Essential Wessex: Winchester Measure

The English system of weights and measures, like so much of England's history, began in Wessex. The Romans had a highly developed system of weights and measures, which was in use throughout the empire. But when they left in the early 5th century, these rapidly fell into disuse. Germanic settlers had their own units of measurement, imported from the continent, but there was little uniformity.

King Edgar the Peaceable was determined to change this. Shortly after his coronation in 973, he issued a decree standardising dry measures in units derived from a bushel (8 dry gallons), based on a prototype kept in his capital at Winchester. When the Bastard invaded, he decided not to change the measurements, though he had the bushel moved to That London.

Even today, a yardstick, from the reign of Henry I and stamped with the mark of Elizabeth I, can be found in the city museum. along with standard weights dating from 1357 and a bronze replica of the original bushel from 1497. These form the basis of the imperial system of measurements still used in Britain until the advent of metrication, and (in slightly modified form) in the USA today. Whether they will be reintroduced here remains to be seen.

Wessex Attractions: Little Fleece Bookshop

Former bookshops are, sadly, far more common nowadays than still-open ones. But how about former bookshops owned by the National Trust, and available to let as a holiday cottage?

The Little Fleece in Painswick is a fine example of a Cotswold stone building, refurbished in the Arts & Crafts style so strongly associated with the Cotswolds. It will reopen on July 21st, having been closed due to the COVID19 lockdown. It has 3 bedrooms, and can accommodate up to 5 guests. The bad news? It costs £371 a night to rent, and the minimum stay is 2 nights. The property carries a 4 acorn rating (out of a maximum of 5), signifying luxury accommodation with premium features. For those who can afford it, it provides a perfect base for exploring the Cotswolds.

Wessex Attractions: Theatre Royal, Bath

The Theatre Royal in Bath is an outstanding example of Georgian theatre architecture. Built in 1805, the original theatre is a grade II listed building. In 1997, the Ustinov Studio, named after Sir Peter Ustinov, who had led the fundraising for the building, was added to the rear; and in 2005, a children's theatre called The Egg was built on the site of the disused Robins Cinema next door.

Like all old theatres, the Theatre Royal is said to be haunted by many ghosts, including the Grey Lady, an unnamed former actress who has her own box, and who is said to leave behind the scent of jasmine after a sighting.

The pub next door to the theatre is known as the Garrick's Head, after the great actor David Garrick, a bust of whom is also displayed above the door. The address of the theatre is Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET.

Memoirs of a Burley Mod

During the 1950's it was era of the Teddy Boys and Rock & Roll. Some of them had motor bikes such as Triumph, BSA, Royal Enfield etc. Many became Rockers.

Turning into the 1960's came the Mod era with new lightweight designed cars, pop music, and clothing fashion even for men. Plus, to have a motor scooter such as a Lambretta or Vespa. Many were dressed up with chrome accessories such as extra mirrors, spot lamps, crash bars and so on. Lambretta owners from Burley included Tim Reed, Tim Lawford, John Small, Richard Shutler and myself.

My first scooter was a Lambretta LD bought from a Miss Cookman in Pound Lane, Burley. That was written off when I crashed into a herd of cows at the top of Crow Hill which had escaped at night, from a local farm and were all over the road. The lights on the LD, were not at all good.

I then got a Li 150, series 2 and the engine gave up on that, so I part exchanged it to get a new series 3 Lambretta SX200 on Hire Purchase. See the black and white photos above.
My friends and I would go off into Ringwood to meet up at the Trappers Cafe behind the then cinema. On one occasion, over 60 scooters were counted. Usually however the numbers would vary between 25 and 40. We, the mods, would also spill off into Pillys Fish and Chip shop in the market place, as that had a cafe, or occasionally the Coffee House, with its basement.

The cinema became a discotheque. And along came the skinheads. Mods would also call into the Burley Youth Club ran in the Village Hall, and at Greyfrairs in Ringwood.

By the early 1970's, when glam rock came into being, the mods seem to disappear. Some bought motor bikes but most, then had cars. There have been a few revivals since, but nothing like the 1960's. Contrary to belief, Mods and Rockers were not always fighting each other. They were after all, simply bikers. Today you can buy a new Lambretta based upon the series 3 and from Royal Alloy. But they seem to be hard to obtain.

I bought the Piaggio B500, as seen in the coloured photographs, in 2003. It turned out to be a bad purchase, it spent of its time in my garage as it was forever going wrong. I scrapped it 2 years ago, with only 6,000 miles on the clock.

I also arranged several Ringwood, Fordingbridge and Burley mod reunions, around the time of the new millennium (2000), and to start with, they were very well attended including scooters from Southampton, Bournemouth and even Yeovil. But people eventually lost interest and I was not going fork out to keep that running. Rather like my time on the New Forest Marathon Committee, New Milton Chamber of Trade, New Milton Ratepayers, and on one occasion, a Twynham School Reunion. They were fun at the time, but there is a limit as to how of my own money I could put towards them.

Wessex Attractions: West Green House

West Green House is an 18th century grade II listed house near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire by Henry Hawley, aka Hangman Hawley, a bloodthirsty imperialist who led the cavalry charge against the Scots at the Battle of Colluden. Whilst we have written before about Wessaxon support for the Jacobite cause, Hawley most emphatically did not share such sympathy, and was a leading figure in the destruction of the Jacobite rebellion.

Today, the house is better known for its gardens, and for its regular opera performances instituted by its current owner Marylyn Abbott, a former manager at Sydney Opera House.

The house and gardens are currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, but are scheduled to reopen on June 17th. The postcode, for satnav purposes, is RG27 8JB.