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31st March 1547. Wealden Iron.

The Sussex Wealden geology of sand and clay, iron ore, brick and timber to make charcoal for the furnaces, saw the area becoming the centre for iron making and following a tradition going back to Roman times as coins were found nearby. until the move to the coalfields in 1770.(1)

One of the founders of the industry was the Levett family with Parson William (c1495-1554) taking over after the death of his brother John.

So he was in the position of ‘praying for peace, whilst thriving and on war’, after William had been instructed to continue to operate the ‘irron mylles and furnaces’.

Levett was one of the Government’s chief agents in Sussex armament industry as a result of invasion scares from France and Spain when Henry VIII told his metal workers to focus on making cannons because he could not afford to import sufficient numbers of expensive bronze guns from Flanders.

Thus by 1543 the first muzzle-loaded cannon were being prepared cast iron cannon and mortars  was centred in the Weald at Bucksfield Sussex with exports starting an arms trade.

This priest cum-cannon founder parson of Buxted, East Sussex, Parson William was the first to cast iron cannon in England, through the efforts of his employee or servant Ralph Hogge.

He went on to become the chief supplier of cannon to the Crown’s Board of Ordnance as the ‘goonstone maker’.

Later Levett’s iron interests fell to the heirs of his brother John chiefly to the Eversfield, Pope and Chaloner and it was Today in 1547 Thomas Chaloner of Lindfield, Sussex left in his will  tenne shillings to ‘Rauf Hogg  (Ralph Hogge), the servunte of Mr Parsone Levetes’ (sic)

‘In the begyning’, said Hogge in 1573, ‘there was none that cast any gonnes or shott of yron but only pson Levet who was my Mr. and my p’decessor who mayde none but only for the service of the kinges matie’.(sic)

Levett as a businessman, was in some way, removed from the 16thc religious strife, but didn’t stop his temporary removal from his rector’s post at Buxted by Archbishop Cranmer for refusing to embrace reform.

Originally using Bloomeries ,the arrival of the larger and more permanent blast furnaces in the Weald c 1491, increased production, but required water-pounds, more iron ore and charcoal from a depleting number of trees.(2)

The Kentish and Sussex iron industry now moved to coal reserves, with coke replacing charcoal, as at Ironbridge where Abraham Darby started production: a new era began.

Church of St. Margaret the Queen Buxted built c 1250 where John Eversfield is buried near Levett in the Chancel

(1) Later companies such as Wilkinson, Walkers and The Carron Works took over iron-making.

(2) The bloomery was a type of furnace used in smelting iron from oxides, resulting in porous mass of iron and slag.

The ‘Bloom’ then turned into wrought iron as the blast furnace turned it into pig-iron. Limestone was used as a flux to separate out the impurities.

References: wealden_iron/Pic


village,net.sussex iron masters/Pic.



30th March 1840. The Poverty Line.

Laissez-faire had become a discredited notion particularly after writers such as Samuel Smiles’ Thrift (1875): ‘When typhus or cholera breaks out, they tell us nobody is to blame…nobody adulterates our food …nobody makes poachers, thieves and drunkards…it is embedded in two words laissez-faire’.

Socialist and pioneer statistician Charles Booth born Today in 1840 was responsible along with the likes of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree and Henry Mayhew, in bringing to the attention of the public and government, the dreadful living conditions of 19thc lower class London, and their association with crime, drunkenness, gambling and extreme on poverty.(1)

Booth’s Map of Whitechapel, London.

Booth, the son of a ship owner, wanted to see for himself the conditions and found the 1881 Census inadequate as he wished to breakdown occupations and income of all classes.

Code of Map above.

So Booth produced twelve maps descriptive of London Poverty covered London from North-South (Greenwich to Hammersmith) and South-North (Clapham to Hampstead) though the actual City was not covered.

In order to provide a visual image of local conditions on street by street basis, Booth devised a seven-colour scheme from Black (lowest class); vicious, semi-criminal, via Pink (fairly comfortable with good ordinary earnings). Orange represented the wealthy upper-middle and upper-class.

Rowntree (of the chocolate family), was especially concerned with looking at the dire conditions in the city of York where his findings showed that poverty was a major and widespread problem in 19th century Britain.

Boy crossing sweepers.

Booth in his 17 year investigation, with the help of Beatrice Webb, collected the data in 17 volumes, but though limited to London, arrived at some idea of a ’poverty-line’.(2)

This was set at 10-20 shillings for a family of 4/5, later to be revised in the next century with the notion of a minimum working wage.

Whilst discountenancing any ‘notion of idleness’, Booth advised the setting up of ‘public labour camps’, which contradicted the then ‘laissez-faire’ views and concluded the need for collective responsibility.(3)

Henry Mayhew (1812-1887), sent on a mission by the Morning Chronicle, compiled ‘The London Labour and London Poor’, which when allied with Chadwick’s Sanitary Report and Booth’s work, meant that never again could ignorance be blamed for not ameliorating social conditions.

Booth was an early advocate of pensions and with the support of the Trade Unions was to see a Liberal Government bringing in Old Aged Pensions in January 1909 and National Insurance in 1911.

As the 19thc author William Thackeray said, ‘we had to go a 100 yards and to see for ourselves, but we never did’.(4)

(1) Mayhew was a co-founder of Punch which highlighted social conditions and an article in the Morning Chronicle caused a reaction amongst Radicalists and Christian Socialists.

(2) Now in LSE London.

(3) Punch Magazine. 9.3.1850. p.93.

(4) These had to await until 1926 when camps were set up to help long-term unemployed after the War.

Ref: HC Debate 23. Feb. 1891. vol 350. cc 1359-60.


Ref: of boys.

29th March 1461. Towton.

The Wars of the Roses was a term coined and immortalised by Walter Scott in his 1829 novel Anne of Geierstein and Today in 1461 was to witness the bloodiest battle, in those wars, ever to be fought on British soil.

It took place in a snowstorm on Palm Sunday, at Towton south of York and established Edward IV as King up to 1483, but in a reign broken by exile, and counter-claims from the supporters of Henry VI until he was murdered in the Tower.

The Wars were between the two Houses of Plantagenets, descendants of the sons of Edward III, Lancastrian, John of Gaunt and Richard of York and to culminate in a battle of the thirty six thousand army of the Yorkist Edward IV and the forty thousand Lancastrians of Henry VI.

The two were to face each other over a wind scoured plateau and by the end of the day an estimated 28,000 lay dead.

Many died in the opening arrow salvos or hand-to-hand melee, many were pushed into the Cock Beck ravine which choked with bodies served as a bridge helping many to escape the rout.

The casus belli has been attributed to the inadequacy of Henry VI, his mental instability and his pious notion of a unique relationship with God.

After Towton which restored the Yorkists, the powerful Queen Margaret continued to intrigue with her husband Henry in the Tower and it was only the breach between Edward and Warwick in 1468 which gave her any chance of success of preserving the Lancastrian line.

Could the reason why Towton is largely forgotten whilst Bosworth of 1485 is remembered be due to Tudor propaganda?, as the Yorkist victory at Towton, was not as important to their cause as the later Tudor 1485 victory. History is all about the victors.

(1) Lord Dacre’s Cross commemorates the dead on Towton Lane, south of York. Thirty times more died at Towton, than at Bosworth, the penultimate battle of the wars.


Pic Google images.



28th March. c800? Alkelda: Saint or Myth?

In Anglo-Saxon Britain many largely unknown female saints were created : Modwenna, Bertha of Kent, Edith of Wilton, Edith of Polesworth and… Alkelda to whom Today in the Roman calendar is dedicated as a feast day.

Saints then were decided by local proclamation, largely based on local association with a particular holiness or miracles or even with downright legend. Not until Pope Gregory IX in 1234 was Canonization formalised and systematic.

The lives of the saints have been documented and embellished down the ages and one makes of them what one will, depending on one’s taste for the supernatural.

What stands out from their lives is often an association with piety and a holy well: Alkelda is associated with piety and miracles of the well near Middleham in Yorkshire, reputed to be a cure for weak eyes.

The parish churches at Middleham and Giggleswick are dedicated to Alkelda, from which root Keld, is a well or spring notably in Keldhome and Keld Head.(1)

Going back to ancient times the local spring or well were sanctified and associated with miracles and mystical ceremonies, being controlled by ‘guardians of the well’ at the Nyphaeum consecrated to Nymphs.

Not surprisingly Christianity made these sites their own which mollified the pagan culture, but under a Christian dress; waters were now made to flow by the saints.

Church of Mary and Alkelda at Middleham.

Alkelda derives from the Anglo-Saxon word for holy, ‘Haleg’, and ‘Kelda’ for well, much revered as the source of disease-free water, becoming also meeting places for the local governing Wapentake.

Giggleswick Church dedicated to Alkelda.

The area around Middleham was called Hallikeld and in 1157 one of the wapentakes near Richmond was called Halikeldshire.

The home town of the Author had its own saint, Modwenna (Modwen) founder of Burton Abbey, on an island in the Trent, and where the well was later associated with miracles and healing. The nearby church was dedicated in her name.

Though popular in those days of ascribing natural phenomena by association with the local holy woman (or man) who became a saint, I haven’t noticed lately an influx of pilgrims to the Broadholme on the Trent.

However many, no doubt, will be giving a toast today to the good Alkeda.

(1) In 1525 James Carr in Giggleswick wished to be buried at the church of Giggleswicke of Holie Blessed virgin S. Alkelda.

References: of Middleham. of Giggleswick.

27th March 1963. What Happened to Adelstrop?

 ‘No one left and no one came/On the bare platform’: Adlestrop by Edward Thomas. (1)

The death knell for steam was sounded in 1956, the same year as third class became second class and the Chairman of British Railways (BR), Sir Brian Robertson announced that electrified services were to be introduced on the Euston to Liverpool and Manchester lines.

Adlestrop Station in 1933.

Today in 1963, ‘Reshaping of British Railways’ the 2 volume Beeching Report was presented to the House of Commons.

Richard Beeching brought in from Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) by Prime-Minister, Harold Macmillan to become Chairman of the railways, proposed in the Report, a 25% cut in the network.(2)

The 1962 Transport Act was the third since 1947 and constituted the most significant Railway Act since the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1854, establishing the British Railways Board and Transport Authority and abolishing the British Transport Commission (BTC).

Area Boards were replaced by Regional Boards answerable to the new main Railways Board, all coming into effect on the 1st of June 1963 resulting in the closure of a third of the railways, with no individual cases being heard.(3)

All passenger services north of Inverness were to cease and most branch lines in north and central Wales along with the West Country were to be closed.

Not surprisingly Ernest Marples, the Transport Minister and chairman of Marples-Ridgeway civil-engineers supported the cuts.

Inter-war over 2,400 miles of freight track and 350 freight stations had been closed along with 1000 miles of track and 380 passenger stations.

In 1870 there were 11,044 miles, a similar network to Transport Ministers’s, Barbara Castle’s 1967 notion of a ‘basic railway’.

The closure programme between 1950 and 1967 thus brought the system back to similar size, a far cry from 19,639 miles when the Railway Executive took over in 1948.

The Steam Age, (with its multiplicity of engine types) passed into history on Southern Region on 10th July 1967 and nationally on 11th August 1968, along with the excitement of much train-spotting, using the 1940.s Ian Allen, ABC books. 

It is a moot point how long steam power on the railways was kept going owing to political considerations and pressure from miners and steelworkers, also two wars would must have retarded development.

Beeching’s tenure of office finished on 1st.June 1965 after 2½ years, leaving for profitable pastures new.

(1) Tedestrop in Domesday Book.

(2) Beeching had been a member of Sir Ivan Stedeford’s, Special Advisory Group and had replaced the British Transport Commission Chairman, Lord Brian Robertson who had retired in May 1961.

(3) The Transport Act 1962 (Royal Assent on August 1st)  saw the dissolution of the BTC established by Attlee in 1947 to oversee rail, canal and road freight.

In September 1962, 15 of the existing 31 workshops had been scheduled to close including Darlington, Brighton and Gorton and it was planned to close 2,128 stations, scrap 8,000 coaches, and axe 67,700 jobs.

26th March 1665/6. ‘Turps’.

After the diarist Samuel Pepys was ‘cut for the stone’ he celebrated Today in 1665/6, writing that, ‘this is the day 7 years ago which by the blessing of God I have survived’.(1)

He continued, ‘now I am at a losse (sic) to know whether it be my hare’s foot which is my preservative against for I never had a fit of the collique since I wore it, and nothing but wind brings me pain for when I do not lie longer upon my back in bed my water the next morning is very hot. or whether it be by taking a pill of Turpentine every morning which keeps me always loose. (Don’t do this at home!)


Many questionable remedies were used in days gone by for various complaints and ‘Turps’ which is a distillation of coal oil and along with Kerosine (Paraffin) was used for abrasions, wounds and head lice and when mixed with animal fat, used for chest rubs and inhaling, the taste usually masked with sugar and honey.

The Terpines are Hydrocarbons, a large and diverse class of organic compounds and are primary constituents of essential oils of many plants and flowers. (2)

The essence is extracted by distillates giving perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, food and drink flavouring, scent for incense and in house cleaning products.

Though Terpentine is still advertised for medical uses, it has moved from the chemist to the hardware shop to be used as a solvent of paints. 

(1) Double dating before calendar changes in 1752 when New Year changed from 25th March to January 1st.

(2a) Terpenes, and Terpenoids ( which contain additional Functional Groups, are a major compound of Resin). The aroma of Hops and Cannabis sativa comes from Terpenes.

(2b) Vitamin A is a Terpenoid.



25th March 1754. Fleet Marriages.

The Marriage Duty Act of 1695 was to supposedly end the practice of irregular marriages and clergy were penalized if these took place without banns or a licence.

However a legal quirk meant that those in the environs of the Fleet Debtors’ Prison, London could still get wed often in the local taverns which issued their own certificates.

However their days were numbered when Today in 1754 the Clandestine Marriage Act came into force which outlawed irregular practices including Fleet and King’s Bench, Prison Marriages.

Fleet Street and the environs to Fleet Prison was used for marriages.

These marriages were cheaper than the Church and also avoided the control that employing Masters and Poor Law Authorities exerted over them, but importantly control of the parents, which was to cause problems over inheritance.

There were tens of thousand of these illegal marriages between 1694 and 1754, which forced the authorities to take action and so were completely outlawed under Lord Chancellor, Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, which also now allowed Quakers and Jews to perform the service.

Many of the Fleet weddings were really performed at the Chapel of the Fleet Prison, but as the practice extended it was found more convenient to use other places around the Prison. Thereupon many of the ‘Fleet Parsons’ and tavern keepers in the neighbourhood fitted up a room in their respective lodgings or houses as a chapel for the purpose.

Tavern certificate of marriage.

‘In some instances the tavern-keepers kept a parson on their establishment at a weekly salary of 20 shillings, while others, upon a wedding party arriving, sent for any clergyman thay (sic) might please to employ and divided the fee’.(1)

By the 1740.s over half of London marriages were undertaken by the ‘Fleet Parson’;  St George’s Chapel, Mayfair catered for the aristocracy. However as most upper-class wedding were arranged on an financial agreement, there obviously wasn’t the same demand for irregularity.

The casual nature of weddings didn’t survive the Hardwicke Act and the Victorian notion of ‘living in sin’ was a strong deterrent to irregular practices right into the 20th century.

References: of wedding.

georgianengland/Pic of certificate.

(1) As recounted in Edmund Fillingham King.’Ten Thousand Wonderful Things’ c 1853.