Penzance railway station
When I first moved to Penzance in January 2012, BT Openreach’s fibre rollout was already well underway in Cornwall. The Penzance exchange was due to be enabled that May, and in my mind I thought that a few months would be well worth the wait. Well, it turned out to be more than a few months!
In February 2012 I registered my number with Superfast Cornwall to be informed when fibre of one kind or another (Fibre to the Cabinet – FTTC, or Fibre to the Premises – FTTP) would be enabled on my line. By the end of August this year (2013) I decided to check my number again as I hadn’t heard anything and there seemed to be a fair number of BT Openreach vans and roadworks in the area. The line checker came back with a friendly message saying that my property was eligible for FTTP – one of the few that would receive ultra-fast broadband.
After carefully reinstating my jaw from its newly found location on the desk in front of me, I looked up BT’s packages to find out how much it would cost. We currently pay £25/month (plus line rental) for a standard unmetered ADSL connection which on a good day peaks at 11.25Mbs down / 0.7Mbs up. BT offered a 160Mbs/20Mbs FTTP connection for £35 with free installation. That’s a lot of extra speed for not a huge sum of money – and when you work from home and are reliant on broadband any increase in speed, especially upload speed, can make a huge difference.
Naturally, I signed up. (Order date: 30 August 2013)
Installation of FTTP
I was given two dates for the installation. The first visit would be for the fibre to be run to our house on 20th September, then an engineer install the remainder of the fibre into the house and to connect up the new fibre modem on 1st October. I’d waited this long, so thought that those dates were reasonable.
Then a few days later I received a call from BT Openreach saying that they have had to delay the installation, and I was given new dates for the visits. The external work would be completed on 4th October, and the engineer visit would be on the 15th. A bit of calendar re-shuffling, but still OK. A tiny part of me wondered if it would even be possible, and the dates would march off into the distant future.
I was wrong.
This morning (20th September) at about 9am, there was a knock on the door. “Hello, I’m here to install your fibre broadband”.
The “external” appointment, I was told, meant that it was optional for me to be at home. But be warned – that’s not always true. In the case of our house, we have a locked rear courtyard which we needed to let the Openreach engineer into. It can also be helpful if you are in to help the installer know where you would like the fibre to enter your property. They also tend to respond favourably to offers of tea.
What happens during the “external” fibre installation appointment?
An armoured cable needs to be run from either the pole (in my case) or underground to your property, terminating in a small box called a Consumer Splice Point (CSP) over or near the point where the fibre enters a hole in your wall/window casement.
Here’s mine, taken during installation:
Bear in mind that the steel-reinforced outer cable cannot be bent along a right angle – there must be smooth curves for it to turn a corner, and so this may affect where the cable is installed.
Once the armoured cable and CSP are in place, then the fibre itself is “fusion spliced” at the fibre terminator on the pole/duct/cabinet (delete as appropriate) and “blown” with compressed air down the cable. As I typed this, that’s just what they did:
And then a quick photo of the end of the fibre optic:
And finally, the completed CSP, ready for the second BT Openreach visit:
The BT Openreach engineers who undertook the installation were great – professional and courteous. Details of the next stage in a few weeks time. [Update] Find out about stage two of my FTTP installation.
I've just taken close to 600 photos of the Tristan Stone. I think I have enough!
Since first posting about the images of the Four Evangelists found on the medieval cross-base at Gulval Church, I have been striving to produce clearer images of each saint for inclusion in a publication. The image will only ever be as good as the condition of the stone allows, but it is possible to wring a fair amount of detail from the monument through digital means.
The most difficult image of the Evangelists on the Gulval stone is St John. Depicted as half man, half eagle, his side of the cross base is damaged and worn, especially at the top. The details which I would like to further enhance are the eagle head, and the book he is holding in his hand. This is the only side where the lettering is far from clear, and many people remain to be convinced that there is indeed an “IH” (Iohan) carved on it at all.
As many archaeologists do, I have become rather obsessed with this image. When processing data of this nature one does have to be very careful in the interpretation, and not see what one wants to see. Part of my ‘therapy’, if you like, is to blog about the results as I go.
So, I have re-processed the photographs of the east side of the cross-base using the highest level of detail that my computers will allow, adding in some extra angles which I did not use in my initial images, to try and capture further detail at the sculpture’s head level. The processing took from about 7am until 6pm. After some tidying of the data (and a fair amount of quiet wishing that the computer wouldn’t crash), I produced a 1.7GB point cloud ready to inspect.
The use of false colour can be really useful, as it affects one’s perceptions of the data. Good for ‘getting your eye in’ to the data, and the shapes of the carving.
So without further ado, here are some renderings of St John with his Symbol’s head (the eagle). Can you spot any vertical lettering on his book? Fellow digital specialists please note that this is still rough data!
Just to the left of the south porch of Gulval Church, near Penzance in Cornwall, lies a large block of granite. I first came across it on a visit to the churchyard in 2012. However, it really piqued my interest a couple of months ago after reading a short report in Newsletter 132 of the Cornwall Archaeological Society. The article, entitled ‘An unusual stone at Gulval Church‘, by Professor Mick Aston, Teresa Hall, Professor Rosemary Cramp, Ann Preston-Jones and Andrew Langdon, highlighted that the block was a medieval cross-base, and was decorated on all four sides. Aside from the south, pictured here, the images on the other sides were very difficult to see at all. Ann and Andrew visited the stone at night “armed with car batteries, a mirror, two spotlights, a tripod, head torches, and a camera” to capture raking light photos of the decorations to see if controlled shadows could be used to interpret the decorations.
The results were good, producing a set of shadowy atmospheric photos of each side. Professor Cramp began to interpret the scenes from these photos but noted that, while useful, the photos only provided a single fixed view, and she had not seen the cross-base with her own eyes. It was thus difficult to say for sure what was depicted on this rough stone.
It was shortly after receiving the newsletter that I also heard the sad news of Mick Aston’s death. Doubtless that Mick would have had a continued interest in the cross-base, and given that I only live a few miles from the church I became determined to use the tools available to me to record the cross-base and see if I could help with the interpretation.
On 8 June 2013 I visited Gulval Church and recorded in high resolution 3D each side of the cross-base using a photogrammetric approach. Taking a series of over a hundred overlapping 18 megapixel scale photos at a fixed focal length, I covered the whole block. It was quite a tricky subject to tackle, as there is very limited clearance between the cross-base and two of the church walls.
Over the next few weeks, I began to process the images into 3D point clouds, and from there to solid 3D meshes. Afterwards, I subjected each side to a series of techniques which I have used to analyse prehistoric rock art and inscriptions in the past. The results were fantastic.
What is depicted on the cross-base?
Thanks to this analysis, I believe that we now know what is shown on the cross-base at Gulval. The existing interpretations, as laid out in the CAS Newsletter, didn’t match up with what I have found. The computer-generated images, shown below (and may others that I have created using false colour representations of depth), have been able to provide a slightly clearer representation of the granite carvings, and, I believe, help perceive them in a different way. I can now see many of the details in the original photos now that I know what I am looking for.
Rather than sit on this discovery for ages until everything is just right, I have decided to post my initial findings here. It does not represent a full description of the findings and condition of the cross-base and its imagery, and it builds upon the work already done.
Firstly, I must thank my friend, Nick Ford, for putting me onto the iconography – I believe that he spotted what was depicted in the first image I showed to him straight away, and knew what the others would reveal. It led to an exciting evening searching for comparative images, and further enhancing them. And without the original report in CAS Newsletter 132 (now online) I wouldn’t have got this point at all.
New International Version (NIV)
6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.
The south side of the stone depicts St Matthew. He is symbolised as a winged man or an angel, and depicted here with a halo, holding a book (Gospels or Book of Life?) with “MT” inscribed on it. The lower part is damaged. This image shows the details picked out using an ambient occlusion filter.
On the west, facing outwards, is St Mark. He is shown kneeling, with haloed lion head. His book, held in his left hand, has “M” on it. It is possible that he is giving the sign of benediction with his right. The folds of his robes are nicely visible.
On the north, facing the church proper, is Luke, depicted here seated with haloed calf head . His book, held in a rather large left hand, has “LS” on it (Lucas). Luke is mainly depicted as an ox, but it isn’t unknown for him to be shown as a calf.
On the east, facing the porch wall, perhaps the most badly eroded of them all, is St John, depicted as the eagle. His robes, especially the folds around his legs, are clearly visible. It is difficult to discern the presence of any halo. He is holding a book in his right hand, with what looks to be an “H” on it (not easily visible in this image – only range-colouring a very small area shows this). It would be very neat if it said “IH” – Iohan, but archaeology isn’t always a neat discipline. Further work needs to be done here.
We must remember that the stone block onto which these images are carved is a course Lands End granite. Some of the quartz crystals are several centimeters long – fine detail just isn’t possible – and granite can crumble when exposed to the elements.
A Tetramorphic Cross-Base?
So there we have it. Starting on the south side of the stone, if you run the sequence clockwise (South, West, North, East), runs the familiar sequence of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew, the best preserved of all, was positioned facing outwards, and the shield-like shape of the carving has, according to some, become thought to be a coat of arms. Now that we know what is really shown here, perhaps we can even call it a tetramorphic cross base, bringing together the symbols of the Four Evangelists together into a single object. One thing is for certain, however, and that is a lot more work needs to be done on the Gulval cross-base, in terms of research, verification, and recording techniques. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) will certainly be the next approach for further enhancing the panels. Comparative examples need to be sought.
This could have a big impact upon our understanding of Gulval, and indeed have ramifications on how we understand the history of this part of Cornwall in the early Middle Ages.
The authors of the original article in the CAS Newsletter have had copies of the images and my findings in advance of this blog post. Luckily, when I sent my findings to Ann Preston-Jones, she was pleased, as she felt that these were the Evangelists, but lacked firm evidence to back it up. I trust that my arguments, and the images above, will help to win around any doubters.
I have been asked to add the finished images of the Evangelists to the forthcoming Corpus of Early Cornish Sculpture, to which I am honoured to be able to make a contribution. The vicar of Gulval Church is adding the images to his parish newsletter. Who knows, even a sermon may come of it!
Further images and information will be added to subsequent blog posts, and linked from here, so do bookmark this page and check back from time to time.
And now for the plug!
As an independent archaeologist, I am of course pleased to offer my professional services. Please contact me with any enquiries.
Below is a series of images of St John (Eagle) from the east side of the cross-base. The 3D data has been filtered in a number of ways to extract the detail of the carving.
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Does Penzance have more pasty shops than anywhere else in Cornwall? The total number of establishments selling fresh hot pasties is now at 20.
When I moved to Penzance one of the first things I had to eat was, of course, a pasty. It was huge. Bigger than my head, and I couldn’t finish it. It was from Lavenders, and made here in the town. After that, I noticed the sheer number of establishments which sold pasties. And there began a most important piece of research. Is Penzance the pasty capital of Cornwall?
Here is a list of establishments that sell fresh, hot (as hot as the Pasty Tax allows, anyway) pasties, baked daily. In the town centre there are
18 19 20 such places. If you know of anywhere that isn’t on the list, tell me. If you know of any other town in Cornwall that has more pasty outlets, I want to know!
- Lavenders (Alverton St)
- Cindy’s (Alverton St)
- Warrens (Alverton St)
- AJ’s Eats and Treats (Causewayhead)
- Rowes (Causewayhead)
- Mounts Bay Pasty Company (Market Jew St)
- Warrens (upper Market Jew St)
- Pellows (Market Jew St)
- Rowes (Market Jew St)
- Warrens (lower Market Jew St)
- Lavenders (Market Jew St)
- Dreckleys Steakhouse (Wharf Rd)
- Steamers (Penzance Station)
- Chy an Clare News (St Clare St, allegedly baked by Lavenders)
- Costcutters (Market Jew St, sells hot Rowes pasties)
- Ian Lentern butchers (Chapel St)
- Cornish Hen deli (Market Place)
- All Day Takeaway & Ice Cream shop (Barbican & Coinagehall St junction)
- Barbican Coffee Shop (Barbican Lane)
Pasties for Eat-in Only
- Tremenheere Wetherspoons (Market Jew St)
I’ve had a pasty for my croust (Cornish term for lunch, or just a time when you’re starving) from most of the places listed above. My personal preference is for a large pasty from the Mounts Bay Pasty Company. They’ve got plenty of sweetness and gravy, and the pastry is just right, and nice and buttery, with soft delicious meat. I do like a Lavenders pasty on occasion, but lately they’ve been a bit too salty for me. Warrens is probably the best “mass produced” baker’s pasty in Penzance. They’re actually made in St Just, so it’s still pretty local.
I need your help
Is Penzance truly the pasty capital of Cornwall? Have I missed somewhere? Probably! Leave a comment below and I’ll publish it and add to the list. Does your town have more pasty outlets? Prove it!
My good friend Rob Armour Chelu has recently set up a new archaeology consultancy, Armour Heritage. One of Rob’s many specialisms is archaeological advice for renewable energy schemes whose developments may impact upon the historic environment.
I have set up the bones (if you’ll pardon the appalling pun) of Rob’s archaeology website, and have chosen to use a simple Content Management System (CMS) which enables him to build the rest of the site himself. I am also advising upon Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and listing on Google Places for Business.
If you need a website, I can help you. Please contact me for further information.