I was cycling through the backstreets of Wotton under Edge for my lockdown cycle ride and came across this plaque on the side of a house.
“Pitman invented his system of shorthand know as Phonography here”
I can remember well my sisters learning shorthand at college and I would assume that many people in Stinchcombe remember learning as well. But who uses it now? Does anyone still learn it? Does anyone under 30 know what it is?
First, what is Pitman?
It’s fair to say that Pitman shorthand was the first widely used method of shorthand. Invented by Sir Isaac Pitman, himself a fascinating character, It is a system of writing just using symbols using symbols to represent sounds. This allowed a much greater speed of writing.
So, does anyone use Pitman now?
Good question. A quick search of the Internet says that according to the BBC website and the article “Is the art of shorthand dying?“, Pitman, or at least one of its newer variations, is alive and well. It is still used by journalists and court recorders. Well it was in 2016.
Comments and Retrospective Reminiscences are welcome for this article in the comments section of this post on the website. Look forward to reading them.
A new feature for the Village in 2021 is a new Heading on the website called Our Virtual Village. Each month about different Village property will be featured featuring the History of a Village Property.
Our Virtual Village
In the Virtual Village, each page added will be written by house owners themselves or Villagers who have researched a specific property. It’s history and it’s owners, with interesting stories and facts.
We welcome owners or Villagers to put forward an article for publication. On the Our Virtual Village page on the website. We give some guidelines and how to get involved. This new feature is designed that each House page can be expanded. Other people might want to add further information or stories to a property.
The first article on Combe House, Street Farm and Granary Barn is written by Roger Batty and is now live on the website. Further detailed and interesting information can be found in the article if you click on the words typed in red.
The Story of the poem. John McCrae was a Canadian doctor, a professor of medicine at Canada’s McGill University. On the evening of May 2 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, McCrae officiated at the burial of Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. The next evening he took a twenty-minute break from his duties and scribbled a short poem.
He was interrupted by a Sergeant Major Cyril Allinson with his post. So he handed the pad and poem to the Sergeant Major and read his mail. As McCrae read his mail, Allinson read the poem. Returning the pad to McCrae after he had finished the mail, Allinson watched in horror as McCrae crumpled his poem into a ball and tossed it aside.
Sergeant Major Allinson had been deeply moved by the poem and retrieved it. After showing it to other soldiers, he sent it to several newspapers in England. The following December is was finally published in “Punch”
About John McCrae
John McCrae was a doctor and a teacher, who served in both the South African War and the First World War. Born in Guelph, Ontario, on November 30, 1872, John McCrae was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel David McCrae. Described as warm and sensitive with a remarkable compassion for both people and animals, John McCrae began writing poetry while a student at the Guelph Collegiate Institute.
On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Canada, as a member of the British Empire, was automatically at war, and its citizens from all across the land responded quickly. Within three weeks, 45,000 Canadians had rushed to join up. John McCrae was among them. He was appointed a medical officer with the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery with the rank of Major and second-in-command.
He took with him a horse named Bonfire, a gift from a friend. Later, John McCrae sent his young nieces and nephews letters supposedly written by Bonfire and signed with a hoof print.
In April 1915, John McCrae was in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in the area traditionally called Flanders. Some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place there during what was known as the Second Battle of Ypres.
On April 22, the Germans used deadly chlorine gas against Allied troops in a desperate attempt to break the stalemate. Despite the debilitating effects of the gas, Canadian soldiers fought relentlessly and held the line for another 16 days.
The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae’s closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, John McCrae gave them a voice through his poem. It was the second last poem he was to write.
Soon after it was written, he was transferred to No. 3 (McGill) Canadian General Hospital in France where he was Chief of Medical Services. The hospital was housed in huge tents at Dannes-Cammiers until cold wet weather forced a move to the site of the ruins of the Jesuit College at Boulogne.
When the hospital opened its doors in February 1916, it was a 1,560-bed facility covering 26 acres. Here the wounded were brought from the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the third Battle of Ypres and from Arras and Passchendaele.
For respite, he took long rides on Bonfire through the French countryside. Another animal companion was a casualty of the war, the dog Bonneau, who adopted John McCrae as his special friend.
During the summer of 1917, John McCrae was troubled by severe asthma attacks and occasional bouts of bronchitis. He became very ill in January 1918 and diagnosed his condition as pneumonia. He was moved to Number 14 British General Hospital for Officers where he continued to grow weak.
Dursley and Cam Society Zoom talk will be on Tuesday 10th November 2020 at 7:30. The subject of the talk from the Corinium Museum, in Cirencester, entitled “Stone Age to Corinium”. This is a talk on the Archaeology of the Cotswolds and will cover from prehistory to early Roman times, it covers the Cotswolds in general with the exception of the Oxfordshire part of the Cotswolds. The talk will be around 45 minutes with some time afterwards for questions.
No cost involved, you just need to register your interest by email. A link will be sent to you for the Zoom meeting. If anyone would like to join us on the evening, they can lodge their interest by emailing and we will then send a link to join the meeting.
We will all be familiar with the lovely Bengad ponies that we have walked past, enjoyed as foals, mares, geldings, stallions and generally much admired on the hills in Stinchcombe.
The Bengad Stud
The Bengad Welsh Pony Stud started by Mrs Doris Gadsden in the 1960s began its life at Piers Court. It then moved to Southend Farm and latterly to Wick Lane. Laura Hutchins and Di Talboys who used to work with Mrs Gadsden, have bred, looked after and loved these ponies for many years. At their height there were hundreds of ponies on the hills, but now the last 3 youngsters have gone to a new home in order to be shown and brought on as children’s ponies.
The last 3 – Lily (Bengad Lily of the Nile), Poppy (Bengad Desert Poppy), and Lizzie (Bengad Lisianthus) have moved locally to Benhill Performance Ponies. Below is a picture of these lovely ponies just before they left Stinchcombe – it feels a bit like the end of an incredibly happy, successful era, but the Bengad name and genes will live on both nationally and internationally.
Laura also sends a big thank you to all the kind people who sent the ‘Hello Laura’ booklet and photos in May of this year. She is still getting enormous enjoyment out of it.
This is an update on last September’s post about a project opens in a new window to record all the stone stiles in Gloucestershire. Peter Wilson reports a “fantastic” response. More about that below and keep reading to find out about a special role for Stinchcombe.
Three things have surprised Peter:
the enthusiastic support (over 120 contributors)
the extraordinary number of stone stiles already reported (over 400)
the discovery of many stiles tossed aside or where there is no longer a path
Types of Stile Reported
So far there are few step stiles, more squeeze stiles than anticipated, but an abundance of slab stiles. This ties in with findings in Stinchcombe where we’ve found one squeeze stile, five slab stiles and no step stiles at all. Peter reasons that slab stiles were the best at preventing those Cotswold sheep from roaming. They are also a tricky or even impossible obstacle for some walkers! As a result, alternative access through boundary walls and hedges exists in many places. It would be a great shame if that led to these historical landscape features being abandoned.
Getting Recognition for Stone Stiles
Like it or loathe it, Brexit is changing farming support. In future, public money will support farmers who deliver public benefits. This is the perfect time to emphasise the historic landscape value of stiles. Stone stiles, along with stone walls, also provide an important wildlife habitat. Furthermore, learning about them can stimulate an interest in the countryside.
There could be more to find – are you still looking?
Peter is especially keen that people keep an eye out for disused stone stiles. They may highlight lost rights of way that it is not too late to restore. Two Gloucestershire rambling clubs are now publicising the project.
Remember, disused stone stiles are usually near the modern path rather than actually on it. No need to stray from the path though – all those found have been visible from a public right of way.
Stinchcombe History Society opens in a new window has been asked to pilot the next phase of the project – collection of information for the proposed interactive App. The App will combine OS map recording with a detailed record for each stile. The plan is for the pilot to take place in only one parish in the whole of Gloucestershire. We are honoured and very excited to be chosen.
What is more, as you can see from the brief below, the pilot has the potential to be a real community effort. If you’re a keen photographer, walker, map reader, local historian, archaeologist or geologist WE WANT YOU!
The Brief for the Pilot
Add up to four photographs of each stile and its landscape in an agreed format.
Identify the type of stone in any adjacent stone wall, possible source, any signs of re-use, and age since quarried/sited
Identify type of stile, type and source of stile stone used and any signs of reuse.
Relate the site to the nearest known ancient burial site(s) and considering whether this is the source of the stone.
Try to determine the date of the stile and adjacent wall (often after a Land Enclosure Act).
Note and investigate any changes made to the stile.
Verify the OS co-ordinates.
Note the right of way, if applicable, on which the stile is located.
Describe the condition of stile and pathway and how it used or bypassed, including suitability for people with disabilities.
For disused stiles, seek out any knowledge of the former pathway.
Create in partnership with others succinct, informative notes in a format suitable for addition to the App, together with appropriate photographs.
If you would like to get involved with the pilot, please contact Kath.
Any further stone stiles you find in the parish can be reported to Peter using the form you can download here opens in a new window. If you prefer, I can fill the form in, crediting you as the finder.
When we moved to Stinchcombe in the 1960’s the Village school was still open (it closed in 1966), the motorway was being built, the Stinchcombe Band and the WI were flourishing. The Stinchcombe Stragglers Cricket Club was well known and attracted regular star appearances. Fundraising was mainly in aid of the Church. Events in the Village Hall under the eagle eye of Miss Chew Hooper were relatively low key.
During the 70’s the Church bells rang out again. Dursley Rugby Club relocated and combined with the Cricket Club to form the Stinchcombe Sports Club. Junior cricket and rugby teams catered for the youngsters of the surrounding area. We celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in style. New people moved into the village and started to join in.
This trend accelerated in the 1980’s as new faces appeared on the Parish Council the PCC and other groups. A Village Cook Book was produced and we had a Flower Festival in the Church and newcomers became involved in various schemes.
And so into the 90’s. The Village Hall widened its scope and was gradually refurbished and improved. There were barbecues, fun sports , November 5th bonfires and fireworks, open gardens, barn dances, treasure trails , checking of footpaths and much more.
The Millennium and beyond
The 21st Century was ushered in with the lighting of a beacon on Stinchcombe Hill ( albeit in the fog!) The work of the Village Hall Committee has given us a superb venue for more and bigger events : Summer Balls, craft fairs, concerts , plant sales, village shows, jubilee celebrations etc. The Friends of St Cyr’s Church was formed in 2005 and has seen completion of several ambitious projects, with more to come. The Village Plan published in 2008 and subsequently refreshed has led to several initiatives. We have seen Last Nights of The Proms, Open Gardens, concerts, exhibitions and a safari supper in the Church and have enjoyed the use of Church Farm Barn for barn dances, art exhibitions, garden parties, antiques road shows, wine-tastings and more. A History Society and book club have been formed and a village newsletter and e-news published. There is a set of Village Walks covering much of the parish. We have a theatre club and TGI Fridays. In 2011 the Village came together in a big way with the Save Berkeley Vale Campaign to fight the erection of 4 giant wind turbines at the edge of the conservation area.
So now in 2020 how do we go on? Lockdown has highlighted the wonderful sense of belonging and caring that we all share. I have been very proud to be a part of the activities through the years but some of us are ageing (reluctantly) and are slowing down. New young heads are needed so that we can move forward. We do have something very special in this village and now we require new faces on our committees with fresh ideas to carry on the work which has evolved through the decades. .