Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sutton Allotments.

Sutton Allotments.
Having been going back into village history recently, I came across what to some people will be difficult for them to comprehend, especially if they were not born in this country, or are very young in school, where these measurements are no longer taught.

The land measurement called the "Rod, Pole or Perch." is 5½ yards square. So a typical allotment plot of 10 Poles is 5½ yards wide by 55 yards in length. Also you will hear or read of a chain measure as well. Of which, I will discuss in a later blog.

The history of allotments can be said to go back over a thousand years to when the Saxons would clear a field from woodland, which would be held in common. Following the Norman Conquest, land ownership became more concentrated in the hands of the manorial lords, monasteries and church. The reformation in the 1540s confiscated much of the church lands but they were transferred via the crown to the lords.

In the late 1500s under Elizabeth I common lands used by the poor for growing food and keeping animals began to be enclosed dispossessing the poor. In compensation allotments of land were attached to tenant cottages. This is the first mention of allotments.

In the UK, allotments are small parcels of land rented to individuals usually for the purpose of growing food crops. There is no set standard size but the most common plot size is 10 poles, an ancient measurement equivalent to 302 square yards.

Allotments and Cottage Gardens Compensation for Crops Act 1887 obliged local authorities to provide allotments if there was a demand for them. The local authorities resisted complying with the act and revision was required to strengthen the act.

Once again Britain was blockaded and food shortages the norm. The pressure was greater than that of the First World War and even public parks were pressed into use for food production. The famous 'Dig for Victory' campaign exhorted and educated the public to produce their own food and save shipping needed for war materials. Food rationing kept the demand for allotments and homegrown foods high until the end of the war although rationing continued until 1954.

Allotment and home food production is highly productive in terms of land use and during the war allotments were estimated to contribute some 1.3 million tons from 1.4 million plots. Agricultural production generally is more efficient in terms of labour but not in terms of land usage.

The result of demands for more and more building land saw the re-establishment of the Allotments Advisory Body, which in 1949 recommended a scale of provision of 4 acres per 1,000 head of population. This resulted in the Allotment Act of 1950.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Carbide & Acetylene Gas.

Carbide & Acetylene Gas.
Acetylene was discovered in 1836, when Edmund Davy, the inventor of the miners “Davey Lamp”, was experimenting with potassium carbide. One of his chemical reactions produced a flammable gas, which is now known as acetylene. In 1859, Marcel Morren successfully generated acetylene when he used carbon electrodes to strike an electric arc in an atmosphere of hydrogen. The electric arc tore carbon atoms away from the electrodes and bonded them with hydrogen atoms to form acetylene molecules. He called this gas, carbonized hydrogen.

By the late 1800s, a method had been developed for making acetylene by reacting calcium carbide with water. This generated a controlled flow of acetylene that could be combusted in air to produce a brilliant white light. Miners used carbide lanterns and carbide lamps were used for street illumination before the general availability of electric lights. In 1897, Georges Claude and A. Hess noted that acetylene gas could be safely stored by dissolving it in acetone. Nils Dalen used this new method in 1905 to develop long-burning, automated marine and railroad signal lights. In 1906, Dalen went on to develop an acetylene torch for welding and metal cutting.

The picture above is similar to the carton that we use to be able to buy from Mr. Greenslades, bicycle shop. I remember when a schoolmate at the Cookham Rise Secondary Modern School dropped a small grain of carbide in a schoolgirls inkwell. You should have heard the squeaks that came from that young lady when it started to foam like Mount Vesuvius. Mind you the teacher Miss Drew, was not amused.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The School Pen Nib.

The school pen nib brings back a lot of memories of writing in ink at Holy Trinity School under the very watchful eye of Mrs. Snapes. Who was bound and determined that every student came up to her standard of Penmanship! Penmanship; now there is a word that has fast slipped out of the English language. It meant that our script writing had to flow in a constant well-formed and readable shape. No broad tip, or “J” nibs were allowed in school at all.

Now the ink was something else. It came in powder form from the Stephens Blue-Black Ink factory in London. It was also available in bottles from stationers like W.H. Smith with a cork stopper. The powder ink was something else as Mrs. Snapes use to mix it with water in an old blue enamel teapot, from which she would pour it into our inkwells that were fitted in our school desks. Having used cold water instead of hot, not all the ink would dissolve and would settle in the bottom of the ink well. In turn it would stick to the tip of our nibs and would make an inky mess of our workbooks, which in turn it was always our fault.

At least by the time I reached the Cookham Rise Secondary Modern School the fountain pen was on the market and so was everyone’s favourite ink called “Quink.”

Then right after the war the Miles-Martin aircraft company switched from building aircraft to producing the ballpoint pen. Which the Hungarian, László Bíró back in 1938, had invented. From what I can remember there was a patent dispute around that time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Carbide Lamps.

Carbide Lamps.
Calcium carbide is used in carbide lamps, in which water drips on the carbide and the acetylene formed is ignited. These lamps were usable but dangerous in coal mines, where the presence of the flammable gas methane made them a serious hazard. The presence of flammable gases in coal mines led to the miner safety lamp. However, carbide lamps were used extensively in slate, copper and tin mines, but most have now been replaced by electric lamps. Carbide lamps are still used for mining in some less wealthy countries, such as in the silver mines near Potosi, Bolivia. Carbide lamps are also still used by some cavers exploring caves and other underground areas, though they are increasingly being replaced in this use by LED lights. They were also used extensively as headlights in early automobiles, motorcycles and bicycles, although in this application they are also obsolete, having been replaced entirely by electric lamps.

It is still used in the Netherlands for a traditional custom called Carbidschieten (Shooting Carbide). To create an explosion, carbide and water are put in a milk churn with a lid. Ignition is usually done with a torch. Some villages in the Netherlands fire multiple milk churns in a row as a New Year's Eve tradition. The tradition comes from an old pagan religious practice intended to chase off spirits.

In Cookham they were brought back into use during the war as batteries were hard to get a hold of for bicycle lamps. Mr Greenslade's Bicycle Shop next to the "New Inn." (Now called the Swan Uppers."), use to keep a good stock in for the village to use in small cardboard cylinders, which he sold for six pence. Not only for bicycle lamps! We boys found other uses, which I will relate to the reader in another blog.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Wooden Wagon.

The Wooden Wagon.
During the Second World War, the Odney Club was taken over by troops returning from Dunkirk. Then after Pearl Harbour in December 1941, in 1942 it was taken over by American troops. This also included the Mill and old stables and garages in Mill Lane. The Americans used the old stables and garages for stores and a place to keep their ammunition. They must have used some for practice on the range as the empty wooden boxes were stacked against the coppice fence. Of course as boys we had our eyes on this little pile. One day we found that there was a guard on duty having a smoke near the fence, so in chatting him up we asked what the chance was of three empty ammo boxes coming over the fence. As quick as a wink we had our boxes.

We sanded out the US markings and with the help of Sid Burfoot and Larry Smith farm carpenters at White Place Farm and Ernie Holland farm engineer to do the oxy-acetylene welding and drilling of holes on his bench drill so the pram wheels that we had already, we had ourselves three good sturdy wagons.

One good use I put mine too, was to haul home to Widbrook sacks of potatoes that my father had grown on his 20-pole plot on Sutton Allotments.

The sketch above is to give the reader some idea of how the wagon was constructed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

1947-48 Mo-Ped.

1947-48 Mo-Ped.
This unit was, as my father would call it “A five minute wonder.” It could be fitted to your existing bicycle with the minimum amount of effort. It was found to have several drawbacks. Two major faults were as follows:

1.The tyre life was drastically reduced, and to get replacement tyres was quite difficult as manufacturers were still on a material quota problem.

2. In wet weather the curved metal drive wheel would slip on the tyre surface and provide little or no traction at all.

One good thing was that you did not require a driving license or a tax disc and plates. As I said earlier it soon disappeared off the market. Owen Hildreth in Market Street, Maidenhead carried them for a while. Also Halford’s, in Queen Street, Maidenhead, use to carry them for a short while.

Petrol was hard to find as well, so I know that some people would run them on a mixture of Ronsonol lighter fluid and thin lubricating oil. An 8oz bottle could be bought for the grand price of 1/6 (one shilling and six pence). Bill Church use to stock this item in his Ironmongers shop on Station Approach for the wealthier members of the village to run their Atco motor lawnmowers on.