Weekend engineering works, embroidered archaeology, historic houses, and hares.
Engineering efficiency Having read your recent article about Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railway heritage (CA 298), I would like to add a little more to the ‘Gauge Wars’ story. Although Brunel did conform to the standardisation of track in the 1860s, this was only as far as Exeter. The broadgauge track beyond Exeter to Penzance continued in use until 1892.
On the morning of Saturday 21 May 1892, however, over 4,000 platelayers and gangers assembled to convert the track to narrow gauge over the weekend. And they did! A total of 177 miles of main line was converted and in use by first thing on Monday morning, with minimum interruption to traffic – a masterpiece of engineering and organisation.
Sadly, only a year ago one of Brunel’s original bridges spanning the ‘modern’ track was demolished to make way for road improvements; these, by way of comparison, will take three years to complete.
Brunel lived for while in Torquay and it is generally thought that he worked from a small office adjacent to the house of his Surveyor, William Rowell; this is now the Town Hall. Today, the Town Hall houses Newton Abbot Museum, which holds much information on Brunel, and is well worth a visit when in the vicinity. Mary Terry Newton Abbot
Mosaic masterpiece I was fascinated to read your 300th Anniv ersary issue, having subscribed to Current Archaeology from its earliest days, but that month’s ‘Context’, featuring the Roman mosaic at Sparsholt villa, was of particular interest. I was privileged to work with David Johnston for many years as his Small Finds Assistant on the Sparsholt excavations,
and the geometric mosaic was certainly a highlight of our site – I remember David showing us the amazing painting he so painstakingly created and which was reproduced in your article.
At that time I was still at school, and set about creating my own homage to the mosaic in the form of a needlepoint embroidery (pictured below). The