What a surprise! A beautiful thatched church at the western end of the Isle of Wight.
This is St Agnes at Freshwater Bay - the only thatched church on the island.
It looks ancient and venerated. In fact the church was built as recently as 1908, though some of the bricks are said to be from older buildings.
The land was donated by the Tennyson family - Tennyson Down and the monument to Arthur Lord Tennyson are nearby. Very good of them, but the church is on a tiny plot, with no burial ground nor indeed any room to walk round the outside of this enchanting arts and crafts style edifice.
There are a few dozen thatched churches across the country - most in East Anglia. I'm not sure if this is the most modern, but there can't be many twentieth century thatched places of worship.
The arts and crafts aspect of the design is most evident in the interior - with an outstanding wooden roof and some fine carving
As for St Agnes, she's a fourth century Roman martyr who died aged twelve or thirteen. She's the patron saint of those seeking chastity. And of gardeners.
Slaithwaite - a former textile village in West Yorkshire - has much more going for it than most mill villages. It's got a few grand industrial buildings and part of Spa Mills, which you can see here beside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, is still used by fine yarn manufacturers.
Spa Mills was built in the 1860s as a large worsted (that is high quality woollen) mill - look at the size of the place!
It's in a lot better nick than some of the village's other mills
Slaithwaite, with a population of 7,000, was named by The Times last year as the best place to live in the north and north-east of England, You can see why.
As well as the canal, it's got a river - the Colne - a railway station and imposing rail viaduct, quite a few pubs and lots of places to eat. And it's kept quite a bit of its Victorian architecture.
The only big issue is what to call the place. The name is of Norse origin. But however you pronounce it, don't go for the most obvious. Slay-thwaite is definitely wrong.
Not that the locals can quite agree what's right. Some opt for Slath-waite, where the first syllable rhymes with path. Others insist on Slawit. And on the train, I'm sure I heard Slath-it.
I'd never before come across a pub called the Silent Woman. But there are a handful around the country.
The name is suspected to come from a story of a woman beheaded for her faith - or of a woman whose tongue was cut out to stop her unintentionally informing on smugglers or other ne'er-do-wells. But whatever the derivation, it's certainly a talking point (geddit!)
It's a village which is fun to walk around - and one which looks to the fuiture while valuing its past
I don't think Sir Robert Peel was the sort of guy who popped into his local for a swift half after a taxing (all too literally!) day in the office. He's not the obvious choice to bestow his name to a pub.
But here he is on Bishopsgate just opposite Liverpool Street Station. The tiled frontage sees to date from the 1930s. It has survived the demise of the pub it advertised. That local historian par excellence, the Gentle Author, says in his 'dead pub crawl' that this boozer flourished from 1871 to 1957.
For political historians, Peel was the brave Conservative prime minister who repealed the Corn Laws in 1846. In so doing, he split his party - and it remained out of power for a generation.
For Londoners, Peel was the reforming home secretary who established the Metropolitan Police back in 1829. His name provided not one but two nicknames for the fledgling police force - the distinctly archaic Peelers, and the still current Bobbies. How many politicians can match that!
It can't be a coincidence that this former pub in Bishopsgate is just two doors down from what was, and remains, Bishopsgate nick (though just to add a layer of confusion, Bishopsgate police station is run by the City of London force not the Met).
The likeness on the pub tiles is clearly based on John Linnell's portait of Peel from 1838,
The Bishopsgate pub is a drinking den no longer, but there are other boozers which bear Peel's name -
This distinctly traditional street-corner local is at the junction of Queen's Crescent and Malden Road in NW5 (that's Kentish Town). It's just a pity the signboard doesn't show a portrait of the Peeler-in-chief.
North London is a great place for pubs named after Victorian politicians. I have often popped in to the Palmerston - there's also the Lord John Russell - and the Salisbury - and the Beaconsfield (the title Disraeli took when kicked upstairs into the Lords).
The one glaring absence - I can't think of a local Gladstone. He was, perhaps, too dour a figure to inspire brewers to name a pub after him, famously commenting of the Conservatives' election victory in 1874: "We have been borne down in a torrent of gin and beer!" He believed the Tories had capitalised on dissatsifaction over the 1872 Licensing Act - which restricted pub opening hours among other things - to win over voters.
But he was the People's William. And I notice that there are a couple of Gladstone Arms in South London. It sure makes a nice change from all the Queen Vics and King Charles's.
Finding pubs named after radical politicos is not easy - the only one that comes to mind is the Bradlaugh in Northampton. Any other offers, anyone?
What an artist! Alice Neel was born when the last century was only four weeks old and was still painting in her eighties. She was a figurative artist - a portraitist, though that label doesn't really do her justice - working mainly in New York. She was also intensely, abidingly political.
I've just seen 'Hot Off the Griddle' at the Barbican - the largest exhibition of Neel's work ever held in the UK - and I was well impressed.
Alice Neel's 1970 portrait of Andy Warhol is what prompted me to visit the exhibition. This was painted two years after Warhol had survived an assassination attempt by Valerie Solanas, the author of the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto - my History Workshop colleague Marybeth Hamilton has written revealingly about this portrait and its context.
Many of her portraits are nudes or of sitters partly clothed. The most striking among them is Neel's self-portrait -
The range of her palette changed markedly through her life. For many years, she lived in Harlem, and her portraits from that time have a real charge and energy - and the choice of her subjects was shaped both by her neighbourhood and her political outlook.
In the mid-1930s, she joined the Communist Party and that was a long-lasting political commitment - though she once described herself as 'an anarchic humanist'.
In the Thirties, her politics is very evident in her art - you can see it in her painting below of Longshoremen and her 1936 canvas 'Nazis Murder Jews', a representation of a torchlit protest against fascism.
And what about this for range towards the end of her life - the dour and humourless head of the CPUSA and the much more alive sex activist ... from Gus Hall to Annie Sprinkle!
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