Join me in the workshop of one of the last master coopers left in England. The art of barrel making is a tradition being preserved in Burton-on-Trent at the Marston’s Brewery by cooper Mark Newton.
When Mark first started his apprenticeship at H & J Buckleys in Manchester, aged just 17, there were hundreds of coopers plying their trade across England. With aluminium casks offering a cheaper and speedier alternative to make and mass produce, coupled with the rising cost and dwindling availability of timber, a once thriving profession, dating back to Roman times, is in decline.
Nearly all of Mark’s time is now spent repairing the 260 oak ‘Union’ barrels at Marston’s in Burton-on-Trent. Each one holds 140 gallons of Pedigree, as well as an assortment of Marston’s ales.
Mark has also become a bit of a celebrity after his picture appeared on beer bottles and the company vehicles. On the day I visited to shoot for the Mail Plus iPad edition, Mark was waiting for a pop video to be filmed in his workshop !
Marston’s were founded in Burton-on-Trent in 1834, they moved to the Albion brewery in 1898. They have been there ever since, using the same brewing techniques. Burton was chosen because the water apparently gives the beer a unique underlying depth of flavour and character with crisp refreshing bitterness.
Marston’s Pedigree is the last beer still brewed using the unique Burton Union System where double rows of casks are mounted on a frame with a long trough running above to ferment the beer and generate yeast for brewing more later.
This expensive, complicated process, is the only reliable way to give Pedigree its unique taste. Unfortunately Marston’s is now the only brewery still brewing beer in the traditional way, but Burton-on-Trent remains an important commercial centre for the brewing and pub industry.
Take a look at the students and staff at the internationally renowned Newark School of violin making. This wonderful place provides a wide range of practical instrument making skills for violin, viola and cello. It also teaches professional techniques for the repair and restoration of stringed instruments covering the main requirements of the violin trade, they even know how to repair your bow.
The ambiance and atmosphere in this wonderful building takes you back in time. Students learn skills that are as much in demand today as they were 300 or 400 years ago and travel from all over the world to study in Nottinghamshire. There is a rich and diverse range of experience, age and culture.
These 360 degree images appeared in the Mail Plus for iPad App recently. Make sure you look carefully around the drying room where instruments are left to hang in ultraviolet light in order to ‘age’ and colour the wood.
Although the college is located in the centre of Newark it is actually part of Lincoln College. Over the years the school has developed close links with many professionals and organisations within the industry including the BVMA, Luthiers Sans Frontiers and the Italian violin making centre of Cremona (home to the maker of the famous Stradivarius). Graduates find employment in violin workshops around the world and many have progressed to become leaders in the fields of instrument-making, restoration and dealing in rare instruments.
I have been extremely lucky with my career, it has taken me all over the world. But every now and again I get to experience one of those days that are just a little bit special. Last week I travelled over to Liverpool to join Cavern City Tours on their Magical Mystery Tour around the city.
As a Beatles fan this was always going to be labour of love. We toured the famous haunts of the fab four visiting their birth places, old homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and several concert venues before the highlight of my day – a trip to The Cavern Club.
I have been into the club several times and it always has a fantastic atmosphere. Beatles tunes fill the air and fans flock from all over the world. Even on a wet autumn monday afternoon there was a decent crowd in the club.
Following a session by solo acoustic artist Jon Keats I was allowed onto the stage to shoot a few images from the bands viewpoint. As I was pottering away doing my work ‘I saw her standing there’ started playing in the background. Just for a few moments I had to join in, I forgot what I was supposed to be doing before spotting one of the crowd laughing at me. I just had to do it, how many times do you get to stand on the stage at The Cavern.
Luckily for the audience the mic was turned off. With a silly grin on my face I moved over to make way for John Lennon, otherwise known as tribute act Jimmy Coburn.
The 360 panoramic images from the shoot were featured in the Mail Plus for iPad app on Saturday 9th November – 52 years to the day since a music shop owner called into The Cavern Club to check out a group because he was getting a lot of requests for a German recording of ‘My Bonnie’. The shop owner was Brian Epstein who became the manager of that group, The Beatles, and the rest is history…..
Following on from my shoot with England Ashes cricketer Joe Root, the bat manufacturers Gunn & Moore kindly featured the assignment on their website (see picture & click on it to read full story). When I visited the site to check my moment of glory I was surprised to see an old friend featured on the previous news item.
Many, many years ago I was a useful lower league cricketer for my home town club, Keswick in Cumbria. At that time we used to buy our equipment from another local player who has started up his business in the neighbouring town of Penrith. Dickie Spruce was a very useful cricketer who was always happy to help the local clubs. He brought top class equipment to Cumbria at a time when most sports shops in the area carried one cricket bat.
Nothing was too much trouble and he went out of his way to find the best and most up to date equipment for his Sportscraft shop. I was delighted to see Dickie collecting his award from another Cumbrian cricket legend Paul Nixon after his years of service to the game and Cumbria.
So almost thirty years since I last saw Dickie I met up with him in cyber space – you see it is a small world….
PS: I can’t claim to know Paul but I played many games against his dad !
England cricketer Joe Root visited the Gunn & Moore bat factory in Nottingham last week and I was invited along to shoot some 360 degree interactive panoramic images for the Mail Plus iPad app.
The Gunn & Moore craftsmen produce English willow bats from start to finish at the Nottingham factory, this is the only place in the UK to complete the full process.
Joe picked the new GM Six6 for Test Matches and the GM Octane for ODIs and T20s.
The Ashes tour party fly out tomorrow with the first test at The Gabba in Brisbane on November 21st followed by further fixtures in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
Click on the images below to look around the factory.
On Monday 4 February 2013, it was confirmed that the human remains excavated under Greyfriars car park were the remains of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet monarchs.
Following the publicity caused by the find I covered several assignments at the dig site in Leicester city centre.
As plans were now being made for tomb ‘fit for a King’ inside Leicester Cathedral I took a walk through the building on one of my trips. I discovered there has been a major memorial to King Richard in the Chancel since 1980 but I had not seen this on any reports about the discovery of the body.
Richard III was killed at the battle of Bosworth on August 22nd 1485 and this stone has been the focus for remembrance, particularly on the anniversary of the battle. With the help of Cathedral staff I decided to shoot a 360 panorama of the Cathedral as they prepared for this years commemorations and this appeared in the Mail Plus for iPad app on the date.
The memorial stone states that Richard was buried in the graveyard of the Church of the Greyfriars in the parish of St Martin (now the Cathedral).
Shortly after the identity was confirmed the Very Revd David Monteith, the Canon Chancellor of Leicester Cathedral said: “On behalf of the Bishop and Acting Dean of Leicester, I want to say how very thrilled we are to be part of this amazing day. We are delighted with today’s news. We at the Cathedral and Dicoese share in the pride of serving such a great city as ours which still has the capacity to reveal such incredible stories.
We applaud the skill, expertise and excellence of Leicester University which have led to this announcement. This has been a partnership from the start with the City Council, the University and the Richard III Society and we have been very pleased to co-operate with all the parties involved. I can confirm that the Cathedral have now received letters from both the City Council and Leicester University to further enact the requirements of the Licence which led to the exhumation of these human remains.
This is a momentous day for our city and nation. We will now formally begin preparations and plans at Leicester Cathedral for an interment. Meanwhile we will be praying that through God’s love, King Richard III with all the departed may rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Click on the arrow on the image below to visit Leicester Cathedral and see the memorial stone.