Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Walter Raleigh was born in Devon in 1552 (or 1554). Little is known of his life. He took part in the French religious wars on the side of the Huguenots, studied for a year at Oxford and joined the Middle Temple (later in his life it was stated he had never actually studied law). At the age of 20, he was in the army that suppressed the Desmond rebellion in Ireland and came into the ownership of some property confiscated from the rebels. He was granted a royal charter to explore the Americas and led two expeditions to South America and also organised the expedition that founded the colony at Roanoke in North America, although he did not personally accompany it. In 1585 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and Vice -Admiral. He was a member of Parliament for Devon in 1585 and 1586. In 1591 he was made Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard and received a number of gifts of property from Queen Elizabeth I. However in June 1592, he was imprisoned on her orders as it was discovered he had secretly married one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting without royal permission. In August he was released to lead a raid on Spain and although he captured an incredibly rich prize, he was put back in the Tower on his return to England. He was finally released early in 1593 and resumed his place in parliament, this time representing Cornwall. He spent much of his time on his estate in Sherborne with his family. In 1594, he travelled to Guiana in search of a fabled golden city, but by 1596 he was back in royal service at the capture of Cadiz, where he was wounded. In 1597 he led a raid on the Azores and was involved in the defeat of the Armada. The same year he was elected as MP for Devon and 4 years later for Cornwall. From 1600-1603 he was Governor of Jersey.

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and Raleigh was arrested in July, accused on being involved in a plot against James I, who had succeeded Elizabeth to the English throne. He was tried and convicted, but King James spared him execution. He remained in the Tower until 1616, when King James granted him a charter to return to Guiana in search of the golden city. Unfortunately, a group of soldiers disobeyed Raleigh’s command not to attack any Spanish forces they encountered. On his return to England, the Spanish ambassador demanded the death sentence originally passed on Raleigh in 1603 be reinstated (It had been part of the terms of his release that he undertook no offensive action against Spanish interests). King James had little option but to agree to the ambassador’s demands. Walter Raleigh was executed at the Palace of Westminster on 29th October 1618.

This statue of Raleigh can be found in the grounds of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

I can see clearly now

Posted: February 13, 2020 in History, London, UK
Tags:

I recently had the opportunity to visit the British Optical Museum at the College of Optometrists near Charing Cross in London. The College is the regulatory authority for all professions to do with eyes except for surgery.

The museum was founded in 1901 by the British Optical Association and moved around London as they moved headquarters. It opened to the public in 1914. In 1980 the collection passed to the College of Optometrists and the current museum, which occupies the college basement, opened in 2003.

A depiction of Early Chinese glasses

According to legend spectacles were used in China as early as the time of Confucius (c500BC) and Marco Polo reported their use there in the 13th century AD. They began to appear in Europe around the 14th century.

The collection covers the history of spectacles and eye tests and also the more wacky and outrageous things that have been developed or proposed.

The museum is open to the public most week-days by pre-arrangement with the college and is well worth a visit.

Keith park was born in New Zealand in June 1892. He joined the NZ army cadets, but at age 19 he went to sea on a merchant ship. At the outbreak of WW1, Park returned to the army joining a Field Artillery unit. He served at Gallipoli and was commissioned in July 1915. Late in 1915, he arranged a transfer into the British Royal Artillery. He was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and was then sent to fight on the Somme in France. In October that year he was wounded when a shell landed close by and he was sent back to England. Whilst he was recovering, he applied for a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps.

Following training he was posted to 48 Squadron in France in June 1917 and in August was awarded the Military Cross for his part in an aerial battle and promoted to Captain. He was subsequently promoted to Major and given command of 48 squadron.

After the war ended, Park stayed in the RAF with the rank of flight lieutenant (army ranks having been dispensed with on the formation of the RAF). After a period as a flight commander, he was transferred to the school of technical training. In 1922 he attended the RAF staff college and on completion there commanded a number of RAF stations. In 1938 he was appointed to the senior post in fighter command.

Promoted to Air Vice Marshall, Park was responsible for the organisation of 11 Group fighter command which covered London and the south-east of England and gained a reputation during the Battle of Britain as a shrewd tactician. In 1942 he was posted as commanding officer for RAF in Egypt and in July of that year was responsible for organising the air forces in defence of Malta. In February 1945, he was appointed as Allied Air Commander in SE Asia.

At the end of WW2, Park retired and returned to his native New Zealand, where he undertook a number of civic roles until his death in 1975.

This statue in Waterloo Place was unveiled on Battle of Britain day 2010 as part of the 70th-anniversary commemoration.

The awesome responsibility for the country’s defence rested squarely on Keith Park’s shoulders‘ Sir Douglas Bader (RAF pilot)

He was the only man who could have lost the war in a day or even an afternoon ‘ Air Cheif Marshall Dowding (Commander Air Forces during Battle of Britain)

The Deal Porters were specialised men who worked in the timber docks handling the timber as it came off the ships. It was a demanding job which required strength, dexterity a head for heights and was regarded as very hazardous. They were phased out as mechanisation replaced their jobs in the 1940s.

This statue in commemoration of the Deal Porters who worked in the Surrey group of Docks (which included the main timber docks) can be found alongside Canada Water and was designed by Phillip Bews and Diane Gorvin.

There are also a number of roads in the vicinity named after the Deal Porters.

Hampton Court

Posted: December 18, 2019 in History, London, UK
Tags:

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
Tags:

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
Tags:

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.