Shakespear’s birthplace

shakespear2

Shakespear’s birthplace, Henley Street.  (MAP: 1886 – Town Plan, Scale: 1:500)

Shakespeare’s Birthplace is a 16th-century half-timbered house situated in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, where it is believed that William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years. Shakespeare is also known to have spent the first five years of married life in this house with his new wife, Anne Hathaway.

The house itself is relatively simple, but for the late 16th century it would have been considered quite a substantial dwelling. John Shakespeare, William’s father, was a glove maker and wool dealer, and the house was originally divided in two parts to allow him to carry out his business from the same premises.

The building is typical of the times and was constructed in wattle and daub around a wooden frame. Local oak from the Forest of Arden and blue-grey stone from Wilmcote were used in its construction, while the large fireplaces were made from an unusual combination of early brick and stone, and the ground-floor level has stone-flagged floors.

The plan of the building was originally a simple rectangle. From north-west to south-east, the ground-floor consisted of a parlour with fireplace, an adjoining hall with a large open hearth, a cross passage, and finally a room which probably served as John Shakespeare’s workshop. A separate single-bay house, now known as Joan Hart’s Cottage, was later built onto the north-west end of the house, and the present kitchen was added at the rear with a chamber above it.

The ownership of the premises passed to William on John Shakespeare’s death.

William already owned his own property in Stratford and had no need for the Henley Street premises as a home for himself or his family. Consequently, the main house was leased to Lewis Hiccox, who converted it into an inn known as the Maidenhead (later the Swan and Maidenhead Inn).

Under the terms of Shakespeare’s will, the ownership of the whole property (the inn and Joan Hart’s cottage) passed to his elder daughter, Susanna, upon his death.

In 1649 it passed to her only child, Elizabeth, and then in 1670 to Thomas Hart. Hart was the descendant of Shakespeare’s sister, Joan, whose family had continued as tenants of the smaller house after her death in 1646. The entire property remained in the ownership of the Harts until 1806.

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Gretna Green, or is it Headless Cross?

Main Map: Ordnance Survey County Series 1:2500 – 1899*
Gretna Green
Gretna Green – the village famous for runaway weddings.

Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings, hosting over 5,000 weddings each year in the Gretna/Gretna Green area, and according to the BBC, one in every six Scottish weddings.  It is situated in Dumfries and Galloway, near the mouth of the River Esk and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh.

It has been reported that Gretna’s famous “runaway marriages” began in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act  became law in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a person under the age of 21 objected, they could prevent the marriage going ahead. The new law tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 with or without parental consent. By the 1770s, with the construction of a toll road passing through the hitherto obscure village of Graitney (Gretna), that Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village over the Scottish border. The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became the focal points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages”, meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony.
To seal the marriage the blacksmith would bring down his hammer upon the anvil. The ringing sound heard throughout the village would signify that another couple had been joined in marriage.
The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as “anvil priests”, culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies.

Since 1929, both parties in Scotland have had to be at least 16 years old, but they still may marry without parental consent. In England and Wales, the age for marriage is now 16 with parental consent and 18 without.

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The Cutty Sark, a witch and a horses tail

Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series 1866
Cuttysark
The tail of the Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. Launched at Dumbarton on November 23 1869 for the Jock Willis shipping line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.

The opening of the Suez Canal (also in November 1869) meant that steam ships now had a much shorter route to China, so Cutty Sark spent only a few years on the tea trade before turning to the trade in wool from Australia, where she held the record time to Britain for ten years. In 1954 she had ceased to be useful, even as a cadet ship, and was transferred to permanent dry dock at Greenwich, London where she is on public display.

The name Cutty Sark comes from  Robert Burns poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’.
Cutty-sark (hyphenated) was a nickname given to the character of the witch Nannie Dee, after the garment she wore – Cutty (short) and Sark (Nightshirt). The figurehead of the tea clipper Cutty Sark is named after the character and yes, for all of you who are wondering, the Tam o’ Shanter hat is also named after the poem.

The story goes that the hero Tam, while riding home from the pub on his horse, happens upon strange goings-on in a church yard. Among the dancing figures is a particularly beautiful young witch named Nannie Dee. She is described as wearing a harn (linen) sark (nightshirt) which fitted her as a child but is now rather too short for her. Tam is so enthralled by the erotic spectacle that he cannot contain himself and, not knowing her name, yells out “Weel done, Cutty-sark!”. The witches on hearing his cry turn and pursue him and Tam flees, heading for the River Doon as, according to folklore, witches cannot cross running water. He makes it across the bridge to safety, but not before Nannie has torn the tail from his horse. To this day Nannie, the figurehead of the Cutty Sark, can be seen with a horses tail hanging from her hand.

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Map of the week – Ned Ludd did it!

Main Map: Ordnance Survey County Series 1:2500 – 1886
Anstey, Leicestershire – Home of Ned Ludd.
Map of Anstey - First Luddite

Anstey is a large village in Leicestershire, England, located north west of Leicester in the borough of Charnwood with a population was about 6,000.
Known as the Gateway to Charnwood Forest, Anstey has another claim to fame, or infamy, in the shape of one Ned Ludd.

On the 9th of October 1779 Ned Ludd, an apprentice stocking maker, reportedly angered by the threat to his livelihood (according to one version), or annoyed at his father giving him a beating, destroyed a number of stocking frames with a hammer. News of the incident spread, and later whenever frames were sabotaged in protest at the growing industrialisation of their trades, people would jokingly say “Ned Ludd did it”.

Little detail is known about the first ‘Luddite’ attack in 1779, indeed in reality the true Luddite movement did not begin until the beginning of the 19th century. The Luddites were textile workers who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the craftsmen with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work.

When the Luddites first took up their hammers, 32 years after the first attack, Ned’s identity was appropriated to become the folklore character of Captain Ludd, also known as King Ludd or General Ludd, the Luddites’ alleged leader and founder and who, like Robin Hood, was reputed to live in Sherwood Forest.

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Map of the week – St. George’s Chapel, Windsor

Map: Ordnance Survey County Series 1:1,056 – 1871
St George's Chapel, Windsor

 St. George’s Chapel, Windsor – burial place of Henry VIII

Henry Tudor was born in the royal residence of Greenwich Palace on June 28, 1491, son of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth York. Not much is known about his early life because he was not born first in line to the throne, a role destined for his older brother Arthur, but  in 1502, at the age of only 15, Arthur died in Ludlow Castle where he resided in his capacity as Prince of Wales. Arthur’s death thrust all of his royal duties upon his younger brother, the 10-year-old Henry.

Henry was crowned Henry VIII, king of England following the death of his father on 22 April 1509.

Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. His struggles with Rome led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and his own establishment as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

His contemporaries considered Henry in his prime to be an attractive, educated and accomplished king, and he has been described as “one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne”.
Later in life, Henry became obese, with a waist measurement of 54 inches and his physical decline can be traced to a jousting accident in 1536, in which he suffered a leg wound that never healed as well as head injuries.

Henry died in London on the 28th January 1547  and was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, next to his third wife Jane Seymour, who had given birth to Henry’s only legitimate son, Edward, the future Edward VI. Over a hundred years later, Charles I was buried in the same vault. All three still lie in the vault beneath the quire in St. Georges Chapel, Windsor.

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Map of the week – Lord’s Cricket Ground

Lords - The Home of Cricket
Map: Stanford’s London Street Map – 1891

The home of cricket.
Lord’s Cricket Ground, is in St John’s Wood, London. Rather than referring to any connection with the peerage, Lord’s is actually named after its founder, Thomas Lord  (1755 – 1832), an English professional cricketer who played first-class cricket from 1787 to 1802. It is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and is the home of Middlesex County Cricket Club. Lord’s is also widely referred to as the “home of cricket” and is home to the world’s oldest sporting museum.

Lord’s today is not on its original site, being the third of three grounds that Lord established between 1787 and 1814. His first ground, now referred to as Lord’s Old Ground, was where Dorset Square now stands next to Marylebone Station. His second ground, Lord’s Middle Ground, was used from 1811 to 1813 before being abandoned to make way for the construction of the Regent’s Canal. The present Lord’s ground is about 250 yards north-west of the site of the Middle Ground. Next door to the ground can be seen the Nursery still referred to in cricketing circles as the Nursery End of the ground.

Some facts about Lord’s:
The earliest known match played on the current Lord’s Cricket Ground was Marylebone Cricket Club v Hertfordshire on 22 June 1814.
1866-67 Freehold of the Ground purchased for £18,333 6s 8d.
1868 Aboriginal cricketers become the first Australian team to play cricket at Lord’s
The main survivor of the Victorian era is The Pavilion with its famous Long Room.
Lord’s is also the home of the MCC Museum, which is the oldest sports museum in the world, and contains the world’s most celebrated collection of cricket memorabilia, including The Ashes, which again will be the centre of this summers anticipated clash with the current Australian side.

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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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