History Blog

"There is nothing in the way you live today that doesn't have its roots in history" - Philippa Lacey Brewell

Technology and the widening Generation Gap

old-phone-
When I began this blog series I started with an idea and then listed out the topics which sprang to mind. As usual however, the topics have almost chosen themselves as day to day things happen which inspire me to write. Today it was a failed attempt to share a video on Facebook of a group of American teenagers trying to make a phone call with a 'ro...
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The bitter aftertaste of Slavery

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This week marked 185 years since the abolition of slavery by an Act of Parliament, in 1833.  22 years earlier, in March 1807, the Slave trade had been abolished but had not prevented the use of slaves and the practice of slavery. To modern ears the trade of humans as if property should sound abhorrent and yet in the late 19th century in B...
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Place Names - Why is a street called street?...and others.

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In my latest blog series I'm looking at history of the familiar, beginning with place names. The first blog [ catch up with it here ] took a variety of places names and looked briefly at their provenance to demonstrate the breadth of origins. I also made the point that English place names have travelled the world with settlers and so in these ...
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Place Names - The meaning of familiar place names

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In my newest blog series I am going to delve into the familiar, every day things that we take for granted and look at the history behind them. I'm beginning with place names. British place names have travelled and so many are familiar not just to those who are living or visiting British shores but also to others living all over the World. Why are p...
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The Lost Tudor Prince

Arthurs-Chantry-Worcester-Cathedral Prince Arthur's Chantry at Worcester Cathedral
1502 saw a huge blow dealt to the, still fragile, Tudor dynasty. by Author Following his victory over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, in August 1485, Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII of England. He set about cementing his hold on the throne by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. This has been, rather simplistically, explained...
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Princess Elizabeth - The Prisoner

Princess Elizabeth - The Prisoner
Elizabeth I, revered by many as the greatest of the Tudor monarchs, was an unlikely queen. With the benefits (or myopia) of hindsight we know that Elizabeth reigned longer than any other Tudor monarch but her journey to the crown of England was long, dangerous and by no means certain. During the reigns of her half-siblings she found her position, a...
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Servants and Masters

Servants and Masters
The relationship between servants and their masters has long been a topic of interest for playwrights, screen writers and authors. Our appetite, as readers and observers, is ever hungry (who else is hoping they are secretly thinking of bringing Downton Abbey back?)  In this 5-min history fix I am going to take you on a quick journey to four pl...
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Shakespeare's Childhood

Shakespeare's Childhood

William, the third child of John Shakespeare and Mary (nee Arden), was born in April 1564. No one knows for certain the date on which William Shakespeare was born. Many like to believe it is the 23rd April, the same date on which he died 52 years later. It’s plausible. The records of Holy Trinity Church record his baptism on 26th April 1564 and it was customary at the time for newborn babies to be christened on the next Sunday or Holy Day following the birth. It is also widely accepted that he was born at the house now known as ‘Shakespeare’s Birthplace’ on Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon.

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Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn
My blog this week is coming to you from the magical and enchanting Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. I can not help but be moved by Anne's story whenever I hear it retold but sitting here, in the castle gardens of her childhood home, her safe place, the place which held such good memor...
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Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I: A tale of no winners

Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I: A tale of no winners
Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots, were both descendants of Henry VII. Mary was the grand-daughter of Henry's eldest daughter Margaret, who had become Queen of Scots on her marriage to James IV of Scotland. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VII's son, Henry VIII. Nostalgia for the Tudor kings and queens has often clouded the general...
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Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon's Marriage

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon's Marriage
Much is made of the divorce, or more accurately the annulment, of the marriage between Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Perhaps we naturally define any marriage which ends, by its ending. But with any marriage that ends there was much that went before. We do not need to define an event by its ending. Of course it is not merely that it ended that...
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Who was Henry Fitzroy?

Who was Henry Fitzroy?
Last week I talked about the children of Henry VIII and the relationships between them [Read that blog here] I talked about Edward (VI), Mary (I) and Elizabeth (I). However, there was a fourth child. His name was Henry Fitzroy, the openly acknowledged illegitimate son of Henry VIII. The boy's mother was Henry VIII's mistress, Elizabeth Blount. Henr...
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Tudor Siblings: the children of Henry VIII

Tudor Siblings: the children of Henry VIII
The Tudor half-siblings, children of Henry VIII, are known successively as Edward VI, Mary I and, most famous of all, Elizabeth I. The timeline of monarchs gives a lovely linear order in which one by one they take centre stage in the politics of the time and our historical interest but how did they interact? What did they think of each other? First...
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The marriage of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour

The marriage of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour
Katherine Parr, most famous as Henry VIII's final wife and the one who survived him, only outlived her infamous husband by 19 months. Life after Henry had promised freedom and choice where there had been only duty but instead it delivered mainly heartache and distress.  Katherine was the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr and his wife Maud Green, bot...
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The Two Henry Tudors: Striving for Legitimacy

The Two Henry Tudors: Striving for Legitimacy
Henry VII was the founder of England's most famous dynasty. His son, Henry VIII, one of the most famous English kings of all time. However, both shared the same crushing burden of dynastic expectation. This was a newly established dynasty based on shaky foundations and both worked tirelessly to build the enduring myth of legitimacy for their family...
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Mary I of England - a tragic victim?

Mary I of England - a tragic victim?
Mary I of England, the less charismatic of the Tudor half-sisters, is remembered more for her fanatical religious zeal and persecution of protestants than for the fact that she was England's first crowned female monarch. But was her personality and character a result of her suffering at the hands of her father, Henry VIII? Events of the 1530's...
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Elizabeth of York died on her 37th birthday

Elizabeth of York died on her 37th birthday
Elizabeth of York died on her 37th birthday There were many dangers in 16th century England and for women, childbirth was the greatest.  Find out the circumstances which led to the death of Henry VIII's mother, Elizabeth of York on the 11th February 1503, her 37th birthday...
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Catherine of Aragon dies, 7th January 1536.

Catherine of Aragon dies, 7th January 1536.
On this day, 7th January 1536, Catherine of Aragon dies at Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire.  Catherine, daughter of the Catholic Kings of Spain, as her parents were jointly known, came to England as a 16 year old princess and would never leave.Catherine had been married to two Tudor princes, Prince Arthur and his younger brother, Henry who ha...
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The Chequers Ring

The Chequers Ring
Elizabeth I's Chequers Ring Here is one of my favourite objects.  A  ring owned by Queen Elizabeth I. It's small and delicate and as well as being beautiful is of potentially massive significance. Inside this ruby, diamond and pearl encrusted locket ring there are two miniature portraits. One is recognisable as El...
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Advent Day 8 - Mistletoe, what's that about then?

Advent Day 8 - Mistletoe, what's that about then?
Mistletoe is, in fact, a parasite. Ever looked up at a big tree in the winter, when it's lost all its leaves, and thought you were looking at bird's nests now exposed? Well that's what I used to think I was looking at anyway 😃 Well, turns out that what we are in fact seeing is mistletoe, all happy and green as it lives of the water and nutrients fr...
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Natural History Museum - Places to go in 2018

Natural History Museum - Places to go in 2018
The Natural History Museum, London The Natural History Museum in London is such a spectacular building that you should leave yourself time to admire the outside, whenever you visit! The building was completed in 1881, after taking 7 years to complete. The main exhibition when it first opened was a collection of animal and human skeletons ...
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Henry VIII - Maybe there's less to him than meets the eye? November 2017 

Henry VIII - Maybe there's less to him than meets the eye?
November 2017 
​ Hello *|FNAME|*  History is passed on through storytelling, which is a fabulous way to engage new and old audiences alike. The risks though, are inherent. Which stories are shared and how, is subject to embellishment, omissions and just plain making it up as we go along. What history is told has, and still does, have a purpose to the story t...
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The Tudor Rose - The most successful brand of all time!

The Tudor Rose - The most successful brand of all time!
If there were an award for most successful brand of all time, my money would be on Henry VII and his Tudor Rose. Henry VII understood, as much as any modern brand and marketing agency, that image, profile and prestige is everything. His Tudor Rose, created from two existing emblems; the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York, is instantly...
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All is not as it seems at this English Castle

All is not as it seems at this English Castle
All is not as it seems at this English castle nestled into the Herefordshire countryside. Since my return from a fascinating private tour around Eastnor Castle I have shown a number of people a picture and asked them to date the castle.When would you say it was built? Built as the country seat of an ambitious English Lord with his eye on becoming a...
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Tudor Life Magazine: Article Published

Tudor Life Magazine: Article Published
When you're asked by your peers to write an article on a topic on which you know they are very familiar (if not expert) it is a mix of excitement, flattery and pure fear! What an opportunity though! My article comes from my particular angle on history, travelling! When my interest in history began it quickly moved...
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What is a history travel writer??

What is a history travel writer??
What on earth is a history travel writer? What does one do? Philippa at Witley Court , Worcestershire, during filming for the membership group. Let me take you back to the beginning and how I even got started. As a 20 year old university student, I felt the need to find a female role model. There was no one I could identify with or look up to eithe...
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Philippa goes on location!

Philippa goes on location!
Over the past month I have embarked on a new way to share what I know with people who follow British History Tours on Facebook and You Tube. By 'going live' on Facebook I have introduced thousands of people, almost instantly to stories, people and places which tell a story in our history. If you missed them, here are the three most popular from the...
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Time Travel in Shropshire

Time Travel in Shropshire
For all those who like to immerse themselves in history and get a real sense of what life was like hundreds of years ago, Stokesay Castle, near Ludlow in Shropshire, UK, is a fabulous place to visit. It's a step back in time being largely as it was when built in the 13th Century by Lawrence of Ludlow, a successful Wool Trader.  We were there o...
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House History - How and where to start your research!

Do you know the history of where you live? The history of the house you now occupy?  Would you like to but don't know where to start? Then, read on......... ​ So, how and where do you get started?  I'm going to go out on a whim here and assume that you've already 'googled' your house. But! After that, here are 6  thing...
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Was Sir Christopher Wren the Steve Jobs of the 17th century?

  By Hannah Silverman Find out about our guest blogger at the end of this article. You can follow her on Instagram @Silvers_screen © St Paul's Cathedral Pick a London landmark and there's a good chance you can link it to Sir Christopher Wren. From St Paul's Cathedral to Hampton Court, Wren's name is attached to more 17 th century buildings tha...
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History Masterclass - Are there lessons to be learned from history?

Last week I was excited to find an email in my inbox from Dr Sam Willis letting me know about a new initiative he, and fellow historian and broadcaster Suzannah Lipscomb, had begun called The History Masterclass. So, this Wednesday I headed down to London and to the Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall to join in on the 'Lessons of History' event with D...
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Spotlight on Dunster Castle

"History, scenery and some grisly goings on! " by Author A castle has graced the hill at Dunster for over 1000 years. It has developed and adapted to the times, each time leaving part of its past intact. Incredibly it was held by the same family, the Luttrells, for 600 years until the final occupant moved out in 1976. The castle is beautiful, ...
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7 places we discovered in 2016!

It's countdown to Christmas!! ​In the final week before Christmas I have decided to mark each day with a place we visited for the first time in 2016! So, when I say discovered I mean in the Columbus sense - they were already there but for whatever reason we had not been.   There are, in fact, way more than 7 so I am also going to write a new y...
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One incredible woman finds her voice through another!

Janina Ramirez is the perfect 21st century conduit to amplify the words of Julian of Norwich from 6 centuries ago.  "Julian's deceptively simple words...exist outside time and will always ring true.." Dr Janina Ramirez Before reading this book I didn't know who Julian of Norwich was, how to pronounce her name, what being an anchorite...
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The Controversial King How The Tudors Came to Rule

On the 30th October 1485 a usurper to the English throne was crowned at Westminster Abbey and the most infamous dynasty was beginning. Bella Organ explores how the Tudors came to rule.... Everyone has heard of the indulgent and merciless King Henry VIII and all six of his unfortunate wives, however few people know as much about the founding me...
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Why a traffic island needs to be on your list of places to see in London!

You can choose to listen to this blog by clicking below. It's a busy traffic island near Trafalgar Square. Buses, cars and trucks rattle past and pedestrians use the conveniently located crossings to negotiate the numerous roads which meet here. But this site has a significance far outweighing the attention paid to it by most who pass by. It has ta...
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Oh! That's what it is!

If you prefer, you can listen to our blog. Just click below. At a busy traffic island in central London, buses, cars and trucks rattle past and pedestrians stream over on their way to wherever they are going. Hundreds of people pass by every minute, paying little attention to the place they are walking through. Yet this simple paved area, with a st...
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Where have we been? and where is Barney??

Hello! It is the end of the school summer holidays and we have visited some fantastic places over the last few weeks! Usually Barney the British History Tours bear comes along but I forgot him, every…single….time!  Poor Barney stayed sat of the shelf while we went off on all our adventures.  We have found fascinating history in some beaut...
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Men in skirts? Well it is summer!

Hello! So, I wouldn't tell a centurion to his face that he looks good in a skirt and I'm sure they were practical in the warmer areas of the Roman Empire but I have to wonder if they were quite so practical in the cold winds of the English/Scottish border along Hadrian's Wall. Those who were posted there had to adapt t...
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Spotlight On Northumberland

Let us take you away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities to the rugged beauty of England's most northerly county. by Author Northumberland is rich in history, scenery and hospitality and there are many fantastic places to visit. We have picked out three for you: Belsay Hall & Gardens - a 17th Century Manor House with a secre...
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Fly from your sofa!

Hello! I have just returned from a couple of days in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside around Symmonds Yat which has a history stretching back as far as the Iron Age!  It's a fascinating place with something for the history lover, the walker, the camper and the thrill seeker all in the same place. I'll be sharing the ...
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Maps, Praise and an offer ending soon!

Welcome! ​It's August already! This year is flying by and our summer is trying hard to hold on. I'm off camping to the wonderfully historic Symmonds Yat in Herefordshire later this week so my fingers are crossed for dry weather. In this newsletter: It' s a L ocation Sensation! Find out how you can easily find a trail which covers a place near you. ...
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Spotlight On Salisbury Cathedral

Let us take you around the beautiful and fascinating Salisbury Cathedral. Consecrated in 1258, Salisbury Cathedral had taken 38 years to build but was originally without it's distinctive spire. The imposing spire was completed 70 years later and has dominated the landscape around ever since. The Cathedral is a working Church well adept to adapting ...
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For all different uses!

One of the most exciting parts of writing the history trails is seeing how people use them in different ways. Philippa This month Education Coach, Lucy Parsons, has travelled to Stratford Upon Avon to learn more about Shakespeare using our "Shakespeare: A Man of Words" trail.  As an Education Coach, Lucy works with children and young adul...
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Great Fires and Recovered Ships

July Newsletter from British History Tours Introduction from Philippa Hi Everyone! We are going through a heatwave here in the UK this week and boy is it hot but it hasn't slowed us down here at BHT!  Following on from my article on Henry VIII's burial place on BBC HistoryExtra.com last week I have now been asked to write a follow up article (...
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Read our article on BBC History Extra

Philippa has an article on Historyextra.com Henry VIII, being such a complex character with a rather interesting life, has been summarised for the general population through school and drama. It is interesting therefore to discover the myths that have built up around him. One which I realised surprised people the most was the discovery that he...
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Exciting new things are happening here!

The ethos is still the same - inspiring people to travel into history - but I have made our services more varied and accessible so now whatever your interest and whatever your budget we have something to suit! Philippa - founder of British History Tours July 2016 Read all about it! Summer is here and whether it rains or shines we wil...
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A day in Liverpool

"Liverpool will have you captivated!" Philippa Lacey Brewell -  history travel writer at British History Tours ​Vibrant, energetic and welcoming, Liverpool is a city proud of its heritage and history (even the not so nice bits)! It is a relatively new city as far as British cities are concerned, it s first significant date being 1715 when...
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Very British historical problems: A quick review of Rob Temples's book, 'Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time'.

A comical look at 5, very British, Historical Problems.

If you love British culture you'll appreciate this book. It is very funny! You'll find yourself simultaneously laughing and nodding in agreement!

The chapter on historical problems is where I delved first (unsurprisingly) and found the clever humour, amusing quips and wry observations addictive.

Here are 5 of my favourite 'historical problems'.

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What does Richard III owe to Shakespeare?

What does Richard III owe to Shakespeare? Nothing?  Everything?  Whilst sat writing our Richard III History Travel Guide  I found that, within the first line, I am referencing another famous Englishman.....Shakespeare.  Why?  Well, quite simply, the influence of Shake speare's pen portrait of the King has been far...
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Historical Hereford - get off the beaten track!

​Get off the beaten track and you'll be rewarded with world famous, and not so famous, sites you'll be glad you made the effort to visit!

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The Private Lives of Saints - a review of Dr Janina Ramierez's new book

Dr Janina Ramirez's insatiable energy and upbeat personality comes across throughout the pages of her first book; Power, Passion and Politics in Anglo-Saxon England. The Private Lives of The Saints. "Janina sets out to put these etherial characters back on Earth, which she definitely does - with a bump in some cases!" Philippa Brewell, 2015 "Janina...
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Propaganda and The Round Table

Henry VII's victory at Bosworth in 1485 may have been heaven blessed, or so contemporaries were supposed to believe, but Henry knew he had a lot of hard work to do to make the crown, now sat on his head, from falling off. To create a Tudor Dynasty to permanently replace the Plantagenet line was going to take cunning, persuasion and fabulous story telling.

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King Henry VIII is buried where?! You're joking!

Henry VIII's iconic, Holbein created, image is known worldwide. He stares out of the painting at the viewer, his confrontational stance leaving us in no doubt of who is in charge. He's the king who had 6 wives, the king who got rid of anyone who dared disagree with him, who tired of wives like a child tires of toys..... The truth and the facts are somewhat simplified for the wider audience but there is no doubt that he is probably England's most notorious monarch.
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Remember. Remember. - a poem

Remember. Remember. - a poem

Remember. Remember.

by Isaac Brewell, aged nine.

Remember, Remember, the Great War, The rotting corpses on the floor, 

Deafening sound of gun fire, Men clambering over barbed wire. Running across the battlefield, Watching soldiers falling behind. Poisonous gases filled the air, Exploding grenades everywhere. No bath, no shower, to soothe their skin, No roof for shelter, like tramps so thin.  Expressionless faces so dim and grim,  Most returning home without a limb. Remember the old lie; Dulce et Decorum Est.

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Why historical events can have two dates - a quick explanation!

Do you know your Julian from your Gregorian calendar? No? Well let me explain.

Sometimes you can see two dates given for an historical event and that's because the number of days in our calendar changed! Prior to 1582 the Julian calendar had been used throughout the known Western world. The problem with the Julian Calendar was that it did not align to the realities of the Earth's movement around the Sun. Put simply, there were more days in the calendar year than it took the Earth to go around the Sun - 1 more every 128 years to be exact. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII decreed, via a Papal Bull, that 10 days be dropped from the Roman Calendar, and the Gregorian Calendar was created.

However, not all countries adopted the calendar at the same time and, as the difference between the 2 calendars increases over time, the number of days dropped in the calendar of each country depended on when they decided to move over. The Gregorian calendar was adopted in England and America in 1752 by dropping 11 days. Turkey was the last country to officially move over, on 1 January 1927 and had to drop 13 days in order to align. The Gregorian Calendar also has an error rate but of only 1 day in 3236 years. The picture below shows the Calendar for September 1752.

Written by Philippa Brewell for British History Tours

Sources: www.timeanddate.com 

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Time for a Bath!

I have had great fun this week putting together a trip for a group of lovely ladies! My brief........culture, good food, shopping and relaxation. Well, it was between Stratford, Liverpool and Bath. All are fabulous places, all have oodles of fascinating history, great shopping and places to relax with friends.

Bath pipped the others to the post as, logistically, it made more sense for this group. They now have a Georgian townhouse arranged for them to relax in and have a catch up. They are near to the Roman Baths, the Royal Cresent and the Jane Austen Museum to satisfy their inner history geeks and have street upon street of fabulous shopping. Have fun girls!

We arrange trips for groups of friends and families tailored to their interests and budget. If this interests you please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Keep your nose to the grindstone

On a recent visit to Winchester, we dropped in to the City Mill and I was so glad we did. What an amazing place! The mill was actually working that day, milling flour which, along with recipe cards, was available to purchase in the shop! There is a lot to know about milling flour it turns out and the mill, run by the National Trust, has displays, interactive exhibits and trails to keep all ages interested. The staff were extremely knowledgable too...and vigilant, as they must be whilst the mill is in operation. Flour dust, as you may or may not know, is explosive! These displays in particular caught my eye - well known sayings that originate in the milling industry. 'Keep your nose to the grindstone' - The millstones must never be allowed to run without grain. They quickly wear out and could even cause sparks which would set fire to the mill. A quick sniff of the stones would tell you if they were getting hot. 'Rule of Thumb' - Millers would test the quality and grind of the flour by rubbing a small quantity between finger and thumb. From this the'd know if it were too fine or coarse and could change the conditions to rectify the grind. 'Fair to Middling' - The quality of the flour was graded fair, middling or fine. If you're feeling 'fair to middling' you're not at your best! 'First come first served' - A strict rule of milling to prevent impatient farmers jumping the queue! 'Show your mettle' - Millstones were often re-carved by travelling stone dressers. If the stone dresser had tiny slivers of metal embedded in his hands and forearms (which would have been thrown up from his stone cutting tools) the miller knew that he was experienced. If you'd like to keep in touch please follow this blog or you can also like us on Facebook. Thanks for reading!
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Dedicate a Poppy to someone who died in World War 1

Poppies are the symbol of remembrance, in Britain, to fallen servicemen and women. The poppy was adopted after the end of the First World War.  You can search the 1914-18 roll call for someone you know of, maybe a family member or family friend, and dedicate a poppy to their memory, with your own personal message.The poppy became a symbol of remembrance after the First World War inspired by the poem, by Lt Col John McCrae, 'In Flanders Fields'.  If you'd like to know more about the story behind the poppy please visit the remembrance page on the British Legion's website.The poem which inspired the Poppy's use, is below:IN FLANDERS FIELDSIn Flanders' fields the poppies blowBetween the crosses, row on row,That mark our place: and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.We are the dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders' fields.Take up our quarrel with the foe;To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high,If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies grow  In Flanders' Fields.

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From Landmark to Local - History is everywhere!

Yesterday I was at Buckingham Palace, one of the most recognisable landmarks in London and Britain. Today I've been discovering history much more local to home in the shape of a tiny abandoned flour mill in a nearby forest. Reflecting on my two visits, taken within 24 hours of each other, it occurs to me how different these experiences have been. E...
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Spotlight On Tower of London

Welcome to our latest 'Spotlight On' blog!  This time let me tell you some things you may not know about one of the World's most iconic buildings.... the Tower of London! Philippa Let us tell you some things you may not know about one of the World's most iconic buildings. Originally built by William the Conqueror, to shock and awe the populati...
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