Posted in Archaeology, Bringing Alive The Past, History, Museum

The Cast Iron Cooking Pot That Changed The World – Ironbridge, Shropshire

Cooking pot from the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, Ironbridge, Shropshire. Image by courtesy of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Cooking pot from the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, Ironbridge, Shropshire. Image by courtesy of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

A short while ago, I received a Press Release from PR Matters that was so exciting, I just had to share it with you here. New research, conducted by retired 18th and 19th century metallurgist Dr Richard Williams, has proved that a cooking pot in the collection of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is the oldest known coke iron casting in the western world.

Without using coke to smelt iron, there would have been no Industrial Revolution; the supply of wood was simply not extensive enough. It has previously been assumed that Abraham Darby I (1678-1717) invented the process because wood was already becoming increasingly scarce and coke was therefore generally more economic, but Dr Richard Williams has established that it was, in reality, all about cooking pots.

Dr Williams has been working on behalf of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust as a member of the museum’s Birmingham Advisory Group. The work, published in the journal Historical Metallurgy shows that Abraham Darby’s genius was more commercial than technical (as previously thought) and that he actually first smelted iron with coke, as opposed to charcoal from wood, for just one application.

Working on behalf of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, he comments on what was primarily a technical analysis: “We have now shown how Abraham Darby was the first man to make a profitable business from smelting iron with coke rather than charcoal. He saw an opportunity that no one else did, applied for a patent to protect it and got on with creating the business to exploit it.”

©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. An extract from Abraham Darby I's original 1707 patent for casting iron bellied pots.
©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. An extract from Abraham Darby I’s original 1707 patent for casting iron bellied pots.

In 2013, I want on an incredible press trip to Ironbridge, Shropshire. I cannot tell you what an astonishing heritage site it is. There are 36 scheduled monuments and listed buildings cared for by The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, spread over a 6 square kilometre site.

The Trust also operates 10 museums which collectively tell the story of the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. These museums are: Blists Hill Victorian Town; Enginuity; Coalport China Museum; Jackfield Tile Museum; Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron; Museum of The Gorge; Darby Houses; Tar Tunnel; The Ironbridge and Tollhouse and Broseley Pipeworks. For anyone interested in social or living history, Ironbridge is a must!

The cooking pot which has been the subject of Dr Williams findings, is part of the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron collection. The unique cast iron pot, dated 1714, inspired Dr Williams to wonder how it had been cast in order to have exactly the right metallurgical structure? He saw the relationship between the only patent (see image above) that Abraham Darby filed – about moulding such pots in sand – and his modified blast furnace.

©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Diagram of the old Furnace, Coalbrookdale. The Furnace went out of use in 1818 but the foundry buildings around it remained in use and even expanded to enclose the remains of the furnace.Diagram of the old Furnace, Coalbrookdale. The Furnace went out of use in 1818 and the foundry buildings around it remained in use and even expanded to enclose the remains of the furnace.©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust ©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Diagram of the old Furnace, Coalbrookdale. The Furnace went out of use in 1818 but the foundry buildings around it remained in use and even expanded to enclose the remains of the furnace.
.Diagram of the old Furnace, Coalbrookdale. The Furnace went out of use in 1818 and the foundry buildings around it remained in use and even expanded to enclose the remains of the furnace.©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

It had been previously thought that the two inventions were entirely independent, but Dr Williams realised that Darby’s patent would only work if the liquid iron he used to pour into his moulds was made with coke.It would not have worked with the previously universally used charcoal.

Darby’s new process was much cheaper than the competitive one, which was most effectively practised on the continent, with a consequently large importation of pots into England. On the continent they used charcoal but, in order to get the right structure in their iron, Dr Williams recognized that they had had to pour their metal into moulds that were very hot, thus being obliged to use an expensive moulding process where the sand grains were bound together with clay, the so-called loam process.

Darby’s patent specifically said that he was going to use no clay and his moulds could thus not be heated. Dr Williams explains that to make most castings, the composition of the iron had to be such that a grey structure resulted rather than a white one, but this was much more difficult when the casting was thin, as with a pot, because the metal cooled more quickly than with a thicker casting.

The iron had to be high in silicon to come out grey, something that was very difficult to achieve using charcoal. But coke did it much more easily and this Abraham Darby already knew, from the work of others before him. He clearly knew it some years before he first set out to make iron himself, because his patent was published in April 1707 and he did not start his coke blast furnace until the end of 1708.

It has not previously been realised – at least in the UK – that moulds used to be regularly heated. Dr Williams could find no reference to it in the English language.  There are however many references to it in the French encyclopaedias published in the second half of the 18th century, of which the Encyclopédie of Diderot is the most famous.

To prove his thesis, Dr Williams examined a number of 17th and 18th century pots made with the loam process at the Maison de Metallurgie in Liège.  He deduced that all pots bear characteristic markings that establish how they were made and in his paper he demonstrates that the pot in the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, dated 1714 (just six years after Darby’s first blast furnace came on stream) must have been cast using an iron made with coke. With no one else known to be making coke iron at the time, it could only be a genuine Abraham Darby product, the oldest known coke iron casting in the western world.

To begin with, coke iron was only of economic use for the manufacture of cooking pots, but the profit from this activity allowed him and his descendants the time to develop the coke blast furnace for all the other applications for which it became suitable. His first furnace produced just four tons per week.  In the world today, more than one billion tons of iron comes out of coke-fired blast furnaces each year.

Abraham Darby I – The Coalbrookdale Company

The Coalbrookdale Company was formed in 1709 by Abraham Darby I (1678-1717), an iron-master who had moved to the region from Bristol in the previous year. His original intention was to lease an ironworks with a view to setting-up a brass foundry – he had been experimenting with making brass pots since 1707 which led to his patent for casting iron bellied pots in dry sand.

He leased the Furnace at Coalbrookdale in 1709 from landowner Basil Brooke of Madeley and his wife Elizabeth, beginning blasting in January of the same year. Until the latter part of the 18th century, the most important industry in the Ironbridge Gorge was coal-mining – the first step on the road to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the region.

Other coal-using industries utlising the area’s rich natural resources were: lead smelting; tar boiling; pottery making and brass manufacturing. The Tar Tunnel at Ironbridge is open to the public and well-worth a visit. In 1787, miners digging in the area struck a spring of natural bitumen (treacle-like black liquid) which has seeped out of the walls and formed into puddles for over two hundred years. It was money from coal that funded the first ironworks in the area.

Although now a haven of tranquillity, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the area resembled Dante’s Inferno, a scene which artist Philip James De Loutherbourg (1740-1812) captured so brilliantly in his iconic painting Coalbrookdale by Night (1801).

©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Iron Works at Coalbrookdale by Philip James De Loutherbourg (1740-1812) from an engraving by William Pickett. ©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Iron Works at Coalbrookdale by Philip James De Loutherbourg (1740-1812) from an engraving by William Pickett. De Loutherbourg was a theatrical designer who worked for playwrights such as R.B. Sheridan (1751-1816) and David Garrick (1717-1779). His painting, Coalbrookdale by Night (1801), depicting the raging Bedlam Furnaces in Madeley Dale, Shropshire, a little further downstream from Ironbridge, recreates the iconic scene of fire and brimstone that we now associate with the birth of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
Iron Works at Coalbrookdale by Philip James De Loutherbourg (1740-1812) from an engraving by William Pickett. ©Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. De Loutherbourg was a theatrical designer who worked for playwrights such as R.B. Sheridan (1751-1816) and David Garrick (1717-1779). His painting, Coalbrookdale by Night (1801), depicting the raging Bedlam Furnaces in Madeley Dale, Shropshire, a little further downstream from Ironbridge, recreates the iconic scene of fire and brimstone that we now associate with the birth of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.

Between 1755 and 1780 the iron industry was booming in the region and five new groups of furnaces were set up:

The three surviving groups of iron furnaces mark these different phases in the local iron industry – the earliest, the Darby Furnace at Coalbrookdale …… Bedlam Furnaces (begun 1756-7) were the first of the great new Industrial Revolution furnaces, experimenting with new forms of power, while the Blists Hill Furnaces, begun in c.1832 and closed in 1912, signal the move away from water as a source of power, and eventually the end of smelting in the Gorge.

(Ironbridge Gorge by Catherine Clark, 1993, p.36, published by B. T. Batsford Ltd)

The Darby family were Quakers but did not force their religious beliefs on the workers at Coalbrookdale. The Darbys were known to be good employers as well as savvy business people, their workers rarely went on strike. Education, for both boys and girls, was also important to Quakers – a forward thinking approach for the time:

..adhering strictly to the ideals of self-discipline, frugality and simple faith, attitudes which extended into the conduct of their business. As members of the Society of Friends, Quakers formed a close-knit group, distinct in their way of dress and habits, and tending to socialize as a group. Many of the visitors who came to Coalbrookdale were Quaker associates, and the large houses at Coalbrookdale became a focus for this society.

The houses were built close to the works, but looked out over a more pleasant view of trees, pleasure gardens and a pool with a small decorative iron bridge.  For most of their history the houses were occupied for relatively short periods by family members or by works managers; often, as in the case of Abraham Darby III, while they built or altered finer houses elsewhere in rural settings.

Carpenters Row is an example of company housing: built c.1783, it is a terrace of eight cottages, each with a downstairs parlour with a range, a tiny pantry and a bedroom above….Carpenters Row would have provided a relatively good class of accommodation.

(Ironbridge Gorge by Catherine Clark, 1993, pp.40-41, published by B. T. Batsford Ltd)

Darby I’s son, Abraham Darby II (1711-1763), took over the running of The Coalbrookdale Company from his father in 1728. His contribution to the Company’s history is significant. He invented a method of making pig iron using coke which could then be converted into wrought iron:

The molten iron from a blast furnace could be poured direct into sand moulds to produce cast iron goods or cast ingots called “pig iron”. The pig iron was then either melted and cast in a foundry or purified to produce wrought iron that could be shaped by hammering and rolling in a forge.

(Extract from text panel at the site of the Old Furnaces, Upper Works, Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust).

For a more detailed overview of Ironbridge, below are links to previous articles I have written about various aspects of the site:

Posted in Archaeology, Bringing Alive The Past, Decorative Arts, Event, Exhibition, History, Museum

Exhibition – St. Barbe Museum, Lymington: ‘Out of Egypt’

Coffin mask that will feature in new exhibition, 'Out of Egypt' at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire. Image credit - Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Coffin mask which will feature in new exhibition, Out of Egypt, at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire. Image credit – Hampshire Cultural Trust.

An exciting new Egyptology exhibition opens at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire on Saturday 16th January. In Out of Egypt: exploring the passage from life to afterlife (sponsored by Thesis Asset Management), you can discover more about the religious beliefs and passage from life to the afterlife in ancient Egypt. The exhibition continues until 27th February, 2016.

St. Barbe Museum has had a recent history of producing some really terrific, unusual and cleverly curated exhibitions. I have covered quite a few of them here on Come Step Back in Time, have a browse through my article archive and see the range of fascinating  subjects the Museum has covered in its exhibition programming. The press pack I have received for Out of Egypt, certainly looks like 2016 could be St. Barbe Museum’s best year yet for stimulating exhibitions!

Displays for Out of Egypt will feature original artefacts from the Hampshire Cultural Trust and Bournemouth Natural Science Society collections including coffin masks, animal mummies, and canopic jars, which were used during the mummification process to store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife.

Overseer figure from the 6th Dynasty which will be on display at Out of Egypt exhibition at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire. Image credit - Bournemouth Natural Science Society.
Overseer figure from the 6th Dynasty which will be on display in Out of Egypt exhibition at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire. Image credit – Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

Also on show will be items that would have been placed in tombs such as amulets for protection from harm and danger; scarabs symbolising the holy beetle in ancient Egypt and Shabti figures, as well as a beautiful funerary boat.

The exhibition has been designed to appeal to school children and families through a host of activities, while still offering lots for adults to discover and enjoy. Themes include making a mummy, life after death, hieroglyphics, Egyptian numbers, gods and goddesses, Egyptomania – souvenirs and Egypt’s influence on British culture.

The timing of Out of Egypt, couldn’t be more on point. Interest in Egyptology with the general public is now at an all time high. This follows publication, in July 2015, by British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, of a paper that claims Tutankhamun may not have been alone in his burial chamber. A series of ultra-high-resolution images of King Tut’s tomb (subsequently designated KV62) have revealed what is believed to be the outlines of two doorways, previously blocked and plastered over.

Reeves has suggested that behind these hidden doors there may be a lavish secret tomb belonging to the legendary Queen Nefertiti (the 14th century wife of Akhenaten, step-mother to Tutankhamun). Tutankhamun died at the age of 19, and it is thought that, due to his unexpected death, he may have been buried in a chamber of his step-mother’s tomb.

If Reeves theory is correct (although a number of academics and archaeologists dispute his claims!), this could potentially over-shadow Howard Carter’s (1874-1939) discovery of King Tut’s tomb in November 1922. Excavations to prove Reeves theory have not yet begun, indeed, there is a possibility they may never do so. Why? Well, Dr Zahi Hawasshas, Egypt’s former antiquities minister, not only disputes Reeves theory. He is also adamant that a hole is not to be made in the structure of KV62 in order to carry-out further investigations.

The main tomb is extremely fragile. Any further excavations could cause some of the priceless paintings to completely collapse not to mention potentially damaging the tomb itself. Archaeologists would need to find a way to enter the secret chamber, that has been hermetically sealed for 3,500 years, without causing any harm to the tomb’s infrastructure.

Debates, arguments and theories by Egyptologists will continue to grip the public’s attention over coming months. Keep any eye on global news reports, 2016 could still be the year when one of the greatest archaeological discoveries and  Egyptology’s greatest mysteries, is finally solved!

Out of Egypt Workshops

  • ‘Anthony and Cleopatra: Interactive Storytelling’ (February 17th). Join professional actors from Treehouse Theatre for an exciting and interactive storytelling session. Shakespeare’s passionate tale of Antony and Cleopatra is the inspiration for today’s story. There will be plenty of chance to dress up too! Performances are at 10.30am and 1.45pm. This is suitable for youngsters aged 4 – 11 years. £4 child, £3 adults. Advance booking required. Book online for the morning session here  Or afternoon session here ;
  • ‘Exploring Egypt: Family Explorer Day’ (February 18th). Discover life in Ancient Egypt and handle authentic objects from the time. This explorer day compliments our exhibition Out of Egypt. Youngsters will also get the chance to make decorative Egyptian cuffs, circlets and mini scarab beads. Usual admission charges apply.

Opening Times and Admission Prices

  • Out of Egypt at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery will be open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm;
  • Tickets, which include entry into the museum, cost £6 for adults, £5 for senior citizens and students, £3 for children aged 5-15 years and £12 for a family of two adults and up to four children (including a voluntary gift aid donation); under fives are admitted free of charge;
  • For details visit or telephone 01590 676969.
Out of Egypt - Mummy board, 22nd Dynasty credit Bournemouth Natural Science Society
Mummy board from the 22nd Dynasty which will be display at Out of Egypt exhibition, St. Barbe Museum, Lymington. Image credit – Bournemouth Natural Science Society.


Posted in Archaeology, Country House, Decorative Arts, Exhibition, Film, History, History of Medicine, Theatre History, World War One

Tomb To The Known Soldiers, Exbury, Hampshire – Stories From The Great War Part 8

©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time

The Parish Church of St. Katherine in the New Forest village of Exbury, contains a stunning memorial dedicated to two local brothers who lost their lives in World War One, John and Alfred Forster. Their parents, Lord and Lady Forster of Lepe, commissioned sculptor Cecil Thomas to design the monument. During the war, Cecil had been a patient at the same hospital in London as Alfred. Over a four month period, the two young men became firm friends.

The monument is housed in a Chapel extension, built 1927/8, which is also dedicated to other Exbury parishioners who lost their lives during the war:

  • George Dobson (Private) 11th Bn. Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.) – Died 27th September 1916;
  • William Warn (Able Seaman) Merchant Marine Reserve, H.M. Yacht Goissa – Died 25th April 1916;
  • Frederick John Toms (Private) 10th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 7th September 1915;
  • Edwin Wellstead (Private) 2nd Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 13th August 1915;
  • George Toms (Able Seaman) HMS Narborough R.N. – Died 12th January 1915;
  • Cyril John Fairweather (2nd Lieut.) 4th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 22nd March 1918;
  • John Forster (2nd Lieut.) 2nd Bn. Kings Rifle Corps – Died 14th September, 1914, aged 21;
  • Alfred Henry Forster (Lieut) 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) – Died 10th March 1919, aged 21.

    ©Come Step Back in Time
    ©Come Step Back in Time

 The Forster Family

In 1890, Lord Henry Forster – 1st Baron Forster GCMG PC DI (1866-1936) married the Hon. Rachel Cecil Douglas-Scott-Montagu GBE (1868-1962). Lady Forster was the daughter of 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, Hampshire. The Forsters originally lived at Southend Hall, Bromley until 1914 when Lord Forster found the new, noisy trams unbearable and decided to move away. He leased his home to Brittania Film Company on 17th August, 1914 and it became a thriving film studio.

In addition to John and Alfred, the Forsters had two daughters. Emily Rachel (1897-1979), who married Captain George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1890-1966), the grandson of Archaeologist, Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) and founder of Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford.  Emily became a stage and screen actress using the name, Mary Hinton. There is a memorial plaque dedicated to her in St. Katherine’s Church. Emily also had a sister, Dorothy Charlotte Forster (1891-1983).

©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time

One of Emily’s three sons, Michael (1917-1999), gained notoriety in the 1950s when he was put on trial charged with homosexual offences. He was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. Michael later became instrumental in the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Embed from Getty Images

  1. Image above from 7th June 1965. Hungarian born actress Eva Bartok (1927-1998) pictured with Mary Hinton (left) in a scene from the London play ‘Paint Myself Black’ at the New Theatre.

Lord Forster was an ambitious gentleman who enjoyed a long and successful political career both as a Conservative M.P. and later as 7th Governor-General of Australia (1920-25). Following the general election in 1892 he became M.P. for Sevenoaks. In 1901, he took-up office as Deputy Lieutenant of Kent then 1902-05, he was Junior Lord of the Treasury. Between 1902 and 1911, he was the Conservative whip.

During World War One, Lord Forster was assigned to the War Office. Between 1915 and 1919 he acted as their Financial Secretary. In 1918-19, he represented Bromley in the House of Commons and in 1919, was given a peerage, 1st Baron Forster of Lepe in the County of Southampton. Lord Forster became Governor-General of Australia on 7th October, 1920, a post he held until 1925 when he moved back to England. Lord and Lady Forster resided at Exbury House, near Southampton, until Lord Forster’s death in 1936, aged seventy.

Because the Forsters had no surviving sons, the barony became extinct upon Lord Forster’s death. Sadly, this was an all too common occurrence for many aristocratic families after the war who were left with no male heir(s) to inherit either property or title.

©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time

John Forster – (1893-1914) 

John Forster was born on 13th May, 1893.  Educated at Eton, John was commissioned in September, 1913 and served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. On 14th September, 1914, at 3am, John’s battalion advanced in thick mist and driving rain to attack the ridge above the River Aisne (Chemin des Dames), the first Battle of The Aisne. When they reached the crest, they were unable to continue further and found themselves pinned down by enemy fire coming from the occupied sugar factory at the crossroads above Troyon.

John died on 14th September, 1914 and is remembered on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France. The memorial is to those killed in August, September and early October of 1914 who were part of the British Expeditionary Force. There is also a wall-mounted bronze plaque, by Cecil Thomas (see images above and below), dedicated to John, in St. Katherine’s Church Memorial Chapel.

©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time

Alfred Henry Forster (1898-1919) 

Alfred Henry was born on 7th February, 1898. Educated at Winchester College (1911-1915), then RMC Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the 2nd Dragoons Guards (Royal Scots Greys) on 19th July, 1916. The following February he went to France and was promoted to Lieutenant on 19th January, 1918. On 17th October, 1918, Alfred fell, seriously wounded, near Le Cateau. He was transferred to Gerstley-Hoare Hospital for Officers at 53 Cadogan Square, Belgravia, London, where he spent five months.

The Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was set-up by Louise Hoare, cousin of politician Samuel Hoare (1880-1959). Louise had joined the British Red Cross as a V.A.D. and together with her wealthy friend, Mrs Adele Gerstley, established the Hospital in January, 1916. It was a Class A Hospital with twenty-five beds, there were three trained nurses, five full-time and twenty part-time V.A.D.s. Mrs Gerstley was the administrator and Miss Hoare the Commandant.

Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was affiliated with Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital at Millbank, London and admitted casualties direct from the front rather than via a military hospital, as would normally be the case. The Hospital closed in April, 1919 and during just over three years of service, treated five hundred and fifty servicemen only two of whom died, Alfred was one of them. He died of his wounds on 10th March, 1919.

During his time at Gerstley-Hoare, Alfred met the sculptor Cecil Thomas (1885-1976), also a patient, the two became great friends. Alfred is buried at St. Katherine’s Church. Cecil designed the stunning tomb dedicated to Alfred which is in the Church’s Memorial Chapel. Such is the quality of the bronze figure that it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1924. The Chapel’s Hanging Lamp, presented by Miss Amy Fergusson, was also designed by Cecil.  A model of the tomb is in the V&A, London.

©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time


©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time

Cecil Walter Thomas OBE FRBS (1885-1976)

Cecil was born 3rd March, 1885 at 24 Hedley Road, Shepherds Bush, London. His father had a gem engraving business in London and Cecil began his training there followed by Central School of Arts and Crafts, Heatherley School of Fine Art and then the Slade. Cecil enjoyed a long and very successful career as a sculptor, medallist, gem sculptor and seal engraver. In 1948, he designed a Seal for the British Transport Commission. Together with artist, Edgar Fuller, Cecil produced the reverse designs for the sixpence, two shillings and half crown. He also received commissions from Faberge.

Embed from Getty Images

Cecil designed a sculpture of Rev. Dr Philip Thomas Byard ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH, MC, DD. (1885-1972) a World War One Chaplain who, together with Rev. Neville Stuart Talbot (1879-1943), founded Talbot House. Located in Poperinge, Belgium, Talbot House (better known as Toc H, see images above and below), provided soldiers, fighting on the front lines around Ypres, with a tranquil haven for relaxation and private reflection. Soldiers of all ranks were welcomed. Cecil’s effigy of Rev. Clayton is in All Hallows By The Tower in the City of London where Clayton was vicar from 1922 until his retirement in 1952.

Embed from Getty Images

©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time





Posted in Archaeology, Bringing Alive The Past, Country House, Event, Exhibition, Film, History, Maritime History, Museum, Rural Heritage, Vintage, World War Two

D-Day – 70 Years On – Hampshire Remembers


British Pathe ‘D-Day Landings’ (1944) from classic series ‘A Day That Shook The World’. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

When the Allied forces landed in Normandy, France on 6th June, 1944, it marked the beginning of the end of World War Two. D-Day (codename OVERLORD) was one of the greatest amphibious assaults of modern history and Hampshire was the nerve centre of military operations. Large numbers of troops embarked from ports along Hampshire’s coastline and the county’s various industries were crucial to the invasion’s successful outcome.

Hampshire was important because of its robust travel infrastructure which consisted of a comprehensive network of railways, established Sea Ports and developed industries. It was the perfect strategic location to centre a majority of the Country’s preparations for D-Day. Without access to all of these facilities, available within easy reach of the coast, the choice of Normandy as a location for the invasion of Europe would not have been possible.

This article tells Hampshire’s unique D-Day story, in the words of those who experienced it first-hand. Once the county’s best-kept secret it can now be re-told. These individuals made a vital contribution towards changing the course of world history forever and their stories must never be forgotten.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.


Preparations had begun in Hampshire several years before 1944. An extensive network of tunnels were excavated by Welsh and Belgian miners of the Pioneer Corps underneath Fort Southwick, Portsdown Hill near Portsmouth. Completed in 1942, the UGHQ at Fort Southwick became known as Portsmouth Naval Headquarters and had been fitted with all the latest telecommunications equipment. There were no lifts down to the tunnels. Staff had to negotiate, perhaps two or three times a day, the ‘dreaded steps’ to UGHQ, all one hundred and seventy-nine of them, if you used the eastern entrances.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay (1883-1945), coordinated Operation Overlord’s naval plans (codename NEPTUNE) at Fort Southwick from his office in nearby Southwick House. Southwick House, or Southwick Park as it was known back then, was HQ for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).

Diana Evans, a twenty-one year old Wren Switchboard Operator at Fort Southwick, recalls:

You could see all the ships beginning to line-up [for D-Day], and all these lanes [around Portsmouth] were full-up with tanks and people and men sleeping everywhere…they were coming in as a blessed battalion and they were all sleeping under tents and on the side of the road, wherever they could get. And then, all of a sudden, they were gone.

(Diana Evans, oral history, recorded 25.11.1997, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 5339A)

Marian Boothroyd (nee Heywood), a WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) Plotter, remembers that:

Special passes were issued to enable our entry to the “Underworld” which lay below many, many steps…The Plotting Room had several cameras located at strategic points around the Plotting Table in order to record the sequence of the plots. On one wall was a gigantic map which was used for plotting aircraft. There were two balconies, one for the Controller and Officers in charge and one at a higher level for the Teller and the Commander and his staff, who often put in an appearance, especially when allied shipping was being attacked.

After a few days I was fortunate to be offered the job as “Teller”. I loved it! I had direct telephone contact with “Sugar King” [The HQ for General Eisenhower] and also the Admiralty where Mr Churchill was located.  It was all so top secret, that small wonder I had been taken to “Sugar King” in a car which had all the windows completely blacked out.

The invasion force was plotted twice. On the first occasion, inclement weather prevented the force from proceeding but on the second attempt the multitude of ships set forth and the Plotting Table was saturated with the massive number of vessels which were taking part in the invasion of Normandy. At the end of this shift I had lost my voice. However, when the Commander complimented me on my work I was able to glow with pride…Plotting work continued until July 1944 and then we were posted to the radar station in Dunkirk, Kent.

(Marian Boothroyd (nee Haywood), oral history transcript from D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 750.1999/DD 1999.52.2)

Joan Faint, another Plotter with the WAAF, recalls:

On D-Day I must have been in a shelter because I remember being in a strange place when we were woken-up about 1.30am and told to report as quickly as possible. We couldn’t understand what the urgency was about when we went on duty but as time went on we couldn’t believe what was happening. The plotting table was saturated with ships of all sizes. The Wrens working behind us became very excited as the names of the ships were registered. They seemed to know someone on lots of the ships. It must have been a worrying time for them as we gradually realised what was happening.

We worked extremely long hours with short breaks. We didn’t feel tired at the time and certainly didn’t want to leave the plotting table. At the end of our stay we all received a letter of thanks from the Commander-in-Chief.

(Joan Faint, oral history transcript from D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 749.1999/DD 1999.52.1)

Wren Telephone Operator (Second Officer WRNS), Pat Blandford, found working underground difficult to adjust to at first. In some of the oral histories I read, given by former staff of UGHQ, several mention feeling ‘sick’ and ‘claustrophobic’ in the tunnels. These conditions were soon overcome as everyone adjusted to their surroundings and simply got on with the job in hand. Pat remembers:

There were large rooms with Plotting tables, and small tunnel-shaped rooms equipped with Teleprinters and Switchboards. Offices with desks and filing cabinets; a Galley and Wardroom, Dormitories and Wash-rooms….Early in the morning of 6th June, our waiting was ended. Officers of the three Services were standing around in groups and the strain showed on their faces. I had been on duty for 48 hours, with just short naps. and felt very tired.

Suddenly, one of my young Wrens shouted, “Maam, Maam, something is coming through”. The red light on the panel glowed brightly….I rushed to the position and listened. There it was – the long-awaited code word which meant so much. They were through at last. A cheer went-up and many young girls shed a tear. Maybe, a boyfriend was over there – it was a very emotional moment – one which I shall never forget.

(Pat Blandford, interview recorded April, 1991, oral history transcript in the D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 2001.687/DD 2000.5.2)

Diana Evans, Switchboard Operator (Combined Operations with the WAAFs) with the WRNS at Fort Southwick recalls:

We used to live down there for twenty-four hours when we were, sort of, on shift. You got time-off, obviously, and you’d get a couple of days off, but we used to sleep down there…. Then, one day, someone discovered we had nits! … But you don’t wonder when you are [down there] twenty-four hours, [sharing the] same blankets and bedding. Goodness knows what was down there…. We had to go for ultra-violet treatment, because they thought that [living] underground was not all that good for all these girls… [We got] undressed and sat in front of a big lamp. No suntan…The things you could get down there, if you weren’t careful, were verrucas, and I think possibly that was caused by the coin matting…We had to ask what the day was like outside [when we were working down in the tunnels].

I never went into the Plotting Rooms. We were very busy because we were connected-up to Southwick House. Well we had lines to everywhere. We had all the Air Force bombing places, and everywhere you could think of…All calls were scrambled…We had Post-Office engineers there twenty-four hours… There were also WRNS, WAAF Army Officers, Sergeants. Each Officer looked after two or three girls.

(Diana Evans, oral history, recorded 25.11.1997, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 5339A)

‘Eisenhower in Britain’ (1944). British Pathe film. Published on You Tube 13.4.2014.

©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).


In contrast to the difficult working conditions at Fort Southwick, SHAEF HQ at Southwick Park was a far more pleasant location with its spacious grounds, lake and dense wooded areas (deforested in the 1970s).  The house itself became the nerve centre of Operation Overlord. On the ground floor were offices of the Naval Staff Officers, Operation, Navigation, Landing Craft and Weather personnel together with their respective personal assistants. Also located on this floor was the famous Map Room.

©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).

Col(Retd) Jeremy T. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary, RHQ RMP at the Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG) introduces us to the famous Map Room at Southwick House. Interviewed by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube 4.6.2014.

©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.

On the first floor were the offices of General Field Marshal Montgomery (1887-1976), Captain Moore (Admiral Ramsay’s Secretary), Admiral Ramsay, General Eisenhower, Admiral Sir Maurice James Mansergh (1896-1966), Commander Powell, Staff Officers, Plans/Operations and Wren Baker. At its height, across all of the advanced command posts, of which Southwick was one,  SHAEF consisted of six thousand staff and seven hundred and fifty officers.

©Come Step Back In Time. Portrait of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. Portrait of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).

Wren Jean Gordon, who was on the secretarial staff at Southwick Park, remembers a painting in the main Operation Room (OR), that had been created by a Wren Messenger. It was an allegorical design of Neptune with ships, winds and the sea. The painting was put under glass on the table at which the Admirals sat, in the “Command Area” of the OR. (Jean Gordon, oral history, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key H.670.1990.5)

©Come Step Back in Time. A War Room pass for Southwick House. This pass was used by Wren Petty Officer Mabel Ena Howes, who was later awarded the British Empire Medal, Military Division for her wartime service. Item is held in the D-Day Museum Archives. Index Key: PORMG 1986.23.1
©Come Step Back in Time. A War Room pass for Southwick House. This pass was used by Wren Petty Officer Mabel Ena Howes, who was later awarded the British Empire Medal, Military Division for her wartime service. Item is held in the D-Day Museum Archives. Index Key: PORMG 1986.23.1

Another Wren, Jeanne Law, worked on Admiral Ramsay’s staff at Southwick having previously worked for him at ANCXF HQ, Norfolk House, London before moving with his elite team down to Hampshire on 26th April, 1944. When war began, Jeanne went to work at the Postal and Telegraph Centreship in London, censoring mail from Canadian Soldiers. She eventually became a Wren ‘White Paper Candidate’ which, after passing WRNS Board, meant she was put on a three month accelerated pathway to becoming a Wren Officer. After an initial period of training, she became a qualified WRNS writer.

During her interview at Norfolk House she recalls her first glimpse of what the job she was going for might entail:

We were shown into a room up on the naval floor, which was the third floor, and there were several officers there and there was one Wren Officer, who did the interviewing. We sat opposite her and I noticed that on the wall hanging behind her, there was a map of Normandy and on her desk she had closed the filed which was in front of her, which I read upside down, which said ‘Landing Craft’. So I realised what we were doing there then.

(Jeanne Law, oral history, interview recorded 27.2.1997. Transcript held in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key PORMG: 5333A)

Jeanne recalls being told by Admiral George Creasy (1895-1972) that whilst they were stationed at Southwick, not to walk in groups of more than two or three in case the enemy became suspicious of a large gathering. Staff at Southwick were not allowed to keep private diaries, take photographs or make personal telephone calls to the outside. So as not to alert local tradespeople that a large influx of staff had congregated at Southwick, additional food rations had not been ordered. Jeanne remembers living off of bread, margarine and peanut butter for quite some time after arriving. In one day she consumed eleven slices!

There are very few photographs/illustrations of Southwick Park in operation from 1944, save for a few official group photographs of the Commanders and other selected military personnel who worked alongside. There is a picture of the Map Room at Southwick painted in June, 1944 by Official War Artist Barnett Freedman (1901-1958). This painting is a rare and fascinating glimpse of the staff who worked in the room during D-Day. The whole operation at Southwick was conducted at the highest level of secrecy, staff had to sign an additional Official Secrets Act called BIGOT. This was codename for a security level beyond Top Secret.

Jeanne recalls what daily life was like at Southwick in 1944:

Our quarters were in a brick bungalow type building to the South West of the main house. We slept in the usual double berthed bunks with an ‘Ablution Block’ of lavatories and wash-basins attached to the building. There was an air-raid shelter nearby…Our steel cabinets and office equipment which we had packed-up ourselves after normal duty before leaving London [Norfolk House], arrived with us and was placed in Nissen Huts erected alongside the main house on the north eastern side on part of the driveway. Next to us was the Meteorological Hut with the “Weather Men”. The rest of the operational staff were in offices in Southwick House itself.

Montgomery was in his caravan in the woods behind us. Tedder [Arthur – 1890-1967] was somewhere else, I don’t know where he was, but he used to arrive in a white sports car, I was rather impressed. Well the Admiral and his staff and I think most of the officers were in Southwick House itself and we were working in a Nissen hut.

[Eisenhower] was quite shy really and he said, ‘good morning’ and he fled up the stairs, three at a time, a very fit man. We did see him quite often. On the day before D-Day, when they had just made their decision, we had been to get our pay, which was fifteen shillings and a soap coupon, and we were walking back when I heard the guard come to attention, and I said, ‘something’s happening let’s wait a minute’, and out of the door came Eisenhower and Ramsay and Tedder and Lee Mallory, and they saw us gorping at them, and Eisenhower gave us the thumbs up sign and we knew it was on.

Very early on the morning of D-Day, we hardly slept, and one of the girls in our room was a plotter and she came back just after midnight and she said, ‘I have plotted the first ship’.

I recall after the invasion we were allowed into Portsmouth and we borrowed awful old bicycles and I remember I used to bicycle into Fareham to have dinner.

(Jeanne Law, oral history, interview recorded 27.2.1997. Transcript held in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key PORMG: 5333A)

©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).

All troops and Army personnel were fully briefed by SHAEF four days prior to D-Day. All units were instructed to be sealed-off completely from the public and guarded by barbed wire as well as the military police. Only senior Officers knew the exact locations for invasion in Normandy. In order to ensure secrecy was maintained right up until the point of embarkation, troops were just briefed on the manoeuvres and told false locations. It was also at this briefing that the men were given their invasion currency and printed beach instructions.

©Come Step Back In Time. General Eisenhower, signed photograph that hangs on the wall of the the Eisenhower Room at Southwick House. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. General Eisenhower, signed photograph that hangs on the wall of the the Eisenhower Room at Southwick House. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. View from the French windows of General Eisenhower's former study which he used in 1944. Fort Southwick can be seen in the distance on Portsdown Hill. In 1944 the view was out onto a densely wooded area but this was deforested in the 1970s. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. View from the French windows of General Eisenhower’s former study which he used in 1944. Fort Southwick can be seen in the distance on Portsdown Hill. In 1944 the view was out onto a densely wooded area but this was deforested in the 1970s. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).

Following D-Day, staff at Southwick found themselves with quite a bit of free-time. However, in the immediate aftermath of June 6th, were far too exhausted to take advantage of movement restrictions being lifted. Many staff fell asleep at their desks having worked for days on end with little or no sleep. Jean remembers witnessing colleagues sleeping in the grounds, on the lawn or outside their Nissen Huts. Jeanne also recalls that the staff were given a bit of leave after D-Day and when she returned she discovered that Admiral Creasy had been taken off in an ambulance with exhaustion.

After a period of recuperation, staff did begin to explore their location. Wrens could often be seen cycling into Southwick village, sailing on the lake, going to the cinema in Portsmouth or picnicking on Hayling Island. Southwick’s Golden Lion pub was a favourite haunt of SHAEF HQ’s servicemen and women. The front bar was known as the ‘Blue Room’ and officially adopted as the Officers’ Mess.

‘Ready for The Day’ (1944). Showing preparations across Southern England in readiness for D-Day. Published by British Pathe on You Tube 13.4.2014.


In early 1944, Prime Minster Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) all met to discuss in detail the plans for D-Day. General Eisenhower had arrived in Britain earlier in the same year, on the 15th January.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

‘Ike Visits Monty’ (1944). Published by British Pathe on You Tube 13.4.2014.

It was essential that a dress rehearsal took place approximately one month before the main event. This operation was codenamed FABIUS. A full-scale exercise which took place at the end of April, beginning of May. The aim was to test all aspects of the land, sea and air forces ability to implement both Overlord and NEPTUNE (codename for naval plans).

Hampshire played a vital role in Operation Fabius. British and Canadian assault forces departed from Southampton and Portsmouth to mount a mock invasion on Littlehampton, Bracklesham Bay (Forces S  and J) and Hampshire’s Hayling Island (Force G). American units (Forces O and U) attacked Slapton Sands in Devon, in several phases, as part of the ill-fated Exercise Tiger in which many men died when German E-Boats sank two tank landing crafts (LCTs) and damaged a third.

Estimates for the number of men dead or missing at Slapton Sands, range from seven hundred and forty-nine to nearly a thousand. A final death toll has never been given for several reasons including the fact that the whole tragic incident was shrouded in secrecy for years afterwards. Surviving servicemen who took part in Exercise Tiger were threatened with Court Martial if they discussed what happened on that fateful Friday, 28th April. If events had become public knowledge then morale amongst servicemen would have been severely compromised at such a crucial stage during the preparations for D-Day.

In addition to the various military components and logistics, the contribution made towards D-Day preparations by the Home Front, not just in Hampshire but right across Britain and America, should not be underestimated. In order to equip an Allied force of this magnitude a comprehensive production programme had to be put in place.

Conscription for women was brought into force in Britain. In order to be exempted from conscription, a woman had to now prove that her husband’s war work or her children would be adversely affected by her absence.  It was no longer possible to give domestic responsibilities as a reason for exemption.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Fuel was rationed and raw materials amassed on an unprecedented scale. Aluminium saucepans were collected for smelting down into aircraft components and iron railings were removed from outside public buildings and private residences. Evidence of ‘stubs’ left following the mass removal of railings can still in many towns, villages and cities today.

From April, 1944, onwards, American, British and Canadian military personnel poured into Hampshire along with army contingents from Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Australia, Rhodesia, South Africa and New Zealand. Troops were recalled from theatres of war in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

By D-Day, over one and a half million American troops alone had arrived in Britain armed with their rifles, nylons and Hershey bars much to the sheer joy of local young ladies as well as small children. At Southampton’s Royal Pier Pavilion, American GIs were a familiar sight and at the Guildhall, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra played several dates to keep the troops entertained whilst waiting upon final orders for D-Day to come through.

American Army’s field kitchens provided their troops with a constant supply of apple pie, clam chowder and hamburgers, a familiar sight particularly at encampments on Southampton Common and in the New Forest. For local people who had been used to a diet controlled by rationing, this must have been quite an enviable spectacle.

At Warsash, near Southampton, there was one instance where American Army caterers chucked surplus food stuffs into the Hamble River. Large hams, meats and cheeses were simply thrown away as the date for embarkation drew nearer. Locals made a dash to River in order to claim their bounty. Customs’ officers from Southampton turned a blind-eye. The British remarked that the Americans were: ‘overfed, overpaid, over-sexed and over-here.’ To which their Atlantic cousins retorted that the Brits were: ‘underfed, underpaid, undersexed and under Eisenhower.’

Hoards of trucks, tanks and jeeps could be seen parked-up on Hampshire roadsides particularly in the southern half of the county. Bridges had to be strengthened and roads widened to accommodate heavy-duty traffic. Fields were soon full of army supplies and munitions. Sleepy rural idylls were turned into giant army encampments and country lanes became military car parks. Red-bricked estate boundary walls were covered in white-painted numerals to indicate where tanks and jeeps should be parked.

Local pubs were filled with military personnel and it wasn’t unusual for families to adopt the tank parked outside their house. Troops enjoyed good local hospitality many being invited indoors to join the family at mealtimes. Kitchen tables were often used by Officers to spread their maps out on.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Soldiers could be seen sleeping in hedgerows, on the roadside or by their vehicles. Following their initial arrival in Hampshire, troops would bide their time playing cards, writing letters and sharing friendly exchanges with the locals. Many other troops lived in temporary camps, mostly in wooded areas such as the New Forest or Forest of Bere. Both of these locations were close to embarkation points.

Men stationed in camps had reasonable facilities including showers, film-screenings areas and basic outdoor facilities to play sports such as softball, football, volleyball and table tennis. Southampton’s main parks and the Common became densely populated military camps and later marshalling areas prior to embarkation. The atmosphere, full of heightened expectation, must have been palpable.

©Come Step Back In Time. Canadian WW2 War Memorial, near Bolderwood, New Forest, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Canadian WW2 War Memorial, near Bolderwood, New Forest, Hampshire.

Canadian soldiers stationed in a remote part of the New Forest before D-Day, would gather for regular church services at a site were there is now a permanent memorial to the fallen. Men of the 3rd Canadian Division RCASC (the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) erected a cross on 14th April, 1944 were they all gathered for worship. The cross can still be seen today. Men of the 3rd Canadian Division and 2nd Armoured Brigade landed on Juno Beach, June 6th, 1944, suffering fourteen fatal casualties on that day. There were further losses in the weeks and months that followed.

On Friday, 2nd June, 1944, Winston Churchill arrived at a tiny railway station in the Hampshire hamlet of Droxford, not far from Southwick. Churchill was accompanied by members of the War Cabinet and overseas leaders (Charles de Gaulle, President William Lyon McKenzie King and Jan Smuts). Operation Overlord’s Commanders, based at Southwick, met with these political giants for one last conference before final orders to proceed were issued.

Droxford was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it was close to Southwick and secondly, the station was near to a railway tunnel, should there be an air raid, the train could back into the tunnel and obtain safe shelter. The overseas leaders also visited troop encampments and inspected vessels anchored on the Solent. Accompanying this illustrious team were a number of smartly dressed secretaries and personal aides. Everyone lived on the train from Friday 2nd until Sunday 4th June. A local farmer, living opposite the station, delivered fresh milk every morning and was escorted along the track to the train by an armed guard.

In the months prior to D-Day, airstrips across Hampshire witnessed an increase in traffic. Sites at Needs Ore Point, Beaulieu, Holmsley South, Ibsley, Lymington and Stoney Cross became fully operational. Portsmouth-based aircraft manufacturer, Airspeed Limited, built the famous Horsa gliders. These gliders were unique in that they had a higher percentage of timber used in their construction than traditional military aeroplanes. Both the control column and wheel on a Horsa were made of wood.

During the D-Day, sixty-eight Horsa gliders, carrying men of the 6th Airborne Division, along with four giant Hamilcars loaded with heavy equipment, headed for their landing zone. Forty-seven Horsas and two Hamilcars reached their destination. As daylight took hold, another two hundred and fifty gliders, most of which were Horsas, delivered seven thousand five hundred men directly into the battle zone.

On 31st May, 1944, troops were moved from their temporary encampments to begin boarding their landing crafts and ships. Communications and general entente cordiale with the locals was forbidden from this point onward. Along the South Coast there were a total of twenty-four embarkation points all with troop marshalling areas close by.

There were four embarkation points in Portsmouth and three in Gosport. The Eastern Docks of Southampton were used for docking the larger ships and the Western Docks sheltered landing crafts. Southampton Town Quay had three separate embarkation points for troops boarding landing crafts. Both the Isle of Wight and Hythe Ferry Terminals, as well as the Ocean Cruise Terminals, were used to full capacity.

Civilians living close to ports did not have the same degree of interaction with troops, following their initial arrival in the county, as they did in rural communities. On 31st March, 1944, a Regulated Area (No. 2) Order was issued whereby a ten mile wide coastal strip of land from the wash to Lands End meant that the movement of civilians was restricted, closed in fact to all visitors. In the city of Southampton, no-one was allowed to enter or leave the city without a permit. The only exception was for residents living on the Isle of Wight.

A subsequent Direction  (no.26) was issued on 19th April, 1944 and remained in force until 14th June, 1944. Southampton Docks were covered in camouflage and smoke screens  which was meant to ensure that dockside activity was obscured from enemy reconnaissance. However, there are reports of local citizens travelling on the top of double-decker buses in the city who were able to see soldiers making their tanks waterproof.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

On the night of 5th June, local people were woken by the sound of thousands of aircraft flying overhead. The invasion of Normandy had begun. When civilians awoke on the morning of 6th June all military vehicles and personnel had vanished overnight.

However, on 13th June, 1944, D-Day+7, Hitler attempted to have the last word when he ordered the launch of the first V1 flying bombs (Doodlebugs), London being the first target. Several days later, on 15th June, two hundred and forty-four V1’s were fired at the capital and fifty at Southampton. One month later on the 15th July, 1944, a V1 fell on Newcomen Road, Portsmouth, killing fifteen and injuring eighty-two.

©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).
©Come Step Back In Time. Southwick House (Southwick Park), Fareham, Hampshire. Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG).

Group Captain Sir J. Martin Stagg RAF (1900-1975) – D-Day & The Weather


Col(Retd) Jeremy J. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary RHQ RMP (at Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG)) explains in detail the significance of the weather and D-Day. Interview by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube 2.6.2014.

  1. In the above Podcast, Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time uses Stagg’s diary entries to piece together the facts behind the decision by Eisenhower to delay invasion by twenty-four hours based upon Stagg and his team’s detailed weather forecasts in June, 1944.

Extracts Below from Group Captain J. M. Stagg RAF –  ‘Report on the Meteorological Implications in the Selection of the Day for the Allied Invasion of France, 6th June, 1944’ 

(Copy in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 1990/745, original copy in The National Archives AIR 37/1124A)

I(a) For such a complex operation as a landing on a heavily fortified coast, it is not an easy matter to determine one set of meteorological conditions which would be ideal from the points of view of all arms concerned. The ideal conditions would change with each stage of operation; in the hours immediately preceding and following the actual hour of first landing, the conditions would vary almost from hour to hour.

Probably the only firm prerequisite is the restriction on the strength (and in part on the direction) of the surface wind with its immediate effect on the waves and surf on the landing beaches.

Hence, from the viewpoint of naval operations alone, the ideal conditions would be little or no wind within the actual sphere of operations and no swell-producing wind for the whole period covering the time of sailing of the assault forces to their landings on the beaches.

Visibility, as affected vertically by cloud and horizontally on the surface by fog, mist/haze, is one of the most important factors for the Air and Naval aspects of the operation.

There are other factors; for example, the condition of the ground in the operational area as regards softness (mudiness) for the movement of heavy vehicles both tracked and untracked. This factor is taken into account in the planning stages but in certain circumstances may also be important in deciding the day of assault.


(i) Surface winds should not exceed Force 3 (8-12 mph) on shore or Force 4 (13-18 mph) off-shore in the assault area during the days D to D plus 2. Winds might be Force 5 in the open sea but only for limited periods.

(ii) In the days preceding D-Day, there should be no prolonged periods of high winds of such direction and in such Atlantic areas as to produce any substantial swell in the Channel.

(iii) Visibility, not less than 3 miles.

Air Force Requirements

(i) Airbourne transport:

a) Cloud ceiling at least 2,500 feet along the route to and over the target area.

b) Visibility at least 3 miles.

(ii) Heavy Bombers:

a) Not more than 5/10 cloud cover below 5,000 feet and cloud ceiling not lower than 11,000 feet over the target area.

(iii) Medium and Fighter Bombers:

a) Cloud ceiling not less than 4,500 feet, visibility not less than 3 miles over the target area.

(iv) Fighter and Fighter Bombers:

a) Cloud base not less than 1,000 feet.

(v) Base areas:

a) Cloud not below 1,000 feet and visibility not below a mile except for heavy bombers for which there is the additional stipulation that low cloud tops must be less than 5,000 feet high and there should be only fragmentary middle cloud.

Army Requirements

i) Airborne Troop Landings:

a) For paratroops, the surface wind over the target area should not exceed 20 mph in the target area and should not be gusty; and for gliders the surface wind should not be over 30-35 mph.

b) The intensity of the ground illumination should be less than half moon at 30 degrees altitude or the equivalent in diffuse twilight.

ii) Ground Forces:

The ground should be sufficiently dry to allow movement of heavy vehicles off made-up roads.

Actual Weather Conditions According to Stagg For 5th & 6th June, 1944

  •  June, 5th, 1944 – 10/10 cloud over the assault area at 0600 hours and had been so during the night;
  • June 6th, 1944, 0100 – Wind W. Force 3  Cloud 7/10-10/10 3,000-5,000 ft; 0400 – Wind WNW Force 3, cloud 4/10-6/10, 3,000ft, 05.45 – Beachhead clear with 6/10 low, cloud inland, 0800 – Wind WNW Force 3-4, cloud 7/10-9/10.
  • Late afternoon clouds broke and cleared over the Channel. 1700 – Wind WNW Force 4 (Force 5 at times) cloud clear over Channel but 6/10-9/10 over beachhead and further inland. Clear area over the Seine estuary (N. value for airborne, glider flight). 1800 –  Cloud, Cherbourg 4/10-6/10, 3,000-5,000 ft, Havre 1/10-2/10, 2,000-3,000 ft.

‘Factory-made Invasion Harbour’ (1944). Fascinating film by British Pathe about the Mulberry Harbours including lots of original footage. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014

Mulberry & Gooseberry Harbours  & PLUTO

Thought to be one of the greatest feats of engineering in the twentieth century, the Mulberry and Gooseberry harbours were a crucial part of Operation Overlord and Neptune. These pre-fabricated harbours provided shelter and enabled troop reinforcements, as well as all of their equipment, to be landed in France following the initial invasion of the Normandy beaches.

These artificial harbours, both the size of Dover, were operational from D-Day+10 until, and after, Cherbourg was liberated. They were made to last for ninety days. There were two Mulberry harbours, Mulberry A and Mulberry B, one at Arromanches for the British forces and another at Utah beach, for the Americans. Unfortunately, Mulberry A was put out of use on D-Day+15 (21st June) following several days of severe storms in Normandy.

The harbours and associated structures were constructed and stored at various sites in Southern Hampshire:

  • Lepe (Stone Point), Stokes Bay (Gosport) and Hayling Island – all beach locations and chosen for their small tidal range;
  • No. 5 Dry Dock, adjacent wet berths and the Inner Dock, Southampton (twelve of the largest caissons were built here);
  • Beaulieu. Some of the smaller caissons were built here in April/May, 1944;
  • No. 7 Dry Dock, Southampton. The steel Bombardons were constructed here.

Construction of the various components began in December, 1943, although planning had started a long while beforehand. The whole project was, like all other aspects of Operation Overlord, highly secretive. Every component had a separate codename. At is peak, there were forty-five thousand men working on the project, drawn from a nationwide workforce at a time when labour was in short supply. The workers were a mix of Irishmen, conscripted local teenagers and middle-aged men who were employed as scaffolders, steel benders and steel erectors. The harbours consisted of:

  • deep water shipping, floating, breakwaters for the larger ships (BOMBARDON);
  • floating pierhead units;
  • roadways (WHALES);
  • temporary in-shore breakwaters (made-up of sunken blockshops known as the GOOSEBERRY harbours);
  • steel floats (BEETLES) which were used to rest the articulated steel sections that formed the roadways;
  • SPUDS. These were vertical steel columns that supported the steel pontoons;
  • permanent in-shore breakwaters;
  • RHINOS. Pontoons fitted with two outboard motors. Each pontoon had its own tug;
  • reinforced concrete caissons (PHEONIXES) – these were sunk in situ to support the pierheads and floating roadways. They provided the main breakwater or harbour wall and two hundred and thirteen of them were built.

Lepe (Stone Point), near Exbury, Hampshire was both a construction site and embarkation point for six thousand troops on D-Day itself. The site was established within a very short space of time.  Wilson Lovatt & Son were the firm chosen to manage this site with technical assistance provided by Messrs Holloway Brothers (London) Limited. Seven hundred men worked on construction of the Mulberry Harbours at Lepe. Letters have survived (Cadland Estate archives) that show some of the labourers were caught stealing chickens, poaching and vandalising a bathing hut on the nearby Cadland House estate.

©Come Step Back In Time. Lepe (Stone Point), Hampshire was also the site where PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean also known as Pipeline Underwater Transport of Oil) began. Work on Pluto began in August, 1943.  The Shell-Mex/BP oil storage plant at Hamble was selected as the supply base for the project. Seventy miles of flexible pipe was wound onto vast drums known as Conums and then towed by two powerful tugs. The submarine pipelines pumped oil directly from the south coast to the shores of Europe and at one point reached Germany. The planning team for Pluto was based at H.M.S. Abatos which was actually the requisitioned bombed remains of the former Supermarine Spitfire Factory. Pumping stations were built at Sandown on the Isle of Wight which fed Cherbourg (four pipes) and Dungeness, Kent which fed Boulogne (sixteen pipes).
©Come Step Back In Time. Lepe (Stone Point), Hampshire was also the site where PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean also known as Pipeline Underwater Transport of Oil) began. Work on Pluto started in August, 1943. The Shell-Mex/BP oil storage plant at Hamble was selected as the supply base for the project. Seventy miles of flexible pipe was wound onto vast drums known as Conums and then towed by two powerful tugs. The submarine pipelines pumped oil directly from the south coast to the shores of Europe and at one point reached Germany. The planning team for Pluto was based at H.M.S. Abatos which was actually the requisitioned bombed remains of the former Supermarine Spitfire Factory. Pumping stations were built at Sandown on the Isle of Wight which fed Cherbourg (four pipes) and Dungeness, Kent which fed Boulogne (sixteen pipes).

Archaeological remains of the former construction site at Lepe can still be seen today (more of which has revealed itself following the Valentine’s Day storms earlier this year). Some of the above ground archaeology includes:

  • On the northern half of the site a long, raised, concrete and brick platform where the PHEONIX caissons were assembled;
  • On the southern half of the site at platform end are slipways and winch-house foundations used to launch the casissons sideways into the sea at high tide;
  • There are remains of concrete hardstandings and beach hardening mats (which look like giant bars of chocolate);
  •  Jetties used for the embarkation of the troops and vehicles;
  • Two bollards on the hardstanding were used to secure vessels during the loading.

Editor of Come Step Back in Time discussing the importance of the Mulberry Harbours and explores the site at Lepe (Stone Point), near Exbury. In the background behind Emma, you can see the two ‘Dolphin’ iron structures. These are the remains of jetties used to load vessels.

©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.

D-Day Beach Landing (1944). Original footage showing British troops landing in Normandy. British Pathe War Archives. Uploaded to You Tube 21.12.11.


This is the opportunity which we have long-awaited and which must be seized and pursued with relentless determination. Let no one underestimate the magnitude of the task. I count on every man to do his utmost to ensure the success of the great enterprise which is the climax of the European War.

(Special Order of The Day issued to each Officer and man, June 1944 by B.H. Ramsay, Admiral Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief Expeditionary Force)

To all soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed Peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world. The free men of the world are marching together for victory.

(Special Order of The Day issued to each Officer and man, June 1944 by General Eisenhower)

There were five assault beaches involved in the Normandy landings. Utah, Omaha (American) and Gold, Juno and Sword (British and Canadian). Juno beach was original to be called ‘Jelly’ but it was thought inappropriate to send any man to die on a beach called ‘Jelly’.

Conditions aboard LCTs were appalling. A heavy weather swell on the ten-mile Channel crossing to Normandy resulted in men suffering from dreadful seasickness. The anti-sickness tablets issued were not really that effective. Cold, wet, tired, dizzy with nausea and weighed down with heavy kit, men descended into four feet deep water.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

In several oral history testimonies by D-Day veterans, men describe being hit by an overwhelming stench of cordite, fuel fumes and smoke upon embarkation in Normandy. Many state the moment you stepped off of the landing craft into the water, it was a fight for your life, the hardest ten yards you will ever have to travel. Survivors were also left with terrible deafness from the continuous artillery bombardments.

On landing, each man was handed two anti-seasickness tablets, a small collapsible cooker with methylated spirit blocks and forty-eight hours worth of dehydrated food…As each LCT was fully loaded it took up its position in the armada and then as D-Day was postponed for twenty-four hours we rode-out the storm off of the Isle of Wight. The two tablets did not work.

(Mr R.R. Ridley, Royal Artillery, Sword Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)

Naval personnel were shouting ‘Get ashore’… over the ship’s side, still dizzy from seasickness, and into water 4ft deep, each one let out a gasp as the water swirled around, and we struggled for sure. It was the hardest ten yards I ever did, but we all got ashore.

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

(Eric Broadhead, Durham Light Infantry, Landing on Gold Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)

Being only 5ft 7, I was in water up to my chest…I stepped into a crater and went under. My buddy next to me grabbed my pack straps and just dragged me along until my feet found bottom again…I was carrying 40lbs of special equipment that would have kept me anchored to the bottom.. Hitting the beach was an experience I would never want to repeat. I was just nineteen years old, very scared and seasick again. My only clear thought was to get on solid land as quick as possible.

(Mr T. C. Campbell, US 1st Engineer Special Brigade, Utah Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)

Instead of our regular packs we had been issued assault jackets, a sort of vest-like garment…In the various pockets we stored K-rations, a quarter pound of dynamite with fuses, hand grenades, smoke grenades, medical kit (a syringe, morphine)…We had two slings of ammo belts slung across our shoulders. On our backs we carried an entrenching tool, a bayonet and poncho…As assistant to the flame thrower, I carried his rifle and pack…Altogether, our equipment weighed about 70lbs.

(John Barnes, US 116th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

On approaching the beach there was a craft going in right alongside of us, LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel) which is a smaller craft which holds thirty troops, and some them hit floating landmines and so forth, and you know, they exploded and you would see a guy flying through the air with his rifle and everything, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t stop and help those people.

(Henry Martin USN, on board LCT 586, Omaha Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)

©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

By midnight on the 6th June, all initial assault forces, with the exception of those on OMAHA beach, had gained a majority of their objectives. One hundred and thirty thousand men had landed from the sea and twenty-three thousand troops had landed from the air. Eleven thousand Allied troops were either killed, injured or missing. The Allies met with mixed resistance from the Germans but the 21st Panzer Division did manage to initially keep hold of Caen and its neighbouring airfields.

On D-Day and during the Battle for Normandy, more than forty thousand Allied soldiers and over two hundred thousand Axis soldiers died.

Poem that was reprinted in the 'Southwick Siren', news journal of CHQ, Fort Southwick. This is from the D-Day issued of that journal. The donor, Sub Lieutenant Derek Watson RNVR, served on Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay's staff in the Plotting Room at Fort Southwick. He was on duty on D-Day, from 0800 hours to lunchtime. This item is from the D-Day Museum Archives. Index Key PORMG 1994.41.
Poem that was reprinted in the ‘Southwick Siren’, news journal of CHQ, Fort Southwick. This is from the D-Day issued of that journal. The donor, Sub Lieutenant Derek Watson RNVR, served on Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay’s staff in the Plotting Room at Fort Southwick. He was on duty on D-Day, from 0800 hours to lunchtime. This item is from the D-Day Museum Archives. Index Key PORMG 1994.41.


 Normandy veteran and life-long Portsmouth resident John Jenkins, who served in the Pioneer Corps, recalls his experiences of D-Day. Filmed at the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth. Uploaded to You Tube by the D-Day Museum 4.2.2014.

©Come Step Back In Time.  Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, statue opposite the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
©Come Step Back In Time. Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, statue opposite the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.


  • Brown, Mike, A Child’s War: Growing-Up On The Home Front 1939-45, Sutton Publishing, (2001)
  • Burton, Lesley, D-Day: Our Great Enterprise, Gosport Society, (1984)
  • Christie RN (Retd.), Lt. G. History of Fort Southwick: 1942-1974 (c.1970s)
  • Davies, Ken, New Forest Airfields, A Niche Publication (1992)
  • Doughty, Martin, (Ed.) Hampshire and D-Day, Southgate Publishers Ltd (1994
  • Fleming, Pat, (Ed.) D-Day: 50th Anniversary of The Normandy Landings. The Official Guide to Anniversary Events, Southern Newspapers PLC, (1993)
  • Frankland, Claire et al, Southampton Blitz: The Unofficial Story, Oral History Team, Southampton City Council (1990)
  • Leete, John In Time of War: Hampshire, Sutton Publishing, (2006)
  • Middleton, D. H., Airspeed: The Company and Its Aeroplanes, Terence Dalton Ltd (1982)
  • Peckham, Ingrid, et al (Eds.) Southampton and D-Day, Southampton City Council (1994)
  • Pomeroy, Stephen (Ed.) Women At War, Portsmouth WEA Local History Group (2010)
  • Podcast – Stagg’s Diaries and Reports. Copies of weather forecasts for Operation Neptune and Overlord, including the diary of Group Captain J. M. Stagg, RAF, and his report are available to view at the D-Day Museum Archive. Index Key: PORMG: 1990.745. Originals are held in The National Archives (AIR 37.1124A).
  • D-Day Museum Archive. Numerous documents consulted. Most of the extracts used in the above article include an Index Key reference as part of their citation. If you wish to consult a particular oral history I have mentioned, it would be helpful to the Archive if you could include the Index Key when making your enquiry.

Further Resources & Special Thanks

  • D-Day Museum & D-Day Museum Archive. A special thank-you to Andrew Whitmarsh from the D-Day Museum for advising me so thoroughly during my research for this article. The quality of material kept in the D-Day Museum Archive is exceptional. After an initial consultation, Andrew prepared for me a comprehensive bundle of papers which I found invaluable. I would urge anyone researching this topic to consult the D-Day Museum’s Archive first. For details on how to access the collection, Click Here;
  • Southwick House, Southwick Park, Hampshire (Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG). I would like to thank the DSPG staff at Southwick House for hosting such a successful filming day and also for sharing their extensive knowledge of the location’s historic connections with D-Day. In particular, Col(Retd) Jeremy T. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary at RHQ RMP. Public visits to the house and its famous Map Room are strictly by appointment only. However, please do not let this put you off as it is fairly easy to organise a visit. There is also a Royal Military Police Museum adjacent to the main house as well as a Royal Navy Police Museum and a Royal Air Force Police Museum. For further information about the site and details of how to arrange a visit, Click Here. Please note that you will be required to bring Photo ID along with you on your visit as the site is still an operational military base;
  • Portsmouth History Centre, Portsmouth Central Library. I would like to thank the extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff who work at the Portsmouth History Centre. The Centre is an excellent resource for local history of both the Portsmouth area and also Southern Hampshire. For access details and opening times please, Click Here. Please note that you will be required to bring with you Photo ID as well as something with your name and address on, such as a utility bill. You can also use the collection if you have a CARN card.

    ©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
    ©Come Step Back In Time. Exhibit from the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire.



Posted in Archaeology, Decorative Arts, History, Maritime History, Museum, World War One, World War Two

Gun Shells Into Vases & Rat Skins Into Wallets – The Art of Souveniring: Stories From The Great War Part 7

A silent film by British Pathe, ‘A Good Use For Zeppelins’, World War One. Published on You Tube, 13.4.2014. The remains of a zeppelin made into souvenirs, usually napkin rings, for the benefit of the War Seals Foundation. In 1916, the British War Office donated aluminium from another zeppelin to be made into souvenirs to be sold to benefit employees of the London and North-Western Railway who had been wounded in the war.

Collecting souvenirs was often a risky business. There are many contemporary accounts of soldiers taking foolhardy risks in order to acquire that unusual trophy, the danger itself probably adding to the value of the piece. So commonplace was it for a soldier to be killed or wounded while ‘souveniring, that it was often reported almost nonchalantly.

(Saunders, N. J., Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide 1914-1939, Pen & Sword Military, 2011, p.122)

The inspiration for this article came from a visit to my family at Easter. I noticed a couple of German artillery shells on the mantelpiece filled with yellow Chrysanthemums. A novel use for  ‘spent ammunition’, I thought. Naturally, the historian in me was keen to find-out more.

Embed from Getty Images
Women filling shells with shrapnel at the Krupp works, Germany, c.1916.

The outer shells of both vases are decorated in relief depicting scenes from history including Hannibal crossing the Alps. My relative knew very few details about provenance and backstory of these objects which were given to her by a friend.

Detail of German shell cases, now turned into vases, belonging to one of my family members. Date-stamped on bottom, 1916. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Detail of German shell cases, now turned into vases, belonging to one of my relatives. Headstamp on bottom shows year to be 1916. ©Come Step Back In Time.

My relative told me that the shells were produced in a German munitions factory in World War One. The headstamp is inscribed: ‘Patronenfabrik Karlsruhe and Fried Krupp A.G.’.  Krupp A.G. were founded in 1811 and during World War One manufactured munitions, heavy guns (16.5 inch howitzer known as “Big Bertha”, only four of these were made), barbed wire, stainless steel and eighty-four U-boats for the German Navy. The latter were built at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft, a shipbuilding company in the harbour at Kiel. After World War One, Krupp supplied steel teeth and jaws for wounded veterans. Krupp A.G. remained the world’s leading steelmakers and arms manufacturers until the end of World War Two. The Krupp dynasty were also plagued by a number of high-profile scandals in the twentieth century but I will leave you to Google these for yourself!

The base of one of the shell case vases. The inscription confirms that that the shell was manufactured by Fried Krupp A.G., 1916 at the Cartridge Factory Karlsruhe, Germany. The two 'flaming bomb' symbols are found on all cartridge castings made by Patronenfabrik Karlsruge for the Army and Navy in World War One.  ©Come Step Back In Time.
Base of shell casing. The inscription confirms that the shell was manufactured by Fried Krupp A.G., 1916 at the Cartridge Factory Karlsruhe, Germany. The two ‘flaming bomb’ symbols are found on all cartridge casings made by Patronenfabrik Karlsruhe for the Army and Navy during World War One. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Designs on the shell casings have been created by a technique known as ‘acid-etching’ and this example was likely to have been produced at Bezalel School of Arts in Jerusalem in the 1920s. Unfortunately, some of the detail has been lost due to years of over-polishing, which is a great shame but a common problem with these brass objects.

©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
Embed from Getty Images
October,1914. The gun-finishing workshop in the Krupp armament factory at Essen, where the great ‘coal-box’ siege-guns were made. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Embed from Getty Images
The Krupp gun factory number 1, Essen, Germany, 1917. Krupp supplied the German army’s heavy artillery pieces during World War One. A photograph from Der Grosse Krieg in Bildern. (Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images).

Researching the subject of ‘souveniring’ and Trench Art, of which these shell cases are  particularly fine examples, has been fascinating. There is a lot written about this topic. Trench Art (sometimes called Soldier Art) is the collective term used to refer to war souvenirs that have been re-fashioned into everyday items or works of art. These objects represent a remembrance of war. Archaeologist, Nicholas Saunders, points-out:

Trench Art in the home was a way of linking the desolated individual with the wider community of bereaved, through shared displays of objects and also ensured that memories were always just a glance away. For the bereaved, placing a metal letter-opener, bullet-crucifix, or pair of polished shells on the mantelpiece, in the hallway or on a bedside dresser – perhaps next to a photograph of the deceased – was a constant reminder of the loved one.

(Saunders, N. J., Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide 1914-1939, Pen & Sword Military, 2011, p.129)

During World War One, these items were often used as ‘currency’, by soldiers and civilians, to purchase food and other sundries. It is important to note here that most Trench Art was created away from the trenches, contrary to what the name suggests. During quieter periods of non-action, it is true that some soldiers did make objects out of ballistic detritus but most items were made by POWs and convalescing soldiers (as handicraft therapy). Civilians with an artistic eye also produced Trench Art. These attractive mementos were sold to make extra cash or raise funds for war-related charitable causes.  Regimental badges were turned into ‘sweetheart jewellery’ which soldiers gave to their wives or girlfriends back home.  After the war, battlefield tourists would purchase a piece of Trench Art as a souvenir of their visit.

Prisoners of war on both sides of the conflict produced an amazing variety of artifacts made for sale to soldiers or civilians in areas near the camps in which they were interned. Some camps held artistic exhibitions in which these handicrafts were offered for sale to the public. British civilians in Ruhleben, a camp outside Berlin, produced a number of objects made by melting down silver coins. They also made inventive use of available materials such as rat skins to make leather wallets. Many of these items were sent home as souvenirs to their families in Britain. German prisoners in Britain created flower vases and napkin rings using mutton and beef bones from their rations, while Turkish prisoners made realistic snakes and other objects from beads. Russian prisoners made use of their woodworking skills to produce carved cigarette boxes and other items. Members of the Royal Naval Division interned in Holland crafted a variety of wooden boxes and picture frames. When brass and aluminum were made available to prisoners, many of them made souvenir shell vases, match box covers or letter openers to sell to their captors or to nearby civilians.

….time has obscured the provenance of many of these pieces forever. As they are dredged from basements and attics, relics of a long forgotten war, and sold or consigned to second hand or antique shops or sold at estate sales, objects are forced to speak for themselves. Some pieces, with specific names, units, battles and dates are eloquent. . .most have drifted far from their original moorings.

(Kimball, J. A., Trench Art of the Great War and Related Souvenirs, [1989] 2005, accessed on-line 13.4.14)

Lovely examples of Trench Art on display in the World War One Gallery at the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, Hampshire. (Left) Paper knives made from .303 bullets and shell cases. (Right) Pen made by Royal Marine in 1916 from two .303 rifle bullets. Another example of Trench Art, World War One. Two shell cases on display at Corfe Museum, Dorset. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Lovely examples of Trench Art on display in the World War One Gallery at the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, Hampshire. (Left) Paper knives made from .303 bullets and shell cases. (Right) Pen made by Royal Marine in 1916 from two .303 rifle bullets. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Another example of Trench Art, World War One. Two shell cases, commemorating the battles of Ypres and Somme, on display at Corfe Museum, Dorset. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Further examples of Trench Art, World War One. Two shell cases, commemorating the battles of Ypres and Somme, on display at Corfe Museum, Dorset. ©Come Step Back In Time.

I had no idea how widespread the practice of ‘souveniring’ was during World War One. Shrapnel, buttons, helmets, gun cartridges, bullets and shells were some of the more traditional items procured from the battlefield. Fine examples of Trench Art can be found in Museums across the world, antique stores and on-line auction sites. However, many of these objects can be found in a domestic setting, often handed down between generations or exchanged as gifts amongst friends. But sadly, as Jane Kimball points-out above, objects such as the vases belonging to my relative, have now become detached from their owners and therefore much of their original sentimental value has been lost.

One of the most famous soldiers who dabbled in the art of  ‘souveniring’ was Liverpudlian John “Barney” Hines (1873-1958). His story is extraordinary, in northern France he has become a bit of a legend amongst the region’s treasure-hunters where ploughed fields still expel ‘iron harvest’ a century later. Hines began his military career serving in the Royal Navy and then joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His first campaign was the Second Boer War (1899-1902) where he unfortunately contracted malaria.

When World War One broke-out, Hines had only just emigrated to Australia. He volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in August, 1915. Early 1916, he was discharged as being medically unfit. However, as the war progressed and the need for men increased, recruitment rules, particularly in relation to medical fitness, were relaxed. In August, 1916, Hines took the opportunity to re-enlist and was sent to the Western Front in May, 1917 where he remained until June, 1918. Unfortunately, his health continued to hamper his active service which eventually resulted in another medical discharge, this time due to problems with his haemorrhoids.

Apart from his ongoing health problems, Hines had a number of character traits that made him a less than ideal ‘poster-boy’ for the forces. Hines was illiterate and prone to periods of erratic behaviour, he also enjoyed a drop or two of the ‘good old amber nectar’ even trading some of his treasured souvenirs for alcohol and more seriously, a stolen horse for a bottle of whiskey. On another occasion, he supposedly ‘found’ suitcases, full of French Francs, in a bank. Another incident involved a grandfather clock which he had purloined and brought back to his trench, much to the frustrations of his colleagues. The clock didn’t remain for long, its chimes attracted enemy attention so his fellow soldiers blew it to bits. His military records show that he was court martialed no less than nine times for drunkenness and a further entry shows he went AWOL after a bout of stealing.

However, having said all of that, Hines was actually a competent soldier. On one occasion, June, 1917, he captured sixty Germans by throwing hand grenades into their pillbox at the Battle of  Messines. A heroic deed that most soldiers would receive a recommendation for military honours. However, due to his behaviour between these periods of fighting, one action certainly cancelling out the other, his brave efforts were overlooked. He was never decorated during his military career. Hines ended his days, in abject poverty, sleeping rough on the outskirts of Sydney until he eventually died in January, 1958, aged eighty-four.

Embed from Getty Images
John ‘Barney’ Hines  known as ‘Wild Eye’ or ‘the Souvenir King’. This photograph, taken by Frank Hurley, propelled John Hines into the limelight when it was published. Hurley took the photograph in France on the morning of 27th September, 1917, after the Battle of  Polygon Wood. Hines is pictured surrounded by ‘souvenirs’ he collected during the fighting, including various German weapons and personal effects. This photograph is from an album called ‘Official Australian War Photographs’, produced by the Australian War Records Section which was established by the British government in 1917. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Posted in Archaeology, Decorative Arts, Exhibition, History, Literature, Museum, Review, World War One

Charmed Life: The Solace of Objects – Exhibition at Winchester Discovery Centre

Unstrung - wax on mirror back series, 2011.© Felicity Powell
Unstrung – wax on mirror back series, 2011.© Felicity Powell

It seems that the soul… loses itself in itself when shaken and disturbed unless given something to grasp on to; and so we must always provide it with an object to butt up against and to act upon.

(Michel de Montaigne, Essais, 1580)

I recently visited the exhibition, Charmed Life: The Solace of Objects, currently on at The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre until 14th April, 2013. Free admission. Charmed Life is a touring exhibition of three hundred and eighty amulets from the Wellcome Collection, London in partnership with Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and curated by artist Felicity Powell. The exhibition was originally part of the Miracles & Charms programme, exploring the ordinary in the everyday, organised by the Wellcome Collection and which opened on 6th October 2011 and ran until 26th February 2012.

Conjuring coral - wax on mirror back series, 2011. © Felicity Powell
Conjuring coral – wax on mirror back series, 2011. © Felicity Powell

Charmed Life is beautiful and challenging. If you are interested in social history and visual art, this exhibition is the perfect combination of both and suitable for children too. Whilst viewing Charmed Life, a number of families arrived, the children were fascinated by the bizarre array of objects on display, the mole feet amulet proved particularly popular.

Amulets have appeared throughout history and across cultures in a variety of forms. They are tiny embodiments of the anxieties we feel and their assumed powers often draw on the dark arts of superstition and magic. Those on display range from simple coins to meticulously carved shells, dead animals to elaborately fashioned notes. The objects in the exhibition were collected by the banker and obsessive folklorist Edward Lovett (1852-1933) who scoured London by night, buying curious objects mostly from the East End.

Edward Lovett lived in Croydon and his huge collection grew from his fascination with folklore, charms, amulets and superstitions. He worked as a banker at the Bank of Scotland in the City of London and ‘ his leisure time he took great pleasure in his collecting trips to the working-class areas of London. He acquired a wealth of material from sites such as herbalist shops, the barrows of costermongers and the city’s dockyards, collecting from people neglected by most historians.’  (Felicity Powell, Charmed Life, booklet, 2011).

In 1916, at the Wellcome Collection (formerly known as the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum) he curated the exhibition The Folklore of London and in 1925 he published a book, Magic in Modern London. In this publication he describes the strange little mole feet that amused the exhibition’s young visitors: ‘The front feet of a mole are permanently curved for digging, and this curved appearance is so suggestive of cramp that these feet are carried as a cure for cramp. (I have also found this superstition quite common on the continent).’

Blue glass beads, displayed in a perspex, wall-mounted cabinet, also caught my eye. Lovett writes about these in Magic in Modern London: ‘In the year 1914, I heard of a remarkable case of prejudice, or superstition, as to the wearing of blue glass beads by children as a cure for, or rather, a prophylactic against bronchitis. They are put on the necks of very young children and never taken off, not even when the wearers are washed or bathed. They are not taken off even at death.’

Lovett had a particular fascination with these blue glass beads and set-out to create a map of London showing exact locations where the beads were being sold. ‘I made a rough outline sketch of a map of London taking in…. 26 districts. I took it quite easily by devoting one day to each of these places…the shops where I made my enquiries were of two classes; viz: A poor class shop..[and] a better class of shop…every shop of the low-class recognised the blue beads as a cure for bronchitis, but not a single shop of the better class knew anything about it, or if they did would not admit it.’ I know several people who wear a St. Christopher around their neck and never remove it for anything or anybody, in case its protective properties should disappear.

Runaway tree - wax on mirror back series, 2009. © Felicity Powell
Runaway tree – wax on mirror back series, 2009. © Felicity Powell

A majority of amulets, selected by Felicity from Lovett’s Collection, appear as a river of objects in the exhibit, ‘The Table’ which is a perspex, horseshoe-shaped display case located at the heart of the gallery. Felicity explains: ‘Lovett collected stories as well as objects. He was passionate about collecting. Horseshoes were thought to protect the person against night nerves.’

I was transfixed by Felicity’s taxonomy of amulets which had been so carefully and precisely arranged. Although curated with precision, these objects lost none of their beauty by being repositioned in a different context. A context which no longer consigns the object to a concealed existence as a harbinger of sympathetic magic. These amulets, now protected by their perspex shell, have been freed to create new narratives, drawing the viewer into the powerful world of belief. ‘The ebb and flow of objects across the table introduces us to a visually led taxonomy that links the amulets materially, thematically and by association, allows for insights that emerge across the groupings…Each object speaks of a physical relationship to the world and most particularly to our bodies.’ (Felicity Powell, Charmed Life, booklet, 2011).

The categories of objects displayed in ‘The Table’ include: against nightmares; on concealment, flesh and bone; against lightning; thunderbolts; plants;  nail, tooth and claw; foodstuffs and journey; game charms; a parade of shoes; on glass and artifice; of the sea and sailors; against the evil eye; pressed metal; votives and shrines; varied hearts; on roundness; stones with holes; fossils, crosses and phalluses and key attachments. The amulets range from obvious symbols of protection (such as a crystal and silk thread to be hung from your umbrella, protecting you against a lightning strike) to the more grotesque and macabre (the tip of a rabbit’s tongue against poverty). I was particularly drawn to a tiny little pot, which had the inscription ‘rice thrown for luck at a wedding, Caterham, September, 05’ [1905], the owner of this miniscule keepsake obviously hoping that the good ‘luck’ would rub-off onto them wherever they carried it.

Felicity tells me: ‘Amulets would have been concealed upon a person and have meant something to the individual who carried them. Each amulet has their own fascinating story to tell, particularly about the human need to connect to objects which transcends time periods, cultures and classes. During the course of my research I became fascinated by ‘touch-pieces’. In the original 2011 exhibition, we had Dr Johnson’s touch-piece from The British Museum. This type of coin was believed to be imbued by the divine touch of a monarch and would be worn around the owner’s neck as a cure for individuals suffering from scrofula, a disease of the lymphatic system, from which Dr Johnson himself suffered. The coin was given to him by Queen Anne in 1711. Occasions where these coins were given-out were huge theatrical events. Dr Johnson wore the touch-piece around his neck for the rest of his life.’

Heart-shaped late medieval bronze heart found in the grounds of Hyde Abbey.©Winchester City Museums.
Heart-shaped late medieval bronze heart found in the grounds of Hyde Abbey.©Winchester City Museums.

A clever curatorial twist in the exhibition was the inclusion of two archaeological artifacts local to Hampshire. Felicity tells me: ‘I was presented with a choice of six artifacts from Winchester City Museum. I chose two objects whose provenance I felt to be in-keeping with the other amulets in the exhibition. A Roman lead curse and a late medieval heart-shaped amulet of bronze that had been found in grounds of Hyde Abbey, near Winchester.’

The lead tablet is from the Roman town of Silchester (4th Century AD) and was originally folded but is now opened-up to reveal a curse which interestingly contains named individuals. The curse reads: ‘Him who was stolen, let the god give a nasty blow.’ The folded section of the tablet is where the names were concealed. This amulet is not designed to offer protection.

Roman lead curse (4th century AD).©Winchester City Museums.
Roman lead curse (4th century AD).©Winchester City Museums.

Charmed Life also contains new pieces and videos by Felicity Powell including an etched coin (‘Against insomnia, for sleep, against amnesia, for memory’ 2011) and eighteen small-scale wax artworks, part of a larger ongoing series, that relate directly to amulets in the Lovett collection. The hauntingly beautiful music featured in both videos is by composer William Basinski. The video, Sleight of Hand, shows part of the process of making the wax artworks. ‘Powell filmed the making of her own small-scale works in wax with an overhead camera, revealing how they take shape, and playing with the sense that making and engaging with objects is in itself rather like being under a spell. The scale of the projection offers a counterbalance to the intricacy of the waxes themselves and allows the possibility of revealing things that are otherwise hard to see with the naked eye.’ (Felicity Powell, Charmed Life booklet, 2011). The translucent, white and red wax pieces have been modelled in low relief on the backs of mirrors with the imagery worked out directly on the mirror surface. The basic shape is laid down in wax applied with the fingers and then details are refined with dental tools. The wax on mirror back series is full of delicate imagery that appears to be in a constant state of flux, which Felicity describes as ‘morphing between states of being.’

Bees - wax on mirror back series, 2009. © Felicity Powell
Bees – wax on mirror back series, 2009. © Felicity Powell

The second video, Scanning, is based on MRI and CT/PET scans of the artist’s body, overlaid with images drawn directly from the Lovett collection. In one sequence an image of a transparent rotating torso with the heart at the centre is gradually encircled with the inward-spiralling text of the Lord’s Prayer as written by George Yeofound on his amulet of 1872.

‘On 9th September, 1872 in Southampton, Hampshire the eighty-eight year old George Yeofound wrote the Prayer in ink on both sides of a small disc of paper, the size of a small coin, that is really only legible when magnified. The edges of the paper are cut into points in order for it to wrap around the edge of a coin. This amulet is one of Felicity’s favourite in the exhibition. It is known that this object was part of Lovett’s collection of mascots and amulets carried by soldiers in World War I. This particular prayer was carried by a soldier of the Middlesex Regiment in 1917, but who he was and what happened to him are unknown.’ (Felicity Powell, Charmed Life, booklet, 2011).

Felicity explained to me why this amulet became so special to her: ‘I didn’t realise how important this object was to become to me as I worked with it over time. I traced Yeofound’s handwriting and found it to be urgent in style but formed into a perfect spiral, the text just kept going. In retracing his writing, it felt as if his hand reached across a century and a half. I found working on piece to be meditative, I felt I had a real connection with George and the object’s history. The object’s point of focus is its time and place in the mapping of life and events. This tiny piece of paper had travelled through time before it came to light.’

Tentacled - wax on mirror back series, 2006. © Felicity Powell
Tentacled – wax on mirror back series, 2006. © Felicity Powell

I asked Felicity about the type of wax that had been used to create the wax on mirror back series and were any special measures required to conserve them? ‘The wax is standard white modelling wax, light in colour so that pigments can be added, it also contains a lot of powder filler. I lay down the basic shape in wax using my fingers. The wax is lovely to work with and retains its translucency. Wax is easy to conserve as it is a very stable medium which holds its own over time. In The British Museum’s medal collection there are a number of eighteenth century wax and slate models made by the Hamerani family. All of which are still in good condition.’ I was also intrigued to find-out the reasons behind Felicity’s choice of modelling tools, why dental? ‘I know of a lot of artists who use dental tools for modelling, shaping and making marks. They are very good to hold in the hand too. The instruments also come with a wide range of different ends.’

Charmed Life continues at The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre until 14th April, 2013. Free admission. It is excellent and well-worth a trip to Winchester to view.

Deep water - wax on mirror back series, 2009. © Felicity Powell
Deep water – wax on mirror back series, 2009. © Felicity Powell
Posted in Activity, Archaeology, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, Exhibition, Fashion History, History, Horticultural History, Maritime History, Museum, Rural Heritage

Happy 100th Birthday Tudor House & Garden, Southampton

Tudor House and Garden, Southampton as it appears today.

On the 29th July this year, Tudor House and Garden, Southampton celebrated its 100th birthday. The museum was officially opened on the afternoon of Monday, 29th July, 1912, by the Mayor of Southampton Henry Bowyer. The attraction gave a much-needed boost to Southampton’s morale following the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic less than four months prior.

Old poster advertising Tudor House Museum.

In 1912, the museum’s opening hours were 10am to 6pm during the summer and 10am to 4pm in winter, with an admission charge of 6d but free on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. The museum’s first curator, Mr Nicholas, did not receive payment for his role.  Nicholas worked extremely hard to ensure that the museum was ready for its grand opening. He also organised the transformation of a former cabbage patch behind Tudor House to be turned into an old English garden.  In the 1980s the garden was re-planned by landscape designer Dr Sylvia Landsberg. Dr Landsberg wanted the garden to resemble a Tudor knot garden from the 1500s.

The garden at Tudor House that was designed by Dr Sylvia Landsberg.

Nicholas continued as Honorary Curator for over twenty years. During that time, he used his own money to fund trips to source objects for the museum. He worked tirelessly to assemble the museum’s eclectic range of objects. Eventually, the council appointed a professional curatorial team to manage the collection.

Selection of souvenirs sold at Tudor House museum in the last 100 years.
Unusual objects that were on display when the museum first opened in 1912.
Fireman’s helmet from the Napoleonic era. Before the helmet originally went on display in the museum, it was part of William Spranger’s own collection which was housed in a private museum at King John’s Palace, behind Tudor House.

According to A. G. K. Leonard in The Saving of Tudor House, the museum’s first year of opening was a great success:

The people of Southampton evidently appreciated the town’s first museum.  In September, 1913, the Borough Council received the report of its Estates Committee which included an account by R. E. Nicholas of the first year of Tudor House (ST 13 September 1913): this stated that 18,400 people had signed the visitors’ book there and that “probably quite twice that number had visited the house”….It was also reported that £30.10s. had been taken on “pay days” i.e. 1,220 sixpences…Alderman Bance told the council that in the first few months since its publication 1,958 copies of the history of Tudor House, a booklet by F. J. C. Hearnshaw, had been sold, along with 2,870 of the picture postcards of the house published by the Corporation.

(Leonard, A.G.K., 1987, pp. 27-28)

A Tudor gentleman helps celebrate the museum’s 100th birthday.

To commemorate the centenary, the current museum staff organised a wonderful day at Tudor House on Sunday 29th July, with an entrance fee of 6p! Staff also dressed in Edwardian and Tudor costume.

My attempts at making a mosaic coaster.

Grouting my mosaic coaster.
My finished mosaic coaster.

One of the activities organised by the museum as part of the centenary celebrations was a mosaic workshop in nearby Westgate Hall (formerly known as Tudor Merchant’s Hall).

I took this piece of flint along to be appraised by the archaeologist. I have kept it wrapped-up in a box since I was a child. Had I found a prehistoric axe head? Sadly no, just a nice piece of flint. Oh well, at least it puts that mystery to bed.

An Archaeologist was also on hand in the main museum to help identify any finds brought in.

Over the last five hundred years some of Tudor House’s many interesting owners/occupiers have included:

  • Walter and Jane William – Walter inherited Tudor House from his father. Walter was a wealthy merchant who exported wool and cloth and imported salt, wine, leather, oil, fish and woad. When Walter died, Jane inherited the building. Jane married husband number two, Sir John Dawtrey;
  • Sir John Dawtrey – Sir John was Overseer of the Port of Southampton and Collector of the King’s Customs. Following Jane’s death he married Isabel Shirley in 1509 and they had a son, Francis, in 1510. Sir John died in 1518;
  • Lady Isabel Lyster (formerly Dawtrey). Lady Isabel, Dawtrey’s widow, ran Tudor House for ten years. She was a successful businesswoman who traded in millstones for windmills and watermills. She also rented the Cloth Hall in St. Michael’s Square from 1526 to 1531;
  • Sir Richard Lyster (c.1480-1553) – Sir Richard married Lady Isabel in 1528. They became Southampton’s power couple, amassing a huge joint wealth. Sir Richard was a Judge and Lord Chief Justice of England.  He attended Queen Anne Boleyn’s (1501-1536) coronation, riding in the procession beforehand. He also took part in the trial of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) and was Henry VIII’s (1491-1547) divorce lawyer. During their time in residence at Tudor House, Lord and Lady Lyster had eight servants, a bake house and a dairy. Following Isabel’s death, Sir Richard married Elizabeth Stoke, they had two children, Michael (d. 1551) and Elizabeth;
  • William Lankester (1798-1875) – an iron and brass founder and furnishing ironmonger;

    Photograph of Tudor House in 1880. Notice G. Cawte’s shop on the left and Pope & Co on the right.
  • George Henry Pope – tenant of the northern section of Tudor House and grounds along Blue Anchor Lane from 1868. Pope was a dyer, clothes and furniture cleaner and had a shop at the front of the House. His trade advertisement read: ‘Ladies’ dresses of every description cleaned or dyed. British and foreign shawls, scarfs, & c., cleaned by a process that will ensure the colours being preserved.  Gentlemen’s wearing apparel and servants’ liveries of every description cleaned in a superior style.’ At the height of Queen Victoria’s reign mourning customswere strict. For one year and one day a widow had to wear ‘widow weeds’, the only colour permissible being black. Colour restrictions extended to jewellery and all accessories. After a year and a day she could progress to ‘half mourning’ where she would be permitted to wear a touch of white or grey, then perhaps lavender and after two years full colour could be worn again.  It was customary for a Victorian widow to have her clothing dyed black and after two years re-dyed back to its original colour. Pope offered this popular service to his customers: ‘Articles for mourning dyed on the shortest notice…. The black extracted from silk, satin, Merino, cloth,& Co., and the material dyed to a variety of patterns’;

    A selection of tools used by Cawte’s family bookbinding business.
  • Henry G. Cawte – opened his family bookbinding business at Tudor House (then known as Old Palace House, 9 St. Michael’s Square) in 1859;

    Tools belonging to Eliza Simmonds.
  • Eliza Simmonds – a straw-bonnet maker, milliner and dressmaker who took a tenancy of part of Tudor House from 1869-80.  During the first half of Queen Victoria’s (1819-1901) reign the straw plait industrywas an important trade, supplying the flourishing straw-bonnet industry, particularly in Bedfordshire. Straw-bonnets with decorative flourishes were very fashionable. Straw plaiting, used as a basis for the straw-bonnets, was a popular source of income for women living in rural homesteads and a thriving cottage industry developed. It was always easy to spot a straw plait maker, the corner of her lips would be badly scarred as a result of moistening the splints from the straw bundle. If the straw had already been dyed, then her mouth would also be colour-stained;

    A pretty Victorian straw bonnet by Eliza Simmonds.
  • Josiah George Poole (1818-1897) – Poole had originally lived at Tudor House during the 1850s. He returned again in 1883 to set-up home alongside his business, J. G. Poole & Sons. Poole was an architect and surveyor who worked extensively on local projects including the Masonic Hall in Albion Place and restoration of the south side of the Bargate (1864-5).A. G. K. Leonard writes of the Poole family: ‘….Poole’s large family (he had five children by his first wife and sixteen by his second, although not all survived infancy) gathered for dinner in the Banqueting Hall.’ (Leonard, A.G. K., 1987, p. 4);

    Oil painting by V. C. Batalha Reis Ariba, painted in 1921, of Edward Cooper Poole, son of Josiah George Poole. Edward worked with his father and one of his many commissions was to re-design Southampton Royal Pier which opened in 1930.
Oil painting, by an unknown artist, of Mr Spranger, c. 1915. His portrait hangs in one of the upstairs exhibition rooms so that he can continue to survey all that he has created.

William Francis Gummer Spranger (1848-1917)

Without William Spranger there would be no Tudor House museum. He was a public-spirited man and epitome of the Victorian philanthropist.  Tudor House museum is Spranger’s legacy to the people of Southampton and everyone who is passionate about the city’s history and heritage. He brought the entire freehold property of Tudor House and Norman House from W. G. Lankester for £1,450 in 1886. Spranger was educated at Oxford and during his time living in Southampton (from 1893 until his death), took an active interest in local educational matters.  He was a governor and benefactor of Hartley College (now the University of Southampton), Chairman of the Southampton School of Art, president of the Hampshire Field Club 1904-5, the first chairman of the Southampton Record Society and in 1898 was appointed governor of Taunton’s College (now Richard Taunton Sixth Form College) and King Edward VI School. In true story-book style, Spranger’s last death-bed message was to the boys of the Endowed Schools [Taunton’s and King Edward VI] – “lead good lives and play straight”.  For his funeral at St. Michael’s, the church troop of boy scouts formed a guard of honour and at the cemetery the path to his grave was lined by boys of Taunton’s and King Edward VI Schools. (Leonard, A.G.K., 1987, pp.10-11)

Old photograph showing interior of Tudor House last century.

Tudor House has undergone a number of substantial restorations during its lifetime. The first being in the early sixteenth century, another under Spranger’s watchful eye between 1898 and 1902, some ten years before the museum finally opened.  The last major restoration took place between 2001 and 2011 when the Museum received £3.5 million of Heritage Lottery Fund Grants (for more information on this please see my article of 28th July 2011. CLICK HERE.)

Spranger said of his restoration of Tudor House:

“….the original building had undergone changes in the course of the centuries which he had no knowledge of when the builders’ men were set to work.  Externally, herring-bone brickwork had been covered over with stucco and characteristic timbering of the Tudor period was hidden in many parts.  Inside, some very remarkable discoveries were made.  Lath and plaster ceilings had been fixed below the original ceilings of panelled oak, great chestnut beams had been similarly hidden, windows blocked up, fire-places altered and many of the principal beauties, as now visible, defaced and despoiled. Every new find was a great temptation to go on and I spent so much money having things put as right as possible again that I was compelled to pull myself up.”

(Leonard, A.G.K., 1987, p. 15)

Tudor House and Garden is such a wonderful place to visit, a true gem in the old town of Southampton City. For visitor information please CLICK HERE.

Montage of old photographs showing the interior of Tudor House museum just after it opened in 1912.

Posted in Activity, Archaeology, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, Exhibition, History, Museum, TV Programme

Prehistoric Cooking With Jacqui Wood

Jacqui Wood and her son demonstrating prehistoric cooking techniques at Buckland Ring Iron Age hillfort, Lymington, Hampshire.

Earlier this summer I leapt at the chance to see Jacqui Wood demonstrating prehistoric cooking techniques at Buckland Rings Iron Age hillfort on the outskirts of Lymington, Hampshire.  The event was organised by St. Barbe Museum and is part of a programme of events and activities associated with a year-long project exploring the history of food and farming in and around Lymington.  The project will culminate in an exhibition at St. Barbe Museum, ‘A Taste of History – Local Food and Farming’ which opens on 6th October and continues until 17th November

This exhibition will examine the changes to our diet, eating and cooking habits as well as farming and shopping practices over the centuries in a feast of sensory pleasures. In particular food links us to the land around us and in the past, the majority of us would have had some role in the production of food, perhaps as labourers, smallholders or commoners.

(Extract from St. Barbe Museum Website)

Jacqui Wood is a food historian, researcher and Experimental Archaeologist whose work you may be familiar with if you are a fan of Time Team.   Jacqui also featured recently on the Channel 5 documentary,  ‘The Kings War on Witches’ about James I and the infamous late fifteenth century witch hunts. Jacqui owns the world-famous archaeological research settlement in Cornwall, Saveock Water Archaeology.

An artist’s impression of what Buckland Rings may have looked like during the Iron Age.

Buckland Rings was once open countryside but is now covered with trees.  During the Iron Age the inhabitants would have lived in roundhouses and cooked on a central hearth. According to historian Dr Joanna Close-Brooks, who is an expert on the history of Buckland Rings:

The houses were built of timber with thatched roofs and walls made of stakes and wattle covered with daub, or of planks. Inside there was usually a hearth over which food was cooked in a cauldron hanging from a beam, and sometimes a clay oven was constructed for baking bread.  The houses were from 20 to 30 feet (6-9 metres) in diameter, with plenty of room to accommodate a large family…..Iron Age people were farmers, keeping cows, sheep, pigs and some horses and raising crops on fields near their settlements.  The cattle yielded milk for drinking and making into butter and cheese; skin and sinew for leather and thongs; horn and bone for making into tools and ornament and, of course, meat to eat.  Sheep provided the same (like cows they can be milked), but were probably more important for their wool which was woven into cloth, sometimes chequered or patterned in some other design.

(Dr Joanna Close-Brooks, Buckland Rings and Ampress Camp, published by St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, 2000, pp. 3 & 4)

Jacqui’s son preparing some delicious prehistoric fayre.

The Celts lived at the settlement during the Iron Age and would have eaten a fairly simple diet consisting of meat, fish, bread, butter and cheese.  The main cooking implements around the central hearth would have been a cauldron and a fire-dog.  The fire-dog had a lower bar which supported the wooden logs in the hearth and an upper bar used for supporting the meat on the spits. The cauldron was suspended from an iron tripod and simple unglazed pottery vessels would have been used to cook with.

Jacqui, assisted by her son, cooked us from scratch a delicious smoked fish stew, sweet bean cakes, oat and barley bread which was accompanied by home-made butter. In prehistoric times a whisk, bowl, strainer, loose-weave cloth and two wooden spoons were needed to make butter.  If you want to make an authentic prehistoric butter whisk, Jacqui suggests:

…try to make the whisk first from some green hazel or willow sticks. To begin with strip the bark off the sticks…if this is done in the spring the bark will strip off in one piece as the sap is rising in the plant at that time of year – keep this bark for binding the whisk together. Then very carefully bend three of the sticks and secure them all at the cut end with the strips of bark or string.  You have now made a very effective balloon whisk with which to make butter.

(Wood, J., Prehistoric Cooking, 2011, p. 81)

Tasty smoked fish stew simmering in the cauldron.
Jacqui with a bowl of chopped chives ready for the fish stew.

The smoked fish stew was delicious.  It contained bacon, leeks, smoked fish, milk, cream, chives and salt. Simple to make but surprisingly hearty.

Sweet bean cake mix.
Sweet bean cake mix and oat and barley bread mix.

The sweet bean cakes had a more unusual taste, sweet, quite dense but very filling. They contained butter, whole wheat flour, processed beans, honey and chopped hazelnuts.

The oat and barley bread was made from medium oatmeal, barley flour, butter, sea salt and milk and cooked by wrapping the mixture around hot stones. A very clever and effective technique.

Hot stone ready for the bread mixture to be wrapped around.
Bread after having been cooked using the hot stone method.

I am an advocate of Experimental Archaeology even though it does raise a few eyebrows amongst traditional archaeologists.  Jacqui’s extensive understanding of prehistoric cooking techniques has developed out of her experimental practices, coupled with an in-depth, archaeological knowledge, of the period. Her writing is all the more rich for a combination of these two factors.  There is nothing like watching a recipe, from several thousands years ago, being brought back to life and enjoyed once more in the twenty-first century by an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.

I also picked-up, at the event, a signed copy of her cookery book, Prehistoric Cooking. It not only contains well-written chapters on life and society in prehistoric times but is jam-packed with easy-to-follow recipes, many of which produce dishes that would not look out-of-place on the modern dining-table.  Beautifully illustrated throughout, a must-have for all devotees of food history. Jacqui has also written another historical cookbook, Tasting The Past: Recipes From The Stone Age to the Present.

  • For more information about ‘A Taste of History – Local Food and Farming’ (6th October-17th November) at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, CLICK HERE.

    The oldest pottery found in Britain, a Neolithic cooking pot, 6,000 years old. On display at the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury.
Posted in Archaeology, Decorative Arts, Fashion History, History, Maritime History, Museum

Southampton’s Wool & Cloth Heritage

The Wool House, Bugle Street, Southampton, Hampshire

Before you begin reading this article, you may find it useful to open the Tudor Revels’ website in a separate tab.  The interactive map on the home page is very easy to use and depicts the layout of Southampton during the Tudor period.  It will help you  locate some of the buildings I have mentioned here.  For the map, CLICK HERE.

The Wool House.

Southampton has prospered on the profits of the wool and wine trade. The wool trade in Southampton reached its height in the thirteenth century and a majority of townspeople derived their income from it. One such merchant was Thomas of Andover, flourishing between 1260 and c1280. Thomas built himself a stone house, with a vaulted cellar, on the west side of the High Street from the proceeds of wool trading.  Southampton’s location was ideal, near to the sheep rearing districts of Hampshire and the Wiltshire Downlands.

The Wool House.

In order to ensure smooth running of its flourishing wool trade, the town officials created a number of key roles. In 1325, a Peysage, an officer of the Crown, was appointed as principal wool weigher.  In 1327, Geoffrey Hogheles was made collector of wool customs.  The wool would have been assembled at this time by a guild of packers, made-up exclusively of women. In 1503, the guild became a corporation sponsored organisation, consisting of twelve women.   In French Street is The Weigh House ‘weyhous’, a building constructed in the early thirteenth century. The Weigh House contained the town’s weigh beam, called the Tron. The Tron was a large wooden beam balance, robust enough to deal with larger bales of wool.  The beam was controversial amongst merchants and susceptible to misuse, finally leading to its withdrawal in c1352.  Unfortunately, The Weigh House was gutted in German bombing raids during World War Two, only the outer shell now remains.

The Weigh House, French Street, Southampton.
The Weigh House.
The Weigh House.

Wool houses were erected in the town and one survives today, at the end of Bugle Street. This Wool House was built in the fourteenth century by Cistercian monks from Beaulieu Abbey, primarily as a storehouse. It has a Spanish chestnut roof and curious cylindrical buttresses along the Bugle Street side.  It appears in fourteenth century records as ‘wolhous’. During Elizabethan times, the Wool House was known as Alum Cellar. Alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) is used in conjunction with cream of tartar to create a mordant for natural dyes. In wool it enhances the colours yellow and red. Mordant is derived from word ‘mordere’, meaning ‘to bite’. In the wool dyeing process, a mordant prepares the wool to accept colour.  It is believed that Alum first came to Southampton in 1451, brought over in large quantities by the Genoese.  Other types of mordant that have been used include urine and leaves.

Walter Fetplace (d. 1449) was a Southampton merchant who lived in the old Moundenard tenement on High Street.  He was Mayor of Southampton in 1426, 1432, 1439 and 1444.  He made his living buying dyes from Italian merchants and selling them on to dyers working in Salisbury and Winchester.  He imported mordants and dye-stuffs but also traded in salt, fish, fruit and wine.

Watergate, Southampton (front view).
Watergate, Southampton.
Watergate, Southampton (interior).
Watergate, Southampton (interior).

On the most southerly point of the old Southampton Walls is the Watergate, constructed towards the end of the fourteenth century. The building was largely demolished in 1804 but parts of one of the drum towers still survives.  The Watergate stands at the end of Porters’ Lane, an accessway that ran behind the line of the old town wall.  Porters’ Lane was also called, Le Chayne and Wool Street. This was where many of the town’s wool stores could be found.

Canute’s Palace, Porters’ Lane, Southampton.
Canute’s Palace, Porters’ Lane, Town Quay, Southampton.

Also in Porters’ Lane, are the remains of Canute’s Palace which is a late twelfth century merchant’s house. It stood two storeys high with a hall on the upper storey. The upper-hall may have also doubled as a counting-house. The building was more likely to have been used for commercial purposes rather than residential. King Canute did not live here and the building was not a palace, however it is still a fine example of a Norman merchant’s house.

Canute’s Palace, Southampton.
Canute’s Palace.
Canute’s Palace.
Canute’s Palace.

The name ‘Canute’s Palace’ was first given to the building by Sir Henry Englefield (1752-1822) in his 1801 publication A Walk Through Southampton. For more information on this fascinating area of old Southampton please see the Friends of Town Quay Park’s website.  CLICK HERE.

The fourteenth century was a relatively prosperous time for the wool trade in Southampton but there were several events that intermittently slowed down its progress.  Firstly, the Raid of 4th October, 1338, when fifty galleys landed in port, sacked, looted and extensively destroyed the town.  The town’s Seals were stolen by the invaders too. It is alleged that French and Genoese pirates stole the Tron from The Weigh House.  There were reports of local citizens joining-in with the looting of the town’s wool and wine stocks. In Rev. J. Silvester Davies’, A History of Southampton (1883), he describes the Raid:

Early on Sunday morning, October 4th, a numerous fleet of galleys, crowded with Normans, Picards, Genoese, and Spaniards, landed its horde at the south-western quarter of the town while the inhabitants were at mass.  The burgesses fled before them; the town was at their mercy.  They plundered and burnt at pleasure, and hung some of the townsfolk in their own houses; but on the following morning a rally took place, and ‘aliens’ were driven to their ships….Its results we have seen elsewhere in the busy erection of walls and improvements of the town….The conduct of the burgesses had brought disgrace not only on the town, but on the whole king’s realm, and the town had accordingly been taken from them.

(Davies, Rev. J. S., 1883, p. 466)

Following the Raid, trade was severely disrupted and a form of martial law imposed on Southampton by Edward III (1312-1377). Davies describes the post-Raid actions taken by the King:

….immediately after which the town was seized in the king’s hands, in active censure on the mayor [Nicholas Sampson 1337 & 1338], bailiffs, and burgesses, who had fled before the enemy..On November 13th, among other steps taken, John de Hampton, Walter de Estcote, and others, were commissioned to inquire into the loss of the king’s wools by fire; how much, and of what quality, had been left after the enemy had retired.  Under one influence or other the mayor and bailiffs recovered heart, and humbly begged for the restoration of their town and liberties; receiving them back on March 15th, 1339, apparently on no harder terms than that they should do their duty in future, and hold the town vigorously against the foe; and orders occur to John de Flete, clerk, keeper of arms in the Tower of London, to send forthwith all kinds of weapons for the use of the town.

(Ibid. p. 79)

The military intervention included establishing a garrison in the town.  The wool trade continued with restrictions and there were now less merchants visiting the port.  Secondly, the Black Death, arrived in Southampton the latter part of 1348. The epidemic resulted in many human and animal deaths, including flocks of sheep.

Replica medieval cargo vessel, West Quay, Southampton. This vessel would have been used by the English to export wool and import wine from Southampton to the continent.  Italian merchants used galleys and carracks to export goods.

The town’s wool economy began to improve in the first half of the fifteenth century. Approximately one thousand sacks of wool were now being exported from Southampton to the continent each year and by the end of the century this figure had increased considerably. Southampton became a collecting centre for wools en-route from the West-Country to Italy. Wool and cloth continued to be exported to the continent on Florentine State galleys and Genoese carracks. However, the former ceased to appear in port after 1478 and from 1509, due to wars in Italy, the latter ceased to visit too.

In the mid fifteenth century the Wool House was let to a succession of Italian and Portuguese merchants. At this time about fifty foreign merchants were registered in town, from Flanders, the Baltic, Spain, France and Brittany. The influx of alien merchants did not always have a positive impact on the town’s wool trade. In 1455, a group of Italian merchants arrived in port and proceeded to travel throughout the surrounding countryside, purchasing wools and woollen cloth from local artisans for a price less than the going rate.  This practice of undercutting, saw the cost of woollen cloth fall considerably in town.  Regulations were swiftly put in place to counteract these unscrupulous activities. Foreign merchants were restricted from purchasing wool, woolfells and cloth except in London, Hampton or Sandwich.

Medieval Merchant’s House, French Street, Southampton.

In French Street (No. 58), there still survives a fine example of a medieval, timber-framed, merchant’s house, a Capital Messuage. The interior has been restored by English Heritage to resemble a typical merchant’s house in Southampton, c1350, although the building was constructed c1290 by wine merchant John Fortin.

Steps to the undercroft/cellar at the Medieval Merchant’s House, Southampton.

The house has a stone-vaulted cellar or undercroft which can be accessed at street level and above that a shop which would have opened directly onto the street.

Medieval Merchant’s House, showing shop shutters.

The windows of the shop were unglazed and had shutters that could be let down to provide extra counter space. On the upper floor, there are two large bed-chambers located at the back and front of the house, connected by a cross-passage over the hall below.

A wealthy Portuguese merchant, Roger Machado, flourished in the town between 1486 and 1497.  During this period he lived in a house on Simnel Street (tenements 423 and 424) which was full of fine Venetian cristallo glass, majolica ware, Italian pottery, exquisite fabrics, linen, pewter and barrels of wine.

North Italian majolica jug, late 1400s early 1500. Exhibit from Tudor House and Garden, Southampton, Hampshire.

Machado was appointed Searcher of Customs on 21st September, 1485 and town Burgess in 1490.  He became a herald to Henry VII (1457-1509) and entertained the king at his house in Simnel Street. He died in 1510.

A member of Tudor re-enactment group, The Hungerford Household.

In 1532, trade with Italy declined due to changes in England’s commercial policy whereby trade and export of wool to the continent was actively discouraged and eventually banned. The outcome of the policy meant wool was now retained in England to be woven into cloth. Woven woollen cloth in the Tudor period was lighter in texture than traditional Medieval broadcloth Petticoats in Tudor times were made out of Worsted wool cloth, hand dyed with madder.  The swollen madder roots produce a red dye that reacts with the temperature and mineral content of water.  The main chemical compound of madder is Alizarin.  Another popular type of cloth in the Tudor period was woollen cloth of a ‘Kersey‘ weight.  Kersey cloth was light and hand dyed with indigo for use in everyday clothing.

St. Julien French Church, Winkle Street, Southampton. Associated with the Huguenot community.

By 1558, England’s weaving industry was flourishing. In the 1560s, Huguenot refugees fleeing persecution in Catholic countries, introduced to Southampton a new type of woollen cloth called serge.  Serge is a type of twill weave fabric that is relatively cheap and easy to produce. The fabric produced in Southampton was known as the Hampton broad serge woollen cloth. In 1609, a company of sergemakers, sergeweavers and woolcombers was formed.  Membership required payment of a £5 fine and completion of a seven-year apprenticeship.  In 1616, articles and orders of the company received the Town Seal.  Unfortunately, the company did not last and in 1619 was dissolved by consent of all members. A new corporation was formed in 1657 and sealed by charter on 24th July of the same year.  The cloth was woven in town and often sent to either Winchester or Romsey to be hand-finished and dyed.  If the cloth required a more expensive dye, it was sent to London.

Entrance to St. Julien Church, Southampton.
St. Julien Church, Southampton.

Huguenot refugees Phillipe and wife Judith Delamotte (sometimes spelt De la Motte) fled Tournai in Belgium in 1586 subsequently settling in Southampton.  Phillipe was an Elder of the Huguenot community in Southampton and had close connections with St. Julien French Church in Winkle Street.  The Elders were similar to Vestry members in the Anglican churches. Phillipe’s main occupation was a clothier and he ran a workshop assisted by his wife Judith.  After her husband’s death, Judith carried on the business, spinning raw sheep’s wool into strong woollen yarn in readiness to be woven into cloth.  Unusually for a widow, Judith carried on her husband’s business until c1638 and took a prominent role in the town guild.  She died in 1640.

Woollen Cloth Hall (now Westgate Hall), Westgate, Southampton.

Southampton had a Woollen Cloth Hall which was originally built in St. Michael’s Square c1400 and stood two storeys high. On the top floor wool and woollen cloth were stored.  The covered, open-arcaded, ground floor housed the fish market.  Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Cloth Hall was leased to a townsman whose job it was to look after its day-to-day running and keep the infrastructure in good repair.  In exchange, he would be entitled to pocket the dues owed to the City by merchants who stored and sold their cloth there.  This was not as straightforward as it may sound for the Hall’s lessee.  Many merchants tried to evade the town duties levied on cloth sold at the Hall and opted to trade on the black market, selling cloth throughout the countryside around Southampton instead.  In 1552, regulations were tightened and it did become difficult to trade woollen cloth anywhere but The Cloth Hall.

Woollen Cloth Hall (now Westgate Hall), Southampton.

The Cloth Hall was dismantled in 1634 and rebuilt a little further toward the Quay at Westgate. During the following three hundred years, the Hall functioned as a private building, owned by the City and leased out as a warehouse. In the 1970s it became a public lecture hall and until recently was known as Tudor Merchants Hall.  It is now called Westgate Hall.

The Tudor Revels’ Database Comes in Handy….

I did a quick search, using Tudor Revels’ fantastic new database of Tudor citizens who flourished in Southampton between 1485-1603.  I was interested in those who were associated with the wool trade. I typed-in key words ‘wool’, ‘cloth’, ‘weaver’ and ‘felt’. Below are the results of this search:

Cristoforo Ambruogi (Italian – also known as Christopher Ambrose) (flourished 1462-1510). Merchant Factor. Italian national (Florence) and lived in the Parish of All Saints, Holy Rood. He owned a number of ships. He leased the Wool House, at the end of Bugle Street, ‘a barn near God’s house, lofts over Le Chayne, marketplace in St. Michael’s Square, cellar beneath St. John’s Church. Trading in muscatel, fine wines, confectionary, fruit, alum, cloth of gold.’ ‘1462 came to serve as Clerk to the Florentine Factor Angelo de’Aldobrans at West Hall.’ He was mayor 1486-7 and again in 1497-8. West Hall was a large medieval capital tenement at no. 8 Bugle Street.  West Hall was the location of the Edward VI Grammer School from 1696.

Rawlyn Pole (flourished 1489-1490) – Weaver.  1498-9 ‘town’s part for him to join the weavers 10s.’

Richard Blamford (flourished 1498-1524) – Weaver.  He traded crest cloth, woad and oakum. 1521-2 ‘his servant stole some wool.’ 1498-9 ‘craft fine weaver towns part 4s’.

Elizabeth Burgess (flourished 1503) – Woolpacker.  ‘Warden of all female woolpackers, membership of twelve women.’ She was married to Richard Burgess.

Mr Corell (alias Curll) (flourished 1505-6) – Weaver. 1505-6 ‘paid 5s to set up as a weaver.’

Lenard Coleman (flourished 1517-1522) – Weaver. 1521 ‘sent as an archer on King’s French Campaign, prest money and conduit money 12d, given 3s towards his sword.’

John Christmas (flourished 1518-1534) – Clothier. Lived in the Parish of All Saints. In 1533-4 ‘Involved in a fray and bloodshed with Pryme fined 9d between them.  Same year victim of a fray by Edward Bartholomew.’

William Chandeler (flourished 1521) -Weaver. 1521 ‘went as an archer for the King.’

John Brooke (flourished 1532-1533) – Weaver.  1532-3 ‘tenant of John Walsh for weavers craft fine 6s 8d’.

Athony Bonaventure (flourished 1549-1550) – Weaver.  1549-50 ‘craft fine to be a weaver 4s’.

John Adeane (English – flourished 1550-1596) – Woollen Draper. English national and lived in the Parish of All Saints, Holy Rood.  He had two children, Richard and John.

John Coson (French – flourished 1561) – Woolcomber.  French national and lived in the Parish of All Saints, Holy Rood. ‘Described as having a wooden leg’.  In 1577 ‘reported for trying to kiss Margaret Smith at three in the afternoon whilst she was making beds in her mistresses house.’

John Bullack (flourished 1582-1600). Hat and Feltmaker. Son of John Bullack who was Mayor of Southampton in 1588.

Richard Allen (flourished 1605). Sergemaker.

Woollen Cloth Hall (now Westgate Hall), Southampton.

Posted in Activity, Archaeology, Event, History, History of Medicine, TV Programme, World War One

Archaeological Digs near Winchester and Heritage Open Days 2011

View across the Hospital Field on the outskirts of Winchester, Hampshire. Site of former Leper Hospital.

Situated approximately one mile outside the city of Winchester, on the Alresford Road, is the site of St. Mary Magdalen Hospital, a former medieval leper hospital (‘a lazar house’).   It is possible that this Leprosaria was one of the England’s first hospitals.  Archaeologists at The University of Winchester began excavating the site in 2007.   In 2000 Channel 4’s Time Team also conducted a short excavation at the site.  The Hospital began mid 12th Century, was reformed and rebuilt in the 14th Century and demolished in the 16th Century to make way for brick-built almshouses.   The almshouses were finally demolished in the 1780’s by order of the then Bishop of Winchester.  The site does not contain any above ground evidence.  I was fortunate to be able to visit this extraordinary archaeological dig in September 2010.

Excavations in 2010 of the former St. Mary Magdalen Hospital, Winchester, Hampshire.


Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as it is also known, is a particularly nasty condition.   The skeleton of a leprosy sufferer is quite distinctive.   The facial skeleton will show signs of degeneration, the foot phalanges will be wasted and the lower legs and feet will have bony changes.  Sometimes, although not as frequently as once believed, extreme cases led to amputation.   During the Middle Ages lepers were thought to have been punished by God for the sin of inappropriate sexual conduct. However, we now know that leprosy is a highly contagious disease spread from person to person via exposure to respiratory droplets.   Victorian archaeologists and historians believed that medieval society treated lepers as social outcasts, one of the reasons why leper colonies were located away from ordinary citizens on the outskirts of a village or town.  The excavations taking place near Winchester reveal that the patients were actually well cared for.  The site provides a fascinating insight into the origins of institutional care in early Medieval English Society. 

Foundations of Hampshire's largest First World War bases, near Winchester, Hampshire.

In a field opposite the site of the Hospital, Archaeologists have also discovered the foundations of Hampshire’s largest First World War base camp.  The camp consisted of a stable block, barrack blocks on wooden bases, drainage trenches, and gravel paths.  Brick foundations have been unearthed of the camp cinema-theatre which provided entertainment to the troops before they left for the battlefields of France and Belgium.  Again, no above ground evidence now exists.

Image of WW1 base camp theatre-cinema as it looked originally on the site.
Images of how the WW1 base camp would have looked.

If you want to find-out more about archaeological digs across Britain then I recommend the BBC’s Digging for Britain.  The second series began Friday 9th September 2011, 9pm on BBC 2.

Don’t miss the superb Heritage Open Days taking place between the 8th and 11th September.  Free events and activities will be happening right across England.  Some events require pre-booking but many do not.  There are 4,300 entries on HOD’s register this year so you are bound to find something happening near to you.  Check-out what’s on in your area.  I have two fantastic days out planned this weekend and will be posting about them in due course.  This is your perfect opportunity to discover England’s hidden heritage and even better it is absolutely free!