A day in Port Lincoln

The first of my 2024 cruises – a seven-day cruise on the Grand Princess from Melbourne to South Australia and back – took me to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, places I’ve visited before, then to Port Lincoln, a new place for me. Long settled by Aboriginal people, in 1802, Matthew Flinders named the area after his native county of Lincolnshire in England. From Adelaide it’s a 650km seven-hour drive going round the top of the Spencer Gulf, though just 250km as the crow flies. Or you can just arrive by cruise ship!

Port Lincoln is home to Australia’s largest fishing fleet: tuna, abalone, Spencer Gulf prawns, muscles and oysters are the main catches, much of the harvest going to China and Japan. The city, estimated population about 17,000, is reputed to have the most millionaires per capita in Australia.

The port is quite capable of taking a large ship like the Grand Princess. Above the quay one cannot miss the massive grain handling conveyors and loaders. Ashore the grain silos have a total capacity of around 350,000 tonnes. These days all grain arrives by road train; road trains are not allowed in Port Lincoln when a cruise ship is in port. There have been proposals to rebuild the rail line so that it can handle grain traffic but nothing definite.

The last passenger train ran to Port Lincoln in 1968. The ground floor of the former railway station, built 1926-7, is now the Port Lincoln Railway Museum, opened in 1999. It’s open on Wednesday afternoons, Sunday afternoons during school holidays and all day on cruise ship days like ours, a Friday. Obviously, I took the opportunity to visit.

Princess Cruises offered a number of organised excursions. Most looked expensive to me; for example the ‘Rugged Coastal Discovery’ trip, just over four hours, was A$259.95 (£134) per head. For myself, I took the hour and a half ‘Easy Port Lincoln’ tour, just A$74.95 (£38), a drive round the city passing the fishing harbour with a stop at the Winters Hill lookout. The commentary was excellent.

After a wander round the town centre it was back to the ship and on to Phillip Island.


The road that never was

A rough guess as to the new road route
A rough guess as to the new road route

Back between the wars a new arterial road was planned running from Chessington to Sutton. It was never built but the route was still being safeguarded when I joined RBK in 1974. We had a map of it in the RBK planning office. While I was working there (c.1976?) the safeguarding was lifted but legacies of this plan remain.

The road (see the Sabre roads website Lost Arterial A24 for more detail) entered New Malden just south of the A3 then would have run along what are now Sheephouse Way and the end of South Lane – now you know why they have such generous grass verges. It would then have run across Malden Park and the railway. The line on the map above (from freemap.org) gives a rough idea of the intended route.

Look at the map and you’ll see a green swathe between Pembury Avenue and Risborough Drive. This was left undeveloped in the when Wates developed this area as the Worcester Park Station Estate in the 1930s and is now called Risborough Green. Rumour has it that its elevated ground level is down to the site being used as a dump for WW2 bomb site rubble.

The site between 133 Pembury Avenue and 200 Kingshill Avenue was also set aside for the new road – it’s now been infilled with a block of flats, Primrose Court. The houses on the other side of the road are much newer too.

Hopefully someone reading this knows a lot more about this road than I do. If so, please add a comment.

Sheephouse Way, New Malden - note the verge width
Sheephouse Way, New Malden – note the verge width
Risborough Green, Worcester Park
Risborough Green, Worcester Park
Primrose Court
Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park
Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park
Green Lane footpath - this might have been an arterial road
Green Lane footpath – this might have been an arterial road

Wates chalet spotting

Homes with “an exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

Last month I wrote about Wates-built houses in New Malden, mainly in the area south of the A3 Kingston Bypass. Drive around the side streets and you can’t help noticing all the chalets, most built by Wates. At a quick glance you might think them all the same but not so.

The first chalets in Malden date from c.1932 – they are semi-detached and the roof slopes rise to a common ridge. Pictures (A) and (B) show two variants: I’m fairly sure that (A) with the front facing entrance door is the earlier and (B) with the side facing entrance door and Dutch gable (the small vertical tile-hung triangle at ridge level), later.

What came next – the semi-detached SC chalets or the more common link-detached variant? Once again we really need the RBK archive to tell us. My hunch is that the link-detached came first. Why? The 1935 Wilverley Park brochure offers buyers both options, promoting the semi-detached chalet as ‘New’:

C4 detached 3-bed chalet: “This wonderful Wates Chalet retains the sweeping roof lines which are so charming a feature of Wates original Chalets. Fully Detached with all its accompanying advantages of peace and privacy – a complete absence of ‘neighbour noise’ – the grand feeling that you really ARE in a house of your own – these are considerations which affect your personal comfort as a discerning Homeseeker.
Come and see for yourself the charm of these new wonder Chalets with their wide bays extending right to the eaves, mellow faced brickwork and smooth rendered walls blending into a delightful harmony – the new Wates Detached Chalet representing a standard of unrivalled value in planning, equipment and beauty.

SC3 Semi-detached Chalet: … For many years now Wates have been famed for their Chalets …. The New Semi-detached Chalet retains all the beauty of design, the bold sweeping roof lines and pleasing elevation which characterises every Wates-Built Chalet. With its newly revised arrangement of rooms it has won the approval of all purchasers. Come and see the improved planning, generous equipment and delightful appearance of these new semi-detached Chalets.

Urban legend had it that the link-detached option gave the advantages claimed above whilst allowing the house to be rated as semi-detached since it was (if only by the brick arch) connected to another house. True? I don’t know.

3-bed link-detached (C) and semi-detached chalets are by far the most common variant but there are others too. Two-bedroom chalets (D) – recognisable by the entrance door being towards the front of the flank wall – were created by deleting the front ground floor third bedroom. 4-bedroom chalets (E) are identifiable by a two-storey section at the rear; most also have a ground floor WC. Lastly, and very rare, are the detached chalets with integral garage (F) – this variation doesn’t work for me – and the corner chalets (G) which do.

Some chalets have a round porthole window lighting the first floor box room, others don’t. Some have a flat front-facing window to the ground floor third bedroom, others have an oriel window. Were these extra cost options?

Buyers were offered the option of buying freehold (FH) or leasehold (LH), the latter making housing more affordable. Here’s a summary (all 3-bed):

Detached chalet: FH £929, LH £749, weekly outgoings £1:12:9d/£1:10:11d, TFA ~95m2, lounge 14’3”x13’0” (4.34×3.96m)
Semi-detached chalet: FH £819, LH £639, weekly outgoings £1:8:11d/£1:7:1d, TFA ~95m2, lounge 14’3”x13’0” (4.34×3.96m)

And for comparison, traditional Wates ‘Tudor’ semis:

TDL Tudor Deluxe: FH: £729, LH: £579, weekly outgoings £1:5:9d/£1:4:3d, TFA ~98m2, lounge 14’3”x12’3” (4.34×3.73m)
TDL Tudor Major: FH: £649, LH: £499, weekly outgoings £1:2:11d/£1:1:6d, TFA ~79m2, lounge 13’1”x10’9” (3.99×3.28m)

Thus it can be seen that 1930s buyers paid a premium for chalets, justified by the space and architecture.

Ground rent, included in the LH weekly outgoings, was £9 a year for chalets, £7.10 for Tudor SDs, equating to a 5% return to Wates. I wonder how many people took the leasehold option, given that the saving was less than two shillings a week. Perhaps the reduced deposit was the key attraction. There was also an option to rent: in the 1930s many working class people had an aversion to going into debt even though we now see mortgage debt as ‘good’ debt.

Dormer additions: As built, chalets have a large under-roof box room next to the front bedroom. It’s relatively simple to build this out as an extra bedroom and many owners have done this (H). During my BCO days (1976-84) two local builders, Malcolm Carter and Tony Forte, did little else. Malcolm’s reputation was such that he ran an eighteen month waiting list. You didn’t decide whether to appoint him or not; he decided whether or not he wanted you as a customer. Another common alteration was adding a ground floor WC under the stairs: the space is tight but it can be done.

Other comments: Given Malden’s shrinkable clay subsoil, subsidence problems requiring underpinning were not unknown across my patch. Wates built houses were almost immune to such problems – the filed plans showed them as being built on Twisteel reinforced concrete rafts.

The plan above (for a chalet in Streatham, so may not reflect what was done in Malden) is interesting in that it shows cavity walls on three sides and a one-brick solid wall for the wall facing the mirrored chalet. When I was in primary school we were taught that cavity walls were introduced to improve insulation. They do, but the real reason was to eliminate the problem of driving rain finding its way through the wall. The facing walls are not, obviously, subject to driving rain.

1930s Wates houses also show the durability of concrete roof tiles: they were only introduced in the late 1920s so when these houses were built they were a new and untried innovation. Most roofs are original and still in excellent condition.

Click on an image to enlarge it; click again or press [Esc] to return. Please excuse the quality of the pics: I only had one day free when last in the UK and it was a wet, grey one.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934

Wates: The brothers who changed New Malden

In my September 2022 piece I noted the dominance of  developer Wates in shaping modern New Malden, especially south of the A3. This month I’m writing about the firm; next month I’ll concentrate on their archetypal chalets with their “exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

The Wates business began around 1900 when Edward Wates (1873-1944) set up a furniture store in Streatham, South London, his brother Arthur joining him in 1902. The store, E & A Wates, sold furniture and furnishings and handled removals. It closed in May 2021 and the buildings are now being converted into flats under the name Wates Yard. Younger brothers William and Herbert, who were builders, joined the firm in 1904 and persuaded their older brothers to invest in some land in Purley to speculatively build two new houses. Wates was in the housebuilding business and by 1914 they’d built 139 houses.

During the 1920s Edward’s three sons, Norman (1905-69), Ronald (1907-86) and Allan (1909-85) joined the firm, progressively taking over from the first generation. Norman was the dominant figure: in 1926 under his leadership it embarked on ‘what was then an enormous speculation’, an estate of 1,000 houses in Streatham Vale, which took five years to complete. Ronald trained as a surveyor and took responsibility for site acquisition, later pursuing a second career as a borough and LCC councillor, for which in 1975 he was knighted. Allan joined the firm in 1930; from 1936 he was responsible for the contracting side of the business. All three brothers took an active role in community and philanthropic activities, something which younger members of the family have continued: since it was formed the Wates Foundation has made grants totalling over £100 million, which have provided vital support to thousands of charities.

The period up to WW2 saw enormous expansion, though activities were largely confined to a relatively small geographic area to the south of London from Twickenham in the west to Sidcup in the east. By doing this Wates could maintain a permanent workforce rather than using casual labour. By WW2 Wates  had completed 30,000 houses, 1500-2000 a year.

During the 1930s Wates built more homes in Malden than any other developer. From memory the first houses built by Wates in Malden were some  terraced houses on the south side of Kingston Road – built around 1930 IIRC. After this Wates moved on to build many of the houses in Cromwell Avenue estate. Kenneth Bland (1909-83) joined Wates as chief architect in 1933 and would be there until 1970s – he may be responsible for the Dutch gables found on later Wates houses (they’re not exclusive to Wates of course). Estate layouts, road and utility service design and the like were generally handled by Chart, Son & Reading, a Croydon firm of architects and surveyors.

With the opening of the Kingston Bypass (A3) on 28 October 1927 the land to its south was fair game for development and between 1928-34 Wates bought up multiple parcels of land. During the 1930s they were building houses by the hundred – Wilverley Park, Motspur Park, Barnfield and Wendover estates, the Worcester Park Station estate and several infill developments such as Burford Road.

From 1936 speculative house building in Greater London started to wind down. Most easy-to-develop land had been developed and the flow of new buyers had probably slowed down. The last Wates houses built in Malden before WW2 were for the most part larger detached houses pitched at a slightly different demographic.

As with other pieces in this occasional series, some of the information given here is drawn from memories of my time (1976-84) working at R.B.Kingston upon Thames Building Control and may be incorrect. If you can add anything or see any errors in what I’ve written please add a comment. Unfortunately the British Newspaper Archive has yet to digitise copies of the Surrey Comet for the period covered by these pieces.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934


The title I’ve given this page is a bit tongue in cheek. Wates were responsible for most of the interwar housing between the A3 and the Chessington railway line but a number of other builders were active in the Malden & Coombe BC area including

  • E&L Berg: Notable for their halls-adjoining semis in the High Drive area and their Berg Sunspan houses in Woodlands Avenue.
  • Crouch Group: Builders of many semis in the Kenley Road area.
  • Gleeson: Built lots of houses between the large Wates developments and the Hogsmill river. Their attempt to copy Wates chalets doesn’t IMO come off.
  • R.Lancaster (Wembley): Kingston Vale estate, SW15 (Bowness & Ullswater Crescents, Derwent, Grasmere and Keswick Avenues, Windermere Road). Large houses for better off buyers.
  • Lavender and Farrell: Developed the Worcester Park end of M&C: Manor Drive, Highdown and Leyfield. For a detailed history see Worcester Park Life, Dec 2012, Local History article.
  • New Ideal Homesteads: Set up in 1929 and grew to be the largest homebuilder in the 1930s. Undertook development to the north of Clarence Avenue
  • For more information see ‘Dictionary of British Housebuilders‘, Fred Wellings, 2015

A trip to Shepparton

For my latest mini-break (one night away from home) I went back to Shepparton, 181 kilometres north east of Melbourne. With a population at the last census of around 53,565 it’s the sixth largest city in Victoria. Shepparton is served by rail, but I drove, firstly because train services are currently suspended for track improvement works and secondly because I was paying my annual visit to SPC. Horrendous traffic, rail and hail made for a less than pleasant drive there.

SPC? In 1917 a group of fruit growers in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley formed a cooperative named the Shepparton Fruit Preserving Co. Ltd. It began operating in 1918, canning fruit under the brand name of SPC. After various changes of ownership in recent years, the company reverted to local ownership.

My interest in SPC? Shepparton town centre is home to their factory outlet store which carries lots of bargains: bulk buys, short dated products and end of line stock. I picked up lots of non-perishables and soft drinks which will see me through Christmas and well into the new year.

After a good night’s sleep at the Paradise Lakes motel, I went out to my car to find a flat tyre. Not what I wanted, especially with the spare wheel buried under a pile of food! Unlike the day before, it was a dry sunny morning and I got all sorted within an hour.

Late breakfast and then before driving home I visited MOVE, the Museum of Vehicle Evolution. I’d been there several times before, back to when it was Shepparton Motor Museum. It was rebuilt a few years ago and now houses large displays of cars, motorcycles, bicycles with a huge truck gallery where alongside the trucks the stories of their owners are told. Many came from southern Europe just after WW2 and built up sizeable transport businesses on the back of the fruit growing and canning industry. For those with little interest in transport there is a fashion gallery, display of vintage electronics and a gallery devoted to Furphy agricultural products.

Then home, thankfully a trouble-free easy drive.

Dubai stopover (QE2)

In recent years I’ve developed a special interest in and affection for Cunard ships. As a very small child I crossed the Atlantic on RMS Media in 1957, returning on the Queen Mary in 1959. In 2010 I was able to revisit the Queen Mary, now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. In 2018 the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) finally reopened as a floating hotel, moored at Dubai’s Port Rashid, and visiting her got added to my to-do list.

In July I made my first post-Covid trip to the UK to see friends and family. In earlier times I took a direct flight from Melbourne though Singapore to London so as to maximise my time with family. Now retired, I took the opportunity to have a stopover in Dubai so I could fulfil my ambition.

The QE2 made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1969 then came to prominence when she was requisitioned for the Falklands War as a troop transport in 1982. In 1985 her engines were converted from steam to diesel. In 2007 she was sold to Dubai interests to become a floating hotel but this didn’t happen until 2018.

My stay on QE2

Originally I’d planned to stay for three nights but a late family wedding notification reduced this to two. I flew from Melbourne and arrived Wednesday mid-afternoon. Dubai taxis and Uber provide an efficient, reasonably priced service which is just as well since the QE2 is moored well away from public transport. Obviously the first thing to do was to check in. A large ship-inspired onshore building houses the reception along with a large number of QE2 artefacts.

I’d chosen a ‘Captain’s Room’, in service days designated as a first-class stateroom. No balcony! How things have changed since the 1960s: now every effort is made to maximise the number of balconies on cruise ships; back then only the elite got a balcony. I wasn’t fussed since Dubai in July is not balcony weather. My stateroom, breakfast included, cost a very reasonable AED563 per night (US$153; GBP125; AUD237); the room rate increases somewhat during the cooler months. The cheapest (‘Classic’) rooms start at about half this; if you’re feeling flush, the Royal Suite, once reserved for members of the Royal Family can be yours for AED3000+ per night.

Top of my to-do list was the Heritage tour. This is run twice a day and I was nicely in time for the 5.00p.m. tour, ably led by Craig. The tour took in a number of places that are not open to casual visitors including the bridge. Having just arrived, the tour served as a good orientation exercise. I spent a good few hours exploring the ship on my own, getting lost more than once!

For dinner I went to the Lido restaurant and enjoyed butter chicken and rice, very reasonably priced at AED70 (US$19; GBP16; AUD29) considering that they have a captive audience. On the Wednesday night the restaurant was all but deserted; it was much busier on Thursday. The included buffet breakfast was much as you’d get at any hotel.

As for Dubai itself

If Dubai had been my destination, rather than a stopover, I would not have gone in July! A daytime temperature of 39C did not lend itself to prolonged outside sightseeing. I spent most of Thursday in the huge Dubai Mall, also riding the Metro to Deira City Centre from where I walked down to the Dubai Creek. Dubai metro trains and trams have Gold Class cabins, offering additional comfort for a premium fare and there are also cabins set aside for women and children.

On Friday I didn’t need to go to the airport until about 7.30p.m. so went to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (830m, 2,722ft), named for a former president of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The cheaper of the two viewing decks is on the 124th floor: the views are spectacular.

Then all too soon it was time to go back to the QE2 and pack for the onward UK flight.



A less than bright spammer

This post is a work in progress, more to follow

Spam email from someone who thinks I own fastmail.com.au

Spam email from someone who thinks I own fastmail.com.au

Barely a day goes past without me getting an email like the above.  Does ‘Aaron’ not realise that fastmail.com.au is a major provider of email services to people like me?

On reaching seventy

At the start of July I reached the Biblical threescore years and ten: Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away (Ps.90.10 NIV). Thankfully most people live beyond eighty but living a long life is a mixed blessing if our last years are marked by physical or mental impairment.

I kicked off my birthday dinner with a short speech reflecting on fifty years of adult life:

  • In my 20s I was a council building inspector and originally expected to be there until I retired. My holiday ambitions went no further than Southend-on-Sea, 40 miles (64 km) east of central London.
  • In my 30s one throwaway comment from a friend’s wife set me on the path of 37 years of self-employment. Another throwaway comment from another friend led to me making my first overseas trip as an adult. Since then I’ve made around 30 UK-USA trips, 15 trips to Australia as a British tourist and a similar number as an Australian visiting the UK, four trips to Africa and some other places too, and, in recent years, multiple cruises.
  • My early years of self-employment did not go well: the low point was reached around my 40th birthday when I was deep in debt and my bank threatened (metaphorically) ‘to send the boys round’. Yet another throwaway comment from yet another friend to me back to uni to study Business Studies and this was a key driver to my business coming good.
  • Five years later I was back in Melbourne enjoying the Christmas sunshine when the notion came to me, ‘you’re so happy here: you should move here’. Finally in 2008 I was able to do so – the best decision I’ve ever made.

Regrets – here’s just a few

If I could re-live my adult life knowing what I know now, what would I change?

Study: I took my first degree with University of Reading, the first year being based at the College of Estate Management in Kensington, then in the new FURS building at Reading Whiteknights. I commuted from home and the experience was an extension of school. Being then very introverted, going to a university that would have required me to live away from home would have been very challenging, but I see now that it would have been good for me.

Home: After leaving university I began to think about having a home of my own. At that time (mid 1970s) the general rule was that you could borrow three times your salary plus, where applicable, one times your fiancée’s/wife’s salary. As I was single this left me able to borrow around £6,000, not enough for the average house. My interest was taken by a house in Warwick Road, Twickenham, a rundown two-up, two-down terraced cottage. This didn’t worry me since I would have enjoyed renovating it but given its condition at that time the only mortgage available was from the council at 17½% interest! My dad’s opinion was ‘you’d be daft to spend £7,000 on a house like that’ and I followed his advice. A year later my salary had all but doubled and interest rates had fallen, so the pain would have been short-lived. Houses in Warwick Road now sell for £600K and more!

Exercise: In the UK once I became self-employed I ran my car as a company car. Under the tax rules then in force failure to do at least 2,500 miles a year resulted in a tax surcharge so I used my car whenever possible. In retrospect it would have been much better to walk to the post office each day but this was in an era long before your smartphone was checking on whether you walked 6,000 steps a day. I also justified using the car on the basis on time saved, but the walk would have been good for my mental as well as physical well-being.

People: I’ve always been guilty of trying to do much in the time available. When it came to church I was always the one walking into meetings a few minutes after they’d started, having tried to do one more thing before leaving home. On Sunday mornings I didn’t count myself late if I slipped into church before the first hymn finished. Now I so wish I’d made time to walk to church and get there ten minutes before the service started, giving myself time to talk to other members, especially the older ones. Those brief conversations might or might not have meant much to me, but many of the older folk might have appreciated a short friendly chat and I would have begun the service in a much more receptive frame of mind.

Cars: I bought my first car as soon as I could. It was old (11 years, which was old then) and an endless money pit. My dad had never held a licence (eyesight problems) and took the view that if he could manage without a car, I could too, so no help was forthcoming. And yet an offer (say) to match my £100 savings would have meant that I could buy a still modest much better car. Later it was me not being prepared to spend more: as a building inspector I drove a fair distance and mileage allowances depended on engine size. I put too much emphasis on choosing cars that would show a profit (a Chrysler Sunbeam 1.3 and Austin Maxi 1750) rather than some cars I might have enjoyed more. At one point I was seriously interested in buying a Saab 96 but let head rule heart.

Relationships: I won’t say too much here. I’m now 70, single, never married. Several times in my life there have been women who I hoped might be more than just friends but it was not to be. Do I regret not having children of my own? In the absence of a strong, stable marriage, no. I have though had the joy of ‘borrowing’ other people’s children as babysitter, twelve years as a Beaver (Joey) Scout leader, and thirteen years (so far) as a church creche helper.

No regrets

The last fifteen years have been the best years of my life and I have never once regretted making the move to Melbourne after 55 years in Twickenham. I’m not rich, but I have no financial concerns, no real health issues compared with many of my contemporaries, a rich varied life (read my other blog entries) and my birthday dinner reminded me of my rich circle of friends. Could anyone want for more?

 

A trip to Hurstbridge

Yesterday I decided to do something different and took the train out to Hurstbridge, 28km NE of Melbourne CBD, 38km by rail.

The railway was extended to Eltham in 1902 and then to Hurstbridge in 1912. The Eltham-Hurstbridge section was electrified in 1926. Parts of the line are still single track though a number of these sections have recently been or are currently being duplicated. The last part of the line passes through native bushland. 

The area that is now Hurstbridge was first settled by Cornelius Haley in 1842. He engaged Henry Hurst as manager. In 1857 Henry and his family took over the estate. Significantly, he built the first log bridge across the Diamond Creek.

Sadly on 4th October 1866, Henry Hurst was fatally wounded by a bushranger, Robert Bourke. Bourke was tried, found guilty of murder and hanged.

The township was progressively known as Allwood, Upper Diamond Creek, Hurst’s Bridge, Hurst Bridge and, since 1954, Hurstbridge.

Although dry and sunny it was a cold day so I didn’t spend long there but am hoping to return for the Hurstbridge Wattle Festival (last Sunday in August). One of the promised attractions is that Steamrail will be running steam-hauled shuttle trains.

The excellently signed heritage trail (PDF) takes in thirty buildings and other places of interest; I got to see about half of them.

Of particular note was the Little Bank Building, constructed so that it could be pulled from site to site by a team of horses or bullocks, and Saunders Garage, built 1912 as an engineering workshop then used as a motor mechanics since 1952. In addition, the op (charity) shops could have engaged me for a good while.

Then back to the station for the city-bound train – during the day it’s a 40-minutes service.

I broke my journey at Eltham to take a look at the historic trestle bridge. It’s the only surviving timber trestle bridge on the Victorian rail network. In the 1980s a plan to replace it was strongly resisted by local residents. They won and the bridge survived. It is now heritage listed.

The bridge is 195m long, 38 spans, and roughly 120 trains pass over it each day. It’s 121 years old … well not really, since none of the original members remain. When members are replaced the installation date is chiselled into the new member.

Then home – a good trip.

Taitset YouTube videos:

The Hurstbridge line

Eltham trestle bridge

Hurstbridge line map showing duplication works in progress (Victoria’s big build)

On Coronations

According to the UK Daily Telegraph, “George III’s coronation took place on September 22, 1761, and was described by contemporary observers as “a complete shambles” and a “fiasco” after the heralds forgot their lines, the dean omitted to provide any chairs for the King, or Queen Charlotte and the canopy was mislaid along with the Sword of State. Meanwhile, the King removed the crown at the wrong moment and a large diamond fell from its setting, prompting a frantic search”. Queen Victoria’s 1838 five-hour coronation has been described as “the last of the botched coronations”. We may be thankful for this.

On May 6th King Charles III was crowned. I’m not a royalist but did take time out to watch the service – for us in eastern Australia, held at a very civilised 8.00p.m. AEST. It’s the first coronation to take place in my near seventy-year life and if King Charles lives as long as his father and I as long as mine, it will be the only one I witness. In contrast, my dad lived through four, not that he’d have been conscious of the first. The four:

Edward VII (and Queen Alexandra)

Like Charles III, Edward spent decades in waiting. As Queen Victoria’s eldest son, ‘Bertie’, he was heir apparent from birth (1841), succeeding to the throne, on 22nd January 1901. Although just 59, obesity and heavy smoking had aged him. His coronation was set for 26th June 1902. Two days before he was diagnosed with appendicitis so it had to be postponed. Many dignitaries returned home. The deferred coronation took place on 9th August.

Why was this coronation notable? At university we learned about this coronation … in contract law class. Many people with rooms overlooking the processional route rented them out for the occasion. When the coronation was postponed, the would-be spectators wanted their money back and a spate of law cases followed. Generally they succeeded if the contract implicitly or expressly stated that the room hire was for the purpose of viewing the proceedings, not otherwise.

George V (and Queen Mary)

George was not born to reign. He became the heir to the throne in 1892, aged 26, on the death of his older brother, Prince Albert. He became king on the death of his father, 6th May 1910, with his coronation taking place on 22nd June 1911. His 25-year reign was marked by the Great War and the Depression. He died on 20th January 1936 aged 70.

Why was this coronation notable? The guest list saw an assemblage of European royalty that would never be replicated. Within ten years the map of Europe would be redrawn. The VIP list included the German Crown Prince (the King’s first cousin once removed), the Grand Duke of Hesse (the King’s first cousin), Prince Henry of Prussia (another first cousin), the Crown Prince of Denmark (another first cousin), the Crown Prince of Sweden (another first cousin), Archduke Karl of Austria, the Crown Prince of Romania (yet another first cousin), Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia, Infante Ferdinand of Spain, the Crown Prince of Serbia, the Prince of the Netherlands and many more

Edward VIII

Why was this coronation notable? Because it didn’t happen: Edward’s ten-month reign ended with his abdication on 10th December 1936. By then plans for his coronation, set for 12th May 1937 were well in hand. But they weren’t wasted …

George VI (and Queen Elizabeth)

On Edward VIII’s abdication the unready and reluctant Prince Albert found himself king, taking the name “George VI” to emphasise continuity with his father. With so many arrangements already made, his coronation took place on 12th May 1937. Just over two years later the country was again at war. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” – certainly true of WW2 and George VI. The stress of wartime leadership coupled with the effects of heavy smoking led to his premature death on 6th February 1952.

Why was this coronation notable? The coronation procession (but not the ceremony inside the abbey) was broadcast on TV, the country’s first major outside broadcast – at the time there were probably no more than 1,000 TV sets in the UK perhaps watched by 10,000 people. It was also the first coronation to be filmed, and the first to be broadcast on radio.

Elizabeth II

For her first ten years there was little expectation that Elizabeth would in time become queen. Then the abdication of her uncle moved her up the line of succession, to become heir presumptive (presumptive because in theory her parents could have produced a son who would have become heir apparent). After years of war and the austerity that followed, the new Elizabethan age was greeted with enthusiasm.

Why was this coronation notable? The 2nd June 1953 coronation was televised with more than half the adult population (viewer estimates vary: 20-27 million) watching, many on sets obtained specifically for that purpose. It would be the last coronation for nearly seventy years.

And the only coronation that most of us have witnessed:

King Charles III (and Queen Camilla)

In contrast to Queen Elizabeth’s three hour ceremony watched by 8,000 guests, Charles’ coronation was a slimmed down affair, with the ceremony lasting about an hour with only 2,000 guests present. In spite of the much larger population, UK viewer figures are put at around 20 million, much lower than the 29 million who watched Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Why was this coronation notable? Those participating included Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh members of the House of Lords.