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Archive for the ‘England facts’ Category

Stories of yokels getting the better of townies pepper British folklore – perhaps the best known being one reading of the Nottinghamshire legend The Wise Men of Gotham .
Wiltshire MoonrakerRivalling that tale is the Wiltshire story of The Moonrakers, so dear to the heart of the county that to this day anyone born in Wiltshire is known as a Moonraker.
The story goes that a couple of lads from a village near Devizes were involved in the spirits trade, and were not troubling the Excise with paperwork or duties. Depending on the source they were either distilling ‘brandy’ themselves, or obtaining it through illicit channels. These two entrepreneurs were warned of a raid by the Revenue, so for want of time and better cover they hid their contraband, including a couple of barrels of the good stuff, in a pond.

When the customs officials arrived it was unfortunately a clear night, with a full moon and not a breath of wind to stir the water’s surface. The Wiltshire lads could see the barrels clearly, so they quickly came up with a ruse: grabbing rakes they waded into the pond and used the implements to disturb surface and silt, masking the tuns. When the Revenue men spotted them and asked what they were doing, the yokels replied they were raking the moon in the pond in order to gather cheese from it. The clever Revenue men shook their heads at the peasants’ stupidity and searched the rest of the village, then finding nothing moved on.

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

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The first day of the month of May is known as May Day. It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom. It is said to be a time of love and romance. It is when people celebrate the coming of summer with lots of different customs that are expressions of joy and hope after a long winter.

Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around a Maypole.

The beginning of Summer

Although summer does not officially begin until June, May Day marks its beginning. May Day celebrations have been carried out in England for over 2000 years.

The Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. It was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd.

How was May Day Celebrated in the past?

It was custom for every one to go a-Maying early on May Day. Herrick, a 17th century English poet wrote:

There’s not a budding boy, or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.

Decorating Houses

May Day began early in the morning. People would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages with in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

Washing in the early morning dew

Girls would make a special point of washing their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believed this made them very beautiful for the following year. copyright of protectbritain.com

May Queen

May Queen
The rest of the day was given over to various festivities. There was dancing on the village green, archery contest and exhibitions of strength. The highlight of the day was the crowning of the May Queen, the human replica of Flora. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen in a flower-decked chair to watch her ‘subjects’.

May Day Garlands

Young girls would make May Garlands. They covered two hoops, one at right angles inside the other, with leaves and flowers, and sometimes they put a doll inside to represent the goddess of Spring.

In some parts of Britain, May 1st is called Garland Day.

The first of May is Garland Day
So please remember the garland.
We don’t come here but once a year,
So please remember the garland.

May Day Lifting

There was once a tradition in England of ‘lifting’ where a gang of young men would lift a pretty girl in a flower bedecked chair on May day. Then the girl would choose a boy on May 2nd.

May Day Tricks

In the North of England, the first of May was a kind of late ‘April Fooling’ when all sorts of pranks would take place and ‘May Gosling’ was the shout if you managed to trick someone. The response would be:

‘May Goslings past and gone. You’re the fool for making me one!’

Recommended Events in Wiltshire this May Day: 
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/robin-hood-ow-1-Jan/
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/time-travellers-go-medieval-os-30-Jan/
http://www.wherecanwego.com/whatsonengland/Wiltshire/events.aspx

Enjoy Wiltshire!
Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Wesex

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According to the Venerable Bede who lived in the 8th century the name Easter derived from the name of a pagan goddess, Eostre. She was goddess of Spring and fertility and her festival was celebrated at the Spring Equinox. Jesus was crucified in April and when the Saxons became Christians they began to celebrate his death and resurrection early in the Spring but they kept the old name Easter. Alternatively it has been suggested that Easter comes from the Saxon word for dawn.

In the early years of Christianity there was a dispute over the date of Easter. In 325 the Nicean Council decided it should be on the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox. That is why the date of Easter changes each year.

 

Friday is the day of the week when the crucifixion took place. It is called Good Friday because good meant holy. On that day we eat hot cross buns. (Good meant holy). The origins of hot cross buns are obscure but in pagan times people baked buns and offered them to the gods. Cross buns with the cross representing the cross of Jesus were first mentioned in the 18th century. In the early 19th century people sold hot cross buns in the street from stalls and so they became known as ‘hot’ cross buns.

 

The Easter bunny was originally a hare because hares were fertility symbols in the pagan religion and they continued to be associated with Easter after people were converted to Christianity. Because people in the USA were unfamiliar with hares the Easter hare became a rabbit.

 

In the Middle Ages Christians were forbidden to eat eggs during Lent (the forty days before Easter). Not surprisingly people were keen to eat eggs when Easter arrived!

 

Some people also said that the egg represented the tomb of Jesus, or it represented the stone that was placed over the entrance of his tomb and was rolled away when he rose from the dead. (Long before Christianity eggs were a pagan symbol of fertility).

 

In the Middle Ages people painted Easter eggs red but by the 18th century people bought artificial eggs made of various materials to give as gifts at Easter. (Sometimes the artificial eggs contained gifts). Chocolate Easter eggs were first made in the 19th century.

http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
http://www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk/search.php?county=wiltshire

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Guided Tours in Wessex

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Modern tourist attractions such as the London Eye and Cornwall’s £86 million Eden Project rank alongside historic sites including Stonehenge among the “Seven Wonders of Britain”, according to a survey published today.

The British equivalent to the original Seven Wonders of the World span a 4,000-year period from prehistoric Stonehenge in Wiltshire to the 450ft wheel which was erected on the South Bank of the River Thames to mark the millennium.

The remaining four attractions on the list were Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, York Minster, Windsor Castle and Hadrian’s Wall.

More than 2,500 adults from across Britain took part in the survey, which was commissioned by the Yellow Pages telephone directory.

A parallel survey of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 also recognised traditional attractions but listed Staffordshire theme park Alton Towers as one of their favourites.

Both adults and teenagers agreed on their choice for the Eighth Wonder of Britain – defined as a culturally significant site that is not currently regarded as a tourist attraction – by selecting the Angel of the North, Antony Gormley’s giant sculpture on the outskirts of Gateshead.

Alan Britten, English Tourism Council chairman, said: “It’s the mixture of old and new attractions that is a source of fascination for overseas tourists and a source of pride among the people who live here.

“The Yellow Pages survey reflects our own experience of the endless allure of these ‘must-see’ sites. They are the crown jewels of our tourist attractions.”

John Condron, chief executive of Yell, publisher of Yellow Pages, said: “We hope this timely survey encourages people to get out and explore or rediscover the ‘Wonders’ in their own regions.”

 
The ‘seven wonders of Britain’


The London Eye and Eden Project rank alongside historic sites such as Stonehenge among the ‘seven wonders of Britain’, according to a survey commissioned by Yellow Pages. Here, in no particular order, are the seven winners.
 
Big Ben Big Ben, London
Photo: Peter Jordan, PA
 
Hadrian's Wall Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
Photo: John Giles, PA
More arts news
 
Eden Project Eden Project, Cornwall
Photo: Barry Batchelor, PA
 
London Eye London Eye
Photo: Martin Argles, Guardian
 
Windsor Castle Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Photo: Tim Ockenden, PA
 
Stonehenge Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Photo: Sean Smith, Guardian
 
York Minster York Minster, Yorkshire
Photo: John Giles, PA
 
The ‘eighth wonder of Britain’


Angel of the North Angel of the North
Antony Gormley’s giant sculpture on the outskirts of Gateshead, the winner among ‘culturally significant sites not currently regarded as tourist attractions’.
Photo: Owen Humphreys, PA


Good choice!
The Best Tours in British History
HisTOURies UK – Private Guided Tours

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Loosely speaking, thatching is the use of straw or grasses as a building material. Using thatch for roofing goes back as far as the Bronze Age in Britain. At Shearplace Hall in Dorset there are remains of a round hut that shows signs of thatching.

Thatching a roof is an age-old tradition. Not only is it environmentally friendly but also very much back in vogue

Thatching a roof is an age-old tradition. Not only is it environmentally friendly but also very much back in vogue

Thatched cottages and farm buildings were the norm in rural Britain for a millennium or more. Why the attraction to thatch? First of all, the building practices of bygone Britain ran to lightweight, irregular materials, such as wattle and daub walls, and cruck beams. These walls were simply not made to take much weight, and thatch was by far the lightest weight material available.

The study of materials used in thatch buildings can get pretty obscure, but basically, people used whatever was available locally.

This meant materials as diverse as broom, sedge, sallow, flax, grass, and straw. Most common is wheat straw in the south of England, and reeds in East Anglia. Norfolk reed is especially prized by thatchers, although in northern England and Scotland heather was frequently used.

Although thatch was primarily used by the poor, occasionally great houses used this most common of materials. In 1300 the great Norman castle at Pevensey (Sussex) bought up 6 acres of rushes to roof the hall and chambers. Much later, in the late 18th century thatched cottages became an extremely popular theme with the “picturesque” painters, who tried to portray an idealized (Romantic/sanitized) version of nature.

Churches also used thatch frequently. In one humorous episode the parish church at Reyden, near Southwold, was roofed in 1880 with thatch on the side of the church hidden from the road, and with tiles on the side facing the road. Presumably the tiles looked more elegant than the more commonplace thatch.

What caused the decline of thatching? Primarily better transportation. The growing railway network in the Victorian era meant that cheap slate from Wales became easily available all over Britain. Agricultural machinery, particularly the combine harvester, had the unfortunate effect of making wheat straw unusable for thatching. This made Norfolk reed all the more prized, and now the latter material is grown specifically for use in thatching.

So how does one thatch a cottage? First the thatch is tied in bundles, then laid in an underlayer on the roof beams and pegged in place with rods made of hazel or withy.

Then an upper layer is laid over the first, and a final reinforcing layer added along the ridgeline. It is at the ridgeline that the individual thatcher leaves his personal “signature”, a decorative feature of some kind that marks the job as his alone. One lovely cottage I saw on a bicycle tour near Glastonbury (Somerset) has a row of thatch birds marching proudly along the ridge of the roofline!

Although thatching, like many rural crafts, has suffered from the encroachment of “civilisation”, many property owners today recognize the value of keeping their cottages thatched, if for no other reason than that thatched cottages fetch a prime price on the real estate market!

Well thank goodness, for those of us who love traditional British architecture! Sure, it is “corny” but to this anglophile North American at least, nothing says “Great Britain” so much as the sight of a beautiful whitewashed cottage, a blooming rose bush climbing a trellis beneath a roof of weathered thatch. Long live the thatcher!

The phrase “Its raining cats and dogs”
You’ve heard of thatch roofs, well that’s all they were. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. They were the only place for the little animals to get warm. So all the pets; dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs, all lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery so sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Thus the saying, “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

There are more thatch work in Wiltshire than any other county in Britain.  Join us on a private tour of Wessx and learm more about the history of this tradional craft.

Links: 

THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF MASTER THATCHERS ASSOCIATIONS

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

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A new film about King John further underlines history’s judgement of the medieval English monarch as a cruel tyrant. But among the dozens of bad kings and despots, why is John always the pantomime villain?

Paul Giamatti is the latest to play King John as a villain in Ironclad

Paul Giamatti is the latest to play King John as a villain in Ironclad

Surrendering lands in France, forced into a humiliating climbdown with the nobility and excommunicated by the Church. Not to mention being blamed for the murder of his nephew.

The medieval reign of King John has been characterised by disaster and his reputation languishes among the lowest for all the kings and queens of England.

This poor standing is illustrated by his persistently negative appearances in British cultural life 800 years on. Depictions on television, stage and big screen, particularly in Robin Hood films, usually present a man who is treacherous and weak.

In 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, John (played by Claude Rains) is an overtaxing oppressor, while Disney’s Robin Hood showed John as a cowardly lion sucking his thumb.

A new film Ironclad, released in the UK on Friday, stars American actor Paul Giamatti as the villainous king laying siege to the noble barons in Rochester Castle, in the civil war that followed the signing of Magna Carta.

So why do we always like to bash King John?

Make no mistake, he was a bad king, says John Hudson, of the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of St Andrews.

“He was a very considerable failure as a king. He loses a large amount of possessions inherited, in particular lands in France, like Normandy and Anjou. He manages to surrender his realm to the pope and ends up facing a huge baronial rebellion, a civil war and a war with France. In terms of failures, he is one of the worst kings.”

And his unpleasant personality compounds his mistakes, says Professor Hudson. Trying to seize control of the throne while his brother, King Richard I, was imprisoned abroad, lost him the trust of the people long before he became king himself.

“A lot of very effective medieval kings are cruel and inspire fear but he hasn’t inspired trust. For people to trust a king and fear him is essential but people don’t trust him.

“People wanted someone to be heroic and not to interfere with their lives. But John was a king who did interfere and wasn’t heroic.”

But it’s simplistic to portray John as simply evil and Richard good, like in some of the Robin Hood films, he says. At least The Lion in Winter, starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole as John’s parents Eleanor and Henry II, portrays the family tensions acutely and gives a sense of the personal power struggles within the Plantagenet dynasty.

John grew up in a feuding family. He was born in Oxford in 1166, the youngest and favourite son of Henry II. When John was five, three of his brothers plotted against their father to seize the throne, enlisting the help of Louis VII of France and their own mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The rebellion was short-lived but Henry II punished his wife by imprisoning her for 16 years. On Henry’s death in 1189, John’s brother Richard became king but he nominated his nephew, Arthur, as heir. John tried unsuccessfully to instigate a coup while his brother was in prison, captured on his way back from fighting the Crusades.

The popular image of John as a cruel tyrant began a few years after his death in 1216, after a turbulent 17 years on the throne. The chronicles of Roger Wendover, a historian and monk at St Albans, and his successor Matthew Paris, included many accounts of cruelty that have since been questioned.

‘John the punchbag’

The Tudors were more sympathetic to him, although Shakespeare’s The Life and Death of King John provides a mixed portrayal of the monarch as treacherous and ruthless, but also patriotic in standing up to Rome.

But it was the Victorians who made King John the pantomime villain he is today, says Paul Sturtevant, who is researching Hollywood depictions of the medieval period, at the University of Leeds.

“The Victorians used King John as a punchbag. Prior to the 18th and 19th Century, Robin Hood was not put in a historical place. It wasn’t about the monarch at all, just Robin Hood and his adventures.

“So the Robin Hood stories being placed in John’s reign is a recent thing. He’s portrayed as a pantomime villain because a number of accounts from the time suggest that people found him quite unpleasant as a person. So the question is to what degree those sources are accurate.”

The Victorians latched on to John’s moral failings like his cruelty and his sexual deviancy, taking mistresses married to barons, and this repulsed their newly-formed idea of medieval knights as perfect gentlemen.

“To the Victorian mindset, he was everything they didn’t want in an English king. They re-imagined the period in terms of courtly love and chivalry.”

Most historians would agree he was quite a bad king but whether he was a caricature of evil is another question entirely, he says.

King John at Runnymede John’s most famous moment is signing the Magna Carta

“Almost all the depictions of King John out there are Robin Hood ones and as a result he’s the villain, either bumbling and idiotic or in the Disney animation he’s a lion who sucks his thumb. He’s infantile, with a snake as a patsy.”

The truth is that he was an inept politician but he wasn’t a tyrant, says Mr Sturtevant. His conflicts were not with his subjects but with barons, the Pope or the French.

“I see him a bit like Barack Obama in so far as he inherited a nightmare situation from his predecessor but because he was a bad politician he didn’t help himself to get out of it.

“Richard still has a really good reputation as the heroic lion-hearted king but he spent only six months of his life in England and the rest either on crusade in Holy Land or at war in France.”

To pay for his foreign wars, not to mention a huge ransom when he was captured, Richard had raised taxes far higher than any level England had experienced. By the time John was crowned king, the cupboard was bare, but his fiscal demands led to unrest.

Mike Ibeji, who researched King John for Simon Schama’s History of Britain on the BBC, says it was in the interests of those who put John’s successor Henry III on the throne to portray him negatively. King John was very unlucky, he says, but he also made his own bad luck.

There are several times during John’s reign where he actually has the upper hand, where he’s in a position where if he just does things the right way, he’s going to end up succeeding in what he’s trying to do.

“But he always overplays his hand and goes too far because he’s in a position of power and can’t rein back. So he doesn’t have a sense of scale and that’s his biggest problem.”

For example, he quelled a rebellion in France but when his nephew and enemy Arthur then dies in his custody, the finger of suspicion points at John and the revulsion felt in France renews the revolt and leads to defeat. A kingdom that once stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees was falling apart.

What John will always be remembered for, apart from antagonising Robin Hood, is signing Magna Carta, which limited royal power and restated English law. And some of his defenders say that at least he provoked the barons into introducing one of history’s most famous documents.

In the History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Winston Churchill wrote: “When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns; for it was through the union of many forces against him that the most famous milestone of our rights and freedom was in fact set up.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12603356

Visit Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire on a private guided tour and view the original Magna Carta

Salisbury and Stonehenge Tour Guide
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Celtic Britain
(The Iron Age) c. 600 BC – 50 AD

Who were they? The Iron Age is the age of the “Celt” in Britain. Over the 500 or so years leading up to the first Roman invasion a Celtic culture established itself throughout the British Isles. Who were these Celts?

For a start, the concept of a “Celtic” people is a modern and somewhat

Celtic Britain was dominated by a number of tribes, each with their own well-defined territory. It is thanks to Roman chroniclers, such as Strabo, Julius Caesar, and Diodorus, that the names of individual tribes are known to us today, albeit in Romanized form.

Celtic Britain was dominated by a number of tribes, each with their own well-defined territory. It is thanks to Roman chroniclers, such as Strabo, Julius Caesar, and Diodorus, that the names of individual tribes are known to us today, albeit in Romanized form.

romantic reinterpretation of history. The “Celts” were warring tribes who certainly wouldn’t have seen themselves as one people at the time.

The “Celts” as we traditionaly regard them exist largely in the magnificence of their art and the words of the Romans who fought them. The trouble with the reports of the Romans is that they were a mix of reportage and political propaganda. It was politically expedient for the Celtic peoples to be coloured as barbarians and the Romans as a great civilizing force. And history written by the winners is always suspect.

Where did they come from? What we do know is that the people we call Celts gradually infiltrated Britain over the course of the centuries between about 500 and 100 B.C. There was probably never an organized Celtic invasion; for one thing the Celts were so fragmented and given to fighting among themselves that the idea of a concerted invasion would have been ludicrous.

The Celts were a group of peoples loosely tied by similar language, religion, and cultural expression. They were not centrally governed, and quite as happy to fight each other as any non-Celt. They were warriors, living for the glories of battle and plunder. They were also the people who brought iron working to the British Isles.

The advent of iron. The use of iron had amazing repercussions. First, it changed trade and fostered local independence. Trade was essential during the Bronze Age, for not every area was naturally endowed with the necessary ores to make bronze. Iron, on the other hand, was relatively cheap and available almost everywhere.

Hill forts. The time of the “Celtic conversion” of Britain saw a huge growth in the number of hill forts throughout the region. These were often small ditch and bank combinations encircling defensible hilltops. Some are small enough that they were of no practical use for more than an individual family, though over time many larger forts were built. The curious thing is that we don’t know if the hill forts were built by the native Britons to defend themselves from the encroaching Celts, or by the Celts as they moved their way into hostile territory.

Usually these forts contained no source of water, so their use as long term settlements is doubtful, though they may have been useful indeed for withstanding a short term siege. Many of the hill forts were built on top of earlier causewayed camps.

Celtic family life.
The basic unit of Celtic life was the clan, a sort of extended family. The term “family” is a bit misleading, for by all accounts the Celts practiced a peculiar form of child rearing; they didn’t rear them, they farmed them out. Children were actually raised by foster parents. The foster father was often the brother of the birth-mother. Got it?

Clans were bound together very loosely with other clans into tribes, each of which had its own social structure and customs, and possibly its own local gods.

Housing. The Celts lived in huts of arched timber with walls of wicker and roofs of thatch. The huts were generally gathered in loose hamlets. In several places each tribe had its own coinage system.

Farming. The Celts were farmers when they weren’t fighting. One of the interesting innovations that they brought to Britain was the iron plough. Earlier ploughs had been awkward affairs, basically a stick with a pointed end harnessed behind two oxen. They were suitable only for ploughing the light upland soils. The heavier iron ploughs constituted an agricultural revolution all by themselves, for they made it possible for the first time to cultivate the rich valley and lowland soils. They came with a price, though. It generally required a team of eight oxen to pull the plough, so to avoid the difficulty of turning that large a team, Celtic fields tended to be long and narrow, a pattern that can still be seen in some parts of the country today.

The lot of women. Celtic lands were owned communally, and wealth seems to have been based largely on the size of cattle herd owned. The lot of women was a good deal better than in most societies of that time. They were technically equal to men, owned property, and could choose their own husbands. They could also be war leaders, as Boudicca (Boadicea) later proved.

Language. There was a written Celtic language, but it developed well into Christian times, so for much of Celtic history they relied on oral transmission of culture, primarily through the efforts of bards and poets. These arts were tremendously important to the Celts, and much of what we know of their traditions comes to us today through the old tales and poems that were handed down for generations before eventually being written down.

Druids. Another area where oral traditions were important was in the training of Druids. There has been a lot of nonsense written about Druids, but they were a curious lot; a sort of super-class of priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, and arbitrators. They had their own universities, where traditional knowledge was passed on by rote. They had the right to speak ahead of the king in council, and may have held more authority than the king. They acted as ambassadors in time of war, they composed verse and upheld the law. They were a sort of glue holding together Celtic culture.

Religion. From what we know of the Celts from Roman commentators, who are, remember, witnesses with an axe to grind, they held many of their religious ceremonies in woodland groves and near sacred water, such as wells and springs. The Romans speak of human sacrifice as being a part of Celtic religion. One thing we do know, the Celts revered human heads.

Celtic warriors would cut off the heads of their enemies in battle and display them as trophies. They mounted heads in doorposts and hung them from their belts. This might seem barbaric to us, but to the Celt the seat of spiritual power was the head, so by taking the head of a vanquished foe they were appropriating that power for themselves. It was a kind of bloody religious observance.

The Iron Age is when we first find cemeteries of ordinary people’s burials (in hole-in-the-ground graves) as opposed to the elaborate barrows of the elite few that provide our main records of burials in earlier periods.

The Celts at War. The Celts loved war. If one wasn’t happening they’d be sure to start one. They were scrappers from the word go. They arrayed themselves as fiercely as possible, sometimes charging into battle fully naked, dyed blue from head to toe, and screaming like banshees to terrify their enemies.

They took tremendous pride in their appearance in battle, if we can judge by the elaborately embellished weapons and paraphernalia they used. Golden shields and breastplates shared pride of place with ornamented helmets and trumpets.

The Celts were great users of light chariots in warfare. From this chariot, drawn by two horses, they would throw spears at an enemy before dismounting to have a go with heavy slashing swords. They also had a habit of dragging families and baggage along to their battles, forming a great milling mass of encumbrances, which sometimes cost them a victory, as Queen Boudicca would later discover to her dismay.

As mentioned, they beheaded their opponents in battle and it was considered a sign of prowess and social standing to have a goodly number of heads to display.

The main problem with the Celts was that they couldn’t stop fighting among themselves long enough to put up a unified front. Each tribe was out for itself, and in the long run this cost them control of Britain.

(Note: The terms “England”, “Scotland”, and “Wales” are used purely to indicate geographic location relative to modern boundaries – at this time period, these individual countries did not exist).

Join us on a guided tour of Britain and learn more about the Celts
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Falconry is a sport that involves the use of trained birds of prey to hunt game for humans. Although falconry is also known as hawking, in modern falconry buzzards are most commonly used.

It is believed that falconry was well established in the Middle and Far East by 2000 BC despite the earliest evidence only coming from the era around the reign of Sargon II (722-705 BC).
The Romans probably learnt falconry from the Greeks although the practice does not appear to have been widespread and there are references to Caesar using falcons to kill carrier pigeons. Falconry was probably introduced to Europe in about 400 AD when the Huns and Alans invaded from the East.

More recently falconry has become more popular particularly as a sport of kings. It was reputedly the favourite sport of every King of England from Alfred the Great to George III except for James I who spent much of his time training cormorants and ospreys to catch fish.
A lot has been written about King John’s passion for crane hawking and he often brought hunting parties to the Test Valley to fly falcons at herons. The herons were ringed before they were re-released and information about their numbers and locations are documented in the Domesday Book.

In the Middle Ages it was not just the rich who hunted with hawks. Labourers used hawks to hunt for food, often illegally and King John who wanted to improve the rewards of his own personal hunting banned people taking all feathered game from the Royal Forests which at the time covered vast areas of the British countryside.

The law provided that a hundred paupers should be fed with the proceeds of each Royal hunt but despite this if it had been enforced effectively it would still have caused much suffering and hardship. During the Middle Ages a social custom evolved in falconry known today as the Laws of Ownership. Birds of prey were allocated a rank and a man could not hawk with a bird that had a higher rank than him. The hierarchy seems to have evolved around the cost of the bird and it is not known how strictly it was adhered to.

The original list was documented in the 15th Century ‘Boke of St Albans’ on hawking, hunting and cote-armour as follows:
Emperor – The Eagle, Vulture, and Merloun
King – The Ger Falcon and the Tercel of the Ger Falcon
Prince: The Falcon Gentle and the Tercel Gentle
Duke: The Falcon of the Loch
Earl: The Falcon Peregrine Baron: The Bustard
Knight: The Sacre and the Sacret
Esquire: The Lanere and the Laneret
Lady: The Marlyon
Young Man: The Hobby
Yeoman: The Goshawk
Poor Man: The Tercell
Priest: The Sparrowhawk
Holy Water Clerk: The Musket
Knave or Servant: The Kestrel

Today anyone can practice falconry in the UK and no license is required although only captive-bred birds can be used. Despite pressure to have falconry banned it has been allowed to carry on albeit with a number of conditions attached to it. Birds must be ringed and government registered. Wild birds must not be used for falconry and all birds are DNA tested to certify their origins.

FALCONRY IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE

As Falconry has been around in the UK for nearly 2,000 years, words and phrases that falconers use for their birds have crept into everyday language.

Fed up: A hawk is termed fed up when it has a full crop (storage pouch) and therefore would not be interested in food or flying. If you are fed-up you are sat around doing nothing or bored.

Mantle: To cover or shield the food by dropping their wings over. The cover over a fireplace is now called a mantlepiece.

Cadge: A wooden frame that falcons were traditionally carried out into the hunting field on. The person carrying the cadge became known as the cadger. At the end of the day the cadger would go to the local tavern and recount the tales of how the birds had flown and in turn expect money. To cadge, now means to scrounge or beg for.

Hoodwink: To cover the bird’s eyes to keep it calm and relaxed. It now means to fool someone into doing something.

Mews:  Nowdays this is something cottages or street names are called: “something mews”. A real mews is the home to hawks and falcons, the Royal Mews in London was set up to house the monarch’s birds. The name comes from the french word “muer” which means to moult. In James I’s reign the Royal Mews stood where the National Gallery stands today and extended across Trafalgar Square down Whitehall. Many stately homes also have a mews associated with them.

Wiltshire Falconry: http://www.meredownfalconry.co.uk/

Quiz:  Anyone know where the term “Under my thumb” comes from ?

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Wessex

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Neil Oliver tells the epic story of how Britain and its people came to be over thousands of years of ancient history – the beginnings of our world forged in ice, stone, and bronze.

About the Programme

A History Of Ancient Britain will turn the spotlight onto the very beginning of Britain’s story. From the last retreat of the glaciers 12,000 years ago, until the departure of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD this epic series will reveal how and why these islands and nations of ours developed as they did and why we have become the people we are today. The first series transmits in early 2011 and there will be a following series in 2012.

As well as being a presenter, Neil is also an archaeologist, historian and author. He began his television career in 2002 with the BBC2 series ‘Two Men in a Trench’. This battlefield archaeology series explored iconic British battle sites, focusing on human stories, tragedies and drama.

Neil became a familiar face on television thanks to the hugely popular, award winning programme, ‘Coast’, in which the landscapes, history, geography and people of the British Isles are given centre stage in a continuing voyage of discovery, remembrance and reminiscence.

Neil also presented ‘A History of Scotland’ on BBC 1 and BBC2. In this series he revealed how the story of his native Scotland is instrumental to the history of, not only Britain, but also Europe and much of the wider world.
Neil Oliver takes us on an epic journey expoloring how Britain and its people came to be.
Watch the trail here
Neil Oliver’s official website

Stonehenge and Ancient Britain Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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SO MANY Japanese tourists are descending on one of Britain’s most

Station manager Teresa Ceesay with one of the signs in Japanese yesterday.

Station manager Teresa Ceesay with one of the signs in Japanese yesterday.

picturesque regions that the local station has put up notices in their native language.
The signs welcome the visitors and direct them to buses, taxis and hotels in the Cotswolds and even tell them where the toilets are.

They were put up in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, by station manager Teresa Ceesay, who noticed Japanese visitors constantly asking staff for directions.

Ms Ceesay, whose station boasts the title Gateway to the North Cotswolds, said: “I’d noticed a lot of Japanese people getting off the train and looking a bit puzzled.

“They’d ask for directions in our ticket office but we only have one member of staff. It’s only a few signs but it means a lot to people.”

Chris Dee, who manages tourism in the Cotswolds for Gloucestershire County Council, said: “The Japanese are wary about driving here, so the train is very important and Moreton is the main stop.”

About 50,000 Japanese people are estimated to visit the Cotswolds each year. Almost a quarter of a million visited the UK in 2009, boosting the country’s economy by an estimated £30.4million.

Japanese-born Juri Miyawaki, who owns Juri’s Tea Rooms in Winchcombe, Glos, said English culture fascinated many Japanese people.

She said: “Many Japanese ladies come here because they’re so interested in England’s baking heritage and getting recipes.

Avoid the big crowds and busy tourist coach stops by organising a private guided tour of the Cotwolds.  Get off the beaten track and explore the Cotsolds properly.

Small goups leave fewer footprints……….

Costwolds Tour Guide
HisTOURies.co.uk – The Best Cotswolds Tours

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