Weather Vanes (6)

I had a bit of a crisis writing this as I had the horrid thought that I’d already done it some years ago, but looking back I can see I had only meant to write about it, the reason that I hadn’t being that it was during some bad weather when I couldn’t get good pics to go with it. Then, of course, I forgot all about it, only remembering when Stephen, clearly some kind of clairvoyant to my subconscious, was kind enough to send me the pictures I needed and jog my memory – and the notes I’d made three years ago.

But enough of the excuses. How old do you reckon this weather vane is? Here’s a close up, to help. Knowing that it’s Vanbrugh Castle probably won’t help much, unless you’re a scholar of the place.

Give up? I bet you probably thought I was going to tell you it’s modern, didn’t you. And it certainly looks pretty contemporary. But it’s not. Neither, however, is it antique.

It’s actually just about a hundred years old, and if you look closely, perhaps you’ll agree that it does have a certain Arts& Crafts-ness to it. It comes from a strange time in the castle’s life (and let’s face it, the place has had many strange times…) when it was owned by a an oil magnate. The duck is a pun on his name – Alexander Duckham, founder, in 1899, of Duckham’s Motor Oils in Millwall (there was a book , Duckhams: A Century of Fighting Friction produced just over ten years ago which is going for 1p on Amazon, I see.)

Alexander Duckham might have had his own firm but he was so much more than a mere businessman. He was an early aviation pioneer, close friends with none other than cross-channel aviator Louis Blériot. In fact it’s Duckham who was responsible for the stone memorial in Dover that marks the spot where Blériot landed after his famous flight. Duckham became very involved with the RAF, which directly links Vanbrugh Castle with the next moment in its unconventional history.

I’m not sure what interior upgrades the family gave the place before  it was bequeathed to the RAF Benevolent fund as the founding home for Alexander Duckham Memorial Schools. I know that quite a few ex-pupils have found their way onto this blog  from time to time and left some lovely memories there. Sadly a lot of comments were lost when the site had to move addresses, and I particularly miss those Vanbrugh Castle thoughts. Please feel free to post them again – it was an unfortunate accident, not a deliberate snub, folks!

the attachments to this post:


vanbrugh castle weather vane closeup low
vanbrugh castle weather vane closeup low

vanbrugh castle weather vane low
vanbrugh castle weather vane low

3 Comments to “Weather Vanes (6)”

  1. Mary says:

    Greenwich Industrial History Society had hoped to have a speaker on the Duckhams with particular reference to their role in Millwall Docks. It has had to be deferred through illness – but I hope we can do it eventually.
    — and — no —-I has never noticed that weather vane

  2. Martin Fletcher says:

    Alexander Duckham was my great uncle. My great grandfather, his father, was an engineer in charge of docks at Millwall, and invented numerous artefacts, including one for loading grain quickly. They were a very clever family. Alexander’s brother, Sir Arthur, has an invention relating to coal and gas which was in the Science Museum last time I looked. Alexander’s mother, my great grandmother, was a Maud Mcdougall, and her father invented self raising flour. Her nephew was Professor of Psychology at Harvard University in the 1920′s.
    My great aunt Madge(sister of Alexander and co) was one of the first women to obtain a science degree. At London University I believe. The genes have wiggled through to my daughter, who is about to obtain a PhD in Neuroscience at University College London. The ancestors would be pleased, as two of them studied there.

  3. [...] formed RAF and wasn’t interested in the business (wonder if he had anything to do with Alexander Duckham up the hill at Vanbrugh Castle?) so the obvious contender was his younger brother Ernest, who [...]