World Women’s Day 2020 – Jessie Fawsitt first Civil Air Guard

Jessie Fawsitt was an aviation pioneer in a quiet, unassuming way. She became Britain’s first Civil Air Guard in 1938. This was not planned by Jessie, more a case of serendipity, being in the right place at the right time…

Source: World Women’s Day 2020 – Jessie Fawsitt first Civil Air Guard

All Saints’ Church of Tudeley

The village of Tudeley in KentEngland, contains a small church that dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It’s even believed that parts of the structure may date back to the pre-Norman Conquest of 1066. Once inside, visitors are not greeted by medieval or even Victorian stained glass, but the unmistakable stylings of 20th-century master Marc Chagall…

Source: All Saints’ Church of Tudeley

Reblog – The Guardians Of London’s Lost Rivers

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London is situated upon a river basin and owes its origin to the Thames. Yet once upon a time many other rivers flowed through the city which have been ‘lost,’ mostly absorbed into the modern drainage network or occasionally diverted into decorative water features such as the Serpentine in Hyde Park…

Source:  Spitalfields Life

Nazi spy or sad fantasist? Newly-released files finally shed light on the seaside B&B landlady sentenced to death for treason | Daily Mail Online

Unassuming: Dorothy O'Grady's neighbours knew her as a guest house landlady whose greatest pleasure was walking her Labrador, Rob

Unassuming: Dorothy O’Grady’s neighbours knew her as a guest house landlady whose greatest pleasure was walking her Labrador, Rob

To her neighbours, Dorothy O’Grady was a pleasant middle-aged woman who liked walking her Labrador around their sleepy seaside town.

So when the unassuming landlady of Osborne Villa in the Isle of Wight was suddenly arrested in 1940 on suspicion of being a Nazi spy, few believed it possible…

via Nazi spy or sad fantasist? Newly-released files finally shed light on the seaside B&B landlady sentenced to death for treason | Daily Mail Online

Today is the 199th anniversary of the Peterloo by Christopher Oxford

Written by my friend, Christopher Oxford.
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Today is the 199th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, an epochal event in the development of British democracy.

On August 16th, 1819, St Peter’s Fields, a large open space in the centre of Manchester, was the scene of an atrocity in which mounted soldiers attacked a crowd of over 60,000 peaceful suffrage protesters. Eighteen people, including four women and a child, died from sabre cuts and trampling, and nearly seven hundred more received grievous injuries – all in the name of political emancipation.

Peterloo occurred during a period of immense social tension and mass protests caused by political repression, economic depression and widespread poverty in aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. Fewer than one in fifty people had the vote, and hunger was widespread, with bad harvests, and the disastrous Corn Laws, making the people’s staple food barely affordable.

On the morning of August 16th, crowds began to congregate, coming in from the outlying districts of Manchester, and the surrounding towns; all conducting themselves, according to contemporary accounts, with dignity and discipline, the majority of them dressed in their Sunday best.

The main address was to be given by the inspirational speaker Henry “Orator” Hunt, from a hustings platform consisting of a large agricultural cart, and the Fields were filled with banners – REFORM, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, EQUAL REPRESENTATION and, ironically, LOVE. Many of the banner poles were topped with the red cap of liberty – a powerful symbol from revolutionary France (it was only 26 years since the Terror).

Watching the ever-increasing assembly from a window overlooking the Fields, a local magistrate who had been charged with keeping the peace became uneasy, and after a brief consultation, decided to have the crowd disperse by the officially sanctioned method of reading the Riot Act aloud. Above the hubbub preceding the event, the words could scarcely be heard; but that gave legal cover for what happened subsequently.

In neighbouring streets, an extensive military force had been assembled, in anticipation of disorder: unbelievably, there were six hundred mounted Hussars; two hundred infantrymen; an artillery unit with two six-pounder guns; four hundred men of the local Cheshire cavalry; and additionally, four hundred rapidly sworn-in special constables.

With all these troops held in reserve, the local Yeomanry, led by Captain Hugh Birley and Major Thomas Trafford, a paramilitary force drawn from the ranks of the local mill and shop owners, was given the task of moving and arresting the speakers. Many of them had been drinking while they waited, on an unusually warm summer day. On horseback, armed with sabres and clubs, many were familiar with, and had old scores to settle with, the leading protesters. (In one instance, on spotting a reporter from the radical “Manchester Observer”, a Yeomanry officer was heard to cry “There’s Saxton, damn him – run him through!”)

As the Yeomanry approached the hustings, people in the crowd linked arms to try and prevent the arrests. An order was given to advance regardless, and the first rank of the Yeomanry drew their swords, and proceeded to cut down banners and slash at protestors below them with their razor-edged swords.

The surge of panicked people trying to get out of the way was interpreted from a distance as the crowd attacking the Yeomanry, and the Hussars (experienced professional soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Guy L’Estrange) were ordered in. Their vanguard cut a swathe through the crowd from the far side of the Fields.

Despite this, there were unlikely heroes among the military. An unnamed cavalry officer attempted to strike up the swords of the Yeomanry, crying, “For shame, gentlemen: what are you about? The people cannot get away!”; while the Cheshire cavalry did not move forward. The Hussars, though, disciplined and relentless, rapidly cut through the crowd and joined up with the Yeomanry, in some cases striking down fleeing protesters.

In only a few minutes, by 2 pm, the carnage was over, leaving St Peter’s Fields piled with abandoned banners and the bodies of the dead and wounded – and the whole of Manchester reeling in shock. The term ‘Peterloo’ was rapidly coined, to mock the soldiers who had attacked unarmed civilians – contrasting their cowardice with the valour of troops at Waterloo, four years earlier.

On the orders of the magistrates, journalists who had been present at the event were arrested; others who went on to report the event were subsequently jailed. As a direct reaction to what he’d seen at St Peter’s Fields, the businessman John Edward Taylor went on to raise a subscription to set up the Manchester Guardian newspaper.

In the weeks that followed, most of the speakers and organizers of the rally were arraigned in court – a charge of High Treason only reluctantly being dropped by the prosecution after a public outcry. The Hussars, and the magistrates, by contrast, received a message of congratulation from the Prince Regent, and all the authorities policing the event were cleared of any wrongdoing by the subsequent official inquiry.

The indignant reaction to Peterloo was hugely influential in prompting a long-lived national debate about who should have the right to vote. After the Great Reform Act of 1832, the late 1830s saw the rise of the mass Chartist movement, with its Six Demands, which pressured governments for nearly twenty years. All those demands bar one (annual Parliaments) were later enacted, in the franchise reforms of 1867 and 1884, and successive Representation of the People Acts in the 20th Century.

via Today is the 199th anniversary of the Peterloo… – Christopher Oxford

The French Invasion | The Isle of Wight | The History Project

21july1545iowIt was on this day, 21st July back in 1545 when the French tried to invade the Isle of Wight but failed when their troops were repelled.  The invasion attempt came just days after the Mary Rose sank whilst battling against a French invasion fleet, said to be larger than that of the Spanish Armada years later.  Following years of unrest in Catholic Europe, the King of France…

via The French Invasion | The Isle of Wight | The History Project

New DNA sample could prove whether Richard III was guilty of murdering the ‘Princes in the Tower’ | The Independent

‘The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower’, by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878 (The Royal Holloway picture collection )

‘The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower’, by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878 (The Royal Holloway picture collection )

New scientific research could finally solve one of Britain’s most controversial historical mysteries.

Geneticists have succeeded in obtaining a sample of DNA that could ultimately prove whether the medieval English King Richard III was guilty or innocent of murdering the two children of his predecessor, Edward IV – the so-called Princes in the Tower.

The discovery of the crucial modern DNA is…

via New DNA sample could prove whether Richard III was guilty of murdering the ‘Princes in the Tower’ | The Independent

First Night Design | Great Rail Restorations with Peter Snow #2 days left!

I meant to write this post two or three weeks ago but I forgot all about it. You have two days only (tonight and tomorrow) to catch up on iPlayer [the UK only] with a programme that ‘stars’ my family’s railway carriage and the writer of this blog!

Episode 2 shows the incredible work done by talented volunteers on restoring our Oldbury carriage which dates from…

via First Night Design | Great Rail Restorations with Peter Snow #2 days left!

Revealing NEW information about Dido Elizabeth Belle’s siblings – All Things Georgian

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

We’re very excited to be able to bring you some new information about Dido Elizabeth Belle.

Dido was the natural daughter of a former African slave woman and Sir John Lindsay; she was brought up alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray at their great-uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield’s estate, Kenwood House in Hampstead, London. You may have seen…

via Revealing NEW information about Dido Elizabeth Belle’s siblings – All Things Georgian

Kick Kennedy, the Marquess & the Earl – Turtle Bunbury

kickkennedy

Seventy years ago today, a plane crash in southern France ended the life of Kick Kennedy, oldest sister of Jack and Bobby, and her lover, Peter, Earl Fitzwilliam. This story recounts the series of events that lead up to the tragedy and the remarkable Irish connections to each of the protagonists…

via Kick Kennedy, the Marquess & the Earl – Turtle Bunbury

Parson’s Green, Fulham: seclusion, secrets and novels – All Things Georgian

Parson’s Green, Fulham by William Pengree Sherlock, early 19th century. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Parson’s Green, Fulham by William Pengree Sherlock, early 19th century. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Parson’s Green in Fulham still has two green, open spaces in the heart of its residential area. Back in the eighteenth-century, Fulham was a pleasant rural village outside the bustle of London complete with farms and market gardens that supplied the capital with fruit and vegetables, and Parson’s Green was a hamlet within the manor of Fulham where…

via Parson’s Green, Fulham: seclusion, secrets and novels – All Things Georgian

Britain’s Secret Theft of Ethiopia’s Most Wondrous Manuscripts – Atlas Obscura

One of the manuscripts from the Battle of Maqdala, now housed in the British Library. JAMES JEFFREY

One of the manuscripts from the Battle of Magdala, now housed in the British Library.  JAMES JEFFREY

IN THE BASEMENT OF LONDON’S British Library I was led into a small well-lit room, marking the end of a journey that began in the Ethiopian Highlands at the Addis Ababa home of a remarkable British historian.

In that home, over strong Ethiopian coffee and English biscuits, Richard Pankhurst, who dedicated his life to documenting Ethiopian history, told me the story of the…

via Britain’s Secret Theft of Ethiopia’s Most Wondrous Manuscripts – Atlas Obscura

London’s first council housing: the ‘Richmond Experiment’ and its ‘People’s Champion’ | Municipal Dreams

manor-grove-11You don’t generally look to Richmond upon Thames for political radicalism and pioneering social reform.  But look again – at a street of modest Victorian terraced housing: Manor Grove in North Sheen.  This was the first council housing in London.  It was built through the efforts of…

via London’s first council housing: the ‘Richmond Experiment’ and its ‘People’s Champion’ | Municipal Dreams

“Frankly, I enjoyed the war.” Totally crazy story of Victoria Cross hero

Wiart in Cairo, Egypt in 1943

Wiart in Cairo, Egypt in 1943

“We’re going to have to ditch, sir, prepare for a landing on water!” was the last thing that the “Unkillable Soldier” Major-General Adrian Carton de Wiart VC heard from the cockpit of the Wellington bomber that was supposed to be…

via Frankly, I enjoyed the war. Totally crazy story of Victoria Cross hero who tore off his own fingers, lost an eye, was shot in the head & still went back for more

Mary Wilkins Ellis – solentaviatrix

If you watched RAF at 100 with actor Ewan McGregor and his former RAF pilot brother Colin on BBC1 at the weekend, you will have seen the siblings interview this indomitable lady alongside the late Joy Lofthouse. She is a year older than the RAF. And she lives a few miles down the road from me on the Isle of Wight.

Mary Wilkins Ellis in ATA uniform 1941

Mary Wilkins Ellis in ATA uniform 1941

Mary Wilkins grew up in a farming family in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. She learned to fly at Witney and Oxford Aero Club, where the directors were Mrs. Beatrice Macdonald and Mr. K. E. Walters.

On 15th March 1939, she flew B.A. Swallow G-AFGE for the first time. She flew it again…

via Mary Wilkins Ellis – solentaviatrix