On Saturday I took two trains and a bus to reach the medieval market town of Newcastle-under-Lyme as I had heard several times it is a pretty place. It is actually not that pretty a place but it has won awards for its flower arrangements so perhaps my encouragers had been there in summertime. All the same I enjoyed its friendliness and lack of airs. The natives call you “duck” or “me duck” and bus drivers salute each other. The town no longer has a Castle and the Lyme it is Under (errr how?) refers to the name of the stream which runs into the River Trent.
Historically Newcastle-under-Lyme laid on the best known annual Mock Mayor Ceremonies in the mid 19th century. It all started when Henry II granted a Charter of Incorporation which gave the burgesses (men of special status) the right to elect mayors. Unfortunately their right was abruptly thereafter removed by the town councillors who deemed only themselves fit to vote in the new mayor.
In defiance the burgesses held a mock event, dressing up a designated “mayor” who paraded around in an ostentatious wig and finery whilst the gathering crowd verbally abused the “real” mayor who has just been appointed. After 320 years of hamming it up, councillors had had enough of such riotous behaviour and gave the burgesses back their voting privileges. Their first elected mayor was the appropriately named Samuel Mayer.
Chris, a senior gentlemen in a wheelchair, noticed me photographing ancient buildings and was happy to chat to a fellow lover of architecture. Having autism there was very little information he did not retain about the history of his home town. He had researched his family tree which revealed a bloodline to Queen Victoria and also a successful manufacturer of floor tiling.
After a basic lunch of salad and hummus with fresh orange juice at the Capello Lounge which has a separate vegan menu thelounges.co.uk/lounges/cappello-lounge, I headed for Brampton Park where the museum is located. In the grounds sits Vera Brittain, a nurse, pacifist and feminist during the first world war. In synchronicity, later the same day I saw the film “Testament of Youth” based on Vera’s biography had just been on TV www.imdb.com/title/tt1441953/.
Near to Nurse Vera was this war time fellow Tom, impressively carved out of a horse chestnut tree.
In the museum I was drawn to a unicorn’s skull in an entrance cabinet for sale at £295. Well, it wasn’t labelled as such but that is what it looked like to me.
Upstairs there was much variety in the way of toy nostalgia, always a winning exhibition for me, although I don’t know why a Minion had been included in the 1970’s section.
I had one of these exact same wind up “radios” as young child which I had forgotten all about until I saw this. It was a sturdy toy which could be thrown around a room and still proclaim the weather.
None of the two central ancient churches were open and whilst I was hopefully yanking on the steadfast door handle of St George’s the vicar caught me and questioned my motives. After a reassuring explanation (“I love old churches!”) he collected the keys, ushered me in and flipped on the lights.
The rev wanted to know why I did not attend regular sermons and I told him it was because I like to learn, yet never leave a service with fresh knowledge. He responded “Then you are going to the wrong churches” and attempted to find me the best Birmingham holy gaff on his phone app. It did not work. When I tried the same website back at home the listings were frozen, therefore I am still none the wiser.