4th December 1538. Not a Stone Remains.

Sketch of the Abbey of Eynsham 1657. Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard http://codecarvings.com

Today in 1538 the Benedictine Abbey of Eynsham was surrendered and acquired by the Earl of Derby.

It was an abbey historically unlucky as being near to the king’s hunting lodge of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, it often had to afford hospitality to hundreds of the king’s retinue which included his court, bishops and multifarious support including their horses.

Eynsham Abbey founded 1005, dissolved 1538/9.

The medieval age saw the royal court travelling to various locations in England to hunt in the many royal forests, where parliaments were often held and with the need to spread the high cost of the supply of local animal forage and food, as the Norman and Plantagenet kings stayed weeks if not months employed in hunting.

Another view of Woodstock.

Woodstock Palace before its demolition.






It was at Woodstock that Ethelred the Unready (978-1016) gathered  prominent Saxons for the Witan or High Council.

Nearby the Forest of Wychwood had been established by the time of the compilation of the Domesday Book of 1086 and set to become the king’s main hunting territory for the area where the harsh Forest Laws prevailed.

In 1129 Henry I (1100-1135) built a hunting lodge there with seven miles of wall thus creating the first enclosed park where exotic animals such as lions, leopards, porcupines and camels roamed.

Then Henry II turned his grandfather’s lodge into a palace and kept his love ‘Fair Rosamund’ de Clifford nearby.(1)

Stone commemorating where Woodstock Palace once stood.

The once mighty palace of Woodstock where the animals of Henry I roamed and where  Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the lodge has been erased from the earth, with now only a stone  to remind us of its existence.

Much of the stone was used, across the River Glyme, in the building of the grandiose Blenheim Palace for the illustrious, victorious General, the later Duke of Marlborough in the early 18th century, but who didn’t live to see its completion.

Similarly all traces of Eynsham Abbey are gone, the stone being used for new housing in nearby villages.

Blenheim Palace where Winston Churchill was born and where buried nearby still stands as a mecca for tourists.





Oxford Archaeology excavations at Eynsham Abbey. 1989-1992.



3rd December 1941. Waste Not, Want Not.

A WWII Civil Defence poster advised: ‘Please keep your bedding tidy/String and Labels may be obtained from supervisor/The string must be returned’. What this referred to is obscure, it could be emergency bedding, but explains why people after the war were obsessed with waste and a desire to never throw away brown paper bags, string and other disposable items.

Waste Not Want Not! (1).









Human resources weren’t to be wasted in wartime as the Daily Telegraph headline reported in 1941: ‘Unmarried Women to be Conscripted, Farm call-up likely’.

It went on: ‘Nearly 1.7 million unmarried women between 20 and 30 and 70,000 youths between 18 ½ and 19 are among the vast number to be affected by the new plans announced by Churchill in the Commons yesterday. Women would not be compelled to join the Services, though power to conscript into industry would remain’.

Organisations for unmarried women included the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), National Fire Service (NFS), Civilian Defence and Police Reserve. Exemptions were based on hardship and Conscientious Objectors were exempt from combatant role. Registration for all up to the age of forty was to be completed by April.

Men from 41 to 50 were to be called up and the age of military service was to be reduced from 19 to 18 ½ and Parliament was to be asked to send those aged 19 years abroad. Registration was to be completed by New Year. Applications for Reserved Occupations was to be considered by Manpower Boards representing supply and military departments.

Reservation was retained in Merchant Service, whole time Civil Defence, Royal Observer Corps, Vets, Lay Evangelists and certain student occupations. Agricultural workers were to be diverted to where there existed a shortage. Many clergy chose to join service Chaplains’ Departments

Those holding temporary service commissions in 1914 were to be included in the 41-50 call up and Officers on reserve were liable to be called to Commissioned Rank.

Boys and girls between 16-18 were to register and be interviewed by Committees of Education Authorities. Special arrangement for students applied in the 1923 age call-up. Reservation was applied to doctors and dentists. Students studying technical courses and science at university and higher education colleges were granted deferment, whilst those at school intending to take such courses were enabled to so do. Deferment for apprentices continued.

Not surprisingly the period saw the biggest mobilization of directed labour in history demonstrating when national liberty is at stake, personal liberty has to be sacrificed: survival of the tribe is all.

(1) The saying was first recorded in The Paradise of Dainty Devices a collection of poems by lyricist, Richard Edwards in 1576. ‘For want is nexte to waste, and shame doeth synne ensue’. (sic).

By 1721 it had become, ‘Wilful waste makes woeful want’.


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2nd December 1868. Disestablishment.

The principal issue of the 1868 parliamentary session was that of the Irish Question manifesting itself in the debate over the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Ireland.

It was an issue which was to cause the resignation Today of Tory, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), the dissolution of parliament and a second election to be won by a majority of 170 by the Liberals under W.E. Gladstone. Disestablishment came into force on 1st January 1871.(1)

Benjamin Disraeli.

The Irish Church Act thus put an end to the Established Church of Ireland, but ‘provision was made in respect of ‘Temporalities’, [monetary loss of clergy] thereof…'(2)

The Irish Protestant Church had only the adherence of a small minority of the population, mainly the largely expatriate English ruling class, the majority of whom were Roman Catholic. Disestablishment removed the Church from British state control and prestige, which included the right to send prelates to the House of Lords, but most importantly the enforcement of tithes and other income support for the clergy, was now denied. 

Existing clergy in exchange now received an annuity in lieu of revenues no longer entitled, which apart from tithes  had included rent-charges, ministers’ stipends and ‘augumentation’ of certain moneys including marriage and burial fees.

Not surprisingly the Act of Disestablishment was to cause acrimony between Lords and Commons requiring mediation by Queen Victoria to enable the bill to be finally passed.

Denominational religious conflict was inevitable after Ireland was incorporated into the UK in 1801 which saw the Protestant Church of Ireland being united with the Church of England, becoming the United Church of England and Ireland.

Political prestige also came with the right for the archbishop and three bishops to sit in the Lords; the people not to benefit were the native, Irish Roman Catholics who had to support financially a basic alien church. (3)

What followed were the ‘Tithe Wars’ between 1831 and 1836 between tenant and landlord, forcing the British government to introduce The Irish Church Temporalities  Act and Tithe Commutation of 1838;  in practice the loss of tithe income was recouped by higher rents much of which was returned to the church. Thirty years later came Nemesis.

Whilst the writing was on the wall for the Established Church of Ireland, and indeed for Wales in the next century, Disraeli lived to fight another day becoming Prime Minister again in 1874, later to be ennobled as earl Beaconsfield, he died in 1881.

(1) Disraeli’s administration ran from (27.2.1868 to 2.12.1868)

The majority of Gladstone was over 100 and was the last election when all seats were taken by the 2 leading parties albeit being loose coalitions. Neither were political affiliations printed on registration papers.

The 1868 election was the first after the extension of the franchise which gave the vote to many more male households. It was also the first when more than a million votes were cast, tripling those previously.

(2) Irish Church Act 1869. 32-3. Vic. c.42. Act of UK was passed in Gladstone’s Administration.

(3) Along with 2  archbishops and 24 bishops from England.





1st December 1821. Designer for Posterity.

Leeds Corn Exchange. 1860 by Brodrick which was inspired by the Paris Exchange with its oval glass dome which allowed corn merchants to inspect grain samples without casting shadows. 

The architect Cuthbert Brodrick was inspired by the architecture of the French Second Empire which in the 19th and early 20th century was to epitomise the style for many of Britain’s municipal and corporate buildings.(1)

Brodrick born Today in 1821 flitted across the Leeds landscape, changing the way the city looked in his design of many notable buildings, before retiring at 47 to live in France and Jersey. (2)

His most monumental work was  Leeds Town Hall after a competition judged by Charles Barry (who had designed the Houses of Parliament), and opened in 1858 by Queen Victoria.

Like most estimates the cost of £122,000 of the millstone-grit, stone building, was three times over-budget, but was to represent the first ‘municipal palace’ in the country. John Betjeman in  poetic mode, was later to say that, ‘the building understood the skyline’ and loved the ‘immense solidity of platform’.


Leeds Town, later City, Hall. The clock-tower was added later.

Inside of Corn Exchange which once had 170 desks.

One building, The Cookridge Street Oriental and General Baths (right) hasn’t survived as it was closed in 1965 and demolished  four years later.

Another of Brodrick’s successes was the Leeds Mechanics Institute (below) responsible for the education of the local workforce necessary for a thriving industrial town and later city. It is now the Leeds Museum.

Mechanics Institute Leeds.

Brodrick did stray out of Leeds with his successful design of the Grand Hotel in Scarborough which still punctuates one end of the bay.

Scarborough with its majestic Grand Hotel (1867).







Brodrick retired at 47 and to live the rest of his life in obscurity in France then the Channel Islands, but leaving a tangible legacy few of us could emulate.

(1) The French 2nd Empire was later integral to the later ebullience of the French Beaux Arts Architectural style, evolving as it did from the 17thc Renaissance, with its mix of the Baroque and notable for mansard roofs and low square-based domes.

(2) Brodrick died 2nd March 1905.



wikipedia.org/Pic of Corn Exchange.




30th November 2011. Hazardous Substances.

Copper Sulfate the stuff of chemistry sets and crystal growing came into the limelight in the brave new world of the New Millennium when it was deemed to be dangerous for adults to handle.

Thus Britain’s gardeners suffered a loss of much of their armoury against garden diseases when many products regarded as hazardous were banned.(1)

Crystal of Copper Sulfate.

One of these was the Sulpher (Sulfer)-based Cheshunt Compound which had long been effective against the ‘damping-off’ of seedlings, but which after Today in 2011 was no longer available. (2)

The decade started with Tar Oils and Acids, (branded as Armillatox and Jeyes Fluid) becoming persona non grata after 31st December 2003 as a pesticide, but yippee still OK for soil sterilization and as disinfectant. So Jeyes still flourished as it has done for decades ready to deal with the dastardly honey fungus, or club root on the cabbages.






Tar Oils have had a bad press of recent times remember Wright’s Coal Tar Soap and Creosote for fence preservation?, now banned. 

Powdery mildew on your dahlia tubers? set to thrive after 30th December 2011 when Green and Yellow Sulpher, branded as Vitax was outlawed..

Then if one had problems with apple and bacterial canker or potato, tomato and celery blight after 30th November 2015 it was no use looking for Copper Sulphate and Hydrated Lime known affectionately for generations of gardeners as Bordeaux Mixture, and branded as Vitax Bordeaux.

And these are just a few examples, so it nice to know that we gardeners are now safe from harm as long as we ‘read the label’ and that we are protected under The Food and Environmental Protection Act 1985 and the requisite Mapp (previously MAFF) and HSE Numbers.

Off course gardeners are a soft target, but Nitrogen Oxides continue to pollute our streets and non-biodegradable Plastics fill the earth and oceans.

However more insidious are those endemic in the food-chain from the Micro Plastics, the result of abrasions from everything plastic we use and the creams and potions we deem essential. How much plastic builds up in your washing machine in a year?

(1) Copper Sulfate once known as Blue Vitriol, Bluestone, Vitriol of Copper and Roman Vitriol.

(2) Cheshunt Compound was a mixture of Copper Sulfate and Ammonium Carbonate.


Alamy Images.



29th November 1627. Father of English Naturalists.

John Ray born Today in 1627, in the delightfully named Essex village of Black Notley, was one of the early parson naturalists, having learned about herbs from his mother.(1)

Versed in botany, zoology and natural theology (as opposed to revealed religion), he was one of the first to compile a taxonomy and to introduce the word ‘species’ which he outlined in two names known as Genus and Specimen.

Bust of Ray by Roubiliac in British Museum.

Ray was friends with Francis Willughby (Willoughby) of Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, later a pupil, and with whom between 1663-66 he undertook a tour of Europe which was to extend their knowledge of Flora and Fauna.

In their desire to improve their understanding of natural history  Ray became responsible for plants with Willughby for animals.

His Ornithologiae libre tres completed in 1676 which was to have an influence later in the taxonomy of Carl Linnaeus, whilst his magnum opus, Historia Plantarum used a taxonomy which classified similarities and differences taken from observation. (2)

Ray observed that seeds from the same plant species would be the same even if the plant had different traits.


Ray’s ‘Wisdom of God in Works of Creation’ (1691) work on Natural Religion argued for a correlation of form and function in nature and suggested an omniscient creator, what is known as Intelligent Design.

Typical of the ‘scientists’ of the 17th century Ray saw, ‘God’s wisdom as manifest in the work of creation’, believing species bred true, having design and common features which were static, a view only overturned with the advent of Charles Darwin.

(1) Ray known as Wray until 1670 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1667, died on 17.11.1705.

(2) Historia Plantarum 1686-1704. London Species. Clark 3 vols.


wikipedia.org/John Ray/Pic

thoughtco.com. J.Ray, Evolutionary Scientist.


28th November 1904. Noblesse-Oblige.

Do you say: greens for vegetables; toilet for lavatory; pardon for what or pleased to meet you, for how d’you do?, you are certainly ‘Non-U’, according to Noblesse Oblige, a collection of social terminology essays, which came out in the 1950.s

Today Nancy one of the many Mitford sisters, daughter of Lord Redesdale and author of Love in a Cold Climate, was born in 1904.(1)

Famous for her 1955 essay on the English Aristocracy it was published by Stephen Spender in the magazine Encounter and provided a gloss on terms used by the upper classes which was to spark a debate on snobbery in language.

The essay was repeated with contributions in a 1956 anthology called Noblesse Oblige, a book purporting to be edited by Mitford and illustrated by Oswald Lancaster renowned for his pocket cartoons on English manners in the Daily Express.(2)

Comprising Mitford’s essay, the anthology included an essay by Professor of Linguistics at Birmingham, Alan Ross, a condensed simplified version of his original article, ‘Noblesse Oblige: An enquiry into the identification of the characteristics of the aristocracy’.

Other contributions came from ‘Strix’, (Peter Fleming) and brother of Ian, of James Bond fame), Christopher Sykes, a letter by novelist Evelyn Waugh and finally a poem by John Betjeman who expressed the theme with his characteristic charm.

Mitford in her ‘English Aristocracy’ reflected on the fact that it is the only one left and on the verge of decadence, but retaining a political influence via the House of Lords and one social via the Queen. ‘The purpose of the aristocracy’, she went on, ‘was not to work for money and was based not on blood but title’.

She quoted from Ross saying he invented the terms ‘U’ (upper) and ‘non U’, with examples from observations of the language used.

Nobless-Oblige, title page by Osbert Lancaster.

Until Mitford wrote the English Aristocracy we were blissfully unaware of ‘U-usage’ and the implications regarding the phenomena of upper class England and its language, and remarked on by Ross in his 1954 paper, where he claimed that the upper classes were solely distinguished by language.(4)

(1) One of which married a duke of Devonshire.

(2) Published by Hamish Hamilton.

(3) From A Few Late Chrysanthemums (1956) where Betjeman’s poem tells how to get on in society.

‘Phone for the fish knives Norman/As cook is a little unnerved/Your kiddies have crumpled the serviettes/I must have things daintily served’. Words such as fish knives instead of forks and serviettes instead of napkins are wryly observed as definitely ‘Non-u’.

(4) Ross said the language of the working class had much affinity in Victorian and Edwardian times and it was only the aspirant middle classes who affected to ‘poshness’.