Thursday, 29 December 2011


I wrote a little history of Jordan at  

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Drowning as exectution

Although drowning is an obvious method of killing people it was seldom used as a method of execution. The Roman writer Tacitus said that the Germanic peoples drowned cowards in fens under piles of sticks. The Anglo-Saxons also sometimes used drowning as a punishment. In the Middle Ages drowning was sometimes used to punish murder. In England in the 13th century it was enacted that anybody who committed murder on the king's ships would be tied to their victims body and thrown into the sea to drown.

In Portsmouth at that time male murderers were burned but female murderers were tied to a post in the harbour and left to drown when the tide came in.

Drowning was occasionally used in Europe through the following centuries. It was revived in the French Revolution in Nantes by a man named Jean Baptiste Carrier as a convenient way of killing large numbers of people. They were loaded into vessels with trapdoors, which were then sunk. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011


The city of Portsmouth started about 1180 when a merchant called Jean De Gisors founded a little town in South-West corner of Portsea Island. Jean De Gisors was a merchant who owned a fleet of ships. He was also a landowner who owned land on Portsea Island. In the Southwest of the island was a small inlet from the sea called the Camber. It was a sheltered place for ships to land and De Gisors decided it was an ideal place to start a town.

De Gisors divided up the land into plots for building houses and he started a market. Craftsmen and merchants came to live in the new settlement. In 1185 a parish church was built (later it became Portsmouth Cathedral).
In 1194 the king gave Portsmouth a charter. (A document granting the townspeople certain rights).

By the early 13th century Portsmouth was described as 'one of our most important ports'. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Yeovil, Somerset

Yeovil was founded in the 8th century after the Saxons conquered this part of Somerset. What does the name Yeovil Mean? It is believed to be a corruption of the Celtic word Gifl, meaning forked river.

In time the village of Yeovil grew into a little town. By the time of the Domesday Book (1086) it was a flourishing community though it would seem tiny to us with a population of not more than 1,000. Yeovil or Givle, as it was then known, had a weekly market.  

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Saxon and Vikings wore simple leather boots and shoes but in the 12th century rich people began to wear shoes with long pointed toes. (However only the upper class wore them. Ordinary people had shoes with round toes). However at the end of the 15th century long toes went out of fashion and the wealthy began to wear shoes with square or round toes.

In the Middle Ages peasants wore wooden clogs for working in muddy conditions. In the towns people wore wooden platforms called pattens under their shoes. (They had straps to hold them on). Some pattens were several inches thick.

In the Middle Ages shoe makers were called cordwainers. The word is derived from cordovan the name for leather from Cordova in Spain.  

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Bridgwater began as a Saxon village in Somerset. At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Bridgwater probably had a population of about 160, which made it a fairly large village. At that time Bridgwater had a watermill where grain was ground to flour to make bread for the villagers.

William the Conqueror gave the village and the nearby bridge to one of his followers, Walter of Douai. It became known as the Bridge of Walter and in time Bridgewater. So the bridge gave the town its name.

In 1200 King John granted Bridgwater a charter. (A document giving the inhabitants certain rights including the right to hold a market). Once the market was up and running craftsmen and merchants came to live In Bridgwater and it grew into a town.  

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Robert Boyle

I wrote a little biography of the 17th century chemist Robert Boyle at  

History of Christmas

You can read all about the history of Christmas at Most of our modern Christmas customs such as Christmas cards and Christmas crackers are Victorian.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Taunton in Somerset

Taunton was a fortified settlement called a burgh. In the late 9th century Alfred the Great created a network of fortified towns across his kingdom. They were called burghs (from which our word borough is derived). The burgh of Taunton would have been surrounded by a ditch and rampart with a wooden palisade on top. By the 10th century Taunton had a mint. It also had a market, which was held on The Parade.  

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Saxon Society

Kinship (family ties) were very important in Saxon society. If you were killed your relatives would avenge you. If one of your relatives was killed you were expected to avenge them. However the law did provide an alternative. If you killed or injured somebody you could pay them or their family compensation. The money paid was called wergild and it varied according to a persons rank. The wergild for killing a thane was much more than that for killing a churl. Thralls or slaves had no wergild. If the wergild was not paid the relatives were entitled to seek revenge.

At first Saxon society was relatively free. There were some slaves but the basis of society was the free peasant. However in time Saxon churls began to lose their freedom. They became increasingly dependent on their Lords and under their control.  

Sunday, 11 December 2011

My Website's Birthday

Today my website is 10 years old. It was switched on 11 December 2001. It started as a free website with about half a dozen articles. It now has nearly 1,000. When it started I was pleased when it got more than 1,000 hits in a month. Last month, November 2011 it got 463,000 hits. I am quite proud of it. Special thanks to Mr Peter Monger, Mrs Wendy Pyatt and Mrs Vanessa Wood and all others who helped make it possible.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


The Romans made panes of glass. Yet for hundreds of years after they left Britain (in the 5th century AD) people did not have glass windows. They did not have them again in England until about 1180. They were a luxury in the Middle Ages and only well off people could afford them. Glass windows became more common in the 16th century but they were not universal until the late 17th century. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011


I wrote a brief history of the town of Congleton in Cheshire. Its sometimes called Bear Town.  

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Glasgow was probably founded in the 6th century when St Mungo built a church at place called Glas Gu. (It means green place). A fishing settlement at the green place eventually grew into a small town. Glasgow was given a bishop in 1115, indicating it was a fairly important settlement by that time.
The church in Glasgow was replaced by a cathedral in 1136. The cathedral burned in 1172 but it was rebuilt. Then in the years 1175-78 (the exact date is not known) the king gave Glasgow a charter. (A charter was a document granting the townspeople certain rights).

In the Middle Ages Glasgow had a weekly market. From 1190 it also had a fair, which was held each July. In the Middle Ages a fair was like a market but it was held only once a year and people would come from a wide area to buy and sell at one. In Glasgow there were many craftsmen. There were butchers and bakers.
There were also skinners, tanners and glovers (leather glove makers) in Glasgow as well as fullers (men who cleaned and thickened wool by pounding it in a mixture of water and clay) and dyers. There were also many fishermen in Glasgow.

Medieval Glasgow probably had a population of about 1,500. That seems very small to us but in the Middle Ages towns were much smaller than they are today. Even so in the Middle Ages Glasgow was not one of Scotland's larger or more important towns. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Desserts History

In the Middle Ages rich people ate desserts like preserved fruits, jelly and wafers made from batter. Furthermore the Italians have been eating panettone since at least the 15th century but its origins are lost in legend.
The Romans knew that eggs could be used for binding. However custard, as we know it was invented in the Middle Ages.

However in the Middle Ages most puddings were meat based. Rice pudding was known but until the 19th century it was regarded as a medicine. It was supposed to be good for digestive ailments.

The Tudors were also fond of desserts (if they could afford them). The rich ate preserved fruit, gingerbread, sugared almonds and jelly. However in the 16th century sugar was very expensive so most people used honey to sweeten their food.

Marzipan was popular in England from the 15th century. Marzipan is a paste made of almonds and sugar. The Tudors used marzipan to make edible sculptures of animals, castles, trees and people called subtleties.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Perth Australia

Perth was founded in 1829 largely because the British feared the French would establish a colony in Western Australia.

In 1827 Captain James Stirling (1791-1865) sailed to the Swan River in his ship HMS Success. Stirling believed the area would be ideal for a settlement. He persuaded the British government to found a colony there, independent of the colony in New South Wales.

Perth was named after the birthplace of Sir George Murray who was British Secretary of State for the Colonies when the city was founded in 1829. (However Murray was not actually born in the town of Perth. He was born in Perthshire).
However this colony was not to be manned by convicts. Instead the government would sell land cheaply to private citizens. (Ignoring the Indigenous Australians who lived there). 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Tudor Christmas

The earliest recorded collection of Christmas carols dates from 1521 published by Wynken de Worde and includes The Boars Head Carol. Carol means a dance with a song and carols flourished throughout Tudor times as a way to celebrate and to spread the message of the nativity.
Other Christmas carols the Tudors would have been familiar with include The Coventry Carol, While Shepherds Watched, The First Nowell, Angels from the Realms of Glory, Ding Dong Merrily on High ( French in origin), In Dulci Jubilo, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Wassail carols, of which there are many, were also popular and most areas of the country have there own version. 

Christmas was the greatest festival celebrated by the Tudors. Advent was a time of fasting; Christmas Eve was particularly strictly kept with no meat, cheese or eggs. Celebrations began on Christmas Day when 3 masses were said and the genealogy of Christ was sung while everyone held lighted tapers. 

The whole 12 days of Christmas was celebrated, (25th December - 6th January) but not every day was celebrated equally. All work stopped except looking after animals, spinning was even banned as this was the most common occupation for women and flowers were placed around the spinning wheels. People would visit friends and it was seen as very much a community celebration. Work re-started on Plough Monday the first Monday after 12th night.