Author Archives: ActonBooks

The Albert Palace in Battersea

Those first sight, scents and sound of the building were augmented by the music of a military band striking up a march tune in the transept of the building to the visitor’s right. When the sound of the brass band died away, it was replaced the distant rumble of a gigantic pipe organ – possibly the largest in the world – at the concert hall at the very farthest end of the building.
Above them, the newcomer could see other visitors gazing down on them from the gallery through a series of Romanesque round arches that punctuated the first floor. That gallery ran all around the building. Looking above the gallery, through the amber-coloured glass panes of the vaulted roof, you could see the sky, everywhere the sky. The amber tinted glass was not just aesthetically pleasing. It was there to ‘obviate the use of unsightly awnings or blinds’, according to The Builder.
Before the Palace was opened, the gallery had been safety tested. In fine Victorian tradition, troops had been marched around the balcony. As it had not maimed any hapless soldiers of the Queen, it was thus pronounced safe enough for the public.
The interior of the Palace had been designed by none other than the most renowned aesthetic movement designer, Christopher Dresser. The Builder approved of Dresser’s restrained use of colour in the general scheme for the Palace. His colours were modernist and avoided following dull municipal themes or railway colour schemes of monotonous blue, white and chocolate that graced Crystal Palace. Everywhere were rich yellows, green and reds surmounted by elaborate stencilling in Dresser’s keynote botanical style.
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Deadman not walking

Too soon? He would have been long dead by now anyway, but you have to ponder whether he was ever concerned that his very name marked him out for early departure from Earl’s Court…

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Always sunny in a rich man’s world

Sad story from 1824…

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Good doctoring from 1808

A tale of an eminently practical solution to psychosomatic mental illness from August 1808. They did not call it the Age of Enlightenment for nothing…    

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Injudicious and erroneous education

1837 -2018; Spot the difference.  I tend not to become exercised at the wilder fringes of this debate, but hey, give me a break — the discrimination in this photograph (below), is just wrong. But first, to set the context, … Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Charles Mathews

If you were born on this day June 28th you are in good company. Henry VIII of England, 1491; Sir Peter Paul Rubens, in 1577; Jean Jacques Rousseau in 1712. One less famous who should be celebrated along with the … Continue reading

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Between the lines

In 1864 a Cambridge gentleman farmer and agricultural scientist, Philip Howard Frere by name, wrote up his experiments in feeding various combinations of fodder. He shared with the readers of the Journal of the Bath and West of England Society … Continue reading

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Women fitter both to rule and write

“Cave” and “Aladdin’s”, not words you associate with a place to park your car. But let he (or she) who has not turned their garage into a room for the temporarily unloved and yet too precious to be parted with, … Continue reading

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Consequences; January 1812

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“He had no debt, no creditor”

There is a time when ‘principles’ become not a good thing but an obsession. Like jealousy or revenge, stubborn adherence to ‘principles’ taken to a point where they are self-harming can erode the mind. This old man does not sound … Continue reading

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