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Go rambling around England with your little ones, on these 10 buggy friendly walks, selected by Richard Happer from his new book Beautiful Buggy Walks: England

Avebury, Wiltshire

Avebury

Avebury

Strolling through an ancient stone circle is just the start of this adventure. Avebury’s fine historical monument also forms the hub of a cracking day’s countryside wandering. Avebury is the world’s biggest stone circle – so large it has a whole village in its centre – but it doesn’t attract the huge numbers that Stonehenge does. This walk introduces you to the circle via West Kennet Avenue, a ceremonial approach that originally had 100 pairs of stones. It’s half a mile long and still impressive. People can wander freely among the ancient monoliths, unlike Stonehenge. Tourists touch them, kids lean on them and wild-bearded men in rainbow trousers do yoga beneath them. Our tour concludes with a relaxing stretch through the surrounding fields.

OS map: Explorer 157
How far: about 3 miles
Route: Enter the field to the west of the parking area.

• Walk between the stones up West Kennet Avenue.

• When the road to your right joins the main road, cross the smaller road and walk past the trees to the embankment that runs around the ditch.

• Follow the path on top to your right. When you reach a small road, cross it and continue around the circle.

• At the main road follow the path in, towards the centre of the circle, cross the road and take the path out and around the next sector of the circle.

• Detour to your right to visit the café and visitor centre.

• Join the minor road in the village and walk west to east, right through the circle, passing the pub and the point at which you crossed the road earlier.

• You are now walking away from the circle, down a country lane; continue for 1/2 mile, passing Manor Farm, then turn right, down a byway.

• After 1/2 mile, turn right along the edge of a fi eld. Another 1/2 mile will take you back to the start.

Rest and refresh: The Red Lion pub has outdoor space (01672 539266, red-lion-pub-avebury.co.uk). The National Trust visitor centre has a spacious cafe with outside benches. Visitor centre: 01672 539250,nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury

Article Source and more walks:http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/may/06/buggy-walks-family-holidays-england 

 HisTOURies UK –www.Histouries.co.uk
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The Chalke Valley History Festival is planning to launch a series of History Tours in 2012, some in conjunction with the Natural High travel company.

We want to capitalise on our relationship with this country’s most compelling and authoritative historians by offering some as guides for historic tours and holidays.

Both dates and itineraries are yet to be confirmed, as are costs.  However, we are very interested to know whether there is demand for the idea from those who have enjoyed our Festival.

These Chalke Valley History Tours will vary between a few days and a week’s duration, and will be of general rather than specialist interest.

Below are some of the initial tours we are hoping to organise in our first programme of History Tours.  If you would like to learn more about them, please do let us know on info@cvhf.org.uk

THE INDIAN MUTINY
led by Professor Saul David
It began as a mutiny of East India Company sepoys in Meerut in May 1857 and was only contained after the fall of Gwalior a year later.  It rocked the British Empire to its foundations and led to the downfall of the Company.  This tour, by the world’s leading authority on the subject, will tell the story of the Indian Mutiny by visiting its main sites amidst the drama of central India.

Saul David is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham and a specialist in the wars of the Victorian period.  He is particularly well placed to lead this tour; not only is he well-known and popular television historian, the Indian Mutiny was the subject matter of his PhD, and his subsequent book is considered the definitive history of this dark episode from the Raj.

ANCIENT ROME
led by Tom Holland
Was it the greatest empire the world has ever seen?  Certainly, it lasted almost a thousand years and incorporated, at its zenith, most of the known world.  This tour will focus on the city of Rome and those towns to the south, Pompeii and Herculaneum, recapturing the spirit and glory of Ancient Rome.

Tom Holland is an award-winning and highly acclaimed historian of antiquity.  Rubicon, his book on the rise and fall of the Roman Republic, was an international best-seller and was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize.  He is currently working on a new book about the first Emperors.  A brilliant raconteur, Tom Holland is working exclusively for Chalke Valley History Holidays.

THE ZULU WARS
led by Dr Peter Caddick-Adams
The Battle of Isandlwana and the defence of Rorke’s Drift are two of the most dramatic events in the British Imperial story.  For the victors of each, both were triumphs over incredible odds; at Isandlwana, it was the Zulus who won the day, while at Rorke’s Drift, it was the British, in one of the most astonishing last stands in British history.  At both, many men on both sides showed incredible courage.  This tour to some of the most unspoiled battlefields in the world, will tell the story and characters of a war that resonates still to this day, and against the captivating landscape of South Africa.

Peter Caddick-Adams is the doyen of battlefield guides.  Learning his craft from the legendary Richard Holmes, he also chose Battlefield Tourism as the subject matter for his PhD.  Since then, he has worked with British and American armed forces on numerous staff rides, as well as guided politicians and leading public figures around some of the best-known battlefields in Europe and further afield.  Quite simply, Peter Caddick-Adams is one of the very best Battlefield Guides we have.

D-DAY & THE BATTLE FOR NORMANDY 1944
led by James Holland
The Battle for Normandy was one of the fiercest battles ever fought, with higher daily casualty rates than were suffered at the Somme, Passchendaele or Verdun.  From the landings themselves to the bitter fighting as the Allies inched inland, this is a tour that will include little-known sites and bunkers as well as some of the more iconic beaches and D-Day locations.  Told with a mass of anecdotes and new, searing, analysis, this will be a comprehensive guide to the D-Day battlefields, and set to the backdrop of the glorious Normandy countryside, with its wonderful food, wine and calvados.

James Holland is one of the country’s leading authorities on the Second World War, and has written and broadcast on the Battle of Britain and Dams Raid amongst other subjects. With an encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of the war, he has also conducted Staff Rides for the military and a number of historic tours around many of the Second World War battlefields.

The excellent Chalke Valley History Festival 26th June – 1st July 2012 – http://www.cvhf.org.uk/

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A major West museum which last week feared it would have to close in a funding crisis has been saved and will be better than ever thanks to a whopping £370,000 lottery bonanza.

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum has been awarded the cash by the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of a month which started with local council chiefs refusing its pleas for more cash.

The lottery money will not only save the museum’s immediate future, but create a new gallery focusing on its prize collections of Bronze Age artefacts.

The Devizes-based museum has long been recognised as housing one of Britain’s most important prehistoric collections outside of London, but after Wiltshire Council refused to increase its annual grant, raised the level of council tax the museum had to pay and reinforced a costly pensions deal, the museum said redundancies would follow and the museum could end up being mothballed. But now the future is bright for the museum after the successful lottery bid, which has been made as part of the beneficial ripple effect of the £25million plan to revive the visitor experience at Stonehenge.

Museum chairman Negley Harte said “We are delighted as this project is vital for the future sustainability of the museum. “The grants from the HLF and English Heritage will enable us to develop this new gallery to tell the stories of this unique collection in a more engaging way. It will bring more visitors to the museum, help us with our battle to make the museum financially sustainable and bring economic development to Devizes,” he added. The new gallery will tell the story of the people who built and used the world renowned monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury. The new Prehistoric Galleries will provide an opportunity to display for the first time in generations the unique gold and amber finds from Wiltshire that date back to the Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago. “This was a time of shaman and priests, learning and culture and contacts across Europe.

The museum will be able to build on its existing learning and outreach programme, and inspire local people and visitors to become engaged and informed about the prehistoric landscapes of Wiltshire,” added a museum spokesman. Regional Heritage Lottery Fund boss Richard Bellamy said the links between the museum at Devizes and Wiltshire’s famous Neolithic sites were key. “These Neolithic and Bronze Age collections provide a fascinating insight into our prehistoric past, and they have the potential to play a key role in telling the wider story of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site,” he said.

Source: http://www.thisisbath.co.uk

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While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

 

The Legend of St. Valentine

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Link Source: http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day

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Intense and brooding images of Stonehenge and other prehistoric monuments in a new exhibition are taking visitors deep into the heart of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wessex’.

Archaeologists debate the purpose of Stonehenge, but for Hardy it was a haunting symbol of isolation and suffering.

The exhibition by three artists at Salisbury Museum mirrors the Dorset author’s emotional response to the archaeological sites he knew and used with such effect in his novels.

His use of landscape was highly symbolic and deeply emotive. Nowhere is that more clear than in his description of Stonehenge, which features in the climactic scene of Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

In the dead of night, Tess stumbles upon the monument, and lies down to rest on an ancient altar, giving the allusion of her character as a sacrificial offering to a society that has cast her out. Hardy describes the isolation of the monument on Salisbury Plain, and once inside, the feeling of enclosure.

Symbolism is central to Hardy’s writing, which may be why so many artists use his work as their inspiration.

Artists Dave Gunning, David Inshaw and Rob Pountney have collaborated to show the dramatic landscapes and archaeology in media ranging from charcoal to steel etching and oil paint.

They share a common interest in how Hardy used landscape to symbolise the emotional and physical experiences of his characters.

He revived the Saxon name ‘Wessex’ as a part-real, part-dream landscape, thinly disguising place names so that Salisbury becomes Melchester and Dorchester becomes Casterbridge. Salisbury Plain is sometimes called the “Great Grey Plain”.

Dave Gunning, who was awarded the Year of the Artist Award in 2000-1 by the British Arts Council, has spent more than 25 years studying the prehistoric landscape in the West Country, particularly the ancient monuments within the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge and Avebury.

David Inshaw is one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists. His work is often inspired by literature that takes landscape and nature as its focus.

Rob Pountney has always been fascinated by Thomas Hardy’s work, and says the use of dramatic contrasts of light and shade in his work captures the striking visual aspects of the geological and archaeological features of the Wessex landscape, and his interpretation of Hardy’s response to them.

Salisbury Museum is the perfect place for the exhibition, which opened on Saturday and runs until April 14.

In Jude the Obscure, Hardy bases the college that Sue Bridehead attends on the training college for schoolmistresses that his sisters attended. This was the King’s House, Salisbury, and is now home to the museum.

Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester.

He became ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died at Max Gate just after 9pm on January 11, 1928, having dictated his final poem to his wife on his deathbed. The cause of death was cited, on his death certificate, as “cardiac syncope
Link: http://www.dorchesterpeople.co.uk

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THE discovery of a Stone Age temple on Orkney looks set to rewrite the archeological records of ancient Britain with evidence emerging it was built centuries before Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Wiltshire

Stonehenge

 Archeologists have so far found undisturbed artefacts including wall decorations, pigments and paint pots, which are already increasing their understanding of the Neolithic people.

Experts believe the huge outer wall suggests the site was not domestic, while the layout of the buildings has reinforced the view it might have been a major religious site. Archaeologists think the temple was built 500 years before Stonehenge, regarded as the centre of Stone Age Britain.

However, only 10% of the site at Ness of Brodgar has been excavated and it could be years before the scale and age of the discovery is fully understood.

It sits close to the existing Ring of Brodgar stone circles and the standing stones of Stenness, near to the town of Stromness.

The uncovered wall around the edges of the site was built with 10,000 tonnes of quarried rock and may have been up to 10 ft high.

Thermal technology also indicates the site could cover the same area as five football pitches, with some parts potentially older than Stonehenge, in south-west England, by as much as 800 years.

Charcoal samples from beneath the wall indicate it was built around 3200 BC. A 30mm high figurine with a head, body and two eyes, and called the “Brodgar Boy”, was also unearthed in the rubble of one of the structures.

About 18 months ago, a remarkable rock coloured red, orange and yellow was unearthed. This is the first discovery in Britain of evidence that Neolithic peoples used paint to decorate their buildings.

Project manager Nick Card said the discoveries are unparalleled in British prehistory and that the complexity of finds is changing the “whole vision of what the landscape was 5000 years ago.” He said it was of “a scale that almost relates to the classical period in the Mediterranean with walled enclosure and precincts”.

Mr Card added: “It’s a huge discovery; in terms of scale and complexity there really is nothing else quite like it.

“At first we thought it was a settlement but the scale and complexity within the buildings makes you think along the lines of a temple precinct. It’s something you would associate with the classical world.”

Archeologist Julian Richards, who has written several books on Stonehenge, added: “The indication is that building was taking place when Stonehenge was still, relatively speaking, insignificant. We have tended to think we know how things were in the Neolithic period, then something like this turns that on its head.”

Full story: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/orcadian-temple-predates-stonehenge-by-500-years.16330802

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I don’t normally do articles on ancient sites outside of my own Country,  Britain.  However I felt this was a significant discovery in Europe and has a Stonehenge connection.

General plan of the early Celtic burial mound with sky constellations.

General plan of the early Celtic burial mound with sky constellations.

A huge early Celtic calendar construction has been discovered in the royal tomb of Magdalenenberg, nearby Villingen-Schwenningen in Germany’s Black Forest. The order of the burials around the central royal tomb fits exactly with the sky constellations of the Northern hemisphere.

Whereas Stonehenge was orientated towards the sun, the more than 100-meters-wide burial mound of Magdalenenberg was focused towards the moon. The builders positioned long rows of wooden posts in the burial mound to be able to focus on the Lunar Standstills. These Lunar Standstills happen every 18.6 year and were the corner stones of the Celtic calendar.

Archaeo-astronomic research resulted in a date of Midsummer 618 BCE, which makes it the earliest and most complete example of a Celtic calendar focused on the moon.

After the complete destruction of the Celtic culture by Rome, these types of calendars were completely forgotten.The full dimensions of the lost Celtic calendar system have now come to light again in the monumental burial mound of Magdalenenberg.

Like other European Iron Age tribal societies, the Celts practiced a polytheistic religion. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having human shapes until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.

Roman reports of the druids mention ceremonies being held in sacred groves. La Tène Celts built temples of varying size and shape, though they also maintained shrines at sacred trees and votive pools.

Druids fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion, serving as priests and religious officials, but also as judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. Druids organized and ran religious ceremonies, and they memorized and taught the calendar. Other classes of druids performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the perceived benefit of the community. Neo-druidism is still practiced today.

Sources: Examiner, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, via AlphaGalileo and Science Daily

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