Tag Archives: England

Architect: Christopher Wren

Christopher Wren

Christopher Wren was born on the 20thOctober 1632, in East Knoyle, Wiltshire.  His father Christopher Wren, was rector of East Knoyle, and later Dean of Windsor, and mother Mary Cox, daughter of Wiltshire squire Robert Cox.

His early education was under the tutorage of Rev. William Shepherd.  Then between 1641 and 1646 attended Westminster School, where he received a thorough grounding in Latin, Mathematics, and learnt to draw, which led to an interest in design and construction.

In June 1650, Wren studied Latin and the works of Aristotle at Wadham College, Oxford.  Whilst there became associated with John Wilkins, and the Wilkins Circle; Mathematicians, Creative Workers and Philosophers, whose works led to the formation of the Royal Society.

In 1651 graduated with a B.A. and in 1653 had attained an M.A. and elected a fellow of All Souls College, and actively pursued a period of research and experimentation.

In 1657 Wren was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in London.

For it was in 1662, that Lord Brouncker, Mr Boyle, Mr Bruce, Sir Robert Moray, Sir Paul Neile, Dr Wilkins, Dr Goddard, Dr Petty, Mr Ball, Mr Rooke, Mr Hill and Mr Wren, proposed the formation of a socity; “For the promotion of Physico-Mathematicall Experimental Learning.”  They received a Royal Charter from Charles II, and so “The Royal Society,” was formed. Wren became president of the Royal Society from 1680-1682.

In 1661, Wren was elected as Savilian Professor at Oxford, and Surveyor of Works to Charles II.

Wren’s scientific work covered, astronomy optics, longitude, cosmology, mechanics, microscopy, surveying, medicine and meteorology.  It was at this time his thoughts were drawn into the world of architecture.

In 1665, Wren was asked to redesign the now ruined St.Paul’s Cathedral, but before he could submit his initial plans, two-thirds of London was destroyed by fire.  As Kings Surveyor of Works in 1669, he played his part in the re-building of London, and was responsible for fifty-one new churches, and knighted on the 14thNovember 1673.

He dabbled his foot a bit in politics, and in 1680 became Member of Parliament for Old Windsor, then again in 1689 and 1690, but never took his seat.

In 1669 Wren married Faith Coghill, daughter of Sir John Coghill of Bletchingdon, and they had two children; Gilbert who died of convulsions and Christopher, who trained to be an architect.  His wife Faith died in September 1675 of smallpox and was buried in St.Martin-in-the-Fields alongside her son Gilbert.

In 1677 Wren re-married Jane Fitzwilliam daughter of William Fitzwilliam, 2ndBaron Fitzwilliam. They had two children, Jane and Billy. His wife Jane died of tuberculosis in 1680, and was buried alongside his first wife Faith in the Chancel of St.Martin-in-the-Fields.

On the 25thFebruary 1723, Sir Christopher Wren died aged 90, and was laid to rest on 5thMarch 1726, in St.Paul’s Cathedral crypt.  The inscription inscribed in a circle of black marble reads: Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good.  Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you.

Wikipedia Image


St.Paul’s Cathedral

St.Pauls cathedral

According to the writings of St.Bede an English Monk who lived between 673-735, who wrote the works: “Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” in Latin, we learn much of its early history.

Pope Gregory I sent Mellitus, a member of the Gregorian mission to England in June AD601, in a response to an appeal from Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  His mission was to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity.

Archaelogical evidence tells us there was a late-Roman Episcopalsee in Lundenwic better known to us now as London, and this became the chosen city of the first Saxon cathedral built by Mellitus in AD604.  He who would become the first Bishop of London, and the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and was buried in St.Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury on 24thApril AD624.

The early cathedral had been made in a rudimental styled chapel, and constructed out of wood, which was the common building material at the time.

It is a consensus of opinion that the building may have been destroyed after he left the city and took up the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, by his pagan successors.

The cathedral was rebuilt in AD886, and completely destroyed by fire in AD 962.

A new cathedral was built in 962, and it housed the body of King Ethelred I, the Saxon King who died in 871.  Sadly the building was destroyed by fire, along with the whole city in 1087.

The rebuild of St.Pauls commenced by the Normans after the fire in 1087, and took over 200 years to complete, but the fire of 1136 destroyed much of the building.

They never learnt their mistakes from previous builds, for they constructed the roof out of wood, which would ultimately doom the building to disaster.

In 1240 the church was consecrated, and by 1256 an enlargement programme had been started, it was consecrated in 1300 and completed in 1314.

It was to become the third-longest church in all Europe at 585 feet, 100 feet wide, 290 feet across the transepts and crossing with a spire some 489 feet bursting towards the skyline.

Henry VIII came to the throne on 21stApril 1509, but it was his zest for a male heir and son to the English Throne, which started the conflict with the Pope. Eventually by Act of Parliament, he made himself head of the Church of England.

The Royal coffer’s needed money, and High Church officials, had become rich figureheads in Henry’s eyes.

For it was in 1538, Henry took his most forceful step against the power and wealth of the church. “The Dissolution of the Monasteries,” which led to the destruction of interior ornamentation, the cloisters, crypts, chapels and shrines.  Much of the building materials of St.Paul’s was used in the construction of Somerset House.

In 1561, lightning destroyed the spire of St.Paul’s; Protestants and Roman Catholics believed it was a sign of God’s displeasure.

Inigo Jones, an English classical architect of the time, added the west front in the 1630’s. During the Civil War, the building suffered much…  Then St.Paul’s was gutted by fire, during the “Great Fire of London in 1666.”

While the building might have been saved, a major construction would be required, and it was at this point, they decided to build a new St.Paul’s Cathedral.  The task was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren on 30thJuly 1669.

It was not until June 1675, that the first stone was laid.  He had submitted five designs, and the accepted design resembled that of St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with saucer domes inspired by the works of Francois Mansart’s Val-de-Grace, as he had seen in Paris.

In 1666, a spark from Farryner’s bakery had caused the “Great Fire of London,” and it was not until December 1697, that the newly built St.Paul’s cathedral, opened its doors for use.

The Right Reverend Henry Compton, Bishop of London, preached the first sermon to echo through the walls, of this grand new cathedral.  He based his sermon on Psalm 122; “I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

The final stone, placed on the lantern, took place in October 1708, and Parliament declared it officially completed on 25thDecember 1711.  Additional work carried on, for the next few years, which included roof statues in the 1720’s.

The Cathedral is built of Portland stone, sat on the soft London earth in a Renaissance style, that represents Wren’s vision of an English Baroque building.  It rises 365 feet high, dominating both the historical and modern city of London.

Located off the Nave are the chapels:

The Chapel of All Souls

The Chapel of St.Dunstan

The Chapel of St,Michael

The Chapel of St.George

The inner dome, rises 108.4 metres and holds three circular galleries:

The Whispering Gallery

The Stone Gallery

The Golden Gallery

The clock mechanism was built in 1893 by Smith’s of Derby, and similar in design to that used in Big Ben.

The north-west tower houses thirteen bells, whilst the south-west houses four bells, including the Great Paul bell weighing in at 16.5 tons cast in 1881 by Taylor’s bell foundry of Loughborough.

The organ currently dates back to 1694, when it was commissioned during the reign of William III and Mary, and is the third largest organ in use in Great Britain.  It containes 7,266 pipes with 5 manuals, 189 ranks of pipes, and 108 stops enclosed in a case built by Grinling Gibbons.


London was targeted night after night during World War Two, as thousands of bombs were dropped on her, and much was destroyed but St.Paul’s managed to survive, little scathed by the events.

On 12thSeptember 1940 a time-delayed bomb struck her, and was successfully defused.  Another bomb hit her her on 10thOctober 1940, causing minor damage.  Then on 29thDecember 1940, the cathedral came close to being be destroyed, when an incendiary bomb got lodged into the dome, but fell onto the Stone Gallery and was put out before it could do any damage.

The cathedral crypt holds some two hundred plus memorials, and the first person to be interred was Sir Christopher Wren in 1723.  The words written above his tomb: Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.

Most of the memorials found within the walls of St.Paul’s Cathedral, commemorate British military personnel.  There are special monuments for: Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington, T.E.Lawrence, and Florence Nightingale.

The Cathedral has seen many famous funerals: Horatio Nelson, Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill.

There is an American Memorial Chapel in the Apse (at the eastern end), for the 28,000 Americans who were stationed in England during World War Two, and lost their lives in battle.

A Roll of Honour sits before the Chapel’s altar.  Three windows within the chapel are centred on the theme of service and sacrifice, with the US armed forces insignia around the edges.

England’s Heirs: Prince of Wales

King Edward VII
King Edward VII

The tradition of conferring the title “Prince of Wales” on the Heir Apparent or Heir Presumptive dates back to 1301, when King Edward I invested his son Edward Caernarfor with the title “Prince of Wales” when Parliament sat in Lincoln.

Heir Apparent is a person who is first in line in succession and can not be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person.

An Heir Presumptive by contrast is someone who is first inline to inherit the title, but can be displaced by the birth of a more eligible heir.

Edward of Caernarfon: The first English Prince of Wales was born at Caernarfon on the 25thApril 1284, the eldest surviving son of Edward I and Eleanor of Castille.  On the 7thFebruary 1301 was made Prince of Wales when Parliament was held in Lincoln.  Edward went on to marry Isabella of France daughter of Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre.

Edward II reigned from 1307-1327.  Deposed by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, and forced to abdicate his throne in favour of his son; Edward III.  Edward II was murdered in Berkeley Castle, and buried at Gloucester Cathedral.

Edward of Woodstock: was born on the 15thJune 1330 to parents Edward III and Phillipa of Hainault.  On the 12thMay 1343 received the title Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall.  In 1345 he received the title; Order of the Garter.

He fought in the Hundred Years War, and won his spurs at the Battle of Crecy, and adopted the emblem of the Ostrich feather, and fought at the Battle of Poiters.

Edward married Joan the Countess of Kent, the daughter of Edmund Plantagenet, a marriage made in heaven, bearing two children: Edward of Angouleme and the future Richard II.

Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince died on the 8thJune 1376, and buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

Richard of Bordeaux was born on the 6thJanuary 1367 to parents Edward of Woodstock and Joan Countess of Kent.  On the 20thNovember 1376 received the title Prince of Wales of Havering.

In 1377 became King Richard II.  He married twice; Anne of Bohemia in 1383 and Isabelle of Valois in 1396.  Richard was forced to abdicate his throne in favour of Henry of Bolingbroke.  He spent his remaining years as a prisoner of Pontefract Castle, and on the 14thFebruary 1400 was murdered or the result of being starved to death.

Henry of Monmouth was born on the 9thAugust 1387 at Monmouth Castle to parents Henry IV and Mary de Bohun.  On the 15thOctober 1399, became the Duke of Lancaster and Prince of Wales.

In 1413 Henry of Monmouth succeeded his father as King Henry V.  Henry married Catherine of Valois, and their marriage bore one child, the future Henry VI.  On the 31stAugust 1422 Henry died of dysentery at Bois de Vincennes whilst on a military campaign in France.  His body was returned to England, for burial in Westminster Abbey.

Edward of Westminster was born on the 13thOctober 1453 at Westminster to parents Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou.  On the 15thMarch 1454, was made Prince of Wales at Windsor.

Edward was forced into exile along with his mother, following his father being deposed by the Yorkists.  In December of 1470 married Anne Neville.  On the 4thMay 1471 died in or thereafter at the Battle of Tewksbury, where he fought to restore his father’s throne.

Edward of Sanctuary was born on the 4thNovember within the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey to parents Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and on the 26thJune 1471, received the title; Prince of Wales.

On the 9thApril 1483, he was supposed to succeed his father as King Edward V, but his throne was usurped by his uncle, Richard the Duke of Gloucester.  Edward V and his younger brother, Richard the duke of York were imprisoned in the Tower of London and believed murdered by order of Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).

Edward of Middleham was born in 1473 at Middleham Castle to parents Richard III and Anne Neville. In 1478 he received the title Earl of Salisbury and on the 24thaugust 1483 was made Prince of Wales at York Minster.

On the 9thApril 1484, Edward died and was buried at Sherrif Hutlon Church in Yorkshire.

Arthur Tudor was born on the 20thSeptember 1486 at Winchester to parents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.  He received the title; Prince of Wales on the 29thNovember 1489 and invested with the title on the 27thFebruary 1490 at Westminster.

Arthur married Princess Katherine of Aragon in November 1501 at St.Paul’s Cathedral.

On the 20thApril 1502, died at Ludlow Castle and was buried at Worcester Cathedral.

Henry Tudor the future Henry VIII was born on the 28thJune 1491 at Greewich, to parents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.  He received the title Duke of York in 1494.  With the death of his brother Arthur, received the title Prince of Wales on the 18thFebruary 1504.

In 1509, Henry Tudor became King Henry VIII with the death of his father Henry VII.  He went on to marry six times.  He died on the 28thJanuary 1547 at the Palace of Whitehall, and was laid to rest alongside his third wife Jane Seymour at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Henry Frederick Stuart was born on the 19thFebruary 1594 at Stirling Castle, Scotland to parents James VI of Scotland (Later James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. At birth he received the itiles; Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Lord of the Isles.  In 1603 when his father became James I of England, he was made Duke of Cornwall.

On the 4thJune 1610, he received the title Prince of Wales at Westminster.  On the 6thNovember 1612 he died and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Charles Stuart was born on the 19thNovember 1600 at Dumferline Palace, Fife, second son of James VI of Scotland (Later James I of England) and Anne of Denmark.

In 1603 received the title; Duke of Albany and Duke of York in 1605.  On the 4thNovember 1616, was made Prince of Wales.  With the death of his father on the 27thMarch 1625, became King Charles I in 1625.  On the 13thJune married Henrietta Maria of France.

Civil War broke out between King and Parliament, and on the 30thJanuary 1649 was executed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell in Whitehall.  He was buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Charles Stuart the future Charles II was born on the 29thMay 1630 at St. James Palace to parents Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France.

From birth received the titles; Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay.  He became the Prince of Wales around 1638-1641 but was never formally invested.  By the time of his father’s death, he was already in exile.

In 1660 he took his place as King Charles II, and in 1662 married Princess Catherine of Braganza. On the 6thFebruary 1685 he died and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

James Francis Edward Stuart was born on the 10thJanuary 1688 at St. James Palace in London to parents James II and Mary Beatrice of Modena.

He received the title; Prince of Wales on the 4thJuly 1688 at St. James Palace.  He was forced into exile with his parents when his father abdicated the English throne following a rebellion led by William of Orange.

On the 6thSeptember 1701 James II died, and he succeeded his father as James III an exiled King.  We know him better as the exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Three unsuccessful Jacobite uprisings took place in 1715, 1719 and 1745.  On the 1stJanuary 1766, he died and was buried within the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

George Augustus the first Hanoverian Prince of Wales was born on the 10thNovember 1686 at Schloss Herrenhausen to parents George Ludwig, Prince of Brunswick – Luneberg (Later George I) and Sophia Dorothea of Celle.  He received the title Duke of Cambridge in 1706 and Prince of Wales on the 27thSeptember 1714.

In 1705 he married Princess Caroline of Anspach.  On the 11thJune 1727 his father died and he succeeded him as King George II. On the 25thOctober 1760 died and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Frederick Lewis was born on the 1stFebruary 1707, to parents George II and Caroline of Brandenburg-Anspach.  He received the title Duke of Edinburgh in 1726 and Prince of Wales on the 8thJanuary 1729.

He married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and on the 31stMarch 1751 died and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

George William Frederick was born on the 4thJune 1738 at Norfolk House, London to parents George II and Caroline of Brandenburg-Anspach.  On the 20thApril 1751, received the title; Prince of Wales.

George married Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz in 1761.  On the 29thJanuary 1820 he died at Windsor Castle and buried in Windsor Chapel.

George Frederick Augustus the last Hanoverian Prince of Wales was born on the 12thAugust 1762 at St. James Palace to parents; George III and Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz.  At birth received the title Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, and on the 19thAugust 1762 received the title; Prince of Wales.

In 1811 became Regent and King George IV in 1820. He married twice 1) Maria Fitzherbert  2) Caroline of Brunswick.  On the 26thJune 1830 he died and was buried at Windsor.

Albert Edward was born on the 9thNovember 1841 at Buckingham Palace to parents Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  On the 8thDecember 1841 he received the title Prince of Wales.

On the 10thMarch 1863, Albert Edward married Alexandra of Denmark.

With the death of his mother, Queen Victoria in 1901, he became King Edward VII and on the 6th May 1910 after a short reign, died and was buried in Windsor Castle.

George Frederick Ernest Albert was born on the 3rdJune 1865 at Marlborough House, London to parents Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark.  In 1892 received the title; Duke of York and in 1901 Prince of Wales.

George Frederick went on to marry Mary of Teck. In 1910 with the death of his father became King George V. On the 20thJanuary 1936 he died and was buried at Windsor.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was born on the 23rdJune 1894 at White Lodge, Richmond to parents George V and Mary of Teck.  On the 23rdJune 1910 he received the title Prince of Wales.

On the 20thJanuary 1936, succeeded his father as King Edward VIII.  In December of 1936 shocked his family and the nation by abdicating, leaving him free to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.

He went into exile, marrying Wallis Simpson in France of 1937.  On the 28thMay 1972 he died in Paris and was buried at Frogmore, Paris.

Charles Phillip Arthur George Mountbatten was born on the 14thNovember 1948 at Buckingham Palace to parents Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth II) and Phillip Mountbatten.  On the 26thJuly 1958 received the title; Prince of Wales

In 1981 Charles, the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer, and in 2005 married Camilla Parker-Bowles (Duchess of Cornwall).

British Prime Minister: Robert Walpole


Robert Walpole was born on the 26thAugust 1676 at Houghton in Norfolk, to parents Colonel Robert Walpole a wealthy land owner and Mary Burwell.

The young Robert Walpole attended Eton in 1690, and in 1696 entered Cambridge University.  His university education ended abruptly with the death of his eldest brother, and he returned to the Norfolk family estate.

On the 30thJuly 1700 Robert Walpole married Catherine Shorter, daughter of a timber merchant, and the couple had six children.

With the death of his father in the November of 1700, this helped him enter the world of politics, as he took his place as MP for Castle Rising in 1701, a seat previously held by his father.

At the 1702 general election, won his seat at King’s Lynn a seat which he held until the February of 1742, with a break in 1712 when he was a guest of the Tower of London.

Robert Walpole snr, a devout Whig member and loyal supporter of the 1688/89 Glorious Revolution, which gave Britain a constitutional monarchy.  Robert Walpole jnr held similar views.

Robert Walpole’s political rise was swift.  In 1708 appointed Secretary at War, Treasurer of the Navy in 1710/11.  His rise came to an abrupt halt, when the Tories came to power.  In 1712 he was accused of corruption, and imprisoned in the Tower of London for a few short months.

In 1714, George I came to the throne, and had an utter distrust of the Tories believing they opposed his right of succession. By 1715 the Whigs had regained power and Walpole became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1717 Walpole resigned from the Whigs, and in 1720 became Paymaster General.  His return to office coincided with the collapse of the South Sea Company. He regained his posts as First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Following the death of George I in 1727, a new monarch called for a new administration and Walpole was replaced by Spencer Compton, the preferred choice of the new King.  With the support of Queen Catherine, he regained his position.

Walpole was given 10 Downing Street as his home of residence by King George II.  Yet he insisted it be the residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, which became the permanent residence for all future British Prime Ministers.

Trade disputes with Spain, and issues with critics within the party, forced his hand into declaring wat in 1739.  In February of 1742 Walpole faced much opposition by Whig politicians over the war with Spain, forcing him to resign his post.

King George II awarded Robert Walpole with a peerage as the Earl of Orford, and he remained a confidant of the King until his death in 1745.

British Prime Ministers…


1721-1742 Robert Walpole (Whig)

1742-1743 Spencer Compton (Whig)

1743-1754 Henry Pelham (Whig)

1754-1756 Thomas Pelham-Holles (Whig)

1762-1763 John Stuart (Tory)

1763-1765 George Grenville (Whig)

1765-1766 Charles Watson-Wentworth (Whig)

1766-1768 William Pitt the Elder (Whig)

1768-1770 Augustus Henry Fitzroy (Whig)

1770-1782 Frederick North (Tory)

1782-1782 Charles Watson-Wentworth (Whig)

1782-1783 William Petty (Whig)

1783-1783 William Cavendish-Bentinck (Whig)

1783-1801 William Pitt the Younger (Tory and Whig)

1801-1804 Henry Addington (Tory)

1804-1806 William Pitt the Younger (Tory and Whig)

1806-1807 William Wyndham Grenville (Whig)

1807-1809 William Cavendish-Bentinck (Whig)

1809-1812 Spencer Perceval (Tory)

1812-1827 Robert Banks Jenkinson (Conservative)

1827-1827 George Canning (Tory)

1827-1828 Frederick Robinson (Tory)

1828-1830 Arthur Wellesley (Tory)

1830-1834 Charles Grey (Whig)

1834—1834 William Lamb (Whig)

1834-1834 Arthur Wellesley (Tory)

1834-1835 Robert Peel (Conservative)

1835-1841 William Lamb (Whig)

1841-1846 Robert Peel (Conservative)

1846-1852 Lord John Russell (Whig)

1852-1852 Edward Smith Stanley (Tory and Whig)

1852-1855 George Hamilton Gordon (Conservative)

1855-1858 Henry John Temple (Liberal and Whig)

1858-1859 Edward Smith Stanley (Tory and Whig)

1859-1865 Henry John Temple (Liberal and Whig)

1865-1866 John Russell (Whig)

1866-1868 Edward Smith Stanley (Tory and Whig)

1868-1868 Benjamin Disraeli (Conservative)

1868-1874 William Ewart Gladstone (Liberal)

1874-1880 Benjamin Disraeli (Conservative)

1880-1885 William Ewart Gladstone (Tory and Whig)

1885-1886 Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (Conservative)

1886-1886 William Ewart Gladstone (Liberal)

1886-1892 Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (Conservative)

1892-1894 William Ewart Gladstone (Liberal)

1894-1895 Archibald Primrose (Liberal)

1895-1902 Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (Conservative)

1902-1905 Arthur James Balfour (Conservative)

1905-1908 Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal)

1908-1916 Herbert Henry Asquith (Liberal)

1916-1922 David Lloyd George (Liberal)

1922-1923 Andrew Bonar Law (Conservative)

1923-1924 Stanley Baldwin (Conservative)

1924-1924 James Ramsay MacDonald (Labour)

1924-1929 Stanley Baldwin (Conservative)

1929-1935 James Ramsay MacDonald (Labour)

1935-1937 Stanley Baldwin (Conservative)

1937-1940 Neville Chamberlain (Conservative)

1940-1945 Winston Churchill (Conservative)

1945-1951 Clement Attlee (Labour)

1951-1955 Winston Churchill (Conservative)

1955-1957 Anthony Eden (Conservative)

1957-1963 Harold Macmillan (Conservative)

1963-1964 Alec Douglas-Hume (Conservative)

1964-1970 Harold Wilson (Labour)

1970-1974 Edward Heath (Conservative)

1974-1976 Harold Wilson (Labour)

1976-1979 James Callaghan (Labour)

1979-1990 Margaret Thatcher (Conservative)

1990-1997 John Major (Conservative)

1997-2007 Tony Blair (Labour)

2007-2010 Gordon Brown (Labour)

2010-2016 David Cameron (Conservative)

David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister on the 24thJune 2016 after the UK Referendum voted to leave Europe

2016-2018 Theresa May (Conservative)

On the 13thJuly 2016 Theresa May was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II to the post of Prime Minister, she being the second appointed female.

Image: You Tube

1666: Great Fire of London

Great Fire of London
London Ravaged by Fire

In the latter years of the 17thcentury, London had grown in size to become the largest city in London, with an estimated 80,000 inhabitants.

The city was surrounded by a ring of suburbs where many people were known to live.  The City of London had become the commercial heart of the capital, and was by far the largest market and busiest port in England.

The layout of the city was one of narrow, winding and cobbled alleys, and many buildings were constructed from wood with thatched roofs.  So fires were common in the city, which were known to house the poor, with their open fireplaces, candles and ovens.

In those day’s there was no fire brigade to call in for help, yet the River Thames would have been a great help, for those who lived on the river’s edge.  Yet they ran a service known as “Trained Bands” who watched out for fires, and the public banded together to fight fires.

1666, had been a long and dry summer, and buildings were tinder dry.  In the early hours of Monday 3rdSeptember, at Thomas Farriner’s Bakery in Pudding Lane a fire broke out.

It took an hour before the parish constable arrived, to find neighbours dousing the fire with water, but observed it was having little effect on the flames as it licked at the adjoining houses.  He wanted to demolish the adjoining houses, but the householders protested.

The Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas Blood, was summoned, for he had the authority to order the destruction, as a matter of law.

By now more experienced firefighters were battling with the fire, but wanted him to order the destruction of adjoining properties.  Yet he refused to give the order, as many of the properties in question were rented, and finding the owners could be difficult at such short notice.  He made a comment “Pish! A woman could piss it out” and left… I bet he regretted his decision that day.

On the Sunday after the outbreak, Samuel Pepys a senior Naval Officer at that time, observed from the Tower of London: Some churches, about three hundred houses had been destroyed, and some houses on London Bridge had been completely destroyed whilst others still burned.

So it was, Samuel Pepys made a report to the King and the Duke of York, of what he observed.  The order was given to pull down the burning houses, and any adjoining houses to stop the spread of the fire.  By mid-morning, attempts to put out the fire had been suspended as people gathered together their belongings, and headed away from the fire.

King Charles II sailed down from Whitehall to inspect the scene for himself.  The Lord Mayor had been ordered to pull down the houses, but many were still left standing, forcing the King to order mass destruction of property to the west of the fire… yet, it was too little too late, it was obvious the fire was now out of control.

Some eighteen hours after the alarm had been raised; the fire had become a raging firestorm, burning anything that stood in its way.

By dawn on Monday 3rdSeptember, the fire was expanding towards the north and west, and south of the banks of the River Thames.  Then later turned north, heading for the financial part of the city; home to the banking institutions.  This led to a rush upon the banks, and the removal of the gold; the wealth of the city and the country lay in its strong rooms.

The Royal Exchange caught fire by mid-afternoon, and within hours is was nothing more than a smoking shell.

Boats and carts laden down with peoples goods, headed out of the reach of the fire, to the open fields and beyond, where tents and shelters were being erected … what a spectacle what a backdrop … as London burnt.

King Charles put his brother, James the Duke of York in charge of operations to stop this fire and save as much of London.  He pressed ganged lower class people into the job, paying them well and feeding them, thus creating teams of fire fighters, battling against this raging fire destroying the heart of the city.  His actions won him the hearts of the people, in his defence of the city.

On Tuesday 4thSeptember, James believed he had created a natural firebreak, as his fire fighters made their stand at Fleet Bridge down to the River Thames, and his River Fleet would form a firebreak.   As the fire approached, a gust of wind helped the fire on, and it jumped over his men, and they were forced to run for their lives.

No one believed St.Pauls Cathedral would fall foul to this fire.  Yet early evening it licked at its walls, then melted its roof tiles, within hours it was nothing more than a ruin.

The fire was on a direct course for the Tower of London, with its large stores of gunpowder.  The garrison knew what would happen if the fire reached the gunpowder.  So they created their own firebreak against the oncoming fire by blowing up houses on a large scale in the vicinity to halt the advance of the fire.  By Wednesday 5thSeptember the firebreak began to take effect as the wind died down.

The Great Fire of London saw the destruction of 13,500 houses, 87 churches, The Royal Exchange, St.Pauls Cathedral, Bridewell Palace, City Prisons and the list goes on.  London was destroyed by natural causes, but loss of life was few, according to the records only sixteen died.

King Charles II appointed six commissioners to redesign the city, built out of brick with larger roadways. Sir Christopher Wren was appointed to design and oversee the construction of 50 churches and St.Paul’s Cathedral, which must be considered one of his highest achievements.

The Great Plague of 1665, ran rampant across the City of London, and is responsible for the deaths of some 200,000 souls.  In 1666 fire ravaged London, destroying much of its unsanitary houses, rats, fleas and diseases.

London was rebuilt, and so a new era began in its life.

Shakespeare: Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

In 1594, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Shakespeare needed a playing company to perform his plays to the public.  So it was, that the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” were born with him being one of the owners.

Richard Burbage would play most of the leading roles, which would have included; Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth to name just a few, whilst Shakespeare himself would have performed many of the secondary parts.

Shakespeare wrote most of his plays to be performed by the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and they played to their audience at “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, then in 1597 they moved to the “Curtain Theatre,” following a dispute with their landlord.

His need for larger premises saw the ambitious construction of the “Globe Theatre” in Southwark, built in 1599.

For it was on the 29thDecember 1598 that “The Theatre” in Shoreditch was dismantled, and the main beams moved to south of the River Thames: “The Globe Theatre,” in Southwark.

The original Globe Theatre was a three-storey open-air amphitheatre, some 100 feet in diameter, and easily capable of housing 3,000 spectators.

Located at the base of the stage, we find an area referred to as the pit, which was for standing room only.  It was common practice in this design, to locate larger columns on either side of the stage as support for a roof over the rear area of stage.  The ceiling area would be painted with what appeared to be sky and clouds, representing the heavens.  A trap door would be located in the heavens, allowing performers to descend using a harness.

The Globe became a joint venture, as in the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” sharing in profits and debts: Richard Burbage – Cuthbert Burbage – William Shakespeare – John Heminges – Augustine Phillips – Thomas Pope.

With its first performance being held on the 21stSeptember 1599 in their new playhouse: Julius Ceasar.

William Shakespeare’s wealth grew, with each and every production drawing in the crowds to witness the plays of this man.  He who had no formal training according to a critic of his work; Robert Greene, yet he was popular.  Many of his plays were being published, and his name attracted many to read his works.

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died, and King James I ascended to the English throne, and became their new patron.  They changed their name to the “King’s Men” in response.  The company then held exclusive rights for the performances of William Shakespeare plays.

The “Globe Theatre” was destroyed by fire on 29thJune 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII. It is said a theatrical cannon misfired setting the wooden beams and thatched roof into a blazing inferno. She was rebuilt by June 1614.

“The Globe” suffered the same fate as many other London theatres in 1642; being closed, and demolished in 1644, making way for tenements, by order of the Puritans.  Thankfully, William Shakespeare had not been alive to see his dream torn down.

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