Monday, January 25, 2016

Hammerhead and Gasometer - Digging Up Isle of Wight History

Is there anything you can't find out on the Internet?

Yesterday's Where Am I? photo quiz was a great example.

I posted a photo of myself sailing a Laser about 30 years ago because I had totally forgotten where it was taken. Would any of my friends know where I was?

A few hours later, Bursledon Bogger had the answer. On the River Medina in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. And he identified it by using a landmark in the photo that I had hardly noticed - two tiny little black squares in the far distance, probably about a mile away, which he recognized as the Cowes Hammerhead Crane.

The Cowes Hammerhead crane is a massive dockyard crane at the mouth of the River Medina and is unique in being the only pre WW2 dockyard crane left in existence in England.

This was excellent confirmation for one of the locations I had suspected for the photo, as I do remember taking a sailing course at the National Sailing Centre in Cowes which was about half a mile upriver from the crane.

But one thing troubled me initially about my theory that this could be the location. What about that even more prominent landmark in the photo, that black cylinder on the right of my photo? It looks like one of those gas holders aka gasometers that you used to see in almost every English town. I couldn't find any such object in the satellite view on Google Maps anyway near where the photo must have been taken.

But wait, surely the Internet could solve the mystery.

A quick Google yesterday afternoon turned up this old Pathe newsreel (sadly with no sound) of the Duke of Edinburgh officially opening the National Sailing Centre in 1969. I don't think I can embed it in this post so you will just have to follow the link to watch the video. (You can buy it for 40 quid, if you want!)

At 1:00 the Duke arrives - by boat of course!

At 2:00 the Duke gives a speech to a crowd assembled outside by the side of the river. Hoorah!

At 2:16 the camera pans right to look upriver and you can see a gasometer!

At 2:33 the camera pans right again as the Duke enters the building and looking upriver we see not one - but two gasometers. (You can see them also at about 1:50.)

At 2:40 the Duke unveils a plaque to commemorate the event. God save the Queen!

At 3:07 the audience seeks shelter from the rain. (It is England in summer after all.)

At 3:14 the camera pans left to look down the river - it is still raining - and we see through the drizzle.... the Hammerhead Crane!

So there were a couple of gasometers on the East Cowes side of the river, upriver from the NSC. Why can't I see them on the satellite view in Google Maps?

In researching the gasworks in East Cowes on the Google, I discovered this email (on of all places) which said that the works were resited to Kingston Road in the 1920s or 1930s.

So I went back to Google Maps. At the end of Kingston Road by the side of the River Medina we see this!

Hmmm. Looks pretty conclusive to me. I bet those circular concrete pads were the bases of the gasometers, one of which is in my photo.

So the photo of me, taken by the course instructor presumably, shows two of the most prominent and memorable landmarks on the River Medina and I didn't remember either of them, even though I had visited the NSC two or three times and must have sailed on that river about ten times.

I am only grateful that we have the Google these days to assist the failing memories of old geezers like me. Why bother to remember anything when almost everything worth knowing is all on the Interwebs... somewhere.

This silly meme, currently doing the rounds on Facbook, didn't quite get it right for me.

Tillerman DOES annoy his friends by asking stupid questions.

Then Tillerman googles the questions and annoys his friends even more by blogging about it.

Oh well.

I am what I am.


Unknown said...

Sadly, at the time you were writing this blog yesterday the site adjacent to the hammerhead crane (an industrial unit off Bridge Road known as Samuel White's, formerly Souter's yard) was subject to a large fire involving a lot of stored boats;
You can see the crane in the pics.

Tillerman said...

Yes, I saw the news about that fire Peter. Very sad.

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