Category Archives: History

The Quest for the Historical Harry Price

Yes, it’s been a while. I find writing about most things nowadays superfluous – people can become absurdly well informed by reading Wikipedia, and people like me belong to an irrelevant generation of people who hoarded books and knowledge the … Continue reading

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Watching Most Haunted: Series 3, Ep. 1 East Kirkby Airfield

In this piece I am going to (after my rambling intro) look at one episode of Most Haunted: Series 3, episode 1, where the team visit East Kirkby airfield in Lincolnshire, a disused WW2 airbase now a museum. Continue reading

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1953: The Great (Not So) East Anglian Flood

If you asked people what the worst natural disaster to befall Britain in the 20th century was, most people will look at you and probably have no idea. It was actually in 1953 when a Spring tide combined with low atmospheric pressure led to an incredible storm and flood, and left 30,000 people homeless, and 307 dead on land, and over 224 at sea in the UK. Where I grew up it was known as the Great East Anglian Flood; however in the Netherlands they call it the Watersnoodramp, and Wikipedia calls it the North Sea Flood of 1953. Closer, but even that does not really cover the scale of the disaster – 28 died in Scotland, and the MV Princess Victoria a ferry doing railway duty on the Stranraer to Larne crossing sank with loss of 133 lives, with just 44 saved. Across the Low Countries and UK, over 2000 people died. 13,000 cattle drowned: a thousand miles of coastline flooded, and in modern terms did £941,000,000 in damages – that is £50 million pounds in 1953 money converted by purchasing power. This was nothing compared the Netherlands – there around 1,800 people perished. Continue reading

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A Suffolk Tragedy –The Red Barn Murder; Polstead, Suffolk, 1828

I don’t have time to give a full account of the case, so I will quickly summarize it here. On Saturday 18th May 1827 William Corder, a son of a prosperous Suffolk family apparently set out to elope with Maria Marten, a village beauty of humble origin. The two walked separately through the night to a barn, the now infamous ‘Red Barn’ on Corder’s property, Maria dressed in men’s clothing to avoid local notice. In the barn Maria change in to her women’s attire, and while changing met her death, and was buried by Corder within the barn. Continue reading

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Ars Magica the Computer Game: Interview with the Black Chicken Kickstarter Team

First up, do me a favour. If you don’t know or care about Ars Magica, but you enjoy strategy games, or fantasy games, or history games, go to this Kickstarter and think about pledging $20. If it funds, you get … Continue reading

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The Battle of Fornham 1173: re-fought with Ars Magica!

I have written a lot on games recently and not much else, but back to the normal soon. Despite the title this post is as much about real English history as my game, and therefore possibly worth reading — you can skip the sections with green headings and read the ones with dark blue heading to find the fact rather than the game stuff! I have just finished hosting Grand Tribunal 2012 the Ars Magica roleplaying game convention, and so am still full of enthusiasm for my gaming exploits. This year saw a rather unusual one — trying to recreate a rather important if obscure event in English history (a battle at Fornham, just outside Bury St Edmunds in 1173) with a combination wargame/freeform/rpg game set in the world of Ars Magica, using the 5th edition rules.

However, let’s start with the real world history… Continue reading

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Remembering the Titanic

I’m not old enough to remember the sinking of RMS Titanic: a fact which may surprise some of the younger readers of my blog who probably regard me as prehistoric. I don’t actually think there are many people around who … Continue reading

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A Nation of Shopkeepers?

So Napoleon famously mocked the English, or so it is said. Actually the phrase came from Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, where he wrote — “”To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.” Napoleon may have taken up the phrase, and used it, but I seem to recall that actually his tone may have been rather more respectful than is general believed. Still, whatever the truth, has anyone wandered down the Regent Arcade, Cheltenham recently? It was Lisa who pointed out to me the large number of empty shops — when this happens to Cheltenham, you have to wonder. I think I might try soon to interview either the Town Centre Manager or the Economic Development Officer for the borough, though to be fair they probably have rather more important things to do. Cheltenham has weathered the recent economic storms quite well, but the changes are visible on the High Street, and a host of innovative new shops appear to be opening to offer the cheapest of the cheap to the once prosperous shoppers of this fine city. I’m not moaning, as I say, Cheltenham is still much more prosperous than most places, even if that prosperity is rather unequally divided among its citizens, with areas of (in 21st century terms) deprivation, but nothing like the real poverty of some cities districts. Continue reading

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The History of Cheltenham

It will be twenty five years this September since I moved to Cheltenham, and I have lived here longer than anywhere else. While at heart I remain an East Anglian, I have a great affection for my adopted home, and … Continue reading

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Why Do Ghosts Go “Woo”? Part One.

OK, a light-hearted one this lunchtime. “why do ghosts go woo?” is an excellent question that was asked on Twitter by Ian Rennie to Hayley Stevens, and she, Kimberley Kendall and I discussed it for a while.  I always joke … Continue reading

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