Sincerely A. B. Marshall

Any history geek or culinary enthusiast worth their salt has of course heard of the cooking leviathan Mrs Isabella Beeton and her infamous Book of Household management, but she wasn’t as I’m sure you’ll all be surprised to know the only female entrepreneur in this particular arena at the time. The name Agnes Marshall I am sure probably means very little to you, but and here is the thing… it really should.

Agnes Bertha Marshall was born on the 24th August 1855 and lived to become an English culinary entrepreneur and one of the foremost cookery writers of the Victorian period. Not only was she this but was also a pioneer in terms of the home production of ice cream and frozen desserts, an endeavour which led to her being dubbed ‘Queen of Ices’. In the time before any form of practical domestic refrigeration techniques or indeed technology, her successes in this area quite dramatically, for an individual increased the demand in London for ice imported from Norway. Marshall’s 1888 cookery book contained what is possibly the earliest publication of a recipe for an edible ice cream cone ‘cornets with cream’, so we can all definitely thank her for that at least.


So very little is known about Marshall’s early life with the exception that she was born in Walthanstow, her father one John Smith was a clerk he however died whilst she was still young and her mother remarried. It was also written later in her life in the Pall Mall Gazette however that Marshall was a student of the culinary arts from a young age and ‘practiced at Paris and with Vienna’s celebrated chefs’.

Over the course of her lifetime Marshall wrote four books Ices Plain and Fancy: The Book of Ices (1885), Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Book of Cookery (1888), Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes (1891) and Fancy Ices (1894). Marshall also gave numerous public lectures on cooking and ran a successful agency for domestic staff. She was also notably granted a patent for an improved ice cream machine that could freeze a pint of ice cream in five minutes, a quite remarkable feat for the time not only this but she suggested the use of liquid nitrogen in the making of ice cream, a practice which would not become common for around a decade later.

She and her husband established the prestigious Marshall School of Cookery in Mortimer Street in 1883 and also published a popular weekly magazine entitled, The Table, from 1886. This when she moved to London where she purchased the National Training School of Cookery from its owners, creating from it the aforementioned Marshall School of Cookery and building an impressive prestige and clientele. The later decades of the Victorian era saw the relatively modest beginnings of what would come to be termed domestic science and with its development the entrepreneurial Agnes Marshall boosted the schools number of pupils from a pitiful 40 within 2 years to thousands on numerous day to yearlong courses. Her pupil demographic was understandably extensive from those in domestic service sponsored by employers to aristocratic ladies who felt themselves in need of a suitable pastime. The curriculum taught was also revolutionary as it “offered specialty instruction in cooking, including lessons in curry from an English colonel who had served in India and classes in French haute cuisine taught by a Cordon Bleu graduate.”

Marshall also sold numerous culinary supplies such as leaf gelatine and equipment such as a surprisingly extensive range of jelly moulds, advertising such wares religiously in her recipes and in her books. Other such things sold were cutlery, cast-iron equipment, baking powder, flavourings, vegetable food colorants and by 1888 an edible ‘cornet a la crème’ an ice cream cone made from ground almonds. Not only this but with the eventual advent of a kitchen shop her students cuisine was sold directly to the general public.

Agnes Marshall’s lectures became legendary in her own time and she surprisingly had time (with all her other endeavours) to schedule six talks per week in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle with her second tour visiting an additional 12 cities. Despite her live culinary demonstrations given on consecutive Saturdays in London sometimes drawing huge crowds and exceptionally complimentary reviews, Marshall found little success in the US despite her fame in Europe.

By the mid 1890’s Marshall began to decrease her workload from cooking, teaching, administration and writing to instigating Yule dinners and a system of winter soup kitchens for the growing percentage of Victorian poor.

Unfortunately after her death in 1905 just a month short of her 50th birthday, the rights to her books were sold to Mrs Beeton’s publisher, Ward Lock and her husband took control over the business that they had previously run together resulting ultimately in its failure. Marshall was just as popular, if not more so than Beeton in her day why then is her name not spoken with just as much frequency in the kitchens of amateur and professional cooks alike. In the late Victorian era the name A.B. Marshall could be seen everywhere but by the time of her tragic death she had sunk into relative obscurity with the destruction of her property and personal goods in a 1950’s fire further burying her extensive legacy which rivalled that of Beeton in the eyes of her contemporaries.

Marshall’s influence in her own time and for a while after her death was extensive however as she passionately denounced canned food and the often substandard meals provided on the railways, she also campaigned for greater year round availability of fresh produce and properly trained kitchen staff. Indeed it seems that she foresaw numerous reasonably modern developments within industry such as the expansion of automobile travel, fad diets, supermarkets, dishwashers, refrigerated transport, chemical purification of water and the popularization of freezers particularly and perhaps not surprisingly given her title in terms of ice cream.

And so it is that below I shall include an A. B. Marshall recipe in the hopes that perhaps you will cook it and thus remember a woman who was a not only a pioneer, but a pioneer in a time where women were still thought incapable of conducting business. This seemingly unknown figure in my opinion deserve the same status as Mrs Isabella Beeton, so its Mrs Agnes Marshall cook, lecturer, business owner, writer, inventor, campaigner, charity worker and pioneer, got it… good!

Albert Pudding

‘Put a quarter of a pound of fresh butter into a basin, and work it with a wooden spoon till quite white like cream; add a saltspoonful of ground ginger, the finely-chopped peel of two lemons, a teaspoonful of vanilla essence, and three ounces of castor sugar; mix these together for a few minutes, then add two ounces of finely-sifted flour, two ounces of ratafia biscuit crumbs, the raw yolks of four eggs, half a wineglassful of brandy or liqueur, and colour a pale salmon colour with Marshall’s Liquid Carmine; then add the eighth of an ounce of Cowan’s Baking Powder, whip five whites of eggs to a stiff froth and mix with the other ingredients. Butter a plain mould, dust it over with dried cocoanut and ratafia crumbs; then fill it with the mixture, and let the pudding steam for eighty minutes; when cooked turn it out on to a hot dish, and serve at once with Apricot sauce or Albert sauce round the base.’

Mrs A. B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book Of Extra Recipes – I have made this recipe before and it is quite yummy… watch out for the kick of brandy though it’s quite severe.


A Trip To Poland

So firstly, I have not posted in a long while which I feel great disappointment for but owing to various circumstances I am not entirely surprised. I will now however endeavour to become as prolific at posting as I was a while ago. GCSE’s went exceedingly well and I have now progressed to A-level so one would hope that my skill at writing would be greatly improved.

In October last year I went on a short history orientated visit to Poland, which I found to be greatly influencing in terms of my outlook upon history itself. Many would know that I am first and foremost an ancient and medieval orientated historian, however on this particular trip with my philosophy and ethics class we were swamped by all too modern history. Despite this I couldn’t help but come to the realisation that we are so much more emotionally attached to the history of our grandparents and great grandparents time, that we can associate so much more easily emotion with a historical event, yet when asked to think of for example how the soldiers of both sides felt at Agincourt, it is so much more difficult to feel empathetic. But why is this so? Chances are that at many of these events we had relatives involved however distant… is it perhaps because however much we may have said ‘Never Forget’ that time fades our link to events in our ancestors past. In this case I feel that for myself at least I have found a way in which modern history can perhaps appeal to me more, and that is through the transfer of emotion from such events into those of ancient or medieval history, because although the events may not be the same… humanity at least in many cases is.


A photo of Krakow showing St Mary’s Basilica (by Nico Trinkhaus –

Now on to the history, as this is after all a history blog. Kraków is a city bursting with history, but the era which was most evident to us was that of the Second World War. From the 4th November 1939 it became the capital of part of Nazi Germany’s General Government which was headed by Hans Frank who was based in Wawel Castle within the city. The majority of the cities populace at this time was made up of Jews and Poles, in order to turn Kraków into the entirely German city that the Nazi’s envisioned these sectors of society were removed, this also meant the renaming of many locations and streets into German and waves of propaganda in an attempt to portray Kraków as a historically German city. Culminating in an operation called Sonderaktion Krakau more than 180 academics were arrested and sent the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. The Jewish population of the city was also confined to a ghetto (part of the wall of which still stands) where a great many died from both starvation and illness. Of those who did not die in the Ghetto many were subsequently murdered or sent to the concentration camps of Płaszów and Auschwitz. One key resident of Kraków was Oskar Schindler who is credited with saving a great many lives through selecting employees from the Ghetto to work in his enamelware plant thus saving them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Although looted Kraków remained quite undamaged by the end of the war and thus much of the cities historical legacy was saved. On the 18th January 1945 Soviet Forces entered the city, and freed it ultimately from German occupation.


My visit to Kraków and the areas other historic sites was certainly enlightening and the vast architectural heritage which it preserves makes it a destination worth visiting whatever era of history is of most interest to you. One thing which is certain is that with a visit to a city such as Kraków is liable to come a more in depth understanding as to what history itself is, a study of humanity.

Superfortress ‘Over Exposed’ – The Remnants Dark Peak


Ok, sorry for the time it has taken me to complete this article however I believe it has been worth the time and effort. So on the 2nd of April me and my dad ventured out it utterly glorious weather to search on the Derbyshire Moors for a crash site…

On Bleaklow Moor there is scattered the remains of an American WW2 Superfortress bomber, it is indeed a poignant place to visit as much of the wreckage is still visible. This Superfortress was not your standard B29 bomber but instead was an B-29 photographic reconnaissance aircraft. Not long at all after the end of WW2 the Soviet Union blockaded off the Allies road, rail and canal access to Western Berlin (one of the first major instances of the Cold War), with the proviso that the blockades would be lifted if the newly introduced Deutschmark was withdrawn from Western Berlin. In response to this it was necessary for the allies to air drop supplies to the citizens of Western Berlin hence the now famous Berlin Airdrop which continued from June 1948 until the 12th May 1949 and which our aforementioned Superfortress was involved.

Piece of Wreckage

During WW2 many nations took to naming their aircraft, this B-29 which was a part of USAF’s 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was no exception, and was aptly named ‘Overexposed’. At the time of her tragic crash, she and her squadron were based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, however she had already flown many miles and had an eventful life by this point in her service. This B-29 was one of three which ordered to accompany, the B29 Superfortress that had been tasked with the deployment of the ‘Able’ atomic bomb at Bikini Atoll (in the Pacific) in 1946.

Due to the diminutive American presence at American Logistics base Burtonwood, all the mail and pay packets destined for these squadrons was delivered to RAF Scampton, this meant there had to be regular collection and resupply flights between these military bases. Also sacks of mail bound for the states were loaded in. The Superfortress ‘Overexposed’ was on the 3rd November 1948 tasked with just such a flight, for such a mission only minimum flight crew was required however some American personnel chose to go, as the American base at Burtonwood provided the opportunity for the acquiring of some creature comforts, this brought the number of crew members up to 13. It was only a 25 minute flight away which the pilot may have made before, so to the personnel aboard the flight must have seemed to have little risk attached to it.

At about 10.15 on the morning of the 3rd of November, the pilot of B-29 Superfortress ‘Overexposed’ filed his Visual Flight Record with Flight Control for what was supposed to be a simple routine flight.

The November weather the day of the flight was not good and the cloud level was lower than 2000 feet with visibility being four to six miles. It was 11.15 am when the B-29 Superfortress flew across the moor not far from Burtonwood final approach basically at ground level. It is unclear why Captain Landon Tanner flew into the ground a couple of hundred yards from the highest point of Bleaklow (approximately 2077 feet).

An Engine

It should be noted that Captain Tanner had no notable reason for being below 2000 feet, as he was still just a few minutes under ten minutes away from Burtonwood. The facts remain his maps would clearly show him the high ground he was flying over, he had been informed of how low the cloud base was (from his pre-flight meteorological reports at Scampton and from communications via radio from Burtonwood). It was just a 25 minute trip from Scampton to Burtonwood in a B-29.

It is perfectly acceptable to believe that the adverse weather conditions effected the navigator’s calculations on the aircrafts position significantly, resulting in them thinking they were a lot closer to Burtonwood than they were in reality.

Captain Tanner’s crew for the trip consisted of co-pilot – Captain Harry Stroud, engineer – Technical Sergeant Ralph Fields, radio operator – Staff Sergeant Gene A Gartner, navigator – Sergeant Charles Wilbanks, radar operator – David D Moore, camera crew – Technical sergeant Saul R Banks, Sergeant Donald R Abrogast, Sergeant Robert I Doyle and Private First Class William M Burrows. Two more crew members were Corporal George Ingram, Corporal M Franssen and acting photographic advisor Captain Howard Keel of the 4201st Motion Picture Unit.

A Memorial

When ‘Over Exposed’ failed to arrive at Burtonwood an air search was initiated, and the Superfortress’s blazing wreckage was spotted that afternoon. By chance Members of the Harpur Hill RAF Mountain Rescue Unit had just completed an exercise two and a half miles away, on their radio they picked up the messages that were being broadcast by the search aircraft. They checked the map reference and Flight Sergeant George Thompson and Corporal William Duthie both noted their proximity to the crash site and ordered their men approach the site and search from one side, whilst they started the search from Doctor’s Gate. Poor visibility prevented them from seeing the aircraft at first, but after 20 minutes they spotted the Superfortress’s tailfin and the fires blazing around it. Several bodies were scattered around the remains of the plain, Harpur Hill RAF Mountain Rescue could do nothing for them so they went back to their vehicle, so they could guide the Glossop firemen to the wreckage which was spread for a quarter of a mile across the moor. An extensive search was made for survivors, none were found and only eight bodies were located. The next morning around fifty men set off across the moor towards the downed aircraft, it was two hours before they saw the tailfin. They scoured the moor for the missing personnel, eventually all the bodies were discovered, scrambling about the wreckage an American Officer found a satchel containing £7000, part of the payroll.


Ted Ward a member of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team for Harpur Hill recalled: –

The first piece of wreckage that I came across was the nose wheel, followed after some 200 hundred yards by the tail unit.

Ted Ward was also close by when the remaining four bodies were found:-

I was within two or three yards when the remaining four were found, unfortunately they were burned beyond recognition.

The crew of ‘Over Exposed’ had completed their required service in Britain and were due to return home to the states in 3 days.

The Wreckage has been surrounded by many memorial crosses.

The Wreckage has been surrounded by many memorial crosses.

One visitor to this incredible site found a wedding ring belonging to one of the crew members and endeavoured to find its rightful owner, needless to say he succeeded and a local paper wanted to report on it. So he and the papers photographer ventured onto the moors and he stood in front of the wreckage for a photograph. The next thing this visitor knew the photographer was ‘legging it’ across the moor, when he finally caught up he asked the photographer why he had run. The photographer told him that when he had looked through the cameras lens to take a photograph, all of the Superfortress’s crew were stood around him.

I will state here that neither I nor my dad experienced anything like this whilst at the site, however it is certainly a sombre place and we left thoughtful.

If you want to know more about Superfortress ‘Over Exposed’ and other crash sites on Dark Peak. I whole heartedly recommend Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks 1 by Ron Collier and Roni Wilkinson. If you do visit please do not disturb the wreckage as it stands testament and in memorial to the men that lost their lives there.

I may do another post on this subject, however now it really is exam season and so there may not be any posts for awhile.

All that roams there now is nature.

All that roams there now is nature.

Unsung Documenter: Henrietta Maria Queen Of England

Henrietta Maria of France, Painted By Anthony Van Dyke

Henrietta Maria of France, Painted By Anthony Van Dyke


Much has been written about the English Civil Wars, with many author’s being contemporary to the conflict, however some of these author’s I believe deserve more recognition as they provide unique insights into a horrific conflict through which they survived to ‘tell the tale’. Henrietta Maria can be considered a less well known Queen of England, this in all probability a consequence of the Civil Wars, the execution of her husband Charles 1 and her subsequent exile to France. Henrietta’s strong views on religion and the absolute power of the king, who is anointed by God, meant that by 1642 she was an extremely unpopular monarch, not only because she was foreign and therefore distrusted, but because she had the ear of the king and was thus perfectly placed to influence him. Henrietta remained ever faithful to her religion and thus remained sympathetic to her fellow Catholics and as a result of gestures such as the construction of a Catholic chapel at Somerset House in 1632, it can clearly be seen that the Queen was not concerned with cultivating good will towards herself from her subjects. The Chapel was extremely unpopular amongst the local protestant community, and it is rumoured that London apprentices even considered destroying it as an anti-Catholic expression. The Chapel although fairly non-descript externally, was extremely elaborate internally this combined with its opening being a grand ceremony, mortified and alarmed local Protestants. Henrietta seemed determined to again cultivate a more open Catholic community in England; this led to many Catholics being more open about their Catholicism in court discussion and prevalent in court as a denomination. Because of this blatant publicising of the Catholic faith king Charles 1 came under criticism for his failure to prevent several high profile conversions to the Catholic faith. Henrietta was even so bold as to hold a requiem mass for high profile priest Father Richard Blount in her private chapel in the year of his death 1638. Perhaps her most scandalous escapades from the Puritans perspective however were her several roles in masque plays, in which she chose roles to further the development the Catholic community in England and promote ecumenism. Hatred towards Henrietta reached a crisis point in the 1630’s; this was only enflamed with the punishments devised for those that openly criticised her. In 1630 for example a Scottish doctor by the name of Alexander Leighton, was flogged, branded, mutilated and imprisoned for life for being the author of a pamphlet which denounced Henrietta. Even the popular puritan lawyer William Prynne had his ears cut off in the late 1630’s for questioning the integrity of women actresses and subsequently writing of this opinion, this was seen at the time as a clear insult to Henrietta. Much of London society would later blame Henrietta for the Irish rebellion of 1641, which was in reality coordinated by Jesuits, who in public imagination Henrietta was linked to. In 1641 an alliance of Parliamentarians under John Pym attempted to use Henrietta as a way of placing pressure on Charles 1. A list of grievances called the Grand Remonstrance which was passed near the end of 1641, referred to and condemned to a Roman Catholic conspiracy, although not mentioned by name it was clear to all that Henrietta was involved. This contributed to the fleeing of her confidant Henry Jermyn to the Continent, Jermyn’s involvement in the First Army Plot of 1641 also forced him to flee after its discovery. It is believed that Henrietta encouraged Charles to arrest his parliamentary opposition in January 1642. The French ambassador, Marquis de La Ferte-Imbault advised reconciliation with Pym and cautious observation to ensure no further plots. Pym and his colleagues arrest was unsuccessful, it is thought as a result of a leak of secret information from Henrietta’s former confidant Lucy Hay. In an attempt to defuse tension in society caused by her open Catholicism and her influence over the king, the retreat was also allowed for the queen’s personal safety Henrietta retreated to The Hague.


Henrietta was still at The Hague in August 1642 when the Civil War began, she attempted to raise money for the Royalist cause, by selling off the Royal jewels and attempting to persuade the King of Denmark and Prince of Orange to offer their support to Charles’ cause. For this she was portrayed in the English press as selling off the crown jewels to foreigners in exchanged for guns to resolve a religious conflict, adding to her infamy. During this time Henrietta urged Charles to secure the strategic port of Hull at the earliest opportunity.


Henrietta attempted to return to England at the beginning of 1643, unfortunately severe weather conditions forced her ship to return to Port, Henrietta made the most of this delay by convincing the Dutch to release a ship of armaments for the King, which had been held at the request of Parliament. In defiance of the advice given by her astrologers who foresaw disaster, she attempted the journey again at the end of February; she evaded the Parliamentarian navy to find harbour at Bridlington in Yorkshire. Unfortunately the pursuing navy then bombarded the town, thus forcing the Royalists to shelter in nearby fields, however whilst still under fire Henrietta returned to the town to recover her dog Mitte who had been neglected by her staff. Whilst stopping in York she was entertained by the Earl of Newcastle, she took the opportunity discuss situations North of the border with Royalist Scots, she promoted Montrose and others plans for an uprising. Henrietta also supported many other controversial schemes such as the earl of Antrim’s proposition to settle the rebellions in Ireland and thus bring forces to support the king in England, the queen refused to support anything other than total victory for royalist forces. She was asked on many occasions by both Pym and Hampden to use her influence over the king to force the making of a peace treaty, each time she flatly refused. Perhaps in retaliation parliament voted the destruction of her own private chapel at Somerset House. In March the chapel was razed by the parliamentarians Henry Marten and John Clotworthy, the altarpiece by Ruben’s was destroyed, the many religious idols fragmented and the Queens religious vestments, books and artworks burnt to a cinder and the Capuchin friars responsible for maintaining the chapel arrested.



Despite this loss Henrietta travelled south and rendezvoused with Charles at Kineton before traveling to the Royalist capital of Oxford through the Midlands an area continuously contested by both parties.

We cannot doubt the Queens courage, but perhaps her most endearing quality to me is her avid correspondence writing and the true grit she expresses through every sentence. She is no doubt an unsung documenter of one of the most tumultuous times in history.

The Holly And The Ivy

Right so first of all apologies for the lack of articles recently, but as every GCSE student knows the month of November is entirely centred around achieving the forecast mock exam results. Apologies aside in the interest of the festivity of this season, what does the Holly and the Ivy symbolise?

Holly And Ivy growing together.

Holly And Ivy growing together.

The importance associated with these plants is not as some may think it a Christian phenomenon, more correctly it’s foundation predates Christianity and instead was an important Druidic symbol which was then adopted by Christianity. The use of Holly was highly ritualised and there are reports of Druids wearing it as a form of ceremonial headwear in Northern Europe, when they processed to observe the harvest of Mistletoe by their priests. Many Druidic cultures believed that Holly remained evergreen throughout the Winter months to ensure that the land remained beautiful, when their most sacred plant the oak lost its leaves.

The Romans also believed that the Holly and Ivy plants held importance, as Holly was the sacred plant of one of their God’s Saturn, and because of this was used at the feast of Saturnalia to honour him. Saturnalia was a celebration of the last harvest and the sowing of a new autumn crop, it was a time where informal clothing could be worn, gambling was allowed in public, children were allowed out of school and were given gifts by adults, wild behaviour was accepted and slaves could act disrespectfully to their masters. Holly and Ivy garlands or wreaths were given as gifts as they were believed to be gifts that inspired luck and good fortune, especially if subsequently used to adorn effigies of the God. Then on July 19th 64AD, the city of Rome was set ablaze and rumours circulated that the Romans own Emperor Nero was solely responsible, in a panic to prevent these rumours (which are now thought to be true) Nero blamed a group of the populace who were already persecuted and feared because of their beliefs, Christians. As a result of this, persecution of the Christian faith increased and with the number of practitioners also increasing, Christianity began to develop into a mainstream religion with its own set of holidays. One of which was Christmas, by coincidence this celebration coincided with the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, to avoid persecution many Christians adorned their homes with Holly and Ivy garlands so as not to cultivate suspicion amongst their neighbours, whilst inside their homes they celebrated Christmas in groups.

The associations of Holly and Ivy with Christmas and indeed the season persisted throughout the centuries as is evidenced with the number of songs that have been written concerning them or their symbolism. Indeed even Henry VIII wrote a love song concerning the virtues of Holly and Ivy ‘Green groweth the holly’ which concerns holly and ivy resisting the onset of winter and remaining evergreen ‘So I am and ever hath been Unto my lady true’, which he wrote and composed for Catherine of Aragon. However the most well-loved and well-known Christmas carol concerning the virtues of Holly and Ivy has to be ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ which was reputedly first mentioned in a Broadside of 1710, according to the book Early English Lyrics by Chambers and Sidgwick published in 1926.

It begins …

The holly and the ivy

Now are both well grown

Of all the trees that are in the wood

The holly bears the crown

Another such old carol is contained within a manuscript preserved at the British Museum, which was then published in 1823 in a book entitled Ancient Mysteries Described: Especially the English Miracle Plays founded on Aprocryphal New Testament Story extant among the unpublished manuscripts in the British Museum by William Hone (1780-1842).

Nay, my nay, hyt shal not be I wys,

Let holy hafe the maystry, as the maner ys:

Holy stond in the hall, faire to behold,

Ivy stond without the dore, she ys ful sore acold,

Nay, my nay etc

Holy and hys mery men, they dawnseyn and they syng,

Ivy and hur maydyns, they wepen and they wryng.

Nay, my nay etc’

Or in more modern language collected by Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) from Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, relates also to another carol which is known as ‘The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly’.

Holly stands in the hall, fair to behold:

Ivy stands without the door, she is full sore a cold.

Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;

Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.

Holly and his merry men, they dance and they sing,

Ivy and her maidens, they weep and they wring.

Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;

Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.

The aforementioned Contest of the Ivy and the Holly, is traditionally thought of as a contest between female (ivy) and male (holly) symbolism. In several social history manuscripts of the time there is evidence that in village life in ancient Britain there was a midwinter custom of holding and performing singing contests between men and women, in which men sang carols praising Holly for its masculinity and condemning Ivy, whilst women sang carols praising Ivy for its femininity and condemning Holly.
Holly has become a symbol of peace and joy, so Holly trees became place to settle arguments as they would help create lasting peace. Lots of superstitions have developed around Holly including the belief that it has the power to frighten away witches and protect a home from thunder and lightning. In England, farmers sometimes placed holly on their beehives, because they believed that on the first ever Christmas the bees hummed in honour of Christ’s birth. The hanging of either Ivy or Holly on a door or in the house first would determine which gender would rule the household for the following year, however it was bad luck to do so before Christmas Eve. This was also believed in the case of ‘she holly’ (smooth leaved holly) and ‘he holly’ (prickly leaved holly) e.g. if ‘she holly’ was hung on the door the female of the household would rule it for the year. In Germany it was believed that a piece of holly used in church decorations would be an effective charm against lightning. In west England it was thought that placing holly around a girls bed on Christmas Eve would protect her and keep away goblins. Holly was thought at this time of year to bring sweet dreams and a tonic of it was thought to cure a cough and ivy was still believed by some to cure hangovers (which was originally a Roman belief).

So remember the importance of Holly and Ivy to almost all religions, respect it and its cultural importance. But most of all have a,

Merry Christmas Everyone!


An Early Greetings Card showing holly and mistletoe.

An Early Greetings Card showing holly and mistletoe.

Where Did The Celts Go?

As is already known I take a great interest in Celtic history and when given the opportunity to holiday in the lake district I began to ponder, which tribe had inhabited this land and what remnants related to there existence still remained?

The Celts had started migrating to Britain from Europe at around 500bc and remained undisturbed for about 550 years before the Romans arrived in Britain. During the Iron Age the Carvetii occupied Cumbria in north-west England, historical speculation places their settlement on either the Solway Plain, possibly the Lune Valley or the Eden Valley. The evidence of their existence is sparse and they are known from only three roman third and fourth century A.D inscriptions, unfortunately one of these is now lost. One is situated at Frenchfield (north of the roman fort of Brocavum)and another of the sites is situated at Langwathby fairly near Penrith both of these inscriptions were on milestones. One of the milestones closes with the statement ‘… R(es) P(ublicae) C(ivitas) Car(vetiorum)’, …the Public Works of the Carvetian State’.  The other was inscribed on a tombstone found in 1600 in Old Penrith (the Voreda Roman Fort) a fair way north of present day Penrith. The tombstone of Flavius Martius recorded poportedly that he was ‘Sen(ator) In C(ivitas) Carvetior (um)’, a senator on the tribal council of the Carvetii tribe. The combination of all three inscriptions infers the existence of the ‘civitas Carvetiorum’, the land of the Carvetii and the existence of its leading body. Suprisingly the Carvetii are not mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geography. The capital of the Carvetii is thought to have been by many Luguvalium (modern day Carlisle) as this was the only walled town known in the region at the time. It has also been suggested that because of the vicinity of the inscriptions and the location of the most fertile land in the area and the known existence of an enclosed settlement some miles east of Penrith in the fertile Eden Valley that the logical location of the Carvetii capital is near the modern day Clifton Dykes. It is accepted that Carlisle was an important part of Carvetii lands as it was a centre of activity following the Roman invasion of Britain, preceding this the Eden Valley was certainly the centre of Carvetii lands. A strategic point within the Eden Valley is Brougham and its surrounding area which held importance with the cult of Belatucadrus, it also seems to be an important trade route with routes east across Stainmore and several important meeting places with several stone circles and monoliths and the presumed pre-roman capital of Clifton Dykes. This concentration of sites of importance may be at least a part of the reasoning behind the construction of the roman fort at Brocavum.

One of these sites is the Bronze Age stone circle Long Meg and Her Daughters is situated near Penrith in Cumbria. The stone circle is the sixth biggest example in north-western Europe, it consists of 59 stones 27 of which remain standing. The stones are stood in an oval shape and is 100m in diameter at its longest point. Originally there may have been as many as 70 stones in the circle. The megalith Long Meg herself is 3.6m high and is of red sandstone and is 25m to the southwest of the circle formed by her daughters. Long Meg is inscribed with examples of early art consisting of spirals and concentric circles. Several enclosures that predate the circle have been identified and Little Meg a smaller stone circle is situated close by. As mentioned earlier the monolith is local red sandstone, from either the River Eden or the Lazonby hills nearby, the circle stones however are rhyolite and are glacial erratic’s. Two large stones are placed to the east and west and there are two doorway stones placed to the south-west. The placement of Long Meg is aligned down the centre of the circle and the point of the midwinter sunset. In it’s early days the circle may have had a bank running around it and the centre may have been concave to some extent. Four of the stones in the circle don’t appear to be local and are formed from quartz crystal, they seem to have been deliberately placed at specific points that mark calendric events, for example on Samhain an alignment involves a portal stone, a quartz stone and Long Meg. The stones seem to mark solar and lunar timings as well as equinox’s. Long Meg and Her Daughters is the source of a great many legends, one being that the stones were originally a coven of witches who were turned to stone by the Scottish wizard called Michael Scott. Another legend is that the stones are uncountable and that if anybody counts the same number twice then Michael Scott’s spell will be broken and the witches released. Yet another legend is that when a local squire, Colonel Lacy planned to blow up the stones perhaps in search of treasure which was often said to be buried under such monuments in the 1700’s, but before they could ignite the black powder a fearful storm began to rage and the attempt was mercifully abandoned, a sought of supernatural protection. Long Meg is said to have been named after a local witch Meg of Meldon who lived in the early 17th century. It is said that if the monolith is damaged it will bleed.

Compass pointing east showing the alignment from Long Meg through the monoliths.

One of the earliest and largest stone circles - Long Meg And Her Daughters

One of the earliest and largest stone circles – Long Meg And Her Daughters

Concentric circle inscription on the Long Meg monolith.

Concentric circle inscription on the Long Meg monolith.

The Long Meg monolith in all her glory.

The Long Meg monolith in all her glory.

Little Meg although less impressive is equally important and would have been revered by the Carvetii although it is much older than the tribes origins. It is the remains of a burial mound or round cairn, it would have originally consisted of a central burial cist surrounded by kerb stones, the cist unfortunately has been destroyed but was found to contain a cremation urn. The central mound is now gone though there are 10 or 11 kerb stone remains. The cairn is situated half a mile north-east of Long Meg and Her Daughters. In age it is thought to have been constructed in the later Bronze Age. Two intricately carved stones were found there one still remains in place the other was removed and can be seen in all its glory in Penrith Museum, it shows a spiral motif and a series of concentric circles.

Late Bronze Age Cairn - Little Meg

Late Bronze Age Cairn – Little Meg

At the time of the Carvetii, both monuments would have been magnificent in all their glory. We can only speculate that there use continued and indeed what there use may have been. I personally believe that such noble monuments would have been sites of political and spiritual importance, places of worship and meetings, as indeed they continue to be today.

And now I will continue with a bit of a rant, whilst holidaying in the lake district I search the nearest town Ambleside high and low for reading material concerning Cumbria’s Celtic heritage, I was dismayed not only that I could not find any reading material at all on Cumbria’s Celtic heritage but the sheer lack of history books concerning any era. I hate to see any history being ignored, I have hope and am sure that this absence of recorded history is not wide spread. Get out there and write about the Celts!

Anyway rant over, there are some stunning Bronze and Iron age sights in the Lake District, you should definitely go see them I know I will!

Dying To Be Famous

It was just recently that I went on a short holiday to the lake district, during this short stay I climbed the 3rd highest mountain in England, the mighty Helvellyn. After a hair-raising climb over Striding Edge and then enduring the steep scree scramble to the summit, I was surprised to see (even through the fog) an impressive stone monument. Upon closer inspection this monument was dedicated to Charles Gough (born 1784) an aspiring artist of the early English Romantic movement.

Memorial stone for Charles Gough erected in 1890, with an inscription containing quotes from Wordsworth's poem 'Fidelity'.

Memorial stone for Charles Gough erected in 1890, with an inscription containing quotes from Wordsworth’s poem ‘Fidelity’.

On the 17th of April 1805 the 21 year old artist visiting the Lake District (reputedly by Wordsworth for the sake of angling in Patterdale) from Manchester set out to walk over Helvellyn to Grasmere. At the beginning of the 19th century mountaineering for enjoyment and not out of necessity was a relatively new pursuit, and as such Gough would be facing the mountain with no specialist clothing or equipment. It was advisable even then to take a guide with you when scaling the mountain, Gough had indeed secured a guide, however as a member of the local militia his guide was called up for training that unfortunate day. So Gough set out alone, with the exception of his dog Foxie on his way eventually to Grasmere via Striding Edge. He was never again seen alive, with no one expecting him to venture back the way he came and seemingly no one expecting him to arrive in Grasmere. For 3 months he seemed to have vanished, until on the 27th of July a shepherd heard a dogs frantic barking near Red Tarn and upon further investigation discovered Foxie beside Gough’s dispersed bones and threadbare clothing. Depending on which report you read it is debatable as to whether the shepherd then asked the assistance of some walkers or left the scene and returned with a crowd and collected Gough’s remains and possessions consisting of some fishing tackle and reel, a gold watch, a silver propelling pencil and two Claude glasses (a darkened convex mirror used by landscape painters), they also recovered Gough’s hat which had been torn in two. From this it was surmised that Gough had fallen to his death from the treacherous Striding Edge and had died from the head injuries procured or from exposure to the elements. The barks which had alerted the shepherd to Gough’s resting place had of course originated from Foxie, not only had she survived the months exposed to the elements beside her dead master, but also given birth to a pup, which unfortunately died shortly after their discovery and subsequent rescue. Foxie’s seemingly impossible health and the skeletal remains of her master caused a Carlisle newspaper to report  ‘The bitch had pupped in a furze near the body of her master, and, shocking to relate, had torn the cloaths from his body and eaten him to a perfect skeleton.’ Yet another report suggested that Gough had been eaten by Helvellyn’s resident ravens. The mystery encompassing Gough’s death, not only how he died but why he took the risk of ascending Helvellyn without a guide, continues to inspire those who climb Helvellyn lending the mountain an element of history all its own. Gough had been asked by a local artist to copy some drawing, but Gough was known for taking risks. Thomas Clarkson an abolitionist who had met Gough stated that Gough was a ‘venturesome person’ whose headstrong nature had caused the local shepherds alarm. Gough’s body is now interred in a Quaker graveyard in Tirril.

A view of the knife-edge striding edge, where Charles Gough fell from.

A view of the knife-edge Striding Edge, where Charles Gough fell from.

At the time William Wordsworth lived at Grasmere and news of this tragedy inspired his creative genius. As word spread Sir Walter Scott also became intrigued by the calamity and Wordsworth guided him and Humphry Davy (a chemist) to the area in which Gough met his end. Subsequently both poets were motivated to write poems romanticizing and recording the event for eternity. They both certainly believed that Foxie remained guarding Gough’s body out of loyalty, the truth however was probably darker.

William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Fidelity’ written in 1805 and published in 1807.

A barking sound the Shepherd hears,
A cry as of a Dog or Fox;
He halts, and searches with his eyes
Among the scatter’d rocks:
And now at distance can discern
A stirring in a brake of fern;
From which immediately leaps out
A Dog, and yelping runs about.

The Dog is not of mountain breed;
It’s motions, too, are wild and shy;
With something, as the Shepherd thinks,
Unusual in its’ cry:
Nor is there any one in sight
All round, in Hollow or on Height;
Nor shout, nor whistle strikes his ear;
What is the Creature doing here?

It was a Cove, a huge Recess,
That keeps till June December’s snow;
A lofty Precipice in front,
A silent Tarn below!
Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,
Remote from public Road or Dwelling,
Pathway, or cultivated land;
From trace of human foot or hand.

There, sometimes does a leaping Fish
Send through the Tarn a lonely chear;
The Crags repeat the Raven’s croak,
In symphony austere;
Thither the Rainbow comes, the Cloud;
And Mists that spread the flying shroud;
And Sun-beams; and the sounding blast,
That, if it could, would hurry past,
But that enormous Barrier binds it fast.

Not knowing what to think, a while
The Shepherd stood: then makes his way
Towards the Dog, o’er rocks and stones,
As quickly as he may;
Nor far had gone before he found
A human skeleton on the ground,
Sad sight! the Shepherd with a sigh
Looks round, to learn the history.

From those abrupt and perilous rocks,
The Man had fallen, that place of fear!
At length upon the Shepherd’s mind
It breaks, and all is clear:
He instantly recall’d the Name,
And who he was, and whence he came;
Remember’d, too, the very day
On which the Traveller pass’d this way.

But hear a wonder now, for sake
Of which this mournful Tale I tell!
A lasting monument of words
This wonder merits well.
The Dog, which still was hovering nigh,
Repeating the same timid cry,
This Dog had been through three months’ space
A Dweller in that savage place.

Yes, proof was plain that since the day
On which the Traveller thus had died
The Dog had watch’d about the spot,
Or by his Master’s side:
How nourish’d here through such long time
He knows, who gave that love sublime,
And gave that strength of feeling, great
Above all human estimate.

And Gough was not only immortalised in words, several famous painters of the time also immortalised him and Foxie. Both Francis Danby and one of queen Victoria’s favourite painters Edwin Landseer painted the event. Landseer’s painting entitled ‘Attachment’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830 in conjunction with Sir Walter Scott’s poem ‘Helvellyn’.

Edward Landseer's painting entitled Attachment. Painted in 1829.

Edward Landseer’s painting entitled ‘Attachment’. Painted in 1829.

So Charles Gough achieved fame certainly not in the way he would have wished, his death on the mighty Helvellyn and the subsequent interest of poets and painters romanticizing the loyalty of his dog Foxie, has immortalised him forever more on the eerie summit of Helvellyn. As for me I realised when I reached the summit that despite my aching joints and burning lungs I had enjoyed the challenge and the summits landscape unaffected as it was by time, is I believe a memorial enough for Gough. In short I loved every moment of it and dad and me will definitely be climbing Helvellyn again, although he may not know it yet!

Me and Dad about to climb Helvellyn.

Me and Dad about to climb Helvellyn.