23rd November 1966. Oiling the Works.

Today in 1966, British Petroleum (BP) announced that it had struck the best gas-producing area yet in the North Sea, 40 miles east of the River Humber.  By early 1967, it was being pumped ashore at Easington near Durham.(1)

Two years later oil was discovered in the Arbroath field of the UK Continental Shelf and on 19th October 1970 BP announced the first major find of oil in the British Sector of the North Sea. (2)

Drilling in East Dorset at Wytch Farm after onshore discovery in 1973.

Thus BP  had found a field as big as Norway’s Ekofisk discovered in June, which it was thought could supply 10% of Britain’s needs.

However small amounts of oil had been found in the 19th century in the shale that abounds among the ironstone seams worked in the mining areas of the Potteries in the 19th century, the precursor to Shale Oil which all the rage today.

Then at Riddings in Derbyshire in 1847 a colliery proprietor and iron-master discovered a mysterious flow of liquid and called in his scientist brother-in-law Lyon Playfair who tested the flow to find it to be petroleum then an unknown product commercially, although as naphtha, ‘salt of the earth’ it had been known since Old Testament days.

Development was placed in a friend James Young later known as ‘Paraffin Young’ who found that it had turned turbid and Playfair decided that this was caused by the hydro-carbon, paraffin from which the first paraffin candles were made.

The country’s first oil well was inaugurated in Hardstoft in 1918 in Derbyshire, with the first commercial find being the Sherwood Forest oil from Eakring, Notts., in 1939, which was eventually to produce millions of barrels of high-octane oil just in time for fuelling Spitfires.

Onshore oil production was never going to turn Britain into an Arabia, so North Sea oil came at a right time as the 1973 oil crisis resulting from the Yom Kippur War was to see petrol-rationing coupons being stockpiled and the quadrupling of oil price.

By chance the year was to see the largest discovery of onshore oil in western Europe at Witch Farm, Dorset.

Oil production had its company casualties with Burmah Oil, which in 1974 had announced a huge discovery in the Ninian Field, saw on January 2nd 1975, Britain’s second largest oil company collapse.

The blame was put on a surprise loss on tanker operations meaning that it couldn’t service huge debts incurred to finance ambitious acquisitions. Not for the first time The Bank of England and the government had to come to the rescue. 

It may come as some surprise that Britain has over one hundred sites producing oil and with the development of Shale exploration this will inevitably rise.

(1) On 7th March 1967.

(2) The test well 110 miles east of Aberdeen, in 350 feet of water, produced oil at the rate of 4,700 barrels a day.

BP a British multinational conglomerate in which the government had a 46% stake along with Shell Transport and Trading part of the Dutch and British conglomerate.





22nd November 1718. Piracy on the High Seas.

Piracy was punishable by the gibbet under the Common Law.

The most important source of pirate lore is the 1724 book, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (sic), by a Captain Charles Johnson (who was probably Daniel Defoe).

Popular pirate myths also came from Robert Stevenson’s, Treasure Island (1883) with its pirates’ map, with ‘X’ marking the spot, buried treasure and the curse of the Black Spot.

Expressions such as ‘Avast’, ‘Yo-ho-ho’ and ‘Matey’ came from the same source, though ‘Shiver-me-Timbers’ came from Capt. Frederick Marryat (1792-1848).

Today in 1718 Edward Teach or Thatch and variations, otherwise known as ‘Blackbeard the Pirate’, died, well known for plaguing the West Indies and The West Coast of America.

The so called ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ was between c1650 and 1680 involving the Anglo-French based in Jamaica and Tortuga attacking Spanish Shipping in the Caribbean.

The second phase involved the West Atlantic, Bermuda, Nassau and New York, then crossing the Atlantic round the tip of Africa stopping at Madagascar before targeting the coast of Yemen and India.

Known as ‘Roundsmen’, they were largely co-extensive with the East India Company and included the likes of Thomas Tew. The third Phase c1716-26 was after the Spanish Succession period when unemployed Anglo American privateers turned to piracy.

It was an age of the buccaneer which saw William Dampier, the first Englishman to reach mainland Australia and who went three times round the world: ‘Our business was pillage’, he wrote.

One nation’s adventurers are another’s pirates later romanticised under the French red flag the ‘Joli Rouge’-the Jolly Roger, later customised to include the skull and crossbones to signify evil intent.

Privateers as opposed to pirates, had a ‘Letter of Marque and Reprisal’ which gave licence authorising a private vessel to attack and capture enemy vessels to bring them to Admiralty Court for condemnation and sale, and was a honourable calling unlike piracy.

Armed private vessels enjoyed the tacit consent of monarchs from the time of Henry III who first issued Privateering Commissions in 1243 granted to seize the king’s enemies at sea and share the proceeds. Licensed Reprisal involved sovereign permission to exact retribution against foreign princes or subjects in that muscular and self-reliant age.

The earliest instance of the Letter of Marque was in 1295 under Edward I with the idea of a ‘Just War’ clinging to the Letters until 1620 where to apply for one it was necessary to submit to the Admiralty Court with estimated list of losses.

The first recorded use in England of the Licence was a Statute of 1354  during the reign of Edward III who during the 100 Years War had confiscated all large ships to form his Navy and licensed pirates to attack all French ships. (1)

One privateer not having Letter of Marque, from the Providence Island Company was Daniel Elfrith privateer and trade slaver in the service of 4th  Baron Robin Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick (1587-1658), when he captured the frigate, ‘Gracias a Dios’.

Besides Robin Rich there were 20 other shareholders in the Providence Company, the first English Chartered Company being founded in 1629 to settle the The Island off the Spanish Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, and funded by slaves and raids on Spanish treasure ships. However the Island was overrun in May 1641 whilst attacking a Spanish Treasure Fleet.

All were Puritans and later to provide support to Cromwell’s Parliament, many later to become famous in the Civil War: names such as Pym, Fiennes and Oliver St. John; Hampden was a cousin of one of the shareholders.

The 1630.s meetings of the Providence Company, whilst ostensibly on business, coalesced the first political opposition party in English history by resisting the Ship Money of Charles I which had ominous consequences.

The romantic association of rum and Capt. Morgan in advertising.

The slave trade and piracy/privateering went hand-in-glove epitomised especially by Captain Morgan who must have had some kind of legal cover for he eventually ended-up as Governor of Jamaica. (2)

(1) Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed.

(2) Morgan was knighted by Charles II after sacking Maracaibo, Panama City and Portobello and was instrumental in increasing the King’s coffers.





21st November 1843. Hancock and Macintosh.

The discovery of the vulcanisation of rubber using sulphur is usually ascribed to the American, Charles Goodyear, but the English inventor of early steam vehicles, Thomas Hancock had a patent granted Today 1843, 8 weeks before Goodyear.

Hancock in 1815 was in partnership with his brother Walter in London as coach builder and by 1820 was at Goswell Street, London where he experimented with rubber solutions. In 1825 he patented ‘artificial leather’ using rubber and fibres along with solvents, coal-tar and turpentine which had been influenced by the 1823 Charles Macintosh Patent, but which proved superior as a mastic rubber.

Self-taught as a manufacturing engineer Hancock can be considered founder of the British rubber industry, after he acquired an interest stemming from his water-proofing garments of rubber fastenings, gloves and leggings  to protect his coach passengers.

These processes however produced a lot of waste material which Hancock recycled via his invention of a pickling machine or ‘masticator’, Patent No. 7344 in 1837 which chewed-up scrap rubber into a warm mass of homogeneous material which was shaped and mixed into blocks and sheets.

Examples of waterproof goods made by Hancock.

Siphonia Elastica which produces quality natural rubber. Tree drawn by Hancock  at Royal Botanic gardens 1856 and became the signature print of the Hancock Brand.










In 1834 the London factory burned down and Macintosh closed his Glasgow site with operations moving to Manchester.

Hancock worked with Macintosh with the two companies merging, after introducing an automatic spreading machine, replacing the paint-brushes used by Macintosh.

The company became established as Macintosh and Hancock, with only the name of Macintosh living on until today, as the generic and eponymous Mackintosh: Mac or Mack.

Plaque at 4, High Street, Marlborough, Wilts.

(1) Hancock 8.5.1786-26.3.1865.





20th November 1197. The Stannaries.

The Mapa Mundi (1280-90) shows Cornwall as a separate country, though in reality a county well known from early times for its valuable mining of tin and the privilege of its own courts and revenues.


It was Today in 1197 that William de Wrotham was appointed in the reign of Richard I as the first Warden of the Stannary Court of Cornwall and Devon.

Charter of 1201 to the Stannaries.

During the next year juries of miners convened at Launceston before William to declare law and practice of the tin mines and the royal taxation on tin, termed the ‘coinage of tin’, which was only abolished in 1838.

In addition to rents, taxes and harbour dues, apart from income from tin-mining, there being eight Stannary towns, four in Cornwall and four in Devon where tin was collected and sold.

Earl Richard of Cornwall one of the most powerful men in Europe granted a court to Camelford in Cornwall, shortly after his coronation as King of the Germans at Aachen in May 1258 which was confirmed by Henry III in 1259.

The original Charter in Latin stated: ‘Given by our hand at Westminster the twelfth day of June in the 44th year of our reign’, established Camelford as a borough with a weekly Friday market and an annual three-day fair between 14-16 July, not entirely altruistic as the King received taxes in return.

The effect was a planned town with the market cross in a wide square and later to have the traditional Market Hall, a pattern repeated throughout the country.

Royal Charters of administration and rights and privileges of the  Stannaries came later with Richards’s brother King John in 1201, Edward I in 1305, giving the privilege to be tried by their own Stannary Court with much exemption from taxes, and Edward IV in 1466.

In February 1337 Edward III invested his eldest son, later the Black Prince, with the title of Duke of Cornwall to provide future heirs with their own estates and created the Duchy of Cornwall by Royal Charter on March 7th 1337 based on the ancient British royal territory of Cornwall and part of Devon.

The significant Charter of Pardon was issued by Henry VII in 1508 cost the tinners a £1,000, recouped by a levy but in return acquired the right to self-government by the Stannaries and right to veto statutes and ordinances affecting them.

The Stannary Parliament convened under the 1508 Charter with four boroughs sending members to the parliament: Launceston (the only walled-town in Cornwall), Truro, Lostwithiel and Helston.

The Charters of the Kings of England specify Cornwall 1201-1508 as it had been incorporated into England in Saxon times, but recognizing different constitutional statutes and royalty referred to themselves as English and Cornish: Anglia et Cornubia.

However in the centralization of Henry VIII the Cornish distinctive statutes was no longer recognized in Royal documents, but unlike Wales no legislation was enacted.

We have a situation today where the monarch’s eldest son, the Duke of Cornwall, gets an annuity to replace income lost from the ‘coinage of tin’ and all rights depending on medieval legislation relating to the ‘Stannary Parliaments’.

‘Croust time’ for tin miners in 1893 at East Pool Mine.

The last Stannary Parliament was convened by the Lord Warden which sat in 1753, yet the Charter of Royal Pardon hasn’t been repealed.

True to British tradition in 2010 the 13th Earl Waldegrave was Lord Warden of the Stannaries.





19th November 1911. Doom Bar.

Mention ‘Doom Bar’ to many craft-beer aficionados and it is assumed you are talking about a product made in Padstow, Cornwall. However the beer was named after the notorious sand bank in the Camel Estuary, the cause over the centuries of 100.s of ships ‘meeting their doom’.

Map of Cornwall. Padstow is where the main road meets the sea, near the bottom, on the north coast.

Two ships to meet their Doom Today in 1911 were The Island Maid and Angele and whilst all the crew of the Island Maid of five were rescued, the Angele lost its entire crew apart from the captain.(1)

Diagram shows the changing sand between 1825 and 2010.

The only warship to founder on the bank was HMS Whiting, a captured French 12 gun schooner in 1812 whilst rounding the point to deal with smugglers. The captain lost one year’s seniority and three of the five crew-members who were found after deserting, were given 50 lashes. The navy abandoned the vessel to its fate and by 1830 the wreck was covered by sand.(2)

The largest ship believed to have sunk was the Antoinette a barque of 1118 tons which foundered on New Years Day in 1895.

Since records began in the early 19th century over 600 ships have been lost on the Bank, which requires regular dredging to enable ships to gain access to Padstow, and over the years many schemes were put forward to overcome the problem.

There are three persistent sand-banks in the Camel Estuary with Doom Bar at the mouth, to  Town and Halwyn Bars, and with most of the sand coming from the sea-bed it contains marine molluscs composed of Calcium Carbonate.

It has therefore been used for centuries as an alkaline agricultural fertilizer when mixed with manure, with a Report in 1839 estimating that between a quarter and a fifth being so used.

Doom Bar at mouth of River Camel.

One of the perennial problems for shipping to Padstow, with the shifting sand, is the occasional reappearance of wrecks which have tested all efforts for their removal.

However for the craft ale fraternity there are more important considerations as they were appalled to discover that not all the Doom Bar beer is produced locally as bottled beer is brewed in the Author’s home town, of Burton-on-Trent, by the American-owned Molson-Coors. 

(1) Doom Bar is corruption of Dunbar-Dune-Bar.

(2) On 8th May 1812, towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars.





18th November 1189. Coer de Lion.

In the short reign of Richard I, when not fighting abroad, he found time to grant certain freedoms to towns, in exchange for financing the Crusades. One of these was enshrined in the Northampton Charter dated  today in 1189.

The Northampton Charter.

From the 11th century until lost in 1291, Acre had been the foothold of the West in Palestine and from the beginning of the reign of Richard I (the Lionheart), in July 1189, the period was dominated by the Crusades when Christendom attempted to reclaim the Holy places from Muslim domination. Not surprisingly the King only spent about 6 months in England; his wife Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre, never did visit.

Richard’s protagonist was Saladin, the leader of the feuding caliphates in the 12thc who has  romantically been seen as the embodiment of chivalry with his treatment of prisoners, which was said to contrast favourably with Richard, a bogeyman in the Arab world for centuries.

In truth there was slaughter on both sides in particular at Hattin in 1187 when Saladin slaughtered Crusaders and Christian princes, who if they did survive were captured held hostage until ransomed.(1)

Saladin and Islam thus became the eminent military power in the Holy Land especially after recovering Jerusalem and several Crusader cities, prompting the 3rd Crusade two years later.(2)

Whilst he was away his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and Lord Chancellor, Chief Justiciar and Bishop of Ely, William Longchamp, acted as Regents, the latter paying £3,000 for the Office of Chancellor and eager for cash increased the cost of documents requiring the Royal Seal necessary for authenticity.

Richard had returned to England after being ransomed in 1194 with the aid of the Lord Mayor of London, Henry Fitzalwyn when eager to show himself to his subjects, he underwent a second coronation. He was firstly crowned at Westminster Abbey on 3rd September 1189.

Richard I’s Seal.


Richard had declared his brother John Lackland, later King John, who had acquired the Nottingham earldom from the King, as his successor, despite John in his brother’s absence abroad, taking over Nottingham Castle, later having to be ejected.

Many later notable families including three members of the Fulford Family of Dunsford accompanied Richard on the Crusades and the Fulford Estate was granted to Sir William de Fulford c 1190 for supporting Richard I on Crusade.

Richard was to die abroad at Chinon after he had battled against an attack against his French, Anjou heartland, with his illegitimate son Geoffrey his only supporter.

He had been fatally injured by a poisoned arrow shot supposedly by Bertran de Gurdon at the siege of Chalus-Chabrol as he was walking round the castle inspecting the sappers on March 25th.The injury turned gangrenous and he died on 6th April 1199.

True to his wandering spirit The Lionheart was one of two kings to be buried at Fontevraud in Anjou, the other was his father Henry II and his queen Eleanor. 

Richard has an equestrian statue, corseted in chain mail, unveiled in 1860 in Old Palace Yard; the cost of over £3,000 with the pedestal at £1,650 was paid by a parliament Richard was never to summon. It is by Baron Carlo Marochetti RA (1860).


(1)  Hattin July 4th 1187.

(2) Welshman Giraldus Cambrensis-Gerald, the first serious natural historian of Wales, son of a Norman knight joined the Archbishop of Canterbury on an epic journey through Wales in 1188 to raise crusaders.



BBC 2 Jan. 2012. 27th November (Pope Urban and Deus Volt).

17th November 1941. The SAS.

Motto of SAS: ‘Who Dares Wins’.

SAS Badge.

In July 1941 the Special Air Service (SAS) an offensive organisation was set up by Lt. David Stirling, Scots Guards serving in No 8 (Guards) Commando, after persuading his chief in Egypt, where initial training took place.

1 Special Air Service Regiment comprising 5 Officers and 60 Other Ranks had a task to lead units behind enemy lines and destroy planes using a special explosive which caused maximum damage.

One of its first exercises was a 100 miles trek to a RAF camp to show the weakness of defences by placing, ‘you have been bombed’, notices on the windows.

L Detachment SAS saw its first Operation, ‘Squatter’ on the night of the 16th and 17th November 1941, marked  ‘secret and personal’, in support of Operation ‘Crusade’, which proved a disaster with 22 killed or captured.

LRDG Badge with Scorpion in wheel.

Recruiting from Layforce the second mission in December was transported by the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) with the aim to do as much damage as possible to Libyan airfields then controlled by the Axis.

In the raid 60 aircraft were destroyed though with the loss of 15 ‘parachutists’ as they were then called.

The LRDG was a guerrilla organisation developed from British desert explorers of the 1930.s based in Egypt. Many of the organization were New Zealanders looking for adventure.

It was essentially an observation organisation, which got behind enemy lines and reported on the movement of the Italians who controlled Libya. Eminently resourceful the LRDG worked in small teams whilst having to cope with some of the most inhospitable climates on earth.

Stirling was captured in January 1943 to be succeeded by Irish Rugby International, Lt. Paddy Mayne who became the most decorated officer of the war with four DSO.s.

In April 1943 1 SAS was reorganized into a Special Raiding Squadron under Mayne and a Special Boat Squadron under George Jellico.

Fighting in many theatres including Normandy, and Norway where they disarmed 300,000 Germans. The 1st and 2nd SAS Regiments and Boat Squadron were disbanded in 1945.

The SAS was reformed as a TA Regiment on 31st July 1947, followed in 1952 by 22 SAS  Regiment when a need for a regular SAS Regiment was recognized by the troubles in Malaya in the 1950.s, when the Malayan Scouts were renamed.(1)

(1) It became part of the Army List in 1952 and later to be based at Hereford in 1960. 23 SAS Territorial Army was formed February 1958.