Monday, 2 November 2009

The Weston Green Sundial...and other bits

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The village sign built to commemorate the Queens Golden Jubilee

Weston that's what it's called. Now at last I can stop describing it as "...the nice group of old buildings near the 'Scilly Isles' roundabouts on the straight road toward Hampton Court Bridge. You know, the green bit with the nice hidden pub and the house with the sundial on it...?"

Just about London too for the sake of this blog. Apparently it's crept into Surrey but the fact that it's within the M25, has the afformentioned striking sundial tantalisingly visible from the road and that I seem to drive past it at regular intervals means it just about qualifies.

It's no suprise that the locals have gone down the village-sign route as the ancient layout and pattern of the old village is pretty obvious even to a casual visitor like myself. The old village green, pond (nowdays more a small crater with a marsh at the bottom) the pub, church and fine houses are all still there and the large amount of traffic seems more intent on rushing by than hanging around. Well worth a quick visit on a Sunday afternoon then...
This is the splendid sundial that had first grabbed my attention whilst hurrying toward a traffic-jam in Hampton Court. The latin motto 'Horas non numero nisi serenas' translates as
I count only the bright hours and is still apparently a big favourite for those commissioning their own more modern sundials, along with Time flies and other traditional time-related mottoes.
The date seems to be 1828 and it's quite an ornate item for what is not a particularly large or ostentatious building. Rather a stern looking sun as well but on the whole it puts other sundials in the shade (boom, boom!)
This low-level weather vane was also nearby. I doubt that it's very old and it seems to be peeling in several places but I was intrigued by the subject matter of a lion and three people. I'm sure it must be an allusion but I've no idea what to.
On the same row of houses, next door to the sundial cottage in fact, here's a very handsome Georgian mansion. It's currently undergoing a bit of renovation and I was intrigued to spot what looked like an insurance fire-plate above the door. In the 18th and 19th centuries the lack of a national fire brigade meant that your fire-cover was exactly that - a small private fire-brigade would come and put out your burning house but only if you were one of their customers! Hence the need to ensure the fire-marks were in a prominant position...A slightly closer view shows a plate depicting what seems to be a temple surmounted by a crown. Some scouting around on the internet led to the discovery of a fascinating booklet on the subject called Fire Insurance Wall Plaques by Rowland G. M. Baker. It was published in 1970 and is available in full online and well worth a quick look. What it does have are some excellent line drawings of fire-plates and from that it's quite possible to identify the plaque as being from the Royal Exchange - and in fact the 'temple' depicted was actually the Royal Exchange itself

The 'Weekly Journal' of 12th December 1719 records that "On Tuesday the Society of Gentlemen Subscribers of the new project for insurance of Ships and Merchandise waited upon the King with a petition for the Grant of a Charter to carry on their new undertaking, and we hear that they were graciously received and their Petition referr'd to the Privy Council". Their efforts were successful and they granted a royal charter in 1720. The company was first known as Onslow's Insurance from Lord Onslow its first governor. It began by dealing with marine insurance only. In 1721 a supplementary charter was obtained by the name of "The Royal Exchange Assurance of Houses and Goods from Loss by Fire", from the fact that their offices were sited in the Royal Exchange. The company also used a representation of the Royal Exchange building as the emblem on their fire mark. This was the old Royal Exchange build in 1669 after the Great Fire, and which was itself ravaged by fire in 1838. That fire unfortunately destroyed all the company's old records .

What can I say. I'm a sucker for old door-bell pulls... I assume this one had a thin wire cable going to one of those merry ' bell on a spring' affairs.

Getting away from the heart of Weston Green a short walk over the common takes you Esher Railway Station, or more accuratly to the nearby railway bridge. There were an intriguing couple of bricked up doors here, between the two lines. One had a tempting glass arch still intact which apparently used to service the station platforms. Presumably these are now too dangerous and have long since been blocked up.

A closer look shows a tempting array of higgledy-piggldy stair, undergrowth and the refuse of the ages. I wonder if it can still be accessed from the station above?

Out in the open air again I spotted an interesting looking badge on the side of the bridge. A bit too far away for me but a close-up on the camera provided all the required detail.

Joseph Westwood & Co Engineers & Contractors London 1888

There are a multitude of references to this company, or at least to Joseph Westwood. He seems to have been an employee at a Thames Iron Shipyard and stepped in to stop it going bust with the loss of 3,000 jobs, and followed that up by setting up his own foundry and specialising himself in ships and railway bridges. By all accounts his company - or an offshoot of it - were still trading at least up to the 1970's and undertook a vast range of engineering tasks and roles. A nice item to finish on!


Rachel said...

So that's where Weston Green is! I lived around there for years and I never knew!

Mr. Jolly said...

Just a thought, could the three children and a lion motif be a C. S. Lewis / Narnia / Aslan reference?

Plutus said...

I drive through Weston Green every week but have never walked around the area - always through Thames Ditton and up to Hampton Court. Seems that I have been missing out! Thank you for highlighting some of its hidden treasures.