My daughter, Beth, took this photo earlier this year on a visit to Bath.
This shop used to be TOVEY OPTHALMIC OPTICIAN, the business started in 1888 by my great grandfather, Frank Ivor Tovey. Great grandfather and his family lived above the shop and I was told that my grandmother was born in those rooms.
The shop front seen in these photos was newly installed by my great grandfather in 1906, designed by Alfred J. Taylor.
The current shopkeepers told Beth that Mary Shelley had lived there.
This was a surprise to me, but a little bit of research reveals that it is true. The rooms above the shop were rented by Percy Shelley and occupied by Mary’s step sister, Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley’s son, William, and his nurse, and Mary used this address, 12 New Bond Street, for her correspondence during that period from autumn 1816 to January 1817, although she also had other rooms in a boarding house near the Pump Room and Roman baths.
It was a dark time for Mary; Shelley was hardly ever there, and Mary and Claire were keeping out of the public eye because Claire was pregnant with Lord Byron’s child.
In addition, Mary and Percy Shelley’s first baby, Clara, had recently died in infancy while they were abroad and Byron’s relationship with Claire had gone sour. Shelley had run out of funds to support himself, Mary and Claire on their travels and they had returned to England on a low with winter coming. Mary felt deeply the rift with her father, but she determined to write the novel that she had started after a nightmare vision during their stay with Byron.
As if things couldn’t get worse, tragedy came with the suicides of Mary’s half sister, Fanny, and of Shelley’s wife, Harriet. It is hard to imagine how wretched life must have seemed on a dark, wet, winter day.
Out of all this came Mary’s ground breaking novel, Frankenstein.
(There are links to buy the books, Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour, and Frankenstein, below.)
My mother, Winifred Tovey, wrote about her first visit to Tovey Opticians in her book, Strangers in Chaotung …
‘Frank’s grandfather, Frank Ivor Tovey, was descended from a family of watch and clock makers. He had qualified as an optician and set up the business in New Bond Street, Bath. It was here that Frank’s father, Ernest Tovey worked. Ernest trained as an optician when courting Nellie and had to change his name from Short to Tovey by deed poll when he married her, the eldest of the three Tovey daughters.
Frank’s auntie, Irene Tovey, also worked at the shop in Bath. She was the middle sister to Nellie and May and the first woman to qualify as an optician in England, for which she was awarded the Freedom of London.
During the weekend I spent a fascinating afternoon in the shop. I met all the staff members and then was taken upstairs into the workshop where spectacles were prepared for individual customers. At that time, 1947, spectacle lenses were made of glass and arrived in squares. First of all the lens had to be centred. If they were cylindrical the axis was marked with a blue pencil, then the lenses were cut, using a template, and bevelled to fit the spectacle frame. If bifocal correction was required, this was added as a segment, which was stuck onto the lower part of the lens. It needed great skill and care to obtain a good result. I found it fascinating.
Frank, of course, knew all about my background and had visited our house frequently, but I was slightly worried about what his family expected of me because of my working class background. Quietly, I was overwhelmed. Despite the fact that in view of our family circumstances I had successfully worked my way through to obtain a responsible post with a good salary, I did wonder whether Frank’s father would be happy to accept me as a suitable partner for his son.’
A new video about Jack Hargreaves is on its way.
This week Dave Knowles and Steve Wagstaff met in Jack’s barn in Dorset to talk about working with Jack on his Southern Television series Out of Town and the further series Old Country.
Standing in the barn where Jack had recorded the links for the last series of Out of Town programmes* brought back lots of memories to their recorded conversation. (*These were made using film originally shot but unused in Southern Television’s broadcast Out of Town.)
I met Jack quite a few times when he was working with Dave and Steve, and I edited and published the book Jack’s Country, so I had read about his early life, his time during WW2 and his part in early broadcast radio and television, but I didn’t know many of the things that they recalled. Jack had an easy way about him and a keen interest in life so he appeared much younger than he was. It was a surprise when I edited the book to find he was born in 1911. Perhaps a beard disguises the age of a man – I found out Jack’s thought on this from Dave and Steve’s discussion!
Jack Hargreaves was a complex and knowledgeable man; most importantly he was a good communicator who could bring magic to tales about everyday country stories.
An inspiring visit
Art Gallery & Museum
It is a rare treat to visit the work that has inspired a painter, and in the company of that painter.
Alan Langford, equestrian artist and highly skilled graphic artist, invited a group of friends and fellow artists to visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery with him to see the large oil, ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch, painted in 1894 when Lucy was a student under Herbert Von Herkomer RA.
In his book WELGORA Alan wrote about the day when Lucy was inspired to do this painting:
‘The idea for this painting occurred to her when she saw the approach of a number of heavy-hoofed cobs, driven by tough-looking Romany riders along a muddy country lane, under a grey wintry sky. Rushing from her lodgings with palette and brushes in hand, and the lid of her paint box to serve as a paint board, she executed a swift and skillful composition as this irregular, rampant procession proceeded before her.’
The curator of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery showed us the actual sketch on the paint box lid.
This stunning little oil sketch is a very special art work in itself, portraying movement and detail in a few quick strokes of the brush, with the texture of the rough wood adding a further dimension.
The paint box lid with Lucy’s quick painted sketch of the Gypsy Horse Drovers mentioned is displayed on the reverse of the picture of a horse’s head shown in this photo, also by Lucy Kemp-Welch.
I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the box lid, but … what better excuse to go to the art gallery and see it for yourself?
Lucy went on to paint ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ on an 8 foot long canvas – an enormous project for a diminutive young woman (she was in her early twenties) and in that Victorian time.
Alan explains in his book WELGORA how with trepidation Lucy presented the unfinished painting to be viewed by Herkomer, a man not averse to putting a huge black cross of paint across a student’s work if it was not to his approval!
But as Alan writes: ‘Herkomer was so impressed by ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ that he recommended that Lucy submit it for the next Royal Academy Exhibition.
This she did, and it was hung in a good position just above the line and was quickly purchased by Sir Frederic Harris for £60.00.
At that time £60.00 represented a significant sum; Lucy would have been overjoyed.’
This was just the beginning of Lucy’s career, which included illustrating the children’s book, Black Beauty.
(There are links below to buy a beautiful edition of the book Black Beauty illustrated by Lucy Kemp-Welch and prints of the illustrations.)
Her large oil ‘Gypsy Horses’, also in the Russell-Cotes Gallery, is shown in this photo being admired by Barry Miles, author and watercolour artist, and Peter Frost, painter, professional printer and retired New Forest Verderer.
There is something different to see at every turn in the Russell-Cotes Gallery – paintings, marble busts, Japanese incense burners, memorabilia, painted ceilings, stained glass, mosaic work and bronzes, all collected by the Russell-Cotes over the years from 1880 to 1901. Once after a trip to Japan, they travelled back with over 100 packing cases full of art and collectables!
The museum and gallery building, East Cliff Hall, was gloriously designed to the directions of Merton Russell-Cotes, as a gift to his wife. Its late Victorian style mixes Moorish, Japanese and French influences, making for exotic and indulgent surroundings.
It’s easy to find a piece to sit in front of and savour, and it’s also easy to miss a dozen others, but this makes it worth visiting again and again.
Apart from the paintings, which have been added to since 1902, the artwork that particularly took my eye on this visit was a glazed Parian ware figure of a boy, dressed in lederhosen and Tyrolean hat.
I used to make ceramic models of people and the largest I made was quite a challenge at about 12 inches tall.
This nearly life size figure was used for advertising in a dairy shop in Austria.
How did the artist make such a perfectly detailed piece of such size and how was it transported from pottery to shop, and then from country to country to arrive at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery?
I was also intrigued by the story of Laura Knight, who in the early 1930s used to drive out to gypsy encampments and set up her ‘studio’ in the back of her Rolls-Royce.
Here you can see only a part of her large canvas ‘The Little Beggar’.
Laura Knight’s most notable work is ‘The Nuremberg Trial‘. This thought-provoking painting is at The Imperial War Museum, London.
This only touches on the artwork at the gallery and museum.
Next time you’re in Bournemouth, why not get away from the beach and walk up East Cliff to the art gallery and museum. It will be well worth it!
In the town of Narni, Italy, lives the author, Maria Giulia Cotini, who this summer was directing I Ragazzi Pon Pon (The Cheerleaders) in their performance of her play Giullarino Mingherlino (The Skinny Jester).
This was part of the children’s holiday activities, where they got together to learn more about their town’s history and link it with places around the world.
Maria Giulia is also the author of the book, Shotaro – the child who wanted to become a Samurai.
Just like Little Knoll Press author, Anthony Ridgway, Maria Giulia has been disabled from birth, but for both of them this has been no bar to imagination and achievement.
Shotaro is written in Italian and is available as a hardback book (ISBN: 9788804674610) and e-book.
Here is a translation of the blurb:
‘Shotaro is intelligent and stubborn, and he refuses to accept that his greatest dream (to become a Samurai like his father) is unattainable. Shotaro is disabled from birth and his father decided he would become a monk.
The rōnin, Kenya, arrives at the monastery and declares he is willing to train even him.
But when the terrible Daimyō destroy Shotaro’s home village and his father disappears, Shotaro’s life is turned upside down and everything seems lost.
In ancient Japan, a country marred by war and corruption, Shotaro is able to demonstrate, with courage and determination, that you don’t need a perfect body to make a man into a warrior.’
And here is some more about Maria Giulia:
Maria Giulia Cotini was born in 1980; disabled from birth, she does not walk and has problems with her hands, sight and hearing.
Maria Giulia has been in love with the martial arts since a child, and at the age of ten she was the first child with a disability to practice karate in the gym with the able-bodied.
Working on her knees, she adapted the techniques up to competition standards, which was previously considered impossible.
Always passionate about myths and legends, Maria Giulia graduated with honours in History of Religions.
Sweetwings saves the Fleet
This little gunboat spotted on a recent visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard reminded me of a story in Maldwin Drummond’s children’s book
The Strange History of Seagulls
Now Maldwin knew his boats (he was a sailor all his life and was involved in the raising of the Mary Rose, as well as a supporter of the Museum of the Royal Navy), and I thought the boat in my photo looked like the MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) in his illustration where ‘Sweetwings’, the seagull, gives the electrician early warning of a floating minefield.
However, on comparing my photo with Maldwin’s boat, the tell-tale funnel on the boat in Portsmouth led me to believe it is not an MTB, but an SGB (Steam Gun Boat) also used in WW2.
On page 25 of The Strange History of Seagulls we find out how Sweetwings saved the fleet.
It was lucky that he was so observant!
The Strange History of Seagulls is a fun way to learn about the history of the Solent and Waterside area. It is illustrated throughout with Maldwin Drummond’s unique watercolours.
(The links below are to two other books by Maldwin Drummond. The Riddle was released around the same time as The Strange History of Seagulls and After You, Mr Lear: In the wake of Edward Lear in Italy is packed with Maldwin’s quiet humour. )
A wonderful and well-deserved surprise for
author, Anthony Ridgway,
Barbara Large Memorial Prize
at the Hampshire Writers’ Society evening, June 2019.
To see Anthony receive news of the award, watch the video by clicking on the photo below –
(HINT: The sound is much better on iphone – don’t know why, but if you want to hear what David Suchet says, then listen on your i device.)
Anthony Ridgway’s books
WIZZY the Animal Whisperer
WIZZY and the Seaside Adventure
both beautifully illustrated by artist Suzan Houching
delight readers, young and old(er)!
To find out more click on the pictures:
Wickham Horse Fair
(WELGORA is the Romani word for Horse Fair)
By ancient charter of King Henry III, 1269
2019 and still an unmissable event!
In his book
artist Alan Langford writes:
‘I have visited Wickham Horse Fair, in Hampshire, more times than I can remember.
There has been an annual Charter Fair at Wickham since the thirteenth century, always in late spring, and always, at least in my recollection, a rewarding experience.
The square becomes a busy profusion of merry-go-rounds, bumper cars and other fairground paraphernalia. A section of the Fareham to Winchester road is closed to traffic and used as a ‘flashing lane’ by the Romani horse traders.
If you are fascinated by skilled bareback riding then there is no other event, at least in Britain, to compare with it. They are followed by horse-drawn sulkies, their drivers often leading more horses behind them.
The confidence with which the lads and raklis rush down the gradual slope of the flashing lane, mounted on their coloured Vanners with no saddles or hard hats and unforgiving tarmac underfoot, though dangerously reckless, is also skilfully impressive.
They are followed by horse-drawn sulkies, their drivers often leading more horses behind them.’
Among the characters I notice when studying the milieu of visitors, those that are of Romani extraction differ in both posture and expression from the curious clusters of the local gorgias.
Many of the Romani are possessed of weathered strong-featured countenances, suggesting a long ancestry of tough individualism.’
The 2019 Welgora at Wickham was no exception, as full of excitement and life as ever.
Anthony Ridgway’s latest story
and the Seaside Adventure
– pure adventure, Enid Blyton-style
– children on their own quest
– Wizzy, the talking wheelchair with attitude
– animal magic with Honey, the dog
– watercolour illustrations by Suzan Houching
What young readers from a Worcestershire school think …
I love the idea of Wizzy and the Seaside Adventure. It’s very creative. My favourite part was where the policemen were puffed out from climbing the cliff.
Other children will love this book and the adventures they have together. All of the characters have great personalities.
The cover is very clever and it shows you the setting of the story. Wizzy is a funny wheelchair with an attitude and your story’s hilarious. Dan is a clever boy, who’s adventurous. James is a kind, helpful and brave boy. Sophie is shy and can get nervous quite easily, and startled. Honey is a very loud, sweet and loving dog.
Keeping writing more stories.
My favourite character is Wizzy because he was really funny and cheeky.
I found it funny how the wheelchair Wizzy never understood any of the catch phrases.
I found Wizzy and the Seaside Adventure really funny and it’s my favourite book now.
This book is filled with funny and interesting things and I would recommend this book to any child.
I thought that Wizzy and the Seaside Adventure was full of humour.
I like how Wizzy doesn’t understand sayings and phrases.
My favourite part was where the dog peed on Wizzy’s wheel.
I like the part about the dog peeing on Wizzy’s wheel.
My favourite part of the story is when the dog sniffs Wizzy’s wheel, then wees on him.
I really love your book so much. I think it is very good and it makes me and my class laugh a lot.
ADVENTURE and CREATIVITY
I’m really impressed that you can create a book like that.
Wizzy, especially, was a very good detective in the book.
Pete is really bossy and it’s lucky those thieves didn’t get away. I can imagine the manor house and the pirate coming for me – gives me the chills!
Your story was wonderful. It made me want to have more adventures.
I really liked how you put in a wheelchair in to your story, called Wizzy.
Wizzy is my favourite character because he is like a robot but in wheelchair form. Honey is one of my favourite dogs. Dan is very funny because he really gets into it and can be very clever like Wizzy.
I loved how you made Wizzy so full of himself and how he always has to get everything right. I also liked how you put in more than one character and said not only what the children were doing but put in what Honey the dog was doing.
I liked how Wizzy is funny, Dan is very cheeky, Sophie is very cautious, James is very caring, Pete and Cindy are very mysterious and Honey the dog is very energetic.
In most books I feel like I’m about to fall asleep but with this book I felt very alive. My favourite character was Dan because he was very brave and wanted to get on with everything. I like how you put Dan into a wheelchair.
I really like how Wizzy thinks he’s better than Honey and is jealous of her.
My favourite character is Wizzy because he’s such a bighead.
I loved Wizzy and Sophie because Wizzy is such an amazing, cool wheelchair. I could not believe he could talk. He is also very smart, just like you. I also like the part when Sophie likes Wizzy, but then does not – it is like changing the weather.
USING TECHNOLOGY / SURPRISE
I loved the part where Wizzy made a hologram of a pirate and scared Cindy.
My favourite part was when Wizzy used the projector to pretend to be a pirate and scared Pete and Cindy away.
I wonder what it would be like to have a wheelchair like Wizzy – a friend to Dan and is always there for him.
I would like to have a talking chair like Wizzy.
The illustrations a very cool but my favourite drawing is the pirate.
Your next book could be about Wizzy feeling ill or about Pete and Cindy stealing her.
In your next book I think there should be another kid in a wheelchair.
Your next Wizzy and Dan could go to the zoo.
I think you’re ready to be the greatest author in history.
TO BUY THE BOOK click Wizzy and the Seaside Adventure
Autumn, the time of year for the Beaulieu Road Station pony sales, when Commoners and other horse and pony owners gather to sell their livestock by auction.
It’s a good place to buy a New Forest filly or colt, to meet friends or simply to enjoy an atmosphere that is as old as the New Forest itself.
You may also see spirited cobs, favoured by Romani folk for their patience and strength, being put through their paces under the trees beside the auction ring.
The working horse has always fascinated local artist, Alan Langford. Featured here is his large oil painting of Beaulieu Road pony sales.
Alan’s book, WELGORA, provides Alan’s fascinating autobiography and full page spread pictures of his beautiful oil and watercolour paintings.
For more about the book click on title – WELGORA