Newton, an apple and a space shuttle

Ordnance Survey 1:2500 County Series 1888 – Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire
Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton (4 January 1643 – 20 March 1727) was born in Woolsthorpe Manor and here he made many of his most important discoveries about gravity after returning from Trinity College Cambridge which had temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague 1666-7.

In the garden of Woolsthorpe Manor grows the most famous apple tree in science. Popular mythology has it that an apple fell from the tree, hitting Newton on the head and inspiring the great man to discover his theory of Gravity. Like all good stories it elaborates on the truth.

The story of the falling apple does appear to have some foundation. William Stukeley recorded in his Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, in April 1726, that Newton, told him of his thoughts when seeing an apple fall to the ground  “… why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground…why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earth’s centre?

He is often regarded as the most influential scientist in history and is most famous for discovering the Laws of Gravity, and the Laws of Planetary motion, although rather than his ideas on Gravity sprouting fully formed from that single seed, he acknowledged his debt to those great mathematicians that had gone before him, most famously in his quote “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. A quote which is now to be found imprinted into the edge of the British £2 coin. A fitting tribute to Newton who also went on to become Master of the Royal Mint.

According to the National Trust, the original apple tree fell over in 1820, but then rooted happily and is still growing today, making it nearly 400 years of age. This observation is not universally accepted. The King’s School in nearby Grantham, stake their own claim that the tree was purchased by the school, uprooted and transported to the headmaster’s garden after Newton’s death.

What is known for sure is that cuttings from the original tree have been planted at some of the worlds greatest universities, including one outside the rooms in which Newton lived and studied at Trinity Cambridge. Other universities known to have cuttings of the famous tree are MIT Cambridge (USA), Monash University Australia, York University Canada and Manchester University.

In 2010, a piece of the famous apple tree from Woolsthorpe Manor was launched into space on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, nearly 350 years after Newton wrote his influential work. An act of defying gravity only made possible by the genius of Sir Isaac Newton.

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Map of the week – Dracula, Mercury, Gold, and a Fat Duck

Bray Studios

Map: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 County Series from 1875 – Bray, Berkshire.

Down Place country house (1750) and Oakley Court, a castellated and turreted Gothic mansion (1857) were built on the banks of the River Thames between the towns of Bray and Windsor and went on to find fame and fortune as Bray Studios.
In 1951 Hammer Film Productions settled on the derelict Down Place as a way of avoiding the need to build sets and the large grounds were ideal for location work for their budget horror films. The following year Hammer decided to build a full studio in the grounds of Down Place, and name it Bray Studios, after the local town. Oakley Court was acquired in the 1960’s and became an ideal setting for many Bray productions.
Films included the 1950’s films The Quatermass Xperiment, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy. The 1960’s saw The Brides of Dracula, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Curse of the Werewolf, and many, many more. The last Hammer production made at Bray was The Mummy’s Shroud, which wrapped on 21 October 1966.
Bray went on to produce many other films including the St Trinians series and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as special effects and model work for TV and film. including Doctor Who, Space 1999, Alien, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Terry Gilliam’s 2009 film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Due to the size of its sound stages and it’s relative remoteness, Bray Studios also became a popular rehearsal studio where many artists fine-tuned their performances before going on tour. From Led Zeppelin in the 1970’s to The Kings of Leon in 2008, by way of Queen’s Freddy Mercury tribute concert, Cream, George Harrison, Radiohead and Amy Winehouse, the studios became home to many of the worlds top bands.

On the opposite side of the Thames lies Eton Dorney, the scene of rowing triumphs in the 2012 Olympic rowing events, where Team GB won four gold medals, two silver and three bronze.

The town of Bray is also famed for its culinary delights, boasting two of the four restaurants in the United Kingdom to have three Michelin stars, The Waterside Inn founded by the Roux brothers, and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant.
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Map of the week – A Tale of two Maggies (and a Denis)

Thatcher - Grantham

Map: The Roberts Grocery Shop, Grantham – Ordnance Survey 1:2500 County Series from 1888

Whether you loved or hated her, Margaret Thatcher was adored by her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher. Major Sir Denis Thatcher, 1st Baronet, MBE was born in Lewisham in 1915, He served in the WWII gaining the temporary rank of Major and was appointed MBE in 1945 for his services during Operation Goldflake (the movement of Canadian combatant units from Italy to North-West Europe). He was awarded the hereditary title, 1st Baronet, in 1991. He was a successful businessman and millionaire in his own right.

Today, he’s also remembered as being the husband of the late Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s ex Prime-Minister.

However, she wasn’t the first Margaret to marry Denis.Margaret Thatcher, the first, was in fact Margaret Kempson who married Denis in 1942. Denis was already serving abroad and so they saw little of each other during the war. After being demobilised in 1946, the first Maggie Thatcher announced she had met someone else and filed for divorce. Denis met the second more famous Maggie Thatcher (née Roberts) in 1949 and married her in 1951. Thatcherism rather than Robertsism is recorded in the annals of history .

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Map of the week – Aintree and the Grand National

Aintree Race Course  and the Grand National
Aintree Race Course
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 County Series from 1906

The Grand National is held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. First run in 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles 3½ furlongs (7,200m) with horses jumping 30 fences over two circuits of the racecourse.

The most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £975,000, It is popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing  first run in 1839 and has a special place in the hearts and minds of the UK public with bets expected to exceed £350 million.

The Grand National is not without it’s detractors. As one of the toughest, if not the toughest race in the world it has witnessed a documented 70 horses die since the first race in 1839, along with one jockey, Joseph Wynne, who was racing in his first Grand National in 1862.

Over the years there have been some exceptional events that have stayed in the public memory.The first race in 1839 secured its place in history as the first official Grand National. It was won by rider Jem Mason on the 5/1 favourite and aptly named Lottery.

Legend has it that on the day of the 1928 Grand National, before the race had begun, Tipperary Tim’s jockey William Dutton heard a friend call out to him: “Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall down!” These words turned out to be true, as 41 of the 42 starters fell during the race leaving Tipperary Tim the winner at 100/1. In 1967 Foinavon  won in similar circumstances when a loose horse caused the leading horse to either fall or pull up leaving Foinavon to jump alone and gallop away to victory before the rest of the field could regroup.

The running of the 1956 Grand National witnessed one of the chase’s most bizarre incidents. Devon Loch, owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, had cleared the final fence in leading position, five lengths clear of E.S.B. and only forty yards from what seemed like certain victory, when suddenly, and inexplicably, Devon Loch half-jumped into the air and collapsed on the turf allowing the trailing horses to pass the unfortunately stricken horse.

Possibly the greatest disaster from a racing viewpoint was the 1993 Grand national, which went in to history as the “The race that never was”. While under starter’s orders a series of incidents occurred which resulted in one jockey being tangled in the starting tape. A false start was declared, but 30 out of the 39 jockeys were unaware of the decision and began to race. Course officials tried to stop the runners by waving red flags, but many jockeys thought that they were protesters and continued to race. Seven horses ran the course in its entirety, forcing a void result. The first past the post of the horses that completed was Esha Ness in the second-fastest time ever run.

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Mad Jack, a bear and a frozen lake

Map of the week – Mad Jack, a bear and a frozen lake
Halston HallMap: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 County Series from 1874

John “Mad Jack” Mytton (30 September 1796 – 29 March 1834) was born to a family of squires and  became notorious as a notable British eccentric and Regency rake.

Jack, on entry to Cambridge University, took with him 2,000 bottles of port to sustain himself during his education. After his studies he embarked on The Grand Tour of Europe followed by a spell of Military Service before inheriting the family seat at Halston Hall, Whittington (near Oswestry in Shropshire) along with an annual income of £20,000 (close to £800,000 in today’s money), which he proceeded to spend at an unsustainable rate and with an increasingly eccentric behaviour.

At Halston, on a freezing winters day, he would lead his small army of stable lads on rat hunts, each stable boy equipped with ice skates.

He arrived at one particular dinner party at Halston Hall riding a bear and when he tried to make it go faster the beast bit deep into his calf. Despite being bitten, Mad Jack kept the bear Nell as a pet.

He would reportedly get out of bed in the middle of the night, take off his nightshirt and set off completely naked  carrying his favourite gun across the frozen fields towards his lake. Here he would ambush the ducks, fire a few shots and return to bed apparently none the worse for his ordeal. His most extraordinary day’s shooting came when he got fed up waiting for the birds to come within range, stripped naked, sat on the ice and slowly shuffled forward on the slippery surface until he was within range.

A fan of horse riding and hunting, Mad Jack set out to test if a horse pulling a carriage could jump over a tollgate. As many would have predicted it couldn’t.

In 1831 he fled to France to avoid his creditors, prison and court. After a couple of years he decided to return to England and ended up in the King’s Bench debtor’s prison in Southwark, London, where he died there in 1834 a ’round shouldered, tottering old-young man bloated by drink. Worn out by too much foolishness, too much wretchedness and too much brandy’.

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