Posts Tagged ‘tours’

‘Capability’ Brown, best known for designing gardens and landscapes at some of the country’s grandest stately homes including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth, Highclere Castle, Burghley, Weston Park and Compton Verney.
‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape gardens are synonymous with England’s green and

NPG 6049; Capability Brown

NPG 6049; Capability Brown

pleasant land with their seemingly natural rolling hills, curving lakes, flowing rivers and majestic trees.
A nationwide festival and programme of events is planned with the opportunity to visit over 150 Brown gardens and landscapes in England, including some not usually open to visitors.

‘Capability’ Brown gardens
After centuries of stiff, formal and enclosed gardens, ‘Capability’ Brown transformed landscapes across England in the 18th century using a new natural style, now considered quintessentially English. He replaced heavy formality with wide open expanses, views and vistas and introduced his signature contouring hills, serpentine lakes and strategically-placed specimen trees.
This was gardening on a vast scale, creating parkland and woodland, and using trees to give the same effect as shrubs in regular gardens.
The Shakespeare of English garden design, his gift was to develop gardens and landscapes that looked natural and in harmony with the surrounding countryside even though they often involved moving thousands of tonnes of earth to create the gentle contours and installing expansive manmade lakes, that looked wonderful but were also part of practical drainage systems.

‘Capability’ Brown
An estate worker’s son, Lancelot Brown was born in August 1716 in the tiny village of Kirkharle, Northumberland.
He mastered the principles of his craft serving as a gardener’s boy at the local country house, Kirkharle Hall. By 1741 he had reached Stowe, an estate in Buckinghamshire where he quickly assumed responsibility for one of the most pioneering and magnificent landscape gardens in England. He stayed at Stowe for ten years and married Bridget Wayet in the local church. While at Stowe, he started to take independent commissions and became hugely sought after by the owners of large country house estates. The 7-mile round grounds at the Burghley estate in Lincolnshire were one of the most important commissions of his career which took more than 25 years to complete. He also practised
architecture and during the 1750s contributed to several country houses including Blenheim, Chatsworth, Harewood and Compton Verney.
Brown earned the nickname of ‘Capability’ as he told his clients that he could see the capabilities for improvement in their gardens and landscapes. He was hardworking, constantly busy and with a habit of not always charging for his work. Reportedly he refused to work in Ireland as he had not yet finished England.
Brown is associated with as many as 260 sites, a large number of which can still be seen today. By the time he died in 1783, 4,000 gardens had been landscaped according to his principles. And his design influence on parks and gardens spread across Northern Europe to Russia and through Thomas Jefferson to the United States.


‘Capability’ Brown Festival
A nationwide festival and events programme is being developed, including the opening of sites not usually accessible to visitors. More details will be released over the coming months.
At 13 major gardens including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth and Croome, visitors will be able to see speciallycreated ‘Capability’ Brown exhibitions.

For more festival details, an interactive map of ‘Capability’ Brown gardens and landscapes and event listings, visit capabilitybrown.org
For more on England’s gardens, go to visitengland.com

HisTOURies U.K
The Best Tours in British History

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LONDON: Archaeologists said Tuesday they had discovered what were believed to be the best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain, providing an extraordinary insight into prehistoric life from 3,000 years ago.


The skeleton of a man between 2460 and 2290 BC, during the early Bronze Age, and was buried near the world heritage prehistoric monument of Stonehenge is displayed at the new Stonehenge visitors centre, near Amesbury in south west England on December 11, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)


The settlement of large circular wooden houses, built on stilts, collapsed in a fire and plunged into a river where it was preserved in silts leaving them in pristine condition, Historic England said.

Discoveries from the dwellings in Whittlesey, in central England, which archaeologists said had been frozen in time and dated from between 1000-800 BC, included pots with food inside and finely woven clothing.

“We are learning more about the food our ancestors ate, and the pottery they used to cook and serve it,” Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said in a statement.

“This site is of international significance and its excavation will transform our understanding of the period.”

Among the finds at the site, about two meters (6.5 ft) below the modern ground surface, are exotic glass beads forming part of a necklace, rare small cups, bowls and jars. Archaeologists also said that the site was so well preserved that even the footprints of those who lived at the site had been discovered.

There are also charred roof timbers clearly visible in one of the houses and the excavation team have speculated that those living at the settlement abandoned it in haste when it caught fire.

David Gibson, Archaeological Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said they only usually came across a few pits or metal finds at Bronze Age sites.

“This time so much more has been preserved – we can actually see everyday life during the Bronze Age in the round,” he said. “It’s prehistoric archaeology in 3D with an unsurpassed finds assemblage in terms of range and quantity

Read the full story in the Daily Star

HisTOURies Uk
The Best Tours in British History


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West of Amesbury on Salisbury Plain in south Wiltshire

Walk in the steps of our ancestors at one of the world’s best-preserved prehistoric sites.  If you have the luxury of time whilst visiting the Stonehenge area please take the time to explore these sites:

Don’t miss
■Great views of the famous Stonehenge circle
■Mysterious ceremonial landscape of ancient burial mounds, processional walkways and enclosures
■Haven for wildlife, from brown hare and butterflies, to birds such as the skylark
■Colourful displays of downland wildflowers in June and July

Stonehenge Down
The long grassland shrouded in mist at Stonehenge Down. © NT / Margriet van VianenHome to skylark and brown hare, Stonehenge Down is a wide open landscape with fine views of the famous stone circle. From here you can also explore Bronze Age barrow cemeteries and prehistoric monuments, such as the Stonehenge Avenue and the mysterious Cursus. SU125425

King Barrow Ridge on a beautiful summer's day. © NT / Lucy EvershedHere Bronze Age burial mounds stand among impressive beech trees, with views of Stonehenge and the downs. The hazel coppice provides shelter for wildlife along the ridge, while in summer, chalk downland flora attracts butterflies such as the marbled white. SU134423

King Barrow Ridge

Normanton Down on a bright summer's day, showing a field of daisies in the foreground. © NT / Margriet van VianenNormanton Down offers one of the best approaches to the stone circle. The round barrow cemetery dates from around 2600 to 1600BC and is one of the most remarkable groups of burial mounds in the Stonehenge landscape. The downland and arable fields here are home to a variety of farmland birds such as corn bunting and stonechat. SU117415

Normanton Down

The red and gold hues of autumn at Durrington Walls. © NT / Stephen FisherIn 2005 Durrington Walls was revealed to be the site of a rare Neolithic village, with evidence of shrines and feasting. You can still see some of the banks of this circular earthwork, the largest complete ‘henge’ in Europe. Post holes show that there were large timber structures here, like those at nearby Woodhenge. SU150437

Durrington Walls

The Chalkhill Blue, common to chalk grassland, can be seen in the summer months. © NT / Margriet van VianenAnother fascinating example of a prehistoric cemetery. The wide range of barrow shapes found here show that this site was used over a long period of time for burials of people of high status. Newly sown chalk downland flora covers the landscape – look out for brown hares too. SU101417

Winterbourne Stoke Barrows

I would be happy to email you a free walking tour route, just email me

David – Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours

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During a recent Stonehenge and Bath private tour a client quizzed me  “What exactly happened to the Baths once the Romans left and why did it fall into such decline?”  I though I would take the time to give a more detailed Image and up to date answer:
 – Aquae Sulis – was one of the jewels of Romano-British civilisation. What happened to it when the Romans left? Roman specialist James Gerrard has been studying the tantalising evidence for the end of Roman Bath.

The remains of the temple and baths dedicated to Sulis Minerva at Bath are some of the most evocative Roman ruins in the country.  On a chill winter’s morning, with steam rising from the Great Bath, it does not take much to understand why this place was special in Roman Britain and famed across the empire.

Most research at Bath has gone into understanding how and why temple and baths were built. My interest, in contrast, has always lain at the other end of the Roman period. I want to know what happened when the Romans left. Did this oasis of Classicism in Britain come to a rapid end in the 5th century? Did it perish before the fire and sword of Anglo-Saxon invaders? Or did life continue, dominated by the monumental structures of the Roman city?

Excavations at Roman Bath stretch back over 200 years to the efforts of 18th century antiquarians. It is, however, the excavations of 1978-1983, directed by Peter Davenport and Barry Cunliffe, that have given us the most detailed account of the site. The inner precinct was one of the targets of those excavations, and the result was a sequence of activity from construction through to ruin and the subsequent development of the medieval town.

Between the well-paved surface of the inner precinct and the massive scree of collapsed masonry marking the collapse or demolition of the Roman temple, the excavation team hit archaeological pay-dirt. Dismissed by earlier excavators as ‘mud and rubble’, a series of layers of sediment interleaved with paved and rubble surfaces was found which contained the evidence for the Temple of Sulis Minerva’s final years.

The layers of mud and rough paving sandwiched between the inner precinct’s paved surface and the massive layer of demolition rubble above clearly contains the evidence for the demise of the temple. For some, everything up to the demolition of the temple can be contained within the 4th century, while for others, the sequence runs on into the 5th and even 6th century.  This debate has, if not raged, then certainly bubbled away in the background for the best part of two decades.

Only absolute dating techniques can truly determine whether the temple was demolished early (at the end of the 4th century) or late (in the 6th or 7th century). Calibration of the radiocarbon dates gives a series of calendar dates at 95.4% probability – meaning that there is a 95% chance that the date falls between the earliest and latest dates given. All the dates are early, none extending beyond the early 5th century except for Sample 4, which returned a determination of AD 130-540; even in this last case, there is an 82% chance that the date falls between AD 320 and AD 470, with only a 6% chance that it falls between AD 480 and 540.

ImageThe implication is that layers of paving and sediment were laid over the Period 4 (see table) surface in a fairly swift succession.  The subsequent re-pavings were all of rubble and dumped tile. There were also traces of small structures being built against the north wall of the spring reservoir. It seems that what had been built as a great architectural monument in the 2nd or 3rd century was being remodelled much more simply from whatever materials were to hand in the late 4th.

Also significant is that by Period 5b (see table) architectural fragments were incorporated into the rough paving, showing that the temple complex was falling into a state of disrepair, and that the great altar, the ritual focus of the whole complex, had been demolished. That the altar was not rebuilt is surely significant. Either it could not be reconstructed, or by the late 4th century it held no significance for people visiting the temple and spring. 

The excavators argued that the temple structures had been deliberately demolished, perhaps to salvage the iron clamps and lead sealings that held the masonry blocks in place. To demolish a structure as big as the Temple of Sulis Minerva to extract small quantities of reusable metals, when it existed in such large quantities,  seems hard to believe.

What, then, was the motive? How the West Country was ruled in the 5th and 6th centuries is beyond historical reconstruction. The British monk Gildas tells us that there were political units ruled by kings and tyrants, but the organisation of those kingdoms remains obscure. What is clear is that by the late 5th century there were individuals and communities in the South West capable of commanding and controlling resources on a large scale.

Image The demolition of the temple and baths should be seen in the same light as the construction of refortified hillforts: a community mobilised the resources and labour necessary to remove a major set of structures from the ancient Roman townscape, just as they did to create new high-order settlements in the surrounding countryside. Gildas hints at why they might have done this. Writing in the early 6th century, he rages against British kings for their sins: they were murderers and usurpers. But not once does he call them ‘pagans’.

 The end of Roman Bath may be the story of a cult centre that had been supported by the Roman state, that staggered on for a few decades after the collapse of Roman power, but then succumbed in the late 5th century to the attacks of a post-Roman Christian community engaged in an ultimately successful struggle for political, economic and religious supremacy.

When the Frankish nun Bertana founded what was to become Bath Abbey in the late 7th century, all that was left of the Temple of Sulis Minerva were a few ruins and wall stubs sticking up through the mire, and some vague memories of a great Classical religious sanctuary.

Simon – Bath guided tours
Histouries – Bringing History alive

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Lighting up the horses There have been occasions when white horses have been lit up at night, and it appears that there was once a tradition of doing this, at one or more of the horses, but information on this is scarce. The occasions known to me are described below, with the horses listed in alphabetical order. Alton Barnes This horse has been lit up on a number of occasions in recent years. On the night of the winter solstice in December 2001, the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group lit the Alton Barnes white horse by candlelight. Some twenty-five people arranged tea lights in jars around the outline of the horse, on what was a very cold, wet and windy night. The jars were laid on their sides, which provided protection from the rain. The effect was dramatic, and despite the wind inevitably extinguishing some of the lights, the horse was still lit late that evening. The group hope to make this an annual event. This information was kindly supplied by Kate Fenn and Deirdre Edwards. The WCCSG arranged to light this horse again on 21st December 2002. I accompanied about a dozen members of the group who set out from Knap Hill car park at dusk in thick fog and rain. In the fog the party became separated, and only half reached the horse! Those of us who got there had between us only about a third of the total number of jars and tea lights that had been brought, but nonetheless we managed to light the horse to good effect, even though it could only be seen from nearby due to the fog. The horse was again lit by the WCCSG on 21st December 2004. The following is an extract from Melanie Gambrill’s account of the event: It turned out to be a great day weatherwise, with the sky clearing in the afternoon so we could watch a beautiful sunset before lighting the horse. Lots of people came so we got the candles and jars ready to light very quickly. As the sun set and the daylight started to fade we lit the candles. It must have been amazing to watch the horse being lit from a distance as the lighting progressed up the horse’s head, along the tail and up the legs until it was completely aglow. As darkness fell the horse lights became brighter and brighter. We could see vehicles stopping along the road below as people paused to view the lit horse. You can find Melanie’s full account and photos of the event here on the Swirled News website. I believe the horse has been lit every year since 2004, up to and including 2008. Cherhill The Cherhill white horse was floodlit to mark the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. A generator was set up in the valley below, and cables were run up to the site. The letters G E were marked out with red bulbs above the horse, and several large floodlights were arranged to light the horse itself. The letters were lit for five seconds, then the horse for ten seconds, with this pattern repeating continuously. This illumination took place every night during coronation week, except for two nights when very thick fog prevailed. Devizes The new Devizes white horse was completed in September 1999. Later that year, on the evening of New Year’s Eve, the horse was very effectively lit by Pearce Civil Engineering, from dusk through to dawn on New Year’s Day 2000. Pewsey The new Pewsey white horse was constructed in 1937 to mark the coronation of King George VI. After construction it was floodlit for coronation week, and apart from thick fog on two nights the effect was very good. Westbury The Westbury white horse was lit up in 1900, and again in 1950, with equipment provided by the army. Apparently the effect was spectacular, and the horse looked as if it was floating in the sky. In 1950 traffic in Westbury and Bratton came almost to a standstill as drivers slowed down to look. Some local people hoped the horse would be lit up again in 2000 but this didn’t happen. There is local interest in repeating the event, however, and it may be that it will be done again on some future date.

Nicholas – Stonehenge Tour Guide

HisTOURies – The Best Tours in British History

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Visiting my local Tescos supermarket on a busy Satuday morning often feels more like a Viking raid.  Anyway heres one for our Danish friends…

They knelt and cowered together – a once proud and fearless band of raiders stripped and humiliated by their Saxon captors.

One by one, their executioners stepped forward, uttered a prayer and brought their axes and swords crashing down on the necks of the Viking prisoners.

The axes fell until the roadside was sticky with blood from the decapitated corpses of the 51 men, most barely in their twenties.

Enlarge   Burial site: The decapitated skulls were left in one part of a pit and the bodies in another Burial site: The decapitated skulls were left in one part of a pit and the bodies in another near Weymouth, Dorset, during excavations for a relief road

Life was tough and short for VikingsThe 51 executed would have been a captured raiding party

Soon the excited crowd joined in, spearing a couple of heads on stakes, placing the rest in a neat pile and tossing the bodies into a ditch.

For more than 1,000 years this bloody roadside act was forgotten, one of many atrocities in the long and violent struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse invaders.

Now, thanks to an extraordinary piece of luck – and detective work – the massacre has been uncovered by archaeologists in a discovery that sheds fascinating new light on life in Viking Britain.

The 51 beheaded skeletons were discovered last summer near Weymouth, Dorset, during excavations for a relief road.

Over the following two months, Oxford Archaeology removed the skulls which had been placed together in one part of a pit, and the bodies which had been thrown roughly into a heap a few feet away.

A chemical analysis of teeth from ten of the men showed they grew up in countries where the climate is far colder than Britain – with one individual thought to have come from within the Arctic Circle.

Carbon dating showed they were buried between 910 and 1030AD, a time when England was being unified under Saxon kings and when Vikings from Denmark had begun a second wave of raids on the South Coast.

Oxford Archaeology project manager David Score said: ‘To find out that the young men executed were Vikings is a thrilling development.

‘Any mass grave is a relatively rare find, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual.’


For researchers, there is no question that the victims were Vikings. And not the Vikings who had settled and lived in Britain for generations, but almost certainly a captured raiding party.

In the heart of Anglo-Saxon Wessex – the stronghold of Alfred the Great and his descendants – justice against rogue Vikings would have been violent and swift.

The blows to the back of their necks were so fierce that the swords cut into the jaws and collarbones.



One man had wounds to his hands – indicating that he grabbed for the blade in a futile bid to save himself. Others suffered blows to pelvis, stomach and chest.

There were more bodies than skulls, leading to speculation that three dismembered heads were displayed on stakes.

Oxford archaeology bone specialist Ceri Boston said: ‘It was not a straight one slice and head off. They were all hacked at around the head and jaw. It doesn’t look like they were very willing or the executioners very skilled.

‘We think the decapitation was messy because the person would have been moving around.

‘The location is a typical place for a Saxon execution site – on a main road and a parish boundary and close to prehistoric barrows.’

Enlarge   A researcher sifts through the bones found out the side of the road in Dorset

A researcher sifts through the Viking bones found by the side of the road

Enlarge   viking raiding fleet The first waves of Vikings to arrive were after loot – and they saw the undefended monasteries, with their silver chalices and gold crosses as a soft target


Osteologist Helen Webb from Oxford Archaeology with one of the skull fragmentsOsteologist Helen Webb from Oxford Archaeology with one of the skull fragments

Although a raiding party seems the most likely explanation, the men could have been caught in battle some distance away and taken to Weymouth for execution. Or they could even have been killed by a rival Viking party.

History suggests that the Viking raiders could be just as ruthless as their fearsome reputation.

The first to arrive in Britain were after loot – and they saw the undefended monasteries, with their silver-chalices, gold crosses and bejewelled books, as a soft target.

The raids – which started in Lindisfarne in Northumbria in 793AD, then one of Europe’s most holy sites – sent shockwaves through the country and signalled an era of terror that would last, on and off, for more than 200 years.

In 865AD a full army arrived to storm through Britain, taking three of the kingdoms of England – Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia – before finally attacking the remaining Anglo-Saxon stronghold of Wessex.

There, under the leadership of King Alfred, the Saxons organised themselves and pushed back – eventually dividing Britain into Wessex to the West and Danelaw to the East. By the time of the Weymouth massacre, the Saxons had regained most of their old territories and had created the first unified English kingdom.

But the birth of England was accompanied by a return of the Viking raiders, spurred on by Danish royalty back home.

Some involved a couple of boats and a few dozen men, but others involved 100 boats.

The raids ended in 1016, when the throne was taken by the Danish King Canute.

Life in Viking times would have been tough and short.

Dr Richard Hall, director of archaeology at the York Archaeological Trust, said: ‘Vikings would be the same build and height as us.

‘But there would be few women over 35 because so many died in childbirth. And if you lived to 50 you were doing very well.’

Vikings – and the Saxons that some came to live alongside – were riddled with parasites.

Worms, fleas and lice were common and Vikings kept their hair meticulously groomed to remove the steady supply of nits and fleas.

Water was rarely safe to drink in the ninth and tenth centuries, and Vikings would drink weak beer, or imported wine if they were wealthy enough. Mead made with honey was also popular.

Those who settled in Britain lived in wooden long houses, with thick walls to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter.

Families slept together in the centre of the hall around a fire pit.

They ate bread, cottage cheese, milk and cured meats and fish, supplementing their diet with wild fruits, honey and nuts.

Their bowls and plates were similar to our own but they ate with a sharp-pointed knife which doubled up as a fork.

Drink was taken in horns, while spoons were often ornately carved.

The Viking raids on monasteries created the impression to many Saxons that they hated Christianity. But in reality Vikings who settled in Britain adopted the native religion very easily.

Those who did not convert worshipped a pantheon of charismatic gods.

Their most powerful was the one-eyed Odin, but the most popular was Thor – a stupid but strong god who throws lightning bolts.

Despite the popular image of legend, there is no evidence that Vikings wore horned helmets.

The myth came from the discovery of ceremonial helmets in Scandinavia.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1257333/Decapitated-Viking-skeletons-Weymouth-ditch.html#ixzz0iEpL7Oar

Nicholas – Stonehenge Tour Guide
HISTOURIES UK – The Best Tours in British History

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