Posts Tagged ‘viaduct’

Land Of My Fathers

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Well, not quite, but our family do have strong Welsh connections. The only grandparent I ever knew was a small woman dressed in black who sat in a corner of the parlour beside the coal fire, with its permanent kettle on the hob, and if she spoke at all it was at least with a strong Welsh accent, though she had a quiet voice and I was never certain it was in English.

She had a name, Eliza, though she died before I knew her as anything other than Gran’ma, and was born in Llansantffraed, Radnorshire in 1865 where her family farmed. Llan-Santfraid Yn Elvael is a few miles from Builth Wells, one of quite a few places named after St Ffraid the Nun, better known outside Wales as St Brigit, including another in Radnorshire, Llansantffraid Cwmmwd Deuddwr (aka Cwmtoyddwr.) Her family farmed at Llan-gyfrwys, or Llangoveris, not far from Hundred House and every Christmas my father or uncle would go up to Paddington Station to collect a bird sent up for the family table, a duck or a goose, which around 20 of us, my aunts, uncle, father, mother and cousins would sit around the table to eat, though I insisted on eating only the chipolatas, not liking the rather greasy birds.

As a young woman she had been sent up to London to work in a family business, a Welsh dairy near Mount Pleasant, on the Gray’s Inn Road, and I imagine Fredrick Marshall, a young tradesman around her age who had moved into London from Cheshunt came into the shop as a customer, and they were married at Highgate Road, later moving to set up home in Hounslow were he set up a small cart-making business and she running a small shop and bearing five girls and two boys, one my father.

One of those girls married a Welsh man who I think she met when she was sent to Wales to look after an elderly relative there, and they had a home at Aberedw, a few miles south of Builth where her husband was a river warden on the Wye. I spent several summers in their house as a small child, probably when my mother was in hospital and I think we often ate salmon.

Back then we travelled to Aberedw by train (the line closed at the end of 1962) and there were several possible routes, though trains were infrequent on all. Trains from Hereford or Cardiff I think took us to Three Cocks Junction where we changed for Aberedw. When I last went to Aberedw by train in the late 1950s you had to tell the guard when boarding that you wanted to alight there, and to catch the train from there you stood on the platform and waved frantically at the driver.

The most exciting route was to come up through the valleys from Cardiff through Merthyr Tydfil (though I don’t remember the details, and I think there was probably another change involved) but the scenery with mountains, colleries and factories was rather more impressive than the lusher fields of Hay and Hereford.

I can’t now exactly remember how my trip to Merthyr came about, but I think I probably managed to persuade several friends from a small group of photographers that it would be a great place to go at that time, within a day or two of the announcement by the National Coal Board of the closure of more than 20 pits that led to the Miners’ Strike. It was clear that this was the end of an era for industry in South Wales, and was a part of Thatcher’s plan to end manufacturing and turn the UK into a service economy – which I had been documenting with a series of pictures of closed factories around London.

I think I was the only one of the four who didn’t have a car, but the four of us drove down I think together in Terry King, who had organised a couple of nights at a guest house and read up a little on the area.

I’ve just put a album with many of the pictures I took on this trip onto Flickr, where you can browse all of them at high resolution. Most are from Trehafod around the Lewis Merthyr colliery and from Cwmaman, as well as Dowlais and Cefn Coed. As always I’m happy for images to be shared on social media but retain copyright, and a licence is needed for any commercial or editorial use.

Wales 1984 – Views from the valleys

After taking these pictures I made some attempt to get funding to return and do more work in the area, but without success.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Secret Rivers

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Just opened at the Museum of London Docklands is the exhibition Secret Rivers, which is worth going to see if you are around – and is free. Not all of the rivers featured are secret – they include the Thames and the Lea – but they are all of interest. As well as videos and maps and pictures including a few photographs there are also objects found in the rivers on display.

I’ll leave more general comments about the show to the reviews listed at the bottom of this post, but say a little more about my own minor contribution, the picture above of the DLR being built across the not very secret Bow Creek which I made in morning fog back in 1992. It was one of around a dozen images of the DLR extension shown as part of a group show on Transport at the Museum of London later that year.

I’d left home early on a Sunday morning in mid-January as a fine morning with clear sky was dawning, catching the first early morning train to Richmond then the North London Link to Canning Town. As we approached the destination I was disappointed to find everywhere was shrouded in mist; had I known I would have stayed in bed at home!

I’d recently bought what was then the most expensive camera I’d ever owned, a new Japanese Widelux 35mm model, a rotating swing lens camera, which had cost me around £2000 (equivalent to around £7000 today allowing for inflation) and had decided this was an ideal project to make use of its unique characteristics.

I was pretty fed up with the mist, as I wanted nice clear pictures, and it was also much colder than I’d anticipated in the mist, but as I’d spent a couple of hours travelling to the location I decided to take some pictures, and stuck at it for an hour or two, making around 40 exposures – roughly two films. The camera gave around 21 exposures on a normal 36x 35mm casette with negatives the same width as those made with a 6×6 camera but only 24mm tall.

It was a slow job, as the camera had to be carefully levelled on a tripod for each picture, otherwise the horizon would appear curved. The viewfinder was imprecise, and I soon learnt it was better to rely on the two arrows on the top plate which indicated the field of view to visualise the result.

The camera used no batteries, but was clockwork and entirely manual. Winding on the film also wound the shutter and rotated the lens, held in a vertical cylinder in front of the curved film behind, to its starting point. On pressing the shutter release, a slit behind the lens opened to epose the film as the lens rotated around a roughly 130 degree arc. I think the shutter speed was probably 1/125 s, based on the exposure of any point on the film, but it took perhaps 1/30th for the slit to travel across the film as the lens rotated.

I calculated the exposure using a separate hand-held meter, a Weston Master V, which could make relected light readings as in-camera meters do or, with the aid of a curiously shaped lump of translucent plastic, it could measure the light falling on your subject, almost certainly what I used for these pictures in the fog. The Weston meters used a selenium photo cell around two inches in diameter, which generated enough electricity to power the meter, and again needed no battery.

I’d walked from Canning Town down the Silvertown Way and over the Lower Lea Crossing to where the DLR crossed the creek. The mist I think was rather thicker than it looks in the picture, and I could hardly see Pura Foods. I took a few more pictures then my way back via the East India Dock Road to Canning Town cold and disappointed. It seemed to me to have been a wasted day – and I came back a week later to retake the images in clear daylight.

Once I’d developed and printed the films a couple of weeks later, I realised that although for most of what I’d taken the mist really spoiled the pictures, this image, with the viaduct disappearing into the distance was rather special. It remains one of my most widely published and exhibited works, but is the only one from that foggy day day that appears on my River Lea website.

More about the Secret Rivers show at:
Londonist
London Live (video)
The Guardian
Evening Standard
MuseumCrush

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images