21st August 1930. Harmony in Design.

Main entrance to Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London.

Today’s post lets the pictures tell the story as they represent examples of the monumental output of the English architect Sir Aston Webb who died Today in 1930.



Famous for redesigning the east facade of Buckingham Palace and Admiralty Arch, much of Webb’s work was done in partnership with Edward Ingress Bell, their first major commission being the Victoria Law Courts, Birmingham.




Buckingham Palace main east facade. Originally by Edward Blore 1859, but redesigned by Webb 1913.

Victoria Law Courts. Birmingham, the first major public design jointly with Ingress Bell.


Admiralty Arch, famous entry to the Mall, London.

Victoria Memorial, Mall.

Britannia, Dartmouth Naval College, Devon. c1900.









Quadrangle, Christ’s Hospital, School,  Horsham. Sussex. 1893.

New Building, Provost’s Court, King’s College, Cambridge with Ingress Bell. 1908.

The last example shows how Webb conscious of the existing buildings of King’s, and indeed Cambridge generally, produced a sympathetic addition to a college going back to the time of Henry VI. (1).

Many of Webb’s buildings are part of the London scene and hardly noticed as people pass by probably as they are in harmony with the surrounding architecture, which is more than can be said for much of the dramatic high-rise of the City area.

(1) In the early days of its foundation students at King’s were not required to take examinations for the BA. The 9 Lessons and Carols comes from its chapel at Christmas.








18th August 1944. Owners of the Land.

Today in 1944 in the magazine Tribune George Orwell in ‘As I Please’ said: ‘Stop to consider how the so called owners of the land got hold of it. They simply seized it by force hiring lawyers to provide them with title-deeds in the case of the common land…they did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors…’

One of the first things landowners did was to enclose as with Henry, Baron Hastings of Ashby-de-Zouch who bought a Leicestershire castle where he enclosed 31 acres. As Lord Chamberlain to Edward IV in the 15th century, he was a powerful baron until falling foul of Protector Gloucester who had him beheaded.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries along with their support of the poor and needy threw many into crime and poverty giving rise to the Tudor Poor Laws a situation made worse by  ‘inclosures’ (enclosures) for the prosperous running of sheep.

The 17th century saw seven instances of Acts for Parliamentary enclosures, the earliest being Radipole Parish in south Dorset 1604: by the reign of George I, in the early 18th century there were eighteen Acts.

Cottage in Needwood Forest c 1790 by Joseph Wright.

Enclosures really began in earnest c 1750 when figures reached a hundred mainly in the Midland Counties of Leicestershire, North Warwickshire, and Rutland for ‘Emparkment’ and private woodland; thereafter it was for agricultural purposes with 2,000 local Acts in the 2nd half of the 18thc and similarly between 1800-1845. Whole villages were resited where they conflicted with the amenities of the newly gentrified landowners.

In the process the losers were the independent peasantry deprived of their traditional few acres many of whom were to be recruited as labourers by the increased numbers of yeoman and tenant farmers. 

Byrkley Lodge, Needwood Forest in the 19thc then owned by one of the Bass brewing family. The Berkeley Family of Gloucestershire, who married into the de Ferrers Family, once owned large swathes of the forest for boar and deer hunting in medieval times.

An 1803 Act saw Needwood Forest, in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, of over 9,000 acres, enclosed and completed by 1811, when Commissioners deforested the area which was acquired by various claimants,

One of the effects of creating restricted areas in these forests was the increase in poaching which saw the ‘Black Act’ 1723 passed in response to the Waltham deer poachers, known as the Wokingham Blacks as they ‘blacked-up’ to disguise themselves.

This created a felony (hanging offence) to appear armed in park or warren, or hunt or steal deer with blackened faces or disguise, a repressive Act for those desperate for food, which had once been readily available and free, becoming an adjunct to the 1715 Riot Act.

The occupation of land was a sine qua non to becoming a member of the landed gentry and MP with many aspiring to the aristocracy, a situation obtaining down to World War I. However it was a Welsh solicitor MP, David Lloyd George who saw by attacking this embedded power that society in general, could start to inherit their share of the nation’s wealth.(1)

The 1910 Budget taxed land and forced large chunks onto the market becoming the basis of a property law which had the effect of reducing the power of the aristocracy and its purpose in membership of the House of Lords.

The 1925 Law of Property Act, part of inter-related legislation introduced by Lord Chancellor, Lord Birkenhead (1922-25), modernised the law on Real Property with the Act of 1925 dealing principally with transfer of property via Lease and Deed. The Law completed in the realm of private law the revolution which had been wrought in 1910 in public law in for example in the fields of taxation and reduction in lordly power.

One effect of the reforms in land ownership has been the increase in private house/land ownership in the 20th century as the people recovered their birthright added to which is the ironic pleasure now to tread in the footsteps of their once lords and masters via courtesy of the National Trust.

(1) Lloyd George later Liberal Prime Minister.


16th August 1818. Wagon to Mailcoach.

Before the introduction of the stage coach travellers had no choice but to ride on horseback or walk with kings, queens and gentlefolk mounting the saddle. In medieval times the prime example was Chaucer whose characters were wont to retail their stories as they rode the paths to Canterbury.

Ladies rode on a pillion behind a relative or serving-man, Queen Elizabeth I for instance rode from Greenwich to the City behind her Lord Chancellor, whilst jack-booted judges rode their circuits to administer justice, along with mounted attendants.

Tudor horse carriage. British History. Peter Jackson 1971.

The first carriages were essentially wagons, carts without springs, resting on the axles, in such a vehicle did Elizabeth ride to open her 5th parliament. Samuel Smiles in his ‘Lives of the Engineers’,  records, ‘That valyant knyght Sir Harry Sidney on a certain day in 1583 entering Shrewsbury in his wagon with his trompetes blowynge very joyful to behold and see’ (sic).

However these conveyances especially away from the towns scarcely had fair play on roads which were little more than broad, water-worn ditches strewn with rocks and pebbles. It was said that Cromwell in the 17thc civil-war captured hundreds of royalist horses mired in the mud.

It was common for servants to be sent out ahead of any journey so they could report on the state of the tract of land likely to be crossed. It is no surprise that the best of the roads was the Dover Road as it would have been the one most trodden by officials and monarchs visiting the continent, even so it took Queen Henrietta four long and weary days to traverse. (1)

‘Before 1698 stage coaches were placed on three principal roads in the kingdom’. Then in 1754 Manchester merchants introduced the ‘Flying Coach’ able to reach 4/5 mph, a precursor of transport reform until the idea of delivering mail by coach came to John Palmer a Bath businessman and theatre owner who died Today in 1818.

Mailcoach print showing Royal Mail black and scarlet livery near Newmarket, Suffolk 1827. Note the guard at the rear.

Palmer originally used stage-coaches to transport his theatre props and thought it would provide a swifter and safer service than the usual mail cart or post boy.

Typical of many entrepreneurs Palmer was ridiculed for his ideas and it was only by intervention of prime minister Pitt that a system of rapid mail coaches was introduced. Pitt soon saw that the scheme would be of benefit to letter writers and importantly also remunerative to the government.


(1) Wife of Charles I.




Chambers Book of Days.

History of the Engineers. 1862. London.

13th August 1513. Games and Pastimes.

Today in 1513 a letter was written by Catherine of Aragon to Cardinal Wolsey which included the statement, ‘that all the King’s subjects were busy with the golfe’. (1)

Not all for she could hardly take cognisance of the submerged nine-tenths scratching a living or attempting a temporary relief from fleas. Games were for the upper-classes, the hoi-polloi would find enough to do, when not working, polishing their skills at archery ready for the next frontier dispute.

Whip and top 1560 style.

Grandees in their castles and palaces called for the jester,18thcentury parsons ate their way through gargantuan meals with backgammon to follow and apoplexy to follow that. Victorian ladies languished and swooned in cluttered drawing rooms once the household had been set to its accomplished tasks. The men-folk hunted and shot.

Children later when released from whatever restrictions of education or work would indulge in games often copying their elders in games of war, later cops and robbers or cowboys and indians sublimating violence into harmless opposing groups.

Whip and top.

The streets were empty then and so the playground of children engaged in driving hoops (cycle wheels) along pavements, (hopscotch for girls), playing marbles with their beautiful coloured whorls, and cigarette cards-‘faggies’- which were flicked against walls. Then the inevitable ‘hide and seek’ often played under the dismal glow of gas-lights, not to forget whip and top.


One thing is certain streets as play areas are as obsolete as the archery butts of old, but ‘people are still busy with the golf’. Also the seer in 1531 who spoke of football as being, ‘nothing but beastly fury and extreme violence’, would be pleased to note that little has changed today.

(1) Catherine was first queen of Henry VIII.

Ref: Punch Magazine. Oct. 6th 1969. The Past of Pastimes. Vernon Bartlett. Chatto and Windus.

Ref: dreamstime.com.

Ref: google.com.

9th August 1333. Kingdom of the Isles.

Edward III recognised Mann, (known to the Romans as Insula Manavia) as independent Today on 9th August 1333 under William Montacute 1st earl of Salisbury who was first King of Mann.

Flag of Isle of Man.

Mann was originally part of the Gaelic culture brought to the fore when in 627 Edwin of Northumbria conquered Mann along with most of Mercia. In the 9th century the Norsemen established the Kingdom of the Isles which included Mann under Magnus III King of Norway 1099-1103.

By 1266 it was part of Scotland under the Treaty of Perth and control alternated between Scotland and England before becoming a feudal lordship of the latter Crown in 1399.

In 1393 Richard le Scrope bought his 2nd son William the Island from the earl of Salisbury, who as William le Scrope, 1st earl of Wiltshire claimed descent from Godred Crovan of the Norse House.(1)

Bolton Castle built by Richard, 1st Baron Scrope in Wensleydale N.Yorks.), One of the best preserved medieval csstles.

However William was executed for treason in 1399 for his support of Richard II against Henry Bolyngbroke, when he became king as Henry IV, and his possessions passed to the Crown.

Henry IV on 19th October 1399 now granted Kingship to Henry Percy 1st earl of Northumberland, but following his treasonable rebellion Henry VI later granted suzerainty in 1405 to John Stanley I, followed by John Stanley II and then Thomas Stanley KG 1st baron Stanley (c1405-1459).

The third Sir John Stanley was the ancestor of the barons Stanley of Alderley. The senior Derby line became extinct in 1736 and passed to the Duke of Atholl, coming under the Crown in 1765. Today it is a self-governing Crown Colony.

Nowadays the Viking presence is found in the genes of those having the surnames Christians, Quayles, Crellins, Kewleys, Caines, Kermodes, Clucases, Kellys, and Cregeens all beginning with C, K or Q, with their DNA all showing a native affinity with their Viking ancestors.(2)

In the 20thc the Island was ‘colonised’ by the Germans but as enemy aliens in WWII when they were rounded up from the mainland and deported as seemingly posing a threat to national security.

Nowadays the Island is chiefly known for its 3-legged emblem, TT motor-bike racing and its status as a gambling and tax haven, not forgetting the Manx, tailless cat.

(1) Richard le Scrope (later Baron) was Chancellor of England to Richard II in 1378.

His son William vice-Chamberlain to Richard II in 1393 acquired the castle and manor of Marlborough, Wilts.

(2) The Poet Auden claimed descent from the Vikings with his mother being obsessed with the notion and the poet himself was to spend much time in Iceland studying the Norse sagas.




6th August 1623. ‘I Bequeath My Second-Best Bed’.

If Shakespeare’s life is obscure so is that of his wife whose maiden name was Anne Hatherway the daughter of a substantial yeoman of Shottery near Stratford-on-Avon. Shakespeare was hardly 19 when he married his bride of 26.

Peculiarly Shakespeare never mentions Anne by name in his will and only then in a few interlined references. His will made bequests to his daughters Judith (Mrs.Quiney) and Susanna (Mrs Hall), to his sister Joan Hart and her three short-lived sons William, Thomas and Michael as well as friends and acquaitances at Stratford.

DR 59. Near contemporary copy of Shakespeare’s will 25.3.1616.

The sole mention of Anne Shakespeare states: ‘I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture. Edmund  Malone in the 19thc accepted this interlined bequest, ‘as proof that he forgot his wife which might be seen as an insult’.  Mrs Shakespeare, in any case, by law would have acquired one third of her husband’s means.

Anne was to outlive her husband by seven years, dying Today on 6th August 1623. She was  buried two days later at Stratford Church, her stone next to one with doggerel inscription but nearer to north wall upon which Shakespeare’s monument is placed. The stone says: ‘Heere lyeth interred the body of Ann wife of William Shakespeare who departed this life on 6 day of Avgv 1623 being of age 67 yeares’ (sic).

As with her husband no verifiable portrait exists of Anne, but at least tourists can satisfy their curiosity by visiting Anne Hatherway’s spruced-up cottage in Stratford.

(1) All portraits of Shakespeare, including his memorial bust in the local church, have never been proved to be of him.

Ref; Chambers Book of Days.

Ref: shakespeare.org.uk/Pic.

3rd August 1945. The Changing Fortunes of the NHS.

In the early years of the new millennium the NHS was under constant attack for failings much of being the result of increased demand due to various factors which the founding fathers never envisaged. Read More…