Spanish ‘flu

German graves
German graves

At the time of writing the world is in the grip of a pandemic – Covid 19. People are dying all over the globe and the social, political and economic consequences are huge. But it’s worth remembering this has happened before.

Shortly after the end of the First World War the Spanish ‘Flu swept through a generation who were already decimated by conflict. Unlike Covid 19 the Spanish ‘Flu affected young men most seriously.

Among them were 34 German prisoners of war who were due to be repatriated when they caught the infection. They all died, and are now buried in the cemetery at Castle Donington in Leicestershire. They share a separate peace garden area to one side of the site.

The names of the dead
The names of the dead

The Brontë family

Interior view of Brontë Parsonage
Interior view of Brontë Parsonage

The Rev. Patrick Brontë was appointed vicar of St Michael’s and All Angels’ Church in Haworth, West Yorkshire in 1815. He and his family lived in the  Parsonage, which is now a museum to them and their writing.

Sisters, Charlotte (1816–1855), Emily (1818–1848), and Anne (1820–1849) are well known as writers ad poets. Their brother Branwell (1817–1848) was an artist and poet.

In line with the times, the girls originally wrote under assumed names to keep their identities – and their genders – secret. They were known as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

Haworth was not a luxurious place to live and the cold, draughty Parsonage was not a healthy environment. Its water supply is believed to have been infected by runoff from the adjoining graveyard.

Self portrait by Branwell Brontë
Self portrait by Branwell Brontë

In addition, Branwell drank heavily and was addicted to opiates. He died in 1848 at the age of only 31. Within 10 months Emily and Anne followed him to their graves.

Charlotte married Haworth curate the Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols in 1854 and the two were reportedly happy, but she died from complications of pregnancy less than a year later.

Charlotte’s novels
Jane Eyre, published in 1847
Shirley, published in 1849
Villette, published in 1853
The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, was first submitted together with Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. Subsequently, The Professor was resubmitted separately, and rejected by many publishing houses. It was published posthumously in 1857.

Emily’s novel
Wuthering Heights published in 1847.

Anne’s novels
Agnes Grey, published in 1847.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall published in 1848.

Compton Verney

View of Compton Verney houseCompton Verney art gallery is set within 12 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland. It is divided into 7 collections: British Folk Art, British Portraits, Chinese, Naples, Northern European, the Women’s Library, and the Marx-Lambert design collection.

  • Folk art includes objects made by untrained artists, or people trained as sign-painters who used their painting skills to make artworks.
  • Chinese bronze horse
    Heavenly horse, bronze, Han dynasty (202 BC-AD 220)

    The Chinese collection features significant bronzes including funerary vessels.

  • The British portraits are mainly Royal and court images dating from Tudor to Georgian eras.
  • Naples has masterpieces from the Golden Age of Neapolitan art from 1600 to 1800.
  • The works in the Northern European collection were mostly made between 1450 and 1650.
  • The Woman’s Library was originally created in 1860 by Georgiana Verney, a champion of women’s education and suffrage.
  • The Marx-Lambert collection features work produced by designer Enid Marx (1902-1998) and pieces of folk art collected by Marx and her friend Margaret Lambert (1906-95).

2019 news review

 

January
Brexit vote gives Government the biggest defeat in history. (432 to 202)
Four dead in Paris bakery explosion.
Andy Murray faces career decision over hip injury.
Prince Philip escapes injury in car accident.
Police question Prince Philip for not wearing a seatbelt.
Cafe chain Patisserie Valerie collapses.
Footballer Emiliano Sala missing after plane crash.
US temperatures lowest for 108 years.
Lake Michigan frozen.

Bought the farm
Actress Carol Channing, 97.
Poet Mary Oliver, 83.
Actor Windsor Davies, 88.
BBC presenter Dianne Oxberry, 51. (cancer)
Chemist Stewart Adams, 95, developer of ibuprofen.
Footballer Emiliano Sala, 28.   (Plane crash)
Singer James Ingram, 66.

February
Big freeze hits UK.
Snow closes hundreds of schools across Wales and south of England.
Duke of Edinburgh agrees to stop driving.
Equine flu halts racing calendar.
8 MPs quit Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn.
3 Tories follow suit over Brexit ‘no deal’ threat.
Knife crime reaches its highest UK level on record. (Office for National Statistics)
Flybmi blames Brexit for its collapse.
IS schoolgirl Shamima Begum has British citizenship withdrawn.
End of February ‘unseasonably warm’.

Gone beyond
Comedian Jeremy Hardy, 57. (The News Quiz, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation)  cancer.
Actor Clive Swift, 82. (Keeping up Appearances)
Actor Albert Finney, 82.
Rapper Cadet, 28. (Road accident)
Actor Carmen Argenziano, 75. (Stargate)
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, 85.
Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, 81. (Leicester City, Stoke City, national team)
Dick Churchill, 99. (British RAF squadron leader, last survivor of the Great Escape)
Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker, 79.
Paul Flynn, 84. (MP for Newport West)
Monkee Peter Tork, 77.
Conductor composer André Previn, 89.

March
Ethiopian Airlines crash kills 157.
Boeing 737 Max planes grounded.
House of Commons rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal again.
Speaker John Bercow says she can’t have a third vote without changing the offer.
An online e-petition calling on the government to revoke Brexit Article 50 reaches 5,000,000 signatures.
A million people march for ‘People’s Vote’ in London.
Theresa May submits a third, updated offer and is rejected again.
Soldier faces prosecution over Bloody Sunday.

Passed on
Mountaineers Tom Ballard, 30 and Daniele Nardi, 42. (Lost on Nanga Parbat)
Actor Luke Perry, 52.
Prodigy singer Keith Flint, 49.
Walker Brother Scott, 76,
Philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock, 94.
Television presenter Magenta Devine, 61, (Rough Guide, Network 7)

April
Brexit row rumbles on.
Ex UKIP leader Nigel Farage launches the Brexit Party.
Climate change action group Extinction Rebellion causes transport chaos in London.
Hottest April day on record (25C)
Huge fire at Notre Dame in Paris.

Joined the choir eternal
John McEnery, 75, British actor
Trainspotting actor Bradley Welsh, 48. (shooting)
Songwriter Les Reed, 83  (It’s Not Unusual, Delilah, The Last Waltz)
CBBC star Mya-Lecia Naylor, 16.
David Winters, 80, English-American actor and choreographer (West Side Story).
Dick Rivers, 74, French rock and roll singer (Les Chats Sauvages), cancer.

May
The Duchess of Sussex gives birth to a son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
UK local elections bring gains for Lib Dems and Greens.
Britain gets lowest ever score in Eurovision – then gets five points taken away to finish last.
Calls for PM’s resignation over Brexit.
Jeremy Kyle show suspended after the death of a participant.
Theresa May announces her resignation from the Tory party.
Boris Johnson says he’ll run for Tory party leader.

Kicked the bucket
Broadcaster Brian Walden, 86.
Hollywood legend Doris Day, 97.
Comedian Freddie Starr, 76.
Broadcaster Nan Winton, 93.  First woman to read BBC News on television
Louvre pyramid architect I M Pei, 102.
F1 legend Niki Lauda, 70.
Actor Stephen Thorne, 84. (Z-Cars, Crossroads, Doctor Who)
First BBC woman newsreader Nan Winton, 93.

June
Isle of Lewis chessman found in Edinburgh house.
Liverpool defeat Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 0 in the first all-English UEFA Champions League Final since 2008.
US President Donald Trump pays three-day state visit to the UK.
BBC announces it will end free television licences for over-75s from June 2020.
First person in the UK convicted of illegally manufacturing a firearm using a 3D printer.
Heavy rain causes chaos in UK.
Met Office records hottest June day for 40 years. (34C)
Brexit party sweeps the board in Euro elections.
D-Day 75th anniversary marked with events both sides of the channel.
Theresa May steps down as prime minister.
Massive power failure plunges Argentina and Uruguay into darkness.

Snuffed it
Blake’s 7 actor Paul Darrow, 78.
UK’s oldest person Grace Jones, 112.
Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli, 96.
Jazz musician Dr John, 77.
Actor Bryan Marshall, 81. (The Spy Who Loved Me, Quatermass and the Pit, The Long Good Friday)

July
Big Ben is 160 years old
6.4 earthquake hits California
Warner Brothers Studio fire.
Boris Johnson wins Tory leadership contest to become PM.
Theresa May resigns and Boris Johnson takes over.
“Bloodbath” cabinet reshuffle removes all but five ministers.
5.1 earthquake hits Athens.
11.7 million viewers watch England’s  1 – 2 defeat to USA in the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi final.
Lewis Hamilton wins a record sixth Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beats Roger Federer (Switzerland) in the longest ever Wimbledon final. (4 hours 57 minutes.)

Conked out
Horse racing pundit John McCririck, 79.
Disney star Cameron Boyce, 20. (complications from epilepsy)
Comedy actor Michael Sleggs, 33. (heart failure)
Journalist Christopher Booker, 81. (Sunday Telegraph)
Actress Denise Nickerson, 62. (Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
Actor Brendan Grace, 68. (Father Ted)
Actor Freddie Jones, 91. (Emmerdale,  Elephant Man)
Actor Rip Torn, 88. (Men in Black)
Actor Rutger Hauer, 75.
Chaser, 15, American Border Collie with the largest-tested non-human memory.

August
Two mass shootings kill 20 people in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and 9 in Dayton Ohio.
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire evacuated following dam failure.
Six-year-old thrown off Tate Modern by teenager.
Research shows the Milky Way galaxy is warped.
20 hospitals to receive a share of £850m
Whaley Bridge, Furness Vale and New Mills in Derbyshire evacuated when after concrete slabs on Toddbrook Reservoir partially collapse.
Three remaining cooling towers at Didcot power station, Oxfordshire are demolished, hitting an electricity pole and leaving 40,000 homes without power.
Worldwide protests over climate change.100 MPs write to Boris Johnson for a recall of Parliament to debate concerns that the UK faces “a national emergency” over Brexit.
Video of Prince Andrew with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Hottest late August bank holiday weekend on record

Pushing up daisies
Saoirse Kennedy Hill, Granddaughter of Robert F Kennedy, 22. (Overdosed. (33.3C)
Barrington Pheloung, composer of Inspector Morse theme, 65.
Scottish golfer Gordon Brand Jnr, 60.
Kinks keyboardist Ian Gibbons, 67.
Singer and impressionist Joe Longthorne, 64.
Actor Peter Fonda, 79. (Easy Rider)
Animator and director Richard Williams, 86. (Who Framed 
Roger Rabbit)
Bass guitarist Larry Taylor, 77. (Canned Heat)
Actress Sheila Steafel, 84.
Screenwriter Terrance Dicks, 84. (Doctor Who, Crossroads, Space: 1999)
Actress Valerie Harper, 80. (Mary Tyler Moore Show)

September
Brexit row grinds on.
Pound falls below $1.20 – its lowest since October 2016.
Boris’s brother resigns as an MP.
Boris’s call for a general election in October fails.
Court wrangling over whether proroguing parliament is legal. Supreme Court decides it isn’t.
American woman says she had sex with Prince Andrew as a 17-year-old. He denies it.
Government forced to publish Brexit no-deal contingency plan, Operation Yellowhammer.
Travel company Thomas Cook collapses after 178 years in business.
BBC row over Naga Munchetty reponse to Trump racism.

Gone to meet their maker
Singer Ric Ocasek, 75. (The Cars)
Former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, 95.
Former French president Jacques Chirac, 86.
BBC News journalist Hanna Yusuf, 27.
Actress Jean Heywood, 98. (When the Boat Comes In, Our Day Out, Billy Elliot)

October
Office for National Statistics says 726 homeless people died in last year. The highest number on record.
Stabbings in Arndale Centre, Manchester.
London bans Extinction Rebellion protests.
John Bercow resigns.
Grenfell Tower report criticises fire service.

Six feet under
Opera soprano Jessye Norman, 74.
British journalist and broadcaster Peter Sissons, 77.
American actress Diahann Carroll, 84.  (Julia, Dynasty, Claudine)
Actor Stephen Moore, 81. (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Drummer Ginger Baker, 80. (Cream, Blind Faith)
Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, 85. (Voskhod 2, first person to walk in space.)
Rock singer and guitarist Paul Barrere, 71. (Little Feat)

November
Immediate end to fracking in the UK.
Fracking ban might not be permanent.
18 female MPs say they won’t seek re-election because of threats and abuse.
“Biblical” rainfall levels cause more than 100 flood warnings across the Midlands and northern England.
Mothercare goes bust.
Prince Andrew steps down from public engagements as pressure builds.
Police shoot dead a terrorism suspect on London Bridge. Two others killed and five injured in knife attack.

Had a good innings
TV presenter Gay Byrne, 85. (The Late Late Show)
Actor Ian Cullen, 80. (Z Cars)
Irish actor Niall Tóibín, 89.
Photographer Terry O’Neill, 81.
Actor Michael J Pollard, 80. (Bonnie and Clyde)
Australian-born broadcaster and writer Clive James, 80.
Chef Gary Rhodes, 59.
Theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller, 85.
Shoe designer Terry de Havilland, 81.
Veteran Labour politician Frank Dobson, 79.

December
At least 18 dead after volcano erupts in New Zealand.
General election Tory landslide.
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon calls for independence referendum.
Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg named Time magazine Person of the Year.
Trump throws his dummy out of the pram.
Last-minute Strictly Come Dancing entrant Kelvin Fletcher lifts the glitter ball trophy.
Australia has hottest days on record, approaching 50C.
Wildfires sweep through Australia.

Code black
Actor Rene Auberjonois, 79. (Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Benson, M.A.S.H.)
Sesame Street‘s Big Bird puppeteer Caroll Spinney, 85.
Australian musician Greedy Smith, 63. (Mental as Anything)
Cricketer Bob Willis, 70.
Rapper Juice Wrld, 21.
Battle of Britain pilot Maurice Mounsdon, 101.
Botanist and naturalist David Bellamy, 86.
The Rev. David Coles, 42. (Partner of Richard Coles, Vicar of Finedon.)
Actor Nicky Henson, 74.
Singer and entertainer Kenny Lynch, 81.
Actor Tony Britton, 95. (Sunday Bloody Sunday, Day of the Jackal)

Sir Richard Arkwright 1732 – 92

Sir Richard Arkwright by Joseph Wright of Derby (1789)

Richard Arkwright was born in Preston, Lancashire, a self-educated man whose career began as a barber and wigmaker, for which he was reputed to use genuine human hair. His industrial knowledge led him to adopt the idea of a water-powered spinning machine that he patented in 1769. Called the water frame, the machine allowed mechanisation of what had previously been a cottage industry and brought spinning into the factory age. By 1782 he employed more than 5,000 workers in his cotton mills.

In 1775 he patented a carding engine, based on a hand-worked machine that had been invented earlier by Lewis Paul. Arkwright’s machine incorporated a crank and comb mechanism that drove the comb up and down and lifted the combed fibres onto a cylinder to create a continuous fleece for spinning.

Cromford

His first mechanised mill was built at Cromford, south of Matlock in Derbyshire. The site was developed only two years after the patent for the water frame was taken out and was the first water-powered mill in the world. The complex of workshops was powered by wheels driven by the Bonsall Brook, which flows into the River Derwent close to the site.

Arkwright was also generous to his workers, in common with other industrialists of later times, and built a number of houses in the nearby village for his staff. North Street is one of the best-preserved terraces, built in approximately 1777. One of the homes is now preserved as a Landmark Trust property and is available for holiday lets.

1905 – Einstein’s miracle year

Almost everyone has heard of e=mc2 – the formula behind the Theory of Special Relativity – but very few people realise that it was just one of Einstein’s significant scientific breakthroughs of the year. It might also be worth considering that this was just 4 years after the death of Queen Victoria. Few people would think of Einstein as being an eminent Victorian but in fact he was.

The first scientific paper that Einstein published in this year was on the photoelectric effect. It showed that light sometimes behaves like a stream of particles with discrete energies called “quanta” and sometimes behaves like a wave of energy. The paper earned him a Nobel Prize.

The second paper was on Brownian motion – a random motion that can be observed when very light particles (such as Indian ink) are suspended in a liquid (such as water). It is caused when the molecules of the liquid collide with the particles and propel them in different directions. The paper included an experimental test for the theory of heat.

The third paper was the most famous – the Theory of Special Relativity – that included the famous equation quoted above. Behind the equation is the idea that mass and energy are actually two versions of the same thing and the amount of energy contained in mass is related to a constant (c). And the other key idea is that space and time are related.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915)
The Soldier was published in May 1915 as part of the collection 1914 & Other Poems.

Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford 1757 – 1834

 

Menai Bridge

Thomas Telford was responsible for the early 19th century improvements to the main line canal at Birmingham. Having surveyed the original Brindley contour canal across the Birmingham Plateau he declared it “little better than a crooked ditch” and set about carving a straight line across the route. The result was the largest earthwork in the world at the time – a little over 70 feet deep and a mile long – now known as the Galton Valley. It was crossed by the magnificent Galton Bridge, at the time the longest single span bridge in the world. Among his other improvements to the canal system were the Engine Arm feeder canal that crosses the new line and carries water supplies to the old main line across the dramatic, cast-iron Engine Arm aqueduct, a scheduled ancient monument.

Telford is also known for his audacious improvements to the old Roman road of Watling Street (the A5) that led from London to Wales. His engineering feats include the masterpiece of the Menai Bridge, a suspension bridge that carries the road across the Menai Strait and onto Anglesey to open up the western port of Holyhead. The Menai Bridge was built between 1818 and 1826 at a height of 153 feet, a length of 1388 feet and a main span of 580 feet.

Waterloo Bridge

Another of his A5 works is the magnificent Waterloo Bridge over the River Conwy at Betwys-y-Coed inscribed: “This arch was constructed in the same year the Battle of Waterloo was fought. 1815”

See also: Cantlop Bridge

 

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882

Darwin’s theories scandalised the Victorian world when he first suggested his ideas of evolution. The theories challenged the religious view, at the heart of church belief, that the world was created by god in six days. They also had little to do with the scientific views that held sway at the time and thus the “Origin of Species” alienated him from large sectors of society.

He formed his first ideas about how species develop while he was voyaging on the HMS Beagle on which he was employed as – unpaid – naturalist. His studies of the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands made him realise how each species develops to exploit particular resources and therefore become most “fit” for its habitat. The idea of Survival of the Fittest is often misunderstood to mean the strongest, rather than the best adapted.

Without earlier work by people like Lyell, who had already realised the vast expanses of time necessary to undergo the geological processes that had formed the earth, Darwin might have faced a tougher struggle to have his ideas accepted. But the tides of thought were already changing. Others were starting to consider the possibility that natural forces might drive species development and Darwin himself always credited biologist Alfred Russel Wallace with having discovered very similar ideas independently.

Down House

His ideas were not without opponents, however, and the overriding opinion among scholars of the day was that Darwin’s theories were mostly conjecture and that there was very little evidence in his publication. There was a special meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science a year after “On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection” was published in 1859. It was at this meeting that Darwin’s great opponent Bishop Samuel Wilberforce challenged “Darwin’s Bulldog” T H Huxley by asking whether it was through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed decent from monkeys. Huxley’s reported reply was that he would rather be decended from two apes than be “a man afraid to face the truth”.

Darwin’s home in later life, and where he wrote “Origin of Species”, was Down House in Kent. The beautiful property stands overlooking the Kent countryside and is surrounded by woods and farmland. Around the house was Darwin’s “thinking path” where he often walked to gather his thoughts before retiring to his study to put them on paper. His experiments were all over the study and often spilled out into the kitchen, drawing room and even on to the billiard table if he needed more room.

Iron

Iron figurine from 10 North Street, Cromford, Derbyshire

There are three main types of iron that should be considered: wrought, cast and steel. Wrought Iron has a melting point of 1535 degrees C so it comes out of the furnace solid and is worked solid. It is hammered into shape and forms a tough finished product. It is good for tools and swords. It has less than 0.3 per cent carbon content. Cast Iron comes out of the furnace molten and is poured into moulds to make its shape. It is brittle so it does not produce good tools or edged weapons. Often it is used for decorative objects. It has more than 2 per cent carbon. These two forms are dependent on the type of ore available, high-carbon ores will not make good wrought iron. Chinese ores, for example, are useful only for cast iron, which is why there is so much decorative Chinese ironwork. Steel is a combination of iron and the right amount of carbon – between 0.3 and 2 percent – which makes it particularly tough and flexible. It is capable of holding an edge and is therefore very useful for tools and weapons. It is, however, very difficult to manufacture and involves “cooking” the iron and carbon together for many hours at more than 1100 degrees C.

The “Three Age” history of the introduction of iron in Europe is unique and not reflected anywhere else in the world. In southern Africa, for example, there never was a Bronze Age and the first metal to be used was iron. In North America native copper was hammered into shapes but was never smelted. In Europe the Iron Age followed the Bronze Age but there was no distinct line between the two. Iron was merely an additional metal. It is difficult to form into complex shapes, unlike bronze, and it corrodes easily so it was not a suitable material for all uses. By the 2nd millennium BCE a few iron items were in circulation, such as pins and awls but around 1100 BCE the metal took off in a big way. It appeared throughout the near east, Europe and Britain almost simultaneously.

There are two sources of iron – meteoric iron that is extremely rare and can be identified by its high nickel content, and iron ores. It appears as oxides and sulphides; both are commonly available. Iron ore is rarely pure so there are almost always other constituents in any iron item. Unfortunately it is impossible to assign chemical “signatures” to European ores because they vary so much, so the inclusions are not useful for sourcing raw materials used in archaeological artefacts.

Thanks to Prof Elizabeth Slater, head of department at the University of Liverpool school of archaeology for clear lectures on artefacts and materials. J M Cronyn’s Elements of Archaeological Conservation has also been consulted.