Posts by AmyG

I like thinking and making, I also like listening to other people's conversations on buses. I have a love hate relationship with cardboard. None-smoker, enjoy a drink now and then, need to get fitter, happier and more productive.

On Diversion: To Kingston (upon Hull)

Yesterday I went to Kingston upon Hull.

Hull is the UK’s City of Culture this year and I was really happy to see so many great cultural activities and trails, venues and events advertised. My positive impression of the city was possibly influenced by the glorious sunshine – albeit also a little windy – and the fact I was off work for a day! Whoop! (Though arguably, the day was nothing other than a bus man’s holiday [a phrase which Wikipedia says dates back to 1893, a mind-blowing surprise to me as it seems so ‘modern’!]).

Bus operations in the city seemed to be run by Stagecoach with their distinctive blue and orange swiggly livery and East Yorkshire buses with what looked like vintage branding livery of cream and maroon. I saw lots of them about because I had buses on the brain.

I found myself in Queen Victoria Square and confronted by the giant artwork ‘Blade’ – a huge wind turbine blade, 75m long, produced by the local Siemens factory. I then walked along the marina, through cobbled streets and pedestrian ways of the Old Town, passed Holy Trinity Church and industrial buildings. I loved seeing all the statues of local people including poet Philip Larkin at the station, passing the Town Hall and Sessions Courts, along the High Street. The Museum of Clubbing was closed but I found myself in the Museums Quarter with an hour or two to spend. This was very enjoyable and I managed to quickly whizz around the Hull and East Riding Museum (highlights being the Roman mosaics and glassware and a giant ancient wooden boat), the Streetlife Museum (more below) and the Wilberforce Museum (which is a beautiful house telling the horrifying story of slavery and how social and political action has fought against the still prevailing trade in human life).

Treats for my next trip: the Fish Trail and the Ale Trail, hopefully with some friends.

Streetlife Museum of Transport

This museum recreates the streets of Hull from the 1940s, with associated shops and vehicles. There are examples of an ice cream van, a Regal III bus in dark blue livery, tramcars and road vehicles dating back 200 years including a rare three-wheeler Hackney Carriage. I particularly enjoyed seeing inside an old fashioned cycling shop and also how a railway signal box operated. It was fun to be surrounded by shop frontages, signage, streetlights and vehicles. Visitors ranged in age from pre-school to retirement age and it seemed to be engaging for all. It was quite refreshing to not be bombarded with huge amounts of signage and information panels and a major success for me was the opportunity to just enjoy the environment and learn from looking at the actual objects. Another display I particularly enjoyed was the recreation of Hull Museum’s first Director’s office in the entrance way, complete with a rather grizzly item – his waste paper bin made of an elephant’s foot!

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P.S. Last night I delivered a talk about Saxon Kingston – Kingston so called because it was a royal estate, much like Kingston upon Hull (though that wasn’t named Kingston until 13th century)! I’ve decided I should start collecting ‘Kingstons’ and am happily looking for a benefactor to send me to Canada and/or Jamaica. Applicants need only comment in the section below and I will carefully consider your proposal! HA HA HA.

 

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K15: Langley Grove

Malden Golf Club at Traps Lane, 1926

The Malden Golf Club had their original course near to Raynes Park Station and were founded in 1893, incorporated as a Limited Company in 1924. The Club moved to New Malden in early 1926 when the lease on the Raynes Park land had run out. It was being acquired for construction work, and wasn’t ideal for a course because it became “merely a swamp in parts after heavy rain”.

The new site at New Malden was chosen due to its sandy sub-soil which meant it would hopefully stay dry in winter. It was taken with a 21 year lease. The new course was designed by Harold Bailey FRIBA and Guilford Dudley. Plans were received in 1925, with greens and fairways being seeded before end of April 1925, and trees, broom, heather all planted in the autumn of that year. Construction of the Clubhouse began in May 1925, officially completed on 15th February 1926 according to planning records. Around 50 workmen had been involved in the construction of the new facilities.

The course was opened finally on 1st May 1926 by Col. Sir Augustus FitzGeorge, President of the Club and descendant of the 2nd Duke of Cambridge, owner of the Coombe Estate (explaining the origin of local road and institutional names). It covered 115 acres and was 6250 yards long, comprising of two loops both with 9 holes, starting at the clubhouse. 8 holes were 400 yards or longer, 4 were short holes. Both the Coombe and Beverley Brooks had to be negotiated with driving shots.

The Clubhouse was “Georgian in character”, “constructed with every consideration for the comfort of the members” which included the installation of central heating, what a luxury! The ground floor had a main hall, card and writing rooms, refreshments lounge, dressing room with shower, bath and lavatory, drying room for clothes. The first floor had a large dining hall accessed via a fine oak staircase, a kitchen, pantry, the steward’s quarters, ladies dressing room and ladies lounge.

Membership swelled to 389 in the first year at their new home.

The club grounds were used for agricultural production during the Second World War and the clubhouse was a base for the local Home Guard.

Malden’s Other Golf Clubs

Malden had 3 18-hole golf courses with the completion for the new course: Coombe Hill, Coombe Wood and New Malden Golf Club.  Really indicative of the popularity of the game at that time.

In the Maldens and Coombe Urban District Council Act 1933, the council sought to acquire and manage the ‘Coombe Lands’, 187 acres occupied by 300 separate owners and including both the Coombe Hill and Coombe Wood golf courses. This would allow council rights to private roads allowing for repairs, consistent provision of sewers and drains, and the ability to charge improvement rates to local occupiers from 28th July 1933. It cost the UDC £72,000. National government leant the money, to be paid back through general rates: at the time is was deemed  “unlikely that a Bill of this kind will ever come before us again”.

The Golf Courses would come under municipal management, charging admission. The idea of the Act was that these areas would be protected as open space for all time, for which surrounding properties would pay a fee for 21 years, according to proximity to the courses. The open spaces were deemed as a valuable asset, enhancing property prices of the local area – still true to this day.

Fun facts: #007

According to my 213 friend Roger, Langley Grove was a secret hide out for Russian spies. No more information on when or what they were doing there (hope I haven’t blown anyone’s cover!?) so if you have more on this story, I’d love to know!

Sources:

  • Gems, J N (Robin) (1990) The Story of Malden Golf Club Malden Golf Club
  • “Clubs” feature, Malden Village Voice, April 2015, pp.28-29
  • “New Golf Club: A course being constructed at New Malden”, Surrey Comet, 16th May 1925, p.13
  • “Opening of New Golf Course at Malden”, Surrey Comet, 9th January 1926, p.3
  • “Opening of New Malden Golf Course”, Surrey Comet, 22nd May 1926, p.5
  • Surrey Comet, 19th July 1933, p.5, 8, 10
  • Surrey Comet, 22nd July 1933, p.3, 7
  • Surrey Comet, 29th July 1933, p.16

 

Designology at London Transport Museum

me-at-the-london-transport-museumA few weekends ago, Mum came to stay and I decided to take her to London Transport Museum. I’ve visited the Museum a few times (and wrote a blog about it once upon a time) but it was so exciting to be back! All the red shiny vehicles, signs in the distinctive New Johnston font and moving models are engrossing, and I wore my metaphorical anorak with pride and a broad grin throughout the visit!

Designology Exhibition

The present temporary display is all about London Transport Design. The upper floor has a series of objects on display, from bus stop flags to handrails and ticket barriers, a favourite exhibit being a collection of seat moquette and a video about how they are made. If you are interested in that too, there should a number of free drop in events as part of ‘Weaving Futures’ pop-up studio which will run 21st November to 18th February 2017.

Down the spiral stairs takes you to a ‘design studio’ of sorts which attempts to explain the design process for projects both realised, scrapped and for the future. I particularly enjoyed learning about how designers tested the effectiveness of the wayfinding mini- and monoliths (Legible London) using a full scale mdf and paper replica. I remember the real things being installed in Worcester Park and then Kingston a few years ago, a sort of proof that we are in London, despite what my ‘city’ friends might say about us ‘suburbians’!  The other half of downstairs is a space dedicated to designing, where a large table invites you to get stuck in and where the drop-in events are held.

This exhibition emphasises how integrated good design is with our everyday lives: ‘design that is often hidden by its familiarity’. It therefore connects quite well to my own interest in transport – the potential connections between place, heritage and everyday life – with these themes touched upon and celebrated in the display.

Designology is part of a wider project called ‘Transported by Design’ being run jointly by the Museum and TfL.

Gallery Activities

The design theme continued in a variety of wonderful gallery and visitor activities including: The Unfinished Bus, Make your own Oyster Card, Design your Own station and Create your own Bus! Definitely worth a visit, something fun for everyone and one of my favourite museums.

 

 

 

Roads and Road Transport History Association

The Roads and Road Transport History Association, let’s call it RRTHA for short, is something I’ve been involved with for a few years now. It is an association of people interested in researching historical and contemporary developments in all things road transport. I’ve met some wonderful people through the Association all with a particular passion – or a few – who are welcoming, supportive and non-judgemental, characteristics all too lacking in much of day-to-day life.

We meet twice a year for a conference and are always eager to give researchers an opportunity to speak at the conference or publish in our quarterly journal so do visit http://www.rrtha.org.uk/ if you’d like to get involved. The other thing that RRTHA does is publish books. At our meeting in Coventry a few weeks ago I purchased the Companion to Road Passenger Transport. A work of over a decade, involving contributions from 157 people to create a compendium of 850 names/articles involved in the development of road passenger transport in the last two hundred years in Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It’s a really good introduction for students and people interested in getting more involved in research, with lots of texts referenced and an extensive range of subjects to learn more about. It’s also got a summary in French and German.

Autumn Conference, 2016

This was held at Coventry Transport Museum on Saturday 29th October. I decided to travel on the day and was super impressed to get from my door to the museum’s in about 2.5hours. We had a number of speakers: Roger Torode talked about writing his book on the privatisation of London’s buses, Rod Ashley spoke about nostalgia and motoring (particularly interesting was the dilemma of utility value v. pleasure and ideas surrounding social responsibility), Martin Higginson spoke about bus liveries and heritage branding of companies and Richard Wallace shared lots of information on buses in East Kent. A day well spent.

Roger’s talk was particularly interesting to me and I noted the following:

  • Very intrigued by the formation of 8 bus districts in the late 1970s (with very beautiful logos which I can’t find on the internet, further proof that it is not the source of all knowledge!).
  • The militaristic nature of London Transport pre-privatisation with huge hierarchical separation, poor performance, unreliability and a low expectation culture; unions held a lot of sway which made scheduling buses incredibly difficult. How to incentivise good performance in the public sector?
  • Lack of political consensus surrounding the issue of transport in the UK context. How do we work toward political consensus on such an importance issue?
  • Red was kept as a unifying colour for buses, in part to make privatisation of the buses(11 different companies in 1988) less obvious, and therefore more palatable to the public
  • Tendering works in the London context but only because the service is still within a publicly owned and coordinated network, i.e. regulated; it favours big companies due to short contracts and has delivered a more reliable service overall

K14: Coombe Girls Schools

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Coombe Girls’ School, originally Coombe County Secondary Girls’ School pre-1965, opened in 1955. It is listed under both Clarence Avenue and Darley Drive in Kingston’s planning database (the later is a bus blind destination for when the 213 is running a shortened route). The Planning Record shows that movable classrooms were added in 1966, the caretaker’s flat in 1972, garages in 1975, a portable double classroom in 1993, a three storey extenstion in 1998, a new sixth form centre 2001, extensions in 2003 and 2009, the refurbishment of a lab in 2004, Sports Hall and Music & Drama suites in 2004, and GP surgery 2004. This shows how the demands on the school have changed and increased over time to accommodate more and more students and to offer a wider curriculum.

A guide to Secondary Education at Kingston History Centre dated 1971 includes a page on Coombe Girls’ School, written by the then Headmistress Mrs A P Taylor.  It mentions route 213A in the second line! Accommodation at the time included 3 Housecraft Rooms, 2 Needlework Rooms, 3 Art Rooms, 5 Science Laboratories, a Language Laboratory, Main Library and 6th Form Reference Library, Gymnasium and Redgra Hockey Pitch. The general course in the first 3 years included Modern Mathematics, Nuffield Science, French, Geography, History, Religious Education, Housecraft, Needlework, Art, Music and Physical Education. English teaching included speech and drama. After that, English, Maths and French were compulsory but otherwise pupils could choose their courses. It was expected that all pupils complete 6 or 7 ‘O’ Levels. At the time, there were 1000 pupils, 100 in the 6th form which offered various  ‘A’ levels, a Commercial Course (shorthand, typing and an ‘A’ level in Economics) and supplementary ‘O’ Levels. Out of school activities included a guitar club, Christian Union and Trampolining. All girls were expected to do homework and to wear school uniform.

Plans to build a sports centre in 2000 had 300 strong resident opposition. An Ofsted report in 1999 said the school had “unsatisfactory” physical education, music and drama facilities. Community use for new facilities was part of the lottery funding, set to be open 9am until 10pm weekdays and 9am until 5pm weekends. Neighbours were against the increase in noise, parking and traffic problems which a new facility might bring and formed an action group in October 1999 to fight the proposals. At the time, 1200 pupils were using the original 1950s sports hall which has been built to accommodate 600, and spending valuable time travelling to facilities at Kingsmeadow and the Malden Centre for lessons. Residents felt that the nature of the area as primarily residential was under threat. The community use of new facilities (eventually built in 2004) doesn’t seem to have happened, although Kingston Adult Education did’ provide tennis courses at the Coombe Evening Centre’, based at the School on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings for a time.

The Girls’ School now forms part of an Academy Trust alongside Coombe Boys’, Coombe Sixth Form and Knollmead Primary.

 

 

Selective Secondary Education in Kingston

On the formation of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in 1965, the Council ran its own schools, further and higher education. It was responsible for around 17,500 pupils, in 39 primary and 15 secondary schools. In 1966, 1700 11 year olds would transfer to secondary education and participate in “A procedure… used to select those pupils who appear to be capable of benefiting from a more intensive academic course”, i.e. the selection process to enter Grammar education which only 20% pupils would be offered.

The test was open to any resident or pupil currently attending school in the borough, and the guidance says that “nothing is lost by unsuitable candidates not taking the  tests” which is certainly an exercise in understanding double negatives. The tests were 3 papers in English, Mathematics and Verbal Reasoning, taken in January 1966, plus an essay submitted at some point during the preceding term; results were adjusted for the age of the pupil. After the results, parents were able to select a first and second choice of school, “organised on a neighbourhood basis” with each school serving its locality. At this time, Coombe Girls School had Grammar places available alongside standard secondary education, i.e. it was mixed stream school.

“Every effort is made to select at eleven years all those pupils who will be suitable for a full course leading to GCE ‘A’ Level but there will be some pupils whose capacity for advanced study does not become apparent until later”.

If you went to a comprehensive and achieved 4 passes at O-Level then you may still be considered for 6th form at a Grammar School, dependent on an entry interview/assessment process.

In 1967, national government promoted and began to enforce comprehensive education rather than the academic selection process of grammars.

I went to a mixed, none-selective state high school and personally don’t think that it is appropriate to judge a child’s ability at the age of 11 years old. I value my time at school as it allowed me to interact with many different types of people and to appreciate that not all knowledge is academic. To limit somebody’s options as a child is to limit the contribution they can make as an adult and I am an advocate for access to an education at any age when a person shows the inclination for it.

 

Sources:

 

Bus to Nowhere

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This rather forlorn figure sits outside the Tate Modern on Southbank. It makes me feel really sad, because someone has decided to make a bin look like a bus. But then they’ve made the front of the bus face a lamppost. This bus is a Bus to Nowhere. Why do this?!  N.B. beginning to think I have an unhealthy emotional relationship with buses, this just doesn’t seem right!