CLARE & MARY ROSE

From time to time on my blog, I republish blogs from other people that have caught my attention. If you read my reports from Bristol earlier this year, you may have noticed my coverage of the SS Great Britain which was recovered from the Falklands and then brought back to Bristol for restoration. It is now a museum and it is well worth a visit if you are passing that way. I have still to visit the restored clipper Cutty Sark in the dry dock at Greenwich in London, but I did pass by that famous ship during a walk along the Thames in April last year.

The Mary Rose: Geoff Hunt painting

The Mary Rose: Geoff Hunt painting

My interest in today’s story of the Mary Rose developed because at the time the warship was salvaged from the Solent in October 1982, I was a senior journalist in RTÉ News in Dublin. A colleague from County Meath who worked with me on the television news desk turned out to be a distant relative of Sir George Carew, commander of the Mary Rose, who died when she sank at the entrance to Portsmouth harbour in 1545. The commander had just been created Vice Admiral of the fleet by Henry VIII. The Mary Rose will open as a museum tomorrow Friday May 31st in Portsmouth. The building cost £35m.

George Carew painting by Holbein

George Carew painting by Holbein

Carew Coat of Arms

Carew Coat of Arms

So here is the story of County Clare and the Mary Rose, as told by Irish Waterways History:

Clare and Mary Rose

“A new museum dedicated to the Tudor warship Mary Rose will be opened in Portsmouth on 31 May 2013. Despite what the UK Independent says, the warship did not lie “undiscovered in the Solent until its exposed timbers were seen by divers in 1971″: the rather longer Guardian story points out that the Deane brothers dived on the wreck in the mid-nineteenth century. Charles Deane also worked on the recovery of the cargo of the Intrinsic, off the coast of Clare; he allowed Thomas Steele to wear his apparatus to descend on the wreck.

In September 1840, in the same issue that reported Mr Brunel’s rash wager of £1,000 that, when his Great Western Railway was finished, he could travel from Bristol to London in two hours [i], the Mechanics’ Magazine also reported that:-

‘Mr Steele, of the County Clare, in the prosecution of his new principle of submarine illumination of objects in dark and muddy water, has been this week down on the wreck in Mr Deane’s water-tight dress and diving helmet, making some observations and experiments’  [ii].

It may be, therefore, that it was a Clare man who cast the first light on the Mary Rose for almost three hundred years”.

From The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette No 867 Saturday March 21 1840

From The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette No 867 Sat. March 21 1840

[i] italics in the original

[ii] “Submarine Operations” in The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette No 893 Saturday September 19 1840

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BRISTOL BUILT BY BRUNEL

Brunel's original station

Brunel’s original station

Look around you in Bristol and the influence of one man is clear to see: the engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59). If you arrive by train at Temple Meads station, you will see on your right hand side as you leave the main entrance to walk down to the main road the original station built by Brunel for the Great Western Railway of which he was chief engineer. Opened in 1840, it served the route to London Paddington and continues to do so. I noticed there is now also a connection run by South Western trains to London Waterloo, taking an hour longer but possibly cheaper, depending on the time of travel.

Brunel's station

Brunel’s station

Brunel built his railway using a broad gauge  measuring 7 feet 0 14 inches. This helped to provide additional comfort for passengers but made construction more expensive. Later a standard gauge was introduced of  4 feet 8 12 inches, although in Ireland a slightly wider gauge was chosen of 5 feet 3 inches. Temple Meads station is now owned by Network Rail and is one of the busiest railway hubs outside London.  It is operated under a franchise by First Great Western, who provide the majority of trains to London, along with local services and routes to destinations such as Cardiff, Southampton, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

One of Brunel’s best known projects is the Clifton Suspension Bridge, spanning the gorge above the River Avon and linking Clifton in Bristol with Leigh Woods in North Somerset, a National Trust property. With a span of over 700 feet, this made it the longest span of any bridge in the world at the time of its construction, which started in 1831. Brunel did not live to see its completion in 1864, five years after his death. Work had been suspended for a number of years owing to a lack of funding. At the bottom of the cliff where there is a winding path up to the level of the bridge, there is a derelict building. It still carries the sign “Clifton Rocks Railway”.

Clifton Rocks Railway

Clifton Rocks Railway

This was a water-powered funicular railway to take visitors up to the top of the cliff.  I have just noticed that I was passing the site almost to the day that coincided with the 120th anniversary of its opening. It closed in 1934 and during the second world war it was used a a secret transmission base for the BBC. I never realised that when I was working for the BBC in Bristol! The information can be found on the website of the trust which is trying to restore the railway, the top entrance to which is located beside the Avon Gorge Hotel. Details of the trust’s open days can be found here.

SS Great Britain

SS Great Britain Stern

The other significant project for which Brunel is known is the construction of the SS Great Britain. Brunel had become convinced of the superiority of propeller-driven ships over paddle wheels. After tests, he incorporated a large six-bladed propeller into his design for the 322-foot Great Britain, which was launched in 1843. She is considered to be the first modern ship, being built of metal rather than wood, powered by an engine rather than wind or oars, and driven by propeller rather than paddle wheel. She was the first iron-hulled, propeller-driven ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Her maiden voyage was made in August and September 1845, from Liverpool to New York. In 1846, she ran aground at Dundrum Bay, off the County Down coast. She was salvaged and then re-entered service  for the route to Australia. The ship was also used to carry troops such as the 57th Regiment of Foot, along with their horses and supplies, heading to the Crimean campaign.

SS Great Britain Dundrum Bay 1846

SS Great Britain Dundrum Bay 1846

There are a number of statues dotted throughout Britsol. I saw one for the Irish orator and MP Edmund Burke, one of Queen Victoria and another for Edward Colston, a businessman and benefactor. But I did not see any memorial for Brunel, apart from his works. There is one at Temple in London. So reader, if you seek his monument, look around you, or as the Latin inscription  on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren at St Paul’s Cathedral states ” LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE“.

WHAT IF?

CAFOD campaign

CAFOD campaign

During a visit to Bristol, I heard about the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign. I saw a banner on display near Bristol’s Anglican Cathedral, a fine building. CAFOD along with over 100 charities in the UK is part of a coalition pushing for action by the G8 on the issue of global hunger, so that 2013 can be the beginning of the end of global hunger. The G8 leaders are due to meet at the Lough Erne resort, near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh in June.

Deacon David Brinn

Deacon David Brinn

CAFOD is the official overseas aid agency of the Catholic church in England and Wales. The group’s organiser in the Diocese of Clifton is Deacon David Brinn, who is based in the parish of Frome in Somerset. He was invited to speak at a Mass at the university chaplaincy in Bristol, at which he set out the aims of the campaign. He said there are four main “ifs”:-

There is Enough Food for Everyone….

IF  we force governments and investors to be honest and open about the deals they make in the poorest countries that stop people getting enough food.

IF  governments keep their promises on aid, invest to stop children dying from malnutrition and help the poorest people feed themselves through investment in small farmers.

IF  we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use the available agricultural land to grow food for people, not biofuels for cars.

IF  governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger.

CAFOD is a sister organisation of Trócaire, set up by the Irish Catholic Bishops forty years ago for overseas aid. This week representatives of Trócaire are at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Both groups are affiliates of Caritas International. More details of the CAFOD campaign including details of how to lobby MPs can be found here. One in eight people in the world go hungry.

One final observation about the Catholic community in Bristol. While walking around the city centre I came across the church of St Mary on the Quay, Colston Street. In the pastoral care of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), it was a Jesuit parish from 1861 until 1996, when a lack of priests meant that the order had to withdraw their services. Now, for similar reasons, the Jesuits are leaving the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon, where I used to live.

St Ignatius of Loyola SJ

St Ignatius of Loyola SJ

Among the statues there which shows the Jesuit influence is one of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Perhaps I should have taken the hint and speculated what if the new Pope were to be a Jesuit! Certainly the election of Cardinal Bergoglio from Buenos Aires as Pope Francis I is very welcome. I hope the first Jesuit to become Pontiff will bring a wind of change with him, as we were promised during the Papacy of John XXIII.

ADAM CLARKE: LEADING METHODIST

John Wesley's Chapel, Bristol

John Wesley’s Chapel, Bristol

During a visit to Bristol, I went to visit an important place for the Methdist Church in Britain and Ireland. John Wesley established a new chapel in the city centre in 1739, when it became the first Methodist building in the world. It was called the “New Room” in the Horsefair. I referred to it in a previous blog.

Pulpit

Pulpit

The two-decker pulpit followed the custom of those days. The upper part was used for the sermon and the lower part for the rest of the service. The present upper part is a replica. The communion table is that which was used by Wesley. The people sat on plain benches. Wesley gave the clock. The Snetzler Chamber Organ of 1761 on the right hand side of the gallery, as you face the pulpit, was brought here in the present century. Wesley presided at eighteen Conferences here.

Upstairs is the Common Room, with quarters for the Methodist preachers who came to Bristol. The bedrooms contain displays about the history of the Church and the spreading of Methodist teachings to the USA and elsewhere.

On one of the walls, I found a portrait of another significant figure in Methodism, Adam Clarke. A note beside it said he was born in Ireland and on checking a reference book, I discovered he was from County Londonderry.

Adam Clarke

Adam Clarke

Clarke was born in Moybeg Kirley, a townland on the edge of Tobermore off the road towards Draperstown, in the parish of Kilcronaghan, gateway to the Sperrin Mountains. His father was a schoolmaster and farmer. John Wesley invited him to become a pupil at a seminary he established at Kingswood in Bristol. He went on to become an eminent scholar and theologian. He is best known for his commentary on the Bible: “The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, according to the authorized translation; with all the parallel text and marginal readings. To which are added, notes and practical observations, designed as a help to a
correct understanding of the sacred writings” (1810-1837).

Thanks to a former Belfast TV news colleague David Blevins for pointing out that there is a memorial to Adam Clarke in Portrush, Co.Antrim. A biography, The Life of the Rev. Andrew Clarke (JW Etheridge, 1859) says in a footnote p.399 that:-

The Adam Clarke Memorial, (under the patronage of the Right Hon. the earl of Antrim, and John Crombie, Esq., J.P., D.L.,) is to consist of a “school, church, and minister’s house, at Port-Stewart, and an obelisk and statue at Port-Rush, near Coleraine.” The foundation stone of the obelisk was laid in September, 1857, with great public solemnities. The base is seven feet square and eight feet high, from which the monument will rise to a height of forty-two feet; which, taking the elevation of the site, will be equal to one hundred and twenty feet above the level of the sea. Close to the base will be the statue of Dr. Clarke, contributed by public offerings in America”.

The Francis Frith collection of photographs has an interesting picture of the obelisk beside the Methodist church at Portrush in 1897:

Photo of Portrush, Adam Clarke's Memorial 1897, ref. 40407

Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Willie Duffin has more recent photographs (2009) of the information plaques on the side of the obelisk and also a circular plaque on the wall of the church.

Adam Clarke Obelisk Plaque

Adam Clarke Obelisk Plaque © Copyright Willie Duffin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Adam Clarke Obelisk Plaque © Copyright Willie Duffin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Adam Clarke Obelisk Plaque © Copyright Willie Duffin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Adam Clarke Plaque © Copyright Willie Duffin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Adam Clarke Plaque on Church Wall           © Copyright Willie Duffin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

S.S.GREAT BRITAIN

SS Great Britain

SS Great Britain

This is the story of Brunel’s ship, now preserved at Bristol Docks after being rescued from the Falkland Islands in 1970. Launched in 1843, she was the world’s largest ship and the first iron-hulled passenger vessel. Thousands flocked to her launch in Bristol. The ship became a huge success, travelling 32 times around the globe and clocking up nearly 1 million miles at sea.

Dundrum Bay 1846 But in 1846, a few years after the launch, there was a near disaster for the ship. The Dundrum Bay story of 1846 is featured in part of the exhibition in the former dock building alongside the preserved ship. The web page devoted to the ship’s designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, tells the story as follows:-

On 22nd September 1846, the Great Britain sailed from Liverpool on her fifth voyage with 180 passengers, the most that she had ever carried. Later that night while passing the coast of County Down, she ran aground in Dundrum Bay. It was a squally night with rain and Chicken Rock Light on the Isle of Man had not been sighted and the ship ran too far before turning up the Irish coast. There were no casualties and the passengers were embarked next day but the Great Britain was stuck fast and holed. It was nearly twelve months before the ship was towed back to Liverpool at the end of August 1847. The cost of repairs were estimated at £22,000 but the ship was under insured and the company did not have the resources to cover the difference. Consequently, the company was forced to sell its two famous ships the Great Western and the Great Britain“.

SS Great Britain

SS Great Britain

Entrance to the ship and dockside museum costs £12.95 (£10.95 concession over 60).

BATH TIME

Roman Baths, Bath

Roman Baths, Bath

A very interesting visit to Bath to see the Roman Baths. The last time I was here was probably in 1975. Since then, more excavations have revealed further parts of the Roman complex. With the aid of a good audio guide, which was included in the admission price (£12.75 for adults), we spent two hours here. It’s easy to see why this is one of Britain’s top tourist attractions.  

Under floor heating!

Under floor heating!

Even on a dull day in March, there were queues to enter the complex, but the waiting time was not long. The Roman engineering and architectural skills were very similar to that in Pompeii, which I saw last August.

Bath Crescent

Bath Crescent

After visiting the Baths, it was time to see a bit more of Bath, including the famous Georgian Crescent and Bath Abbey, with its beautiful fan-vaulted roof and an impressive entrance door, where a Trident missile protest was being held.   

Bath Abbey entrance

Bath Abbey entrance

 

We took the train to and from Bristol. Less then a quarter of an hour’s journey for just over £2 each way on a group ticket (six travelling).  Very good value indeed for public transport.

BACK IN BRISTOL

Many years ago in 1975 I worked in Bristol for a few months on an attachment with the BBC regional newsroom. I haven’t been back to the city until today, and will spend a weekend there with friends. So I expect to notice some changes, in particular the area around the former docks.

Bristol was once an important centre in the slave trade, a past it probably wants to forget. Anti-slavery campaigners, inspired by non-conformist preachers such as John Wesley, started some of the earliest campaigns for abolition of the trade. The campaign itself proved to be the beginning of movements for reform and women’s emancipation.

John Wesley

John Wesley

Wesley founded the very first Methodist Chapel, The New Room in Broadmead in 1739, which is still in use in the 21st century. Wesley had come to Bristol at the invitation of George Whitfield. He preached in the open air to miners and brickworkers at Kingswood and Hanham, on the eastern outskirts of the city (Wikipedia). Bristol has an importance second only to London in the history of Methodism.

Bristol is also known as an important centre for the aircraft and aerospace industry. When I arrived here at St Augustine’s Reach, I was reminded that this was also a major city for shipbuilding. The area around the old harbour has been developed with bars and restaurants and is now a very lively place, compared to what it was like over 35 years ago!

St Augustine's Reach

St Augustine’s Reach