This is the head of Admiral Lord Howe, and he stares imperiously out over a hedge as you approach The Lee, up in the land of my maternal ancestors in The Chilterns. It is course a ship's figurehead, taken from the navy's last wooden warship- HMS Impregnable. The rest of the ship, broken up in 1921, was used very visibly in the extension of Liberty's store in London, and the house he guards is 'Pipers', the then home of Ivor Stewart-Liberty. Many of my family members worked in various guises for the Liberty's (my Great Aunt Pattie was inducted as the local District Nurse by Lady Liberty) and a decade or so after the appearance of the figurehead my father bicycled up from Great Missenden station to visit my mother-to-be at her grandfather's house in Lee Common. Unaware of the figurehead, his gas-fired cycle lamp suddenly picked out the admiral looming over the hedge, (only comparatively recently was he encased in a wooden shelter), and he promptly fell off into the ditch in fright, the lamp being immediately extinguished.
I am a writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)