Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

Verdun Tree

Posted: September 22, 2020 in Hertfordshire, History, UK
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This tree, near the Abbey in St Albans, was one of a number planted as war Memorials in England following the First World War. They came from acorns and chestnuts collected from trees that remained standing on the battlefield of Verdun, which were then brought to England and distributed to Towns and cities across the country. Some such as the one at Lichfield have been replaced by trees grown from acorns of the original Verdun Trees planted in this country and in 2016 the Woodland Trust launched a project to ensure the continuation of the Verdun Trees by growing new trees from their acorns, which can be used to replace any that die.

The tree in St Albans was planted in 1976 from an original Verdun acorn.

St Albans Cathedral

Posted: September 18, 2020 in Hertfordshire, History, UK

The first Benedictine Abbey at St Albans was founded in 793 by Ulsinas. It is thought that this may have been on site further up the hill than the present building which was begun in 1077. It is a building which includes many architectural styles: Norman, Romanesque (11th Century) Gothic and 19th Century.

The Story of St Alban

Posted: September 15, 2020 in History, UK

St Albans

Posted: September 11, 2020 in Hertfordshire, History, Roman History, UK

St Albans

Posted: September 8, 2020 in History, UK

The City of St Albans is situated just north of London. It dates back to the Iron age when it was a local tribe capital called Verulamium, which lay just to the south west of the current city centre. When the Romans arrived in AD50, they developed it into a ‘municipum’. In 61 AD it was sacked by Boudica during the Iceni rebellion, but this was only a short break in its continued development. There were town other significant town fires, one in 155 and the other in 250, which caused significant damage.

When the Romans withdrew between 400 and 500 the town continued and eventually became an Anglo-Saxon Regional centre. An Abbey was founded on the hill overlooking the Roman town and gradually the centre of the town shifted to the area around the Abbey. The present abbey was begun in 1077 and contains much building material taken from abandoned Roman Buildings.

The life of the town continued pretty much unimpeded during the middle ages, although St Albans was the site of 2 battles during the War of the Roses.

In 1877, it was granted city status and the church became a Cathedral on the formation of the Diocese of St Albans in the same year.

The Salt Tower was built around 1230 as part of Henry III’s curtain wall. It has an upper chamber which has been used as accommodation for prisoners. The most famous of these was John Balliol, King of Scots from 1296-1299. It has a display of prisoner graffiti.

The E is thought to refer to the future Elizabeth the First. The signature is of John Baptiste Catiglione, Elizabeth's Italian tutor who was imprisoned here by Queen Mary.

The E is thought to refer to the future Elizabeth the First. The signature is of John Baptiste Catiglione, Elizabeth’s Italian tutor who was imprisoned here by Queen Mary.

This globe is by Huw Draper, Bristol inn-keeper and Astrologer who was imprisoned on charges of socery

This globe is by Huw Draper, Bristol inn-keeper and Astrologer who was imprisoned on charges of sorcery.

John Lyon ws  imprisoned  in the Salt Tower on charges of importing a Catholic book into the country

John Lyon was imprisoned in the Salt Tower on charges of importing a Catholic book into the country

The Wakefield Tower was built by Henry III sometime between 1238 and 1272. In early records, it is sometimes known as the Record or Hall Tower as from 1360 it was used to store the records of the Kingdom. Its current name seems to date from the holding of prisoners in the tower following the battle of Wakefield in 1460. Its most famous prisoner was King Henry VI who lived here from 1465 until he was briefly restored to the throne in 1470.

Wakefield Tower

Wakefield Tower

However, it was not long before he was returned to his prison on 21st May 1470. He was murdered in his chamber the following day.

Entrance to lower chamber of Wakefield Tower

Entrance to lower chamber of Wakefield Tower

In the lower chamber is an exhibition on torture at the Tower. Surprisingly torture was not as frequently used in the middle ages as we might think. Between 1540 and 1640 records show only 81 cases in which its use was sanctioned – of these 48 were carried out at the Tower of London. In this exhibition is a replica of a medieval rack, which is based on plans drawn up in the 18th century from the remains of an original medieval rack discovered in a Tower store room.

Replica of Rack

Replica of Rack



The cradle tower was built around 1350 as a personal watergate entrance for King Edward III. It later became another tower for holding prisoners. Two prominent prisoners held and tortured in the Cradle Tower were John Gerard, a Jesuit priest, who was arrested in 1597 but subsequently escaped and Anne Askew, a protestant martyr who was burned at the stake in 1546 for heresy.

The upper floor of the tower was rebuilt in the 19th century.

Tower of London (8): Ravens

Posted: August 25, 2020 in History, London, UK
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The legend goes that if there are fewer than 6 ravens living at the Tower then the country will fall. The origin of this is unclear. Some writers have suggested that it was created by Charles II in order to resolve a dispute he had with astronomer John Flamstead, whose observatory was in the White Tower and who had complained that the Ravens obstructed its work. Others have suggested that it is a Victorian ‘flight of fancy’. Like the origins of the legends it is is also unclear exactly how the Ravens came to associated with the Tower.



Ravens have been dismissed from service and retired for unbecoming conduct and a few have gone missing despite having their wings clipped. These days the Ravens at the Tower are from a captive bred stock and the current roster stands at 7 – the six required to fulfill the requirements of the legend and a spare, just in case.



The Bloody Tower is probably the most famous location within the Tower of London. It was built in the 1220’s as the Garden Tower and was the main entrance into the Tower from the river. However with the addition of the outer wall, it became the gateway from the outer ward into the inner ward.


Important prisoners held here include the young princes, Edward and Richard, 2 Bishops and an Archbishop and a notorious judge. In 1483 Edward, the heir to the throne as Edward V, and his younger brother Richard were placed in the tower on the death of their father, Edward IV, by their uncle the Duke of Gloucester, who became regent. He then had the boys declared illegitimate and took the throne in Edward’s place as Richard III. The young princes were never seen after the summer of that year. Tradition held that Richard had them murdered, although in more recent times a second theory has been put forward that they survived in prison throughout Richard’s short reign and were in fact murdered by Henry VII when he took the throne following Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth. The princes were a threat to both King’s claim to the throne, but the major difficulty is that 2 year period between the summer of 1483 and the summer of 1485 when there are no records of anyone seeing the princes alive.

Other prisoners have included the protestant Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley before their executions on the orders of Queen Mary; Sir Thomas Overbury, jailed for refusing a diplomatic mission in 1585 and subsequently poisoned by his wife and a close friend and ‘Hanging Judge’ Jefferys who was imprisoned in the tower when caught fleeing the country following the Glorious Revolution during which James II was forced to flee the country and William of Orange was invited to take his place on the throne. Jefferys died a natural death before it could be decided what was to become of him.

The name ‘Bloody Tower’ seems to date from the 16th century. The Tower’s own website says it relates to the murder of the princes although another source says it was because of the suicide within the Tower of Henry Percy 8th Duke of Northumberland, who was found shot through the head, whilst awaiting trial in 1585. It was concluded that he had committed suicide although rumours circulated that he had in fact been murdered.