William Morris and the Olympic Park:
an Ipswich Society outing, 25
From the Eagle Inn, Snaresbrook we travelled to the William Morris Gallery,
Walthamstow: Water House (Listed Grade II*) is 'one of the best examples
of Georgian domestic architecture in Greater London'. Recently a brick,
dated 1744, was discovered during repairs. A blue plaque commemorates
Morris' dates of residence: 1846-56.
The gallery is the only public museum dedicated to his life, work and
influence. The collections reflect his prodigious range of activities -
no wonder he died of overwork. Examples by his friends and followers are
also on display.
Onward to what is now called Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. As everyone
knows, the 560 acre site used to be a very run-down area, with old factories
and slum dwellings. Transformed, at enormous cost, into the venue for the
London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games it has now transformed again and
in April 2014 was opened to the public 24/7 and free of charge. There is a
thirty year development programme: 8,000 new houses/flats, an International
Quarter, a University of the Arts are all on the cards.
Over the River Lea we could see the Aquatics Centre. I was impressed by
the extensive plantings of wild flowers and plants from all over the world
(to make every athlete at the Games feel 'at home'). Off the coach
near the Velodrome, we walked past an inventive play area for children
- they're actually encouraged to take risks. Through the park flows
a much cleaned-up River Lea complete with barges and even a floating
cinema. Our thanks to Barbara Barker for a marvellous outing.
The Museum of Fenland Drainage and Ely: an Ipswich Society outing, 15 July
By coach through flat-as-a-pancake Cambridgeshire to the Prickwillow
Fen Drainage Engine Museum, near Ely, opened in 1982 to preserve diesel
engines and provide an explanation of the need to drain the Fens. Millions
of years ago this area had been swept clear by glaciation and formed a
freshwater swamp, fed by many rivers. Over time peat accumulated to a
depth of over six metres.
In 1630 the 4th Earl of Bedford and his group of investors, 'The
Adventurers', planned to drain the Fens for permanent agricultural use
and appointed Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden, to take charge. He cut
many new drains and channels. However, once the land had been drained,
the peat shrank 'the height of a man in his lifetime' and the land
in the Southern Fens was soon below river and sea level making natural
drainage impossible. Hence the need for wind-powered pumps - the only
form of energy at the time - to get excess water into the rivers and
down to the sea. A steam-powered scoopwheel was installed at Prickwillow
in 1832, to be replaced by a Mirrlees diesel engine in 1932.
A short journey to Ely and I went to admire the Cathedral's fine Norman
nave and the marvellous Octagon, the jewel in its crown. Then to Oliver
Cromwell's House (now the Tourist Information Centre) where Cromwell and
family lived from 1636-46. The house is mostly 17th century, half-timbered
with interior panelling of the time and a wall painting of 1572. The house,
previously a pub, was renovated in 1905 in the Arts & Crafts style. Our
guide showed us examples of 18th and 19th century brickwork and also of
the local soft sandstone on which Ely stands.
A fascinating tour of local buildings, some of them dating from the
15th century, followed: a real insight into the history of the medieval
city. Our thanks to Jessica Webster for an excellent outing.