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31st March 1986. Royal Palaces.

Today in 1986 Hampton Palace originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, later acquired by Henry VIII, suffered severe fire damage. It appears the blaze was accidentally started by the widow of General Sir Richard Gale who resided there in a Grace and Favour apartment.

Tudor Chimneys at Hampton Court.


Of all the vanished Tudor Palaces, Nonsuch, Cuddington, Surrey, built during the last decade of the reign of Henry VIII, from the proceeds of monastic dissolution, was the greatest, and built to emulate the  Fontainebleau of France I.

Another palace, Bridewell later became the site of a lunatic asylum.

Watercolour of Nonsuch, south front, by G.Hoefnagel 1568.

By the 1520.s most of the castles in the south were in Henry’s hands and at his death he had some fifty in his possession. Minor palaces included Eltham, whose only remains are the Great Hall, bombed in the War War II, a royal residence from the reign of Edward II. (1)

Eltham Palace.

Kennington Palace was built by Edward III’s eldest son the Black Prince after receiving the Manor. The Prince was born at Woodstock in 1330, later to be the site of Blenheim Palace built for the Duke of Marlborough who didn’t live long enough to live there.

A wing of Hatfield Palace still remains, one of the first to be built of brick. It was a residence of Henry VIII, but originally was built for Bishop Morton of Ely, a Chancellor of Henry VII.

The Palace of the Liberty, Havering originally granted to Queen Eleanor by Henry III in 1262, later to consorts and dowagers, was in 1537 granted to the daughter of Jane Seymour (wife of Henry VIII) in 1537; Charles I was the last to live there.

Richmond, a fairy tale building with its French inspired bell-shaped domes and rambling brick  was to influence the brick Tudor house styles, had originally been granted by the Saxon, King Edgar to St. Peter’s Abbey in Ghent.

It was later familiar to Henry VII in his exile as Duke of Richmond; as Placentia and was his favourite eastern country seat.

Before the Tudors, Greenwich Palace fell into the hands of Edward IV who granted it to his wife Elizabeth Woodville, ‘The lordship and manor of Plesaunce otherwise called Grenewiche’. Defaced during Cromwell’s Commonwealth it was demolished to make way for the Wren and Hawksmoor, Royal Naval Hospital.

Nonsuch was incomplete on the death of Henry VIII and in 1556 his daughter Mary sold the palace to Henry FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel. In 1580 John 1st Baron Lumley inherited the palace; in the 1590.s it reverted to royal control.(2)

The palace was demolished in 1682/3 by a mistress of Charles II to pay off gambling debts.

As well as Nonsuch, Richmond was demolished, and Hampton Court and Windsor (a royal residence since Norman times) were subjected to major alterations by Wyatt, under George IV who built Brighton Pavilion and modified Buckingham Palace. 

Hampton Palace is one of only two palaces of Henry VIII to survive; the last king to live there was George II.

(1) Later rescued by the Huguenot textile, Courtauld family who made it a monument to the Art Deco movement and latterly inhabited by the Education Corps.

Lumley Chapel monument.

(2) Reliefs now in the Lumley Chapel are the only surviving artefacts showing the interior of Nonsuch. Loseley Park also has some of its wall  panels.

Ref: Henry VIII Oct. 1538 26-311 Letters and Papers.

Ref: Henry VIII and the remaking of the English church, G.W. Barnard.


Ref: the tudor


30th March 1533. Princes of the Church.

The enthronement of archbishops has changed over the centuries from the Reformation when Archbishop Cranmer was consecrated Today in 1533, to the 19th century, when the ceremony was undertaken quietly at Matins and was often a ceremony by proxy. It was Archbishop Sumner in 1848 who made it the modern pageant.(1)

The first part of the process is the election by College of Canons going back to Nicea in 325 and the second part is confirmation of the election in the wider community. Basically it wasn’t a democratic process with all manner of political input divorced from the church congregations.

In the Middle Ages Kings, Popes, Bishops, Barons, and Monks of Canterbury Cathedral Priory all sought a part in choosing the Archbishop, the monks having a role as the Archbishop was titular Abbot of the Canterbury Province.

In that more robust age there were many disputes concerning the election of prelates, the most dramatic being between King John and Rome over the approval of Stephen Langton, Archbishop (1207-1228) after the death of Hubert Walter in 1205.

John favoured John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich, the monks selected Reginald the sub-prior, but Rome quashed both and elected Langton a Cardinal, which the King’s representative refused to ratify. However Langton was consecrated in 1207 and John refused him entry into the country resulting in a six year interdict on Britain and the Priory monks were forced into exile.

By the 15thc Archbishops, though gradually losing their role in government of the high middle ages were still grand and wealthy typified by Archbishop Bourchier who in 1456 purchased Knole from Lord Saye and Sele.

Knole was first mentioned in 1364 and belonged to the Manor of Otford having been owned by the see of Canterbury since the 9thc.(2)

Knole in 1880.

When Bourchier died he was buried at Canterbury and bequeathed Knole to the Archbishops of Canterbury and was to be inhabited by four archbishops John Morton, Henry Deane, William Warham and Thomas Cranmer.

In 1538 Cranmer by now keen to keep his head, (which he lost under Henry’s daughter, Mary) gave Knole to Henry VIII who had long coveted it.

Archbishop Edmund Grindal didn’t lose his head, but his Office being removed on June 1577 by Queen Elizabeth for ‘prophesying’, dying in July 1583.

One of the strangest archbishop appointment was that of George Abbot in 1611, the year when the Authorised Version of the Bible was printed. King James I (VI) explained to the Privy Council that he was merely honouring the last request of the earl of Dunbar, something of a favourite, who had died the previous month: ‘Whereof he desired nothinge but his majesties would preferred Mr Abbot for the see of Canterbury’ (sic), but was driven into internal exile for a time when King Charles I came to the throne.

Lambeth Palace 1685.

The London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury has for 800 years been Lambeth Palace, note the world ‘palace’ which gives some idea how far senior clergy have strayed from the ideal of primitive Christianity.

The Tudor gatehouse goes back to Cardinal Henry Moreton 1495; Cardinal Pole lay in state at Lambeth in the last year of ‘Bloody Mary’s’ reign in 1558; the Great Hall was ransacked in the Civil War to be restored by Archbishop, William Juxon in 1663.

The Tudor Gatehouse from the inside.

Modern archbishops of Canterbury nestle in the complex of Lambeth in an age where their power and authority has long gone, where mythology has been superseded by the new Age of Reason.

(1) Cranmer was enthroned on 3rd December. Sumner was previously Bishop of Chester.

(2) Otford scene of a battle of 776 between Offa and the Kentish Jutes.


29th March 1644. The Lobsters.

The London Lobsters were a formation of a heavy cavalry regiment formed by Sir Arthur Haselrig in the army of Sir William Waller who distinguished themselves at Lansdown July 5th 1643.

However at the Battle of Roundway Down July 13th they met a Royalist cavalry charge and the Parliamentarians lost the battle.(1)

Today in 1644 saw the Civil War Battle of Cheriton where a unit of Parliamentarians were attacked by Royalists under Sir Henry Bard, however the London Lobsters this time won the day.(2)

Armour typical of that worn by The Lobsters.

The ‘London Lobsters’ of Haselrig were a Parliamentary cavalry unit which was unusual for the time as they were cuirassiers wearing extensive armour which covered most of the body except the legs which gave them a lobster-like appearance.

Sir Arthur Haselrig in the armour of a cuirassier.

There were only two cuirassier regiments raised during the Civil War, the other was the Lifeguards of the Earl of Essex. However individual cavalrymen of other regiments were similarly accoutred.

Lobsters were probably the last to wear the full armour on English soil, and one of the last in Europe. They were credited with being the first to make any impression upon the King’s Horse (Royalist Cavalry) who being unarmed (unarmoured)  were: ‘not able to bear the shock with them; besides they were secure from hurts of the sword’ (Clarendon, History of the Rebellion 1647 vii p.105).

By this time full armour had been abandoned generally with cuirasser and helmet only worn by some cavalry (harquebusiers) commanders and pike units. Armour had always been expensive and for a cuirassier in 1629 it cost £4/10s, then a considerable amount.

(1) The author was based near the misty Roundway Down near Devizes in the RAPC in 1958.

(2) The Royalist Sir Henry Tichborne fought at The Battle of Cheriton, which was to throw King Charles onto the defensive for the rest of the year. The Tichborne Family were to be notable in the 19thc for the imposter claimant. Sir Henry later made his peace with the Parliamentarians.

28th March 1837. ‘Inky’ Stephens.

Dr. Henry Charles ‘inky’ Stephens (1841-1918) was granted the patent Today in 1837 for Stephens’ inks, pens and inkstands. Being responsible for the invention of indelible blue-black writing fluid, the company became a world-wide company for 150 years.(1)

The two most used black inks traditionally was a suspension of carbon usually lamp-black which was stabilised with a natural gum or egg albumen and iron-gall. Carbon particles do not fade even when bleached or from sunlight, doesn’t harm the paper, but can smudge in humid conditions and be washed off.

Iron Gall the commonest ink was used from 12thc and thought to be the best type but is corrosive and damages paper which can become brittle and fade to brown. The original scores of composer J.S.Bach are threatened caused by this acidic ink.(2)

Oak galls and iron sulphate.

There are four classes of ink: aqueous, liquid, paste, and powder which many an ink monitor in the old days will remember mixing with water tofill the classroom ink-wells.

Ink forms vary with two compounds: colourants and binders. Solvents may be organic or aqueous with pigments more used than dyes, being colour-fast, though expensive, less colour consistent and having less colour range than dyes.

Dyes are stronger than pigments and have more colour at a given density. As Dyes are dissolved in the liquid phase they soak into paper so are less efficient.

Cellulose from which most paper is made is a wood derived material and is naturally charged so compounds that complexes with dye and paper aids ink retention and so used in ink-jet printers.

As with most things we use inks come at a price with three main environmental problems, as they are: heavy metals, use non-renewable oil and are volatile organic compounds.

(1) Colloidal system of fine pigment particles dispersed in solvents.(chem.Brit Feb 2003 p28).

(2) Iron salts such as ferrous sulfate made by treating iron with sulfuric acid, mixed with Tannin from Gall-nuts and thickener but fades to dull-brown.




27th March 1945. Hitler’s Rocketry.

27th March 1945. Hitler’s Rocketry.

Just before 5 pm Today in 1945 a Mrs Millichamp in Orpington died when a V-2 landed nearby. She was the last civilian to die in Britain.


Remains of Mrs Millichamp’s bungalow in Kynaston Road.

However this statistic overshadows the hit on the Judge Thomas Hughes Flats in Stepney which was hit previously on the same day when 134 were killed, the second biggest loss of life suffered from a V2 attack, thus demonstrating the random effect of the attacks. .

Hughes Mansions, Vallence Road, Stepney, 1929.

The V1 the precursor of the V2 was first launched in June 1944 and the last of nearly 6000 landed at Romford on Sunday 14th January 1945; luckily one in seven V1.s failed to get through. 155 on average were launched daily, 8000 altogether, which caused over 2,000 deaths and 8,000 casualties.

On 17th June 1944 a V1 landed without exploding near Brighton and gave experts a chance to examine the fuse.

A week later Major John Hudson George Medal and two Ministry of Supply experts Bob Hurst and Dr. J. Dawson were charged with examining the fuse which took eight days.


But it was the more deadly V2 which rained down almost incessantly for six months, starting from September 8th 1944 on Chiswick, and to allay alarm the official report said a gas main had exploded.

The ‘V2’ rocket bred a feeling of despair that whatever we did, Hitler would be one step ahead.

To help morale it wasn’t until November 10th that the authorities announced that a new weapon existed. Over the next nine months over 500 crashed over London out of a total of 1100.

The biggest V-2 disaster was at Woolworth’s in New Cross on Saturday 25th November 1944 which killed 160. No defence was available against this new weapon, which had no nickname, unlike the V1 ‘Doodlebug’, and taking only five minutes to arrive the only noise was a whoosh as it fell travelling faster than the speed of sound.

Only four V2’s failed to explode and these during March 1945 fell close to one another in Essex and excited various ministries. It had the effect of turning a bombsite into a circus.

Just one officer Major Gerhold was assigned to examine the rocket and he soon cleared the site of unnecessary onlookers. He was aided by Lt. Colonel S.C. Lynn. Gerhold was later awarded the George Medal and Bar.

Altogether 1.5 million houses were destroyed or damaged, Croyden suffered damage or destruction of ¾ of its houses). 6,200 were killed and 18,000 were seriously injured in the V1 and V2 raids. At one stage there was a plan to evacuate the whole population of London. Altogether 67,100 civilians were killed in World War 2.

The V2 was the first time man had projected anything into space thus the predecessor of later space exploration.


26th March 1484. Caxton’s Fables.

It was the Greek Herodotus who mentioned Aesop who was described as a 5th century BCE slave. 

Eight years before America was discovered William Caxton published his Aesop’s Fables Today which began (in Middle English):

‘Here begynneth the book of the subtyl historyes and Fables of Esope which was translated out of Frensshe in to Englysshe by Wylliam Caxton at Westinynstre in the yere of oure Lord MCCCC lxxxij.’

Fables are short stories with a moral lesson via the use of animals, inanimate objects and mythical creations.

However though Aesop is believed to have lived 500 BCE, the origins of the fables are rooted in Sumerian and Akkadian literature of the 3rd millennia BCE with even earlier forms being found in Babylonian and Assyrian stories.

Not believed to be especially for children the fables were first disguised social, religious and political messages with the well known stories of the Hare and the Tortoise, Lion and the Mouse, Fox and the Grapes for instance.

So it was adults laughing at the Fox saying: ‘these raysyns ben sowre and yf I had some I wold not ete them’, we know as sour grapes.

The Farmer and his Son Fable from Caxton.

However they did become standard texts in Renaissance Europe and following its introduction 150 editions were published pre-1500 in many languages.

It was partly through his translation and printing of Aesop’s Fables and other works, though not setting out for the purpose, that Caxton standardised the English language which was taken up by others.

19th c Fables superbly illustrated in art nouveau style.

Many books had been previously published in Latin and it was Caxton who broke the mold after his introduction of printing into England in 1476.




25th March 1707. Move to Devolution.

It is the ‘devellyshe dysposicion of a Scottysh man, not to love nor favour an Englishe man’, so said Andrew Borde (1490-1549) English traveller, physician and writer, when studying medicine at Glasgow.

Today in 1707 the Scottish Parliament was adjourned, when the Earl of Seafield said that it was the “end of ane auld sang”.

From now on gradually Scotland’s focus would be on London rather than France, typified by the change of architecture in Edinburgh’s new town from Scottish baronial to Classical as the wealthy moved across from the Mound area.

On 23rd October the first Great Britain Parliament met for the first time at Westminster, thus bringing the two nations together which had been in conflict going back to Bannockburn in 1314, when  Robert Bruce defeated Edward II thus preserving Scottish independence.

The Union had been forced by the failure of the overseas Company of Scotland set up by the Scottish Parliament which had drained Scotland of a quarter of its liquid assets in a foolhardy venture in Panama.
Under the terms of the Union, England undertook to pay off the debt partly in cash and the rest in debentures. in 1724 the debenture owners organised themselves into the Equivalent Company and arranged promissory notes and payment of dividends, out of this arose the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1727.
One means by which the English persuaded the Scots to amalgamate the Parliaments was the 1705 Aliens Act which said that Scots nationals in England be treated as aliens and estates treated likewise.
Also an embargo on Scots products into England or its colonies was enacted and this included linen, coal and cattle which constituted half of the country’s exports.
The provisions would be suspended if the Scots entered into negotiations regarding the Union and also England would refund the losses from its Darien venture.
The Scots had disliked the idea of the Hanoverian succession and were to be allowed 45 MP.s, no more than Cornwall. Effective political control was to rest with the Lord Advocate until a Secretary for Scotland was appointed in 1885.
In 1914, the Commons rejected any idea of a Scottish Home Rule Bill, but by the 1960.s influential Conservatives such as Quintin Hogg (Lord Hailsham) were advocating devolution to aid Regional Regeneration.
Prime Minister James Callaghan and his predecessor Wilson were committed to Devolution, but miscalculated the support for it. Callaghan in any case hadn’t an overall majority and the defection of two Labour MP.s to a new Scottish Labour Party as Scottish nationalism grew, together with by-election losses deprived Labour of control over the Commons. (1)
In the event Callaghan’s Labour Government was brought down by those who wanted devolution, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Liberals and Thatcher’s Tories.
The SNP thus withdrew from the minority Labour Government and tabled a censure motion which was lost by one vote. Next day Callaghan asked the Queen for Dissolution. In the next election SNP lost all its seats apart from two.
The Scots voted yes to Home Rule on 12th September 1997, but later there was concern that the Parliament established under the Scotland Act 1998 would be set up as a single chamber despite the view of the nation as a whole which included Lord Irving, the Lord Chancellor.
In 2004 the new Scottish Parliament building was opened at Holyroode, millions over budget. What’s new?

(1) The Labour government had been sustained by the 1977 Lib-Lab Pact, the first in the Post-War period.