OP #4 Farewell to Britain

Well my time in England is coming to an end. I have had a wonderful time. One of the best parts of my time here in Britain was my hike through Scotland on Iona. It was such a peaceful place and the hike was really nice. The rolling hills of stone offered me a challenge of trying to climb them and the wildlife was cool as it was different due to the shielding of the big hill on the island.  The sights were amazing from the tops of the small rock hills. Another place that I found to be awe inspiring was Stirling Castle. The castle was massive and showed me what castles of great importance look like. The castle showed me how a castle can still survive and be relevant well into the gunpowder age. I will miss being able to see castles and the weather which we had in Scotland because it was absolutely beautiful. I miss Scotland even now. I really want to go back. I miss Scotland because the landscape is beautiful with its simplicity. I just find the simple low lying grasses and the natural element to Scotland with its rock hills and mountains. I also love the Scottish accent which as it happens is very prevalent in Scotland. This course has changed my perspective on how I look at the United States and has led me to appreciate what we have because even the United Kingdom does not have it. I have a great time in Britain and have grown to appreciate the culture and landscape of Britain.


Portsmouth Harbor

Portsmouth is one of the biggest military naval harbors historically in England. Today, it is still used in some parts as a naval base and training facility for the naval academy.  The HMS Victory was an impressive ship that was built in the late 1700s. It is the oldest ship in continuous military service. The second oldest ship is the USS Constitution. The HMS Victory was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar. Nelson is considered one of the best naval officers in British history. Nelson died at the battle of Trafalgar after the battle as he led his flagship the HMS Victory in the lead into the naval action. The HMS Victory barely made it back to port due to the damage it has sustained during the naval action. The battle at Trafalgar was a resounding victory for the Royal Navy (British). The French and Spanish fleet was resoundingly defeated. This battle took place during the Napoleonic Wars. The ship which is on display in Portsmouth Harbor is massive for its time. It had 104 cannons arrayed on its three decks along with a hold at the bottom of the ship. These cannons included 32 pound cannons, 24 pound cannons and an array of long and normal barreled 12 pound cannons. The poundage of a cannon is based upon the weight of shot that is fired from the cannon. This made the HMS Victory a ship of the line which were the main military ships of the Royal navy although as the flagship it was bigger and more heavily armed than most ships of the same classification. In fact, it was a first-rate ship of the line which means it was fitted with the best materials available and purpose built to be an important ship in the royal navy. It was commissioned by Pitt the Elder a famous tactician in British history.

Portsmouth is also home to a World War I ship HMS M.33. This ship was a small bombardment ship meant for coastal duty with two big 6 inch guns that have a range of at least 6 miles which allowed them to cover the amphibious landings on Gallipoli. The ship had 4 siblings all of which were destroyed by enemy artillery fire during the landings. This was due to their ½ inch thin hull which any direct hit by an artillery shell could destroy the ship. HMS M33 became known as the “luck ship” as it was the only one that survived. The ship then saw service in the support of landings in Archangel in north western Russia to cover the White Russians’ retreat. The ship was repurposed in World War II as a mine layer and a floating office for some officers who were never of note. The ship was decommissioned soon after World War II. The ship is one of three remaining ships that served in World War I and the only surviving ship from the Gallipoli campaign. Portsmouth harbor is a fine reflection of some of the history of the Royal Navy’s illustrious history.

Mad Max Tour and Avebury Stone Circle

The Mad Max tour is a bus touring company that we used to get from place to place today. The company was called Mad Max due to the owner of the company Madeline or Mady for short who owns the company. When she gave bus tours, she would bring her dog Max with her and thus the company became known as Mad Max. During this tour, the class visited ancient places such as Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle. The Avebury Stone Circle is located in the town of Avebury in England. This stone circle is connected to Stonehenge by an ancient road or route that is about 17 miles long between the two sites. The surrounding area is has a high concentration of chalk which has not helped the scientific dating because chalk does not preserve pollen which is used to easily tell what plants lived in the area at that time. The scientists thus turned to snail shells as they are incredibly diverse and many varieties exist according to their environment. Through this process scientists have learned that in the Avebury area a giant oak forest once stood. The site at Avebury is by far the largest in size for that period in England with the next closest being a quarter of the size. The henge seen at Avebury that can be seen today started construction in roughly 3000BC and was added to periodically until 2400BC. It is expected that prior to the placing of the stones in Avebury and other henge sites that there were once wooden poles set which served the same unknown purpose as the stones. The purpose of these stones are unknown although one can surmise that they had a religious purpose and that it had to do with the sun, moon, and stars. At the site, there is a rock that has a natural outcropping which is called the devil’s seat as bad luck has been said to befall people who sat in the “seat”. Long after other people came to the area such as the Romans who left the stones intact. It was not until the late medieval period that people saw a problem with the stones. England at this point had converted to Christianity and they saw the stones as a symbol of the devil hence one stone being called the devil’s seat. They began pulling the stones down, but this was stopped by the death of a barber-surgeon who was crushed by a stone as it fell. The locals may have believed that these stone could feel or were somehow alive and thus to pull them down they needed someone with medical training. Avebury remained generally unknown throughout time expect to the locals in recorded history. It was not until the 1695 that there was any significant mention of Avebury in any recorded and widely publicized works. It was included in the Britannia which is equivalent to the modern-day encyclopedia. The site came to be as it is today through the efforts of Alexander Keiller who bought the land and righted the fallen stones and mapped out the places where stones once lay.  

Edinburgh Castle OP #2

Edinburgh castle located in the Scottish city of Edinburgh which holds the seat of government for the Scottish Parliament, today. Edinburgh Castle is the rock which commands the heights above the city of Edinburgh.  The castle was besieged many times by both the Scottish and the English multiple times as it was of major importance for control of the region. The castle was originally built by the Scottish although records do not show when it was built. It first pops into existence upon the death of the Scottish King Malcom III. While King Malcom III might be the earliest king associated with Edinburgh Castle, the earliest building remaining in the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel. It is a small stone structure roughly in the center of the complex. The castle was rebuilt and used during the wars of independence and switched hands repeatedly. The Scottish King Robert the Bruce eventually took the castle and slighted it (removed the defensive fortifications of the castle). This was done to prevent the English from retaking the castle and the Scots having to re-siege the castle.

The castle was redesigned with the advent of cannons being used consistently in siege Also at this time. The castle became the armory for the lowlands and by the time of Mary Queen of Scots’ attempt to seize power in Scotland in housed the majority of the heavy cannons in Scotland. The castle held for almost 2 years of siege until the forces opposing Queen Mary’s ascent to the Scottish throne called upon England for support. Mary’s cousin Queen Elizabeth was more than willing to help and sent heavy siege artillery up to Edinburgh and after only a relatively short time in comparison to the siege time which had already gone on. The castle surrendered, and with it the last bastion of support for Mary Queen of Scot’s bid to the throne of Scotland. This was longest siege to take place at the castle.

After the Act of Union, which joined the two countries of Scotland and England into one nation. The castle was used for various purposes though mainly for military purposes such as the housing of soldiers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards which now has a museum dedicated to them and their exploits. They are still an active unit although they no longer ride horses, but tanks and other mechanized engines of war. The museum is dedicated to their service throughout the centuries from the Crimean War to World War II to the Boer Wars in South Africa. Alongside this museum stands a memorial to those who fought in World War I and World War II from various Scottish regiments.

The castle still retains its own importance and traditions. The castle houses the Scottish regalia which is the royal pieces that are only to be held by a Scottish king or queen. One important tradition that is still carried out is the firing of a cannon at one o’clock in the afternoon. This was done at one to save gun powder. This has gone on uninterrupted for centuries except during WWII. In the modern day, the United Kingdom’s soldiers use a modern artillery piece to fire the shot at one o’clock. This is Edinburgh castle in a nutshell.

Official Post #4

During the class, I have learned a tremendous amount about the people of the 14th century lived. They lived in a much simpler time compared to today because they could not travel the vast distances that are regularly travelled by people today. The people were not living in fairy tale as is sometimes romanticized in movies nor were they living in the worst conceivable situation. Death was much more common than it is today and people just accepted this more so than we do today. There were many more ways to die back then than there is today. In fact, the average age was in the 40s to low 50s for those that reached adulthood which was 20. This was a feat considering the staggering infant mortality rate of the time which left many dead before they had their first birthday. This would also have been compounded by the physicians of the time not having the faintest idea of modern medicine which generally made the patient’s situation worse than before the person was treated. This paints a bleak picture, but in contrast the people of the time loved to dance, listen to music, or listen to stories. People did not want to dwell on the death that was all around, but instead focus on life. The humor of the 14th century tended towards what would today be seen as practical jokes.

The world in which they lived was filled with dangers which was a reason for not traveling as there were robbers and thieves on the road. This road violence would increase in times of bad harvests because there was not enough food so people would endeavor to obtain some through theft. Violence was a part of everyday society with some being seen as sport such as bullbaiting and cockfighting which was considered a children’s game. There was no real law like the police of modern day and each person had to be able to defend themselves. The law was there, but it was hard to enforce due to the lack of communication over the island. Travel time was a factor given that most people travelled on foot as the primary mode of transportation. Travel on horseback was expensive and one had own a horse in which to ride. Travel by sea was risky because of pirates and rough seas could drive a ship away from the coast or wreck her on the shore. Finding a place to stay was another reason for travelers not to go as inn keepers would not accept people that were not willing to pay for room and board. It was considered preferable to find a private residence in which to stay. This was seen as the more proper way of traveling because one must have some type of relation usually to be allowed to stay in a private residence. Another alternative for travelers is to stay at a monastery or other religious compound or building. Generally, the religious will take anyone in because it is seen as part of their duty to uphold their religious vows. Thus, the people in the 14th century are quite different from the people of today.

To Britain

It is almost time for the trip to Great Britain. I am really excited and cannot wait to go. I am looking forward to experiencing the British enthusiasm for football and hopefully to go and see a game, although the season is ending for them. It may be too much to hope for, but I would love to see a game. I am a really big soccer fan in the United States and I am looking forward to seeing the dramatic difference between how Americans talk about soccer and the British talk about football (not American). I have been keeping track of how the English Premier league is going, and the club that I like is most likely going to be relegated which is horrible. Relegation for those that do not know is when a team in a division finishes in the bottom 3 and they are sent down to the league under it and the top 3 are sent up although there are different rules for some divisions, but this generally remains true through the various divisions. I am also looking forward to just seeing the sites especially the castles because I have never actually seen one in person before. The preparation class has taught me about how the castles are built and how they are designed for defense. I have read books about castles since I was young enough to read and had a glorified picture of how it was to live in one. I want to learn about the realities and try to understand the people that lived in the castle on their own terms. In the famous words of Dr. Walther “I want to do history.”

Caernarfon Castle

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Caernarfon Castle, a castle in northern Wales, was built by the Normans to solidify their control over the Welsh. The castle was built during the reign of King Edward I, but it came from more humble beginnings. At first, the castle was an old Roman fort which was controlled by local Welsh after the Romans left. Then, the English invaded and an Earl built a small motte and bailey castle in the same place as the later castle would be built and the castle would incorporate the original motte of the Earl’s castle into the defensive works of the later castle built by King Edward I of England. The castle was built at the same time as two other castles were being built at Conwy and Harlech. Caernarfon castle holds a very strategic location by sitting so close to the river which feeds into the channel between the mainland and Anglesey Island. During the construction of Caernarfon castle, a rebellion broke out in Wales and the Welsh rebels destroyed much of the castle that was built which had yet to complete the outer walls. The castle was retaken by the English about a year later and a building spree began to repair and finish the castle. The castle of Caernarfon was picked by the English to be the administrative center for the region of Caernarvonshire. The castle also played an important role as the English prince Edward of Caernarfon who was both born in the castle and given the title of Prince of Wales in 1301. The building of the castle went on uninterrupted until the Scottish war in 1304 which was led by William Wallace. After its completion in the early 1300s, the castle was garrisoned and kept English rule in the area. The castle was besieged in 1403 by Welsh and French forces and held until the end of hostilities. This was during the rule of Henry Tudor who gave rights back to the Welsh after the war ended. This led to the end of garrisoning of the castle, but it still remained the administrative center for few more years until this responsibility was taken over by the town outside the castle. The castle continues to exist to this day although there was a point in the 1660s that there was a call for the destruction of the castle and to sell off its materials because the castle was not being used and was taking up space in the town.

Caernarfon castle is built as a reminder of the English presence in the area. The first tower that was supposedly completed was the Eagle Tower which was the housing apartment for the nobles of the castle and may have even been the residence of the Edward I when he visited and the place where Edward of Caernarfon was born although records do not say this for certain. There were nine towers built altogether with each one serving a purpose beyond the defensive measures they afforded. The castle had one main gate as well as two side entrances that led off towards the water ways. Caernarfon castle is still an impressive sight to behold.

William the Conqueror

King William I of England or more commonly known as William the Conqueror of England. He is most famous for his conquest of England. William would usher in a new era in England with his victory at the battle of Hastings in 1066 C.E. William would usher in an era of Norman domination over the previously Anglo-Saxon peoples that populated England at this time. William started with more humble beginnings which shaped him into the man he was when he became king of England.

William was born an illegitimate son of the Robert, Duke of Normandy. His father legitimized him as his heir before his death, but some in the duchy did not accept his claim to the duchy. William was 6 when he inherited the duchy of Normandy. There were regents and guardians placed so as to care for William and take care of running the duchy. Williams early years were filled with intrigue as one after another his guardians and regents were assassinated. Eventually his cousin led a rebellion with the help of many nobles in Normandy to take the duchy away from William. William was forced into exile at the palace of the French king. In 1047, William would return to Normandy and crush the rebellion and was merciless to those who rose up against him. Thus, William solidified his control on Normandy which allowed for the events that would take him to be the king of England.

William in 1051 was visited by his cousin Edward the Confessor who while in these meetings promised William the crown of England because Edward had children in which inheritance could be passed on. This was even supposedly solidified over an oath on a sacred object. The problem that developed was that upon the death of any English king a council of English nobles chooses the next king and this was a long held belief. Thus, upon the death of Edward, the witan, as this council was called, chose Harold son of Godwin as the next King of England. William was said to have been enraged by this and planned an invasion of England. Lucky timing favored William for at the same time roughly his ships set sail for England. The English army led by Harold was locked in battle with a Norwegian invasion force which the English defeated soundly. Harold after the victory marched south to meet William. The armies met at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th of October 1066. The battle was won by William and saw the death of Harold’s two brothers and Harold himself. This victory for William gave him the power to be crowned king of England on Christmas Day 1066. The south of England saw William as king while the northern parts of England would continue to resist William’s rule for years to come.

William I changed the landscape of life in England. Many of the nobles in England lost their land to William who gave it to loyal Norman nobles. A massive building spree of castles and fortified positions were built to impose Norman rule on the people. William ordered the creation of what is known as the Doomsday book which is a detailed record of everything taxable in the whole of England that William I controlled. William would spend most of the rest of his life fighting to hold onto his lands both in England and Normandy. William I would die on 9th of September, 1087. He would split his holdings in two with his eldest son getting Normandy and his middle son getting England.

Carlisle Cathedral


In our recent work in class, I did some research into the cathedral at Carlisle. The cathedral at Carlisle was built by the Normans after their conquest of Cumberland County which contained the town of Carlisle and it was in this town that a cathedral was built. The diocese itself was established in 1133 A.D. by Henry I of England. The creation of the diocese served more as a defense against the encroachment of the Scottish bishops into northern England. This kept the Scottish bishops from claiming parts of England as part of their diocese. The cathedral was poorly maintained throughout its existence more because it simply needed to exist to maintain its purpose which was to keep the Scottish bishops at bay. The surviving parts of the cathedral include: two bays of the nave, the southern part of the cross patterned church, and the crossing. Churches at this point in time were built in the shape of crosses. The crossing was the middle portion of the cross where the four arms intersect. The cathedral was built in a typical Romanesque style of the time. Some of the decorations that were carved into the surviving walls still exist. For example, a zigzag pattern still is visible as one looks at the walls. The parts of the church that were destroyed were caused by human error whether it was poor maintenance or purposeful destruction. The first damage done was by a fire in 1292 A.D. This led to a rebuild that continued for a majority of the 1300s. The northern part was destroyed in 1380 A.D. by its own tower crashing down on it. This was rebuilt in the early 1400s. The rest of the damage was done during rule of Oliver Cromwell. This period was known as the Commonwealth period due to the fact that there was an attempt made to create a republican government, but this descended into Oliver Cromwell becoming more or less the military dictator of England. This time period saw a massive movement across England to root out Catholic influence which was why these people destroyed many cathedrals or in this case just part of it as in the Western part of the cathedral and the other parts of the nave in 1650 A.D.

The grounds where Carlisle Cathedral stands was at first a priory which was then added onto by the construction of the cathedral. The Augustinian Priory of St. Mary in Carlisle was found in 1122 A.D. by Henry I. In 1540 A.D., the priory was dissolved during the Commonwealth period. The cathedral at Carlis9le became a pilgrimage center which before their removal was run by the priory of St. Mary. The main focus of devotion was to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Carlisle Cathedral during the Commonwealth period was used as a place of worship while the monastic buildings were reduced to rumble and ruins. After the Restoration of the monarchy which occurred after the Commonwealth period. There was a time of rebuilding, but the cathedral at Carlisle was not near the top of the list, so it fell even more into disrepair. The first steps were taken in 1764 by the bishop to rebuild, but most of this was redone in the nineteenth century restoration. It was never completely rebuilt until the 1850s when people retook an interest in the building. It was not until the mid1900s that the cathedral was finally completed of all its restoration work.