Project Ball ‘n’ Chain
The purpose behind this book may not be self-explanatory as the title could translate in many ways. At first we didn’t start out trying to create a book we were merely collecting a mixture of pictures that we took from our journeys and information from the locations we visited as we went on a simple quest of looking for local history when visiting different locations.
In most cases we often take for granted the areas in which we live and sometimes even missing what’s around us. The first time I was made aware of this is when I ask a friend about travelling to his village and the fact that he asked me “why because there’s nothing interesting up here”. And we still heard those sentiments on the journeys we take in this book “what are you doing there. There’s nothing there”.
This made us want to find what’s around us and look for local history, attractions and myths & legends.
The title of the book comes from the method we used for choosing our locations. Instead of pondering over the locations to visit we decided to pick the locations using a pendulum. Hence the Ball ‘n’ Chain.
As for the pendulum busting through the wall well we just thought that looked cool.
The following pages are not intended to be paranormal. Instead it is more like a journal of the journeys we took with the added element of map dowsing.
It is said the pendulum itself is a method used like the Ouija board to communicate with spirits. It is also said it is a tool for accessing your subconscious.
Either way I hope we can show by using the pendulum we can take a fun look at map dowsing and improve our journeys experience.
One of the first trips we took under the influence of the pendulum was a trip to Derby. We held the pendulum over the map of the UK and it moved up a down the map slowly. The pendulum was moving in a up and down direction and due to the fact my hand was pretty central the pendulum was stopping in the area of Derby. We didn’t think this to be the best method because every trip would be Derby so another method was needed.
So we got the pendulum started moving it up and down slowly while moving our hand also around the UK. As my hand moved towards the centre of the UK instead of the pendulum moving up and down it made circular movements. Again the centre of the map was highlighted.
We decided to write down Derby to clear the air so it is not in the back of our minds. Remembering this is a map dowsing technique we decided to read how others used the pendulum.
So we got the pendulum moved it up and down slowly with short strokes and asked “where is our destination”. As we moved our hand around the UK we noticed the pendulum changed from up and down directions to a slight shift to the right. This occurred around the Sheffield area. From this we decided to write down Sheffield.
We thought about this and decided even though it was a scrappy first attempt we would go to Derby as the first destination. This decision was because even though it was our first attempt the destination did highlight itself twice. In the future we will go with the method of picking up the pendulum moving it up and down slowly around the map of the UK and asking where our destination is and looking to see where any changes in the swing occurs.
The explanations for the circular movements after asking a pendulum a question maybe very simple and obvious but that doesn’t really matter as we are involving this as an element of fun. As Derby is our first destination and yes the pendulum may have dropped on this location due to the centralization of my hand over the map I can safely say we probably would not have taken the trip if it wasn’t for this task.
So as Derby was our first visit we looked at our travel options. As we live in the Sheffield region we decided to take a quick inexpensive trip on the train, I suppose we could both have a drink if we stumble across a pub. The train journey was a pleasant 45 minute ride and it came and went without any displeasure.
When we arrived at Derby train station we started to walk towards the city centre. The train station is located south east of the centre roughly a 10 minute walk unless like us you leave the rear of the train station and go on a diversion that takes a good half an hour maybe more.
On the plus side the weather was great and the sun was out. There was a nice breeze accompanied with clear blue skies. Due to this diversion we walked for a while down the side of the river and came across a couple of spots that looked really nice especially if you are interested in fishing, like ourselves, we will have to try and remember to check if it’s possible to fish there. We took a picture as you can see in Pic1 it did look rather peaceful.
After walking alongside the river we were faced with a choice, we could carry on walking down the side of the river or cross a couple of main roads and either way hope we get to the centre. We decided to go with the main roads and after a gentle walk we found ourselves approaching the city centre where we were greeted by the Derby Ram (as seen in picture 2).
The Derby Ram as many connections to the city. It has been adopted by Derby County FC as their mascot and anthem, it was used as a mascot in the first regiment of Derby Militia which also used the Derby Ram song as their anthem. The Ram can be found in the architecture of the city including this sculpture in picture 2. The Derby Ram has origins from an old English folk song. There are many stories of its exact origins but it is also said wherever the English have setup home a version of this song one way or another has gone along with them. The song is about a very large Ram and the difficulties of its butchery.
The city centre had a few interesting buildings that showed signs of some stories of the past (picture 3&4). The white and brown building in picture 4 is a grade 2 listed building erected in 1912 by the Boots Company. I believe the statues are of Florence Nightingale and William Hutton.
From what I can remember we started walking towards the cathedral as that’s always one attraction that’s hard to miss. Now in our typical style we never reached the cathedral we got ambushed by the temptation of a sandwich shop, where we enjoyed coffee and sandwiches. Now the sandwich shop would have normally just been a pause on play but what derailed us altogether was a “You Are Here Board”. Now it wasn’t knowing where we were but more to the point it showed us there’s a gaol museum in the city. It was the one museum that was quite a distance away so we decided to go there first and call in at the Cathedral on the way back.
Now as we set off to the gaol museum we had differing memories of the information board and in which way to go, now we don’t like saying this but we pretty much got lost.
At this point we would torment anyone that appears to be local to the area and hopefully go from there but on this occasion we had made two bands with runes printed on them. The idea was to run the band between our fingers and see which rune is selected. Now we don’t remember a list of what each rune represents so we use them to what the rune means to us at the moment. So at the point of redirecting to another museum we decided to use the rune bands and we noticed the runes resembling some of the buildings in front of us. So we allowed a few left or right decisions to go the way of the runes. We found ourselves on a main road that we recognised on the You Are Here Board so we were confident we were in the right place.
Now did the magical runes drive us to the right destination?, I wouldn’t go that far. Maybe the runes allowed us to slow down a little and take a while to think. Even if that is the case then whatever works, works well.
The Gaol Museum
As we were walking on the road we recognised a building that had a twin tower entrance with a high wall going along the side. Behind the towered entrance there were 3 buildings arranged around a central court, one to the back and a building to either side. It looked like the buildings are now used for business use but the look of the buildings gave the message it had a more colourful past. We later found that this was an old gaol called Vernon Gate Gaol and yes now used for office space.
We eventually got to the door of the museum that was on the main road we were walking on and obviously missed a few times. The only reason we knew it was the museum was because of a sandwich board advertisement placed on the pavement. With this we saw straight away why it was easy to miss as the gaol looks like a terraced set of flats or offices. Either way we walked down some steps to a wooden door that had some big heavy hinges, the type you would expect. We tried the door with no success so we knocked on it a few times. Oddly enough we heard signs of activity but there was no response so we decided to walk down a street towards the back of the building. We had to laugh when we noticed what we thought was the back was actually the front with a large welcome sign and gateway.
So we walked through the entrance to the front of the museum walking past a gallow and some stocks to be then greeted by the owners. Now after introducing ourselves one chap asked if we had been trying the back door so we said yes and then he went on to tell us how the police were contacted due to the fact most of the times drunks and vandals hang around the back.
Been the criminals we are we decided to take a tour of the gaol.
The tour was great but we did learn that the conditions in Victorian prisons was anything but great. Those small cells could contain 20-25 people and you could find yourself in there if you’re out of work and standing around in public. Been in debt was another reason for a jail sentence it even had its own cell named the debtors cell. There were two cells on show one was a debtors cell and the other was a condemned cell, hit hard times if you end up in there.
They were both as grim as each other but the debtor’s cell had the one luxury of a small window. Now you may find yourself in the debtors cell for been a penny in debt but once you’re in there you could end up been killed by an inmate and if your female getting yourself pregnant and sometimes that was to escape the jail sentence.
It wasn’t just life in the cells that was grim, life on the outside was very hard. You had to cope with long working hours, little sleep, heinous crimes, little food, no luxury’s, corrupt law and waves of disease. For the people out there living in these conditions there was one type of entertainment and that was provided fresh from the condemned cells. Yes a public execution was a major event that gathered masses of people. I always wondered why people loved to watch these events but before I asked that question it was addressed by the tour guide. The simple answer was the average person’s life was so terrible and their minds in most cases so dampened by everyday life that entertainment from a flower show is not going to punch through the misery. Yes I’m afraid when your state of mind is in that place these events may be the only events able to reach you. Now the only sobering factor (well opposite to sobering) is that when you were up for execution they would put you on a wagon and cart you round the pubs in the area for a pint or 2. This was probably to drum up a bigger crowd and also to remind the people what happens when you cross the law. Now when your on the wagon you are not drinking because they were transporting you to the next public house. When your off the wagon you have stopped off for a swift one. Hence the saying “are you off the wagon?” basically have you started drinking again.
The tour guide did mention a pub, not sure if its still open but it was called The Grey Hound and I believe it was the last pub a condemned person would visit before meeting the gallows. Another pub with an interesting history is the Ye Olde Dolphin. This is Derby’s oldest public house and an extension on the pub was the house of a doctor. The condemned were hanged and then sent to the doctors house for preparation for burial or whatever they had in store for the bodies. Now this pub is notoriously known for its hauntings and no surprise with the history it as. The building as just recently given away one of its secrets when a bricked up doorway was opened up and they found a room that may have been used for the doctors dark and illegal dissections. These bodies used in his illegal dissections were most probably obtained from grave robbers. The room also leads in to the vast underground passages that go under the city. Theses underground corridors were used to walk prisoners too and from gaol`s, court rooms and gallows. The doctors house when it received an execution corpse also had another dark side. Sometimes the bodies of the condemned were not dead and would awake in the doctors room. In this instance they would watch the person in the corner of the room until they finally died. Some stories tell of a doctor cutting into one of the bodies of a still alive prisoner and the person getting up and running off. No one is sure if this is true but no matter what it was all so grim. We will visit these pubs and we have seen there is a ghost tour that goes into some of these corridors underground. This will be a future visit.
The tour guide was great and he told us a lot more than we can possibly remember and I would recommend you give this a visit yourself if your nearby for the full experience.
One thing that left me thinking was how grateful I felt for living in the time we do because the way people had to live then makes you think how anyone survived at all from these conditions.
After the tour we had a look around the place and there was some items from the early days of policing, truncheons, poorly made handcuffs, boot spurs and a few other items. There was also some great little items to set the atmosphere (been mostly of death). There was this cool bar area where the gaoler and his chums would hang out and probably cook up some corrupt ideas, by all accounts that’s what happened. And there was an old cell also with some cool items of effect in there I’m not sure if they knew for definite if this was used as a cell or not so they decked it out to show where the laborer would rest on call for any work that will need doing.
Now we are not ones to keep things simple and I had plenty of questions to ask about the place so I asked the guys that worked there and they were helpful in talking for a good while. The one thing we did learn is that the building was used for office blocks for a few decades on the floors above the museum and people simply abandoned the fact there was old prison cells. Its good to know some things can still be hidden. Better still there was a plan for them to extend the museum into the next building on the same level and it has been bricked up for again for decades. We will have to go back to see what was found.
Going back to not keeping things simple the guy we were talking too was held up by us so much with our questions after a while he started to smell something burning and yes it was his dinner. Now a few minutes after this and knowing full well we were interested in the paranormal due to the fact we were talking about it they offered to put us in one of the cells with the lights off. So armed with cameras and charged with arson we found ourselves in a cell while the jailers feasted on the charred remains of their dinner.
While in the cells that are fitted with web cams for when there are used in their own investigations at night we did pick up some orbs. There is an example of this in the picture below, out of 60 pictures there was only 5 with orbs like this and they appeared in different areas of the gaol
Towards the end of the visit we found they did refreshments a good range of ales. It would be a crime not to so we did. The tour guide saw us drinking so he came over to join us and as we were drinking we noticed a few tattoos that resembled runic symbols like the ones on the band we made for that visit. We asked the tour guide about the symbols and as it turns out he had the same interest in the whole runic subject than us. What’s the chances. This did lead to sharing a rum or two.
After we visited the jail we made our way out and realised we spent a good 4 hours in the jail and after a meal and a drink in a pub close to the train station it was time to set off home so we couldn’t call in anywhere else like the cathedral or the Pickford House Museum.
A Return visit will be on the cards.