I spent five days at Butlins in Minehead in 2016 I was curious then about the history of some of the rides and attractions. One of them was the electric railway in the kiddies fairground. Over the years my children had ridden on the ride, when they were younger even I was “forced” to ride it. It looked like it had been there a while and was consistently revamped as and when required. It had been a Noddy toytown train at one point and then part of Bob the Builder land. In 2016 it was just part of the fairground.
I knew that at one point there had been two full size steam engines at the resort, as Billy Butlin purchased redundant steam engines as a on static display at the camps to provide a novel and relatively cheap attraction.
Butlins in Minehead had the LMS Duchess of Hamilton arrived in 1964 and left in 1975. It is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York where the streamlining has been added back.
There was a smaller engines at the camp as well, an 1880 Brighton Terrier called Knowle 32678.
As well as the big steam engines, Butlins also had a Peter Pan Railway ride Peter Pan Railways were once a common sight at seaside resorts, travelling fairs, holiday camps and amusement parks around the UK. It was this ride that I was curious about. I was quite surprised to find that the electric train ride was over sixty years old.
They first appeared in the 1950s and were built by the Warwickshire company of Supercar Company Ltd and utilised regular railway technology with 2ft gauge track, 12lb rails and normal flanged wheels. The center rail was energised at 110 volts DC. The trains had a fixed back axle (chain driven) and a short-wheelbase bogie in front and could negotiate some pretty sharp and exciting curves. In later years some of the trains were fitted with new fibreglass bodywork of various different styles.
Though using a much smaller track (and some minor cosmetic changes) they are still running at Minhead Butlins in 2016 and is still there today.
It’s nice to see that though some things change, some things stay the same.
I really like this video clip from the BBC Archive on a 1963 view of what 1988 would look like.
#OnThisDay 1963: Time on Our Hands looked back on the events that had shaped idyllic 1988, like the Russian moon landing, the rise of the mega cities of Milford Haven and Holyhead, the great tea shortage and the coming of the machines. pic.twitter.com/fRWyxVWLWC
I know the area quite well, and have seen a few pillboxes in the area, but having passed this way many times I wasn’t aware that they were even there.
Looking at this old Google Street View image you can see why, this is how it looked before the construction started.
Here is how it looks now. Part of the planning permission was that these should be retained and protected.
So what we have is a World War Two pillbox defending a Shell petrol station!
The pillboxes were constructed to protect the airfield, RAF Weston-super-Mare, which was a Royal Air Force station on a civilian airfield in Weston-super-Mare. The civilian airfield was taken over by the RAF on the 1st May 1940 and would remain there until 1993.
St Fagans National Museum of History is an open-air museum in Cardiff chronicling the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of the Welsh people.
Gwalia Stores is a retail premises originally built at Ogmore Vale, Glamorgan, in 1880 and relocated to the St Fagans National Museum of History.
The stores closed for business in Ogmore Vale in 1973 and reopened at St Fagans in 1991. Part of the shop is still a retail premises; the rest of the ground floor is set up as it would have been during the 1920s
In 2009 we visited Chepstow Castle which is just over the original Severn Crossing. It was a beautiful sunny day and we really enjoyed walking around and exploring the castle.
Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain.
Construction began in 1067, just after the Norman conquest by the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern.
In the 12th century the castle was used in the conquest of Gwent, the first independent Welsh kingdom to be conquered by the Normans.
By the 16th century its military importance was diminished.
The castle saw action again during the English Civil War, when it was in the front line between Royalist Monmouthshire and Parliamentarian Gloucestershire. It was held by the Royalists and besieged in both 1645 and in 1648, eventually falling to the Parliamentarian forces on 25 May 1648.
Although re-garrisoned during and after the English Civil War, by the 1700s it had fallen into decay.
It has been used for filming TV and films including the Day of the Doctor when David Tennant’s tenth Doctor was “wooing” Queen Elizabeth I.
Most people throw away their packaging (well hopefully today they recycle it) but at Oakham Treasures in North Somerset there is a treasure trove of retail ephemeral showcasing a snapshot of grocery history that would probably otherwise have disappeared.
It reminded me if similar displays at the Castle Museum in York.
The reconstructed shops at St Fagans near Cardiff also have collections of old grocery packaging.
Do we keep todays rubbish for future generations? Will they reminisce over the stuff they use to buy? Will they be shocked at the enormous use of single use plastic? Who is going to be the guardian of today’s unwanted stuff, that will be the exhibits of the museums of tomorrow.
Across this blog I wrote fifteen posts in 2016. As might not be expected most of the top ten posts that year were from 2016, and I was pleased to see how popular my 1990s photographs of the Bristol Harbourside were.
I visited Legoland in 2013 and felt that it was A bit tired and this was the tenth most popular post, dropping one place from last year.
The sixth placed post was from my 2012 series of Cinematic Advent Calendar posts, this one was #07 – The Eagle has Landed. There were quite a few films in the advent calendar that have significant memories over and above the film itself. Queuing for Star Wars was significant for example. With The Eagle has Landed I went to see it at the Aldeburgh cinema with my grandparents.
Though I am more likely to spend time at Worle station, I have been known to catch trains from the main station in Weston-super-Mare. Despite being a smallish town, Weston has three railway stations. The main station which opened in 1884 replacing the original station which opened in 1841. Weston Milton opened in 1933, a small halt to serve the then expanding Milton area. Worle station was opened in 1990 and unlike the other two stations, which are on the Weston loop, Worle is on the main Bristol to Plymouth line.
Over the years the railway station at Weston-super-Mare, well in terms of tracks, has changed quite a bit, even if the buildings and platforms have remained as much as they have since the line was built. This photograph from the local paper reminded me of how much has changed.
Back then there was an up and down line on the Weston loop. There was also multiple sidings for good and carriages. I suspect a lot of the coal wagons for the local gas works were stored there awaiting return to the Welsh collieries.
By the late 1970s (the BR HST is still in blue and grey), when this image was taken on 28th March 1978, most of the sidings have now been taken away and replaced with a coach park. Lots of visitors to Weston-super-Mare were now coming by coach. The light brown building on the right of the photograph in the background is the Odeon cinema which is still there today, but Weston is getting it’s own multiplex at Dolphin Square.
You can see a lot of the points had been removed too.
By the time of this Google Street View image, the sidings have all been removed and replaced with a Tesco store and car park (which was the focus of the story in the local paper). Hildesheim Bridge was built in 1991 and crosses the eastern end of the platforms.
Hildesheim is the German town which Weston is twinned with.
Change happens and over the next few years I suspect we will see more change.