Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Culloden Battlefield

The Battlefield

The Culloden Battlefield

On 16th April 1746, five miles to the east of Inverness, the last pitched battle on British soil resulted in the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his attempt to reclaim the thrones of Britain and Ireland for the House of Stuart.

The Young Pretender’s ambitions have gone down in folklore and often been romanticized to such an extent that the real facts have often become blurred. This was not just simply a battle between Highlanders and Lowlanders, Scots and English, or even Catholics and Protestants. It was probably more about returning a Scotsman to the throne of Scotland than anything else, but be that as it may, Charles Edward Stuart’s ambition came to an abrupt end on Culloden Moor against the Duke of Cumberland, son of the Hanoverian King George II.

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The Tower of London Pt 5 – Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red

The Tower of London Pt 5 - Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I the Tower of London created an art installation called ‘Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red’.

From July to November 2014, the moat around the tower was covered with 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each of the British and Commonwealth personnel who were killed in the ‘War to end all Wars’.

The creator was Paul Cummins, with assistance from designer Tom Piper, and the idea was to sell all the poppies for £25 each with the proceeds going to service charities.

The poppies were hand made in Cummins’ factory in Derbyshire, where the unknown man who coined the words of the installation came from. In his will he wrote the words “The blood swept land and seas of red, where angels fear to tread”.

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The Tower of London Pt 4 – The Crown Jewels, Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula and The Scaffold

Waterloo Barracks - Home of the Crown Jewels

The Tower of London Pt 4 - The Crown Jewels, The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula and The Scaffold

The Crown Jewels were originally kept in Westminster Abbey, but after they were stolen in 1303 they were moved to the Tower of London. Although they were recovered, most of them didn’t survive Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. After Charles I’s execution, Cromwell ordered all the treasure to be “totally broken, and that they melt down all the gold and silver, and sell the jewels to the best advantage of the Commonwealth”, and so apart from three swords and the Coronation Spoon, everything on display originates from after the restoration of the monarchy.

For a while they were kept in the Martin Tower and nearly disappeared again in 1671 after Thomas Blood made off with them but was caught before he got past Tower Wharf.

During the 19th century the Duke of Wellington was Constable of the Tower and the Waterloo Barracks were built to provide accommodation for nearly a thousand soldiers, and this is where the Crown Jewels are now kept.

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The Tower of London Pt 3 – The Medieval Palace and the Bloody Tower

Traitor's Gate

The Tower of London Pt 3 - The Medieval Palace and the Bloody Tower

When King Stephen died in 1154, King Henry II became the first of the Plantagenet Kings that were to reign until 1485.

During this medieval period, moats, curtain walls and towers were added to bolster up the defences – not to keep out invading foreign armies – but to thwart any attack from the King’s subjects. King John, Henry III and Edward II all had trouble with their Barons and in 1381 the Peasant’s Revolt tested the young Richard II.

Although the Tower was never meant to be used as a palace, there were occasions when the King of the realm found it useful to hole up here for a while.

It was King Henry III and his son Edward I who built what is now called the Medieval Palace. In fact, it’s a combination of three towers – St Thomas’s, Wakefield and Lanthorn – that make up the royal apartments.

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The Tower of London Pt 2 – The White Tower

The White Tower from the Thames

The Tower of London Pt 2 - The White Tower

The Keep, known as the White Tower, is the oldest part of the Tower of London and therefore seems as good a starting point as any, both for this review, and for a tour of the Tower.

After William the Conqueror’s successful invasion of England in 1066 he needed to secure its most powerful city, and by building an intimidating fortress in a strategic position next to the River Thames, there was going to be no doubt as to who was the man now in charge.

Work started on the Keep around 1078 and wasn’t completed until 1100, 13 years after William’s death.

It would have been the most formidable stronghold in the land when it was built, and was never intended to be used as a palace.

The White Tower – given its nickname after Henry III had it whitewashed – became more of a place to store arms and munitions than anything else and this is reflected in what there is to see inside.

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The Tower of London Pt 1 – Planning a Visit

The Tower of London Pt 1 - Planning a Visit

With some 2.8 million visitors in 2017, the Tower of London is the most visited paid for attraction in the UK. It goes without saying therefore that a bit of planning before going there will help the visit go more smoothly.

Timing is always important of course, but with a steep entry price of £26.80 without donation for a full adult fare (Jan 2019), it pays to find out if you can reduce your admission costs. If, like me, you travel to London by train, then you can check out the 2for1 London offers available to passengers here https://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/tower-of-london

The offer, if it’s available, is based solely on the full price adult ticket including donation, which as of January 2019 is £29.50; in other words, a total of £29.50 for two people regardless of whether you qualify for a concession or not.

There are also reductions of 15% on the Tower of London website if you book in advance.

It may be worth considering a membership to the ‘Historic Royal Palaces’ which also covers Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House and Kew Palace (Kew Gardens are not included). The current individual cost is £52 a year for a Direct Debit membership (Jan 2019).

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Temple Church, The Knights Templar and the Da Vinci Code

Temple Church - The Chancel

Temple Church, The Knights Templar and the Da Vinci Code

Temple Church attracts visitors from all over the world, many of whom have read Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code”, hoping to add another piece of the jigsaw to the quest for their own Holy Grail.

For those who haven’t read the book it does a good job of blurring the lines between fact and fiction, especially for anyone who is not familiar with the subjects of religion and the crusades. For those who are familiar with these subjects it’s been controversial to say the least, especially to Roman Catholics.

The inclusion of the Knights Templar into the storyline has only added to the mystery of what some people already regarded as a secret society, and Temple Church is the church of the Knights Templar in London – and that’s one fact nobody can dispute.

To talk about Temple Church requires going back to the days of the crusades and the role of the Knights Templar, and as I’m no expert on this subject, I’d like you to bear with me while I try to unravel truth from fiction in just a few paragraphs.

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Temple

Middle Temple Hall and Garden

Temple

I’m going to have to tread carefully writing this article because Temple is at the heart of the UK’s legal system, and as I know next to nothing about how it works, I don’t want to end up with a solicitor’s letter on the doormat.

I think I’m on safe ground though by saying that the area gets its name from the 12th century Temple Church built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters.

Temple, or The Temple, as it’s sometimes called, covers an area roughly between the Strand/Fleet Street to the Victoria Embankment, and Surrey Street to Blackfriars. This means that some of the area lies within the City of Westminster and some of it within the City of London.

The Strand meets Fleet Street near to the Royal Courts of Justice and the Westminster/City of London boundary. This boundary was traditionally marked by Temple Bar, an invisible barrier to begin with, but then a ceremonial gateway where the monarch halted before being welcomed into the City by the Lord Mayor of London. The gateway, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was removed in 1878 and currently stands at Paternoster Square near St Paul’s Cathedral; The boundary is now marked by a large plinth with a dragon – a symbol of the City of London.

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Underfall Yard

Replica of John Cabot's 'Matthew' on the Patent Slip

Underfall Yard

Prior to the creation of William Jessop’s Floating Harbour in 1809, the River Avon flowed through where Underfall Yard now stands.

The construction of Cumberland Basin and the New Cut meant that an island was formed between where the river was diverted, to Bathurst Basin at Redcliffe. This island became known as Spike Island.

Jessop’s plan included an ‘Overfall’ Dam to allow excess water in the Floating Harbour to flow over into the New Cut, but by the 1830s the harbour was becoming badly silted up.

Although Jessop had included sluices with his Overfall Dam, the main method of clearing the silt out was to drain the harbour and remove it by hand, which was less than ideal to say the least.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was brought in to make improvements to both Cumberland Basin and the Overfall Dam, and for the Overfall Dam he recommended developing Jessop’s sluices further and using dredger boats to remove the silt.

He devised an Underfall system where three shallow sluices could be used in a way that would control the harbour water level according to the tide and weather conditions, and a fourth ‘deep scouring’ sluice which could be opened at low tide when a powerful undertow (undercurrent) would suck the silt into the New Cut to be carried away by the next tide.

This Underfall system is still in use today, although a more modern system of dredging is used.

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Cumberland Basin

The view across Cumberland Basin towards Clifton

Cumberland Basin

I deliberately kept my previous article about Bristol’s Floating Harbour short and sweet for two reasons: The first one being that I didn’t want people to immediately lose interest in a topic that is important to the city’s heritage, and the second one is because my name isn’t Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

All the same, I’ve decided to include some information about the Cumberland Basin for anybody who would like to know a bit more about how this important part of the system operates.

The Floating Harbour project was awarded to William Jessop, an engineer from Devonport, who started work on the scheme in 1804. It took 5 years to build and was officially opened on the 1st May 1809.

For the Cumberland Basin, his plans included two entrance locks from the river into the holding basin, and a junction lock between the basin and the Floating Harbour. Why it was called Cumberland Basin I’ve no idea, but it was used as a lock when there were a lot of ships sailing in and out of the harbour.

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