Saturday, 12 August 2017

Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator

The Victoria Centre clock is a Nottingham landmark, and has been since its installation in 1973. A kinetic sculpture as much as a timepiece, its central bronze sunflower opens every fifteen minutes to reveal an animal orchestra.

The clock was created by Rowland Emett. A cartoonist for Punch, he also brought his ideas to three-dimensional life in a series of sculptures (or as he called them, 'Things'). Among his most celebrated work was the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

There are few surviving examples of Emett's work on public display in Britain. That makes the Victoria Centre clock all the more important, but at some point it ceased to work. Thanks to the efforts of Pete Dexter, a local engineer, and the Rowland Emett Society, refurbishment was carried out and completed in 2015. The clock, or aqua horological tintinnabulator, is now delighting shoppers once more.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sailors' Society, Limehouse

This sign caught my eye while I was exploring Limehouse Town Hall. The jaunty red and navy blue, highlighted by the late afternoon sun, draw the attention. They are a reminder that the building and its neighbour once belonged to the British and Foreign Sailors' Society, one of several properties in Limehouse.  

These premises on Newell Street were a sea training establishment for boys, and apparently have a Victorian swimming pool in the basement. The Prince of Wales' Sea Training Hostel opened in 1920, the buildings having been adapted at a cost of almost £10,000. There were stringent requirements for admission on the six-month training programme. Boys between 14 1/2 and 16 years old, able to swim 100 yards, needed to provide medical and sight certificates along with excellent character references. Perhaps the easiest element to satisfy was height, with a requirement that the boy be over 5 feet 1 inch tall. Sailors' orphans had priority, and their fees were waived. 

In 1940, the hostel moved to Norfolk and this building was requisitioned. However, its enamel sign remains, one more tangible link to Limehouse's maritime past.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Smoke machines

With plain packaging, screened-off displays, and age limits, cigarettes are not as visible or easy to buy as they once were. Indeed, it's easy to forget that you used to be able to get them 24 hours a day from readily-accessible vending machines. However, a few are still around to remind us of simpler, unhealthier times. 

Right outside the station and highly-rated on Tripadvisor, the Bridge Coffee Shop once also offered cigarettes from its shiny vending machine. It's now empty, the Player's advert has faded, and even if you were tempted to use the coin slot, no price is shown.

The sale of cigarettes from vending machines began in the 1920s but was banned in 2011. However, judging by the prices on display, the Stoke-on-Trent example had ceased trading much earlier. While machines dispensed as few as 16 cigarettes in a packet, to keep prices stable and in round numbers, it is a very long time since they would have been 30p. In fact, the early 1970s seems likely, making this machine a real survivor.

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