Archive by Author | colindunkerley

23rd September 1459. Blore Heath and After.

Blore Heath in Shropshire was one of the first battles in the Wars of the Roses in 1459 taking place 2 miles from Market Drayton and near Loggerheads.

Battle Map.

After the first battle of St. Albans in 1455 there had been an uneasy truce between the Lancastrian and Yorkist forces.

By 1459 Margaret of Anjou, wife of the feckless and occasionally mad, Lancastrian, King Henry VI, was actively raising armed supporters amongst the noblemen and distributing silver swans to the knights and squires. The Duke of York on the other hand was finding many anti-royalist supporters.

Middleham Castle, Wensleydale.

The Yorkists were based at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire and led by Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury decided to link with their main supporters at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire.

Ludlow Castle.

When Neville’s army moved south-west towards Ludlow, the Queen ordered her forces, under James Tuchet, Lord Audley to intercept them.

The two forces met at Blore Heath, where despite the Yorkist army being only half that of the 10,000 Lancastrians, they claimed victory. In fact of all the major battles of the wars the Yorkists were to win 11 against the Lancastrians 4, including the pivotal victory at Tewksbury in 1471.

This battle was to see the death of the King’s son, Edward of Westminster (or Lancaster), the only heir apparent to be killed in battle.

After Tewksbury some stability in the country was restored until the death of the Yorkist, Edward IV in 1483.

After Tewksbury Queen Margaret, along with the King, were incarcerated in the Tower before the Queen was ransomed by Louis XI. Henry VI was probably murdered.



22nd September 1694. Losing One’s Seat.

Today saw the birth of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th earl of Chesterfield, famous amongst other things for his instructional letters to his illegitimate son also Philip.

Before entering the House of Lords after the 3rd earl’s death, Philip Dormer was MP for the ‘rotten borough’ of St. German, Cornwall, between 1715-1722, boroughs so called, as often deserted, they frequently had two MPs, but in many cases few or no residents.

Many of these parliamentary seats were under the control of a wealthy patron which would be sold to the highest bidder for considerable amounts: they were known as ‘pocket boroughs’.  

Philip Dormer’s son Philip took over the seat which by this time was called Liskeard and St. German, but the government anxious to take possession asked him to vacate the seat for £1,000 which was half that he (or his father) had paid for it, but was in any case relinquished.

Norman doorway of St. German’s Priory fashioned in elvin stone (quartz porphyry.

British politics before the 1832 Reform Act was thus a time when bribery and corruption was rife and when most public offices could be claimed for money. It also gives an insight into the dispensibility of MPs away from any electoral control. 

There were previous instances including that in the 1648 Civil War coup-d’etat known as Pryde’s Purge when over100 Presbyterians were rooted out as they were unwilling to support the ‘Grandees’ in a hard-line against Charles I.

Later that century saw further exclusions of MPs from the Commons, when even a Speaker was evicted for bribery and corruption.

The withdrawal of the Whip (right to vote for a party), has often been a major disciplinary action against wayward MPs, many being forced to become Independent Members, doomed to lose at the next election.

However since 2015 Parliament has the use of what is known as the ‘Recall Petition’ whereby a sitting Member if subjected to imprisonment or suspended for more than 10 days can have a Petition raised against him.

The first to be subjected to this was the Democratic Unionist, Ian Paisley who was suspended for 30 days, a record, for not declaring foreign travel, payed from another’s pocket, However he managed to scrape through the ballot and lived to fight another day.

Rotten and Pocket Boroughs were abolished under the 1832 Reforms with many MPs being unseated. The near future could see more suffer the same fate after new Boundary Commission recommendations; but these seats will be unavailable for sale as with Philip Stanhope’s




21st September 1915. Gift to the Nation.

15thc MS of Stonehenge, Scala Mundi, Chronicle of the World, unique in showing how it was built. It is credited to Merlin and dates Stonehenge to 480-86, so c 3,000 years out.(1)

Today in 1915 there was a sale at Salisbury, Wilts., described as : ‘Lot 15 Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods and 37 perches of downland’. It was bought by a wealthy local barrister, Mr Cecil Chubb, ‘on a whim’, for £6,600 and given to the nation three years later.(2)

Henry VIII had acquired Amesbury Abbey, which included Stonehenge at the time of the Monastic Dissolution.

In 1540 the land was acquired by the earl of Hertford, nephew of Henry’s queen, Jane Seymour, and via others to the Antrobus Family of Cheshire in 1824. When the heir to that estate died in WWI it was put up for sale by Sir Edmund, eventually to end up as ‘Lot 15’.

Plaque to Chubb.

Furlong House once home of Chubb, Shrewton, Wilts.





In the event Chubb put Stonehenge into public ownership via a deed of gift and was rewarded by Prime Minister, Lloyd George with a baronetcy, becoming Sir Cecil Chubb (Bt) of Stonehenge. his coat-of-arms included the words Saxis Condita (founded on stones).

Chubb also stipulated that the public shouldn’t pay more than 1shilling for access, with locals free (still the case today).

The Ancient Monuments Act 1913 allowed for the first time the compulsory purchase of historical sites, including Stonehenge.

It is managed by English Heritage with surrounding land owned by the National Trust.

(1) The oldest known depiction of Stonehenge: ‘A giant helps Merlin build Stonehenge’, from a Manuscript of the Roman de Brut by Wace, now in the British Library.

(2) £3/4m in modern prices.




housebeautiful. com Maev Kennedy. 27.11.2006.

20th September 1842. Dewar’s Flask.

Today Sir James Dewar FRS inventor of the vacuum flask was born in 1842. The flask was initially developed for research into the liquifaction of gases when in 1892 he discovered that the vacuum-jacketed vessel could be used for storage of liquid gases. Known as the Dewar or Vacuum Flask, it later acquired the generic name Thermos.

Liquid oxygen in a flask is coloured pale blue.

In 1891 Dewar was the first to produce liquid Oxygen on an industrial scale and later in the decade he led the way to produce liquid and then solid Hydrogen using the Regenerative Cooling technique.(1)

Paradoxically Dewar’s flask was seen as efficient at keeping heat out, not in, so it was possible to pressurise liquids for comparative long times making it possible to investigate their optical properties.

Dewar’s Flask at the Museum of the Royal Institution.

Thus the flask was essentially a scientific implement and not seen as having commercial value until 1914 when two German glass-makers saw its possibilties and decided on the name Thermos.

Dewar never profited from his flask and lost a court case against Thermos, and whilst it was recognised that it was his invention, as no patent had been taken out, he couldn’t stop Thermos using his design. In any case Thermos was later ruled as a generic name much like aspirin and Hoover.

Like all science there is a sinister side as the first thermonuclear device detonated by the US in the Pacific, used the liquid Hydrogen isotope Deuterium (Hydrogen-2) known as Heavy Water, for its nuclear fusion.(2)

(1) Regenerative Cooling involves compressed gases being cooled by allowing them to expand. The cooled expanded gas then passes through an heat-exchanger where it cools the incoming compressed gas.

(2) Hydrogen is found naturally as H2, a gas, and to exist as a liquid must be cooled below -252c.

Oxygen must be cooled down to -183c.



19th September 1960. Traffic Warden to Civil Enforcement.

Today the 40 first Traffic Wardens hit the streets of Westminster, London under the aegis of the Road Traffic and Roads Act 1960.

They soon acquired a name for mindless petty officialdom as on the first day Dr. Thomas Creighton called to an heart attack in a West End Hotel, was ‘ticketed’ by a Mr Crowe in Grosvenor Square, London, after parking his Ford Popular or Bentley depending on who you read, on the street.

‘To the right’ suggests a quasi army of potential ‘petty Hitlers’.

Originally under police control, in the 1990.s Local Councils took over the running of a force known by a military-style  peaked cap with yellow band and yellow shoulder flashes, and the power to slap on the windscreen, a ticket fine of £2.

Often crass behaviour gave good copy to the press as down the years cases were reported of hearses, blood-donor vehicles and even a horse in Yorkshire, being targeted. On the ticket, the vehicle description was ‘brown horse’.

Not surprisingly seen as tyrants many were to suffer verbal and physical abuse.

In the 1990.s parking fines were decriminalised and became part of Civil Law, so there was the chance of getting a bailiff at the door.

It was in 2004 that the Traffic Management Act, replacing the 1991 Road Traffic Act introduced a new force, the Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs), whose duties were widened from that of traffic wardens to include all manner of environmental issues, taking on work previously done by the police.(1)

Now we see a new breed with bomber-jackets and base-ball caps and who needed, ‘good communication and computer skills, team work, accuracy, ability to work under pressure and with other professonals’.

They were also burdened with hand-held cameras, computers and printer, radios and in Brent from 2017, body-video equipment, for as a councillor said; ‘safety is our priority’. Salaries are variable round the country, but not excessive.

(1) Stemming from the Police Reform Act 2002.

References/Pics. 20.1.2016. article 30.10.2010.

18th September 1967. ‘Splitting the Atom’.

Today saw the death of Sir John Douglas Cockroft OM FRS., famous for being the first to split the nucleus of an atom, a significant development in nuclear physics for which he and Ernest Walton shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951.

The physicist Ernest Rutherford had postulated in 1910 the existence of a nucleus in an atom and Cockroft keen to see whether this could be broken, called for ‘1m volts in a soap box’, to investigate the possibilities, whilst working with Walton and Mark Oliphant in a spare room at the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge.

Lithium Atom.

Using spare parts they managed to build the first nuclear particle accelerator in 1929 using a generator with a system of capacitors, (which changed Alternating Current to Direct Current), and thermionic rectifiers, which produced a voltage of 600k which proved sufficient.

The result was the Cockroft-Walton ‘Accelerator’ which was used in 1932 to perform, for the first time, an artificial disintegration of an atom’s nucleus, in this case that of Lithium: in popular parlance, ‘splitting the atom’.

Hydrogen Discharge (Spectrum) Tube.

In this process the Hydrogen nucleus was accelerated in a discharge tube which bombarded layers of Lithium. So when the Hydrogen nucleus (1 Proton) collided with the Lithium nucleus (3 protons and 4 neutrons), both broke out into 2 Helium nuclei (2 protons and 2 neutrons each), shooting in opposite directions.

Cleveite sample from which Sir William Ramsay first purified Helium.

All this was seen on a Zinc-Sulfide screen showing wave patterns characteristic of the Helium nucleus; Alpha Radiation which Rutherford had previously discovered.(1)

In 1940 Cockroft was a member of the key committee ‘Maud’ which looked into the issues as to whether an atomic bomb could be built, before being a member of the Tizard Mission which shared British technology with America, who was later to use it in anger against Japan.

The ancients were concerned to transmute base metal into gold: what Cockroft and his team had shown for the first time was that man could artificially transmute the nucleus of one element, Lithium, into another: Helium. (2)

Of importance the experiment proved the theory of the Conservation of Mass and also prepared the way for the European Cern Accelerator Project. 

(1) It was the physicist Sir Ernest Rutherford who accepted Cockroft as a research student at the Cambridge Cavendish Laboratories.

(2) As opposed to a natural transmutation that Rutherford had previously done.


17th September 1941. Fish and Chips.

‘The combination of fish and chips: the agreeable companions’. Churchill.

By 1940-1941 two million extra acres of grassland had been taken into cultivation so that acreage of potatoes alone exceeded the pre-war by 92%.

It was Today in 1941 that a Government Order ordained that potatoes be sold at 1d (penny) a pound to increase wartime consumption.

Potatoes were never rationed in the War as it was believed that they made one of the bulk items in the manual workers’ diet, who were not receiving higher rations than anyone else. By 1943 the government was having to subsidise to the tune of £25 million meat and potatoes.

Shop in Burton on Trent, Staffs.

In both World Wars fish and chips were safeguarded and not rationed and so really came into their own as a staple food. The Author remembers getting a bag of chips for 3d (pence) with free ‘batter-bits’, and if one took old newspapers, for wrapping, chips were free!

Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist mentions ‘fried fish warehouses’, but it was the celebrated French imigre cook, Alex Soyer in his 1845 first edition of his shilling, ‘Cookery for People’, who supplied a recipe for fried fish, Jewish Style, dipped in flour and water. (1)

The development of steam trawlers working the North Sea, helped by the railways which expedited the transport of fresh fish, made it possible for inland fish and chip shops to multiply.

The exact location of the first shop is said to have been in Ashton Road, Oldham in 1866, though this is contested. By 1910 there were 25,000: ten years later there were 35,000 in the UK. Harry Ramsden, still going strong, opened in 1928 at Guiseley, West Yorkshire.

In the depressed north in 1937, George Orwell’s, ‘Road to Wigan Pier’, considered fish and chips, ‘as chief among home comforts’.

Post-war on 8th November 1947 it was announced that potatoes were to be rationed to three pounds per person per week.(2)

Fish fryers were to come under attack for the use of hydrogenated fats as the oil can be used longer without getting rancid. Now old fats are being used in biodiesel fuel..

(1a) Soyer made efforts to relieve the misery of the Great Irish Famine 1845-9 by contributing a 1d from every copy of his pamphlet, ‘The Poor Man’s Regenerator’.1847.

(1b) Dickens’, Tale of Two Cities, 1859, mentions, ‘Husky chips of potatoes fried with some reluctant pools of oil’.

(2) Potato (Continuation of Supply) Order 1947 SR & O 1947 No 2402 8 Nov 1947.

References/Pics. History of Fish and Chips. Ellen Castelow.

Oxford English Dictionary.

Fish and Chips and the British Working Class. Prof J Walton.