Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

Erected in 1855, the Bellot memorial in Greenwich commemorates Lieutenant Joseph-Rene Bellot, an officer in the French Navy, who drowned whilst carrying dispatches to the squadron that was searching for Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition.

Whilst we were walking in Hyde Park, Sue and I came across the statue of Peter Pan.

The statue was commissioned by the writer JM Barrie and was placed here in 1912. It has recently undergone restoration and maintenance and was re-unveiled on 1st May this year.

Hall Place

Posted: November 27, 2019 in History, London, UK
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Hall Place lies outside the ancient village of Bexley on the south-east edge of London. It was built in 1537 for Sir John Champneys, a wealthy London merchant. It is believed that much of the building material used in its construction was ‘recycled’ from the nearby monastery at Lesnes Abbey, which had been closed following the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. In 1649, the house was sold to another city merchant, Sir Robert Austin who expanded the building to double its original size. He made little attempt to harmonise his new building with the original style and thus the whole building looks very different whether viewed from the front or from the back.

In the 18th century, the house passed into the possession of Sir Francis Dashwood, a politician who had held the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, for much of the Dashwood family’s ownership, the house was leased out to tenants and at the end of the 18th century was used as a school for young gentlemen. The 19th and 20th centuries continue to see the house let to tenants, the last of whom was Lady Limerick from 1917 until 1943.

In January 1944 Hall Place was taken over by the US Army, where it served as one of the signal interception stations which fed messages into the code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park.

After the war had ended, the Place was used as a school annexe until 1968, when it became the headquarters of Bexley’s libraries and museums service. Today the properties managed by Bexley Heritage Trust and much work has been done in recent years to improve the facilities and the accessibility of this house and its large garden.

George Augustus was born in northern Germany in 1683 and was the last British monarch to be born outside of the British Isles. His father, the Elector of Hanover became King George I in 1714 and George II succeeded him in 1727. During the War of Austrian Succession, George became the last British monarch to lead an army in battle.

It was a time of major change in Europe and foreign affairs dominated George’s reign with the wars of Austrian Succession, the Anglo-Spanish war, the war of Polish Succession and the Seven years war being fought to decide who ruled the major countries of Europe. At home, he also faced and defeated the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which sought to put the Stuart dynasty back on the British throne.

George donated the Royal Library to the nation and it was housed in the British Museum forming the core of the Libary now known as the British Library.

George died in October 1760. His son, Frederick had died 7 years previously and so he was succeeded by his grandson, George III. George was initially regarded as a weak king by writers and historians. However more modern research has challenged this idea and is much more appreciative of his contribution to history.

This statue of George sits in the central area of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and depicts him in Roman military dress. It dates from 1735.

Elsing Spital

Posted: November 19, 2019 in History, London, Medieval History, UK
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I came across Elsing Spital (Elsing’s Hospital) whilst walking in the City of London during a lunch break in a conference. All that remains of this medieval hospital is the tower of the church, which now sits amongst the concrete tower blocks of the city.

The hospital was founded in 1131 by William Elsing as a hospital for the blind homeless people of London. In 1340 the running of the hospital was undertaken by the Augustinian order, who appointed a prior and canons to live on the premises. Eventually, the number of inmates would rise to around 100.

The priory and the hospital were closed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the property was granted to Sir John Williams, the master of the King’s Jewels. However, he did not get to enjoy it as within a year fire had destroyed the whole building.

As the city of London grew around it, the land of the hospital was used for buildings and by 1960, the remain buildings of the tower were enclosed by the surrounding buildings to the extent that they were no longer accessible by the public. However, more recent development have created an open plaza which contains the remains.

The weather forecast had not been too promising so Keith and I headed for the London Wetland Centre. As it turned out all the rain had blown through the night before and we were treated to a dry day.

The morning started well with a Sparrowhawk circling above the River Thames as we crossed Hammersmith Bridge. Arriving at the centre we followed our usual route and were soon getting good views of the wintering wildfowl.

Passing the feeding station, a Coal Tit was a good sighting as were the large number of Eurasian Jays that were on the reserve. Arriving at the Tower Hide, we were soon watching Water Pipit and Stonechats on what remained of the scrape islands (The water level was very high due to the recent rain and most of the Islands had disappeared below the surface). We also had a distant view of a female Goldeneye.

Water Pipit. Photo by Keith

Moving to the other side of the centre, we decided to stake out a good spot for Eurasian Bittern and also to look for the Yellow-Legged Gull that had been seen earlier in the morning. We did not succeed in either, although on a photo of some gulls Keith took, there was a good candidate for the Yellow-Legged Gull, but it was just to distant to be sure.

A very pleasant day considering the forecast.

Christchurch Oxford

Posted: November 14, 2019 in Oxfordshire, UK
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I was recently fortunate to spend a few days at a meeting at Christchurch College in Oxford.

Founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, Christchurch is one of the largest and well-known colleges within the University of Oxford. Is an architecturally attractive building which is dominated by Tom Tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and which overlooks Tom Quad containing both the college chapel and great dining hall.

Thomas Hardy was born in 1769 and entered the Navy in 1781 as a captain’s servant. However, he left Naval service the following year and went back to school. He rejoined the Navy in 1790 as a midshipman and served in the Mediterranean. By 1796 he had obtained the rank of first lieutenant in HMS Minerve. This was the flagship of Commodore Horatio Nelson and the first time that Hardy had met the man who was to become his lifelong friend. Harding was captured following a battle with the Spanish while serving as a prize master but was quickly exchanged for the captain of the price ship. In 1797 as commander of HMS Mutine, he took part in the Battle of the Nile and was promoted to captain. He transferred to HMS Vanguard, at that time Nelson’s flagship. Two years later he was appointed as captain of HMS Princess Charlotte and returned to England. The following year he was appointed to HMS San Josef and departed for the Baltic, but soon transferred to take up the role of flag captain on Nelson’s HMS St George. Following the Battle of Copenhagen, Hardy served as flag captain to Admiral Charles Pole. Taking command of HMS Amphion the following year, he returned to Portsmouth where he found Nelson waiting to go to the Mediterranean. Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, was not ready to sail and so Nelson transferred his flag to HMS Amphion and he and Hardy set off a Gibraltar. They eventually transferred to Victory the following year. In September 1805, he sailed for Cadiz in Spain and the Battle of Trafalgar. During the battle, Nelson was shot by a sniper and Hardy held his dying body. The Admiral asked Hardy how the battle had gone and then instructed him to take care of Lady Hamilton. His final request was ‘kiss me Hardy’ and his lifelong friend obliged. Nelson died shortly afterwards. Hardy was created a baronet, transferred to HMS Triumph and sailed for North America. Transferring into HMS Barfleur, he was flag captain to Sir George Cranfield Berkeley, his father-in-law. In 1815 he was awarded the Knight Cmdr of the order of Bath and the following year was promoted Commodore and commander-in-chief of the South America station. In 1825 he was appointed Rear Admiral and served in Portugal and the Channel fleet. In 1830 he became first Lord of the Navy and was a strong promoter of the introduction of steamships. He resigned in 1834 and became governor of Greenwich Hospital, was promoted Vice-Admiral in 1837 and died at the hospital in 1839. He is buried in the hospital grounds.

The statue and monument are in the chapel at Greenwich Naval College.

Corn Bunting

Some wildlife pictures from our recent trip to the West Country

Corridor under chapel leading to the skittle alley

In a cellar under the Chapel is a skittle alley. Created in the 1860s to help entertain the retired seaman who lived there. The balls used were practice canon balls.

You can still use it today and Keith and I had a game whilst we were there, which Keith won with a strike (some people are just lucky!).