Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Sights of London: Nelsons Column

Posted: June 15, 2018 in History, London, UK
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Nelson’s column is found in Trafalgar Square in the centre of London. It was built to commemorate the life of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson who had died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument took three years to build and was completed in 1843.
Nelson had fought in the American War of Independence but really came to prominence during the French Revolutionary War in which he was involved in a number of the most significant naval encounters including the Battle of Cape St Vincent, Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Copenhagen. He died on his ship, HMS Victory, at the moment is of the fleet’s victory over combined Franco-Spanish fleet at the battle of Trafalgar.
The reliefs at the bottom of the column display scenes from his battles. The one shown below depicts his death on HMS Victory


Canterbury Castle in Kent built as one of the earliest Norman castles in 1066. Originally a woodern castle it was replaced by the surviving stone structure between 1100 -1135. Its highpoint in history (or indeed its low point) was when it was captured and held by the invading French army in 1380.

A plan of the interior

A model of what it looked like in 1135

The standing exterior wall

Eltham Palace has a wide range of Art Deco furnishings and artworks.

The Palace shows that it was at the forefront of modern innovation as it has a built-in vacuum cleaning system. There were outlets in every room where the cleaner would plug in a hose and a centralised collection system in the basement.

In the past couple of years, English Heritage has opened some of the rooms in the basement which were used by the Courtaulds as a bomb-shelter during WWII. These include a dark room for developing photographs and a billiard room.


Further details of visiting can be found at

The origins of Norwich Cathedral date back to 1096 with the relocation of the bishop’s seat from Thetford. The site had been an Anglo-Saxon settlement including 2 earlier churches, which were demolished to make room for the new building. It took almost 50 years for it to be completed. The Cathedral was part of a monastery of Benedictine monks. The East End and Spire were rebuilt and remodelled on a number of occasions up until 1480. Cathedral, as we see it today, is pretty much as it was in that year. The exception is the Lady Chapel added in 1930, the original 13th-century chapel having been demolished in the 16th century.

Norwich Cathedral By Simon Leatherdale, CC BY-SA 2.0, (

Entrance into the Cathedral Precincts is by one of two gates

Ethelbert Gate

The Ethelbert Gate commemorates one of the Saxon Churches demolished in the building of the Cathedral. The original was destroyed in the riots of 1272 but was rebuilt in the early 14th century

Erpingham Gateway

The Erpingham Gateway dates from 1420 and is named for a city Benefactor, Sir Thomas Erpingham, who had been a military commander in the armies of Henry IV and Henry V but who is perhaps best known for being the commander of the archers at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 at the age of 60.

Last week Keith and I took a trip to visit the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham Kent. The Museum is situated in a building alongside Brompton Barracks, which is the location of the School of Military Engineering.

The Royal Engineers trace their history back to Norman times. There have always been Engineers who have worked within the army to produce fortifications. The first official separate unit dedicated to this function can be found in the 15th century in the Board of Ordinance, which also included what would later become the Royal Artillery. The two corps were split in 1716. Initially, the Corps of Engineers contained only officers who supervised civilian labourers and craftsmen, but within 60 years this had been abandoned and the army began recruiting its own craftsman and artificers. In 1855 the corps established its headquarters in Chatham. Engineers were present in all campaigns of the British Army.

Some Interesting Facts

  •  It was the RE who in 1911 formed its own air unit, the first in the British Military and as such the forerunner of The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force.
  • The RE team played in the first FA Cup final in 1872 losing to Wanderers 1-0; they lost again to Oxford University in 1874 but won the following year beating Old Etonians in a replay. Their last appearance in the final was in 1878 when they again lost to Wanderers. Their last appearance in the cup was in 1882-3 although they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1908.
  • Two RE officers played in the first England International Rugby Team- Lt Charles Arthur Crompton and Lt Charles Sherrard.
  • Other Army units which have separated from their initial inception in the RE include the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Corps of Transport.

The Museum contains a detailed history of the Corps with displays illustrating the major roles of their work. It also contains some unexpected exhibits including a WWII V-2 Rocket (captured and used for training purposes); a Harrier Jump-Jet and a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Outside in the Museums grounds are a collection of RE vehicles used for bridging and road making.

The only surviving part of the Medieval Palace is the Great Hall, built by King Edward IV between 1475 and 1480. By the time the Courtaulds arrived in the 1930s it was being used as a barn and desperately in need of repair

They set about restoring it and used it as a large dining room and ballroom.

Today it is used as a wedding venue when the Palace is not open to the public.

Samuel Pepys By Godfrey Kneller – National Maritime Museum, Public Domain,

Samuel Pepys’s diary entry for the 31st of May 1669 records that after doing his accounts he made his way to Whitehall. En route he stopped off to see his mistress before completing his journey and meeting with the Duke of York. Later he went for a walk in the park with his wife and some friends, before adjourning to the World’s End pub and finally arriving home late.

The opening page of Pepys diaries. Image is from H.B. Wheatley, ed, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Pepysiana (London, 1899). via Wikimedia Commons

There was nothing terribly significant in the events of the day, but his failing eyesight meant that this was the last record he made in his famous diaries. He wrote ‘I being not able to do it any longer, having done now so long as to undo my eyes almost every time I take a pen in my hand’. His diaries had detailed his everyday life for nearly 10 years and are renowned for his descriptions both of life in 17th century England, as well as the daily details of his own life and the people he met. He had witnessed the aftermath of the Civil War, the restoration of the monarchy, the great plague and the Great Fire of London. They were personal diaries often written using a personal code. John Smith, the Rector of Baldock, worked for 3 years (1819 -1822) transcribing the diaries into plain English and trying to decipher the Pepys code. In 1822, a complete key to the code was found in another volume of Pepys works. Two volumes were subsequently published in 1825 and another set of volumes were published in 1875, but it was not until 1983 that the complete diaries were reproduced in print.

The original diaries of Samuel Pepys: Wheatley, ed, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Pepysiana (London, 1899)., Public Domain,

We are fortunate every couple of years to host the Tall Ships on the Thames riverfront at Greenwich, which is just a few miles from where I live. They are a truly wonderful sight.

This year however their run takes them from Liverpool to Dublin and then onto Bordeaux in France.

It’s Bank Holiday Monday and this afternoon I joined hundreds of other people down on Crosby Beach to watch the Tall Ships leave Liverpool en route to Dublin. It was a beautiful warm day and a bit hazy for photography but I had to record the occasion. Here are some of my images. The Iron […]

via The Tall Ships leave Liverpool. — Crosbyman66


King George the fourth succeeded his father, George III, in January 1820 although he had filled the role of monarch since 1811 due to his father’s illness.

George was known for an extravagant lifestyle and was known as a patron of the arts. He was responsible for the building of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, remodelling Buckingham Palace and he rebuilt Windsor Castle. Although said to be a charming and cultured man, his lifestyle made him unpopular with his subjects. He had one child, Princess Charlotte, but she died in 1817, aged 21. On his death in 1830, he was succeeded by his younger brother William.

This statue stands on a plinth in Trafalgar Square. It is by Sir Francis Chantrey and was originally intended to stand on the top of the Marble Arch. It was erected in 1844.

When the Courtaulds came to Eltham they brought their pet Ring-tailed Lemur with them. Called Mah-Jong, he was most often just referred to as ‘Jongy’. It was a time of unusual pets. Unity Mitford had a snake called Enid and was reputed to have brought her pet rat to a debutant ball.

Jongy had accompanied them on a trip on the couple’s boat from Cape Town to Cairo. It was reported that Jongy had his own special deckchair. It is also reported that he bit a dinner guest so bad that it took three months for the man to recover.


At Eltham Palace, Jongy had his own quarters built on the first floor. It was centrally heated and decorated with scenes from the rainforest. However, he often had the run of the house and there are reports of guests at dinner being nipped on their ankles during the meal.


Mah-jong died in 1938 at Eltham. Images of him can be found within the decoration within the house.