London to Brighton with a camera and some interesting cars

As Sharon went off drawing at the British Museum, I decided to take another route and follow the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally to Brighton. The challenge with something like cars, old or new is to find an interesting way to photograph them.

One solution is to find some interesting detail that says something about the car as a whole.


Veteran car lamp


1901 Toledo

Or to find a particularly beautifully shaped or presented car.

Veteran car

Veteran car

I had arranged to hire a (modern) car – which I picked up at Victoria Station on the Saturday and promptly parked while I checked out the concours display in Regent Street.

After a month driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road it was a relief to be back on the left – although London traffic and street layout still offered its challenges for a ‘Colonial’ driver. I took some photos of the superbly presented cars – and picked up a copy of the program – with the all important route.

The weather forecast looked promising – as did the pre-dawn sky at 05.00AM when I drove to Hyde Park. I grabbed the camera and braced against the cold as I walked up toward the start. Sure enough one of the cars from 1900 was just getting up steam, so I stopped for a chat and took some photos.

Steam car

Steam car

I took a few shots of the 1901 Toledo steam car – it looked show-room new. I liked how the support pit crew all wore Toledo overalls – nice touch!



The 1904 Gardner-Serpollet deservedly won accolades as the most historically significant car – it was one of only two surviving cars of that make from that year. These are rare cars indeed!

1904 Gardner-Serpollet steam car

1904 Gardner-Serpollet steam car

Some cars glided smoothly and silently by. Other steamers had a healthy howl from the burner – at least with those you know their burners were still alight – although those driving petrol cars nearby looked a little nervous! In the early days there were about equal numbers of steam, petrol (gasolene) and electric cars on the road – petrol (gasolene) cars didn’t really start to dominate until after 1906, boosted in 1913 when the first electric-start vehicles were produced.

Another way to add interest to a photo is to present an antique car with an antique look, such as a black and white image.


1896 Salvesen

So then it was time to put the sat-nav and my driving skills to the test. I put in the steam car stop as the destination, and set off in what I thought was good time to get ahead of most of the cars so I could see them at the way-point. The satnav had other ideas, and after about 45 minutes’ driving I found myself pulling back into Hyde Park! The GPS must have lost signal at some point and re-directed me back to the start. After that I referred to it as the ‘doubtful Thomas’…

The second go was more successful and I arrived at the steam car stop after a quick belt down the motorway to try to get ahead of the cars.

It wasn’t long before the the first one arrived for water and soon after came several more.

1900 Mobile

1900 Mobile

Two more CX stanley steamers arrived – being 1905 they weren’t in the Rally but did the run anyhow in fine style.

CX Stanley

CX Stanley

With two steam cars to go – one apparently seen not too far away but stopped with a problem, the other not sighted, I decided to head off to see the finish line.

This time the satnav behaved and I headed off to Brighton. Miraculously I found a park on the sea front a few hundred metres from the finish line so I grabbed the camera and headed for a bite of lunch and watched the cars coming in.

The Toledo arrived looking as though it had just driven down the road, and about 15 minutes after arriving it was off under its own steam to do a quick sprint up and down the sea front – the driver remarked to me that he needed to let off a bit of steam as the pressure was still very high.

Toledo at Brighton

Toledo at Brighton

I never did see if the Salvesen had completed the run, and I feared it may have had some problems near Brighton. Someone had seen it by the side of the road.

As the afternoon came on and the clouds began rolling in, I headed back to my hire car. I arrived back in London as the sun went down and prepared to fly out the following day.

steam car rear

Mobile steam car

Salisbury Cathedral font – part icon, part water sculpture

For more than 150 years, Salisbury Cathedral had no permanent font. Instead, there was a small gothic-style Victorian basin that was wheeled out for baptisms from a side chapel.

Enter then Canon Treasurer and now Dean of Salisbury, the Very Reverend June Osborne, who set in motion the commission for a new permanent font. Rather than take the easy route of installing a neo-gothic clone of many other fonts, Osborne argued strenuously for a new work of art – something that would show Salisbury cathedral as looking forward rather than being constrained by its history. Osborne commissioned prominent British water sculptor William Pye.

Conscious that the church is renowned for its conservatism, Pye developed a series of designs which were placed in the cathedral to test the reaction of the parishioners – starting in 2001 – with the final design being approved in 2007. The result was gradual acceptance of a reflecting water surface as a font and a remarkable artistic achievement combining stillness and movement in the cruciform font – the largest in any UK cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral font

Salisbury Cathedral font

The font measures 3m across (10 feet) with the vessel itself made from bronze, set onto a purbeck marble square base. The font is shaped to channel water into four spouts at the corners which pour into bronze drains set into the floor.

The surface is so smooth that visitors have been known to place bags and cameras on what they think is a hard shiny surface, only to see their belongings disappear into the water.

As the previous post here has noted, the font provides an excellent opportunity for some spectacular reflections of the stained glass windows.

Consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 28 September 2008, the font is a daring and great addition to the cathedral, and is admired by the many thousands of local and international visitors as well as the local congregation.

The photo was taken from the balcony over the West Front, during the start of the Tower tour – which will be the subject of a subsequent post 🙂

Is there a cathedral in that puddle?

Reflections can make for interesting photos, and with the rain in Salisbury, Sharon was prompted to ask the question in the title of this post – alas with all the puddles around I just couldn’t get a nice shot of the cathedral. That is, until we checked out the Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum. As we approached the museum – and being cued in to look for reflections I saw a great reflection in the window. The result is this fragmented view of the cathedral:

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

I used a wide aperture lens out to f2.8 in order to ensure that the focus would be on the cathedral, while leaving the window frame a little out of focus.

Sometimes you can find great reflections inside too – the modern font in the cathedral provides a wonderful reflective surface in which to mirror the main windows. The font was designed by William Pye and is the first permanent font for over 150 years. It was commissioned over ten years ago by by the then Canon Treasurer and now Dean of Salisbury, the Very Revd June Osborne. The font is three metres across and constructed as a bronze cruciform vessel atop a purbeck marble plinth. The water flows constantly, but the font is so constructed as to provide a perfectly smooth surface.

Salisbury cathedral font

Salisbury cathedral font

So it’s worth looking for opportunities for interesting reflections 🙂

Turner was there – or close by…

Visiting the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum just adjacent to Salisbury Cathedral (review in a later post) we saw a lovely view of the cathedral painted by JWM Turner around 1828-29 – so it just predates the John Constable views. But this was special as it was a view from Old Sarum – the ancient hill fort just to the north of Salisbury. Naturally we had to set off to see if we could find it 🙂

Old Sarum is actually a fascinating place – used and re-used over the centuries, it began around 400BC as a late Iron Age hill fort, though some evidence points to possibly early Roman period, and later – following the Norman defeat of Harold in 1066 – the Normans built a castle on top to command the local countryside.

Turner’s watercolour painting appears to have been painted from one of the low ridges around the outer ditch earthworks of the ancient site. We climbed to the top and I took a couple of photos from the embankment above where Turner was painting – I think we came fairly close to his spot, and anyhow it was a fun quest to see if we could find the view, and see what it looks like today.

You can be the judge of how close we came. Here is Turner’s version:

A Distant View of Salisbury Cathedral form Old Sarum by JWM Turner - source: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
A Distant View of Salisbury Cathedral from Old Sarum by JWM Turner – source: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

And here is my version:

A view of Salisbury Cathedral form Old Sarum

A view of Salisbury Cathedral from Old Sarum

Old Sarum is well worth a visit – it is a fascinating place with around 5000 years of history. But first, don’t forget to visit the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum – they have some great artworks and artefacts – many from nearby Stonehenge and from Old Sarum.

As you might guess from this – photo quests and challenges are a fun way to begin really looking at a place 🙂