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Monday, August 3, 2015

GUEST BLOGGER JO MANNING ON THE PEASANTS' REVOLT OF 1381


New Plaque at Smithfields Market commemorates Wat Tyler, John Ball, and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

by Guest Blogger Jo Manning


Smithfield Market in London

For me, as an avid student of English history, the Peasants’ Revolt of late spring/early summer of 1381, which began in Essex, was every bit as significant an event as the Magna Carta was in 1215, more than a century earlier.

Unlike those behind the Magna Carta, those revolting were poor folk, peasants who were still laboring under the harshness of serfdom and poor economic conditions.  The Black Death had ended just 35 years before; the perennial war against the French was going badly, and, guess what, the poor were to have levied against them a Poll Tax.

Such behavior on the part of the French aristocrats was to turn out very badly for them centuries hence, but this was still only the 14th century…and it was England. Anger against the Poll Tax soon turned into demands that all men deserved more freedom, equal treatment under the law, and a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Kent joined with Essex and there began a march towards London, reaching the gates of the city on the 13th of June. The Kentish rebels were led by a man named Jack Straw; the Essex contingent was led by an ex-soldier named Wat (Walter) Tyler. The rebel army met with the 14-year-old King Richard II, but before demands were heard, the Lord Mayor of London, a William Walworth, attacked and killed Wat Tyler. The rebels were in disarray when the king stepped forth and made a promise to the peasants that he would abolish serfdom. Satisfied that a major demand had been met, the rebels returned home…only to meet death by hanging by the government soldiers who followed them, giving no quarter to anyone who’d participated in the revolt.

(Put not your faith in princes…ah, always so true!)

Another important individual associated with the rebellion was a Lollard preacher named John Ball, who had been imprisoned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and freed by the rebels. He was a staunch believer in the equality of all men and is famous for a sermon he preached that asked, “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”  That quote lived on after his execution and still lives today.
What did the rebels gain? Well, no poll tax was collected for hundreds of years after and perhaps a good deal of fear was put into the mean hearts of the rich and of the church – which protected the rights of the rich – Tyler, Straw, and the murderer mayor Walworth, were immortalized and took their place in English history and mythology. The Lollards faced at least a hundred years of persecution owing to the part the priest John Ball played in the rebellion.


New plaque at Smithfield Market…


Interpretations by historians of those who took part in this rebellion against royal authority have gone back and forth over the years. Were they the vicious mob portrayed by the aristocratic chroniclers? Or were they actually the first working-class heroes in England, fighting for the rights of all? It is estimated that about 60,000 rebels (and not all of them were necessarily peasants) took part in this revolt.

Another view of the plaque


The plaque at Smithfield Market, where the confrontation between the rebels and the king took place, is considered long overdue, and welcomed by many who would rather deem it the English Rising than the Peasants’ Revolt and trace the beginnings of democracy in England to this important event.




Friday, July 31, 2015

THE WELLINGTON TOUR: ST. JAMES WALK

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On Sunday, the tour group had several options. Kristine and Victoria led a walking tour of St. James's. Some others had different agendas. One went to Stratford on Avon for the day; some did a Harry Potter Tour, for example.




We walked from our hotel near Victoria Station past Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Monument, Being a Sunday, the  traffic circle and the Mall were open for strollers and bicycles.  Our weather was perfect, warm and sunny without being humid or sticky.


Flower Beds were gloriously abundant.


We headed up the path in Green Park past Lancaster House, Spencer House, and other posh residences.

Lancaster House

Spencer House, West Facade

We cut through the narrow Milkmaids Passage which opens into a few short streets and cul-du-sacs of western St. James's.


The Stafford  Hotel (much remodeled) was once the home of Sir William, 3rd Baronet Lyttelton, and his wife (1787-1870), the former Lady Sarah Spencer, niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. After her husband's death, Lady Lyttelton became a governess to the children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  The hotel's fine restaurant is titled The Lyttelton. For more about the hotel, click here.


Wandering around the maze of streets in this little corner of St. James's, we found a mix of modern (often brutalist) office/apartment complexes and a few listed buildings fro the 18th century.
for example, those below:

21 Arlington Street, built 1738-40 by Architect Giacomo Leoni for Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, an excellent example of Palladianism stripped down to its essentials (ig nore the aadded top floor)

Royal Overseas Club, in Park Place


We followed the ins and outs of this maze to the entrance facade of Spencer House in St. James's Place.

Spencer House, built 1756-66 by Architects John Vardy and James "Athenian" Stuart for John, 1st Earl Spencer.  It is now owned by the Rothschild Enterprise's RIT Capital Partners and open on most Sundays for a tour of the State Rooms.  The website is here and includes photos of both the exterior and interior.


Nearby is a handsome brick house once the residence of  Williams Huskisson (1770-1830). The blue plaque calls him a statesman; he was often a strong opponent politically in Parliament of the Duke of Wellington.  He is also the first man to be killed in a railway accident when a demonstration run of the Rocket ran over him in the presence of many notables including the duke. 

No. 29 was once the residence of Winston Churchill.


#5  was the home of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745) 
and his son Horace Walpole (1717-1797)


Another famous resident of St James Place, at #4, was composer and pianist 
Frederic Chopin (1810-49)


Duke's Hotel is another elegant institution on St. James Place


St. James's Place after several twists and turns, opens into St. James's Street, that famous location of St. James's Palace, gentlemen's clubs of the British variety, and several very old merchants.  The numbering begins at the Palace and goes north up the east side of the street to Piccadilly then crosses to the west side and counts southward back to the Palace.

The Palace at the bottom of the street

Grenadier Guard at St James's Palace, built by Henry VIII


But feeling the need for a sit-down and some coffee, we retired to a cafe in Piccadilly before taking up our tour again.

Berry Bros. and Rudd, Ltd, Wine Merchants, #3 St. James's Street
Their website is here.


A Passage beside the wine store leads to Pickering Place, above and below.
This little space was once known as a spot for dueling, but it must have been pretty tight!


Pickering Place,with a plaque of Lord Palmerston


Another plaque commemorates the location of the Texas legation 1842-1846.
Denise particularly was excited to find this.  Wonder why? A Texan, perhaps?


Lock and Co. Hatters have served british dignitaries for more than 300 years.
Click here for their website..

Lobb and Co. Bootmakers


Closer to Piccadilly on the east side of the street are two famous Clubs


Boodle's, #27  St. James's Street

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The chemist's shop, D. R. Harris, founded in 1790, is located at #29. The website is here.


White's Club, #37/38 St. James's Street, founded 1693

Om the west side, heading back to St. James's Palace, you will find Brook's Club.

Brooks's 60 St. James's Street,  club founded in 1762

The headquarters of Justerini and Brooks Ltd. at 61 St. James St
across Park Place from Brooks's.

The Carlton Club, #69 St. James's Street, founded in 1832 


#74 St. James's Street, formerly the Conservative Club, completed in 1845

Returning to Piccadilly, we stopped for a welcome sit-down and a coffee or tea. Even on a Sunday morning, Piccadilly was busy, as usual an international mish-mash of tourists globe-wide. Great people watching!



Burlington Arcade

We walked east on Piccadilly past a number of famous sites: 
on the north side of the street, Burlington Arcade.

And Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Tucked almost beside Burlington House is the  famous residence, Albany, once the home of Lord Byron and more recently, Georgette Heyer.  Built originally as Melbourne House. it was traded by that family to the Duke of York and Albany (2nd son of George III) in exchange for what became Melbourne House in Whitehall, now the Scotland office just south of Horse Guards. Later it became prestigious bachelor quarters, eventually open to women as well. 

Albany

On the South side of the street, that esteemed purveyor of all things delicious, Fortnum and Mason, established in 1707 in Duke Street, and supplier worldwide, including to the army in the Peninsular War in the early 19th century, right up to today's British forces -- not to mention picnickers, racegoers, opera lovers, and  foodies everywhere., 
To visit, click here..

Fortnum and Mason

Hatchards

Hatchards

Hatchards Bookstore, established 1797  Their website is here.

Soon, we arrive at the wonderful St James's Church, Piccadilly.


Outside the church is a small but lively marketplace



Baptismal font

The famous wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons 


Organ loft at the rear of the church


Floris Perfumers on Jermyn Street

Nearby, a plaque marking the location of the residence of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Chequers Pub

Time for another pause that refreshes, this time at Chequers...a charming little pub in Duke street. At the rear of the building or accessible from a passage beside it is Mason's Yard, another hidden collection of interesting sites, including the White Cube Gallery and the member's entrance of the London Library.


William III in St. James's Square

At last we came to St. James;s Square, still a leafy oasis, though a private park as so many of the squares in London are.  

There are still a few of the buildings originally built here, though much remodeled, and many replaced.  At #4 is the Naval and Military Club, better known as the In and Out Club.

#4 St. James's Square

The plaque honors Nancy Astor (1879-1964), first woman to sit in Parliament, who once lived here.

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans, 1605-1684

Following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, Henry Jermyn was Lord Chancellor, and received a grant of land north of St. James's Palace, which he had cleared and laid out for development. He is known as the Father of the West End.  He died shortly before the completion of St. James's Church, just north of St. James Square.

At #10 St. James's Square stands Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, site of many important multilateral events.  The building was once home to three Prime Ministers, 
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708-1778), Edward Geoffrey Stanley, Earl of Derby (1799-1869), and William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898).

Plaque honoring three Prime Ministers at #10 St. James's Square

Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-52) at #12 St James's Square

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and his wife, Anabella Millbanke.  She was a mathematician and a pioneer in computing. 

London Library, #14 St. James's Square

The private library, established in 1841, is a favorite of many British writers and historians. Kristine and victoria returned here the week after the tour for a special viewing during London Open House Week. Watch for our report in a few weeks.

#16 St. James's Square, once the Boehm residence where the Prince Regent 
received the despatches of the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo,
now the East India Services Club 

By this time we were all ready for our tea, so we hiked back to Piccadilly and the wonderful Richoux Tea Room at #172.

The Survivors l to r: Victoria, Diane, Ki, Donna, Marilyn, Kristine

NEXT ON FRIEDAY: THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON TOUR STORMS WALMER CASTLE