Places, people or events associated with Queen Victoria, or the Victorian period in Britain,

A walk in Smardale Gill

Smardale Gill and Viaduct

Some years ago, we spent a happy couple of days with good friends in the Eden district of Cumbria.  For many, Cumbria means the Lake District – which is, of course, a wonderful place; but there is more to the county than that.  Eden, named for the river that flows north through it to the …

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Inside Worcester Cathedral

Worcester Cathedral

The views of Worcester Cathedral, elegantly perched on the east bank of the River Severn, are surely among the best of any cathedral in Britain.  Inside, Worcester is also one Britain’s most fascinating cathedrals.  This compensates for it being a little hemmed in and its east end being crudely violated by a busy road, Deansway.  …

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English Heritage or the National Trust?

English Heritage or National Trust

People often compare the relative merits of Britain’s two largest membership heritage organisations, the National Trust and English Heritage.  In fact, there are several heritage organisations in the United Kingdom that offer membership, the main ones being Cadw, Historic Houses, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland – as well as English Heritage and …

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Domus Dei, a Portuguese princess and the Blitz

Portsmouth Garrison Church

My mother would love to walk from Point along Old Portsmouth’s walls, past the Sally Port, Square Tower and above Battery Row.  There was the Regency Grand Parade, scene of many ceremonial occasions in days gone by.  There was the statue of Nelson, who boarded HMS Victory nearby before the Battle of Trafalgar.  And below …

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The outcast dead

The railings at Crossbones, Visit London

This is Cross Bones Graveyard, surely one of the saddest places in London.  Its story belongs within a wider narrative about poverty and prostitution, an important aspect of the two-thousand year history of the Borough of Southwark.  Just an unfashionable step from busy Bankside in Redcross Way, Cross Bones is part of a very old …

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Walking around Oxford

All Souls Oxford

I’m not easily given to hyperbole; I’ve told you that a million times.  But it is genuinely hard to think of a British town that can be quite so achingly beautiful as Oxford. Perhaps I should qualify that by saying that I refer to the few square miles of the city centre where, quite frankly, …

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A Christmas Carol – a ghost story of Christmas

Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.” And so Charles Dickens modestly introduces us …

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Tower Bridge, up close and personal

Tower Bridge

We all do it.  We’re busy, things around us blend into the background. And so, for all the years I spent living and working in and around London, I had never visited Tower Bridge, one of our capital’s most iconic images, until recently.  Oh, I have driven over it many times, walked across it, watched …

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What does Gawthorpe Hall remind you of?

Gawthorpe Hall

The first sight of Gawthorpe Hall may strike a chord with fans of Downton Abbey, the period soap-opera that follows the fortunes of the Crawley family and those that serve them.  I’m sure those of the true Fellowes’ faith will correct me, but doesn’t this Lancashire house look a little like Highclere Castle, the real …

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The chuffing romance of Haverthwaite

Heritage railways, Britain

Imagine a simpler, hate-free, monochrome world, where you know your doctor, civil servants are both civil and servile, politicians benign and dogs only ever bark happily.  You are secure in the womb of grim, factory-stained, buildings.  There’s a footbridge over a railway and a train is coming.  You gaily dash to cross just as the …

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A Bit About Britain’s History repeats itself

A Bit About Britain's History

Finally – A Bit About Britain’s History (From a long time ago until quite recently) is available as both an e-book and paperback on Amazon. A Bit About Britain’s History is a light introduction to Britain’s fascinating story.  It could be a selective reminder of what you might have learned at school; or if you …

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Some corner of a foreign field that is forever Turkey

Turkish flag, Gosport

The small south coast town of Gosport is an interesting, rather than a pretty, place.  Optimistic residents may believe it was once known as ‘God’s port’, though the Oxford Dictionary of Place Names’ more prosaic and likely explanation is that the name derives from ‘Goose port’.  What we do know is that Gosport developed as …

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The Grace Darling legend

Grace Darling

A neighbour was taking a short break in Northumberland, and told me that one of the reasons she was excited about it was because, growing up, she had a picture of Grace Darling on her bedroom wall.  She would not have been alone; Grace Darling was a perfect Victorian heroine who braved a violent North …

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