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Articles on this Page
- 12/14/13--03:30: _BOOK REVIEW: Roman ...
- 12/17/13--08:01: _Robert Elverstone a...
- 12/18/13--01:00: _The whitewashing of...
- 12/20/13--02:15: _The Friday Digest 2...
- 12/22/13--03:40: _An account of the f...
- 01/02/14--04:00: _The Real Enigma Her...
- 01/03/14--06:10: _The Friday Digest 0...
- 01/06/14--06:10: _Ex-England crickete...
- 01/07/14--02:27: _Katherine Holden at...
- 01/07/14--04:00: _Jill Evans talks ab...
- 01/08/14--03:00: _A look through Crew...
- 01/10/14--03:10: _The Friday Digest 1...
- 01/13/14--00:05: _‘Tommies on the Ais...
- 01/13/14--04:00: _The legacy of the K...
- 01/14/14--04:00: _Do we know the real...
- 01/15/14--04:00: _The Forgotten Men o...
- 01/17/14--03:30: _The Friday Digest 1...
- 01/18/14--06:30: _The great Antarctic...
- 01/21/14--01:53: _Ruth Symes at Water...
- 01/21/14--01:55: _Maureen James at Li...
- 12/14/13--03:30: BOOK REVIEW: Roman Chester by David Mason
- 12/17/13--08:01: Robert Elverstone at Warwick Books on 29/01/14
- 12/18/13--01:00: The whitewashing of history by the Mitford family
- 12/20/13--02:15: The Friday Digest 20/12/13
- 12/22/13--03:40: An account of the fascinating history behind Billericay
- 01/03/14--06:10: The Friday Digest 03/01/14
- 01/06/14--06:10: Ex-England cricketer Paul Nixon gives his views on banter
- 01/07/14--02:27: Katherine Holden at Foyles, Cabot Circus on 17/01/14
- 01/07/14--04:00: Jill Evans talks about Gloucester's murderous past
- 01/08/14--03:00: A look through Crewe's history with Peter Ollerhead
- 01/10/14--03:10: The Friday Digest 10/01/14
- 01/13/14--04:00: The legacy of the Kingsnorth Airship Station
- 01/14/14--04:00: Do we know the real Henry VIII?
- 01/15/14--04:00: The Forgotten Men of the London Underground
- 01/17/14--03:30: The Friday Digest 17/01/14
- 01/18/14--06:30: The great Antarctic silence
- 01/21/14--01:53: Ruth Symes at Waterstones, Altrincham on 02/01/14
- 01/21/14--01:55: Maureen James at Lincoln Central Library on 01/01/14
Much of Roman Chester has been lost through post-Roman dismantling and `recycling' of building materials, though excavations over recent years have added substantially to our knowledge of the town known as Deva. In this companion volume to Chester: AD400-1066, David Mason traces the early history of this military stronghold: the construction and early years of the fort, and the development of the garrison town and the surrounding civilian settlement. This is essentially the first study to focus solely on Roman Chester, other than excavation reports, and it represents a well-written informative history of the rise, burgeoning and decline of the Roman town and its inhabitants.
David Mason has been involved in the investigation and research of Chester's archaeology and history for more than 30 years. He directed excavations in the 1970s that discovered the first Anglo-Saxon buildings to be found in Chester. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Roman Chester: AD400-1066." He lives in Caergwrle, Flintshire, just outside Chester.
Mason provides here a very important addition to understanding the Roman Empire and especially Roman Britain. His work gives a chronological analysis of the foundation, growth and decline of the Roman fortress and town throughout and just after the Roman period, and provides a context by discussing what was happening in Britain at the time. Mason's book is not for the uninitiated - you have to have some knowledge of Rome and how she was governed and defended before approaching this book but, once you have that knowledge, you will find reading this book a very rewarding experience, as Mason comprehensively details the life and times of the Roman garrison and later town at Deva.
The author strikes a good balance between fact and discussion; the narrative is coherent and logical. The chapters, arranged chronologically, trace Chester's history from early fort through Legionary fortress to late Roman settlement. An "interlude" on the organisation of the Roman army (Ch.3) is a considerate inclusion, and a good piece of reference in its own right. Mason tackles Chester's items of "special" interest - the Elliptical Building and the harbour works for example - maturely; other authors may have devoted too much time to these to the detriment of good discussion on other remains.
If you are simply looking for a guidebook to the town this may not be for you as you will have to skip through large amounts of facts, figures, measurements, etc, etc. However, for the academic this is an excellent text giving detailed plans, construction figures and reconstructions. The information on archaeological excavations in the area is incredibly extensive and detailed, unsurprisingly considering how much the author was involved in them, and can give excellent assistance to anyone researching the area.
Book: Roman Chester
Author: David Mason
Review by Joe Medhurst
Robert Elverstone will be at Warwick Books on 29th January from 7pm signing copies of his new book, Farewell to the Horses: Diary of a British Tommy 1915-1919.
Cady Hoyte, like many other young lads of his generation, proudly joined the army in 1915 to fight for his King and Country. From the Warwickshire town of Nuneaton, he joined the Warwickshire Yeomanry as a gunner in the Machine Gun Corps and quickly found that army life made no concessions for an eager young 19 year old. Never having ridden a horse before, he develops a relationship with the horses, which makes it all the harder when he has to say farewell and leave them behind to sail aboard the stricken ship, the Leasowe Castle, to fight as a machine gunner in the trenches of France. Written with humour, Cady’s diary gives a detailed account of the daily struggles and constant dangers of army life without ever losing sight of his respect for human life.
Before the war, the Mitfords’; fearful of proletariat unrest resulting from mass unemployment and abject poverty, were not unusual amongst their ‘ilk’ in developing an enthusiasm for fascism and a sympathy with Adolf Hitler; who they considered a bulwark against the spread of communism. It thus appeared entirely logical that Lord and Lady Redesdale should support Unity in her determination to commit herself, ‘body and soul’ to the Fuhrer. But this was in the days when many members of the privileged classes remained convinced that some form of appeasement could be achieved; insisting that Hitler was sympathetic to the concept of a global collaboration between the German army and the British navy. Meanwhile, according to Unity’s diary, following her introduction to Hitler the entire Mitford family, with the exception of Nancy, had soon travelled to Munich to be introduced to the great dictator. While she remained publicly critical of her family’s fascist sympathies, her criticism was somewhat hypocritical as she had already joined Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in 1933.
The Mitford’s sympathy with Nazi politics was a matter of considerable public knowledge, largely due to their mothers ability to publicise such in various national newspapers. But in 1939, after war had been declared, such opinions and sympathies rapidly became less acceptable and apart from Nancy, who continued to ridicule the family and even assisted in having Diana and Mosley incarcerated, they all kept a sensibly low profile. Having failed in her attempted suicide, Unity even managed to avoid any form of interrogation, let alone internment.
At the end of the war, with Unity and her brother Tom deceased, Nancy following her lover to Paris, Diana and Mosley (still committed to fascism) moving first to Ireland and then France, Jessica in America and Pam living with her female partner in Switzerland it was left to Debo to burnish the families tarnished reputation.
Having married the future Duke of Devonshire in 1943, Debo had to wait until 1950 before the old Duke died and she could adopt the title of Duchess and the power and status that went with it. Not only did she work tirelessly to turn Chatsworth, the Devonshires’ country seat into a highly profitable business but with tireless energy and often ruthless charm she also managed to minimise the political content of many books about the family.
Unity was her biggest problem, for there was no use in denying her commitment to fascism, hatred of Jews and love of Hitler. Lady Redesdale had already threatened the Daily Mail with legal action if it failed to retract its obituary of her daughter. So what Debo did was to create a whole new public profile for Unity Valkyrie, claiming that she was just an easily led, rather unattractive and unintelligent, juvenile romantic. She even insisted that Unity was little more than a vegetable when she returned from Germany. Many years later, government reports were released that she had actually continued to lead an extremely active life and even had affaires with a number of RAF officers.
When David Pryce-Jones chose to write Unity’s biography he came under intense pressure to accept Debo’s analysis. When he refused to do so he was threatened with legal action. These constant threats continued even after his book, ‘Unity Mitford, a quest’ was published and the book now remains out of print. However, the whitewash will doubtless continue to be supported by those who prefer their Mitfords served sky-blue!
David R. Litchfield is the author of Hitler's Valkyrie: The Uncensored Biography of Unity Mitford - an account of 'the only Englishwoman who came close to being capable of changing the course of the Second World War'.
* Photographs can portray the beautiful stories from history. The British Library has released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for people to use however they see fit. The images have been taken from pages of seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century books by technology giant Microsoft and given to the library for free.
* Which historical figure has the biggest reputation? How will Justin Bieber stand up against Jesus through history? Time magazine has listed the top 500 historical figures by systematically measuring each figure's historical significance into a single consensus value (similar to the way Google ranks webpages). The aim is to see which figures will still populate future generations mindshare in the years to come.
* Work has begun in Leicester on the £4million visitor centre to commemorate the exhumation of King Richard III's body last year. The centre will tell the story of the king's life, his brutal death at Bosworth Field in 1485 and the discovery of his grave by University of Leicester archaeologists and the Richard III Society.
* This week proved eventful for archaeologists with several discoveries that broke new scientific ground. Radiocarbon dating results revealed that a body found in a bog in Ireland is 600 years older than previously thought, making it the oldest to be discovered in Europe.
* A bit closer to home, scientists have reconstructed a Neolithic man found buried in a 300-foot-long mauseleom. The enamel on the man's teeth allowed scientists to determine the composition of his drinking water and to learn that he moved back and forth between modern Wales and the area surrounding Stonehenge until well into his teens.
* The discovery of an ancient bone at a burial site in Kenya puts the origin of human hand dexterity more than half a million years earlier than previously thought. It is the earliest fossilised evidence of when humans developed a strong enough grip to start using tools.
* Scientists in China have discovered an 'important step' in the modern domestication of cats. Scientists believe it was the cat's appetite that led to domestication; grain stored by ancient farmers was a magnet for rodents, which in turn attracted wild cats. Over time, the cats adapted to village life and became tame around their human hosts.
* British criminal Ronnie Biggs, who took part in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, died this week aged 84. Biggs was part of the gang which escaped with £2.6million from the Glasgow to London mail train on 8 August 1963.
Victoria Barnsley, former CEO of Harper Collins, gave an interview on BBC Radio 4, where she discussed the role of women in publishing, the future of self-publishing and new business models.
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
Billericay is a very historic town whose origins go back to pre-historic times although for many years it was not an independent town, but was regarded as a hamlet of the village of Great Burstead; albeit a very large hamlet . The town is connected with two important events in British history and one event that at the time attracted national and international attention.
In the summer of 1381 some of the residents of Billericay took part in the Peasant’s Revolt against the unfair imposition by the Government of the day of a Poll Tax on the population of England. It was in Norsey Wood just to the north of Billericay that the Peasants made their last desperate, but unsuccessful stand against the forces of the King. During the 19th Century a workman who was digging gravel in the Wood found a ditch and a cave containing some charcoal and pieces of brick which may have been connected with the Peasants’ last stand.
Billericay is also associated with the Mayflower Settlers of America. The Secretary of the Mayflower Settlers was Christopher Martin who came from the town and who also owned three properties in it. Two of the properties were across the road from what is now the Chantry Café, and this is probably why the suggestion that he lived in that building arose. Christopher Martin was a mercer (linen draper) and a former church warden of Billericay’s then mother parish Great Burstead, who it appears may have had differences with the vicar of the latter, William Pease, who was a tenant of his and so turned Puritan and from there got involved with the Mayflower Settlers. When Christopher Martin went to America with him also went his wife and his step-son. During the mid 1920s there was a possibility that Christopher Martin’s supposed old home might be sold, dismantled and shipped to Boston in America and re-erected there. The news of the possible sale, dismantling and shipping to America made national news and the matter was raised in Parliament in London. Fortunately this did not happen. The Mayflower is commemorated in several ways in Billericay. A likeness of it features on the town sign. There is a Mayflower Hall in Billericay and one of the town’s secondary schools is named after the ship.
During the First World War on the night of 23rd/24th September 1916 the German Zeppelin airship L32 was brought down just to the south of Billericay with the loss of its crew. The place where the airship had crashed attracted great crowds who came not only from the immediate neighbourhood, but also further afield including London. The Great Eastern Railway, which served Billericay, put on six special trains to enable people to go to the town to see the site of the crash. In booking the large number of sightseers back home the town’s railway station ran out of tickets. The event was reported in newspapers throughout the world as well as in Britain. One of the local newspapers serving Billericay, the Southend Standard, produced an illustrated supplement on the airship’s crash. The airman who was responsible for the destruction of the airship, Second Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey, Royal Flying Corps was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for having brought down the airship.
Phil Shanahan is the author of History Press title The Real Enigma Heroes which highlights one of the greatest but least known stories of WW2. As a journalist Phil led a campaign to bring the three unknown heroes at the centre of his book to worldwide attention. Their actions played a major part in shortening the war, but the mission was kept secret for decades. Here Phil describes the excitement of seeing the daring mission at the heart of his book spectacularly brought back to life at the British Military Tournament:
The U-boat model stretched virtually the length of the Earls Court arena. Nearly two hundred feet long and bathed in a moody blue light, it made a dramatic start to the show.
With the sub crippled at the surface, we watched a small vessel arrive from the British destroyer HMS Petard. The thrilling capture of the Enigma codebooks from the U-599 was then played out to a packed audience. Projected images of all three men appeared on giant screens high above the action.
Around 50,000 people witnessed the re-enactment at the weekend including Prince William and other members of the Royal Family. As the U-boat rose from the floor the men’s profile went through the roof. Former SAS man and novelist Andy McNab narrated their story to thunderous applause.
It was yet another amazing milestone in an incredible saga which began on the night of October 30, 1942 when First Lieutenant Tony Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier lost their lives capturing Enigma material from the sinking German U-boat. They were helped by a young NAAFI canteen assistant, Tommy Brown, who survived the incident only to die in a house fire while still a teenager.
The material enabled Bletchley Park’s codebreakers to crack the German’s naval Enigma code, shortening the war by up to two years. But the mission was kept secret for decades after the war ended. Not even the men's families could be told they had paved the way for peace.
The need for secrecy turned the men into the ultimate unsung war heroes. During my research for my book, The Real Enigma Heroes, I even came across old Tamworth Herald cuttings declaring the men had died in an ‘unsuccessful’ action. In reality, they had played a major role in winning the Battle of the Atlantic, a battle Churchill described as crucial to the outcome of the Second World War.
It was fitting then, that Grazier, Fasson and Brown should be celebrated in such style at the UK’s biggest fundraiser for the Armed Forces. It was an extremely moving performance, heightened by the beautiful music played by the Central Band of the RAF (Filandia, op 26, by Jean Sibelius).
After decades of anonymity, I’m proud that news of what these three men achieved is continuing to spread. At Earls Court I chatted to people from across the UK who had read my book or the features I have written in the national press.
The show itself was an extremely emotional experience for me as I reflected on the three individuals and the amazing journey they have led me on since I started the campaign to bring them to public attention.
In addition to a fabulous sculpture in St Editha’s Square, Tamworth, we’ve had roads named after all three of them, their ship and even Bletchley Park where the material they seized enabled codebreakers to finally crack Enigma. A large corporate building and a £1m hotel have both been named after Colin Grazier. A stunning glass window celebrates Tommy Brown in his home town of North Shields. Two annual events to celebrate them man are organised each year by the Royal British Legion and Tamworth Royal Naval Association. There is an engraved bench to the heroes at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and I also accepted an award in their honour from the Celebrity Guild of Great Britain at a glittering occasion in London.
I was invited to present a copy of my book to Prince Charles and Camilla, I met the Duke of Kent, and I was granted the freedom of Bletchley Park. I also officially opened Hut 8 to the public, the very hut where the German naval Enigma code was finally broken.
I have the three men to thank for so many extraordinary experiences. The book has led to coverage on TV, radio and somewhat surprisingly on the CIA website. My clash with a Hollywood director over the controversial film U-571 was reported on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s been some journey and it remains a big part of my life today. I give talks in various parts of the country and I’ve named my publicity and copywriting business – Enigma Communications.
For me this story has been life-changing. But far more importantly than that, three courageous men, who helped change the course of history, have received fitting accolades for what their brave and hugely significant actions achieved.
To find out more about the unsung war heroes and the struggle to gain them the recognition they deserve, check out 'The Real Enigma Heroes' by Phil Shanahan.
Welcome to the first Friday Digest of 2014!
* The first day at work after the holidays is always a challenge but we're excited to be back! Here's a round-up of the news you missed over the Christmas break.
* The New Year's Day episode of Sherlock included a plot line about abandoned London Underground stations but why do people find them so alluring? For those interested in Tube stations, this ghost map of London's Underground is fascinating!
* From Victorian eyelash transplants and depilation by cancerous X-rays: the most dangerous beauty treatments through the ages.
* Everyone is fixated on the anniversary of the start of the First World War, but there is another German anniversary to commemorate in 2014.
* A guide to Second World War propaganda and what it really meant.
* A designer has created a robotic servant that helps to dry hands using an 800-year-old Arabic design.
* One reader's Kindle envy...
* Restoration work has begun on the Colosseum after a $33 million donation from Diego della Valle, the owner of the luxury leather goods company Tod's. Valle told CBS News, 'I am very proud to be Italian,' and added, 'This is the most important Italian monument and symbol.'
* In their own enthralling words, the heroism of the forgotten British troops who fought in the Korean War.
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
When it comes to verbals in cricket, how much is too much?
This question has arisen from the feisty Ashes series dominated by Australia, where there has been a great deal of flak flying on and off the field. I have been asked several times about this since the series started, and in my view, some of it has been overblown - but yes, there have been times when a line has been crossed and certain parties have let themselves down.
Let us be straight here. This stuff has always gone on in cricket, and not just the highly-pressured Ashes. It occurs in the greatest arenas in the world, and I cannot think of a nation that doesn't play its part. In my autobiography, Keeping Quiet, I described how the Sri Lankan fielders treated me to the most fierce verbal 'welcome' I have ever received when walking out to bat in the 2007 World Cup. They were like a pack of wild animals. The content of what they said wasn't for the faint-hearted - you'll have to buy the book for the uncensored account.
There is no shame in dishing it out and taking it, when the heat is on and you are going hard at each other as teams. There is something to be said for subtlety with your words and actions - getting under an opponent's skin, mentally, doesn't have to be achieved through abuse - but international cricket should always be about passion and intensity. There is no more challenging arena.
The game, though, has moved to a different place during the later years of my career and since I retired. There are cameras and microphones picking up almost every utterance in the middle. There is no point in the players objecting to that - it is there, and they have to adjust their actions accordingly.
Sometimes it is difficult to know what is acceptable and what isn't. Once the current Ashes series is over, I imagine Michael Clarke, the Aussie captain, will regret saying that Jimmy Anderson should "get ready for a broken arm" - a comment that was heard in the First Test at the Gabba. There is a line that shouldn't be crossed and Clarke will probably accept that such a remark strayed a bit too far. But again - in the heat of the moment certain things happen that normally wouldn't. It is not always easy to contain it.
Cricket is a man's game. In many ways there is nothing to do other than step up to the plate, as my old friend Steve Waugh often says. With their performances and attitude Australia have certainly done that. They have deserved the success they have had. I do think, though, that elements of the Australian press have joined in a little too eagerly. Some of the front-page treatment of England players like Stuart Broad has been in poor taste. I think those sections of the Aussie media let themselves down. On the pitch, did David Warner also drop his standards when he celebrated his Perth hundred by roaring in the faces of some of the England players?
Again, it's a matter of opinion. Mine is that I'm all for players showing emotion, but this game has a habit of biting your backside if you treat it badly. Old Mother Cricket comes around you, taps you on the back and says that certain things ought to be remembered. If you make a hundred in an Ashes Test, you are free to celebrate it big-style (unless you've been dropped five times and ridden your luck all the way home). It's a superb achievement that few cricketers are able to touch. But there is no reason why this cannot go hand-in-hand with a bit of humility. I think the time is coming when we will see a couple of rival players going toe-to-toe in the middle when things get really over-heated.
The game needs to be aware of this and umpires and captains need to be on alert. International cricket is a special game because of its intensity but it would be a serious shame if things got really out of hand.
Follow Paul Nixon on Twitter @Paulnico199...
Paul Nixon's Keeping Quiet is available for £2.99 from our website...
Katherine Holden will be at Foyles, Cabot Circus on Friday 17th January from 6-8pm, giving a talk and signing copies of her book, Nanny Knows Best: The History of the British Nanny.
This book weaves personal stories viewed through the eyes of nannies, mothers and children into a fascinating cultural history of the iconic British nanny. Katherine Holden goes beyond the myths to discover where our tradition of employing nannies comes from and to explore the ways in which it has and has not changed over the past century. From the Norland Nannies’ ‘method’ and the magical Mary Poppins, to the terrifying breach of trust in films, The Nanny and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, to today’s child-tamer ‘Supernanny’, our culture has alternately welcomed and rejected this approach to child-care. The tales told in this history reach to the heart of the nanny dilemma that parents still struggle with today.
In August 1878, the Summer Assizes began at Gloucester, and separate county and city grand juries were sworn in to consider all the cases waiting to be tried. The judge, Mr Justice Manisty, addressed the County Grand Jury first, and commented on the large number of county prisoners (35) on the calendar. The City Grand Jury, on the other hand, had only one criminal case to consider. The judge congratulated the jury members on the absence of serious crime in the city. This was not an isolated case, as newspaper reports on the Assizes frequently mentioned the paucity of cases for the city. It was not uncommon for the city to present no prisoners for trial at all; on such occasions the City Sheriff would present the judge with a pair of white kid gloves, to commemorate the happy event.
In truth, Gloucester did see its fair share of crime and disorder. The local newspapers of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries contained frequent reports on the proceedings of the city's courts of petty sessions, where magistrates faced an almost daily procession of miscreants charged with assault, theft, disorderly behaviour and drunkenness. When it came to the most serious of crimes, however, Gloucester did not experience an extensive amount of violent crime, especially when compared with the number of offences which took place in other parts of the county.
Murder was, of course, the most serious crime for which a person could stand trial, and the only offence by the mid-nineteenth century which could result in a death sentence. Between 1872 and 1939, seventeen people were hanged at Gloucester Prison after being found guilty of committing murder, but only one of these prisoners was tried at the City Assizes. This did not mean that only one person stood trial for murder in the city, though. Some defendants were found not guilty; others were charged with committing murder but were found guilty of manslaughter instead. Some were charged with manslaughter in the first place, if it was thought that the defendant had not intended to kill, or with attempted murder, when the victim of the crime did not die. Finally, there were those most unfortunate cases which never got as far as a criminal court, where a dead body was found, apparently a victim of violence, but with no obvious culprit, a coroner’s inquest would return a verdict of `murdered by a person or persons unknown’.
Gloucester Murder & Crime by Jill Evans is available here from The History Press
Why is it that so many of us have a passion for the past, especially when we see images of the places of our youth? Crewe, along with most towns has undergone great changes in the years since the Second World War. A person born in 1870 and brought up in Crewe would have instantly recognised where they were if placed on the Square in 1950. Not so now as all the railway houses to the west have been demolished to be replaced by the buildings erected post 1950. We, the pensioners of today, might look back to the street scenes of our youth and consider them halcyon days realistically though many of the changes were necessary.
Our town of Crewe needed a recognisable modern shopping centre in place of a dense mass of cottage homes as no chain stores or national retailers would have entertained the idea of locating here. Granted that retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Woolworths, Boots and Burtons had set up in Crewe in the 1920s. This meant that they occupied the only sites of any commercial worth, though even then some of their entrances opened onto a narrow and dismal street of terraced houses.
One problem that did exercise the minds of local politicians in the fifties was how to cope with increasing traffic through and across the town. It is a problem that has not been fully resolved in 2013. Thankfully, buses and other vehicular traffic no longer have to negotiate the tight bends and narrow streets such as Burton’s corner as can be viewed on page 56 of this book. It is much safer now to walk in a pedestrianized town centre yet why does a town have to lose its distinctive identity. Crewe, at least retains some vestiges of railway housing, modernised yet still recognisable as nineteenth century dwellings. (see pages 64/5 & 84/5)
In the Earle street area the Municipal Buildings can be seen now in a way that was impossible in the 1950s when they were hidden in the shadows of the Mechanics Institute and associated structures. Similarly, the Market Hall still stands after over 150 years having narrowly escaped the demolition hammer when nearby buildings went.
I suppose the answer to the question with which we started is that as we get older we are filled with nostalgia for our lost youth.
Peter Ollerhead's Crewe Then & Now can be purchased from The History Press today.
This week's update features giant puppets, the map that saved the Tube and manly slang from the nineteenth century.
* Michael Gove found himself in the limelight again this week after he criticised 'Blackadder myths' about the First World War. Blackadder star Sir Tony Robinson also waded into the debate, along with journalists such Richard J. Evans who derided Gove's ignorance of history.
* In the aftermath of the discussion, Musa Okwonga has called for 'this open debate [to] extend to a thorough discussion of the British Empire in the curriculum', something that he feels is sadly lacking in the current system. Do you agree?
* The Sea Odyssey giant puppets will be returning to Liverpool for an event to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War. 'Memories of August 1914' will see Little Girl Giant and her dog Xolo return to the city's streets from 23 to 27 July this year.
* Berlin 1914: A city of ambition and self-doubt. One hundred years ago, Germany was an industrial powerhouse and Berlin had hopes of becoming a great world city. Instead, with the outbreak of the First World War, decades of catastrophe followed.
* In 1914 Europe was about to tear itself apart, but Londoners were more preoccupied with the overcrowding on the Tube. The Tube was fast losing money and public support until the map that saved the London Underground was produced...
* A map showing the locations of the weirdest London stories, by James Clark.
* Susan Bordo explains why you shouldn't believe everything you've heard about Anne Boleyn.
* A look at The Winter Queen of Bohemia, one of the most powerful women in history.
* Fimble famble, hobbadehoy and other manly slang from the nineteenth century.
* Winterthur Museum & Library Blog ask 'how do you study the material culture of 18th-century indentured and enslaved servants?'
* The real history behind 12 Years a Slave: who was Solomon Northup?
* After a judge's ruling last month noted that Holmes is in fact out of copyright, anyone can now write and publish a Sherlock Holmes story. The love life of The ‘Real’ Sherlock Holmes may provide some much needed inspiration for Sherlock fans...
* The Scottish Government has been criticised over their bid to build homes at Culloden, one of Scotland's most famous battlefields.
* Upon the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Kegworth air disaster, BBC News shares the plane crash survivors' stories.
* A profile of Hollywood make-up legend Max Factor and his 'Beauty Calibrator'.
* The wills of some of history’s most famous names, including William Shakespeare and Jane Austen have been published online for the first time.
* Many bookworms make New Year's reading resolutions, but if you are struggling with trying to decide which books you should be reading, why not try one of the 32 books that will change your life or one of the most anticipated book releases of 2014?
* Buzzfeed share 18 reasons to love literary Dublin.
* The first 3D-printed book cover is pretty amazing...
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
‘Tommies on the Aisne 1914’ is an exhibition which will be open from 16th April 2014 until 20th December 2014 at the Caverne du Dragon, Musée du Chemin des Dames, France. The purpose of the exhibition is to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the First Aisne. The exhibition will comprise of images, documents, artefacts which have been sourced from various sources, including Paul Kendall’s book ‘Aisne 1914: The Dawn of Trench Warfare’(Published by The History Press). The exhibition will tell the story of the BEF’s journey to the Aisne from the UK, via Mons and the Marne. It will highlight the entente cordial between British and French armies and their resilience and determination as they crossed the River Aisne under shellfire, established a bridgehead on the northern bank and then climbed the steep ridges of the Chemin des Dames where they fought the Battle of the First Aisne during September 1914.These exhausted soldiers had no knowledge whether the German forces would continue their withdrawal northwards towards Laon or hold the line.
The exhibition will enforce the fact that the first trenches of the Western Front that stretched across the European frontier were dug during Aisne 1914. Part of the exhibition will be set in a room within the museum which has panoramic views of the Aisne valley where visitors will be able to appreciate the enormity of the task that befell the soldiers of the BEF as they clambered up these heights. This exhibition will appeal to visitors who have knowledge of this battle as well to people who have no knowledge of the events that took place here a hundred years ago. This is a French initiative being funded by the French Government. Throughout the year various events will take place including lectures and walks of the battlefield to commemorate the centenary year of Aisne 1914.
La Caverne du Dragon, Musée du Chemin des Dames
Chemin des Dames – RD 18 CD
Telephone: 03 23 25 14 18
Paul Kendall served as an Honorary Midshipman with the University of London Royal Naval Unit from 1990 to 1994. He is the author of the best-selling The Zeebrugge Raid 1918: ‘The Finest Feat of Arms’, Bullecourt 1917: Breaching the Hindenburg Line and Aisne 1914: The Dawn of Trench Warfare. As anyone who has read those books will know, his research is of another order.
As Kingsnorth Power Station is decommissioned, and people start looking back to the events of a century ago, it seems fitting to consider how Kingsnorth was transformed from marsh and farmland to the industrial landscape, bordering the south shore of the Medway today.
When Walter Miskin negotiated relinquishing his lease on Kingsnorth Farm and the sale of land at neighbouring Barton’s Farm, on the Hoo peninsula, towards the end of 1913, he could hardly have imagined the chain of events that would follow.
The Admiralty’s plan for a simple airship station changed in June 1914 when the Royal Naval Air Service was formed, placing airships and their development in the hands of the Navy. Work was relocated from Farnborough to Kingsnorth under Commander Usborne and by the time Great Britain joined the war 230 military personnel were based here. One airship shed was lengthened and more building work was planned to accommodate the increasing number of workers and the range of work they were undertaking. H.I. Oakley, the supervising Civil Engineer from Chatham Naval Dockyard appointed Mr Ferrett as site foreman; he dealt with the many contractors working on the site. Carting materials from Beluncle Halt onto the site provided extra work for John Blackman of Pearce’s Farm, Hoo, other local people were employed on the site as it grew and staff numbers increased, women such as Ada Stratford and Florrie Miskin, who worked in the Fabric Shop, May Hooker in the Inspection and Marking Out department, Elsie Perkins learned French polishing for the instrument panels and Jessie Pelling worked as a welder on the aluminium framed gondolas. Local men did labouring on the site, on leaving school Eric Smith was employed in the experimental laboratories and Alf Bates was a driver.
Once a successful design for the Submarine Scout airship had been produced, Kingsnorth started production of airships and training pilots. Thomas B. Williams, one of the early airship pilots, recalled that trainee pilots were involved in the building of airships, ensuring they knew their ship inside-out.
The station itself continued to grow with the initial Silicol Hydrogen plant supplemented with a water-gas plant, a standard gauge rail link to Sharnal Street Station and internal narrow gauge lines. By the end of the war only the semi-detached labourers’ cottages known as Sparrow Castle remained of the original farm. The staff photo taken in 1918 has 637 military personnel and 266 civilian workers. War over, the men left, the site was sold for industrial use, and Kingsnorth was forever changed.
Tina Bilbé's Kingsnorth Airship Station: In Defence of the Nation is available from The History Press today.
For far too long now, the full scale of Henry VIII’s misdeeds and miscalculations has been largely hidden from public view – mainly, it seems, beneath the copious skirts of his six wives, all of whom, both individually and collectively, have received far more than their fair share of literary attention.
While historians, popular and otherwise, have poured forth books about Henry the husband and his unfortunate bedmates, other far more pertinent features of his rule have gone largely unmentioned. Henry the spendthrift, would-be warrior, Henry the impulsive religious dabbler, not to mention Henry the man who single-handedly spawned the turmoil of the next two reigns, are all images of the king that are likely to remain curiously unfamiliar to many modern-day readers who might well consider themselves keen students of the reign.
And when the most famous Tudor’s notorious ruthlessness is considered at all, it is still often trivialised - the regrettable by-product, as it were, of a one-dimensional pantomime villain whose more high-profile victims suffer their fate with an equally one-dimensional passivity and inevitability. In the meantime, for the more obscure – and often far more hideously abused – casualties of Henry’s manic repression, there is only oblivion.
Most of us are aware, after all, of the fate of Thomas More, but far fewer, I suspect, know the full details of the imprisonment and slaughter of the London Carthusians who resisted the imposition of the royal supremacy. During their confinement in a stinking dungeon at Newgate Jail over seventeen days, Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate were chained to posts, loaded with lead, prevented from sitting and ‘never loosed for any natural necessity’ before being hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
Their prior, John Houghton, had suffered a similar execution earlier in the month, after which one of his arms was nailed to the door of the London Charterhouse as a gory reminder to the monks inside of what they, too, could expect.
Is all this common knowledge? And are, for that matter, the other excesses and follies of England’s most famous king generally appreciated: his hugely counter-productive escapades abroad; his needless search for a male heir and bungled divorce; his largely gratuitous break with Rome and gross financial mismanagement; his disastrously bungled will and testament that blighted the reign of his ‘well-beloved’ successor so grievously? Once again, I suspect not. Perhaps, therefore, it’s time to cast new light on long-neglected dark corners and open a more than timely debate on the nature and causes of tyranny, and what, above all, made this particular tyrant tick.
John Matusiak is the author of Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England's Nero which is available from The History Press
The Forgotten Men of the London Underground
At this very moment in time there are huge mechanical earthworms journeying through subterranean London. Working day and night, these loud and heavy beasts, known as Tunnel Boring Machines, are creating new tunnels below the city, as part of the Crossrail transport route that is set to change the way people move across this historical city.
Things were a lot different 150 years ago. Work began in 1860 on the Metropolitan Railway, the original line on what would later become the famous London Underground network. It was to be a short route of just three and a half miles, connecting the busy railway stations at Paddington, Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras to the City of London.
But what it lacked in distance it made up for in vision. Railway tunnels were not new, but the concept of an entire railway below the streets was revolutionary. The press decided it would never work, but a sceptical public soon warmed to the idea of descending below ground to ride a train, and within weeks of opening in January 1863 the Metropolitan Railway was carrying thousands of people every day.
Much has been written about the great men behind the idea of the railway; the foresight of John Pearson, who not only saw the Metropolitan as a solution to London’s congested streets but also as a way of clearing slums and improving the lives of the poor, and John Fowler, the great engineer with the requisite skill needed to make such a radical idea work.
Less well remembered though are the men who were tasked with actually building the railway. There were no Tunnel Boring Machines in the 1860s, or even anything other than basic hand tools. This was to be an arduous task that could only be achieved by months of back-breaking work. Fortunately for the owners of the Metropolitan Railway, there was a particular band of hard-working men they could call on to get the job done.
They were known collectively as ‘navvies’; derived from the word ‘navigator’, which itself was used as a name for those who built navigable canals. Miles of canal had been constructed in the first half of the 19th century, opening trade routes from London out across Great Britain, with the work having been carried out by thousands of navigators.
There were said to be more than 200,000 navvies working across Britain in the 19th century, the vast majority being former tin miners from Cornwall, or farmers from Scotland and Ireland. The men were willing to go wherever there was enough work, and with the job on the new canal network largely complete, they found steady work with railway companies across the country.
To have the navvies work on the construction of a project such as the Metropolitan Railway was beneficial for all parties. The company was guaranteed a cheap but dedicated workforce who was willing to work long hours in poor, often dangerous conditions. The navvies meanwhile were guaranteed lots of work for a rate of pay that although was cheap to the company, was actually generous in comparison to other jobs.
With little regard for their own personal safety, thousands of navvies worked tirelessly to build the new railway, digging their way through the streets of London from Paddington to Farringdon. The work involved using a construction method known as cut-and-cover, where a trench would be dug below an existing road. Track would then be laid in the trenches, and shored up on either side by a lining of brick. The trenches would then be roofed over and the road re-built on top.
It was a long and frequently dangerous process. There were several serious injuries and deaths during construction, including a horrific incident early on when two men were killed by an exploding boiler on a steam engine being used to remove earth. The workers also had to contend with frequent floods from the buried River Fleet, which ran close to where the railway route made it’s way through the Clerkenwell area towards Farringdon.
The only downside for the Metropolitan Railway in employing navvies was the bad reputation that tended to precede their every move. This was a group of men who worked hard and played even harder, unwinding in the evenings with legendary drinking sessions that almost always ended in a mass brawl. The railway company was hit with several complaints from the police, landlords and members of the public, all of whom demanded that the men be properly managed.
The Metropolitan Railway owners weren’t too fussed about the trouble their men were causing though, especially considering much of the uproar was in London’s most notorious slum areas. A few years later however, when the navvies were used to construct the Metropolitan District Railway, the men were this time causing havoc in some of west London’s most affluent areas.
Construction methods used across London’s growing subterranean railway improved over the following decades. Tunnelling shields, based on the same principle as the pioneering device designed by Marc Brunel for his famed Thames Tunnel, were used to build the tunnels of what today are the Northern, Waterloo & City, Central, Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines.
It was still a backbreaking job for the men working at the face of a tunnelling shield, with the vast majority of construction work still done by hand. Unlike the cut-and-cover method, which only required shallow trenches, the ‘deep level’ lines were built far below ground, with actual tunnels being built. Conditions were therefore cramped, dark, cold and wet.
The later Victoria and Jubilee lines benefitted from the use of more automated tunnel digging machinery during their construction, but even then there was still much handwork to be done. Modern Tunnel Boring Machines became the norm on projects like the Jubilee Line Extension in the mid-late 1990s, and through various extensions of the Docklands Light Railway, yet they still required dirty and sometimes dangerous work.
2013 was full of fantastic events to mark 150 years of the London Underground, with special steam train runs that have recreated the original Metropolitan Railway route, and many great articles written about Pearson and Fowler, and men like James Henry Greathead, Frank Pick, Charles Yerkes, Harry Beck, Charles Holden and other names who played a key role in the history of the world’s most iconic transport system.
Let’s not forget those hardworking and brave men who made it all happen though. It’s thanks to their dedication and skill that we are still riding through those very same tunnels and trenches over a century and a half later.
Find out more about the men who worked on the London Underground with Working the London Underground: From 1863 to 2013 by Ben Pedroche.
This week's update features love letters from the trenches, fashion laws and fasting.
* A number of First World War unit diaries were placed online by the National Archives this week. The documents detail day-to-day activities on the frontline as well as details of battle engagements
* For the next four years, people will be looking back at those who were killed but can we ever really know 'the lost generation'?
* Teaching the First World War: what do Europe's pupils learn about the conflict?
* A new book has gathered together love letters and other correspondence to and from soldiers fighting in the First World War and they are heart-wrenching.
* Melting glaciers in Peio,a small alpine ski resort in northern Italy, have revealed the corpses of First World War soldiers that have been preserved for a century.
* History Today discuss the complex origins of the First World War.
* Approximately 26 million people died on the Eastern Front and up to 4 million are still officially considered missing in action, but a team of volunteers have taken up the search for their bodies.
* As a stock of famous writers' wills are posted online, we can be glad of the insights they give us into their authors.
* According to official papers published after almost 150 years, armed insurrectionists plotted to kidnap Queen Victoria while she was in residence in Balmoral.
* Work to build a £1 million rail link between two heritage railway lines used as film sets has begun this week in Loughborough.
* A Journal of English Renaissance Studies discusses the art of recovering Richard III.
* Historical Honey share their top ten British castles, but which ones would you add to the list?
* A map showing British County flags, but which is your favourite?
* Scientists investigating a murder mystery dating back more than eighty years have made a breakthrough that could finally identify the victim.
* Diets and fasts have now become de rigeur but some religious organisations have been fasting for years: here is a monk's guide to fasting.
* The BBC is celebrating sixty years of the British TV weather forecast. The weather may get a gloomy reception from most Brits but the weather presenters were much more warmly received.
* It is hard to see many upsides to the horrible storms we have been having recently, but the discovery of this wreck of The Sunbeam at Rossbeigh Strand in Co. Kerry which had been embedded in the sand for 111 years is something to celebrate.
* Historical Honey share an 'off the beaten track' guide to London.
* James Beardon takes a look at London during the Second World War.
* Be more than a reader: how to support your favourite authors.
* We Love This Book share the best books of 2014.
* Publishing Perspectives share some thoughts on digital publishing in 2014.
* The future of the book (part 654).
* Rachel Cooke asks how can we make sense of the world without reading stories?
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
On 18 January 1912 Captain Robert Scott, Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, Dr Edward Wilson, Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates and Edgar ‘Taff’ Evans reached the South Pole.
On the long return journey to their base at Cape Evans (almost 900 miles away), Evans then Oates succumbed to frostbite and other ailments. By 22 March Scott, Bowers and Wilson were trapped in a blizzard-bound tent; Scott was immobilised by a badly frost-bitten foot and they were out of fuel and food. Towards the end of March all three died, about 150 miles from Cape Evans.
By that time the Terra Nova had returned from New Zealand, restocked the base, and left again. A party from Cape Evans had tried to meet up with Scott’s party and rush the news back to the ship, but had been thwarted by poor weather. From early April, as darkness fell and temperatures dropped, all the remaining members of the expedition could do was hope that Scott’s party might return. But the five bunks previously occupied by Scott, Bowers, Wilson, Oates and Evans remained empty.
On 29 October a party set out from Cape Evans to try to establish what had happened to the South Pole party. On 11 November they found Bowers, Wilson and Scott dead in their tent, together with letters and journals explaining that all five men had reached the Pole and that Oates and Evans had died earlier. They collapsed Scott’s tent over the three bodies, held a memorial service and built a cairn to commemorate their five friends. Now they could break the news to their companions at Cape Evans but outside world would need to wait until the pack ice allowed the Terra Nova to return in early 1913.
Back in Britain, Birdie Bowers’ mother, Emily, and other expedition family members awaited news. In March 1912 they learned that Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole in December 1911. In early April news arrived from New Zealand that Scott had included Birdie in the South Pole party but that they had not been expected back at Cape Evans until after the Terra Nova left Antarctica. Newspapers carried pictures of Birdie and his companions and information on the expedition – but soon the headlines were about the sinking of the Titanic with the loss of over 1,500 lives.
Now, all Emily Bowers, and the families of other expedition members could do was to read and re-read letters from loved ones and wait until the Terra Nova sailed again from New Zealand to Antarctica to pick up the remaining members of the party, including, all being well, Scott, Bowers, Wilson, Oates and Evans.
They would need to wait until 10 February 1913 for the long Antarctic silence to be broken when two men landed in Oamaru, New Zealand, with news of the expedition.
To read more about what happened to Scott, Birdie Bowers and their companions, read Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, Birdie Bowers: Captain Scott’s Marvel. Scott, Birdie Bowers and their companions can be seen at Cape Evans and setting out on their journey in the BFI re-mastered version of Great White Silence.
In February 2013 there will be re-enactments of the landing in New Zealand and other events in Oamaru, New Zealand, see http://www.oamaruscott100.org.nz/
Ruth Symes will be at Waterstones, Altrincham on 1st February from 11am. She will be holding a photo discussion and signing copies of her book, It Runs in the Family: Understanding More About Your Ancestors.
Drawing on evidence from social history, women’s history, and the histories of photography, art and fashion, and using examples from the lowly as well as the famous, Ruth Symes explores many aspects of ordinary life in the past – from the state of the nation’s teeth, to the legal and economic connotations of wearing a wedding ring and even the business of keeping a dog. This fascinating volume aims to help family historians get to know their elusive ancestors by deciphering the wealth of personal and historical clues contained in photographs, documents and artefacts.
Maureen James will be at Lincoln Central Library on 1st February from 2:30-3:30pm signing copies of her book, Lincolnshire Folk Tales.
Lincolnshire, a county with many variations in the dialect, once nurtured many folk tales and though these stories may no longer be told as often as they once were, they still resonate within the rural landscape. From the dark tales of the ‘Buried Moon’, ‘The Lincoln Imp’, and the ‘Werewolf of Langrick Fen’, to the humorous tales of ‘Ten-Pint Smith’, ‘The Lad that went to look for Fools’ and the ‘Farmer and the Boggart’, so many of these tales are rooted in the county and take us back to a time when the people would huddle around the fire in the mud and stud cottages to while away the long winter evenings. Such nights would also inspire the telling of tales of witches, fairies, ghosts, giants and dragons. All the stories in Lincolnshire Folk Tales have been thoroughly researched and will be of interest to modern readers (and storytellers), both within the county and elsewhere.