Bulletin 389

February, 2015

Old Photo Required

Has anyone an old photo of the Vaughan & Davies premises? It has probably been photographed many times, so hope you can help. No harm will come to it.

Audrey Beavan

It is with deep regret that we report the passing away of Audrey in December. She had been ill for many months and had been greatly missed by all for some time. Until her illness, she had been a solid member of our monthly lectures. We extend our condolences to her family and all her many friends.

What the Tourists Missed in Southern Spain

A talk by Alan Stoyel

This is based on an account from working in mining engineering in and around Andalusia during the 1970s, when the Country was about to undergo major changes, and visitors from abroad to the south especially, were becoming more numerous.

Our views of Spain vary, depending on your outlook – if historian, ranging from the Armada to Gibraltar, or if a prospective visitor – concentrating on the Mediterranean seaside, with perhaps visits to Seville and Granada. However this investigation, mainly of industrial archaeology has a much broader remit, and very timely too, as the changes are sweeping much away.

The very earliest legacy from history is of the Carthaginians from across the sea (hence Cartagena), and they were followed by the Romans, mainly interested in precious metals like gold (now exhausted), but even more in useful metals like copper, tin and iron, and the legacy of these are vast mining pits, and huge areas of mining spoil, or deep narrow tunnels towards the centre of the earth, with the products being basketed up. More scenic remains of the period are the huge aqueduct, dams, and bridges, and public buildings – from Salamanca to Segovia, and Merida to Cordoba.

Later, came the Moors from North Africa, whose main legacy, apart from the architecture, is irrigation. They made canals in the fertile flat valleys, with undershot waterwheels which lifted a small proportion of the water which drove them. This was then distributed to crops.

Wind powered mills (from Cervantes) and irrigation were present, but the sails made to rotate in an agreeable anticlockwise direction. These would be either conventional (squarish) sails, or jib (triangular) sails – as on boats, and one wonders if this was a help in promoting navigation, as in 1492, when the Moors left Spain, another nautical expedition left Palos near Cadiz, in the opposite direction.

Throughout this period, a manufacture of European importance was steel from Toledo – used for swords of those who could afford them – but now, no more.

Local products needing preparation, were olives, first broken up, then pressed to release the oil (not unlike cider making) and straw, needed threshing, using a heavy board with inset numerous sharp flints, under animal power, who also provided the transport in ox carts, and also maize (post-Columban) for grinding, and pigments for pottery production, ground by a donkey worked mill.

Huelva was once a busy port exporting metal ores. It also saw the entry of materials and man power, mainly from Northern Europe, in the 1800s – engineers and equipment for the mines coming particularly from Britain. Machinery and locomotives were supplied by various British companies, including cranes from Bath! (Stothert and Pitt). All were put to work using rather poor grade Spanish coal, resulting in huge plumes of black smoke. A few locos survive, but only on plinths somewhere, or heaped together in disused sidings.

On the Atlantic coast there are tide-mills, little noticed nowadays. Tourists are more interested in the products of fermentation and distillation than in historic engineering. Review by JR

Titley Junction Railway Station

Friday 20th February 7.30pm at the Kington Primary School

Lesley Hunt will be giving us an insight into the history and restoration of this delightful iconic railway station which happens to be on our doorstep. We hope to follow this talk up with a “train ride” in May, so watch this space for details to come. Why not come along and be transported back to a steam age of long ago? Some of us will remember them and maybe share some “steam stories”. NW.