Allonby village – Past and Present (2)

After my well earned coffee and cake break at the Allonby Tea Rooms my quest continued round the corner on the main road where the Ship Hotel is situated. A Grade ll listed building, the Ship was originally a 17th century coaching inn with stabling for horses and was popular with those travelling on the old coaching route to London. In 1857 Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins stayed overnight at the Ship while touring northern Cumberland, and though Dickens didn’t think much of the village itself (describing it as ‘a dreary little place’) he did like the Ship and described it as ‘a capital little homely inn looking out upon the sea….a clean nice place in a rough wild country’.
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The Ship Hotel
A few yards along from the Ship a stone built bridge carries the road diagonally across Allonby Beck. In former times the beck was much wider and shallower than it is now and was crossed at road level by an old cast iron bridge which was unfortunately destroyed in 1904. A traction engine, hauling a steam-driven fairground ride, started to cross the bridge but never made it to the other side ; the bridge cracked under the weight and the whole lot ended up in the beck which was swollen after a period of heavy rain. Following that incident a new stone bridge was built in 1905 and it’s still in use today.
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Road bridge over the beck
On a corner near the seaward end of the bridge and overlooking the play park is The Codfather fish and chip shop. It doesn’t feature on my list of properties to find and I don’t have a photo of it but I mention it because I find it a little odd. To find the next property in the brochure I had to look near the post office but search as I might I couldn’t find a post office anywhere ; eventually I asked a local and was told that the post office counter, such as it is, is only open on Thursdays between 10 and 11am and is actually in  The Codfather – how bizarre! I know in these times of companies and businesses downsizing and making cutbacks a post office can often be found within a supermarket but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of one in a fish and chip shop!
Once I’d located the ‘post office’ it was easy enough to find the next two properties. The Grapes was one of two pubs situated only a few yards apart and a narrow lane running at the side of The Grapes once led to the fish yards owned by a local family. Now a private house with a modern front door and windows, structurally it still looks the same as it was many years ago although strangely there’s only a brief mention of it in the brochure. The 3-storey Solway Hotel stood on the corner of the block; there were two versions of it and in more recent times the second one was known for a while as The Ocean Liner. It was a highly successful establishment providing good food and entertainment, and Country & Western nights were popular with acts like Boxcar Willie bringing in the crowds. Following a fire in the 1990s it was demolished and a modern 2-storey house built in its place but with an identical roof line to that of the hotel.
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The Grapes, now a private house
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A private house now stands in place of the Solway Hotel
Back on the main road, across from The Codfather and set back off the road itself, is Pig In The Bath antiques/junk shop in what was once Allonby Mill. The present mill building dates from the 19th century and stands on the site of a much earlier building which may have been a corn mill. Between Pig In The Bath and the road bridge a footbridge runs over the beck to a small square of cottages and the one on the left was once The Queen’s Head Inn which, in the mid 1800s, became Allonby’s first and only Temperance Hotel. Tucked away down a very narrow passage behind this property is tiny Cruck Cottage, named after the building method used in its construction ; a timber frame of oak ‘crucks’ or trunks provided the main foundation for the structure then it was in-filled with laths and a mixture of animal dung and straw. Cottages like these were known as ‘clay dabbin’ cottages.
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The former Allonby Mill
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The Queen’s Head Inn, now two private houses
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Cruck Cottage
Set back in the square, and at the beginning of Garden Lane, is Glen Cottage, a nicely renovated holiday let which still retains some of its original features including wood beams and an inglenook fireplace. It was once the home of well known Cumbrian artist Percy Kelly who lived there for ten years. The initials AK – PK – 1958 can still be seen engraved on the lintel in the bedroom, with AK being his first wife Audrey and 1958 being the year they moved in ; it was while living in Allonby that he produced some of his best watercolours of the region.
Percy moved out of Glen Cottage in 1968 after Audrey discovered that he was secretly cross-dressing ; she continued to live there and after they divorced he eventually remarried, moving to Kendal, then Wales, and finally Norfolk. His second wife left him in 1983 after twelve years together, and while taking HRT, convinced he was becoming a woman, Percy changed his name by deed poll to Roberta Penelope. After spending his life steadfastly refusing to sell much of his work he died in 1993 in obscurity and poverty, though his cottage was later to be found crammed with his work. More information about Glen Cottage and Percy Kelly can be found here on the cottage’s website.
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Glen Cottage
Garden Lane was once part of the main thoroughfare through the village and continued further than it does now ; it’s cut off by the beck which runs through the back of the village but when the beck was wider it had a shallow ford and Garden Lane was linked to Brewery Lane. The present narrower channel was dug by POWs during WW2 and being deeper it effectively separated both lanes. One of the properties in Garden Lane had large ovens in the cellar which could be accessed from outside, and as many homes didn’t have ovens at the time villagers would take their tattie pots to be cooked at the house in Garden Lane, earning it the name of Tattie Pot Lonning (Lane). The garage at Rainford House in Garden Lane was originally a clay dabbin cottage though at some time it was extended upwards by adding a stone-built gable. In recent years the present owner has restored the clay structure with antique bricks but a piece of the original clay and gravel has been ‘framed’ on the garage’s side wall.
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Cottages in Garden Lane
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Rainford House
Back on the main road, heading south and next door to the Baywatch Hotel, is Twentyman’s ice cream shop and general store. Twentyman’s had originally been boat breakers but when that trade died out the family saw an opportunity to provide ice creams and refreshments to passing visitors. The business was founded in 1920 and over the years has become famous throughout north Cumbria for its ice cream, made on the premises from a secret family recipe, although the modern property of today bears little resemblance to that of 1920.
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Twentyman’s ice cream shop
The penultimate building on my list, the church vicarage, was built in 1872 to replace a smaller vicarage which was situated in what is now the church graveyard. When Allonby parish merged with nearby Crosscanonby the vicarage was sold and in the 1950s it became a holiday home for children with disabilities, with actor and comedian Richard Hearne, famous for his ‘Mr Pastry’ character, being a fund raiser for the venture. Since then the building has been a hotel and a private home before becoming what it is now, West Winds Tea Rooms.
Christ Church is the last building on the main road through Allonby heading south. The original chapel was built in 1743 but a hundred years later it was deemed to be too small for the growing congregation ; it was rebuilt in 1845 then enlarged in 1849 and again in 1885. The low roofed part of the building on the north side was once a school for about 100 children, it was built in 1741 before the original chapel and eventually became the Church school.
The Vicarage, now West Winds Tea Rooms
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Christ Church
With Christ Church being the last on my list I finally had everything in the brochure found, photographed and ticked off. It had been a long, varied and interesting (sometimes mildly frustrating) day and with the late afternoon sun turning into an early evening sun and casting shadows where I didn’t want them it was time to return to the van and head back to the camp site. I’d completed my quest and the three of us had walked and wandered far enough so a good couple of hours of chill out time was more than justified.

A message from my friend

Back in the early days of this blog I wrote a post about a scatterbrained and ever-so-slightly eccentric friend of mine, and I have to say that in the sixteen months since I wrote that post her dottiness hasn’t improved any. Today I got an email from her which made me giggle so I thought I would share it with everyone – I know she won’t mind.
To put you in the picture, she lives in a village three-and-a-half miles up the road from me, a village which has no post office, shop, or any other businesses, so whatever she wants or needs she has to drive down to the local shops near here. Unfortunately she’s recently become another victim of the Aussie flu and as she lives alone I rang her yesterday morning to ask if she needed anything from the shops; she said she didn’t but today I got this email from her, and I quote –
“There is one thing you could do for me please but only if you’re passing and can park. I left my glasses and a book at Platinum hairdressers last time I was there – if you could pick them both up for me at your leisure and bring them next time you come up I’ll be very grateful. Normally leaving them there for now wouldn’t be a problem but I sat on my other glasses yesterday and they don’t fit properly now”
It was the last line which made me laugh. Collecting her book and second pair of glasses from the hairdressers isn’t a problem as it’s only a 10-minute walk down the road, but it’ll be interesting to see what shape the first pair of glasses are now!

I’ve started a new blog

Following on from my previous post about the challenge I’m taking on next month, I’ve started a new blog for it. Unless I’m missing something which should be obvious there doesn’t seem to be anywhere on my fundraising page for me to post regular updates of my progress, and I don’t feel it’s right to ask people to sponsor me or make donations if they can’t see how I’m doing. Then again, if I post updates on this blog they may very well get lost among all the other things I write about so a dedicated ‘challenge’ blog seems the way to go.
My new blog can be found here and as always any comments really will be much appreciated  🙂

Another trip to Ireland

Tomorrow I’m making my third trip over to Roscrea in Ireland and this time I go with a heavy heart – my son’s dad sadly passed away in the early hours of this morning. Michael had booked to fly back next Monday to see him, coming back on Friday, but at lunch time yesterday we had a phone call from Nellie to say that his dad had been moved from the family home to a hospice nearby and he needed to get there as soon as he could, so I managed to rebook a flight for him to go tomorrow. Then about 6pm Nellie phoned again to say that Jimmy had been so upset and stressed that he’d had a heart attack and been taken to hospital – that was bad news enough but just after 1am today Michael woke me up to say that Nellie had phoned again with the sad news that his dad had passed away peacefully not long before. Needless to say Michael was absolutely heartbroken – even though we knew this would happen it was no less upsetting when we got the news.
Today I arranged for compassionate leave from work next week then set about trying to book myself a flight for Saturday, assuming that the funeral would probably be on Monday, but then we got another call from Nellie to say that the funeral was actually to be on Saturday – now I know that over in Ireland they like to do things like that fairly quickly but I didn’t expect it to be so quick. Luckily I managed to get a flight for myself tomorrow, although it means us travelling separately – Michael will be going on the same mid day flight as last week and I’ll be on the 3.15pm one – once I get to Dublin I’ll have to wait until 6pm for the coach, meaning I won’t get to Roscrea until just after 8pm, but at least I’ll be there.
Just at the moment my head feels as if it’s about to explode with everything I have to think about and all the last minute organising that needs doing, in fact I’m only taking the time to write this now because I’m sitting having a much-needed coffee – the first one in several hours. Once I get on the plane tomorrow afternoon though I’ll be able to relax a bit, and although this is the one journey I’m not really looking forward to I’m determined to stay strong so I can support Michael as he says goodbye to his dad for the final time.

Tired, emotional and ‘jet lagged’

It’s taken me a couple of days to get round to writing this as after my recent quick trip over to Ireland I’ve been feeling very much as the title suggests. The journey from home last Wednesday with my son and his dad started off well but went downhill at Manchester airport when the plane was delayed – it seemed that, for some reason, one of the runways had been closed and the plane coming in from Ireland was late landing, so with the turn round time our flight was an hour and a half late taking off and we were all feeling tired and fed-up before we’d even gone anywhere.  I was quite surprised though that even though all my information told me the flight time was an hour it was actually only thirty five minutes, which would have been a bonus, but the delayed take-off meant we missed the coach we wanted to get from Dublin airport and had to wait until 3.15pm for the next one. After a 3-hour journey on that we finally arrived at the family home nearly ten hours after we first set off from home in the morning, and with my son’s dad completely exhausted and looking not at all well.
The next few hours for me passed in a confused and rather bewildered blur – being welcomed into the family home by relatives who my son knew well but I had never ever met before, having a meal and being given endless mugs of tea, making friends with Trixie the adorable little family dog, being introduced first to Alice, the next-door neighbour, then to Paul, a guy who lived across the street, and being told that my son and I would be sleeping at his house that night, which I thought was totally weird though it was explained that the family home only had two bedrooms. My son’s dad took himself off to bed at 9pm as he was totally whacked out, then Paul came to take us over to his house about an hour later. I was so tired by then that I was almost asleep on my feet so he showed me to my room and I left him and my son watching tv.
The following morning I got up at 7.30 and thinking my son would have been sleeping on the settee in Paul’s living room I went to wake him up but he was nowhere to be seen – totally confused again, and hearing noises in the kitchen, I went to find Paul and he told me that my son was in a small bedroom just off the back corridor. Once he was awake and dressed we went back across the street to the family home where breakfast was waiting for us, then before long it was time to leave as we were getting the 9am coach back to the airport. My son’s dad was still in bed and saying goodbye to him was really emotional; he looked so frail, and as I hugged him I wished more than anything that I could take away his pain and get him well again. It took several minutes in the kitchen on my own before I felt ready to leave the house; my son was sitting on the front step, he didn’t say much but I knew he was feeling the same way as me.
The journey back home was, fortunately, much more straightforward than the previous day. A neighbour, Kathy, took us and Paul up to the bus stop in her car and Paul waited with us until the coach came. This one was from a different company and used a more direct route to the airport so the journey time was only two hours, though we had quite a bit of time to kill once we got there. The plane took off on time just before 2pm, our friend was waiting for us when we landed at Manchester, and with no delays on the motorway we were back home by 3.30pm. An hour later I was at work and as I went through my normal routine I found it hard to believe that only a few hours previously I’d been somewhere in the middle of southern Ireland.
It was the following day when the events of the previous two days caught up with me – the long and tiring journey on the first day, meeting several different people for the first time, sleeping in an unknown house, then saying goodbye to my son’s dad with the possibility of never seeing him alive again, and the journey back home, all condensed into a little over thirty hours -the whole experience had left me with a feeling of surrealism and confusion, as if I’d ‘time travelled’ and been somewhere but hadn’t, or maybe had an out-of-body experience, and the tiredness I felt was overwhelming. I know you can’t get jet lag from just a thirty minute flight but I really did feel totally wiped out. I’m hoping I can go back soon to see my son’s dad again while he’s still alive but if and when I do I’ll make sure I take more time off work – even just one more day would make a big difference.

“Where’s my bath plug?”

I have a friend who, although very intelligent – she was a historian and university lecturer before she took early retirement – is often very scatterbrained and absent-minded. She’s only 63 so not exactly old but she’s the epitome of a completely dotty old lady and some of the things she says and does are often a source of great amusement. At least she has the ability to laugh at herself though so I know she won’t mind me posting an example of her scattyness on here.
A few years ago I took her camping with me to a small site in Northumberland, and though my van and drive-away awning were pitched on the main part of the site her tent was pitched in the next field and just the other side of the dividing hedge. On the day we were coming home I was busy packing up the van when I noticed my friend walking across the site – thinking she was taking some rubbish to the bin I didn’t give it much thought and carried on with what I was doing. I was just about to start taking the pegs out of the awning when she came across and asked me where her stuff was. What stuff?….The stuff she’d just piled at the front of the van ready for packing, it had taken her five journeys to carry it all across.
Well I hadn’t seen her stuff and there was definitely nothing in front of the van so where the heck was it? We were both totally confused, and she was just beginning to think that someone had somehow managed to swipe the lot when I went for a scout round and found it – she’d piled it up at the front of someone else’s caravan two pitches further along!! That must have been where she was going when I’d seen her walking across the site earlier on, but how on earth she’d managed to mistake a large white twin-axle caravan for my grey van and awning I’ll never know. I’d actually seen the occupants of the caravan going over to the shower block a while before so heaven only knows what they thought when they got back and found all that stuff piled up at the front of it! That incident has come up in conversation more than once over the last few years and we always have a laugh about it.
So this morning at 11am my friend phoned me and her first words were “Where’s my bath plug?”. Not “Hi, how are you?” or “Sorry to bother you if you’re busy” just “Where’s my bath plug?” Now unfortunately I don’t have the ability to see up the road, round corners and through brick walls so my reply was “How the heck do I know where your bath plug is?” I clean the house for her once a week and it’s only a few days since I blitzed the bathroom and left the plug on the side of the bath so I suggested that was where it probably still was, though she swore blind it wasn’t there. However, about half an hour ago she phoned me again and this time her words were “I’ve found the bath plug” so I just had to ask her where it was. “On the side of the bath” came the reply – which was exactly where I’d said it would be. It seemed that while having a shower she’d put the long-handled back brush on the side of the bath right where the plug was – so was it a case of she couldn’t see for looking or hadn’t she looked properly in the first place? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it won’t be long before the next scatty episode occurs – I wonder what it will be next time?