Filed under British history

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey

This is one of the most important, but least known historical and archaeological sites in Britain. Gunpowder has played a huge role in modernisation; without it we would not have city states, mining, wars, hunting, and spectacular fireworks. This is from historian Brenda Buchannan: Gunpowder and the explosives and propellants which followed it provided a … Continue reading

Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey

This town is now part of London’s northern commuter belt, but the Abbey was one of the wealthiest before Henry VIII closed it. It was founded by King Harold who was miraculously cured by the relic of the Holy Cross which had come from Montacute in Somerset.  After the Battle of Hastings, some of his … Continue reading

William Henry Hunt Watercolour painter

William Henry Hunt Watercolour painter

Hunt is an artist I’d not heard of, so his show at the Courtauld Institute was an eye opener. Born near Covent Garden in 1790, he was disabled, so unable to do physical work, but fortunately he showed a talent for art so was apprenticed at the age of 14 to John Varley who shared … Continue reading

Edith Walks

I have often wondered why the UK has never produced an equivalent of Kerouac, of Hunter S Thompson, the wild, crazy, drug and alcohol fuelled travellers and story tellers. Yes, I know Britain is a lot smaller. Any road trip would be a lot shorter, but here’s a film that comes close. It begins with … Continue reading

Against the Law

This documentary was screened as part of the BBC’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, i.e., that of males, as the law always assumed that women don’t do such things. It tells the story of journalist Peter Wildeblood who was put on trial with his friends Lord Montague and Michael Pitt-Rivers … Continue reading

Ripper Street

Ripper Street

This is a series I came to late as I had no interest in things related to Jack the Ripper, especially in the wake of the campaign against the ripper museum in London’s East End. But the series is astounding on so many levels. For a start, it is not about the gruesome killings per … Continue reading

How to Create a Perfect Wife

How to Create a Perfect Wife

This is an intriguing book by Wendy Moore, a journalist and author who I’d never heard of. The story fills in a lot of gaps in my historical knowledge, especially featuring the poet Thomas Day who I knew from his famous abolitionist poem The Dying Negro and his book on child centred education. He was … Continue reading

Iron Lung for Polio Victims

Iron Lung for Polio Victims

I am just old enough to remember the horrors of polio. A friend of mine had an older brother who was one of the last to be affected by it – he walked with a stick and his leg was in a brace so he was an object of pity for most of us. When … Continue reading

Shipley Art Gallery

Shipley Art Gallery

This is a brilliant venue, all the more so as it is owned and run by Gateshead Council and is said to have the finest collection of ceramics outside London’s V&A. I visited it when it opened and for an hour I was the only visitor though the staff warned some children were coming later. … Continue reading