A Beginning - Sticky Post

I have had an avid interest in medieval history and in particular european medieval history, or the Middle Ages spanning from the 5th to the 15th century, for some years now. 

My readings to date relating to this period, and the people who lived in it, have covered: a general overview of Saxon Kings, a more detailed study of the Kings of England between The Norman Conquest and the conclusion of The Wars of the Roses with particular interest in Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Roger Mortimer 1st Earl of March, Henry IV, Henry V, Joan of Arc, the Vikings and Norse Mythology.

Through studying this portion of the Middle Ages I have become aware of many other significant figures and events throughout Europe and I am now undertaking a more official study regime making the most of the wealth of free online resources and courses.

I have created this blog to document and share my progress, and as a study aid for me. I have learned and again forgotten so many facts through casual reading of history books; through a more regimented schedule of study I hope to greatly improve my command of this fascinating subject.

Friday, 14 October 2016

This Day In History - The Battle of Hastings

950 years ago today King Harold II, Harold Godwinson, of England was defeated by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Harold, the last Anglo Saxon King of England died in the battle. On Christmas Day 1066 William was crowned the first Norman King of England at Westminster Abbey and the face and fate of the country changed forever.

See more events that occurred in history on this day here: This Day in History

Friday, 30 September 2016

The Battle of Crogen

This week we visited a local battle site relating to Henry II's campaign in Wales in the 12th century. 

The spot marks the location of The Battle of Crogen. I recorded as much as I could in photos to tell the tale as per the interpretation boards which had such great information however the main purpose of our visit was to see the oak tree that marks the location that the Welsh buried the English dead after a crushing defeat. 

The oak would certainly have been present at the time, forming part of what was the Ceriog Forest, and is a truly amazing specimen. (Click on individual images to enlarge.)

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Lecture Note 1 - History of the World - 1500CE Further Reading

Course: History of the World to 1500CE
Columbia University
YouTube Lectures - Richard Bulliet (RB)
Lecture 1 - Further reading 1.2

Introduction to World History - Youtube upload 2010

Below are my notes on points for further reading from lecture 1 prior to studying lecture 2.
Sources: Hyper PhysicsC14 datingRadiocarbon
FR 1.2 - Carbon dating and corrected carbon dating.
Additional sources: BBC Bitesize

Well this is going to test the old grey matter! Ok so Carbon dating is a form of radioactive dating. It can only be applied to matter that was once living and presumed to be in equilibrium with our atmosphere; matter that assimilates carbon dioxide such as plants and animals. 

The nitrogen in our atmosphere is bombarded with neutrons that produce a radioactive isotope called carbon - 14. This in turn combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide which is assimilated by plants and animals through photosynthesis and I assume by animals through merely breathing. When plants and animals die they cease to exchange carbon dioxide with the atmosphere so the carbon - 14 within them begins to decay.

We know the rate of decay of carbon - 14 and as such can use this to calculate time elapsed between historic and current samples.

I have read on into corrected carbon dating but think it is a bit beyond me today and needs some study away from the daily distractions. I do like to understand all aspects of my study but think I need to read from a few more sources to fully grasp this. Its definitely something to mull over. As such I will revisit this FR point shortly.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Lecture Note 1 - History of the World - 1500CE Further Reading

Course: History of the World to 1500CE
Columbia University
YouTube Lectures - Richard Bulliet (RB)
Lecture 1 - Further reading 1.1

Introduction to World History - Youtube upload 2010

Below are my notes on points for further reading from lecture 1 prior to studying lecture 2.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, History World

FR 1.1 - The lecture has a small section on the domestication of animals and discussed the mesolithic period. This section requires further reading.

I am starting with the Mesolithic period (MP) expecting it to encompass domestication of animals. The timeframe for MP varies across the globe as it relates to material culture, actual evidence of that culture in the form of tools or other items that civilisation has made however broadly speaking it seems to cover 11,000 - 4,000BC. It is also referred to as the Middle Stone Age situated between Palaeolithic and Neolithic, or Old and New Stone Age.

The MP saw advancement in material culture, for example chipped stone pieces set in wooden handles creating a more advanced tool or polished stone pieces demonstrating an advancement in honing tools.

MP peoples were therefore able to increase the diversity of plant and animal resources they could access over Palaeolithic peoples, and it has been surmised that Neolithic peoples absorbed MP civilisations through introducing their cultural advances.

Animal domestication seems to have begin with wolves. History World suggests that stray or abandoned wolf cubs were raised and trained to aid people with hunting which lead to the development of dogs. 

The earliest evidence of a domesticated dog dates from 12,000 BC, close to the start of the MP. Other domestic animals such as sheep, goats, cattle and pigs are known from 9,000 - 7,000 BC are used at this time for a food source and for materials from their skin, dung, bones and fat.

It is not until 4,000 BC that humans start to utilise animals for farming of transport activities such as ploughing and pulling carts.

See You in the List

Yesterday the BBC ran a story that English Heritage had submitted a petition to have Jousting declared an Olympic sport. I am so excited at the prospect! My first thought was could I compete.

It seems there is a long way to go but what an amazing prospect. There have been far more unusual Olympic sports previously including duelling pistols, tug-of-war (always one of my favourite events at village fetes) Kite flying, architecture, literature, music, painting, sculpture, tandem bike racing...I could go on, suddenly jousting doesn't sound so far fetched does it?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Holt Castle

Last night we went to Holt Castle to listen to a talk given by Steve Grenter, Wrexham Heritage Service Manager, on the history and archaeology of Holt Castle. The castle is situated on the banks of the River Dee, on the Welsh side of the border.

The castle was built between 1282 and 1311 by John de Warren, an Earl of Surrey, and the castle appears almost unique in Britain for its unusual pentagonal design. 

Online records relating to John de Warren's life and death are conflicting and at this time I am unsure whether he was the 6th, 7th or 8th Earl of Surrey (various online resources differ on this particular point) and as such will refer to my books in due course.

What is clear is that a John de Warren was very significant in the life of Edward I and was awarded lands in North Wales along with other Marcher Lords. Holt Castle was constructed as a headquarters for the Earl in Wales.

The remains of the castle are limited to the remnant central courtyard area which has undergone significant restoration in recent years to remove vegetation and promote its safe retention on site. 

The bedrock of red sandstone with masonry above is now clearly visible although the towers have long since gone, demolished following the civil war. Much of the surrounding bedrock has also been quarried to build near by structures and develop the village of Holt itself.

In the mid 14th century the castle was inherited by the FitzAlans however was seized by Richard II from Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, following an accusation of treason. Richard II amassed gold there just prior to his surrender. When Henry Bolingbrook took the throne to become Henry IV he restored the castle, and lands, to the FitzAlans through Richard FitzAlan's son, Thomas.

Image Credit: Wikipedia A reconstruction of Holt Castle in 1495

The 15th century saw the castle pass to Sir William Stanley who played a significant role in the outcome of the Wars of the Roses, famously changing sides at the Battle of Bosworth and aiding the defeat of Richard III however he was charged with treason only a few years later for allegedly supporting the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the two princes in the tower, and was executed. 

Following Stanley's execution the castle remained in royal hands until the Civil War in the 17th century where it held out to several significant attacks made by parliamentary forces, but was surrendered around 1647 when it became apparent that the kings cause was lost. A local landowner bought the rights to salvage the stone and local residents reclaimed the castle and its grounds, utilising it for recreational activities such as fetes.

Image Credit: Holt Village - showing the south view of Holt Castle, Samuel & Nathaniel Buck 1742 © National Library of Wales, the remnant watergate, a high walled structure leading down to the banks of the River Dee, can be seen in the foreground.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016


After writing up my notes I fancied a spot of medieval revision and have been going over some old photos of the home of one of my historical heroes Roger Mortimer 1st Earl of March. The tree that stands alone is now sadly dead. It is an elm that has succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease, its death occurred in just a year between visits. 
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