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  • Alwyn Ruddock: Enemy of History? November 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Alwyn Ruddock: Enemy of History?

    You have worked your entire life researching a given area of history. However, you have published barely anything waiting to write your ‘big book’, the one that you will be remembered by. The years pass and the book does not materialise and then comes your final illness… What will you do with the seventy odd […]

    William Bottrell and the Strangest Funeral Procession in the World November 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    William Bottrell and the Strangest Funeral Procession in the World

    The year is 1881 and Willam Bottrell has just passed away after a horrific final illness: he lay paralysed in bed for the last year, his mind as fine as ever, his body drying up. Bottrell, for those many who don’t know, was a hero perhaps the hero of Cornish folklore studies because despite having […]

    Wynne’s Madonna at Ely: Love Goddess 2# November 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Wynne's Madonna at Ely: Love Goddess 2#

    Ely Cathedral is one of the great works of English civilisation. Approached by car or on foot over the flatlands of East Anglia it surges above the landscape. In fact, ‘the ship of the Fens’ is one of the few churches that can be enjoyed from a distance: so often we are reduced to glancing […]

    The Inventio Fortunata: A Lost Medieval Journey to the Arctic North November 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Inventio Fortunata: A Lost Medieval Journey to the Arctic North

    The Inventio Fortunata sometimes written the Inventio Fortunae (likely a mistaken amendment by an over anxious sixteenth-century author) is one of the most extraordinary documents NOT to come down to us from posterity. It was written in the fourteenth century, either at sea or in England, by a friar for the King of England, Edward […]

    Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850! November 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850!

    This appeared in a northern British newspaper in 1850 relating to the Manchester area. The monster, so long the object of such contradictory reports, is now proved beyond doubt to be a real living creature. He has been seen on shore by hundreds of spectators, having originally, it is supposed, come up the Bridgewater Canal. […]

    Bristol Discovers America November 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Bristol Discovers America

    The most credible claims for pre-Columbian voyages across the Atlantic are those that took place in the generation immediately preceeding Columbus’ trip into the unknown. Take the text of a famous letter that was written in Spanish to an Admiral, almost certainly Columbus in late December 1497. The author is an English sailor, John Day. […]

    National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War November 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War

    Nations are often personified: Lady Liberty for France, Uncle Sam for the States, Britannia for the UK. Nor is this new. There is a memorable fifth-century Latin poem that goes through the Roman Empire doling out identities to the different provinces: Gaul, for example, appears as a warrior with two spears. But Beach has recently […]

    Billesley and Shakespeare: Books, Weddings and Fornication November 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Billesley and Shakespeare: Books, Weddings and Fornication

    Many times on Strange History we have looked at the possibility that a small community is capable of remembering a tradition over decades, generations and even centuries without any recourse to writing. And Beach has just stumbled on a possible example of this in the deep English village of Billesley in Warwickshire. There are fewer […]

    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies November 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies

    In 1684 the Queen of Fairy was visiting the (fairy) Duke of Hungary in his estate under Moorfields (London), when the Duke hatched a dastardly plot. First he tried to poison her majesty with chocolate and then, having failed to ruin her insides, he attempted to blow up her subterranean palace with gunpowder. If you […]

    Sherlock Holmes in the Blitz November 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sherlock Holmes in the Blitz

    ***Dedicated to Stu*** Some wonderful lunchtimes in the last week re-watching the Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson) Sherlock Holmes films, a series that begin in 1939 with the Hound of the Baskervilles and then went on to Dressed to Kill in 1946, with twelve films and numerous radio dramatisations intervening. Lovers of the […]

    Review: Goodwin Wharton October 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Goodwin Wharton

    In the spring of 1683, a disgraced scion of an English aristocratic family, Goodwin Wharton met Mary Parish a woman in regular communication with fairies (‘lowlanders’), angels, the dead and, of course, the Almighty. Mary was down on her luck having alienated her spirit guide, having argued bitterly with the royal family of faery and […]

    Shakespeare’s First Anne October 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shakespeare's First Anne

    Earlier this year we publicised that famous inventor of the compass, Flavio Gioia, who never, in fact, existed. Today, we offer a parallel tale from English literature: the story of Shakespeare’s first love. We refer here not to that hated appendage, Anne Hathaway, who married the bard after he got her pregnant and eventually got […]

    Fairy Jousting? October 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fairy Jousting?

    This tale comes from an early thirteenth-century Latin collection of mirabilia. It has not, to the best of Beach’s knowledge been associated with fairies, but reading it eight hundred years after its composition, there seem to be some fey hints worth flagging up. Note that the Latin below comes from an early edition where there […]

    The Last of 2973 October 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Last of 2973

    From June to September 1940 2937 pilots flew in RAF fighters to retain British air superiority over the Home Counties in a scrap that has been remembered by history as ‘the Battle of Britain’. Immortalized by Churchill as ‘the few’ these men have come, even more than the Dunkirk-bound BEF, to symbolise the British achievement […]

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