Author Archives: John Sawkill

Photographing Light

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Photographing Light

Examples of different techniques for photographing light.

 

Sir George Pollock, the distinguished photographer, has a website with many different types of abstract photograph and all grouped under the heading “Photographing Light”.

One of his early types was the Vitrograph, an abstract colour photograph using coloured light shone through rough pieces of glass. I was really impressed by them, to the extent that I bought one, entitled “Nebula”, an act which seriously stretched my pocket.
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Francis Eginton’s Window at St Paul’s Church Birmingham

Under an Act of Parliament of 1772 two new chapels, and their chapelyards, were to be built in Birmingham. The first one, St Mary’s, was consecrated in 1774 but there were then real problems in raising the money for the second, St Paul’s Chapel. After omitting a spire on the way St Paul’s was consecrated on June 2nd 1779 with only the bare essentials, and almost certainly no stained glass. It was to take another 6 years, 1785, for a proposal for a stained glass window to be raised. The Vestry Minute Book for March 9th 1785 records:-

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The Thomas Underwood Gallery

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The Thomas Underwood Gallery

Selected reproductions from Thomas Underwood's "The Buildings of Birmingham Past and Present Sketched and Described” Published in 1866 and 1869.

Birmingham Buildings Past and Present – The Thomas Underwood Gallery

The Origin of the Thomas Underwood Gallery

A selection of Thomas Underwood sketches of scenes around New Street and the High Street.


Preamble

In my research into the history of St Paul’s Church in Birmingham, one of the most useful documents was Henry Kempson’s Notebook. Henry was a surveyor who often worked with George Holloway, Charles Colmore’s agent, on the leasing of Colmore land. Continue reading

Birmingham Buildings Past and Present – The Thomas Underwood Gallery – Part 2

The remaining sketches.

Inns

Ten Inns and the first Hotel in Birmingham.

The first selection of Thomas Underwood sketches for the gallery consisted of scenes around New Street and the High Street. This second selection includes the ten remaining Inns in the collection and another Hotel, the first Hotel in Birmingham.

Shops

Shops from around Birmingham.

In addition to the shops in the New Street and High Street section the the Thomas Underwood collection also has the shops shown here. The range of goods goes from buttons and shirts to tripe, vinegar, coffee and peppers and to hats and coats with one unidentifiable product. Then there are some houses with adverts that make it look like one large billboard.

This group includes the well known print of “The North prospect of St Philips” and a rather unusual perspective of Pinfold Street. It was a narrow street, as some maps indicate, but appears here as a wide open space. The top half of prints No7 and No 8 represented the houses as they stood in 1865, and were threatened with demolition, and the bottom half the buildings in the street that were demolished for the railway developments. The particular attraction of print No 4 is the name of the carrier!

Remaining Sketches

The remainder of the sketches from the Thomas Underwood Gallery.

Two of the Sketches, the South West Prospect and the East Prospect of Birmingham, are too big for my scanner, so I have limited both of them to the middle part of the Sketch.

Birmingham – A poem by Harry Howells Horton 1851

Tucked away in a box of old books, it looked just like a modern notebook, size 16cm x 10 cm, a black cover, thin, but then I realised it was a book. I was amazed to read the title page, Fig 1. A poem about Birmingham? Yes, in two parts, in rhyming couplets, a total of 100 pages, dated 1851, and written by Harry Howells Horton, dedicated to William Scholefield M.P., Fig2. There is a note in the preface which states “The Author had prepared a brief historical sketch of the town, which he intended to have introduced here, but he finds there will not be room-at least in this edition.” A search for this book reveals that there was a second edition, with an appendix, dated 1853. Copies of this edition appear to be readily available, but not the first, 1851, edition. It is beginning to look as though this is a first edition and that it might be relatively rare! Continue reading

Drake’s “Picture of Birmingham”

HomeDrake’s “Picture of Birmingham”Drake’s “Picture of Birmingham”
Fig 1 - Cover
Fig 2 - Frontispiece
Fig 3 - Town Hall
Fig 4 - Grammar School of King Edward V1
Fig 5 - Market Hall from S E
Fig 6 - St Philips Church

There are fewer second-hand bookshops these days which means that scrounging around for good old second-hand books is much more difficult and searching the net is not really the equivalent. The thing to do is to have a good search wherever you find a pile of old books. Continue reading

The National Debt

The National Debt

Click Image to enlarge

We are hearing quite a lot at the moment about budget deficits and the national debt, and doubtless this will intensify in the next few months. Our politicians have a habit of confusing the two and economists insist on expressing them as a percentage of GDP, so we can miss out on knowing what the magnitude of the debt really is. Continue reading

A Problem with Expenses in Birmingham in 1795

By law, the parish churches of the Church of England could impose an annual levy on the inhabitants of the parish for the recovery of their annual repair costs. Those having to pay would be householders with the house over a certain rateable value. St Martin’s was, and still is, the Parish Church of Birmingham and the levy was determined at the St Martin’s Annual Vestry Meeting.

This meeting was usually held on Easter Tuesday and any inhabitant of the Town could attend. Continue reading

A Host of Angels

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A Host of Angels

A group of prints featuring angels, reproduced from Victorian lantern slides.

A Host of Angels

Lantern slides are a very good source for the depiction of angels. This is not surprising given that Church halls were frequently used for lantern shows.

So here is a selection, mainly rather beautiful, but in one case gruesome and beautiful at the same time.

Two of our slides, “Angels are near” and “the Spirits’ Flight” were used by Margaret Barker in her book “An extraordinary gathering of angels”.