Blood, The Tower and the Crown

Colonel Thomas Blood

Map: Ordnance Survey 1:1056 County Series 1871 – Interior of The Tower Of London

Colonel Blood and the theft of the Crown Jewels.

Colonel Thomas Blood (1618 – 1680) was of Anglo-Irish origins, born in County Clare, in what was then the Kingdom of Ireland.Following the Restoration of King Charles II, the 1662 Act of Settlement cancelled a grant of land allocated to Blood by Cromwell, as a reward for his services during the Civil War, and brought Blood to financial ruin. Blood sought to unite the remaining Cromwellians in Ireland with the aim of insurrection.

A plot to storm Dublin Castle, overturn the government, and kidnap the Duke of Ormonde (The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), was foiled and Blood fled to the Netherlands. A few of Blood’s collaborators were captured and subsequently executed. As a result, historians have speculated that Blood swore vengeance. Blood returned to England in 1670 where, six months later he made his notorious attempt to steal the Crown Jewels.In 1671, he visited the Tower of London, dressed as a parson and accompanied by a female companion pretending to be his wife. While viewing the Crown Jewels (made possible by the payment of a fee to the custodian), Blood’s companion feigned stomach pains and begged the Master of the Jewel House, 77-year-old Talbot Edwards, for help. Edwards’ wife invited them upstairs to their living quarters to recover, after which Blood and his ‘wife’ thanked the Edwards and left.

Over the following days Blood returned to the Tower to visit the Edwards and presented Mrs. Edwards with a present of white gloves as a gesture of thanks. As Blood became friendly with the family, he proposed that a fictitious nephew of his should marry the Edwards’ daughter, a marriage that he said would make her eligible for an income of several hundred pounds.

By the 9th May 1671 Blood, now accepted as a potential moneyed in-law, convinced Edwards to show the jewels to himself, his supposed nephew, and two of his friends. On entering the Jewel House a cloak was thrown over Edwards, who was then struck with a mallet, bound, gagged and stabbed. Blood then used the mallet to flatten the ‘St. Edward’s Crown’ so that he could hide it beneath his clerical coat. Blood’s accomplice, his brother-in-law, used a file to saw the ‘Sceptre with the Cross’ in two to enable it to fit into a bag, while the third man, Parrot, stuffed the ‘Sovereign’s Orb’ down his trousers.

Fortuitously Edwards’ son was returning from military service and stumbled upon the scene. At the same time Edwards managed to free the gag and raised the alarm shouting, “Treason! Murder! The crown is stolen!”  Blood and his gang fled to their horses. They dropped the crown and the sceptre and fired at the warders who attempted to stop them. They were finally chased down and captured by Captain Beckman, brother-in-law of the younger Edwards.

Following his capture Blood refused to answer to anyone but the king and was consequently taken to the palace. To the disgust of Lord Ormonde, Blood was not only pardoned, but also given land in Ireland worth £500 a year. Following his pardon Blood became a familiar figure around London and made frequent appearances at Court, before he died on August 24 1680 at his home in Bowling Alley, Westminster.

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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 – Grey Friars, burial place of King Richard III


Map Date: 1887

Greyfriars was a Franciscan monastic community (called Grey Friars from the colour of their garments), established on the west side of Leicester from about 1255, and demolished at its dissolution in the late 1530s. Although a small monastery, its Church acquired national significance when Richard III was buried there following his death at Bosworth Field.

Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England.

In August 1485, a rebellion led by Henry Tudor landed in Pembrokeshire, with a small contingent of French troops, and marched through Wales recruiting foot soldiers and skilled archers on his way towards London.

Richard mustered his troops and intercepted Henry’s army south of Market Bosworth. The King divided his army, which outnumbered Henry’s, into three groups. One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry kept most of his force together under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford. Richard’s vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford’s men. Northumberland took no action when signalled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the king’s knights separated from his army, Lord Stanley, and Sir William Stanley, who had brought a force to the battlefield, but held back while they decided which side it would be more advantageous to support, led their men to Henry’s aid, surrounding and killing Richard. Richard was the last English king to die in battle.

Following his death at Bosworth Field, Richard III’s body was thrown across a horse and carried to Leicester where, after a period of public display, it was buried inside Greyfriars Church. Ten years later, Henry VII paid for a tomb to be built. The tomb was presumed to have been demolished along with the Church following its dissolution after 1536.

Sir Robert Catlyn acquired the site following its dissolution by Henry VIII and sold it to Robert Herrick, who built a mansion with extensive gardens over the east end of the Friary grounds. These gardens were visited by Christopher Wren Sr. in 1611, who recorded being shown a handsome stone pillar with an inscription, “Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England”. Any remains of such a pillar having long since disappeared with the subsequent redevelopment of the land.

However, the Archaeology service of the University of Leicester, along with the Richard III Society and Leicester City Council, initiated an archaeological study resulting in three trenches being dug across the parking area behind the buildings on Greyfriars. These excavations revealed walls of the cloisters and the Church, enabling a possible layout for the monastic buildings to be drawn. Also found was the complete skeleton of a male showing severe scoliosis and major head wounds. On 4 February 2013 it was confirmed that the DNA matched, that the radiocarbon agreed, and that the characteristics of the bones and the nature of the head wounds were all entirely consistent with it being the remains of Richard III.

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Map of the week – Edgehill

EdgehillJanuary 1643

3 months after the first battle of the Civil War, Edgehill, a pamphlet describing the ghostly events that continued in the area after the battle was published. Titled “A Great Wonder in Heaven”, it reported the first encounter with a ghostly re-enactment of the battle by local shepherds. The priest at Kineton also described his brush with the ghosts when around the battlefield. King Charles dispatched a Royal Commission to investigate – they too described a ghostly battle scene, the details tallied with survivors actual accounts of the real battle.

The villagers decided the only way to rid themselves of these phantoms was to bury all the battle-dead in Christian graves (the bodies still remained on the field through the winter).

This map shows the battle area with Grave Ground and Graveground Coppice clearly marked.

To this day, there are still reports of eerie sounds and phantom soldiers appearing at the scene on the anniversary of the battle.

The area has also has a fascinating 20th century military history that can be explored

Map of the week – Moneygall the birthplace of Falmouth Kearney

In 1850 Falmouth Kearney, a maternal great-great-great grandfather of Barack Obama, emigrated from the Irish village of Moneygall in County Offaly to New York City before eventually settling in Tipton County, Indiana. Kearney’s daughter Mary Ann, the youngest of his ten children, was the grandmother of Stanley Dunham, President Obama’s maternal grandfather.
(map shown: Irish 6 Inch First Edition – 1840) 

When Kearney, with his sister Margaret Cleary and her husband William, set sail for the United States they left behind a country plagued by the potato blight that had destroyed families and livelihoods and left people starving. From the 1840s to the end of the 1850s, about 1.7 million emigrants moved from Ireland to the United States. In 1841 the population of the entire parish of Moneygall was approximately 8,500. Today the population is about 1,600.

Moneygall is to be found on the border of counties Offaly and North Tipperary. The name (Muine Gall in Irish, meaning ‘thicket of (the) foreigners’ ) is thought to come from the remains of Viking raiders who were slain and buried nearby after a failed attack on the great annual market at Rosecrea in 942.

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Map of the week – Magna Charta Island

Runnymede is a Thames-side water meadow between Egham and Old Windsor. It is currently managed by the National Trust and is a beautiful though unremarkable example of a ‘Thames Basin Lowland’. Its fame, though, is not due to its topography.magnacartaA

In the north part of Runnymede is an island. It was here, so most historians agree, that on 15 June 1215 King John was compelled by his leading subjects to sign a document addressing their grievances. The name ‘Runnymede’; derives from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘a meeting place in a meadow’. Few place names have better lived up to their linguistic origins.

The document, of course, was Magna Carta. It has been cited as the inspiration for many later expressions of liberty including the English parliament, the English Civil War and the US Constitution. Many people have believed it to have been many things. It¹s easier to describe it in terms of what it was not.

It was not effective, remaining in force for only three months and not preventing civil war. It was not revolutionary, being but one episode in the medieval  barons’ constant attempts to force the king to respect their traditional role as his principal advisors. It was not an assertion of individual liberty, rather an attempt to preserve aristocratic privileges. It was not well-observed, being re-issued over 30 times over the following two centuries: indeed, re-issuing Magna Carta was an instinctive response to most late-medieval constitutional crises.

A small island but a large international legacy, however unintentional or misconstrued. Perhaps much the same could be said of Britain itself. As for the name, Magna Carta is the Latin for ‘great charter’. You knew that, of course; even if David Cameron didn’t…

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