Sunday, 20 March 2022

History Bites - The Execution of Thomas Seymour

On this day in 1549, the execution of Thomas Seymour.

He had been questioned on the 18th of February about his role in plot to kidnap Edward VI, this was followed by a bill of attainder seven days later and his death almost a month later.

Elizabeth I said of him 'Today died a man with wit and not much judgement'

You have to question then why Catherine Parr married him?

Monday, 17 January 2022


Tudor Wills

Things I know now that I didn't know yesterday - Henry VIII's will was 'signed' with a Dry Stamp.

In the first years of his reign, Henry was more interested in having fun than running his kingdom, this job was left to his councillor's. With this in mind a stamp was created, this was a dry copy of the king’s signature to which ink was added. Court officials would use this stamp on documents and a month later, after being checked for misuse, Henry would receive a bundle of these documents which he would sign off with his real signature.
This practice continued throughout Henry's reign, the stamp was redesigned twice.

However, it has been suggested that, as Henry lay on his deathbed, his last will was not the one to which the dry stamp had been originally applied, that is, it had been tampered with.
Historians argue over this, stating that two clauses were later added which favoured those in the new kings court with interest in religious reform.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Thomas Blood and the Theft of the Crown Jewels

 On the 9th May in 1671, Thomas Blood became the first and only man to attempt to steal the Crown Jewels.

Colonel Blood as he would come to be known, was born in Ireland, the son of a blacksmith. Blood had fought for the Royalist forces of Charles I during the English Civil War. However, he switched sides to fight under Oliver Cromwell, his reward for which were land grants and a position in local government. When the new Stuart king was restored to the throne in 1660, Blood was forced to flee back to Ireland where he attempted to kidnap and later killed the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. On returning to England he befriended Talbot Edwards, the keeper of the crown jewels, who living quarters were above the room where the jewels were kept. It was today, in his guise as Parson Blood and accompanied by three others, that he made his attempt to steal the crown jewels.

Blood was captured when Edward's raised the alarm.

Thomas Blood evaded punishment for this crime as he had with the murder of the Duke of Ormonde. He managed to sweet talk his way out by replying "I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!" when Charles II asked "What if I should give you your life?"

Eventually though the Irish adventurers luck finally ran out, he died following his stint in prison after being convicted of making defamatory remarks about his patron the Duke of Buckingham for which he was also fined £10,000.

​Following his release he died on August 24th 1680 - he didn't pay his fine!

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Time Travelling Adventures

Its time for another virtual adventure into the lives of my Devon family, the Meavy's. For the past couple of weeks they have been eagerly awaiting news of the coronation of King Harold - not that they know who he is of course! Little do they know that William of Normandy has landed on Pevensey Beach in Sussex with every intention of snatching Harold's golden crown.

As the Meavy's happily skin yet another rabbit for tea, Harold and his battle weary men are trudging their way though the mire and mud of middle England to sort out the invader, but William it seems, is having trouble with England - quite literally.

As he places his shiny new Norman boots on the beach he stumbles and falls, a collective gasp is heard, but the Conqueror, knowing that his men believe this is a bad omen shouts -

                                  “See I already have England in my hands.”

How clever he is!

If my Meavy ancestors could hear him they would know that they are in real deep trouble, for this new king would have their county totally under his control by 1068.

My previous chapters on the Meavy family can be read here.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The Handley Monument

Henry Handley, entrepreneur and member of Parliament was described by one James Grant as

"a tall, stout, good-looking man. He has a jolly, countrified countenance, with a complexion redolent of health. His face is full, and his features are regular and pleasing. His hair is of a light brown, and he sports a pair of whiskers of which any Spanish Don might be proud."

Handley inherited his estates in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire on the death of his father Benjamin Handley who had helped to establish the canalisation of the River Slea, known as the Sleaford Navigation, and who also founded the first bank in the town.

Following his move to Culverthorpe Hall, his new home just outside the town, Handley became interested in agricultural affairs and the plight of the land working people in regard to the Malt Tax stating

" it was impossible for the present system to continue long; the voice of the people must prevail...."

Proud of their son, the town erected a monument to commemorate the life of Henry Handley who had been born in the town in 1797.

Handley died in the June on 1846.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

On This Day in 1837

​Along with Sir Francis Drake, who had rather an important job to do this day in 1588, there was another man with an equally important event happening in 1837, this was Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Brunel, like Drake, is associated with the West Country, the sea and ships and as well as bridges, tunnels and railways, he was responsible for the design of several famous sea going crafts and the 19th of July witnessed one of Brunel's greatest achievements. The iron hulled Great Western, was also the largest vessel in the world, it was launched this day in 1837 and was the first steamship to cross from Bristol to New York. 

Another of Brunel's ships, The Great Britain, launched six years later on the 19th July of 1843, was the first Atlantic liner built of iron.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

On This Day in 1819

The Birth of English civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette.

In the image below you can see the engraving "The Silent Highwayman" featuring death as he rows on the Thames, taking the lives of those who made no effort towards the clean up of river.

By 1866, Bazalgette designs were implemented and most of London was connected to a sewer system where the filthy water, that caused cholera epidemics in the city, were diverted along new low level sewers. These sewers were built behind embankments on the riverfront taking the water to new treatment works. By 1870 both the Albert and the Victoria Embankments had been opened.