Lancaster is a university city and the county town of Lancashire. We arrived here early in the morning and spent the day exploring the city, which we liked a lot. It is very pretty with attractive streets and plenty of history. Lancaster Castle is easily visible from the town as it stands atop a hill. The first castle on this site was erected in Roman times, and the earliest part of the current castle was built in the 12th century. The building has been added to over the years, including a prison wing in the 18th Century which only closed in 2011! It was also the site of the famous Pendle Witch Trials of 1612. Nearby is Lancaster Priory which was built in the 15th Century (although there was a church on the site long before this). It is free to visit (donations towards the upkeep are welcome, of course) and is definitely worth spending time in. The Corn Market Waterstones is set over two floors in a modern shopping centre and was formerly a branch of Ottakar’s books.
After leaving Blackpool we headed to Preston to stop for a drink before going on to our hotel. Preston is famous for being the location of the invention of Richard Arkwright’s famous Water Frame (a fact surely remembered by every late 70s/early 80s secondary school child?!). In 1854, Charles Dickens visited Preston in order to research his book Hard Times, in which Preston makes an appearance as Coketown. We hadn’t visited for many, many years and couldn’t picture the city – we thought some of the buildings were beautiful, especially the Miller Arcade (built 1899), the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library building (built 1877) and the stunning Waterstones building, which used to be owned by the northern supermarket chain Booths. You can read a history of the building at the bottom of the webpage in this link.
The Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library
The market pictured above opened in 2018 and sits under the original Victorian glass canopy which dates back to 1875. It’s a beautiful building and the things on offer inside include a mixture of goods and plenty of food stalls.
After leaving Walsall we headed to our first stop of Blackpool. There can’t be many people in the UK who haven’t heard of this seaside town in the North West of England! We had been there before many, many years ago but only had a brief stop overnight. It’s a typical English resort with a long sandy beach, numerous gift shops and arcades and a skyline dominated by the famous Tower building. The Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris and opened five years after the French one. The Waterstones here is located in a modern shop opposite the tower.
The Winter Gardens
The Winter Gardens is an entertainment venue which opened in 1878. Morecambe and Wise appeared at this venue over 1000 times! This statue, which stands in the entrance and is by sculptor Graham Ibbeson was unveiled in 2018
The Comedy Carpet
This art installation in front of the Tower was designed by Gordon Young and features phrases, quotes and songs from over 1000 comedians!
We stopped in Walsall overnight on our way on our holiday to the north of England and Scotland and popped into the town for breakfast before heading on our way. Although probably best known for the leather trade, Walsall was known locally as ‘The town of 100 trades’ and saw large growth in the 1800s. We hadn’t visited before and thought it seemed a nice town, although we didn’t have long to explore. The Waterstones is located in a modern building in the town centre.
The statue below commemorates Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison, known as Sister Dora, who was born in Yorkshire but moved to Walsall in 1865 and nursed there for many years. This is thought to be the first ever statue of a woman who was not of royal descent.
The Source of Ingenuity fountain by artist Tom Lomax which represents the Roman god of time, Janus sits in the centre of the Walsall market area. It’s a little bit creepy, I think!
The Victorian Arcade building
The Lloyds Bank building (the beehive was the bank’s symbol at one stage) and Walsall’s canal area, which has undergone extensive renovation.
Currently reading: Cogheart by Peter Bunzl and listening to The Way of All Flesh by Parry Ambrose
We spent the weekend near Birmingham with friends, and on the way home we stopped at Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, Britain’s first open-air museum. It comprises around 30 buildings that have been brought from their original sites and rebuilt. It is definitely worth a visit! After leaving there we popped to Redditch to visit the Waterstones. It’s located in a modern shopping centre in the town.
We didn’t have much time in the town, but we spotted a couple of statues in the centre. The first is to John Bonham who was the drummer for rock band Led Zeppelin and was born in the Redditch in 1984, and the second, which is called ‘Springs Eternal’, which was unveiled in 2017 to commemorate the spring industry in the town.
I particularly loved this prefab! These buildings were erected during World War 2 following a shortage of properties, and were only ever intended to be temporary. I didn’t realise how many different types of prefab there are until I looked on Wikipedia! This particular design is an Arcon Mk V – it was dressed for the period and one of the volunteers was dressed up too!
One final mention (and a few pictures!) must go to the National Telephone Kiosk Collection & Telephone Museum which is located at Avoncroft. We wandered to the area expecting to stay a few minutes (after all, how interesting can a telephone box be…?) but discovered that it was possible to make a telephone call from many of them from one box to another – and that the museum had provided old British coins, so we spent quite a time playing with them! According to their website they have examples of every public kiosk issued by the General Post Office and British Telecom from the 1920s to the present day. I even rang the
Tardis Police Box from one of them!
Currently reading: Mack the Life by Lee Mack
Royal Leamington Spa is a Regency town in Warwickshire, which was given its royal title by Queen Victoria in 1838. We only had time for a quick look round (and lunch in Las Iguanas!) before heading home after our long weekend away so we would like to go back. From what we saw it looked nice, and reminded us a little of Bath, another Spa town and our nearest large city. The Waterstones here is on the outside edge of a modern shopping centre. Upstairs there are large windows giving it a bright, airy feel.
The following beautiful building is the Town Hall. I have had a look online but I cannot find any information about whether it is open to the public to look round. I’d love to know what it looks like inside!
How cute is this art installation by Philippa Downes?! It was commissioned to honour local elephant trainer Sam Lockhart. He lived in Leamington Spa with his troupe of elephants – these three known as The Three Graces show his most famous ones – Wilhelmina, Trilby and Haddie.
We had been to visit Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood in Derbyshire in the morning today. It was the start of half-term and a bank holiday, so the actual museum part was packed with families, which was lovely to see, but meant we didn’t look round properly. The actual Hall was very interesting though so will have to go back! We were only about ten miles from Burton upon Trent so we headed there afterwards to visit the Waterstones, which is located in the Cooper’s Square Shopping Centre. Burton is probably best known for being associated with the brewing industry and the shopping centre’s name is an homage to that industry – a Cooper being a person who makes, amongst other things, casks and barrels.
Burton upon Trent
Saint Modwen’s Church
Sudbury Hall and the National Trust Museum of Childhood