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Engineers digging the Crossrail tunnels have uncovered a plague pit believed to date from the Black Death in the 14th century. Here’s the BBC’s video of the site.

Photo courtesy of Crossrail.

Photo courtesy of Crossrail.

Over the past two weeks 13 skeletons have been discovered at a shaft in Charterhouse Square, just outside the boundaries of the  City of London, with more being unearthed every day. Experts believe they date from the Black Death, which killed tens of millions during the medieval period, wiping out up to 60% of the continent’s population.

A burial site was understood to be in the Farringdon area, but until now its precise location was uncertain. The Smithfield area is proving a fecund ground for archaeologists: in 2011 researchers were able to reconstruct the plague’s genetic code, using skeletons discovered in the 1980s.

This is the second major archaeological discovery in London of recent weeks, after the remains of a Roman settlement were uncovered in February. A pit of ‘lunatic’ skeletons was also discovered by Crossrail workers in 2011.

Source link: http://londonist.com/2013/03/14th-century-plague-pit-found-during-crossrail-dig.php

Wessex Guided Tours
The Best Tours in British History

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A medieval barn described by the poet John Betjeman as the ‘cathedral of Middlesex’ has been rescued from decay and neglect for the nation, English Heritage said today.

Grade I-listed Harmondsworth Barn in west London joins the likes of Stonehenge, Osborne House and parts of Hadrian’s Wall in the national collection of historic sites and monuments under the guardianship of English Heritage.

Historic: The exquisite oak structure was created by skilled carpenters, whose signature marks can still be seen, in the 15th Century

Historic: The exquisite oak structure was created by skilled carpenters, whose signature marks can still be seen, in the 15th Century

Built by Winchester College in 1426, the barn would have been used to store grain from the surrounding manor, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, with profits from the produce used to pay for the school

The structure resembles the nave of a large church, standing at nearly 60 metres (200ft) long, 12 metres (40ft) wide, and 11 metres (36ft) high, with 13 huge oak trusses resting on stone blocks holding up the roof.

While it has had some repairs over the years, most recently by English Heritage to make it weather-proof and keep out pigeons, the structure is largely as it was built, with the timber and stones still bearing original carpenter and mason marks.

The oak-framed barn, which the heritage agency said ranks alongside the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace for its historic value, was used up until the 1970s but fell into disrepair in the ownership of an offshore company which had bought it in 2006

It is thought the purchase by a Gibraltar-based company for £1 was a speculative one, as the barn stands just metres from where Heathrow’s third runway – had it gone ahead – would have been built.

In 2009, English Heritage became concerned about the barn’s deteriorating condition and issued an urgent works notice for emergency repairs to keep it water and wind-tight.

The barn became known as “Cathedral of Middlesex”

A dispute over payment for the emergency works led to English Heritage buying the barn, which lies between the M25 and M4 motorways, for £20,000.

The barn’s precarious state was publicised in 2009 when building-preservation journal Cornerstone published an article on the gaping holes and disrepair.

Michael Dunn, historic buildings inspector for English Heritage, said the building was the best preserved and largest surviving medieval timber barn in England, probably in Europe.

It is the ninth largest in Europe he said, adding that ‘for its size , and its state of preservation, it is unique.’

‘This is high status, this is the finest timber, and a very confident carpenter. This is as good as it gets,’ he said.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: ‘Harmondsworth Barn is one of the greatest medieval buildings in Britain, built by the same skilled carpenters who worked on our magnificent medieval cathedrals.

‘Its rescue is at the heart of what English Heritage does – protecting this nation’s architectural treasures and helping people discover our national story through them.

‘We will complete the repair of this masterpiece and, working with local people, will open it to the public to enjoy.’

A local group, the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth, formed around six years ago and have been dedicated to preserving the building, researching its history and keeping up the interest in its future, opening it each year to around 400-500 visitors during the Open House weekend.

The barn will now be open for free two Sundays a month between April and October, staffed by volunteers, with plans to open it every Sunday from next year.

Phil Rumsey, chairman of the group, said: ‘After working to save the barn over the last six years, it is wonderful that English Heritage have rescued this much-loved building. It will provide a great lift to the community.’

Archaeologist Justine Bayley told The Guardian: ‘If we had a pound for everyone who walks in here and says “wow!” we could have re-roofed the building twice over. It’s really the only appropriate response.’

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093598/Medieval-barn-described-cathedral-Middlesex-joins-Stonehenge-national-collection-historical-sites.html#ixzz1kxEY35Ci

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Tickets
Make sure you’re in the front row – sign up now for London 2012 ticketing news and information.

Tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games will go on sale on 15 March 2011, for a six-week application window until 26 April 2011. Tickets for the Paralympic Games will go on sale on 9 September 2011.

A total of 8.8 million tickets will be available for the Olympic Games, with another two million for the Paralympic Games. Subject to availability, tickets will remain on sale until the start of every event.

We aim to give as many people as possible the chance to attend the Games, ensuring a great atmosphere for all the events. Each ticket will include free travel on public transport in London for the day of the event, to encourage spectators to use the transport system and take in the festivities throughout the city.

 There will also be free events, including Road Cycling, Triathlon and the Marathon. These events will take place on the streets of London, where spectators can line the route to cheer on the athletes. Big screens at Live Sites across the UK will also screen the sporting action.

Have you been offered unauthorised tickets?

Don’t be fooled by bogus websites and organisations claiming to sell tickets to the Games. Tickets will only be available via official London 2012 sales channels from 2011. You will not be asked to make a payment or sign a contract until then.
Total number of tickets

A total of 10.8 million tickets will be available for the Games – 8.8m for the Olympic Games and two million for the Paralympic Games

Links:
http://www.london2012.com/visiting/tickets/
http://www.london2012.com/
http://www.Bestvaluetours.co.uk
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympic_games/london_2012/default.stm

If you are visiting London for the London 2012 Olympics then plan ahead.  Book tours and accomodation now or you will be dissapointed

British Tour Guide
Histouries UK – Private guided tours of London and Britain

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ROYAL wedding fever was in the air yesterday as airlines and hotels in

Prince William and Kate Middleton marry in April

Prince William and Kate Middleton marry in April

London reported a surge in bookings for the week of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage.

Today marks just 100 days until the ­ceremony takes place at Westminster Abbey on April 29.

Amid growing excitement in Britain and abroad, William and Kate marked the countdown by putting the final touches to a list of around 1,800 people they want to invite to the service.
The couple have been overseeing plans for their big day from their isolated farmhouse in North Wales, travelling to London whenever their schedule has allowed it to sit in on regular meetings with courtiers.
The Prince is currently serving as an RAF helicopter pilot in Anglesey.
One senior aide said yesterday: “They’re both very happy and very excited about it all. It’s not long now.

ì Prince William and Kate Middleton marry in April î

There’s a lot of work to do but they’re doing it in between Prince William’s flying and Catherine’s other commitments.

“We’re pretty much living and breathing the wedding at the moment.”

Many of the key issues, such as the names of the bridesmaids, page boys, the wedding dress designer and its basic design, have already been hammered out in secret.

Kate made a final decision about her choice of designer last week from a small shortlist, according to royal sources.
A stag party venue has been agreed and, despite reports that it will take place in Cape Town, sources close to William have hinted that it will be in Britain or western Europe.
External links:
London Tourist Information
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/224159/Royal-Wedding-fever-starts-already

Royal Wedding 2011
Royal Wedding Souvenirs
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UK Tour guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

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Archaeologists hail oldest wooden structure ever found on river, despite security services’ armed response to researchers
The headquarters of MI6 on the banks of the Thames in London. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images
The headquarters of MI6 on the banks of the Thames in London. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images

When MI6 set up home on the banks of the Thames one secret escaped its watchful eyes. The oldest wooden structure ever found on the river, timbers almost 7,000 years old, have been discovered buried in the silt below the windows of the security services’ ziggurat headquarters at Vauxhall, south London.

The archaeologists who uncovered the six hefty timber piles had to explain to the security services what they were up to when armed police turned up after they were spotted pottering about on a foggy day in the mud, armed only with tripods, cameras and measuring equipment – not, as one spectator had apparently reported, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.

“They accepted there wasn’t much damage we could do with a tripod,” said Gustave Milne, the archaeologist who leads the Thames Discovery programme that has been surveying the entire prehistoric foreshore, uncovering centuries of ancient wharves, fish traps, jetties and ship timbers.

The timbers, partly scoured bare by erosion of the river bed, the largest up to a third of a metre in diameter, were discovered in work during exceptionally low tides last February, but carbon dating work – revealed in the new edition of London Archaeologist journal – has only recently been completed, proving that the trees were felled between 4790 BC and 4490 BC.

Although the site is now exposed only at the lowest tides, the ancient Thames was narrower and deeper, and Milne believes that 7,000 years ago the timbers may have been built on dry land, possibly at the highest point of a small island.

“The find is very interesting, because in the mesolithic period the people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, living in temporary camps – not at all given to building substantial structures like this,” Milne said.

“At the moment we don’t have enough timbers to give any kind of alignment, they’re not in a straight or a circle – but they could have supported a substantial platform with some form of domestic structure or dwelling.”

The site is just where a smaller river, the Effra, enters the Thames, and it was clearly important to the prehistoric Londoners. The archaeologists, working with experts from the Museum of London and English Heritage, also found worked flint from the same date as the timbers, older pottery, and just upstream, on the far side of the modern Vauxhall bridge, a much later Bronze Age structure.

“There may have been a ford, it may have had some religious significance, or it may just have been very rich hunting grounds – but it was clearly what my colleague at the Museum of London calls ‘a memorable place’,” Milne said.

“We’re just sorting out which are the lowest new year spring tides to go back for another look – if Mr Bond will let us.”

External link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jan/06/ancient-timbers-mi6-headquarters
Thames Tours: http://www.bestvaluetours.co.uk/

British Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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Us Brits love Christmas. Our ancient streets come alive as thousands of shoppers and party-goers make their way past carol singers and chestnut vendors under a canopy of shimmering festive lights. The shops are overflowing with gifts, decorations and delicious food, and there are thousands of seasonal events from carol services to wild parties as the holiday spirit takes hold

Why is England a good place to visit at Christmas time?
Christmas is Britain’s most popular holiday and is characterised by traditions that date back hundreds of years. Many Christmas customs that originated in Britain have been adopted in the United States. There is nothing more magical than wandering through a British garden on a crisp, clear winter day: the sun, low in the sky, sparkling on elegant branches; the satisfying crunch of early morning frost underfoot; the delicate scent of winter-flowering shrubs. Holly berries bring a splash of colour to the festive season. Shortly after New Year, snowdrops poke their heads through the earth. Hints of spring arrive in late February as buds begin to appear on trees and the petals of early daffodils unfold.

Bath Christmas Market

Bath Christmas Market

 

1. Christmas Traditions • Pantomimes • Crackers • Dinner • Decorations • Mistletoe
2. Father Christmas
3. Queens Speech
4. Boxing Day

1: (Pantomines) In the UK, the word ‘Pantomine’ means a form of entertainment, generally performed during the Christmas season. Most cities throughout UK have a form of pantomine at this time of year. The origins of British pantomine, or ‘Panto’ as they are know as today, date back to the middle ages. Panto is generally aimed at children however adults from all ages thoughly enjoy this show. Pantos are based on childrens fairy tales and legends (Aladdin, Cinderalla, Jack and the Bean Stalk). It is traditional for the audience to join in with the panto – cheering the hero or heroine and hissing at the villains. Many phrases to be learnt before seeing a panto are “He’s behind you!” and “Oh yes he is!”, although this may seem strange to be reading all will become clear when watching a British pantomine.
(Cracker) The pulling of Christmas crackers often accompanies food on Christmas Day. Invented by a London baker in 1846, a cracker is a brightly coloured paper tube, twisted at both ends, which contains a party hat, riddle and toy or other trinket. When it is pulled by two people it gives out a crack as its contents are dispersed.
(Dinner) Christmas Day sees the opening of presents and many families attend Christmas services at church. Christmas dinner consists traditionally of a roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing and roast potatoes. This is followed by mince pies and Christmas pudding flaming with brandy, which might contain coins or lucky charms for children. (The pudding is usually prepared weeks beforehand and is customarily stirred by each member of the family as a wish is made.) Later in the day, a Christmas cake may be served – a rich baked fruit cake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting.
(Decorations) Christmas decorations in general have early origins. Holly, ivy and mistletoe are associated with rituals going back beyond the Dark Ages. (The custom of kissing beneath a sprig of mistletoe is derived from an ancient pagan tradition.) The Christmas tree was popularised by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced one to the Royal Household in 1840. Since 1947, the country of Norway has presented Britain annually with a large Christmas tree which stands in Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the Second World War.
(Mistletoe) Mistletoe, considered sacred by the British Druids, was believed to have many miraculous powers. Among the Romans, it was symbol of peace, and, it was said that when enemies met under it, they discarded their arms and declared a truce. From this comes our custom of kissing under the mistletoe. England was the first country to use it during the Christmas season. 2.
2. (Father Christmas) The English gift giver is called Father Christmas. He wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents in stockings on Christmas Eve. However, the gifts are not usually opened until the following afternoon. Father Christmas delivers them during the night before Christmas. The Children leave an empty stocking or pillowcase hanging at the end of the bed. In the morning they hope it will be full of presents.
3. (Queens Speech) Another traditional feature of Christmas afternoon is the Queen’s Christmas Message to the nation, broadcast on radio and television. This normally occurs in the mid afternoon after most people have eaten their Christmas Dinner. The Queen summaries the events of the year past and looks to the future. 4. (Boxing Day) Christmas day is followed by Boxing day (26th December). which takes its name from a former custom of giving a Christmas Box – a gift of money or food inside a box – to the deliverymen and trades people who called regularly during the year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman, dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time normally on the run up to Christmas.

A Christmas Market Christmas Markets are loved by everyone – the little wooden chalets selling all sorts of goodies and the magical atmosphere created by special Christmas fragrances of pine branches and incense and of course the hot mulled wine to keep you warm! The stalls filled with wooden smoking men, Christmas pyramids, music boxes, straw stars, angels and all manner of wooden decorations. Then you have the stalls with the lebkuchen, stollen and fresh sugared almonds – tempting you with Christmas aromas. Friends and family meet up to enjoy the day together and everyone gets absorbed in the excitement of Christmas.

Bath Christmas Market – A very traditional style English Christmas Market will be runnning every day from December 2nd – 11th selling a a wide variety of original hand crafted gifts, decorations, cards and toys. With the famous Bath Abbey and Roman Baths providing an amazing backdrop to this event, you will know that the festive season has really arrived in Bath. You will have plenty of time on tour for some Christmas shopping!
Windsor Christmas Market – A traditional German market which will be running throughout December. There will be individual wooden chalets each offering a variety of hand-made goods or sumptuous fare! Perfect for Christmas shopping!

More historical Chrismas facts coming soon. 
External Links:
Welcome2London – Christmas in the Capital

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours at Christmas time

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Tickets to watch the 2012 Olympic Games will be among the most expensive in British sporting history, it’s been revealed.

Sports fans will pay as much as £2,012 for the best seats at the opening ceremony, while the same seats at the closing ceremony will cost £1,500.

The most expensive sport will be the athletics, to be held at the new 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

A coveted ticket to the men’s 100m final will cost as much as £725 – the equivalent of £76 a second based on Usain Bolt’s world record.

Beach volleyball, gymnastics, diving and swimming will also be among the most expensive finals to watch, at £450 for the best seats, with the basketball finals close behind at £425.
The prices – which exclude corporate tickets – easily exceed those charged for the finals of the FA Cup, Wimbledon tennis and Premier League football matches.

LONDON 2012 TICKETS – THE FACTS

WHAT CAN I WATCH?
There are 26 Olympic sports but 39 disciplines in total. There will be 302 medal events and 649 sessions of sport to watch.

HOW MANY TICKETS WILL BE SOLD?
A higher-than-expected 8.8million.

HOW MUCH WILL THEY COST?
The price will vary according to the event. Each event will have different ticket prices, ranging from £20 to £725.

Organisers say 90 per cent will cost £100 or less, two-thirds will be £50 or less and 30 per cent £20 or less.

There will also be 11 free ticket sessions for sports such as triathlon, the marathon, race walking, road cycling and sailing.

ARE THERE SPECIAL OFFERS?
Yes, for around 220 sessions and 1.3 million tickets.
Children 16 and under on July 27 2012 will pay their age.

Those 60 and older on the same date will play a flat £16.

This offer will not include tickets for any final but will cover every sport.

Wheelchair prices include a companion seat.

Children will also be able to go along thanks to a ticket share scheme. 50,000 tickets have gone to the London Mayor, 50,000 to the Government and 25,000 to sporting bodies.

The Mayor’s tickets will go to children in London, the Government’s to secondary schools around the UK.

WHEN DO TICKETS GO ON SALE?
March 2011.

WHERE DO I FIND OUT MORE?
Register online at http://www.tickets.london2012.com

However, games organiser Locog insisted taxpayers had not been priced out of the event they had funded and said 90 per cent of tickets would cost £100 or less.

A third of tickets will cost £20 or under, with Olympic chiefs unable to keep their promise that they would sell half of tickets at this price.

Some 1.3million tickets will be reserved at special prices for children and people over 60.

Under the ‘pay your age’ scheme, 10-year-olds will pay £10, 11-year-olds £11 and so on.

Those over 60 will pay a flat £16.

Event bosses face pressure to make £400million from ticket sales, while ensuring that the 26 sports remain affordable and that the stadiums are full – avoiding a repeat of the near-empty stadiums at some of the Commonwealth Games events in India this month.

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe described it as ‘the daddy of all ticket strategies’, adding: ‘We have three clear principles for our ticketing strategy: tickets need to be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible, tickets are an important revenue stream for us to fund the Games, and our ticketing plans have the clear aim of filling our venues to the rafters.’

Events such as the marathon, cycling road race and time trial and triathlon will be free because they are on public roads, although grandstands at the finish area will be ticketed.

The cheapest events include the shooting finals with a top price of £40, sailing at £55 and the modern pentathlon at £75.

There are 8.8million tickets available, with 6.6million of these available to the public from March 2011.

The rest will go to broadcasters, sponsors and the 204 overseas Olympic committees.

Some 1.7million people have registered on the london2012.com website, which will guide them in applying for tickets for the 26 sports, split into 649 sessions.

The Government wants each school in Britain to receive six free tickets, but London Mayor Boris Johnson is trying to find sponsorship for a further 75,000 to be given to London pupils so one in eight can attend the Games.

Lord Coe said: ‘We made a promise to inspire young people to choose sport and our ticket prices will get as many young people as possible to the Games.’

Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson added: ‘I am confident we will have packed stadiums and venues.’

Make your tour plans well in advance.  Escape the city for a day and join a private guided sightseeing tour.  Contact us in advance for any travel arrangements you may need. 

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HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours of Britain

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