If the only historic date you can remember from school is 1066, you’ve missed out on all sorts of excitement. From ancient British warlocks to art deco fabulousness – take our three mini English Heritage lessons to add to your historical knowledge and understand our present a little better.
One of the first purpose built jails
Lydford Castle in Devon may not be a place you are familiar with, but it has been described by historian Andrew Saunders as ‘the earliest example of a purpose-built gaol’ in England. Renowned in its day for administering backward justice, the castle was labelled by some of its prisoners as being one of the most detestable places around.
The castle dates from the 12th century and was used as a place to administer local laws and to punish people who disobeyed them. It even had an underground pit to contain the worst offending prisoners. Prisoners describe being fed only bread and water and being locked in leg cuffs; that’s assuming they were lucky enough not to be hanged. Even the phrase “Lydford Law” – used as shorthand to describe harsh judgements – is thought to have derived from Lydford Castle’s infamous reputation.
The Privilege of Parliament Act 1512, can also trace its roots to atrocities of Lydford Castle. The law was established after MP Richard Strode was imprisoned for three weeks at Lydford Castle. This law, which has now evolved into Parliamentary Privilege, was put to the test as recently as 2011 when MP John Hemming named Ryan Giggs during a parliamentary debate. MP John Hemming was not prosecuted.
Terribly English Elegance
Known worldwide as a fabulously fashionable country, England’s elegance is one part creativity and one part heritage – just look at the work of Vivienne Westwood! Nowhere is this idea better encapsulated than at the gloriously art deco Eltham Palace in London.
The current building stands on the foundations of a royal residence used from the 14th to 16th centuries. This historic palace was given to Edward II in 1305, became the favourite palace of Henry IV and was even the meeting place of the great scholar Erasmus with (the then prince) Henry VIII.
The palace was ransacked by Nathaniel Rich “the Rebel” during the English civil war and stayed in its dilapidated state until the 1930s when millionaire socialites Stephen and Virginia Courtauld restored the original Great Hall and built a fabulous art deco home around it. The palace is now an unbelievably glamorous blend of style and substance, perfectly summing up our famous English fashion sensibility.
A trip to One London
Standing alone at Hyde Park’s south-east corner, Apsley House is a London townhouse that was home to Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo. The battle was fought in June of 1815 between the armies of the Seventh Coalition and an Imperial French army commanded by Napoleon. This battle ended Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French.
Apsley House has an address of One London and is now open to the public as a museum and art gallery. In addition, the 8th Duke of Wellington still uses the building as a part-time residence. The interior of the house has been preserved to display the original style and décor of its time. It makes it perhaps the only aristocratic English town house from its period with a collection of paintings, silver and porcelain worth admiring close up.
Did these 3 mini heritage lessons give you the history bug? There’s so much more to learn. Spend your Nectar points on an English Heritage membership and start your adventure exploring the rich history of our green and pleasant land today.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Thanks to RedRoseMummy for the image.