Monday, August 31, 2009

Various features of Widbrook Common.

Features of Widbrook Common.
The picture is of the road as it passes through Widbrook Common. The following numbering is to denote certain items of interest to the reader.

#1. Is the position of a kissing gate with a footpath that leads across the Common to the south west corner and onto Maidenhead.

#2. Is the site of a five bar gate and holding pen, which was used for the reception of cattle and horses for marking purposes on 14 th of May or " Widbrook Fair Day."

#3. & #4. Both of these are five bar gates, to give access to cattle, and the Hayward's pony and trap.

#5. It was a combination of a five bar gate and kissing gate, both to give access to Widbrook Cottage, for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

#6. This small layby was used by the road serfacing workmen to park their travelling van, tarpot and steamroller.

#7. This whole area was used for stockpiling road gravel and sand, for use in the resurfacing of the road.

#8. & 9. This water meadow pasture area was rented out to Sheephouse Farm in Maidenhead Court for night grazing of their dairy herd during the Common rental season of May to October.

#10. This marks the site of a Winter Pond, which when frozen solid, was used by many local residents for skating at the weekends.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The building of the Widbrook Bridge.

The original Widbrook Bridge.
With the advent of the motor car, and also commercial lorry traffic, something had to be done about the water splash on Widbrook. As this was a local matter, it was decided upon that where possible, local material and labour should be used in its construction. A brick lined tunnel was chosen as it was very popular, where other same type of bridges were being built in the neighbouring counties. The artistic drawing above depicts a side view of what the completed bridge looked like on completion.

The composite photo shown above is to give the reader some idea of the brickwork completed in the Widbrook tunnel. The positioning of the tunnel was chosen, and a small cofferdam was built from which the water was pumped or drained away. Still allowing the stream to flow around the sides. Any loose gravel and silt was removed until the firm bedrock of gravel was reached from which a foundation could be built.

The basic foundation was most likely made of concrete poured into sandbags and laid flat and tamped in the position. When the concrete was set, carpenters were called in to make a curved wooden framework the length of the tunnel. From there, bricklayers would lay the first course of bricks on top of the wooden frame, and when set, most likely a second layer was added to give strength. After which the wooden framework was removed. To this a concrete retaining wall was built to the ends of the tunnel; the Western retaining wall was the longest, due to the fact that part of the water splash was left intact for the cattle to cross from one part of a Common to the other. The Eastern side was much shorter, due to the fact that the water splash left was much narrower but still allowing cattle to cross the stream and will.

The lead up to the brickwork of the tunnel on either side was excavated and a large grade of agregate followed by a much finer grade towards the surface, before the final application of coal tar and chippings were applied and rolled into place. In 1935 or 1936 new approach leads to the tunnel were replaced by large core asphalt to strengthen the bridge and tunnel. This was the last time any serious work has been done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Widbrook Common and Sutton Road.

We have discussed the gatekeeper's cottage on Widbrook common in the last blog. Now we move on to the road, and the Common itself and, the changes that were made in the past, or a little over 100 years.
During the Middle Ages, and after the middle 1800's, the road would have been little or no more than a farm track, with little or no maintenance whatsoever, with the event of more regular vehicle traffic in the form of wagons and coaches, and even stagecoaches. The need was to improve the surface, with the application of gravel.

The picture above is a fairly good example of how the road looked as it went through the stream at Widbrook. As many stories exist, that farm horses were often asked to assist in pulling wagons and coaches out of the mud, when they gone off track from the hard-core bottom of the water splash.

The picture above is an example of what towards the end of the 18th century would have looked like. A surface like this would have been found in Cookham village High Street. Surrounding lanes and byways would have been however of a poorer quality, even to Sutton Road.

The picture above is my interpretation of what the Widbrook common water splash would have looked like. Take note that the waterway was kept free and clear of weeds, so clean. In fact, that one could fish for Roach, Pope, Gudgeon and Dace, and even freshwater Crayfish could be found I am told.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Widbrook Gate Keepers Bungalow.

The Widbrook Bungalow.
The photo above has been altered to reflect the way the building looked while it was part of the Parish Council buildings that was sold into private hands in 1937. Under the white exterior is red red brick.
The commoner's rights to graze cattle on Widbrook Common has been a long-standing tradition dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Grazing periods were from 14th of May until 14 th of October every year. Those wishing to enter their cattle for grazing are asked to attended the opening day, known as 'Widbrook Fair', at which is held under the watchful eye of the village constable, the Parish Council Secretary and the Commons Hayward. The duties were as follows: The constable was to keep law and order, the Parish Council Secretary was to collect the fee for each beast, and the Hayward was to brand with a tar brand in the form of a stylised 'W'.

A hundred years ago A4094, known today as Sutton Road, was a gravel track and poorly surfaced, and the bridge that you know today over Widbrook Stream did not exist. It was a water splash and,of course the road or track was not fenced off. The Parish Council built a small bungalow at the Cookham end of Widbrook Common and installed two gates to prevent the cattle from straying off the common. They employed a husband and wife to open the gates to traffic between sunrise and sunset during the season while stock was on the common. During the closed season the gates were left open and, the husband did other work for the council, most likely to repair pot holes in the village roads.

According to my paternal grandmother, while the gates were in use, passengers in the coaches that passed through use to throw out the odd copper, which in today's terms would be classed as a tip.

This all came to an end with the advent of the motor car, which is another story. The bungalow continued to house council workers until 1937. That is another story.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Home Fire Fighting Equipment.

The Stirup Pump.

The stirrup pump was distributed to the family households for the initial tackling fires started by incendiary bombs, also. They were the first line of defence for a group of people that were organised as Fire Watchers, later the name was changed to Fire Guards, but come what may the original term of going on fire watching stuck!

On the night of Sunday the 29th of December 1940 the city of London, was devastated by incendiary bombs. Offices and buildings had been locked up over the weekend and were left unattended. This made it more difficult for the Fire and rescue services.

As a result, the Fire Watchers scheme began in January 1941. It was made compulsory to have person or persons on guard in buildings 24 hours in prescribed areas. To put out incendiary bombs, and to call for help. This provided difficult for many establishments to staff. This led the government to implement a compulsory scheme of fire watching.

Fire Watching teams were originally called Street Fire Party's. They adopted their official title of Fire Guards. In August 1941. Men and women between the ages of 16 and 30 and 20 and 45 respectively, were likely to be called up for fire duty. Volunteers were encouraged from men up to 70 and women to the age of 60.

Stirrup pumps were distributed one to each home or building, you could purchase an extra stirrup pump from your local ironmonger for 15 shillings. On the side, these Stirrup pumps were quite often used by the families to spray their garden or do the watering. Besides, the Stirrup pumps, families were encouraged to keep buckets of Sand handy. To smother incendiary fires to exclude any air from the burning manganese or similar material.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fire Women Members at Cookham

Women Members of the Brigade.
During the Second World War, and by March 1943, there were 32,000 women serving full-time with the National Fire service, which had been created due to the amalgamation of the auxiliaries fired service and the regular Fire Brigade as a result of lessons learned from the blitz of 1940.

An additional 54,600 women served in a part-time capacity with the National Fire service. They provided important backup to their male colleagues. Two of these Fire women were members of Cookham Fire Brigade, they were the sisters Jesse and Joan Tubb, and the daughters of the village constable Joe Tubb. Their duties were mainly administrative and to answer the telephone during the day and evening and were a great help to the Cookham Fire Brigade.
The picture above is a model, wearing the wartime uniform that the women had to wear while serving and on duty with the National Fire Service.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Coventry Climax "Godiva" Trailer Pump.

The Coventry Climax Pump,
known as "Godiva."
The Coventry Climax "Godiva" firefighting trailer pump, was a great asset to Fire Brigade's during the Second World War and Blitz on many of Britain's largest cities. The village was assigned two of these units, together with two portable canvas water dams. They could be towed behind any suitable car or lorry fitted with a hitch, and several such vehicles were so fitted out so that they could be called upon in an emergency to tow the pumps.
After the war, market gardeners and farmers snapped up these trailer pumps for irrigation purposes. Emmett's of Little Marlow, and H&C Rochford of West Town Farm Taplow, were two such farms to make good use of these pumps for irrigation of their crops during dry periods.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sir Roger's engine and pump.

Another view of Type 'N' Engine.
This is another view of the Dennis Type 'N' Engine that such yeoman service for so many years with Fire Brigades around the British Isles.

The photo above is of a Gwynne three stage pump that could deliver between 500 and 1000 gallons of water per minute. Also it was able to lift water from the river Thames while sitting on top of Cookham Toll Bridge. This was a lift of some 30 feet, and was a rare feet in those days.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Static Water Supply Dams

Emergency Water Supply Dam.
Due to the fact that I wanted to introduce you to the wartime emergency water supply dams that you could find scattered around the cities and towns, which were filled with water to supply the firemen with water to fight blitz fires. I could not find a suitable photo for this page so I had to build one. The cars are not prewar! Beside filling these tanks full of water they had a screen net over the top, they were treated with Paris Green chemical to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

The nearest one of this type of tank was in Maidenhead. In Cookham we were supplied with two canvas portable models that could be errected where and when needed. These were used with the two trailer fire pumps that I will introduce in the next posting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sir Roger's motive power explained.

The same engine before restoration.
This photo was taken prior to the engine being removed and completely overhauled. As the photo below shows the engine reinstalled, but with some parts still to be replaced.

A partial rebuild.

The interesting feature of the Dennis 'N' Type Fire engine, is the engine itself. The bore /stroke was 115X150 millimeters, compared with the earlier models: FA1075, with a bore/stroke of 127X180 millimeters and the ED810 with a bore/stroke of 127X130 millimeters. This engine was much smoother running than the FA1075. It also had an improved and much lighter clutch, which made it much easier to drive. The ignition was by magneto only, without a trembler coil to assist in the starting, which of course was by hand crank only. The electrical system on the fire engine was was enhanced by a small dynamo driven by a twisted flat belt off the crankshaft pulley.