Category: History (Page 1 of 2)

Crystal Palace Park in 1986

Until 1989 my family and I lived in Catford and the nearest big parks were Greenwich Park and Crystal Palace Park. As we would go to both parks, both have been documented in the home video my Dad shot over two weekends in 1986 (the Greenwich video and blog can be found here).

This slice of video features the park zoo, the cafe and various shots of my brother and his cousin Patrick running about. 🙂

What direction are we coming from? Somewhere near the railway viaduct that runs into Crystal Park station?

Running up that hill

It appears the zoo was closed at some point as it reopened in 2008 as Crystal Palace Farm

Rita, Lara, Llama

Sisters and cousins

Toucan! 🙂


Visiting the cafe with my cousin Jayne

Brother Andrew

Cousin Patrick with the best glasses!

Aping around with Guy the Gorilla

Video time. 🙂


Essaouira, Morocco

Whilst in Morocco last December, we went on a day trip to the fishing town of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. Essaouira is partially surrounded by a high wall to protect the town from fierce storms, but it also has a long sandy beach perfect for sun-bathing, a stroll or camel rides!

Fishing and tourism are the town’s main staples and we spent a warm but windy afternoon exploring the town centre while the seagulls screeched and circled overhead.

Fairly certain blue is the official colour or something…

Looking across the harbour

For catching the fishies

Fish market

Fishing huts?

Sea wall

Beautiful December sun

The blue nets stretched all along the harbour

Securely anchored

Fish being gutted

Tide must be low

Epic view

View from the top of the Scala del Mar fortifications

View towards the town. Stunning

Our lunch. All the fish!

Beach walk

It was a three hour drive each way from Marrakech but it was worth the (driver’s) effort to see the sea. The fresh air and bracing wind was particularly wonderful after the moped fumes of the city. If you can, go.


Greenwich in 1986

Back in the dark days of the 1980s home videos were a bit of a rarity. Thankfully for us Ruffles we have some footage from 1986 showing my Mum and Dad, my brother and I and some of the extended family.

I asked my Dad to tell me how he came to film us and this is what he said:

“Do you remember Keith and Dawn Morley? They lived in Sandhurst Road, which is parallel to Glenfarg Road where we lived. In 1986 they fostered a young lad called Mark (aged about 16 or 17) whose mother had died unexpectedly.

Well, Mark rashly bought a video camera from Dixons on credit, which he could not really afford. So I took the opportunity to ‘rent’ it from him for a few weeks, which resulted in me recording various family activities as can be seen on the video.

Unfortunately, I did not keep the mini-VHS master tape, but just copied it to a Phillips V2000 tape.

This was the type of video recorder we had at the time, but there was VHS, Betamax and V2000 systems for domestic video recorders, although subsequently VHS won the market against Betamax and V2000, even though it was technically an inferior technology.”

Domestic video recorders aside, one of the best things about the two hour video is that some of it features a trip to Greenwich Park. I live in spitting distance of the park now and it is pretty amazing to see what has and hasn’t changed in the last 24 years.

Park Vista in the background

The toilets are still there!

The gap in the buildings is the Maze Hill and Park Vista junction

My brother splashing in the empty boating lake puddles

Pretty sure that exit hasn’t changed a bit either!

We then walked down to the Cutty Sark, and you can see the tea clipper in its dry dock. You can also see the horrible concrete surrounds of Cutty Sark Gardens. Some cynical grumpy folks might say it doesn’t look very different now…

You can read more about the Cutty Sark here and here. 😉

Looking towards Deptford, I think that industrial building in the left background isn’t there anymore. I wonder if Greenwich Industrial History might know more?

The foot tunnel entrance is obscured by a lovely band of concrete.

And here is the video, I am the one with the pigtails, my mum is wearing the cream coat, my Dad is unseen as in all our family photos, and I have no idea who the other people are! 🙂

I love this slice of 1986 and feel quite lucky to have footage of my brother and I as children. Also, bearing in mind my parent’s eventual separation and my Mum’s death five years later, I feel really blessed to have this wonderful footage of us together as a family.

So thanks Mark! :).


Vikings, Martyrdom and a Tea Clipper

Yesterday was a pretty awesome day to be a Greenwich tax payer as the council and the folks behind the Cutty Sark had decided we would get a free trip on the refurbished tea clipper. It isn’t even open yet, and we even beat Her Majesty The Queen!

I booked tickets for 4pm, and with some time to kill before then we decided to go to the church of St Alfege as they are celebrating the murder of Ælfheah of Canterbury who was captured and martyred by marauding Vikings in 1012.

Being agnostic I wasn’t so bothered about how wonderful it was that St Alfege died because he wouldn’t let his mates pay a ransom to the Vikings to secure his release, but we did get an awesome church built on the spot where he died instead.

Thanks to the church and Regia Anglorum we also got an 11th century Anglo Saxon village for the week and I took some photos of this fantastic re-enactment .

Also, if you are in Greenwich on Christmas Eve, the church choir perform on their own shortly before the midnight mass. They are amazing. Stunning singers.

Men being manly with axes.

Loom weaving.

Women chatting. Nothing ever changes.

Thread making? Or the earliest form of a friendship bracelet?


Oh no! The Vikings are back! Quick! Hide the babies!

Beautiful ship #1.

Making flour? Looks a lot like the process still used in Morocco to make Argan oil

Harp playing too! 🙂

After that wonderful experience, I walked round the corner of my local area to see stunning ship #2!

So, the Cutty Sark. A major landmark in Greenwich, engulfed by fire in 2007, fastest tea clipper in the west, cost £50 million to refurbish yadda yadda yadda. But what did it feel like to go into the new building?


It is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I felt quite emotional as I slowly walked along the gangway that takes you into the ship itself. I stared up at the gorgeous plating on the hull and was in awe. Amazing.

Stern and rudder

“Composite construction, a wooden hull on an iron frame”

Replica tea chests hung from the ceiling and tea chest patterns were marked on the floor of the lower hold.

Video screens depicting the tea trade were lined up on both sides of the lower hold.

A large wall covered in material and rows of seating made up the Michael Edwards Studio Theatre. A video showing the Cutty Sark’s routes round the world was projected onto the wall.

The inside of the hull bathed in green.

Upstairs is the ‘tween deck which focused on the crew of the Cutty Sark, and the wool and whisky trades. There was also a interactive video display where people could steer the Cutty Sark home from Australia. I sadly ran the ship aground in Antarctica!

Video projected onto the side of a bale, I thought this was a really great way of displaying content.

Above the ‘tween deck is the main deck where you get to see the top half of the ship in its full glory. There aren’t any exhibitions to see here but exploring the deck, seeing the views, the masts and the 11 miles of rigging is more than enough to keep you enthralled.

Best weather ever.

I doubt this beautiful view would have been possible without the 3 metre raising of the ship.


View towards St Alfege showing the blue sea the ship floats on.

After the main deck you take the stairs or lift down to the Sammy Ofer Gallery where you can see the rest of the hull. Unlike the SS Great Britain in Bristol, the sealed off hull area isn’t humid or uncomfortable and is instead light, spacious and airy.

Stern and rudder from below

The gleaming belly.

Wonderfully, the concrete sides from the previous dry dock haven’t been covered up and you can see the differences between the 1950s refurbishment and now.

This practice has been maintained throughout as the new metalwork added to the ship, to make it structurally sound, has been painted grey and the original metalwork has been painted white.

At the stern of the ship is a wonderful 19th Century figurehead collection, children will love it. The white figurehead is Nannie Dee, an figurehead that used to be on the front of the ship… I think.

I do like the sea of glass, the reflections are lovely.

Lots of space and the cafe feels quite unobtrusive from this end of the gallery.

We had to have a cup of ship’s tea, or Twinings tea to be accurate. 🙂

I didn’t get the shot quite right but I tried!

I absolutely love history and having a slice of shipping history fifteen minutes walk from my home is just wonderful. I haven’t been to the ship before and I can only imagine how awful it was for locals when it was burning back in 2007.

I have been to a number of modern museums and comparing it to the Museum of London at Docklands I can only say it is just as good. Both make me want to go back again and again. And once all the exhibits and activities are finished the museum will be even better.

It is a shame entry is £12 when The Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum are free but the Observatory is not free, so hey ho, some things are worth paying for.

A day later I still feel really happy and excited to have gone and a second trip is a must. Greenwich is such a lovely place to live.


More photos from the day can be found here.

*These happened to be the words I used to describe how I felt when I briefly chatted to Richard Doughty. Poor man. I made a bee line for him as soon as I recognised him off the telly!


Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

On our last full day in Marrakech we walked from the Medina to Nouvelle Ville, the part of the city established by the French in the early 20th century.

We came to visit Jardin Majorelle, a garden designed and planted by French expatriate Jacques Majorelle. He moved to Marrakech in 1919 and after buying land in Nouvelle Ville developed the garden in the 1920s and 1930s. The Art Deco villa itself was built by architect Paul Sinoir.

The garden has become very famous due to Majorelle’s use of a vibrant blue that was named Majorelle Blue after him. The garden also features deep reds and yellows, a wonderful number of palm trees and cacti and ponds full of goldfish.

He opened the garden to the public in 1947 and there are a miriad of paths to take that weave in and out of the plants and ponds.

Majorelle died in 1962 and in 1980 the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought the garden and villa. I think it was used as a private residence from then on but after Laurent’s death in 2008, Bergé donated the garden to the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent and it is now open to the public.

The foundation has some interesting history on the garden here.

Unlike the Medina, this part of town is full of space and light and the garden exemplifies this. It is calm, beautiful and serene.

The primary colours used are wonderful and the natural green of the planting contrasts extremely well. Different textures are featured in the garden with bamboo, cacti and palm trees all making their characters known.

Various water features are dotted around the garden and there a number of places to sit and contemplate. The view to and from the villa is beautiful, it hides itself and shows its bold colours at the same time.

You might have guess that I loved this, I did. It is a stunning place.

Go see.


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