Sunday, 22 November 2009

Scots Frame Gun, Perry Miniatures

In between my painfully slow painting a legion of plastic EWC figures this small artillery piece from Warlord Games kept catching my eye. I believe it would be more accurately described as an organ or volley gun rather than a frame gun. From what I’ve read the frame gun, designed by Sir Alexander Hamilton, would be mounted on a wheeled frame similar to a tripod. Either way this would have been a pretty unpleasant anti-personnel light field gun.

The figures are nicely sculpted and paint up well. The figure shaking his fist has a face that is a picture of glee after delivering a successful volley.

The crew figures have been painted in subdued colours. Grey seems to have been the colour of choice for the Scots. I gave the officer a more slightly more colourful but still relatively plain blue line white coat.

After I’d glued the small barrel (from the Perry farmhouse set) to the base I noticed illustrations that show that it should be leather lined with a pull string making access easy and safe. I’ll try this next time using Green Stuff to replicate the effect. At least I’ve painted the straps to resemble rope rather than metal to decease to the likely hood of sparks.

I normally apply a first coat of high gloss then a semi-matt second coat so the figures don’t resemble Britains traditional lead soldiers. I remember reading years ago that high gloss varnish offers better protection than matt varnish although I don’t know this is true; matt varnish simply has additional flattening agents added which disperse incident light rays.

Whilst I was applying the final coat of matt varnish the spray can spluttered and died. 'No problem' I thought, I'll buy another can. However after I'd done this I had a mini crisis after applying the matt varnish. Left overnight I found the set looking like it had been dusted down with talcum powder. After a few choice Anglo-Saxon  expletives I decided to look for a remedy (if there was one) using the power of the internet. One forum suggested completely stripping the figures and starting again (no chance). I settled down and tried several different methods on various small areas of the figures.

Several sources suggested applying another coat of varnish, I again sprayed the figures with both gloss and matt versions but this made the problem worse. I then applied both matt and gloss varnish by brush to see if this would work - nope. Deciding to remove rather than add I then tried white spirit but this made little impact. Finally I used a cotton bud dipped in real turpintine on a small section and this seemed to work. Eventually and carefully I removed the offending cloudy layer. As acylic paints are water based and varnish is oil  based (I assume) the painting was unaffected (thankfully) avoiding a 'wicked witch of the west' effect - "I'm melting, I melting". If that would have happened I'd have thrown the figures out the window. The turps dissolved the plastic pot so I won't be using this on plastic miniatures.

I will be eventually be adding this little lot to my future Hamilton's Scottish forces.

Latest Newcastle's Whitecoats countdown:
39 down, 25 to go.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Worcester, Worcestershire

Another day trip to Worcestershire, this time to the city of Worcester itself.

The imposing cathedral contains a number of historical highlights including:
  • Chapel for the Worcestershire Regiment,
  • The tomb of the traditional historic baddie King John (boo hiss).
  • Prince Arthur's impressive grave. He was the older brother to the future Henry VIII.
  • 1st Earl of Dudley is buried in the east end of the cathedral.
  • Take a look at undercroft, largely unaltered since it was built.
  • There is a handsome bronze memorial to William, 2nd Duke of Hamilton biog here in the chancel. 
On the 3rd September the Duke was shot in the thigh during an attack on the Parliament guns at Perry Wood to the east of the city.  Hamilton died on the 12th from complications after refusing to have the leg removed by one of Cromwells surgeons. He died in the Commandery which was recently refurbished for £1.5m and now is truly awful. An empty shell. Dreadful. The audio guide will take you on several tours but if museum believes that people will repeatedly return to hear all the guides then I think they are gravely mistaken.

In the city there is an excellent regimental museum located above the town library,Worcestershire Regiment. The 'main' town museum was very disappointing but the regimental museum more than makes up for it. A number of highlights, for me at least, are the lifesize waxworks depicting soldiers from 29th and 36th Regiments, later the 1st and 2nd Battalions, of the Worcestershire Regiment.

You are greeted by the famous 18th C black musicans of the 29th Regiment of Foot, more details here

Further along you'll meet a soldier from the Peninsular Wars here

I was surprised to see numerous mentions of Dudley, the reason turned out that the Earl of Dudley was the Commander of the Yeomanry.
Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars were involved in the last great charge of the British cavalry at Huj, in November 1917 (more info here).

Earl of Dudley provided all the yeomanry with swords and other equipment to convert the infantry back into cavalry out of his own pocket.

The Yeomanry were last called out in 1842, against some of Dudley's striking miners and iron-workers.
When you consider that the miners were lucky to live in a building like this.

and the Earl of Dudley lived here, Witley Court (the church on the left was his chapel). it, for me, takes the gloss off the glamour of the Yeomanry. To give some balance at least the Earl did build a large hospital in the area.

Back to Worcester, Greyfrairs, a large medieval National Trust property that was thought be be part of the nearby priory (hence the name) but is now known be have been a private merchants home. It is very easy to imagine the soldiers literally running for their lives up this street after the battle of Worcester in 1651.

Local legend has it that Charles ran up this street out the back door of one building as Parliament troops stormed through the front door in a Brian Rix farce style. the building is now a restaurant next to the Swan with Two Nicks pub (very cheap beer). This pub, formerly just 'The Swan', dates as an inn from 1764. The building however, dates at least from 1551. In 1780, it was known as the Little Swan. In 1865, the veterans of the Battle of Waterloo held a fifty years anniversary of the great battle at the inn.

On the same street is the spiral entrance to the modern multi-storey car park which always reminds me of a massive WWII German observation post. I’m a fan of modern architecture (even the concrete stuff) but how anyone managed to get planning permission to build this structure in this particular street baffles me.

Further up Friar Street is the Cardinal Head pub which serves unusual Austrian beers. Nice but expensive way to end a visit to the city.

Pershore, Worcestershire

Another day trip, this time to the small Worcestershire market town of Pershore.

This small Worcestershire market town is located between Worcester and Evesham. We ended up there by mistake after taking a wrong turning but I'm glad we did as it's a very attractive place.

The main attraction is the old abbey buildings. The abbey was dissolved 1539 and the nave was demolished and sold off but the rest of the building was bought by the town and became the parish church.

View of the abbey buildings in what would have been the cloister. The flying buttresses were added in the 17th century after part of the north transept collapsed. The nave originally would have stretched well beyond the edge of the photo to the left

The interior of the cathedral is still quite awe inspiring.

16th C Savage family memorial.

Originally located in the nave and therefore outside, this effigy was moved inside to protect it from elements. This unknown knight is believed to have been a crusader in service of the abbey. If you look closely at the right armpit of this knight can may notice the three buckles used to secure the front and back armour. As far as I know this is the only example of this fixing method shown in existence.

Detail of hunting horn and mail mitten.

Near to the abbey buildings is St. Andrew's church. I noticed this detail on the tower. I suppose if you asked a medieval stonemason what the largest, most dangerous animal he know he might have replied "a bear" - give it a pair of wings and you have a nasty looking dragon. Looked like it was wearing a muzzle, well you can never be too careful with dragons!

Along the main street of Pershore we stopped off for a swift half at a real ale pub called the Brandy Cask. As we were leaving we noticed a plaque which stated that during the war a Wellington bomber crashed into the building killed five crew members. It was literally a sobering moment to read the info on the plaque.

A little further down the same street and and just outside the town is the old Pershore bridge. The modern (1920's) bridge was built because the older structure couldn't cope with the traffic. The older bridge is also the site of an interesting episode during the English Civil War.

The original bridge was partly demolished by Royalist soldiers on the 6th June 1644 with the lost of 40 men (seems an unusually high number to me but that's what the info panel said) including a certain Major Bridge. In fact if you look closely at the largest central arch (the part destroyed) it is possible to see that it is a different design and colour to the other arches. I tempted to try and build a model of this bridge but that would have to wait until next year.

Information board by bridge. There are several concrete blocks scattered near to the bridge. These are actual WWII anti-tank obstacles .

Hopefully these blog posts go a little way in showing that whenever you venture of the off the main tourist areas you'll be richly rewarded with little gems like Pershore.

Date of visit:7th November 2009

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Lichfield, Staffordshire

Brief update after a week off work through illness so very little painting has been done. After recovering I have been on a number of historical day trips with my brother. First up is the small Staffordshire city of Lichfield, notable for its three-spired cathedral and as the birthplace of Dr. Johnson.

Several highlights of the cathedral include:

Trinity stained glass window shows the rebuilding work undertaken to repair the centre spire which collapsed under bombardment during the war.

Located in the Chapter House is a original copy of the the Lichfield gospels, written 50 years before the more famous Book of Kells, saved after a local hid the book to prevent it ended up as fire lighter dring the siege. With this link you can look more closely at the book - St Chads Gospels Lichfield cathedral and even turn the pages.

Also in the chapter house is the Lichfield Angel, recently discovered (2003) and is a remarkable survival of early medieval sculpture. The carved limestone panel, which is dated to around 800 A.D still displays traces of the orginal paint.

Near the entrance to the charter house there are numerous markings either caused by iconoclasts or by Civil War troops sharpening their swords. The most obvious marks are on columns.

On the opposite side of the chancel and easily missed but worth seeing is Richard Bagot’s memorial (just to the left of the Trinity window). Although written in latin it describes how he was a "victim of the recent conspiracy of fanatics". He fought at Nasby and but later died of a gunshot wound to his right arm.
Richard Bagot's details - Sealed Knot

Further along is the Staffordshire regiment chapel with its unique (as far as I’m aware) South African memorial names are written on Zulu shields.

38th/Staffordshire Regiment chapel. Note the miniature Zulu shields attached to the metal railings. The soldiers names are actually written in the bands.

Names of those soldiers from the regiment killed during the Zulu Wars are written on the actual shields laces.

A few hundred yards outside the cathedral is another site connected with the siege.
View of the house on Dam Street outside which Lord Brooke was shot on St Chad's day (2nd March) 1643.

View from doorway of Brooke's house looking back towards the Cathedral with its rebuilt central spire. It wasn't a 'lucky shot' either by John Dyott, the Royalist sniper, using a fowling piece. A soldier who went to Brooke's assistance was also shot and wounded.

Remains of Lichfield 'castle'. Only diehard fans of castles would find this interesting (hence why I took this photo). This located further up the road on the right hand side in the above photograph. This is actually the base of the gatehouse which was being attacked with the demi culverin gun 'Black Bess'. Brooke was checking progress of this area of attack when he was shot.

Nearby in the Lichfield heritage centre contains the Blithfield Sallet, supposedly worn by a Richard Bagot. Apparently he fought and died for Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth (1485).This family heirloom was later used as a funeral helm, hence an enlarged plume hole to accommodate a funeral crest. It is one of only three medieval German style sallets in Britain; the others are in Coventry and Durham

You can still drink in the hotel where Lillingstone's formed his regiment, the King's Head Tavern in Bird Street in 1705. In 1751 the regiment was numbered the 38th.

Samuel Johnson's birthplace musuem is definitely worth visiting if you're in the area (and it's free!) . And no, I'm not on commission with the local tourist board. 

Newcastle's Whitecoats countdown:
36 down, 28 to go.