here at 3.50. Another machine, a biplane at 4.7.”

 

The ’machine’ at 4.7 would have been Lieut. Snowden-Smith.

Spectators at Shoreham Aerodrome for the Brooklands to Brighton race, 6th May 1911

The Lichfield Mercury, Friday 12th May 1911, reporting a week later of the finish line at Brighton, stated:-

“Quite early in the afternoon an immense crowd gathered at Brighton, filling the front from pier to pier and even beyond. Just after four o’clock the first aeroplane hove in sight in blaze of the sun. It was flying high and dipping a little in the wind, which was evidently stronger at that height than on the ground, where the flags scarcely fluttered. Slowly as it seemed, but surely, and heralded by a burst of cheers that rippled along the front, it gradually dropped and crossed the pier accurately in the middle. One saw the number clearly, though it was scarcely necessary for identification, because it was known Mr Hamel was flying the only monoplane in the race.”

It continues:-

“From the terrace of the Royal Albion Hotel, Mr Hamel’s father “snapped” his son with a hand camera as he came sailing triumphantly past, and turned to congratulate his wife on the success of the young aviator.  After circling twice round the pier head, Mr Hamel flew back to the Shoreham Aerodrome, and afterwards departed for Brooklands.”

The ‘Sussex Express, Surrey Standard and Kent Mail’, picks up the story:-

“The first sight of an aeroplane renders one speechless for a time, but as Mr Hamel on his Bleriot monoplane gets nearer to the great mass of people the volume of cheers gets louder and louder. He is scarcely out of sight when Lieut. Snowden Smith, on his Farman biplane, arrives, and Mr Gilmour, on a Bristol biplane, comes next. The ease and grace which characterised the flying won great admiration. The times taken by these three competitors were:- Mr Hamel, 57 mins, 10 secs.; Lieut. Snowden Smith, 1hr. 21 mins. 6secs.; Mr Gilmour, 1hr. 37mins. 0secs.”

Explaining Pixton’s absence, it reports:-

“Mr Pixton, who descended on his all British Roe biplane on Plumpton Racecourse, received a warm welcome there. The people decorated his machine with primroses, and hundreds of names were written on it. He made the journey to Brighton after tea.”

Lieut. Snowden-Smith, who had finished second, it was pointed out, had missed the Shoreham turn, the competitors were supposed to keep west of the Adur Railway bridge before turning for Brighton, the Lieutenant had gone inside, to the east, so was disqualified, leaving Gilmour, who had finished in 1 hour, 37 minutes, promoted to 2nd place. From Shoreham later, Hamel flew back to Brooklands in just 34 minutes, suggesting a strong headwind may have held them up during the race. Gilmour stayed the weekend at Shoreham, possibly taking advantage of the entertainments along at Bungalow Town, when he left, he flew to Portsmouth, according to a report in the Jarrow Express, Friday 12th May 1911:-

“The first aeroplane to pass over Portsmouth made its flight on Tuesday from Brighton (Shoreham aerodrome actually) to Gosport, as a sequel to last Saturday’s aerial race from Brooklands to Brighton. The aviator was Graham Gilmour, who paid a visit by air to his brother in-law, Fleet Surgeon Capps, one of the staff  of Haslar Naval Hospital. Without alighting at Portsmouth, the aviator flew across the harbour to the hospital, and landed safely in the grounds, where it was reported that he had “shelled” a fort blockhouse at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour with oranges”

Douglas Grahame Gilmour, Shoreham to Black Rock race. May 13th 1911

 

Stuck in a Tree at Haywards Heath

Oscar Morison decided to fly to Haywards Heath on Tuesday 9th May, taking Eric Cecil Gordon England with him as passenger. It was an incredibly costly business maintaining their machines, especially when they crashed, so occasionally, when they turned up at a town or village, where crowds would very soon gather, they could charge between a pound and a fiver a time for a quick flight, which was not unknown among the aviators of the time. Reported in the London Daily News, 10th May 1911, it states:-

‘Mr Morison, the well known aviator, had a narrow escape from a serious accident tonight. Mr Morison arrived here from Shoreham yesterday on his biplane, and arranged to return tonight. A start was made about half past seven, Mr Gordon travelling in the machine as passenger. The aeroplane had only just started its flight however, when the engine suddenly stopped, and the biplane came down rapidly at the edge of a wood near a railway line. The crowd who had watched the ascent ran to the spot expecting to find the aviators seriously injured. On their arrival however, they found that the aeroplane had not reached the ground, the wings having been caught in the branches of an oak. The aviators, who were uninjured, were rescued by means of ladders. The biplane was considerably damaged.’

 The Shoreham to Black Rock Race

On 13th May 1911 Morison was in a well-publicized air-race with Graham Gilmour from Shoreham Aerodrome to the eastern boundary of Brighton at Blackrock, Morison taking the straight course passed the winning post one minute before Gilmour. Reported in the Belfast News-Letter of May 15th 1911, it states:-

 

“The contestants used Bristol biplanes of equal power, but whereas Morison went straight for the winning post at a height of 800 feet, Gilmour flew farther out to sea and rose to 1100 feet. What might have been a neck and neck race consequently ended in Morison’s favour by about a hundred and fifty yards. The winner crossed the line just after five o’clock, having covered the course in a quarter of an hour. He, however, made a bad landing in the grounds of Roedean College, breaking his skids and damaging the elevator. Gilmour, who descended there, alighted perfectly, and afterwards flew back to Shoreham.”

Oscar Morison at Roedean school, east of Brighton, after the Shoreham to Black Rock race, 13th May 1911

Aviators, Gordon-England, O.C.Morison, and Graham-Gilmour at Roedean school, May 13th 1911. Also, Harry Preston’s brother, Dick.

Shoreham Aerodrome inauguration. 20th June 1911

Reported in the ‘Flight’ magazine of 1st July 1911, the Mayors of Brighton, Hove, and Worthing officially opened the ‘Brighton and Shoreham Aerodrome’. It writes:-

“The ceremony was preceded by a luncheon, at which the aims of the promoters were explained, and it was stated that the proposals included a clubhouse on the ground. The ground is about a quarter of a mile square, but surrounding it is a flat stretch of country about a thousand acres in extent, free from trees, and eminently suitable for flying purposes. Already a large number of hangars have been erected, and the arrival of the competitors in the European Circuit race on the grounds this week, from which point they “take off” for Hendon, should give the fine aerodrome a splendid send off. Brighton should be under a great obligation to the enterprising men who have thus given it, at this early stage, so important a chance in alluring aviators to the district”

The Mayors of Brighton, Hove, and Worthing, at the occasion of the inauguration of ‘Brighton and Shoreham Aerodrome’ 20th June 1911

In the next part, the ‘Four Kingdoms’ race around Europe comes to Shoreham.

A Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham. Part One- Harold Hume Piffard

June 8, 2017

Harold Piffard’s Hummingbird biplane preparing for take off at Shoreham, 1910

08-06-2017

While trawling the car boot sales last year, I stumbled upon an old book, ‘The History of British Aviation 1908-1914’, by R. Dallas Brett, 1933. As with so many of my car boot, book acquisitions, it took a while before I picked it up and had a decent nose through. When I did though, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many times our local airport was mentioned, and this inspired me to delve deeper in to Shoreham’s aviation history, beginning with its very own pioneer, H.H. Piffard. I hope any local history, or aviation enthusiasts will enjoy reading the results of my research. Here is the first part:-

Aviation inventor and artist, Harold Hume Piffard was born at 33 Blandford Square, Marylebone, London, on 10th August 1867, to Charles Piffard, a barrister at law who became ‘Clerk of the Crown’ at the High Court of Calcutta, and Emily Hume. Harold’s two eldest brothers, Hamilton, (1862), and Reginald, (1863), had both been born in Calcutta, while he and his other brother, Lawrence, (1865) were both registered as having been born in Marylebone, London. Harold’s first introduction to the Adur Valley came when he followed his elder brother, Lawrence, and started at Lancing College School House in 1877. He was given the nickname, ‘Piff’, by his friends, and made a name for being a bit of a jester. According to Lancing College archivist, Janet Pennington:-

‘On Sunday afternoons, a train passed over the railway bridge near Beeding Cement Works, when Piffard apparently often took the opportunity to ‘execute a war dance – in puris naturalibus – in front of the engine, and then drop into the river through a hole in the track.’

 

 ‘Keen on dramatics, (obviously) at the age of 12 he absented himself from Lancing one winter Sunday afternoon and walked to London, arriving on the Tuesday. He tried all the theatres and music halls, unsuccessfully seeking employment. He slept on the Embankment for several nights before returning to face the wrath of the Head Master, the Revd. R. E. Sanderson.’ 

‘On leaving Lancing in 1883, Piffard returned to India and was employed on a Darjeeling tea plantation for a while.’

 

Harold Piffard was to become a successful artist, exhibiting 4 paintings at the Royal Academy from 1895 to 1899. At the 1895 exhibition, held between 6th May and 5th August, his first exhibit was number 881, ‘The Last of the Garrison’, in 1897, number 527, ‘The Last Review: Napoleon at St Helena in 1820, watching the children of General Bertrand playing at soldiers’. At the 1899 Royal Academy exhibition, Piffard had two entries, lot 64- Saragossa: 10 February 1809’, and lot 956- ‘The Execution of the Duc d’Enghien’. He is listed as having two addresses in the Royal Academy Exhibitors catalogue:- 29 Cambridge Avenue, Maida Vale, London, and 18 Addison road, Bedford Park, London.

‘The Execution of the Duc d’Enghien’ by Harold Piffard, 1899

His brother, Hamilton Piffard, was a successful actor touring Britain, receiving warm praise from the newspapers of the time, and also confusing this researcher for a while in to believing it was Harold, with yet another string to his already impressive bow. It took a while before an article eventually gave the full name rather than initialled ‘H.Piffard’, and the penny dropped.

Following the recognition of his obvious talent at the 1895 exhibition, Harold married Helena Katherina Docetti Walker on the 1st June 1895  at St John’s church, Dundee. Together they had four children, Harold (b 1896), Dorothy (b 1898), Ivan (b 1899), and Grahame (b 1900). It would seem the last child must have had complications at birth, as Helena died 27th November that same year, and Grahame died 12th Feb 1901, aged just 3 months.

.

 

Harold had also become a renowned illustrator of adventure books for boys, among which were:-

 

‘The City of Gold’ by E Markwick 1895

‘Sybil Falcon’ by E. Jepson 1895

‘Zoraida. A Tale of Arab Romance’, by William Le Queux 1895

‘Yerut the Dwarf’ by Max Pemberton 1897

‘Living London’, March 1903

‘The Boys Book of Battles’, Dec 1902

‘Victory Adventure Book’, compilation edited by Herbert Hayens. 1916

 

Was it coincidence perhaps, that in the Victory Adventure Book, the previous story to ‘A Terrible Night’, which Piff illustrated, was ‘How an Aeroplane Flies’, written by Claude Grahame-White, another pilot strongly associated with Shoreham Airport, from around the same time as Piff was trying out his hydroplane at Bungalow Town in the summer of 1911.

 

On the 8th January 1902, Harold married Eleanor Margaret Hoile (b 1871) at the Chapel Royal of Scotland, Edinburgh, and on the 28th July 1905, they had a son, Hume Piffard, at 178 High street, Aberdeen, Harold’s occupation:- ‘Artist (portraiture)’

 

Sometime during the first decade of the 1900’s, he became interested in designing and constructing model aeroplanes at his studio in Ealing, with a friend, Barbara O’Manning, one of his students, (possibly the Barbara Blank mentioned in later photographs of Piffard’s experimental aircraft designs at Shoreham).

Piff in his studio

Harold Hume Piffard at his art studio in Ealing, North London, circa 1900

In April of 1907, models of aeroplanes and flying machines caught the imagination of visitors to Cordingley’s Motor Show and Aero Club Display at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London. Of all the competitors only two attained anything close to success, A.V. Roe and F.W.Howard, who were streets ahead of their rivals. Mr Howard’s glider, the screw driven by a coiled spring, went over 70 ft, while A.V. Roe’s Aeroplane flew the distance into the safety net ninety feet away. Harold Piffard’s model was recorded as having bent its propeller on the first attempt.

 

The Wright brothers exploits were the talk of the town following the announcement of their first controlled, sustained flight on the 17th December 1903, near Kitty hawk, North Carolina. It’s not unreasonable to believe this may have helped to inspire Piffard’s aerial hobby, winning a bronze medal for one of his glider models in March 1909. Having decided to build and learn to fly a full-size aeroplane, he built it at his studio and transported it in sections to Hanger Hill, North Ealing. Unfortunately, after flying just a short distance, it was destroyed on the ground during an overnight storm. Not to be put off by this misfortune, Harold determined to construct another aeroplane, with a small band of fellow amateurs to assist, learning on the hoof, as all the early aviators had to do. Remembering from his time at Lancing College in the Adur valley, the expanse of flat land to the south of the college, north of the London Brighton & South Coast railway line, and to the west of the River Adur, Piffard realised that this would be the perfect place to continue his aerial experiments.

It was reported in the Bexhill-On-Sea Observer, Saturday 16th Oct 1909, that:-

‘A proposal is in the air for the establishing of an International  ground for Aviation purposes at Shoreham’

 This was the first mention I had found of an aviation ground, (or proposal for one at least), at Shoreham.

 

In Flight magazine of 28th May 1910, a picture of his latest aerial invention is shown:-

Piffard in Flight magazine May 28 1910

 

The Lancing College Magazine of May 1910 reported that Piffard was:-

‘…the first aviator to have made use of the Shoreham Aerodrome and we have been much interested in watching his ‘wheeling’ flights round the field. He lunched in Hall on May 8th …Rumour suggests that he will alight on Upper Quad and demand a ‘half’ ere long.’ The latter was no doubt a hoped-for half day holiday rather than a half pint of beer. LCM June 1910 notes that ‘Piffard…came sadly to grief towards the end of May…none of the aviator’s bones were broken and we understand that his courage is still unshaken.’

Piffard had apparently joined solicitor George Wingfield and established The Aviators’ Finance Co. Ltd., leasing the land next to New Salts Farm, Shoreham, with a view to creating a permanent flying ground. They built a hangar, (or shed as they called it then) for his aircraft that Piff had named Hummingbird, and achieved a few short hops, which were enough to capture the attention of a pub landlord, whose hostelry was off the road north of the airfield. One of Piff’s helpers, E.M.Sutton, recalls in a 1968 issue of Sussex Life Magazine:-

‘It is difficult to realise nowadays, the incredibility which the majority of people held in regard to mechanical flight. For instance, there was the landlord of an inn (Alfred Evans of the Sussex Pad Inn) situated at the farther end of the field where the aeroplane was housed in its shed. He was one of those who thought that, to try to fly like a bird was “against Nature”. After inspecting the machine in its shed he turned to ‘Piff’ and said, “If you ever fly the length of this field, walk in to my pub and I’ll give you a crate of champagne”

The weather not being favourable until a week later, when the time came, Piff was eager to win some champagne, as Mr Sutton writes:-

‘Piffard seated himself precariously on the leading edge of the lower wing with his legs stretched out in space to reach the rudder bar. He gripped the control column and signalled that he was ready. After several attempts at starting the engine by swinging the propeller by hand, a welcome noise announced the power of 40 horses had been released. “Piff”, with a determined grin on his face which plainly said, “I’ll show him”, pointed the aeroplane at the hotel at the farther end of the field. He opened the throttle and the machine moved forward. In a run of two or three hundred yards it was airborne. The first flight over Sussex had been achieved. As the hotel loomed nearer, “Piff” throttled back and allowed the machine to touch the ground. This of course was a manoeuvre which had not been rehearsed, and it was only at this juncture it was discovered that the landing gear would not bear the force of impact. It folded up fairly gradually, so not too much stress was put on the rest of the machine. “Piff” was pitched forward on to the grass with nothing worse than a few bruises. However, that expensive piece of wood carving, the propeller, was badly damaged. “Piff” surveyed the wreck, “The engine’s all right”, he announced, “this machine only needs a new undercarriage and a new propeller. Come on lads, let’s get her back to the shed”. That was hours of hard work, not made easier by the weight of the crate of champagne.’

Piff postcard

A postcard showing Piffard’s ‘Hummingbird’ flying machine in various poses at Shoreham aerodrome, 1910

This exciting activity could hardly have failed to capture the attention of pupils and masters alike at Lancing College, resulting in the Head Master, the Revd. Henry Thomas Bowlby, inviting their former pupil, now aged 43, for a special dinner at the College in honour of his achievement. This would have had an inspiring effect no doubt on any aspiring aviators at the college.

After this initial success came many more flights, and no shortage of accidents to go with them, Piff sustaining various injuries which included being knocked unconscious, having stitches to a gashed leg, and doubtless, numerous bruises. In the September 10th 1910 issue of Flight magazine, it reports:-

Mr H. Piffard at Shoreham.

As a result of solid perseverance and experiments, Mr Piffard is now starting practical work in earnest, and last week was making some satisfactory essays over a half-mile stretch with his bi-plane.’

Piff early flight at Shoreham 1910

Piffard achieves flight at Shoreham aerodrome, 1910. The ‘shed’ they built is in the background, with the railway track behind that.

With the summer of 1910 over, sadly, in October 1910, Piffard crashed again, which resulted in his flying machine being broken beyond repair. Leaving the Hummingbird stored in its shed, he returned to his studio in London, and set about designing an aeroplane which could take off from water.

References:-

Article written by Janet Pennington, the Lancing College Archivist, and published in the Lancing College Magazine, vol 80, no 603 (Summer-Advent 1999)

Flight Magazine archives:- https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Flight+International+Magazine%22

British Newspaper Archives Online:- http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

Shoreham Airport. The Story of Britain’s Oldest Licensed Airport.  By T.M.Webb and Dennis L Bird. 1996

The First Man to Fly Over Sussex. By E.M. Sutton. Sussex Life Magazine May 1968

Shoreham Airport, an Illustrated History. By Peter C. Brown. 1988

The History of British Aviation 1908-1914. By R. Dallas Brett. 1933

Ancestry.co.uk

William Ramus family tree

May 17, 2017

 

17-05-2017

Ma at Ransoms 1957

Having recently posted an old photo of my mother, Lavender Ramus, in Ransoms record shop, 33/34 Bond Street, Brighton, in 1957, to the ‘Brighton Past’ group on Facebook, I received a comment from one member, saying what a lovely name she had, but also that her husband had relatives by the name of Ramus. This lady wondered, as Ramus is such an unusual surname, whether we may have a connection, she then mentioned her husband’s uncle, William Ramus, who is apparently in his 80’s, and his sister, Deirdre Ramus. This was enough information for me to get going, and while I already suspected our lines would not coincide, I knew of this particular family line from my earlier research, and enjoy a challenge.

The family line of William and Deirdre was soon unearthed in an hour or so, I had done much of the work a few years back, purely because so many of this family have names and dates similar to my own family lineage, and I wanted to be certain which name belonged where. Having happily given this lady the family line dating back to 1725, and a Louis Ramus, born in Cudrifin, Vaud, Switzerland on the 1st May, I then began fleshing out the family info. Without going in to too much family detail, I’ll list the direct descendants here:-

Louis, (William’s Great Great Great Great Grandfather)married Ann Hibberd (1740-1782), and they had 4 children:

Joseph Ramus: Born 1766 Bungay, Suffolk

Ann Ramus: 1769 Bungay, Suffolk

James Ramus: 1771 Bungay, Suffolk (William’s Great Great Great Grandfather)

Joseph Ramus: 1772 Bungay, Suffolk

 

After Ann’s death, Louis married Sarah Ann Cobbet (1730-) on the 21st Oct 1783. According to 1774, and 1780, UK Poll Books records, Louis was a ‘Cheesemonger’, in Charing Cross, London.

 

James Ramus (1771-1837) married Elizabeth Elmore (1869-1839), among their children, they had a son:

Charles: born 05-02-1800, Bungay, Suffolk

 

Charles married Sarah Rebecca Rudland (1802-1881), on the 6th August 1822, at Walpole, Suffolk. (Charles is William’s Great Great Grandfather). They had four children that I have traced:-

 

Charles Henry Ramus: Born 28th July 1823 Bungay, Suffolk (William’s Great Grandfather)

Rudland Ramus: Born 16th March 1830, Bungay, Suffolk

Alfred Ramus: Born 8th Jan 1832, Bungay, Suffolk

Ann Ramus: Born 22nd July 1836, Bungay, Suffolk

James Ramus death, 21st June 1837

 

Charles Henry Ramus married Maria Hall (1825-1903) on the 19th July 1846, at the parish church of  Lambeth. (On the marriage record, both Charles Henry, and his father, Charles, are listed as, ‘Carpenter’s’, for their occupation). They had 9 children, one of which was:-

Charles Henry Ramus marriage to Maria Hall 19th July 1846

James Ramus: Born 22nd April 1864, City of London. On the 1st August 1886, James married Jane Hall (1866-1915), at the parish church of Christchurch, Southwark, London. James’ occupation on the wedding certificate was listed as ‘Tea Cutter’. (James is William’s Grandfather). He and Jane had 12 children, of which 9 had survived to the 1911 census report, which found them living at 62 Windsor road, Holloway. James’ occupation here was noted as ‘Printer’ in the newspaper industry.

James Ramus marriage to Jane Hall. 1st August 1886

Their children living with them at this time, were:-

 

James Ramus: Born 7th April 1888, Islington. Occupation-  ‘Sorter’ Post Office

Charles Ramus: Born 1891, Islington. Occupation- ‘Musician’ Board Ship

Sidney Harold Ramus: Born 3rd April 1893, Walton. Occupation- ‘Barman’ Public House

Mable Ramus: Born 16th Feb 1895, Holborn, London. Occupation- ‘Dressmaker’

John Ramus: Born 25th Sept 1896, Holborn, London. Occupation- ‘Messenger’ Post Office. (John is William’s father).

Lydia ramus: Born 1899, Holborn, London. School

Winnie Ramus: Born 1901, Shoreditch, London. School

Frank Ramus: Born 1902, Islington, London. School

Bessie Ramus: Born 1906, London. At home

Walter Ramus: Born 1907, London. At home

Doris Ramus: Born 1909, London. At home

James Ramus 1911 census report.

 

 

When the 1914-18 war began,  James, Charles, Sidney, and John, all joined up.

 

James joined the 8th City of London Battalion, Post Office Rifles. Regiment Number-2401

Charles joined the 10th Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment. Regiment Number-4559

Sydney also joined 10th Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment. Regiment Number- 4560

John joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Gunner. Regiment Number- 45717

 

On the 25th May, 1915, James was killed in action at Flanders, and buried at Flers, Department De La Somme, Picaride, France.

James Ramus WW1 Effects, 1915

Sadly, the news of James’ death hit his mother, Jane, particularly hard. She had been informed of the dreadful news by letter from a friend of James, who had seen him killed in action. This news sent her in to a deep grief, so much so that she became depressed, leading eventually to taking her life by poisoning.

Jane Ramus suicide 1915 copy

On the 19th November, 1915, Sydney Harold was killed in action at Camiers, buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, Calais, France.

Sidney Ramus WW1 Effects 1915

On the 21st September 1916, Charles was killed in action in Flanders, buried at Flers, Departement De La Somme, Picardie, France.

Charles Ramus WW1 Effects, 1916

 

During this dreadful time for the family, their mother, Jane, also died, within a month of her eldest son, James, death. She was buried on the 22nd June, 1915, at St Pancras, Camden, London, Roman Catholic cemetery.

 

John Ramus survived the war, and was registered on the WW1 Service Medal and Awards Rolls, 1914-1920 as ‘Entitled to the Victory Medal and/or British War Medal granted under Army Orders’

John Ramus WW1 war record and medals roll

 

In 1929, John married Alice Dorothy Lowndes(1902-2001), at Islington, London

 

Strong and Stable Tory Fable

May 12, 2017

 

 

Under-fund the NHS, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Tell the Doctors you know best, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Under-funding Education, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Tell the Teachers you know best, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Transport System Worst in Europe, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Tell the Punters you know best, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Election Fraud Impunity, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Knew you’d get away with it, Strong and Stable Strong and stable

Bring back Hunting Kill the Foxes, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Think you’ve won the vote already, Strong and Stable Strong and Stable

Lies, more Lies, then cosy Fables, Con the Masses, Strong and Stable

Going Going Gone

May 9, 2017

 

09-05-2017

Three weeks on since our dear ole Pa’s 90th birthday celebrations, and the time seems to have whistled past already, but the memory of the party is still bright. What a day it turned out to be, with friends and relatives coming from far and wide. There was a veritable small army of volunteers helping to make it happen, and on the day, Saturday 15th April, the decorations, murals, balloons, and guests, brought a smile to the old mans face that lasted a good week at least.

The mural of pictures from Squire’s life, was the master piece of Charlene, my brother David’s better half. I had given her a memory stick of photos to work with, and she worked through nights to produce through digital mastery, an eight foot by five foot banner, printed on acrylic material, a pictorial history the old boys life, with names printed on each photo. There were a few little typos, but we all agreed it added to the fun, and drew a wry smile from one family member who happens to be a proof reader. In fairness to Charlene, English is not her first language, she was working in to the wee hours on a tight deadline, and was also slightly mis-directed by her not insignificant other half when it came to some of the names.

Throughout the afternoon, Squire barely sat down as he enjoyed chatting to his many friends and rellies, not least of which, the second meeting between himself and his brother, Ian Ramus, and Ian’s lovely wife, Jill. I wasn’t there to witness the hug, I’d been conscripted to taxi duty, but my brother, Stig, described the moment to me later. Inevitably, Ian and Jill found themselves to be one of the star turns on the day. For those that don’t know, Ian is actually Squire’s half brother, they both have the same dad, Reg/Roy/Bob, some of the names he went by, but Ian had never been made aware of his other siblings existence. We as children had been told the story of this other brother, but knew nothing of his whereabouts, or even his proper name, Squire had told me he thought it might have been Ian, but he couldn’t be sure. He also believed Ian was a doctor. From grilling the old man, it turns out that his sister, Sheila, had maintained contact with their Uncle Nev, and he had kept her updated on her dads news, which was also how they found out when Reg died in 1967.

Squire(on the right) and Ian

I will tell this story in more detail another time, but suffice to say, it’s a great delight to have welcomed Ian and Jill in to the family since we first met in 2013.

The invite to Squire’s 90th party came with a proviso of no presents, just donations to the RNLI, and to add a bit of fun to the day, we chucked in an impromptu auction to try and raise a few more pounds to that worthy cause. My eldest brother, David, fancied being the auctioneer, so an hour or so into the party, he took the bull by the horns and got the auction going in typical David style. Bull in a china shop might be over doing it, but if you imagine his 18th birthday present from his mates was a beer tankard with the inscription, ‘He Came, He Saw, He Broke’, well you may get an idea. Item by item, he was briskly selling the lots, all the while, watchful cousins wondered on his behalf how he would remember who had bought what. Cousin Sam Ramus was soon on the case, writing down the names and amounts on a serviette, while cousin Nicola C.B, with beaming smile, jumped in as assistant to the auctioneer, handing him the lots, having noticed his difficulties in diving back and forth under the table to grab and unpack whichever item he was trying to get ‘knocked down’.

David the auctioneer

Stig the auctioneers assistant

While this barely controlled pandemonium was entertaining the crowd, we had other members of the family joining in the fun, my brother Stig, (Anthony), giving vocal support in case his elder brothers voice had not carried to the back of the hall, and also jumping in on the count down, ‘going once’, ‘going twice’, ‘sold to….’, all with great relish and embellishment. Then you had little sis, Lizbet, doing her best to bid for half the items going up, not least of which for the set of pewter model cars that Squire had donated, she paid £60 for the set. His still boxed collection of model trains were going for between five and ten quid each, a hundred year old book of cartoons that I picked up at a car boot sale for a quid, went for £30. The finale was a day with the Shoreham RNLI crew, which went for £60. I have to say I was a bit gutted about that one, I missed it, and would have bid at least £200, but there you go.

The overall figure for the auction came to £450, and just under the thousand for the RNLI on the day, with plenty of laughs all round. Towards the end, we realised the gorgeous maritime cake that Annie had made for the occasion hadn’t been cut yet, so what better way to bring up the final hour of the party, than to make a big deal of our dear old dads 90th cake cutting ceremony. Cousin Michelle it turns out, is a semi-professional cake cutter, and straight after Squire’s initial incision, she was up and slicing, notwithstanding Auntie Manuela’s comment that perhaps Ian Ramus, (who happens to be a retired surgeon), might be better trained for such a job. Ian caught the quip, and respectfully suggested his knives used to be on a rather smaller scale than sufficient for such an operation.

Squire cutting the cake

Michelle the master cutter

I can safely tell whoever might be interested, that both Squire and Ma had a wonderful day, and talk of it still. There was one last addition worth a chuckle to finalise the story. David had written out a cheque for the RNLI, for the amount he was told had been raised, or at least, he was told the figure was a fraction below the thousand mark, so he made the cheque out for the round grand, only to find that many of the donations were by cheque too, about 200 quids worth, so the total became £1200 donated to the RNLI on the day. Not a bad way for an old salty sea dog to celebrate his 90th.

Two days later, on his actual birthday, Monday April 17th, a bank holiday, Brighton and Hove Albion gave him his last present by securing promotion to the Premier League when they beat Wigan 2-1 at the Amex Stadium. Two weeks later, on May 3rd, Ma and Pa celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary, for which we had a bottle of bubbly left over from the party, so what better accompaniment than Shepherds Pie?

Shoreham Beach stories. Bonfire Night, by Andy Ramus

April 30, 2017

Bonfire Night on Shoreham Beach in the 1970’s

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Living on Shoreham Beach as a child, you kinda felt like you owned the world sometimes, stood on the beach where all that changed was the position of the shingle, sometimes banked right up so high that it near buried the old wooden breakwaters, and then other days the sea would pull the shingle back so far as to expose, what then as a child, seemed like mighty tree turrets, or Queens Guards all neatly lined up. The tops of these breakwaters all crisp clean and square, with their horizontal binders that had big fat rusty bolts and square washers staining the timber below, keeping them clamped smartly together and providing us with a walkway to navigate along. Below these binders, the uprights were thinned out and rounded off by the ceaseless activity of the sea and shingle, sometimes gently caressing, sometimes thunderously pounding, but always the story of time could be seen most clearly at the bottom of these solid sentries. We knew as the shapes became more greatly accentuated and the ‘hour glass’ figure showed, that the end would be coming for the battle weary posts and soon the Sea Defence workers would arrive with their gargantuan machinery to extract the withered sentries, like a dentist pulling teeth.

Everything seemed so huge back then, with their long Whirligig boring tool, a giant corkscrew of a thing, massive caterpillar tracked vehicles which used to put me in mind of metal dinosaurs, all clanking and squeaking their way around, our own beach ballet, and with the lead part going to the Pile Driver which shook the earth with every pound as it battered in the new posts.

The breakwaters had two directions, one at the top of the beach parallel with the coast line, they’re the sentries, and the other directed like an arrow down into the sea, made into a solid wall by continuous planks bolted to the uprights, stopping a foot short of the 12 inch by 12 inch posts tops and giving the effect of a medieval castle wall, also making quite a handy windbreak all year round. Diving platforms at high tides, cricket wickets at low Springs, fortresses, hide and seek, obstacle courses, and cool shelters for fires and music under the stars in later years. I can stand at the top of the beach and go into memory freefall down the years, from a tiny tot happily bouncing around on the sand, wondering why all of a sudden it’d gone dark after a small sail boat had been picked up in a mini whirlwind and dumped on top of me, no harm done; through to turning over in a rubber ring before I could swim, and getting promptly fished out by dear old Da after they noticed my little legs pointing up out of the sea and kicking around, tears that time but otherwise undamaged. Endless summertime beach picnics, spending virtually the entire day playing, swimming, and eating on the beach, I remember we used to be a popular place for the rel’s to visit too, which was great. What a life it was, and free of charge.

Myself, my brother Ant, friend Mark Dewing, and my sister, Lizbet. On one our our many summer days spent on the beach, by those lovely wooden breakwaters.

My brother Simon about to throw the stone, and cousin Sally. Great shot of the old breakwaters.

My eldest brother, David, little sis, Lizbet, and cousin Mark. We were on these breakwaters all the time as kids, so much fun.

 

During winter, Bonfire Night was the biggest beach occasion. All the local kids had their own bonfire, our family (there were five of us) always teamed up with the Severs family from around the corner, and there were seven of them, so between us we usually built the biggest bonfire around, right bang at the top of ‘Mardyke‘, the north- south road that leads up to the beach, prime spot, really was, and slap bang centre between the beach huts to the East, and the Church of the Good Shepherd to the West. And we were really proud and proper, we thought, about how we built them, a decent Wigwam shape, no ugly lumps. People used to think they could use our fires to unload their unwanted burnables, which we didn’t mind too much, ’cos we wanted ours to be the biggest, but they’d just chuck it on willy nilly, ignoring the aesthetics, and we’d come home from school, straight indoors, change, have Tea , and shoot up the beach to re shape the fire to our exacting standards. We even had camps built inside, so that we could guard the fire at night. We’d start building weeks before the actual night, Bonfire Night was just the culmination of a six week adventure for us, of building, burning, letting off fireworks, and other excitable kids stuff.

We had to guard our fires, because it wasn’t unheard of for us to torch a rival fire that looked like it might be about to eclipse our own efforts. One time we took a raiding party down to a fire West of the church, armed with paraffin, paper, and lighters, to torch a foreign effort. It was massive, swollen by a consignment of wooden packing crates that a local firm had been liberally dumping on the beach for just such use. Unfortunately for the owners and builders of this fire, they got the vast majority of the crates while we were at school, and before the rest of us even knew they were there, so in one fell swoop they went from being virtual non runners to biggest fire on the beach by a mile, and thus catching our undivided attention. On this particular occasion, a combined effort by allied forces raised to the ground possibly one of the biggest bonfires ever seen on Shoreham Beach, two weeks before the actual Night. So successful were our efforts in this matter, and so big the fire, that the fire brigade was called, in fear of damage to local property, their bonfire being much closer to the houses opposite along that stretch of the beach. And who was there to assist them?, yep, to a man, our torch committee, offering to carry buckets if needed.

The Burning
Although there were normally six or eight fires going up each year, with different families kids responsible for each one, we were all mostly mates and the rivalry was a friendly one. There was a suspicion however that the big one which had sprouted overnight just past the church was being put up by grown ups, certainly none of us knew the kids along there, so when this monster appeared it couldn’t go unnoticed by any of us. Not much wood collecting went on that night, as we mulled around our fire, still the best looking if no longer, (for the moment at least), the biggest. About ten of us discussed what to do about the situation, or not so much what, as how, and when. Chris and Russ, the cousins, from Woodards View and Beach Green, had the fire next to ours, with the brothers Dave and Tim, from Ormonde Way by the river bank, they had access to the paraffin. Matches and paper were no problem, we had small fires most nights of the week during bonfire season, so just wait ‘til dark, and we’d swing into action.

Not exactly SAS stuff, we just walked down the beach from our fire, which as I said, was at the top of Mardyke, and drop down out of sight from the upstairs windows of the Kings Walk houses, which overlooked the beach. Noticeable only by the crunching sound of our feet through the shingle, like someone noisily chewing cornflakes, until we’d negotiated our way through the sentry breakwaters, and descended towards the sand, where upon, we could turn and quietly make our way along, hopping over the breakwater walls, not talking as we went, but being very serious about the whole thing. During the summer, when all our families spent vast amounts of time at the beach, we’d have our own section we each used, according usually to ease of passage. And with the breakwater walls dividing it up into allotments, groups of families had their own distinguishable stretch which they frequented; often we’d eye the Day Trippers with annoyance as they intruded on ‘our’ beach when real warm weather attracted increasing numbers. Anyway, we all knew which stretch of beach was who’s, so on this night of skulduggery, it felt a bit like jumping through peoples back gardens, but instead of fences, brick walls, or bushes, all we had to contend with, was the green slimy seaweed which clung to those parts of the breakwaters most regularly submerged by the ever rising and retreating tides, slippery stuff, so a sure footing was required whilst hurdling nimbly over.

As we came alongside the beach opposite the church, we could safely ascend, under cover of the fishing boats there, and their boathouse. Also there were the concrete steps leading up, remnants of the Second World War I think. All we had to do now was creep up from behind our victims’ bonfire, douse it with the paraffin, then light it, easy you’d think, but that nearly went wrong. It was being stubborn and wouldn’t light, so Tim chucked the whole plastic cans contents on, and at the same time that the fire took hold, the can was still in Tim’s hand as the flames came licking towards him, and panic set in, he chucked the can while recoiling away from the pursuing danger, then we all very noisily turned tail, and belted for it, sounding like a herd of elephants marauding through a crisp factory until, under the security of distance, dark, and the sure footing of sand under foot, we could stop and admire our handiwork lighting up the night sky with its flames spitting bright tongues of fire heaven bound, and giving a fine orange glow to the neighbouring fishing boats.

Another year, someone else’s raiding party lit our fire, not realising our eldest brother, David, was in the camp inside it, he got out ok, and saved most of the fire by pulling it down, but it could’ve been nasty. I think that was the year when some barge ran into Brighton’s Palace Pier, and half demolished it, sending loads of lovely debris along the coast to fuel our, by now, whopping great fires.

Death of a pier, Birth of a Bonfire

Shoreham beach was swarming with frenzied little boys running up and down the shoreline, first claiming what lengths had already been discarded by the tide, and then running right in to the sea, just to be sure of salvage rites, hands on rules, and with no bullies in our ranks, it worked, the bigger boys didn‘t seem so keen to get their trousers wet. I remember how happy I was that day, as we all ran around with huge beaming smiles on our faces, and how immensely proud we felt as we stood back at the end of an industrious day, and viewed with buoyant satisfaction, our marvellous creation, made all the better by the great lengths of ‘ex Palace Pier’ timbers, some as long as four metres/ twelve feet, (we were the children of the metric/imperial changeover). In those days of train strikes, power cuts, and minor food rationing, our pleasures were derived from simple things, and never at any cost but effort, though gladly done.

The Pier’s debris brought us an unexpected problem though; the timber from the Pier was all hardwood, either Teak or Mahogany, maybe both. Soon enough we had OAP vultures hovering around our creations, telling us it was “too good to burn”, and “a crime to waste such timber”, they even tried bribing us, but we weren’t having any of it. If there hadn’t been so many of us, I think they’d have taken it anyway, we caught one big fat old boy, always wore a flat cap and only ever spoke to tell us off for one thing or another, trying to nick a piece one night as we were returning from one of our regular forays along the beach, that was one of the great things about it, with every change of tide came a potential bounty of material for our fire. Anyway, as I say, vigilance always played a major part in our operations, we’d gone to some considerable length to make our prized bonfire the most impressive on the beach, so we weren’t giving any of it away, and we certainly weren’t allowing some mean, fat, old grown up try and nick any of it.

Whenever I pass the decaying remains of Brighton’s West Pier these days, I’m eternally reminded of times long since past, and how perhaps, we were the first to see that famous Pier’s proper and fitting send off, (even though it turned out to be the Palace Pier that was hit by the barge I found out later).

The Sea Defence incident

One year, the Sea Defence people got wind of the fact that we’d nicked a breakwater post from their yard which was conveniently situated off Kings Walk, and a piece of cake for us kids to get in and out of, we used to play in there all year round as it was. They must have known that we had all of their loose timber around on our fires, ‘cos if we hadn’t, the place would’ve looked a mess, and it didn’t, tidiest Sea Defence yard on the South coast come November 5th, but they had to draw the line somewhere, and we crossed it by using a 12” by 12” beast for our bonfire centre post, and that stuff ain’t cheap I suppose, so they got their big crane out and hooked it back out as we watched helplessly while our lovely wigwam shape crumpled and turned into a dumpling. Not put off though, and with renewed gusto, we set about rebuilding, with half a mind on revenge, they were only around during working hours, and we were night scavengers. Come the big night that year, they put a police guard at the entrance to the Sea Defence yard to stop any last minute pilfering, but that was no problem as our mate Dave’s garden backed on to the yard, so we could hop in and out undetected, right up to the last moments, and march triumphantly up Mardyke with our booty for the fire, it actually made it much more amusing thinking we’d had the last laugh.

The Night

What a night it always was, Kings Walk residents often had barbecues in their front gardens, while they viewed the bonfires going up, and people came from far and wide to see it all. Shoreham Beach, between the Good Shepherd Church and the Beach Green recreation ground would be packed with thousands of spectators admiring the results of, almost solely, children’s enterprise.

Although we’re a row back from the sea front, we’d still have a lot of people around for Jacket spuds, Flapjacks, Sausages, and all sorts of other tasty stuff. The Jacket’s were fantastic, nice and crusty, with a steaming and soft interior, which piped like a steam locomotive with the first incision of the knife, then we’d saturate the insides with margarine, turning it into mush, and scoff it down, saving the skin ‘til last, for a mouth watering drool -fest of a savoury chomp. Oh, and the Flapjacks!, Ma made the best Flapjacks in the world, cooked that day, and still a mite warm while sticky in our little paws, a tacky revelation which produced a taste sensation. Whenever a tray came out of our oven with Flapjacks, there was always a multitude of eager waifs trying desperately to look as if their mortal continuity depended on their paws getting clamped around the concoction of rolled oats, sugar, golden syrup, salt, margarine, and lemon juice. November 5th was the busiest night of the year for our kitchen, with a seemingly endless flow of cooked comestibles emerging from our Tricity cooker, and Ma had assistance from various other Mums visiting, so the place was a cacophony of different sounds, smells, and reverberations, voices raised continually higher, to be heard above the combination of firework explosions, and noisy children running amok. Cooking smells combining with the residual aroma of the burnt out Catherine Wheels, Rockets, Roman Candles, Volcanoes, Bangers, Air bombs, and plenty more. Then there was the smoke which filled the air, inside and out, but not of the suffocating or stifling variety, with the back door open to provide a source of ventilation for the kitchen, and the sharp crispness of a cold November evening, you could lean your head back for a healthy intake of breath keenly through your nostrils, and say, “mmm, it’s Bonfire Night and I love it!”

One year the fat from the grill pan caught alight, and as if it were part of the proceedings it was calmly dealt with by Ma, giving it the damp cloth procedure before removing it out of the door and safely on to the driveway. One minute the cooker was engulfed in flames, and the next it’s business as usual, without so much as a mention. I think a nuclear explosion could’ve gone off then, and we’d have thought it was a new firework amongst the organised chaos of the night.

These days, some know nothing intefering ‘Busy bodies’ have decided that bonfires along the beach are too dangerous to allow, so one more tradition is condemned to memory.

The wooden breakwaters gradually disappearing, but still a fine looking part of the beach-scape.

Now

Things are different on the beach now, the level at the top has been raised by some ten feet at least, and the breakwaters on our stretch have gone, removed and replaced by piers of Norwegian granite rocks, which I have to say, have their own aesthetic value. If I were a child now, I think my imagination would invent plenty of playful purposes around or amongst them. For now, I’m quite content to sit a little up from the high tide line, and just watch as the sea breaks and washes over them, turning the brown sandy water white, then squint my eyes in the glow of the Sun glistening off the irregular shaped rocks. Between the piers, it’s much the same as always, with the water turning to white foam, and making the dry stones dark after immersion, that’ll never change, at least only in the manner of the waves and sea swell. Walking down to the waters edge, I always feel it’s a bit like being in an orchestra pit while some Wagnerian opera booms out all around you, and the sea fresh ozone clearing your nasal tubes, it makes you wish you could throw open your arms and become part of it all. Maybe when I die I’ll have my ashes spread at sea, and in death achieve a life long dream. I’m digressing again, anyway, yeah- changing, well the beach is much higher now as you step on up from the road, all part of a programme devised by the ‘Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Farms’ (since changed their name after the ‘Foot and Mouth‘ fiasco), to reduce the risk from allegedly higher tides. It all puts me in mind of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ film, when Charlton Heston comes across the ¾ buried Statue of Liberty, as I look along the beach and recall where all the different breakwaters were, and how, if they were still here now, I’d probably be sitting in ‘The Boat’, one of our favourite parts of the breakwaters as children, pointing southwards (obviously) from the ‘Sentries’ at the top end of one of the breakwater walls, was this ‘V’ shaped section which we’d played in a thousand times, as Horatio Nelson, Blue Beard, Captain Blood, or many times stood inside it, defying the encroaching sea as it claimed the ground around us. Now it’s all gone, the space occupied, and covered by mountains of imported shingle from further along the coast. Along past the church, where all those years ago, a few young scoundrels undertook that mischievous deed, the boat house is still there, with a few clinker fishing boats left, it doesn’t look as big as I’d remembered, but then what does, being a child, you always feel like you’re living in the land of the giants. All around, the shingle is banked high, and in time I suppose it will claim the boat house too, I can’t help but wonder what it will all look like in another thirty years time. Even now, as I look eastwards from ‘our’ rocky pier, I can see past the West Harbour Arm, which forms the entrance to the port of Shoreham, there beyond it stands the shiny metallic chimney of the new gas turbine power station, where once stood the two mighty, cream coloured, brick built chimneys of the old, coal powered, predecessor.

You know, these rocks have a craggy inelegant beauty about them, I think I like them. With the arrival of the full moon, bringing the Spring tides and their extreme highs and lows, you can still see the tops of some, ’not quite buried’, breakwater posts at the bottom of the ebb, old and new together for a while longer.

Negative Response

April 12, 2017

 

12-04-2017

Ma n Pa on their wedding day, May 3rd 1958

With our dear old dad, aka, Squire’, coming up to 90 years old, naturally we have arranged a big get together of family and friends for the occasion, but how do you go about something like that? I mean to say, you don’t come across many nonagenarian’s, and they must have seen and done so much during their tenure on this blue marble. First up, family pow wow to talk the idea through, and see who could do what regarding making the actual event happen, and who else might be called upon. Next thing was to make people aware, so I took the easy route, and set up a Facebook group for it, then started inviting everybody, family and friends, asking them to invite whoever I may have missed, or who they know doesn’t do Facebook. Luckily Squire is a popular old buzzard, and a reliable team were soon assembled, cake, decorations, and moral support are in hand. Location was a no-brainer, his beloved Sussex Yacht Club, of which he’s been a member since about Nelson’s time, although we nearly missed out as we’d left it all a bit late, but luckily got an afternoon slot for Saturday 15th April, 2 days before his actual birthday. They have an in house catering mob, so food was covered, all we had to do now was make sure people had enough advance notice, and keep the date alive in their minds.

Ma n Pa on honeymoon in Windsor, 1958

It had long been my intention to get an old box of family photo slides scanned in somehow, but lacked the technology to make it happen. Trawling the internet I found a slide and neg scanner which seemed to fit the bill, ‘DigitNow high resolution film scanner’, for £50, unfortunately it wasn’t fit for anything but the waste bin, so I returned it the same day as it arrived, and left a scathing review of the worthless product. I went back to the internet, checking the reviews more thoroughly this time, and found this ‘Ion Pics2SD’ slide and negative scanner on e bay, with great reviews. Having ordered the device it was now a waiting game, so when it arrived I was full of excited anticipation, this soon turned to further disappointment when I discovered this item was even less use than the first scanner. It did nothing, and looked wrong compared to the sales picture too, so I rattled off a message to the seller, informing them of my disappointment. After a number of messages back and forth, I sent the item back and awaited their verdict, which thankfully was swift, I had been sent a duff product, one they don’t even sell apparently. When the replacement arrived a couple of days later, I wasn’t going to get my hoped up, but within minutes all the previous let downs had been forgotten, and I found this little light box to be just what the doctor ordered. Slides that haven’t been viewed for getting on 40 years were revealing the past in glorious technicolour, saved to my laptop, and shared on the newly created Facebook group for the old mans 90th birthday. The images went back further than 40 years, some of them are from the 1950’s, including the parents wedding and honeymoon. After that I was like a kid in a sweet shop, finding one treasure after another as I downloaded the priceless photo-documents of our family, friends, and cousins.

Ma n pa on holiday in Cornwall with Uncle Mike, Auntie Manuela, and their kids, circa 1963

Having saved all these slides for posterity, I went to the cupboard where they had been gathering dust all these years, and stumbled upon 18 packs of black and white negatives, each pack with between 30 to 40 images. My new toy meant I could instantly check this rich new vein of photos out, and what a joy that has been. I have to say I’ve been very happily impressed with the quality of the scanned images, and not to mention the fact that the photographer, my dad, had done a bang up job with his camera work, with a very low rate of failures among these pearls of photographic family history. Since then I’ve been scanning and sharing this new found archive via FB, and if I were a Facebook ‘Like’ junky, I’d have enough to see me through to New Year 2020, and that’s only with 10% of the photos shared so far. What better way could there be to ignite interest in Squire’s forthcoming birthday celebrations, and give everyone something extra to chat about come the day, not that we really need any help, family gatherings have always been something to look forward to. There is also the not so small matter of Squire’s brother, Ian, who until a few short years back, believed himself to be an only child. I tracked him down while doing family tree research, and we have been in contact since 2008,  meeting for the first time in September 2013 when he and his lovely wife, Jill made the journey down to see us. The two of them will be making the trip down for Squire’s 90th, and meeting a lot of nieces and nephews for the first time, hopefully they will enjoy the newly found archive of family photos too. I can’t wait.

Our family, circa 1970. Dad the photographer

Plane Sailing

March 31, 2017

31-03-2017

 

On Wednesday night I was wondering how to organise the following day, with Ma’s hospital appointment at ENT, 10.20, Squire’s dentist check up at 09.45, could we still fit in a swim, and the Devil going back in the water around 14.00. When I woke up Thursday morning the answer was simple, cancel the appointments. Ma’s was a year later follow up for her balance issues, so they gave us a new date in May, Squire’s dental check up, they said we can reschedule when we like, all good, and now we could fit the swim in too.

For a while now, Squire’s balance has been more of an issue than Ma’s, and before, during, and after the swim he was all of a wobble, but no actual tumbles thankfully, so we make light of it, me informing him that if he’s going, it’ll be me pushing him, to which he replies, “I do like a bit of ambition in my boys”. On return from the swim, David’s car was in the drive with a flat tyre, apparently he’d had to take evasive action to allow an ambulance past, kerbed the car and punctured one of his boy racer low profiles. Then, in his inimitable style, broke a few tools with his Popeye arms while trying to remove the particularly stubborn wheel nuts. After a good search I found a decent enough socket and handle for the job, then we discovered we had no means of inflating the damn thing. After trying out the neighbours, David ended up walking back to his place to grab a handraulic stirrup pump for the job, and eventually got away to prep the Devil for the drop back in the river. No dramas really, just a typical Ramus affair of finding obstacles throwing themselves in the path of what ought otherwise be a smooth transition of events.

Ben at the controls

The boat movement went far more smoothly, with club Bosun, Ben, showing some nifty control with the boat hoist, pulling off a 38 point turn in the yacht club car park before dropping the Devil down the slipway in to the Adur, and we could then mosey off up the river to Aldrington basin, back to the mooring. We were luckier than a later boat owner, who had his scheduled movement ambushed by an incident at sea. Ben also happens to be a member of Shoreham RNLI, and the ‘Shout’ had gone out, so he had to answer the call.

The Devil in the boat hoist

Later that afternoon, having walked Fred, I popped out to buy some milk, and while there, discovered I had enough money to buy a Magnum ice cream too. Having treated myself, I thought I’d nip up to Widewater Lagoon to eat it there and watch the wildlife, discovering to my surprise, the reason for the lifeboat call out. Widewater was swarming with police, coastguards, firemen, and paramedics, with their vehicles blocking up the road in , and a good deal of the car park. Asking a fellow dog walker I recognised, he told me a plane had ditched in the sea, with no casualties luckily. It was high tide, and his engine having died shortly after take off from Shoreham Airport, he glided the stricken plane to a safe landing on the water, then calmly the two occupants stepped out on to the wings, and swam ashore to the amazement of onlookers.

As well as the lifeboat, a helicopter was called out too, in case of casualties needing an airlift to hospital. Once they knew the pilot and passenger were ok, the lifeboat and helicopter left the scene, but the lifeboat were again scrambled later when they realised the plane was floating out to sea on the tide, so Ben had another ‘Shout’, and they towed the flying machine back to shore, where the various members of the services set about dragging it up to the top of the beach. Later that evening, the story was local headline news on TV, and a new tourist attraction had presented itself to enquiring eyes.

Light aircraft on the beach at Widewater

This morning I went along to check it out, it’s behind the beach huts, had tape around the area, and security guards watching over it. Apparently they will try to remove it today, although quite how was not yet known. Our neighbour, Sarah Parker, is a flying instructor, and her husband, Brent, told us she’d seen the flight consul, and estimated the plane had made it to about 300 feet before the engine cut out, and the pilot would have had little time to play with. From all I’ve heard since, he did a bang up job of gliding the old bird safely in to the briny without any serious repercussions. The plane itself looks in pretty good nick considering what it’s been through. Film crews are hanging around to document the removal of the aircraft from the beach, so I guess Shoreham/Lancing will be getting another mention tonight.

Close up of the damage

We’ve had more than our fair share of nasty plane incidents here in the last few years, so it’s a very pleasant change to have one with a happy ending.

 

80 Years Reminiscences, by an Old Brightonian. Frederick John Ogburn

March 6, 2017

The following images are from a pamphlet of reminiscences, by an ‘Old Brightonian’, Frederick John Ogburn. He had worked as a baker through his life lived in Brighton, dying at the ripe old age of 92 in 1920.

Frederick John Ogburn  1828-1920

Frederick was born in Brighton, 1828, to James and Elizabeth Ogburn (Baptised 17th Feb 1828).. In 1841 they were living in Cavendish street, Brighton,  James’ occupation was listed as, ‘shoe maker’.

 

In 1850 Frederick married Eliza Reirdon, and by 1851, they had their first child, Clara Josephine, born in Lindfield. They would go on to have 12 children, 7 of were alive by the 1911 census report.

In the 1854 Brighton Trade Directory, Frederick is listed at 9 Montague Place, Brighton, under the ‘Grocers and Tea Dealers’ section.

In the 1858 ‘Melville’s Directory and Gazetteer of Brighton’, Frederick is now at 7 Montague Place, still as a Grocer and Tea Delaer.

In the 1861 census they are still at 7 Montague Place, Frederick is listed as a ‘Grocer and baker’. He and Eliza now have 6 children, and they have a niece living with them, Elizabeth Tullett, who is listed as a ‘Shopwoman’, presumably working in Frederick’s shop.

In the 1866 Post Office Directory of Sussex, Frederick is listed as a Grocer and Baker, of 7 and 17 Montague Place, Brighton.

In 1867, Frederick was a witness against an embezzler, George Greenstock. This was reported in the Brighton Gazette, Thursday 19th December. In the same year, Frederick was also declared under the Bankruptcy Act, to make payments to creditors of 4 shillings in the pound, in the London Gazette, dated 9th April, addresses given as, 7 and 17 Montague Place, Brighton.

By 1871, Frederick is listed in the census as living at 70 Sussex street, Brighton, occupation, Baker. Of the 7 children they have living with them, their eldest daughters,  Eliza, (18), and Elizabeth, (14), are listed as ‘shop assistant’.

In 1874, Frederick is again mentioned in the London Gazette, ‘in the matter of proceedings for liquidation by arrangement or composition’. A meeting of the creditors to be held at the Railway Hotel, Burgess Hill, on the 12th August at 4pm, ‘dated this 24th day of July 1874’. Black, Freeman, and Gell, 58 Ship street, Brighton, Attorneys for Frederick John Ogburn.

1877, and once again Frederick is forced into liquidation by arrangement, mentioned in the London Gazette on the 26th June, ‘Creditors to prove debts by 12th March’, and in the Morning Post newspaper, Thursday 28th June, ‘dividend of 6d on and after July 2 at Fenner’s, Brighton’.

By the 1881 census, Frederick and Eliza are still at 70 Sussex street, with two of their children, Ernest, and Amelia. Ernest, aged 16, is also listed as a baker.

In the 1882 Kelly’s Directory, in the Bakers section, Frederick John Ogburn has 3 addresses listed, 63 Albion Hill, Southern Cross, Portslade, and 18 North street, Portslade.

1891 census report shows Frederick and Eliza living at 63 Albion Hill, with their son, Ernest, and Granddaughter, Emeline Scammell. Frederick and Ernest listed as bakers.

In the 1894 Kelly’s Directory of Essex, Herts, and Middlesex,  Frederick is listed as a ‘Baker and Confectioner’, at 236 High street, Willesden.

In the 1901 census, Frederick and Eliza are still at 63 Albion Hill, with Ernest and Amelia living with them, and the Grandson, Frank. Frederick is listed as a ‘Baker and Shopkeeper’, Ernest, as a, ‘Baker’.

The 1911 census shows Frederick, Eliza, and Ernest, as lodgers at 23 Queens Park road, Brighton, the residence of Louise Ovenden. Frederick and Ernest both listed as bakers.

In 1914, Frederick has his pamphlet, ‘Eighty Years Reminiscences of Brighton, Hove, and District’, published.

In the 1918 Kelly’s Directory for Surrey, Frederick John Ogburn is listed as a private resident at Mount Pleasant road, Lingfield.

Frederick was registered as having died in the first quarter of the year of 1920, Brighton.

These are the details I have been able to find relating to the life of Frederick John Ogburn, in the hope that others may be able to add more at a later date, and maybe even some pictures.