American history, Britain history, England, English History, Great Britian, history and travel, Still Current, Uncategorized, Washington DC, World history

The War of 1812, America’s second revolution 

With most events in history nothing is as black and white as we think. The War of 1812 was one of those. While American history tends to focus on the American Revolution and Civil War it was the War of 1812 that would cause more changes in the Untied States. 

After President James Madison presented to Congress the grievances against Great Britain on June 1, 1812, Congress took up the debate on formally declaring war. It’s not clear if this was the intention of President Madison since his message didn’t specifically ask for a declaration of war. The House debated for four days before voting 79 to 49 for war, with the Senate agreeing with a 19 to 13 vote. This would be the first declaration of war for the new United States. On June 18, 1812 James Madison signed the declaration into law, formally starting a conflict that both the United States and Great Britain were unprepared for.

It was only twenty-nine years since the end of the American Revolution and twenty-three years since the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The United States was just beginning to learn what being a nation was about. Many of the nation’s policies before this war were based on fears it had from the Revolution and what the founders knew of Europe. One of those fears was not having a large standing army which could be used to overthrow the government. 

After the American Revolution Congress disbanded most of its standing army, depending instead on each state’s militias to handle the defenses, as had been done before the revolution. This reliance on state militias is shown in the Untied States Contitution’s Second Amendment which starts out, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,…” Congress even passed a bill limiting the size its federal forces. At the start of the War of 1812 the United States had less than 12,000 men in its regular army. The U.S. Congress turned to the state militias to take up arms in this first declared war, but what happened didn’t make them feel very secure. In some states the war was unpopular and they refused to call up their militias. At its beginnings the new United States saw each of its thirteen states as being more independent. A united federal style government was an unfamiliar concept, so some objected to fighting outside their own state. But the biggest drawback to the militia style of armed forces was that for the most part they were under trained and poorly commanded. These state militias would struggle against the well trained British soldiers causing President Madison to say,” I could never have believed so great a difference existed between regular troops and a militia force.” 

However on the Canadian front at the start of the war the United States did fairly well. This was mostly due to the fact that the greatest number of America’s regular trained army was already there from its involvement in the Indian wars. Another reason for the United States early successes was that Britain was a little busy with the French in Europe, and had little concern about their former colonies. Although the United States saw the War of 1812 as just its war it was in reality a true globe conflict. 

Through the first two years of the war most of the fighting took place along the northern border between the United States and Canada, and on the lower Great Lakes. The defense of Canada was done mostly by the Canadians because the British were heavily involved in the European War of 1812 against Napoleon Bonaparte and France. In fact many of the issues that caused the United States to declare war were based on what Great Britain had imposed on the U.S. due of their fight against France. These were trade sanctions and the U.S. merchant sailor “impressment.” It wasn’t until 1814 that things dramatically changed in the fighting in North America, and that many of the events that American’s hold dear came about during this period.  

On March 30, 1814 Napoleon surrendered to the British and their allies after his devastating defeat in Russian. On April 6 Napoleon abdicated his power in France, and although Napoleon would return to meet his Waterloo at Waterloo this short respite allowed Britain to turn their full attention to the war in America.  

On July 18, 1814, A British 74-gun ship of the line and its support ships sailed into Passamaquoddy Bay Maine. The small American detachment at Fort Sullivan, both out manned and out gunned, surrendered. This began the occupation of Maine by the British. At that time Maine was part of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and when Maine’s cry for assistance from their Massachusetts government went unheeded it would begin the movement for Maine’s eventual statehood.  1814 would also be the beginnings of the British offensive in America.

Although the British Navy had controlled the eastern seaboard of the United States since 1813 the war with France had limited a large land campaign. Britain now free from the conflict in Europe was ready to launch a major attack on the US cities of Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. 

The first encounter was the Battle of Bladensburg, just outside of Washington DC. The majority of American troops involved where the poorly trained state militia, while the British were battle hardened and disciplined. The result of that battle was what has been termed, “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” The American militia broke rank and fled, with some running through the streets of the nation’s Capital in panic. 

On August 24 the British army entered Washington as President James Madison and Congress fled. British troops burned government buildings, including the Capital and the President’s house. During the rebuilding of the President’s house it was found that white washing would hid the stains from its burning, hence the President’s house became then known as- the White House.

The taking of our capital would be the high water mark for England. The British army and navy then moved on toward Baltimore. They believed that American resistance would be equally as weak there as it had been in Washington. However on September 14 and 15, at the battles of North Point and Hampstead Hill, and the famous defense of Fort McHenry (Star Spangled Banner fame) they met a stronger and better trained American force of army regulars. The British could not break the American defenses so they withdraw back out to sea. Their new plan was to leave the U.S east coast and resume the offensive in the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans. 

From the results of the Battle of Baltimore and also their defeat in the Battle of Plattsburg New York on September 6 – 11, the British felt that there was nothing to be gained by continuing the war. The United States also saw it as a stalemate with nothing to be gained by continuing, so on December 24 1814 the US and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, officially ending the War of 1812. However this news of the wars end had failed to reach the British fleet and army heading for New Orleans, and the American Major General that would be there to meet them.

Major General Andrew Jackson would come out of this meeting of these two forces as a national hero that would rocket him to the Presidency. But before I discuss the Battle of New Orleans I’d like to give a brief background of this man that benefited most from that conflict.

Andrew Jackson was born to an improvised family on March 15, 1767 in ether North or South Carolina. History isn’t exactly sure on which side of the state line he was born, and both states claim him for their native son. Jackson’s lifelong hatred of the British came about due his mother and two brothers dying while the British occupied the Carolinas during the American Revolution. 

Jackson studied law and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1787. Soon after he moved to the new territory of Tennessee and became the prosecuting attorney for what would be the city of Nashville. When Tennessee began its application for Statehood Jackson helped to write its constitution. He would also be one of Tennessee’s first members to the U.S. House of Representatives. Jackson decided not to run for reelection to the house but rather for the U.S. Senate. After only a year in that seat he resigned to take a Judgeship with the Tennessee Superior Court. While a judge he was chosen to command the state’s militia, and fate stepped in when the War 1812 broke out. 

Jackson received national notice from his five month campaign against the British supported Creek Indian Nation, and his victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Although Andrew Jackson was popular from the Indian campaign it would be the battle New Orleans that would make him an American household name. 

Hearing that the British’s were sailing to attack New Orleans Andrew Jackson raced to the city’s defense. Before he left he told his wife, “I owe to the British a debt of retaliatory vengeance, and should our forces meet I trust I shall pay the debt.” 

The attack on New Orleans was part of the British’s three part invasion strategy: Plattsburg, Baltimore and New Orleans. Their success had been checked by the Americans at both Plattsburg and Baltimore; their last chance to gain anything from the war was to win at New Orleans. Having New Orleans in British control would have given them power over the Mississippi River and American’s western trade. 

The British faced a hodgepodge American force comprised of army regulars, state militiamen, free blacks, New Orleans aristocrats, Choctaw tribesmen, and Jean Lafitte’s pirates. These numbered at around 5,300 men. Jackson and the Americans faced over 6,000 well trained British red coats that had just come from the Battle of Baltimore.    

Between December 23 and the 28, 1814 there were a few minor skirmishes between the two armies. The main battle finally occurred on January 8 1815, when British commander General Pakenham ordered a two-fold attack on the American’s. The first phase was a partial success when Pakenham’s men took a small American artillery post. However when a rifle shot killed their commander, Colonial Rennie, the British soldiers panicked into a hasty retreat. That was one of the weaknesses of the British soldiers at that time; they were effective only when an officer was leading them.  

The next phase of Pakenham’s plan was to march directly against Jackson’s main line of defense with the full body of his troops. He hoped that the morning mist would hide his men’s advancement. However the sun burned off the fog leaving the British soldiers completely visible and open to American rifle and cannon fire. The British plan unraveled, and although the red coats fought bravely the American fire was too overwhelming. After 30 minutes the British soldiers retreated in droves leaving behind a field of dead and dying. Afterwards American Major Howell Tatum said of the state of the British casualties, “truly distressing…some had their heads shot off, some their legs, some their arms. Some were laughing; some crying…there was every variety of sight and sound.” In the end the British had lost over 2,000 of its best soldiers, including General Pakenham. Andrew Jackson’s losses were less than 100 men. 

Although the stunned British army languished in Louisiana for a few days after the battle, and there was an abortive navel attack of Fort St. Philip, the fighting was over. 

As the British troops were boarding their ships for England Andrew Jackson paraded into New Orleans to great celebration, rivaling any Mardi Gras, or a Caesar marching into Rome.

Battle of New Orleans and the end of the War of 1812 gave the young United States a shot in the arm of national pride and honor. Even though strategically America gained nothing, they had beaten the great British army and navy. The War of 1812 has been called our second revolution, and this one we won on our own. 

The War of 1812 had shown that the United States needed a strong national military force, the old militia system wasn’t effective. The national pride of beating the 19th century’s superpower would inspire the United States to become more globally active, it would also give drive to the nations western expansion challenging Span and Mexico. It was the war that put the United States on the road of being a major power in the world.

Of further interest: While traveling in Canada, especially near Niagara and the Great Lakes, you’ll find monuments to the War of 1812. The differences in these, as opposed to our monuments of that war, is these hail Canadian victories over the United States.

Advertisements
Standard
Britain history, England, English History, Great Britian, Great Castles, history and travel, King Henry VIII, Palaces, Still Current, Travel, Uncategorized, World history

Hampton Court Palace, the favorite home of King Henry VIII

Ron Current

Ron Current

Now, many of you may not have heard of Hampton Court Palace, it being overshadowed by the more well know Buckingham Place and the close by Windsor Castle. But for a history nut like me it means a lot. It was at Hampton Court Palace that many of the historic events of the Tudor period in English history took place, mostly because it was the principle palace for King Henry VIII and later his daughter Elisabeth I. Also, of the many places and castles that were owned by Henry VIII Hampton Court is one of only two that still exists.

The history of Hampton Court goes back before Henry VIII. The Knights Hospitallers of St. John Jerusalem purchased the site for their farm estate in 1236. Because Hampton sat between the royal places of Sheen and Byfleet the Knights built guest houses for the passing royal visitors as they went from one palace to the other.

Hampton Court Palace two

The entrance to Hampton Court Palace

In 1494 the Knight’s leased Hampton Court to a raising member of King Henry VII’s court, Giles Daubeney. During the time Daubeney had Hampton Court the king and his queen stayed there often. It was during this time that Hampton Court also grew in value. However it wasn’t until after Daubeney’s death in 1508 that it’s next owner, Thomas Wolsey, would make major expansions to the estate.

Thomas Wolsey was an ambitious member of the next King, Henry VIII, court. Thomas Wolsey rose from a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church to Archbishop of York, and to  Henry VIII’s Chief Minister and favorite.  In 1514 he claimed the estate from the Knights and began its extravagant expansion. Wolsey wanted Hampton to be the largest and most lavish palace in England. Over the next seven years he spent over 200,000 gold crowns adding new buildings and expanding the entire palace. However in 1528, seeing that his enemies were turning the King against him, he decided to give Hampton Court to the King as a gift, in the hopes of saving his head. Two years later, in 1530, Wolsey died.

The gate to the inter courtyard of Hampton Palace

The gate into the palace’s inter-court yard

Henry VIII realized that Hampton Court was the only one of his many houses and palaces that was large enough to accommodate his ever growing court of over a thousand. In addition six of Henry’s wives would stay at Hampton, as well as his children. Henry VIII continued to expand and build onto the palace until 1540. Hampton Court Palace was by then 36,000 square feet, and featured tennis courts, bowling alleys, a “Great Hall” and a chapel.The palace also had a lavatory that could sit 28 people. In 1546 Henry entertained the French ambassador, with his entourage of two hundred, as well as Henry’s own court of 1,300 there. At the time of his death in 1547 Hampton was the favorite of Henry, over his other sixty houses.

The Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace

Henry the VIII’s Great Hall

 

Some of the major events in Tudor history that took place at Hampton were: The birth of King Henry VIII’s only male heir, Edward VI by Jane Seymour. It was while attending mass in the palace’s chapel that the King learned of Queen Catherine Howard’s adultery, his fifth wife. Catherine was then confined to her apartments there until she was sent to the Tower of London, where she was executed.

The Great Fireplace in Hampton Palace

One of the great fireplaces in the palace

Henry VIII died at Hampton Court Palace and his eldest daughter Queen (Bloody Mary) Mary I spent her honeymoon with King Philip there. Queen Elizabeth I, Mary’s half-sister, continued the expansion of the palace and also used it as her principle residence during her reign. When Elizabeth died in 1603 the crown passed to her first cousin-twice-removed, the Scottish King, James VI (son of Mary, Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth had executed). He took the title as King James I of England, this ended the reign of the House of Tudor and began the House of Stuart.

Hampton Palace

 

There were many other historical events that took place at Hampton Court Palace, but there is one other that I think would be of interest to  mentioned here. In 1604 James I called a meeting of the representatives of the English Puritan Church and the Church of England at Hampton Court in the hopes of working out their differences, this meeting is known as the Hampton Court Conference. While no agreement was reached between the King, the Church of England and the Puritans, it did cause the King to commission that the Bible to be translated into English; this was how the King James Version came about.

Hampton Court Palace four

The royal families stopped using Hampton Court for themselves in 1737, but starting 1760 the palace was used, rent free, by those so honored by the crown. In 1838, the young Queen Victoria ordered that Hampton Court Palace, “should be thrown open to all her subjects without restrictions.”

 

Today Hampton Court is open to all visitors, who can walk in the rooms and hallways once trod by England’s most famous and infamous rulers.

 

Standard
Britain history, England, English History, Great Britian, Great Universties of the World, history and travel, Oxford, Travel, Uncategorized

England’s Oxford University

Ron Current

Ron Current

Oxford University is considered to be the oldest university in the English speaking world. Although there are no written record as to when teaching actually began there it is believed to have started somewhere at round 1096. What the records do show is that the school began to grow rapidly at around 1167; this was after King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. In 1209, after disputes with the townspeople of Oxford, some of the professors moved to the town of Cambridge, there founding the University of Cambridge, the second oldest university. Together with Oxford they are referred to as the “ancient universities.” Because of their histories they are often referred jointly as “Oxbridge.”

The Radcliff Camera in Oxford

The Radcliffe Camera

Oxford is a “city” university, this means it doesn’t have a main campus of its own, but rather the school’s buildings are intermixed with homes and businesses throughout the town. Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges as well as a host of other academic institutions. It is also home to one of the oldest and very prestigious scholarships, the Rhodes scholarship. The school also has the oldest university museum and the largest university press in the world, the Oxford Press.

A street in Oxford Enland.jpg

Street in Oxford

Its alum includes 27 Nobel laureates, 26 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, and a host of foreign heads of state. In addition many famous authors and artist attended school there. The apartment where author Lewis Carroll, of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, stayed when he attended the university was pointed out to us.

Oxford's Bridge of Sighs

The Hertford College Bridge

The buildings of Oxford, and those of the town, have an accumulation of traditions and history that goes throughout the centuries and will continually thrill you as walked around this ancient city.

One of the most interesting structures is the Hertford Bridge. This bridge was built in 1911 as a skyway to connect the two parts of Hertford College. I was told that its design is of  the Bridge of Sighs in Venice Italy. However this seems to be a legend, the Hertford Bridge was never designed after that famous Venetian bridge. In fact after seeing the Bridge of Signs in Venice the one at Oxford looks more like Venice’s Rialto Bridge.

DSC_0171

The Sheldonian Theater

Other unique buildings at Oxford are the Radcliffe Camera, built between 1737 and 1749, that houses the Radcliffe Science Library, the Sheldonian Theater, built in 1664, where concerts, lectures and ceremonies are held even today.

 

Standard
Britain history, Egnglish History, England, English History, Great Britian, history and travel, History in Time, Shakespeare, Still Current, Stratford-/upon-Avon, Travel, Uncategorized, World history

Stratford-Upon-Avon, England: Shakespeare’s hometown

Ron Current

Ron Current

Stratford-upon-Avon sits one hundred miles northeast of London and was founded by the Anglo-Saxons as a market town in around 1196 AD. It most likely would have remained a simple English village if it weren’t for its famous son, William Shakespeare.

Front of Shakespeare's birthplace

Shakespeare’s birthplace

Shakespeare was baptized on April 26th 1564 in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church. He was the son of John Shakespeare, a respected Stratford alderman and a successful glove maker. As of now no records have been found giving what Shakespeare’s actual birthdate was. When Shakespeare was 18 years old he married local 26 year old Anne Hathaway, taking out a marriage license on November 27, 1582. William and Anne had three children, a girl and twin boys. One of their sons, Hamnet died of an unknown cause at the age of eleven in 1596.

The room where Shakespear was born in Stratford-upon-Avon

The room it is said Shakespeare was born in.

Shakespeare didn’t make a name for himself in Stratford, he know that London was better suited for a playwright. Sometime between 1585 and 1592 he moved to London, were he became the successful actor and writer that we know today. In London he was part-owner of the playing group known as King Chamberlain’s Men and founded the famous Globe Theater, that he built on the banks of the river Thames.Shakespeare’s first works were the comedies, he then wrote his famous tragedies up until around 1608. After that, at the end of his career, he wrote the tragicomedies, also called his romances, and began his collaborations with other writers. In his lifetime Shakespeare wrote, and collaborated on, thirty-eight plays, one hundred and fifty-four sonnets, and two long sonnets.

Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare is buried

Holy Trinity Church: where Shakespeare was baptized and where is gave is.

Although London was the base for his success he traveled between there and his hometown of Stratford-upon- Avon throughout his career. In around 1613 Shakespeare retired back to Stratford and three years later, on April 23 1616, he died at the age of 52. William Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, the same church where he was baptized in.

Stratford-upon-Avon today has capitalized on being Shakespeare’s home, with an estimated 4.9 million visitors coming to this small medieval town each year.  2016 should draw even more visitors with it being the 400th anniversary of his death. The first Shakespeare Jubilee honoring him was in 1796, done by the famous actor David Garrick, which went over three days.

Statue of Shakespear in Stratford-upon-Avon

Statue of William Shakespeare

In Stratford you can tour Shakespeare’s birthplace house and gardens. The interior of house is setup as a museum of 15th century English life. The last room you visit is where legend says that Shakespeare was born. Since Shakespeare traveled back and forth between London and Stratford often he an Anne did have a house in the town, which no longer exists. Today where the house once stood is a vacant lot. The story why the house is no longer there is said to be because the last owned it didn’t like all the tourists peeking in the windows, so he tore it down. You can visit Anne Hathaway house and Holy Trinity Church and visit Shakespeare’s grave.

The statue of Hamlet at the Shakespear monument at Stratford-upon-Avon

The statue of Hamlet, one of the character statues

Other thing to do while in Stratford-upon-Avon is to walk along the Avon River, seeing the colorful houseboats moored along its backs. Visit the statue of William Shakespeare with the statues of some of his most famous characters around him, my favorite is Hamlet. Take in a play by the Royal Shakespeare Company, or dine in one of the many historic pubs and restaurants throughout the town.

DSC_0142

All in all Stratford-Upon-Avon is where tourist meets history in a pleasant way, as long as you don’t peek in any windows.

Standard
Britain history, England, English History, Great Britian, Great Castles, history and travel, History in Time, Still Current, Travel, Uncategorized, Wales, World history

Wales’ Castle Caernarfon, and the City of Conwy

The Kings Gate and the walls of Caernarfon Castle

The King’s Gate, the public entrance to Caernarfon Castle

First self portrait- Ron at sixty six

Ron Current

Britain is known for its castles, and one of the most impressive and massive is on the northern coast of Wales in the town of Caernarfon. Caernarfon Castle is also one of the best preserved 13th century medieval fortresses in Britain. But even before this current castle was built the town has had a long history of being fortified.  Each of the many invaders of Wales, from the Romans through William the Conqueror, has built walls and forts at this site. The famous current castle was built by King Edward I of England in 1283. Also with the construction of the castle Edward extended its walls to enclose the entire town. There is a famous legend that developed into a royal tradition associated  with Caernarfon Castle, the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

The Eagle Tower, the grandest tower of Caerarfon Castle

The Eagle Tower, the grandest of the castle

The legend that connects the Prince of Wales to Caernarfon Castle goes back again to Edward I. The King needed something to unite the Welsh people with England. While staying Caernarfon castle on April 25, 1284, his son Edward II was born. Edward promised the Welsh that they would have their own prince that spoke no English. Since Edward II was a baby and didn’t talk at all, he spoke no English.

The balcony that the Prince of Wales was presented

The Queen’s Gate balcony, where Prince Charles was presented as the “Prince of Wales.” And legend has Edward II.

From a balcony on the castle wall Edward I presented his son as the first Prince of Wales. History tells a different story.  There were many Welsh noblemen before Edward II that claimed the title Prince of Wales. And records show that it wasn’t until Edward III that title was attached to the heir apparent to the British Throne. Not until 1911, with the investiture of Prince Edward, the son of King George V did the tradition begin by having the investiture ceremony take place at Caernarfon Castle. The next was Prince Charles, on July 1, 1969, by his mother Queen Elizabeth II, done from that same castle balcony as legend had the first.

Inside Caernarfon Castle looking toward the Queen's Gate

Looking toward the Queen’s Gate

The Castle is owned by the Walsh government, but in theory it belongs to the Earl of Caernarvon. The Caernarvon family has quite a famous history in archaeology beyond their castle. It was George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who funded Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. And it was Herbert’s death that led to the story of the “Mummy’s Curse” when he died from a severe mosquito bite infection while in Cairo Egypt soon after the tomb was discovered. The Caernarvon family has also made their mark in popular television culture. The home of the current Earl of Caernarvon is Highclere Castle, which is the setting for Downton Abbey.

Inside Caernarfon Castle, looking at the stone circle where Charles was Investitured

Inside Caernafon Castle. The stone circle is where Charles was in investiture as the Prince of Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Town of Conwy

While visiting Caernarfon take a short side trip to the small seaside town of Conwy, a medieval walled market town. Conwy is known for two of its builds; its own, massive and picturesque castle and the smallest house in Great Britain. Conwy Castle and the city walls were also built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289. The castle’s builder was James of St. George, who constructed both the castle and the city’s walls. Conwy Castle is considered to be one of the best examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture. It’s massive walls can be seen throughout the old town.

The Quay House, the smallest house in Great Britian, Conwy Wales

The Quay House the smallest house in Great Britain

At the foot of the one of the cities walls, by its docks, sits a building that is at the extreme opposite end of the scale in size from the castle, it’s the smallest house in Britain. This house is also called the Quay House, because it sits on quay (Docks) of Conwy. The floor area is only 10 feet by 5.9 feet and 10 feet 2 inches in height to the eaves. The Quay house has been lived in from the 16th century until the 1900, when it was declared unfit for human habitation.

The last person to live in the house was a fisherman named Robert Jones. Mr. Jones was 6-foot-3-inches, and he couldn’t stand up fully in the house. This Quay house is still owned by the Jones family and used it as a tourist attraction. For a small fee you can look inside.

Standard
Britain history, England, English History, Great Britian, history and travel, History in Time, Still Current, Uncategorized, Wales, World history

Beautiful Wales

First self portrait- Ron at sixty six

Ron Current

Cardiff and Cardiff Castle

The city of Cardiff is the capital of Wales, and has only been so since 1955. Cardiff is also Wales’ largest city and the seventh largest in the United Kingdom.  Cardiff is also the home of the Wales National Rugby Union team which plays in the impressive Millennium Stadium. This stadium also held some of the athletic events of the 2012 Olympics in England.

Wales

The remains of the castle build by William the Conqueror

 

 

One of the most interesting tourist sites of Cardiff is its Castle. A mixture of Roman ruins, a fortress of William the Conqueror and a 19th century interpretation of what a medieval castle should looked like.

The Romans built a fortress on the site where the castle now stands in the 3rd Century, and in the 11th Century William the Conqueror commissioned a castle to be constructed on those Roman ruins. In its history the castle has gone through many reconstructions and modifications.

The Great Hall at Cardiff Castle_edited-2

The Great Hall in William Burges’ Gothic Castle

 

 

The last was in the 19th Century by the third Marquess, who commissioned William Burges to remodel it in a Gothic style, and today it is considered to be one of the most magnificent examples of that style. Throughout the centuries this castle has been the site of numerous battles and sieges in its many different forms. Today the Castle is owned and operated by the city of Cardiff as one of its most popular attraction.

 

 

 

 

North Wales and the National Slate Museum

Wales Castle on the lake

A beautiful Walsh lake with a castle on its shore

From Cardiff we headed into North Wales, where we drove through the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park.

DSC_0059

The picturesque narrow-gauge rail

You can take a narrow-gauge train through the heart of the Snowdonia region to get the full wonder of its fabulous mountain scenery.

At the National Slate Museum in Gilfach Ddu you’ll learn the history of that regions slate industry. The quarrying of slate from Wales goes back to the Roman occupation, which used slate for the roofs of their forts.

DSC_0025

The National Slate Museum

 

The slate industry in Wales grew slowly until the early 18th century when it expanded rapidly. By the late 19th century close to 17,000 men were employed by the quarries due to its demand. Beginning in the 20th century, when the use of other materials for roofing came into use the slate industry declined.

 

Slate is still used today, but on a much reduced scale. The buildings used by the museum were constructed in 1870, as workshops to service the needs for the Dinorwic slate quarry and its locomotives.

Cutting Slate

Slate cutting demonstration at the National Slate Museum

The museum honors those men who worked the difficult jobs in quarrying and transporting what was once the dominate industry of northern Wales.

Standard
Britain history, England, English History, Great Cathedrals of the world, history and travel, History in Time, Still Current, Travel, Uncategorized, World history

The Roman Baths, at Bath England

Ron Current

Ron Current

The ancient city of Bath is located in the county of Somerset in southwest England. Although it was first believed to have been founded by the Romans as a spa city in around 60 AD, new archaeological findings now show that early Bronze Age Britons used this area of hot springs as a shrine dedicated to their goddess Sulis. This fact can be hinted at by the name that the Romans gave this city, Aquae Sulis, Latin for “the waters of Sulis.”

The Roman Bathhouse

The Roman Bathhouse

But it is the Roman occupation that the city is famous for. Bath was the favorite resort retreat for the Romans while in Britain. Temples and the extensive bathing complex were constructed over the next 300 years. Roman engineers drove oak piles into the spring’s mud to provide a strong foundation for their bathhouse structures. Irregular stone chambers were lined with lead to help insulate the water as they moved through the areas of the bath. In the second century a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of wood was added to houses of the hot, warm and cold baths. Around the third century a defensive wall was constructed, encircling the town and baths.

Costumed Docents telling the history of the baths

Costumed Docents telling the history of the baths

However after the Romans left, at the beginning of the 5th century, the baths lost their popularity and were lost to silting and disrepair. As interest in the baths began again by the English, slowly through the next centuries the hot springs were recovered, and restoration began of the Roman era structures.

The water system of the Roman Baths

The water system of the Roman Baths

Today you can descend down to the restored Roman Baths where docents, costumed as Roman soldiers and citizens, tell you the history of the baths. And imagine as you walk among the foundations, smell the hot waters, view the artifacts that you are seeing the engineering of a water system that is nearly 2,000 years old.

Roman bust of a lady or goddess found at the baths.

Roman bust of a lady or goddess found at the baths.

 

 

Another site to visit while in Bath is its Abby. Its official name is the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Bath, but the locals just call it Bath Abbey.

The history of a church on that site goes back to 675 AD, when King Osric of Hwicce helped to establish a convent in Bath. In 1090, the Church was elevated to the status of cathedral, where plans were drawn for a grand new building. Construction was only half finished when a fire destroyed it in 1137. Bishop Godfrey however continued its construction, which was finished in 1156.
Over the years the Cathedral fell into disrepair, and when Bishop Oliver King visited the church in 1499, he was shocked to see it in ruins. A year later, in 1500, King pushed for the rebuilding of the cathedral.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Again in around 1539 the building was ravaged for its lead, iron and glass leaving just a hollow roofless shell. Queen Elisabeth I again funded a reconstruction of the ruined church. But it wasn’t until the 1820s that serious work began on the building and the area that surrounds it. Major restoration began in 1860, by Sir George Gilbert, and continues today.

Standard