Archive for the ‘Post medieval history’ Category


It is not certain when the first castle was built at Alnwick. It was probably between 1070 and 1090 as it is recorded that King Malcolm III of Scotland tried to take the castle in 1093 and was killed at the battle that ensued. Some remnants of both an 11th century and a 12th century stone castle can be found in the castle today, but it is likely that the original castle was a wooden structure. Most of the castle that can be seen today dates from the time when the Percy family took control of Alnwick after purchasing the land from Bishop Bek of Durham in 1309. Baron Percy retitled himself ‘1st Lord Percy of Alnwick’. Many of the early lords of Alnwick carried out redevelopment and improvement. It is reputed that the 2nd Lord used money obtained from ransom of Scottish prisoners following the Battle of Neville’s Cross to finance his redevelopments.






Despite the important part that the Percy family play in the history of England, Alnwick itself seems to have been untroubled by these events. By the 16th century the family had moved south and the changing political and military scene meant that Alnwick was no longer so important as a garrison castle and it began to fall into disrepair. So much so that it was used as a prisoner of war camp during the English civil war.A reference to the castle in 1750 mentons its state of disrepair.

In 1750, the first Duke of Northumberland, a Percy through his maternal line, decided to establish a residence in his Ducal county and chose Alnwick. He began a programme of repair and redevelopment to turn the ruined medieval castle into an 18th Gothic mansion.

Alnwick in the 18th century

Alnwick in the 18th century

In the 19th century the 4th Duke undertook a plan to re-medievalise the castle removing some of the features added by his Great-Grandfather. Whilst he tried to turn back the clock outside he was also responsible for building the lavish state rooms in the keep on an Italian theme.Unfortunately there si no photography inside the castle and so I cant show you the interiors of his keep.

The castle remains the family home of the Dukes of Northumberland – the current occupant being the 12th Duke. the latest in a long line of the Percy family which has owned Alnwick castle for over 900 years.

In 1623 a survey of the Tudor castle at Southsea found that many of the guns were unusable and that the garrison had no gunpowder stored on site. The deterioration of the castle continued following a fire in 1627 which gutted many of the buildings. It was still in use however during the Civil War and in 1642 it was captured by the parliamentarians. In 1680, following the restoration, Charles II built an enlarged castle with 30 guns.



However by 1770 things had been allowed to deteriorate and a document describes the castle as being a shameful ruin and plans were made for its demolition. However renewed risks of French invasion called for these plans to be put on hold and the castle was further strengthened in 1793 and in 1814.


In the 1820s the lighthouse was added to the castle and this remained in service to 1927.


The original Southsea Castle was built in the mid-16th century following Henry VIII’s break with the church of Rome and the increased likelihood of invasion from continental Europe. In order to counter this Henry built a series of castles and keeps around the coast of southern and south-eastern England particularly covering places where an army could land or protecting the anchorages of his ships. There was an extensive series of forts and castles guarding Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton water.


Artists impression of original Southsea castle 1544

Artists impression of original Southsea castle 1544

Picture showing an attempted French invasion in 1545. Southsea castle can be seen in the foregound

Picture showing an attempted French invasion in 1545. Southsea castle can be seen in the foregound

Tudor Gun crew at Southsea Castle

Tudor Gun crew at Southsea Castle

Arundel Castle

Posted: July 11, 2019 in History, Post medieval history, UK
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Arundel Castle is situated on a rock bluff overlooking the valley of the River Arun. The first castle on this site was built is 1068, just two years after the Norman conquest. By 1155 the original wooden structure had been replaced by a stone castle. In the 13th century the castle passed into the hands of the Howard family. Sir John Howard was created Duke of Norfolk in 1483 and the castle remains the home of his descendants to this day. It was besieged during the Civil War (1642 to 45) first by the Royalists and then by the Parliamentarians. It was badly damaged and repairs were not commenced until 1718. Queen Victoria stayed at the castle for three days in 1846 and the castle as it is today owes much to the restoration carried out around 1900.





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.

The Rijksmuseum is the national museum housing both a historical and art collection.





The most famous painting in the museum is the Nightwatch by Rembrandt. But I chose the painting below as my favourite. It is a picture of the battle of Waterloo by Jan Willem Pienemann and shows the moment when the Duke of Wellington (the British Commander) hears that the Prussian army has arrived at Waterloo. This was the turning point of the battle which till then had been very even. Napoleon’s plan has relied on being able to keep the Prussians from making it to the battle before he had beaten the British and their allies but although it was a close run thing the French army failed to do this and the battle was lost.


Michael Bass was born in 1799. His family owned a brewery in Burton-on Trent, which had been founded by his Grandfather. Michel’s father had expanded the business including developing a lucrative export trade to Russia. At the age of 18, Micael left school and joined the brewery. It was a difficult time for the brewery as exports to Russia had been severely disrupted because of the Napoleonic war. However, a new market soon opened up with the sale of Pale Ale to India and Southeast Asia (By 1833 this represented 40% of the companies business). Michael became the head of the company in 1827 and the arrival of the railway in Burton helped reduce the costs of transport and increase distribution. By 1870 Bass was the biggest Brewery in the UK.

Michael Bass became the member of Parliament for Derby in 1848 and continued in this post until 1883, just before his death. He advocated free trade, low taxes and an improved standard of living for the working class. He worked to abolish imprisonment for small debts. He was a philanthropist to both Burton and Derby providing libraries, schools, museums and recreational facilities. In his last years, he was offered a peerage but refused, saying that he wished to remain in the House of Commons (His son Michael, also an MP became Lord Burton in 1897).

There is evidence of Pre-historic occupation in the Derby area.

The Romans built a fort on the site in 50AD and a vicus (town) grew up around it. However when the Romans left Britain the site was abandoned.

There was possibly an Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area, but the Vikings founded a settlement in 873 which was captured by the Saxons in 917. It prospered and a mint and market are recorded in the 10th century.

Viking Sword

The Doomsday book (1086) records a population of 2000 (The average size of a village was about 100-150).  It received charters in 1154 and 1204 and a wool industry was established in the town. Despite outbreaks of the plague in 1636 and 1665, the town continued to grow. The UK’s first silk mill was opened in Derby in 1717.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

The city was occupied by the Jacobite Army in December 1745 and King George I visited in 1773 and warranted the change of name for the local china from Derby to Crown Derby (it later became Royal Crown Derby by permission of Queen Victoria). The Railway reached Derby in 1839 and the Midland Railway soon set up a depot for maintenance and construction of engines.

The Old Roundhouse from the Railway Works

In 1907 Rolls Royce opened a factory manufacturing cars and airoplane engines.

Keith and I were fortunate that as we were exploring the grounds of the church in Snodland, a lady kindly offered to open up the church so we could have a look inside.

There is a possibility that there was a church on this site from around 660 AD although the first written record is from around 1000. The church was rebuilt in stone around 1100 and there is evidence that some of this came from a near-by Roman Villa as tiles and other Roman masonry have been found in the walls and in the infill.

The church was enlarged a number of times in the 13th-15th centuries, probably due to its position at the place where the Pilgrims Way from London to the tomb of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury crosses the River Medway (originally there was a ferry).

The tower included a Priests room, although this seems to have been converted into a lock-up when a rectory was built nearby in the 17th century to house the priest. There was much renovation in the 19th century and a vestry was added to the south side at this time. There are only a few fragments of original medieval glass as a land mine fell nearby in 1942 and shattered the windows. Some 19th-century windows remain plus more modern replacements.

MGB 81

Posted: March 1, 2019 in History, Post medieval history
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Motor gunboat 81 was built for the Royal Navy in 1942. It is believed to be the only gunboat in World War II restored to her original condition. These gunboats were fast with speeds up to 45 knots and were designed for the protection of shipping in UK coastal waters, particularly to guard against the threat of German E-boats, groups of which would cross over the Channel and attack merchant shipping.


In 1945 MGB 81 passed into private ownership. It was involved in a smuggling operation in 1958 and was subsequently sold for scrap, but ended up as a permanent mooring in the sailing school. In 1968 it was bought by a boat preservation trust and restored to its wartime condition.

MGB 81 is currently berthed at the Portsmouth historic dockyard.