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31st October 1867. Crab and Orion Nebulae.

Today astronomer, senior wrangler (maths) and politician William Parsons, 3rd earl Rosse, died in 1867. He had 13 children with only 4 surviving including the Hon. Sir Charles Algernon Parsons who invented the Steam Turbine.


19thc picture of the Leviathan Telescope.

The Anglo-Irish, 3rd earl of Rosse, also styled as Lord Oxmantown, well known for building the Leviathan of Parsonstown, the giant telescope, with its Newtonian-style reflector at his home at Birr Castle in King’s County, now County Offaly, Ireland.

The telescope had the world’s largest telescope aperture until the early 20th century.

Birr Castle, Ireland 1842 showing the telescope.

Rosse had to invent the techniques for his instruments as their size were without precedent and also due to early builders guarding their secrets or even failing to publish their methods.

Using his telescope Rosse saw and catalogued a large number of Nebulae (including a number that would later be recognised as galaxies).

He discovered the spiral nature of some nebulae ( including M51), nick-named the Whirlwind Galaxy. He also named the Crab Nebulae based on earlier drawings with his older 36 inch telescope.

Sketch of Whirlpool Galaxy 1845.

William Parsons, astronomer and MP for King’s County 1821-34.









Rosse’s main opponent was scientist, John Herschel who used his own instruments to claim to have resolved the Orion Nebula into individual  stars and is a diffuse nebula (gaseous not stellar) in the Milky Way. He described Rosse’s instrument as flawed. Not surprisingly Rosse replied in a suitable way.(1)

(1) The Orion Nebula is south of the Constellation Orion’s ‘Belt’, one of the brightest to the naked eye. Convincing evidence for the gaseous nature of nebulae was developed by William Huggins’ spectroscopy evidence.




30th October 1821. Epitaph for a Shakespeare.

People who cavil at the ‘tasteless’ Victorian church restorations need to acknowledge the precarious state of many buildingss which had been standing for at least 500 years.

However it wasn’t necessarily dilapidation Today in 1821 which caused most of the church of St Peter and St Paul in Abington, Northants to collapse as it was due to a ‘storm of exceptional violence’.(1)

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Abington.

The collapse is notable in that it occurred to the church where Shakespeare’s grand-daughter Elizabeth (nee Hall), is buried in the vaults, under the Lady Chapel, with her second husband Sir John Be(a)rnard MP.

Her first husband was the son of William Shakespeare’s best friend, the wealthy barrister Thomas Nash, a member of the Manor and Lordship of Shottery.

In the floor of a chapel is an epitaph in Latin commemorating Sir John who died in 1673: ‘He yielded to fate in the 69th year of his age, on the 5th day before the nones of March in the year of the Nativity 1673’.

Old picture of Abington Park, Northants. The church is to the right.

Lady Elizabeth, who died  in 1670 at 64, is not mentioned in memorial, until her name was added to her husband’s ledger slab in 1902 when a few lines in English were added to the effect that she died  as second wife of Sir John Barnard on 17th February MDCLXIX (1670 according to the then calendar). It finishes with ‘Mors est Janua Vitae’, (death is the gate to life [heaven].(2)

Elizabeth was the last link with Shakespeare as her eight children pre-deceased her.

Elizabeth nee Hall and first husband Thomas Nash.

(1) Reported in the Northampton Mercury two days later.

(2) Elizabeth’s memorial could have been demolished at the time of the collapse in 1821.

Ref: Abington





29th October 1618. Snuffed or Smoked.

One item left in the Tower of London by Sir Walter Raleigh was his tobacco tin: ‘It was my companion at that most miserable time’ ( Comes meus fuit illo miserrimo tempo).

The flamboyant and heroic Raleigh was in fact to spend his last night at the Gatehouse Westminster before being executed Today for treason.

“All Sorts of Snuff and Tobacco”. 18th century frame for tobacco shop. Copper engraving, English, Ca. 1740.BPA2# 5050

Raleigh signed himself Rauley or Rauleyghe up to 1584, thereafter Ralegh. Curiously as one in history who typifies romantic adventurism, the laying of his cloak for Queen Elizabeth for example, no one seemed to have liked him. He was described in a popular ditty as a ‘Damnable fiend of hell’. ‘No man is more hated’, wrote one of his enemies and even his friends found him ‘insolent’ and ‘extremely heated’.









He was to be involved in some of the least savoury military adventures and political plots in history and embarked on a series of vainglorious ventures that failed spectacularly costing lives and livelihoods.

However he is remembered for being associated with setting up the colony named in Queen Elizabeth’s honour as Virginia where the cultivation of tobacco resulted in the spread of smoking in England and Holland.

Snuff Varieties. English Rose is available for use in Parliament, smoking having been banned in the late 17thc.

The key figure was in the enterprise was John Rolfe (who married Pocahontas), who devised Virginia tobacco being given the monopoly on its import. (1)

Raleigh’s patronage helped to spread the habit of smoking and was to be one more indictment of James I (VI) for the Scot’s King could not bear ‘the noxious weed’.

By the time of Charles II, ground tobacco-snuff-had become the fashion, devoted takers including, Queen Anne, George III’s Queen, ‘Snuffy Charlotte’ and the writer Edward Gibbon. By the early 18th century there were over 400 snuff shops in London alone.(2)

The radical Thomas Paine in his early days ground snuff in Lewes, Sussex and snuff-taking was enjoyed by both sexes. Flora Thompson in her 1944 Lark Rise to Candleford recounts that most women over fifty, in the late 19th century, took snuff and was the one luxury in their harsh lives. ‘They and tapped the sides of the box, ‘ave a pinch, me dear’.

One company famous for snuff and tobacco was Anstie’s of Devizes founded by grocer Richard Anstie in 1698. In the late 20thc the firm of Samuel Gawith of Kendal was still making snuff, having started in 1792.

Snuff, for its nicotine, is favoured by the medical profession as an alternative to cigarettes as it involves no inhaled smoke.

(1)  On Columbus’s second voyage American Indians had been seen sniffing strange powder and the snuff habit caught on. People also drank a tobacco-concoction medicinally-it was thought to be cure for the pox.

(2) One development of the trade was the growth of Glasgow as the country’s largest importer of tobacco with fortunes being made by traders up to the 20thc. However it was a trade looked at jealously by the London and Bristol Merchants who made great efforts to suppress the trade in Scotland.



28th October 1903. The Jazz Age.

Today the novelist Evelyn Waugh probably best known for his tale of the aristocracy, ‘Brideshead Revisited’, was born in 1903. (1)

Waugh would have been well acquainted with the aristocracy being married twice to two cousins: the daughter of Lord Burghclere and Laura Herbert both grand-daughters of Henry Herbert 4th earl of Caernarvon.

Whilst at Oxford Waugh joined the Hypocrites Club which included Harold Acton and Ernest Thesiger the actor, into which Waugh was inducted by Lord Elmley the elder son of Lord Beauchamp.

William Lygon the 7th earl Beauchamp was a notorious letcher and homosexual (at the time a criminal offence), and exiled when George V was alerted to his criminal activities in 1931 by the Earl’s brother-in-law the Duke of Westminster. The King dispatched three Garter Knights to Madresfield, in the Malvern Hills, to demand Beauchanp resign all his official duties and leave the country by midnight.

Waugh a friend of the Lygon’s renamed many of the family and were to appear in Brideshead Revisited, the deviant Earl being recast as the Venice living Lord Marchmain. (2)

The interwar years saw the press avidly reporting the antics of the Bohemian Set, the ‘Bright Young Things’, well covered by journalists such as the louch Tom Driberg and brought to life in novels by members of the ‘set’: Nancy Mitford’s (Highland Fling), Anthony Powell’s (Dance to the Movement of Time), John Betjeman’s poems including The Subaltern’s Love Song, Evelyn Waugh’s (Vile Bodies), all to be photographed by Cecil Beaton.(3)


Guests included the celebrities of the time: Ivor Novello, Gladys Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead and Oliver Messel moving effortlessly, apart from the Lygon’s, between the Desboroughs at Taplow Court and Salisburys at Hatfield.

It was an era of excess, after the horrors of the Great War, of an aristocratic Oxford well documented by poet John Betjeman, from the same class as Waugh, but to be accepted effortlessly into the aristocratic houses. The common element was a tendency to loose relationships, homosexuality, excessive drinking, drugs and suicide.

All the men would have experienced the public school background notorious for homosexuality as evidenced by Waugh’s elder brother Alec who in his ‘Loom of Youth’ described the culture at Sherborne being the reason why Evelyn was sent to the High Church, Lancing.

However when the next war came many fought with gallantry as did Evelyn Waugh in Crete and with hindsight the interwar period was to be the ‘swan song’ for the Bright Young Things. (4)

(1) Televised by the BBC in the 1980s.

(2a) Though the Lygons (Yorkist) had an illustrious background going back to at least Edward IV when Richard earl of Warwick, John Beauchamp of Powyck, Knight and Thomas Lygon were to array men of Worcestershire against the King’s enemies (Patent Rolls 1461), just before the Battle of Towton.

(2b) Waugh a friend of the Lygons of Madresfield Court who had been enobled as the earls Beauchamp. The house one of three used by the family had its own railway station and the family would shuttle between houses on their own train.

(3) This included the extended clan of the Guinnesses who were distantly related to the brewing family of Iveaghs and Moynes, one of which was Teresa Cuthbert’s son (nee Jungman) who died at 102 in 2010. Her mother, the second of three wives of a Guinness, gave a party in 1926 which Cecil Beaton described as tables groaning with caviar, oysters, pate, hot-lobsters, turkeys, kidneys, bacon, and meringues.

(4) NB Waugh’s, Sword of Honour Trilogy.

References/Pics. 31.5.2008. Nicholas Shakespeare.

The Real Brideshead. Jane Mulvagh.






27th October 1457. Truth versus Dogma.

William Waynflete born William Patten was born at Wainfleet, Lincolnshire later to be bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor and founder of Magdalen College, Oxford.

No great example of medieval enlightenment, Wainflete whilst Provost of Eton (1442-47) made some additions to the Statutes of Eton College to compel the fellows to forswear the teachings of John Wycliffe, founder of the heretical Lollards, and Reginald Pecock.

Not to his credit Today in 1457 Waynflete took part in the trial and condemnation of Reginald Pecock, bishop of Chichester on the medieval catch-all charge of heresy. (1)

After his works had been examined, Pecock was charged and found guilty of heresy by Archbishop Bouchier and it was only the recantation by the Bishop which meant only his books were burnt.

William Wainflete or Waynflete Chantry Tomb, Winchester Cathedral. (2)

It was at St. Paul’s Cross, London where on 4th December 1457, that Pecock renounced publicly his heretic views that, ‘scripture is not the only standard of right and wrong’, and questioned the Creed and Infallibility of the Church. ‘Bi cleer witte drawe men into consente of trewe feith otherwise than bi fire and swerd or hangement’.

In the event Pecock after escaping with his life, resigned the bishopric in January 1459 before being removed to Thorney Abbey, Cambridgeshire where he died c 1461.

Pecock exalted Reason before Dogma and was a Scholastic in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus who believed in Dialectics, (objective discussion in an effort to arrive at truth). He was also one of the first to write in the vernacular, rather than Latin.

It was in this search for truth that Pecock concluded that the ‘Donation of Constantine’ which supposedly gave Western Europe to the Papacy and bestowed by Charlemagne, was a forgery which is now the accepted view.

(1) Wainflete: c 1398-11.8.1486.

(2) Many churches and cathedrals still had chantries until the 1549 Chantry Act. One of the most outstanding was that of Winchester Cathedral where seven were added between the 14th and 16thc reputedly more than any other, reflecting Winchester’s importance as a sometime capital of England and the wealth which had been attracted to it.



26th October 1863. Divergence of two Codes.

No player is allowed to loiter between the ball and the adversaries goal. (Cambridge Rule).

The Football Association was founded today in 1863 at a meeting at the Freeman’s Tavern  in Great Queen St. London, when men of Cambridge University, credited with being the first football club, issued their set of definitive rules. (1) 

Football on Parker’s Piece, Cambridge.

These Cambridge Rules played on an oval pitch, were accepted by all the major Public Schools, except Blackheath, which eventually became the first rugby club and to found the Rugby Union.

From being a purely local activity football now became a nationally organised game, however, the acrimonious formation of the Association was eventually to cause a rift between the Rugby and Dribbling Codes, a divergence not over running with the ball, but concerninf ‘hacking’. Rugby men felt it was manly and courageous to tackle an opponent by kicking him on the shins; the Dribbling Men didn’t and voted it out.

The Rugby men called the Dribblers cowards and walked out of the FA, thus instigating the start of the Rugby Union. Unsurprisingly the  need of shin guards, originally worn outside socks, became essential and were to be invented in 1874 by Sam Widdowson of Nottingham Forest.

Players still handled the ball, and when it was caught, a ‘mark’ could be made and a ‘free kick’ allowed. The first FA laws allowed a ‘touch down’ rule and a free kick at goal after a ball had been kicked over the opposing goal line and ‘touched-down’, (the Rugby ‘try’). But within a few years football rejected all the now distinctive Rugby conventions.

Soon only the goalkeeper could handle the ball, the touchdown was abolished, and forward passing became the essence; offside became formalised. The foul play inspired by increasingly complex rules would give a modern referees nightmares.

One of the first Associations (in 1871) was Burton and District FA after local brewers had met in the Swan on October 5th 1870; the Rugby Football Club was founded at the same time and are still flourishing in the Author’s home town.

In 1885 professionalism was legalised in England, (but not in Scotland), which the Royal Arsenal, in the south, was the first club to embrace in 1891, a year which saw many changes with referees and linesmen taking the place of umpires and penalty kicks introduced.

(1) They became official on December 1st.


ccc/cambridgeshire collection. cambridge rules

25th October 1660. Promises Unrealised.

Charles II was known as the Merry Monarch, very appropriate as one who cultivated a wide range of female relationships.

Today in 1660 saw the Worcester House Declaration which was an attempt to reconcile Episcopalians and Presbyterians to the Church of England.

Declaration of Breda.

Charles before returning home had with his Declaration of Breda (Netherlands) promised ‘liberty to tender conscience’, which had been confirmed at the Worcester House Declaration.

Things started well when Richard Baxter and leading puritans were appointed King’s Chaplains, but were to change with a 1660 Act for Confirming and Restoring Ministers, the reinstallation of loyal old Church Anglicans.






Then after the King was crowned on St. George’s Day 1661, one of the first acts of  the parliament was to publically burn the Cromwellian, Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 between the Scottish Covenanters and English parliament, which was still subscribed to by many Puritans, who were also to be subjected to doctrinal tests.

It was in this atmosphere of resurgent Anglicanism that a group Nonconformists and Anglicans met at the Bishop of London’s residence at the Savoy after Charles had ordered an assembly of Commissioners to ostensibly revise the Liturgy to accommodate all consciences.

However the Conference confirmed the High Church Party in the catholic and sacramental view of the Prayer Book which was to be enforced by an Act of Uniformity.

The result was ejectment of nearly 700 Puritans from their livings after the Act in May 1662, which stated that those clergy who failed to comply by 24th August 1662 were to be removed.

Not surprisingly many couldn’t support the Episcopalians, adopt the Book of Common Prayer, nor would they subscribe to attendance at the Anglican Church, now obligatory; neither to an Act which made Protestant Sects illegal.(1)

Charles II Coat of Arms were now placed over church, chancel arches reminding all of the new authority, an Anglicanism which had been established under Queen Elizabeth and now pursued by the Restoration Royalists along with an imposed Prayer Book.

Dissenters were now subject to disabilities for 200 years which consolidated factual tensions and led eventually to the two-party political system.

(1) One result of the resurgence of Anglicanism was an uprising in the north which ended with 26 being hung, drawn and quartered. in 1663


The Stuart Constitution 1603-88. Documents and Commentary. John Phillips Kenyon. 1986 CUP.