The Heritage Traveller
Travel, History, and exploring British Heritage
Mary Queen of Scots' Downfall: The Life and Murder of Henry, Lord Darnley
by Robert Stedall
On 10 February 1567, a terrifying explosion split the night, wreaking destruction in the Old Provost's Lodging in Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh. One of those staying in the Old Provost's Lodging that night was Henry, Lord Darnley, the estranged husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. Darnley's body was found the following morning, but not in the wreckage of the house but in a neighbouring garden.
On examination of the body and that of Darnley's valet, who was found beside him, it was found that Darnley had not been killed in the blast but had been suffocated.
But by whom?
Read more: Mary, Queen of Scots Downfall Book Review
The tale is one that anyone with an interest in British history can recite from memory; in the early dawn hours of 5 November 1605 Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellars under the Houses of Parliament armed with enough barrels of gunpowder to kill King James I and anyone else attending the opening of Parliament scheduled for that later morning.
Over the centuries since the Gunpowder Plot was uncovered the figure of Guy Fawkes has become something of a cultural icon, a his name given to scarecrow-like mannequins burned on bonfires every 5th November to the accompaniment of fireworks and celebrations.
Read more: The Real Guy Fawkes Book Review
There are some history books that you can enjoy without much thought. The new book by Simon Webb is definitely not that kind of publication. Myths That Shaped Our History: from Magna Carta to the Battle of Britain is a thought-provoking look at how what we think we know about major historical events is wrong, and more importantly, how what we think we know about those events helps shape how we define what it means to be British.
Read more: Myths That Shaped Our History Book Review
In 1912 an amateur archaeologist named Charles Dawson astounded the scientific world when he discovered the earliest human remains ever found in a gravel pit near the Sussex village of Piltdown, north of Lewes. Dawson built a worldwide reputation for his discovery, but that reputation was left in tatters when it emerged some 4 decades later that the skeletal remains were part of an elaborate hoax, with the skull constructed from a mix of human and ape bones carefully painted to give them an appearance of great age.
The story of Piltdown Man is one of the opening salvos of a fascinating new book by Philip Payton entitled 'A History of Sussex', from Carnegie Publishing.
Payton has done a magnificent job of covering the broad sweep of Sussex history, from the first dinosaurs to the Roman invasion, from the Roman Saxon Shore forts to the devastation of the Black Death, and Sussex in the Railway Age to how people lived through the dark days of the Battle of Britain.
Read more: Book Review: A History of Sussex
Imagine you could travel back in time to Georgian England. It sounds like the premise for a new TV series along the lines of Outlander, but it's the idea behind Monica Hall's intriguing book, 'A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England', from Pen and Sword Books.
This is history with a difference; rather than the sort of dull history book you might have been subjected to in school, Hall's delightful book makes the Georgian period come alive, as she describes what you, the time-travelling visitor, can expect to see, hear, even smell as you navigate your way through Georgian life, from fashion to entertainment, medicine to education, how to behave in polite society, and what you can expect if you venture into the shadows that lurk beyond polite society.
Read more: Book Review: A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England
In 1834 a group of poor farm workers in the Dorset village of Tolpiddle gathered together to form the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, with the aim of banding together to bargain for better wages from farm owners.
Tolpiddle (soon to be renamed Tolpuddle so the name didn't offend 19th-century sensibilities) was a rural backwater near Dorchester, an agricultural area dependent on large numbers of labourers, whose backbreaking labour was ill-paid at best and often bordered on starvation wages.
Read more: Book Review: Six for the Tolpuddle Martyrs
Did you know ...?
That's the question I kept asking my wife while reading John Wade's delightful little book 'London Curiosities'. As in 'Did you know there's a traffic bollard in Bankside made from a French cannon captured at the Battle of Trafalgar?', or, 'Did you know there's a network of underground passages and vaults under Camden Market known as the Camden Catacombs?', or one of my favourites, 'Did you know that the official Centre of London is the statue of King Charles I on the south side of Trafalgar Square?".
Read more: London Curiosities: The Capital's Odd & Obscure, Weird and Wonderful Places
In 1740 the public executioner at Newgate Prison gave the corpse of a thief named William Duell to the Royal College of Physicians to dissect. The College had the right to receive 10 corpses per year for medieval research, and their dissections drew large crowds to Barber-Surgeons Hall in Wood Street. Imagine the scene when the 'corpse' came to life on the dissection table. It seems that Duell had survived his hanging, and regained consciousness just in time to avoid being dissected while still alive. He was not re-executed, but sentenced to transportation to America.
The case of the living corpse is just one of the colourful episodes in the history of Newgate Prison that come to life in this delicious book by Caroline Jowett. In this thoroughly researched and colourfully written little book the story of Newgate comes to life.
Read more: The History of Newgate Prison Review
The Museum of London's Time Truck will be showcasing archaeological finds from London's Spitalfields district on 8-9 September in a free event. Some of the objects were found during excavations on the site of the Tune Hotel, Liverpool Street, and the hotel is offering a special discount to mark the Time Truck event.
Read more: Museum of London Archaeology Time Truck at Tune Hotel Liverpool Street