Members Films

A new selection of contributions from WIAS members

The first film below has kindly been supplied by Derek Billings. It features a family from the USA enjoying crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner and arriving in the UK at Southampton. The family then travel on via the GWR to Leamington Spa reaching their eventual destination, a house in Radford Semele. The precise year of the visit is uncertain but from the identity of the ship they arrive on it has to be between 1921 when it was re-named and 1938 when it was sent for scrapping. A guesstimate would be the early 1930’s? The film is a delight in that we see steam ships, steam locomotives, views of Leamington Spa, Radford Semele, Warwick Town, Warwick Castle, London, Worcestershire and much more.  Sit back and enjoy a time gone by! (It’s a silent fim!).

Update from David Whitlock – ‘At 3.17 minutes there is a very brief shot of the Radford Semele shop at the corner of Lewis Road & Southam Road. My grandma, Jane Whitlock and her husband Alfred ran the shop for decades. It was my Dads home. I think it was filmed in 1934, so all three would have been living there then. Stayed there countless times in the 1950’s & !960’s. Fantastic bit of film for me. Thanks for posting. Happy Days….’

Update from Derek Billings who provided the film with more detail – A DVD Bill Gibbons of  Leamington Spa gave me before he died.  Molly French was at school with Bill and this is a film about her relatives from America who came over from the States in 1934 on the liner “Berengaria” On the way up Southampton water you see a sailing ship, a warship with three funnels, a yacht, and a submarine, steam tugs and men in a rowing boat handling the mooring ropes.  On to Leamington by train for a visit to Radford Semele for a holiday. On the railway journey you pass I think through Harbury cutting?  The house at Radford was called Waresley and is still there. Molly`s uncle Stan lived there and it is his Brother and his family who visits from America.  You see scenes at Radford Semele, the post office which is next to the house. The family and children playing in the front garden. Molly French is the tallest girl. Her father was the post master at Leamington post office. That is all I know as sadly Bill Gibbons died shortly afterwards. In the film you will see; 

  • A car on an empty main road, a Midland Red bus passes, a SOS Q type.
  • Next a trip to London hauled by a King class loco, 6014 “King Henry VII” With good view of Leamington station with the iron foot bridge that spanned the railway from the Myton Road to Avenue Road, removed in 1939. Leamington Parish Church can be seen, and in time you pass through High Wycombe. Arriving at Paddington Station. London street scenes, Trolley Buses, Bank of England, Marble Arch, Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square, Eros, St Pauls, Daily Express Art Deco building, Ludgate Hill railway bridge, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben covered scaffolding again ! Buckingham Palace Guards on duty.
  • A view from a Guy bus on a trip to the Cotswolds,  (you can see the Guy Indian Chief radiator cap) ,to see family I know not who, I would like to find out more  about the family, the film came from Molly French who when Bill Gibbons was alive lived at Alford in Lincolnshire. May be too late as when Bill passed away all contact was lost.
  • Views of Warwick Castle, the drive up to the Castle cut out of the rock. The gardens, Guy’s Tower. Returning into Warwick we see Lord Leycester Hospital and East Gate.Views at Lillington, Brampton House, (in Bordesley Crescent), the Lodge family lived here, the sparking plug manufacturers, and the church, at that time no other buildings between the church and Brampton House. Jephson Garden’s, the fountains as they used to be, a paddle boat in the Mill Garden`s.
  • The final scenes are of the brother going by train from Leamington Station, (you get a glimpse of Castle class locomotive No 505 ?), to Southampton and returning to America aboard the liner Majestic, you see the brother from Radford  waving goodbye from the quay, view of the largest floating dock in the world at that time, tugs assisting the liner out of Southampton.  On the way up Southampton water you see the Forts, scenes at sea , and nearing New York a view of The Statue Of Liberty. On entering New York views of the New York skyline, Empire State building and lots of interesting ships and finally arriving home by car.  Location not known.

Notes on the Liners.

  • The RMS Berengaria was built as the Imperator for the Hamburg-America Line in 1913 from August 1914 she was in Hamburg  harbour for the duration of the war. On the 5th of May 1919 she was seized by the U.S. Navy as a U.S. troop transport. In February 1920 she was handed over to the shipping controller, London as reparation for the sinking of the ”Lusitania” and sold to Cunard Line where she became the company’s flag ship and renamed “Berengaria”. In March 1938 she caught fire in New York harbour and in November was sold for scrap.  
  • The RMS ”Majestic” was built as the SS ”Bismarck” for the  Holland America Line as the “Bismarck.”  The keel was laid by the Kaiser Wilhelm ll in 1913 and at the time was the world’s largest ship, it was the sister ship of “Imperator” and the “Vaterland.” The outbreak of war in 1914 meant that work was suspended. In 1919 she was handed as war reparations to the British Government and sold jointly to Cunard and White Star Line. In 1920 the work was further delayed as she was damaged by fire. Sabotage was suspected as the Germans had no wish to part with the ship. Work was completed at Hamburg in 1922 and the ship was delivered to Liverpool at the end of the month. After sea trials she was renamed the “Majestic”. In September she broke the record for crossing the Atlantic in 5 days, 5 hours and 21 minutes. In 1925 she went on to cross in 5 days. In 1936 she made her last voyage for Cunard and was replaced by the ”Queen Mary.”  Derek Billings 2008. ( Copyright © 2020 D.Billings).

Crossness Pumping Station. Next in the list is a film Derek Billings took on a trip to Crossness Pumping Station 2019, a veritable cathedral of industrial archaeology if ever there was one! Built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette for London’s sewage system and opened in 1865, Crossness Pumping Station is a Grade 1 Listed building and features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork found in the world today.

Crofton Pumping Station, filmed again by Derek Billings in 2017, in Wiltshire is one of the most significant industrial heritage sites in the United Kingdom and a fascinating visitor attraction that invites you to step into our industrial and social history and turn back the clock to a time when steam was king. The station was built in 1807-9 to supply water to the highest point of the Kennet & Avon Canal which links London and Bristol.

Snow Hill Station, Birmingham on the 27th March 1977. No doubt many people will remember travelling into Snow Hill from the lines serving south Warwickshire. These slides show the sorry state of the abandoned building in 1977. Once a glorious station on the Great Western network by 1977 it was derelict. It survived as a car park operated by NCP for a few years with vehicles parked on the platforms before total demolition eventually took place.

David Hulse. The final meeting of the 2016/2017 season was a talk by engineer David Hulse from Stone in Staffordshire. It was truly amazing and inspiring! If you were not able to get to the meeting, which opened with a 10 mins video about David, you can watch it here. Highly recommended viewing! Visit David’s excellent web site for much more information  – click here

Wickman, Coventry. Take a tour of the Wickman Group’s UK location to see the 51,000 square foot factory, how a CNC multispindle machine is put together by highly-skilled engineers, the variety of machines, and thousands of spare parts and attachments.

Cleaning historic coal mining plans. From John Willock, a short film on how the records office cleans old plans of North Warwickshire Collieries.

Avro Lancaster. From your webmaster, a little self indulgence explaining my own interest in engineering and flying! The Lancaster bomber has always had a special place in our family. Some of you may already know that my late father, S. C. Riley, was a time served apprentice at the world famous Coventry Gauge & Tool Company where he trained as a toolmaker and became a Freeman of the City of Coventry. His grandfather was an analytical chemist at Chance Brothers Glassworks, Smethwick and his great grandfather was manager of the same glass works. He was also a WWII pilot with Bomber Command posted to 626 Squadron at RAF Wickenby in Licolnshire flying Lancasters. At the end of hostilities he was converting to Sunderland flying boats which were going to open up a whole new world of passenger routes in peace time. He eventually returned to engineering in Coventry, initially with the Standard Motor Co. and later moving to the brand new Massey Fergurson Plant in Banner Lane. We still have many of the apprentice pieces he made and of course my 3 1/2 ins. gauge live steam Pacific ‘Heilan Lassie’ which he helped out with considerably on the Myford ML7 Lathe in the garden shed! We never did finish it before his death in 1989.

In 2014, thanks to my daugter, I was extremely fortunate in getting tickets for the 3 Lancasters air display at East Kirkby in Lincolnshire, not far from Wickenby, where Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ was taxied along the grass just as the only 2 airworthy Lancasters in the world flew overhead. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster had joined together for a one off season of displays over the UK. It was certainly a sight to relish and a video from that day is below. Nothing like the sound of 4 Merlin engines running but 12 at the same time is really something!

Transport for Wales. This operator has done a great job of fitting dashcams to some of their trains. Enjoy this great cab ride, southbound, over the wonderful Barmouth Bridge on the Cambrian Coast route. Like others, the webmaster has walked over this bridge many times from childhood holidays in the 1950’s right up until last year. Let’s hope we can all enjoy these treats again soon! “With a fine sea view in front, the mountains behind, the glorious estuary running eight miles inland, and Cadair Idris within compass of a day’s walk, Barmouth can always hold its own against any rival.” These are the words of William Wordsworth who visited Barmouth in the 19th century. The poet John Ruskin, who founded a community in Barmouth, said “Only one other journey in the world has views to compare with the one from Dolgellau to Barmouth, and that is the journey from Barmouth to Dolgellau”.

Cast Iron Cooking Pot. ‘The immense historical significance of the cast iron cooking pot’ was a talk presented to WIAS in 2017 by Richard Williams. This video takes the subject to a higher level!

President Steam Narrow Boat & Others. Coventry Steam Canal Boat Rally by Tracklamp Videos. Enjoy the convoy of steam canal boats. Shot on the Saturday of the 3 day rally (15th – 17th June 2012) organised by The Steam Boat Association Of Great Britain.

In the new boatyard at Fazeley Street they built five steel-plate steam-powered boats. After an initial period of use they were found unsatisfactory because of the excessive wear on the hull’s steel.  In 1896 Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd tried iron in the construction of their boats. The boat had an elm bottom and iron sides. This proved much more effective and 3 of the 5 original steel steamers were rebuilt. Between 1898 and 1899, 8 more iron composite steamers were produced from the Saltley dock and 9 more between 1905 and 1911. The steamers were known as fly- or express-boats and kept mainly on main-line long-distance routes. On the timetable, a trip from London (City Road Basin) to Birmingham (Fazeley Street Depot) would take around 54 hours. It was a non-stop service and the crew of four would change shifts along the route. The main drawback was the lack of carrying space on the boat due to the size of the engine and boiler. The boats picked up coke at preset points along their routes.

WIAS 25th Anniversary Celebration. Another chance to hear some of the speeches at the celebration evening to mark 25 years of WIAS. The event was held at the Bridge House Theatre, Warwick on the 12th June 2014. Listen to Martin Green speak about the life of our late WIAS President, Toby Cave. Still photos also available here.

Narrow Gauge. The classic film ‘Railway with a Heart of Gold’ tells the story of how the Talyllyn Railway in North Wales was saved from extinction and became the first preserved railway in the world. (Webmasters note; he was a fireman on the TR in the 1960’s & 70’s!).

‘Mail Rail’ – The Royal Mail Underground Railway. Thanks to Robert Caldicott and his daughter for todays addition, fortunately saved from the scrap man the narrow gauge postal railway is now open for the public to travel under the streets of London.

Statfold Barn Railway. Filmed by Derek Billings in 2017 this 30 minutes film of the Statfold Barn Railway in Staffordshire is a IA/Railway buffs delight. There are numerous attractions including steam, a railcar and towards the end a tram. If ever you wanted a ‘garden railway’ this is what to aim for!!

Daw Mill Colliery, North Warwickshire. A short film taken from a drone showing the once very extensive colliery works at the deepest mine in the UK.

The Brown Betty Tea Pot. A fascinating short film,  brought to our attention by Marianne Pitts, on how this classic tea pot is made at Stoke on Trent. The red clay used was first mined in the 1600’s.

More for Miniature Railway Fans! The railway through the beautiful parkland at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Internal combustion with a steam outline! Filmed on lovely sunny day in July 2017. The railway opened in 1975 as a tourist attraction within ‘The Pleasure Gardens’, an area of visitor facilities inside the grounds of the Palace, but some distance from the house itself. Miniature railway operating company ‘Pleasurerail’ operated the service on a short out-and-back line. There were no passing loops or run-round loops, so the line was push-pull operated. The original locomotive was named Sir Winston Churchill (not to be confused with the current locomotive of the same name), and was later joined by locomotives Muffin and Tracy-Jo. The facilities at The Pleasure Gardens include a maze, a plant centre, a cafeteria, the popular butterfly house, and the main car park for visitors. The railway was adapted to provide an actual transport facility between the Pleasure Gardens and Blenheim Palace itself, and during the tourist season trains run in each direction every half hour. The line is now an end-to-end operation laid out roughly in the shape of a figure ‘7’, and extending over a distance of 1,000 yards (910 m). There are run-round loops at each terminal station, and there was a central passing loop allowing the operation of two trains. This loop has now had one set of points removed, thus changing it into a siding. The line also has a three-road engine and stock storage shed.

Beer at Home means Davenports! From WIAS Chairman, Martin Green. The current focus on home deliveries reminded me of the Birmingham firm of Davenports who championed the home delivery of bottled beer, with that familiar slogan of “Beer at Home means Davenports”.  The original brewery has gone, but the name has been revived in a range of craft beers produced in Birmingham. The website offers some interesting historical material, a number of short adverts and longer films of the Davenports story are available on youTube. One advert shows a stressed housewife struggling with her duties reaching for a creamy, nourishing bottle of Davenports stout as the ideal answer to her prayers! Interestingly, Davenports supplied beers to many parts of the UK, not just the Midlands, and did also, of course, have their own public houses. Many Warwickshire pubs served their beers including the Maid of the Mill in Atherstone, the Woodman in Warwick and the Old Tramway in Stratford upon Avon. One of the films available online is from the 1940s, with stills taken from the 1930s publication ‘Fifty Years of Progress’, two examples of which included below – the brewery in Bath Row Birmingham and early delivery lorries.

Knowle in the 1960’s. This was originally an 8mm film taken by Barry Holland of his parents garage in Knowle and surrounding area in the early 1960’s. Good shots of Knowle and Dorridge High Streets and Knowle and Dorridge Station. Plus all the old cars. Available on our ‘Members Films’ page. Click here to view or visit YouTube at this link here. Stuart Robertson 4th June 2020

‘Birth of a Spa Town’. Leamington History Group have released their excellent new film and we are very pleased to display it here. It’s a new short film about Leamington’s transformation from a small village to a thriving spa town in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the origins of Leamington’s spa industry, the creation of the Pump Rooms and the demise of the original baths in Old Town. Extremely well made, read more about how it came about on the Leamington History Group website here LHG, 15th June 2020

This week’s short play – The Signalman by Charles Dickens

Here we are approaching another weekend without live theatre so why not take a break, grab a cuppa and settle back to enjoy another short audio play from the Talisman Theatre as part of ‘keeping theatre alive’.

‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens
Featuring Michael Barker as The Signalman, Phil Reynolds as The Traveller, and Rod Wilkinson as The Engine Driver.  Adaptation, direction and technical production by Phil Reynolds. We hope you enjoy it. And if you do, please feel free to share it with friends and family. We’re supporting the work of front-line workers in our amazing NHS.  If you’d like to contribute, here’s a link to a JustGiving page we’ve set up.
With best wishes, Steve Smith, Steve Duckham and Rod Wilkinson – ‘Tea With The Tali’ Team. 29th June 2020

Everyone needs a train journey, even in isolation. In this 8-part video series,​ Tales from the Tracks, ​ be inspired with the right to relax from the pressures of isolation by drinking in the best views of the West Coast Main Line as it takes you up from London Euston to Glasgow Central, through Rugby, Crewe and the Lake District.

With bright fresh sunshine, blue skies and fluffy clouds adorning the best of the British landscape, this series guides you up the Main Line using a front-mounted digital camera from the driver cab giving you uninterrupted views of the route through the country.

Experienced and characterful Avanti West Coast drivers Dave Egerton and Darran Townsend narrate each journey, bringing to life tales of the train line from past decades – describing railway artefacts and potted human stories associated with the train line – as well as highlighting spots of beauty you can enjoy today.

For nature lovers, the routes have a magnificent array of landscapes to enjoy. From train lines closely flanked by steep shrubbery and trees to routes that pass freely through villages and fields that stretch away into the distance, you’ll see every hue of the classic British countryside in summer. 29th August 2020

Click here to watch the eight films!

Kempton Steam Museum – Mercury Arc Rectifiers. Kempton Steam Museum volunteer David Walker describes the history and operation of the museum’s Mercury Arc Rectifiers. Alain Foote. 8th September 2020

Leamington’s Victorian Legacy. Thanks to Mark Ellis, our speakers and generous sponsors, in spite of the doom and gloom currently surrounding us, Leamington History Group has produced a second Leamington History Video, live from today. Please circulate the links below as widely as you can, – and of course, enjoy it yourselves! Margaret Rushton

Traditional Brickmaking in the Rhineland. John Brace recommends this German film from 1963. Whether you speak German or not this film is very watchable and graphically illustrates what can be achieved with the the most basic of equipment and manpower.

The Story of Leamington’s Water Supply. The Story of Leamington’s Water Supply compiled and narrated by Jeffrey Burgess. Jeff describes the water supply to the town, the sort that comes out of your taps not the towns famous Spa water. This is history beneath your feet!

Brass Steel Fire Exhibition. This exhibition was co-ordinated by Anthony Coulls and  opened in March of this year at the NRM York. When it closed it was relocated to the Science Museum in London, with the current restrictions this film was made last Thursday and provides a snapshot of the exhibits on display. A number of exhibits have been placed on loan from private collections including some from abroad, currently the Exhibition is scheduled to run until 2nd May 2021. This short film is an appetiser. Peter Coulls.