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  • Napoleon and the Dorset Convent October 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon and the Dorset Convent

    Beach recently ran with a story that Napoleon was believed to have visited Britain incognito in 1803: Wales to be exact. Here is an annex to that post. The wonderful idea that Napoleon’s brother had holed up in a convent in Dorset at Marnhull no less! These were the glory years when the French were […]

    Flight Hoaxes at Norwich October 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight Hoaxes at Norwich

    Beach recently came across this remarkable hoax from Norwich UK from 1826. The public are respectfully informed that Signor Carlo Grain Villecrop [these sound like foreign names made up by an English writer], the celebrated Swiss Mountain-flyer, from Geneva, and Mont Blanc, is just arrived in this city, and will exhibit, with Tyrolese pole, fifty feet […]

    The Origins of Jill the Ripper September 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Origins of Jill the Ripper

    There has long been a minority opinion that Jack the Ripper was a woman: the so-called ‘Jill the Ripper theory’. It is often said that the theory begins with William Douglas Steward, Jack The Ripper: A New Theory in 1939. Steward established to his own satisfaction, that Jill was a deranged midwife. But Steward was […]

    Thomas Lucy and Shakespeare’s Lost Ballad September 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Thomas Lucy and Shakespeare's Lost Ballad

    Most Shakespeare scholars believe that Shakespeare’s first plays were written in about 1590, a couple of years before the sonnets: Shakespeare would have been 26. But there must have been earlier attempts, now lost apprenticeships in prose and poetry, where Shakespeare learnt his art. It is just possible that we get a distant echo of […]

    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick June 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick

    The Chamberlen brothers were first generation French Hugenots whose father had fled to Britain in 1569: one brother Peter was born in Paris (1560) and the other brother Peter was born in Southampton (1572). Yes, you read that right. Two sons and both were called Peter: a fair introduction to a very unusual family. (And […]

    Nun Immured in Britain? April 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Nun Immured in Britain?

    In mid March 1846 the Hereford Philosophical and Antiquarian Association had a meeting at which the Dean of Hereford Cathedral spoke about some remarkable finds at Hill House, at Woolhope not eight miles from Hereford. He spoke with sadness and, yes, some occasional indignation as human bones had been uncovered there. This was, he suggested, […]

    Phoenician Sun God in Eighteenth-Century Ireland? March 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Phoenician Sun God in Eighteenth-Century Ireland?

    It is the most extraordinary inscription. This mill-stone rock, which once stood on the top of Tory Hill in County Kilkenny in Ireland, has been taken as proof of Carthaginian contact and settlement or at least trade with Ireland in antiquity. The words clearly read (give or take some distorted letters) Beli Dinose, a reference to […]

    Pook’s Hill and Kipling September 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Pook's Hill and Kipling

    There are two versions of the history of Pook’s Hill: the official version; and the official-official version. First, the official version. Kipling wrote in the Edwardian period a book for his children about English history: Puck of Pook’s Hill, published in 1906. A fairy, Puck, introduces Kipling’s two children to the marvelous wonders of the […]

    Time, Blood and Money in World War Two September 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Time, Blood and Money in World War Two

    It is perhaps the best quotation about the Second World War. ‘The British gave time, the Americans gave money, the Soviets gave blood’. In other terms the defeat of the Axis was made possible by the UK hanging on in the summer of 1940; by the Americans ability to outproduce the enemy; and by twenty […]

    Earliest Optography? September 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Earliest Optography?

    Two ideas interested late nineteenth-century crime fiction writers. First, the ridiculous notion that finger prints were unique and that they could be recorded to incriminate this or that thief or murderer; and, second, optography, the sensible-sounding proposition that a murder victim would record the last thing he or she saw on the eye’s retina. Take […]

    The Bird Tree and Barnacle Geese September 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Bird Tree and Barnacle Geese

    Beach has previously looked at tall Arab tales about trees, including the mythical children tree. However, what about this pleasing nonsense associated with Britain and Ireland? The source is Rashid al-Din and we are in the fourteenth-century. Opposite [Spain] in the midst of the Encircling Ocean are two islands, of which one is Ireland. From […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: In Search of the Sewer Crocodile in Hamburg August 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: In Search of the Sewer Crocodile in Hamburg

    This story is quite exciting because it is a possible source for the famous crocodiles in the sewer tale. There are reports from the early 1870s about crocs associated with drainage in the US. However, they rarely involve danger or fun. We are in Hamburg, Germany: The police authorities of this city have issued a […]

    Volcano or Leopard Skin? July 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    Volcano or Leopard Skin?

    It is regularly cited as the earliest map in the world (‘the greatest find in cartographic history’); it is ‘certainly’ our earliest landscape painting. Here, at level VII, in one of the world’s first cities, Çatalhöyük in Turkey, is a remarkable mural. A group of tessellated squares that appear to be houses painted beneath a […]

    Medieval Marvels: Carving Liquid for Stone and Marble July 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Carving Liquid for Stone and Marble

    Beach has sometimes looked, in this blog, at the marvellous works of Gervase of Tilbury, 104. Here is another from his book of curiosities. A liquid that allows for the moulding of stones. In our times, during the papacy of Alexander III [1155-1181], when I was a boy, a phial was found at Rome full […]

    The Coming Destruction of Minneapolis! July 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Coming Destruction of Minneapolis!

    Minneapolis is in a cavey region. It is also true that the discovery of the Schieks Cave in 1904 under downtown Minneapolis did cause some panic, but the concern was more about perceptions in a growing and prosperous city than danger. Little in the way of precautions seem to have been taken. Enjoy then this […]

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