A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

More Old Houses

Last night I moved on to a couple of the half-timbered buildings, which require some new techniques, and learned quite a lot. In my boyhood, I had a sad experience with the old Airfix OO inn, and was scarred by it. I now realise that I tried too hard - you can't paint everything that's there, and if you do manage to succeed it will just look like a model of a house, rather than a house. [With the greatest of respect, Airfix kits never looked like real houses anyway.]

In fact, painting the Hovels buildings is a delight, because the sculptor has made such a nice job of them that all you have to do is identify what is there, and let it emerge by itself - the rougher the dry-brushing the more building-like will be the results. The half-timbered houses appear to come in two types - one is the expected finish, with the gaps between the beams plastered, and the other has the gaps filled with wicker, or maybe it is wattle-without-the-daub, choose your nomenclature.

The biggest act of faith is finishing off the whole building with the driest of dry brushings of a Dulux shade called "Khaki Mists 3" (which is not exactly poetic, you marketing people), to make it look dirty - to stop it looking like a kid's drawing of a newly built house on a Pergamon estate. Or so I imagine, in my apprenticeship - the act of faith is trusting that the brush is dry enough - too much paint and I am basically going to have to start all over again. An experienced eye might check what I've done and chuckle, "oh no - not the Khaki Mist 3 overbrush..."

Anyway - excellent entertainment for a snowy evening. While painting some terracotta pantile roofs, I was reminded that such tiles are very common in rural areas around here in East Lothian. A visitor once commented to me that some of the old cottages here have a surprisingly Mediterranean look for the Frozen North, and the answer is exactly straightforward - the roof-tiles are Mediterranean, and traditionally so. When the ships carrying coal from the mines of East Lothian used to deliver to Spain and Portugal (and we are talking sailing ships here), they would fill up with the local roof-tiles to ballast them for the return voyage - there was always a steady market for them. Which - in turn - reminds me that when we got our house extension built in 2005 we roofed it with Spanish slate, which seems a pleasing continuation of an old tradition, but in reality was mostly because we couldn't afford Welsh slate, and the council planners gave us a choice of only the two.

Garvald, East Lothian, with roof tiles in evidence
As a silly background task, I am mentally collecting suitable place names for the ECW. My intention is to focus on an area (probably largely mythical) around Lancashire and Lonsdale - though you might struggle to find this area exactly on a historical map. I am very taken with The Perfect Captain's (free download) Battlefinder system, which uses map cards to create battlefields and campaign terrain. I intend to make use of this in my forthcoming efforts, but the names of the places - though excellent - are not quite right for the gruff North. I thought it would be amusing to tweak a personal set of the Battlefinder cards to use more suitable names - it would also individualise the game a bit, which is usually worth the effort.

Thus I hope to have a bit less of the Pumphet Mauleverer and Castle Mauvoisin (I may have made these up) and a bit more Clagthwaite and similar. I love the whole subject of placenames, wherever they are. The North of England has some great names - I think Northumberland and Durham may have the best of the lot. Among so many, my personal favourites include Wide Open, near Newcastle, and the wonderful Pity Me, in County Durham. Long ago, I had reason to write to someone who lived at Hag House Farm, Pity Me, and I still treasure that address as a classic. If you happen to live there, no offence is intended at all, but it conjures up images which would not fit with the more comfortable Home Counties.

Since I am now rambling, I shall close.  


  1. A most interesting and fun read as usual Tony. I always did like those 15mm Hovels 'Rural' buildings and you have made a great job of them, will you be doing the Butter market model? or was that the 25mm range, can't recall, but it was a lovely little model.

    1. Hi Lee - thanks. I had a daft turn when I sold off a lot of Napoleonic spares last year, and bought the Hovels 15mm Rural set, the Medieval set and 3 items from the North European set, which were (from memory) a windmill, a guildhall and a merchant's house (which last item I've now painted). I've done 7 buildings in 2-and-a-bit evenings now, so am ready to undercoat the next batch - some more ambitious stuff coming up! Yes, I have the butter market - it is a 15mm version, but it looks pretty hefty - I may be mistaken, but I think someone told me this model is based on the butter market at Market Harborough - if it is, then I've seen that one, and this model may be a little overscale. No matter.

      I recently saw a reproduction of a drawing of Liverpool around the time of the ECW, and was surprised to see that every hilltop had windmills on it - not something I associate with Liverpool now, but they must have been an important component in a pre-Industrial Revolution commercial area.

      I have all manner of barns to paint, and some very basic A-frame medieval huts which look like thatched ridge tents. I also seem to have some village stocks, or a pillory or something. Oh - and walls - any amount of them. I'm using household mix-to-order paints - Dulux - in 250ml sample tins (about £3 each). Myriads of shades. There's always a tendency to get colours which are too light, but I'm wise to that now. Slates and bricks are dark, man - darker than you would think!

      Cheers - Tony

  2. Pity Me is just up the road from where I live and you're right, there are some great names to be found around the County Durham area, 'Witton Gilbert, Esh Winning, Ushaw Moor, Hanging Stone, Stony Heap' ...

  3. Interesting and possibly annoying that some council can tell you what you're allowed to use on your roof.

    Newfoundland has some great place names, some such as the many variations on Heart's Ease & Paradise are pictureseque sounding but don't really evoke the reality of a rocky cove frozen over for more than 1/2 the year but perhaps better than being on the North Atlantic. Conception Bay is probably religious in nature and Joe Batt's Arm makes perfect sense if you know that an Arm is akin to a fjord but not as steep and dramatic. Dildo seems to provoke the most raised eyebrows but what got me is that there is a also a Dildo South, who knew an outport would be big enough?

  4. Agree with Pity Me, also like the idea of living in Fir Tree.

  5. Evening,
    I live in County Durham, and the county is littered with some cracking village names.
    One of my all time favourites is NO PLACE, which has a brilliant pub there,selling really top quality beer.
    Pity Me which is not far from my home town of Crook, is meant to be a derivative of PETIT MERE, but being the way we are, we changed the French name to our own spelling and pronunciation.
    Thanks Robbie

  6. If I was looking for Northern sounding English village names (without going down the "Heckingbottom" or "Postlethwaite" route)I'd pick the more understated Hatton, Southwell, Hearn, Hannah's Wood and Disley. Pronounced 'atton, Suthell, ern, Harzwood and Disleh.

    1. Interesting. Since I will mostly be playing solo, I don't imagine I will be saying them out loud to mesel' ower much, but these are understated, right enough.

      It's a brave man who mentions 'atton in Lancashire these days, any road.

    2. Yes! After I wrote it I thought "that comes over more Yarkshire than Lancs".

  7. Pronunciation is a whole separate issue. Everyone knows, of course, that Pumphet Maulever is pronounced 'Pulver', but not everone knws that Castle Mauvoisin is not pronounced at all since no one ever went there. No I dont know how they discussed where it was they hadnt been but no doubt some wise person can help us out.

    For a time I lived near Boornleh, I think. Cheers - Lou

    1. Lou - I thought it was "pullover", but am clearly not an expert. What I find odd about the whole subject of pronunciation is that this is the 17th Century, and pre-dates formalised spellings. Since they couldn't agree how to spell London or Birmingham, I would have guessed that any place which was called "Harzwood" by the locals at that time would in fact be written Harzwood. Anyone recording the travels of an army in an unfamiliar area would rely on what he thought people had said.

      There is a place near my home (which is Scotland, of course) which is called Auldhame - good Scots phonetic version of "old home", obviously. Somewhere I have a very old map of the area, and the village is written "Oldham", same as in Lancs. I guess there were no standard spellings, and the sound of the spoken name would have different versions for strangers and incomers.