Sunday, 11 March 2012

In Town And Around

Another collection of ageing and engaging snippets to entertain and delight the passer-by, impeding their progress through this busy world.

At Last....A Staddle Stone

Many posts ago, possibly before many of you had encountered this blog, I mentioned "staddle stones". These mushroom shaped stones, standing about two feet (0.6m) high, were used to support the floor-timbers of small granaries which stood in every farmyard. Their purpose was simply to prevent mice and rats entering the grain store. I said that you often see them these days standing on the roadside and I would photograph one for you "soon". I found an old granary at Barley but the individual stones proved to be as elusive as any inanimate lump of rock could possibly be. But eventually I cornered one at Ashdon and I present this hard-won trophy above!

Watergate....The True Story!

Between the green common of Coe Fen and Peterhouse College is a wall which includes this ancient structure, a low, blocked gate, dating from the fifteenth century, which seems to have no purpose. Above it is the coat of arms of the Bishop Of Ely. The clue to its existence is in the name of the common, Coe Fen, for that is exactly what it was, a fen or marsh, till it was drained for public health reasons in the early twentieth century. A branch of the river formerly flowed close to the wall and a small "canal" allowed boats to enter the college grounds by way of the water-gate.

A Light-Show

From the old and seemingly indestructible to the fleeting and ephemeral. Over the Christmas period an iconic Cambridge landmark was lit up as never before. The light show, entitled "Foster's Mill Firmament" was the work of artist David Ward. Although temporary in nature it was based on things more ancient and eternal, namely the fan-vaulting of the ceiling of King's College Chapel and the night sky.

Well I Never....

At the edge of a piece of common land in the Cambridgeshire village of Haslingfield stands this odd little building; one old brick wall and three more modern wooden ones. An old illustration shows the brick wall was once more elaborate, sporting a Dutch gable. The wall dates from the seventeenth century, the time when Sir Thomas Wendy, physician to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I, was extending the nearby hall. The building is a well-house and it seems likely that the brick wall was designed to give this humble building a grand aspect when seen from the approach to the hall. The wooden walls are a recent replacement for older timbers.

An Odd Bridge

If you've been to Cambridge you've probably seen this queer-looking bridge. It's the kind of structure that seems to inspire stories. The college authorities refer to it as "The Wooden Bridge" but everyone else calls it the "Mathematical Bridge". Some say it was designed by Isaac Newton but in fact it was the work of an undergraduate named W. Etheridge in 1749. Disappointing but true. Then you may hear that it was originally held together without the need for nails or bolts. That may be true but wooden dowels were probably used instead. The last tale, and the one I really wish was true, is that the iron bolts were put in because inebriated students returning after a night in the local alehouses could not resist the temptation to dismantle the bridge. Then of course, in the cold light of day, they found it was much harder to put back together again. But sadly there's no evidence for that story either.

And Finally....

At this time of year I can rarely pass by these beauties without stopping for a closer look.

Take care.


  1. Fun post, John. I had never seen staddle stones before, or even known about them. Loved the well house with one brick wall. It's a ruse common in tract houses in this country. And regards the stories about the wooden bridge, "if we keep telling them long enough perhaps they will be true." Jim

  2. The straddle stones are completely new to me - I'd never heard of them before.

    The mathematical bridge has been pinned or nailed together right from the word go, though perhaps in such a way as to conceal them. It's not even the original - it's been rebuilt twice after 1749 - this version was made in 1904

    Good to see daffs - Spring has arrived on time this year it seems

  3. I would like to have one of those staddle stones, only a wee bit taller then it would be a great squirrel proof bird feeder.

  4. You present a good collection of images, John. The small building is a true oddity, as is the wooden bridge.

  5. Random but fascinating. I love your posts!

  6. You DO have some interesting things around town. My favourite must be the Staddle Stone.

  7. some lovely images and wonderful stories(or facts??!!)

  8. I love the walks you take us on, and the curiosities that strike your eye. I like seeing relics from other times... they are the links that help us understand who we were, and where we have been.

  9. Something seems a little off about the bridge, but perhaps it was the first design for W. Etheridge. Now I know what a water-gate is. The daffys look so cheerful, as they always do. I'll have to wait a while yet for mine to bloom.

  10. I so enjoy your travels and tit bits of information ... that bridge is amazing ...and the stories behind it were so interesting.

  11. Eclectic group of images John. I like your interpretation of Watergate so much better than the real one. The little wooden bridge and it's story is delightful.

  12. Thanks for the comments. You're right of course, Sandy, the bridge has been rebuilt twice to the same design, in 1895 and 1902 according to my sources. Why twice within a decade, I wonder, when the othe incarnations have lasted so long? According to Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, the original was held together with wooden pegs rather than bolts. That makes sense as old barns and houses often have their beams held together with pegs or dowels. W Etheridge is believed to have travelled in China and it has been suggested that it may be a copy of something he saw there.

  13. Lots of interesting bits, I love staddle stones and would love one for my garden but they are way beyond my purse these days. I like the fen gate too, I imagine it could tell a few tales if it could speak:)


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