Archive for the ‘History’ Category

June 14th 1645 saw a history-changing event. The English Civil War had dragged on for 3 years and neither the forces of King Charles I or those of the Parliamentarians had been able to make any significant victory. But on this day things changed.

Naseby Battlefield
By D Gore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

There had been victories and defeats for both sides but the tide was beginning to turn towards Parliament. The previous month the Royalists had sacked Leicester and a Parliamentary army under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, destined to be the two most successful commanders of the war, was dispatched to finally bring the Royalist army to battle.

Oliver Cromwell
By After Peter Lely – National Maritime Museum, Public Domain,

This was the first outing for the New Model Army, a reformed Parliamentary army which removed all forms of external influence on its actions and formation and handed control to experienced campaigners rather than the anti-Royalist members of the House of Lords. It could be seen as a model for future army constitutions.

Following Leicester, King Charles was urged to attack the Parliamentary army before it was fully formed. But it was Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles’ senior advisor who urged retreat. This is interesting as the reputation of Prince Rupert that comes down from the Civil War is of a reckless, fearless cavalry commander who would charge into any situation. So the Royalists retreated.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine
By After Peter Lely – National Maritime Museum, Public Domain,

The battle went badly for the Royalists and even the small victory of Prince Rupert’s cavalry breaking through and reaching the baggage train behind Parliamentary lines turned sour when he realised that the opposition here was too strong and he would not be able to press home his attack. He returned to the main battle, which was by now going badly for the King, but having fought their way back, they were no longer in any condition to render aid to the failing royalist forces.

The Cavalier Monument at Naseby
By D Gore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The aftermath of the battle was that although the King escaped, he had lost up to 15% of his army dead or wounded and another 70% surrendered or captured. The royalists were never able to put another army into the field and within a year the King was a fugitive fleeing for his life until eventually he was captured in January 1647. It really was a turning point.

King Charles I
By After Anthony van Dyck – National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain,

There were three classes of Passengers on the SS Great Britain

Luxury in First Class

Comfort in Second Class

Not much privacy in Steerage

SS Great Britain

Posted: June 11, 2019 in Bristol, History, Ships, UK

SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was the world’s first ocean liner. Launched in 1843 she was the largest ship in the world with the most powerful engines. She also employed the highly innovative screw propeller system, rather than the conventional paddle wheels. She sailed from Bristol, a major terminus on Brunel’s Great Western Railway across the Atlantic to the USA. However, this was short-lived and the costs of running the ship and of refloating her after she ran aground off Northern Island in 1846 caused the owners to reconsider the whole project. Unable to afford the costs of repair they sold her.

From 1852 she carried emigrants travelling from the UK to Australia, carrying 700 passengers per trip, and in 1881 was converted from Steam and Sail power to a Sail only ship and used as a cargo vessel, plying between Bristol and the west coast of the USA. In 1886, having been damaged as she rounded Cape Horn, she sought refuge in Stanley Harbour in the Falkland Islands. The ship’s owners decided that the cost of repairs were too high and so they sold her to the Falkland Islands Company to be used as a floating Warehouse and later a coal bunker. In 1937 she was suttled and sunk.

In 1970 a project financed by Sir Jack Arnold Hayward was started to raise the ship. Repairs were carried out to make her sea-worthy enough to be towed back to Bristol, where she was placed in dry-dock, the same one she had been built in, and restoration commenced.

Bristol from the Water

Posted: June 10, 2019 in Bristol, History, UK

In Bristol for a meeting, but also some time to do a little sightseeing. Arriving at Temple Meads Station, I catch one of the Water Ferries which run along Bristol’s waterways.

It is a great way to see the city.

The Ferry stops at the City Centre

before continuing past brightly coloured residential suburbs

and houses and restaurants on the water

to my final destination: Brunel’s iconic ship SS Great Britain

Travelling through London Bridge railway station yesterday I was surprised to see a Spitfire on the concourse.

It was part of the 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings.

Always something new to learn about London. What an unusual story!

Stephen Liddell

Like many ancient cities, London has suffered its fair share of disasters, perhaps unduly so but whilst history is full of fires, wars, pestilence and biblical downpours, few places in the world can have suffered what is known as The Great Beer Flood of London.

It happened over 200 years ago on Monday 17th October 1814, a terrible disaster claimed the lives of at least 8 people in St Giles, London and was caused by a cataclysmic industrial accident which led to the sudden and unexpected tsunami of beer onto the streets around Tottenham Court Road.

The Horse Shoe Brewery stood at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. In 1810 the brewery, Meux and Company, had had a 22 foot high wooden fermentation tank installed on the premises. Held together with massive iron rings, containing a brew not dissimilar to stout, it is thought that the…

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The old part of Lincoln is situated on a hill overlooking the River and has been occupied since Roman times.

The remains of a Roman gateway to Lincoln

The old town is full of medieval buildings

The towers of the Cathedral dominate the skyline

Centuries prior to the building of the Norman castle, the Romans had built a legionary fortress on the hill overlooking the River Witham.

The Normans created a motte and bailey castle here in 1068. Stone castle walls were erected by the end of the 11th century, replacing the original wooden palisade and a stone keep was also added shortly afterwards.

In 1141, Lincoln was the site of a battle ‘The Joust of Lincoln’ in the war between Stephen and Matilda for the English throne. King Stephen was captured during the battle and was held for some months before being exchanged for Matilda’s half-brother. Stephen went on to win the war and established himself firmly as England’s King.

It was beseiged 1191 and again in 1217 during the troubles between King John and the Barons and the castle held on both occasions under the control of its formidable constable, Lady Nicola de la Haye. It was also beseiged in 1644 when it was held by Royalists against the Parliamentarian forces although on this occasion it was forced to surrender.

In 1788 a prison block was built within the castle holding both criminals and debtors. In 1826 a courthouse building was added to the castle interior and in 1848 the criminal part of the jail was demolished and a new prison was built to hold short term prisoners awaiting trial at the Lincoln courts. This prison was one of the first to use the ‘separate system’ in which prisoners had their own cells. However, due to the number of prisoners who needed to be housed this was soon abandoned. The prison closed in 1878, just 30 years after its opening.

Today the prison and the castle walls are open to the public. In a specially designed vault in the castle grounds, it is also possible to see a number of ancient documents including Lincoln’s copy of Magna Carta.

My major impression of Lincoln Cathedral was just how empty it was. There was not the usual selection of tombs and monuments and there was a great feeling of empty space, which I was unsure whether I found this good or bad thing, just noticeably different from many other Cathedrals I have visited.

Lincoln Cathedral

Posted: May 21, 2019 in History, Lincolnshire, UK

Norman power was established in Lincoln in the years following the battle of Hastings and the Normans built a castle in the town. Remegius was named the first Bishop of Lincoln in 1072 and he set about building a new Cathedral on the site of a pre-existing church. Sadly although Remegius lived to see the completion of his Cathedral, he died hours before it was due to be consecrated in 1092.

The next 80 years would not be kind to the new Cathedral with fires in 1124 and 1141 and an earthquake in 1185 causing major damage to the building. In 1192 Bishop Hugh of Avalon set about building a new Cathedral, the building we see today.

In the 14th Century, the towers were raised in height and for 200 years Lincoln Cathedral was reputed to be the tallest building in the world. A number of chantry chapels were added in the 15th Century.