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Posts tagged ‘history’


Thomas Covell And The Pendle Witches

I recently discovered that I’m a direct descendant of Thomas Covell – that’s him on the picture below. It’s taken from an engraving in the church in which he’s buried in Lancaster (Lancaster, England – for my overseas followers). As you can see from the clothes he’s wearing – an Elizabethan ruff, furs and well shod – he was clearly a man of means.


Thomas Covell had, in fact, been the Mayor of Lancaster six times, as well as being the Keeper of Lancaster Castle during a turbulent period in English history. However, I then went on to discover he was also known as one of the key figures in the events surrounding the Pendle Witches, having almost certainly been at least partially responsible for putting them to their deaths – by hanging!

These are the headlines about Thomas Covell, but I’m intrigued to learn more about him. Was he the one dimensional historical scapegoat – the ‘notorious Thomas Covell’ – or was there, as I suspect, rather more to him than that?

I’d be really interested if anyone out there has any further thoughts or information.


Jubilee at the Nell Gwyn

Less than a week after the recent Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II and there were remnants of the celebrations all over London. The bunting outside the Nell Gwyn pub in Bull Inn Court off the Strand near Covent Garden was still fresh.

Nell Gwyn was the favourite mistress of the Queen’s ancestor – Charles II – and, curiously, Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is a direct descendant of an illegitimate child of their relationship. See if you can spot any similarities ..


Lemons and Pears at the Palace

Drenched by June’s deluge, the gardens at Hampton Court Palace glistened green and glorious. Worth visiting for these alone.

The palace is an architectural treat and the gardens really are the icing on the cake. No crowds thanks to the rain so the broad gravel paths were smooth and clear. This row of plants were exotics and holding their own in the chilly weather. Even the lemons.

And the prickly pear provides a perfect frame for the view down towards the formal reaches of the gardens.

Statues large and small are all around as you might expect from this substantial royal palace, once home to Henry VIII.

Even the grass takes on a dramatic, decorative hue in the foreground to this defensive feature in the walls of the palace.


Hampton Court – it’s hip and happening!

Set the co-ordinates for 1494 and prepare to be blown away by Hampton Court – one of the most famous of the royal palaces – on the banks of the River Thames just outside London. As Brits we’re a bit blasé when it comes to history but a trip to Hampton Court can change all that. I mean, it’s not everyday you see the insignia of the first Queen Elizabeth is it? Think Cate Blanchett.

If that doesn’t ring any bells, check out this site  –

Dr Who’s tardis could take lessons from this place. There you are, adrift in England’s rich history when along comes a member of staff at full pelt in traditional costume, complete with mic and .. is that an iPad? 

You’re up close and personal with constant reminders of some of the most iconic figures in English history, from Henry VIII seizing the place off Cardinal Wolsey, to William and Mary attempting a palatial version of demolition derby. And windows to die for too!

And of course, some quite literally did just that. It’s one thing to know the fateful story of Anne Boleyn’s beheading. Quite another matter to find her sidling out of the shadows to engage you in salacious court gossip about the whole sorry tale. Granted an actress in Elizabethan costume, but I’ve been to Disneyworld and done my damnedest to hold my own with a mute Mickey Mouse, and this is a whole different ball game.

Reminders of royal power and prestige are all around.

For those of you who drop by regularly you’ll know that I’m drawn to graffiti. Well guess what? An eighteenth century Banksy as I live and breathe ..

This is an amazing place and you can’t help but reflect on the role of our modern day royal family especially in this Diamond Jubilee year.


Anglesey Sparkles

From the gleaming waters of the Menai Straits to the bright blue skies of Beaumaris, the island of Anglesey off the Welsh coast sparkled in the Spring sunshine. It was great to be back on Ynys Môn to give the island it’s Welsh name. Or Mam Cymru (Mother of Wales). Anglesey is also currently home to Prince William and Kate Middleton – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

I’ve been visiting the island one way and another for many years now. We used to sail from a mooring further round the Menai Straits out past Beaumaris and beyond Puffin Island. These are some of the most treacherous waters in the UK. The renowned 17th century English poet, John Milton, wrote an elegy called Lycidas, in memory of a close friend who’d drowned in an accident here.

Beaumaris has some beautiful properties and the small town is undergoing something of a quiet renaissance. Palm trees testify to it’s mild climate. It even has a castle – the last of the great Welsh fortresses built by King Edward I and begun in 1295.

Still only April and some of the shots I was taking were more reminiscent of the Greek Islands rather than North Wales.

Further around the coast was the tiny headland of Penmon with it’s ancient Celtic Priory and stupendous views over Puffin Island.

Before taking a look at those views, here’s a look out across the Menai Straits from one corner of Penmon.

And here’s one more.

The great American artist, Edward Hopper, known for his iconic paintings of lighthouses, would surely have relished this shoreline.

This next shot shows the lighthouse, strategically situated to prevent vessels from entering the treacherous passage between Puffin Island and the Anglesey shore.

Now for a close up of the lighthouse itself standing proud in the Irish Sea and guarding the shipping lanes to Liverpool. Hard to believe that busy port city is only a 90 minute drive away.



Although Northumbria with it’s wild, wide open spaces and it’s dramatic shoreline is the jewel in the crown of the North East, there are many beautiful places south of the River Tyne, too. Yarm would not have been a name or a place that instantly sprang to mind – to be honest, I’d not really heard of it before – but was certainly a great place to stretch the legs and have a bite to eat before heading back down the A19.

Apparently Yarm was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, although the name is supposed to derive from the old Norse word yarum.

While the main street is attractive enough and was even voted “best high street” on BBC Breakfast in 2007, there are some hidden gems in the narrow streets just off it. Tastefully restored cottages tumble along in a range of styles and from different periods.

Quirky details abound on the streets and in the cafes – such as this ancient typewriter. Yarm’s well worth a visit.