The Art Nouveau palace in a back street


THIS is The Victoria pub in Great Harwood, a small Lancashire town not far from us. However if you asked a local for directions they would probably not realise where you meant because it is universally known as the Butcher Brigg, after an adjacent bridge (brigg) across which livestock were herded on their way to the abattoir.

Built in 1905 by Alfred Nuttall (though it is unclear if he was the architect or developer), it could scarcely be more typical or more nondescript on the outside. But enter it and you are in a near-complete Art Nouveau time capsule. Heaven only knows how it has escaped the pub refurbishment mania, but it has, and is now Grade II listed.

Alan and I went last week and I took a few pictures.

It has a central bar, staffed here by the delightful Emma,

and serving counters on opposite sides.

The whole of the lobby and bar area is tiled from floor to ceiling. Apparently one landlord saw fit to put panelling over the lot but the heritage people were soon supervising its removal.

Off the lobby area are four rooms, each with its name in etched glass above the door.

I now know that it is hard to get decent pictures of etched glass and this door was pinned back against the wall. It’s the most interesting however as it recalls how some pubs used to offer cooking facilities to the poor. I doubt if there is another such door remaining in the country.

There are two other rooms which are now the Ladies and Gents. I wish they could have put the new signs lower down. The Jug Department was for off sales.

Lastly, a beautiful etched glass panel, one of a pair each side of the front door.


Sheep of the Week

The Romney sheep used to be called the Romney Marsh because the breed was developed on this low-lying area of Kent and East Sussex bordering the Channel. Although it is in the south of England it can be bitterly cold in winter, with easterly winds blasting in straight from Siberia, so the breed is hardy. The ewes show little interest in straying so they do not need much fencing, and they can be stocked at a high density. One drawback is that they are not very prolific breeders.

The Romney Marsh was recognised in England by 1800, and soon spread around the south-east, when it became known as the Kent sheep.

It is the backbone of the vast New Zealand sheep industry, the first recorded export being 20 sent by ship from Kent in 1853, with a further 30 going in 1856. There were already 60,000 Merinos in New Zealand, but the Romney Marsh sheep thrived more quickly and supplanted the Merino over most of the country. The breed is highly adaptable and is also established in Australia and other countries, and is sometimes called ‘the best-known sheep in the world’.

They are large sheep producing a heavy fleece which is mainly used in the carpet industry, but is also popular with hand spinners. You can read more about them at the Romney Sheep Breeders Society

Here is a video of some lambs.

And here is a short video which Google Translate tells me is called ‘sheep in pasture’ in Slovak.


I have never been successful with azaleas and rhododendrons, but round here everyone else seems to be. I took these pictures last week.

The first azalea, top left, in a friend’s garden, was completely hidden by overgrown shrubs and trees which were cleared in the autumn. The plant was moved to a better site and seems to be showing its gratitude for being rescued.


I saw this charming cottage clothed in honeysuckle last week.


Finally, don’t forget that reader Kathy Nel (‘linuslimmy’) is collating anecdotal evidence about bird and insect numbers, either increases or decreases (or even static). Send your comments and observations to this address:

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