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Archive for the tag “Birmingham”

A pleasant surprise

In recent years, Dan Jones’ posing and fanciful Crimewatch-style re-enactments, together with Starkeyesque conclusions formed before he started, has marred quite a few series on mediaeval history. Now he seems to have changed tack completely with this series, covering canal building from the middle of the eighteenth century and – yes – I rather enjoyed it, even though Rob Bell may have been more appropriate.

My main criticism is not with the programme content or the presenter but that it was broadcast as two ninety minute episodes and not three separate hours. The content definitely subdivided this way, showing that canals superseded the unreliable roads and rivers of the Early Modern Era.

The first hour was about the Grand Union Canal, originally conceived to join Birmingham and London via Oxford, with the first stretch to Coventry already constructed – it eventually went further east and the Oxford Canal filled the gap. Then came the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, taking Yorkshire produce to the great west coast port via a few higher rainfall Lancashire mill towns – after negotiation because lengthening the route would slow down the journey. Finally, it moved on to the Avon-Kennet Canal that opened in 1810 to link London and Bristol, although railways and improved roads were about to make them commercially obsolete, particularly through a certain Mr. Brunel. As Jones made clear, canals remain popular for pleasure boats and the Avon-Kennet Canal avoided closure in the 1950s for this reason.

No sooner has this series finished than Jones has returned to the Channel Five “cluster” with a show about Roman roads. Trailers showing him dressed as a centurion are not promising.

The Crown Jewels of East Anglia?

Picture: Birmingham Museums Trust

This excellent EADT article suggests that a horde found near Tamworth about ten years ago included some crown jewels worn by Anna* or Onna, the (Wuffing) King of East Anglia and nephew of Raedwald. He is likely to have died in a 653/4 battle near Blythburgh, along with his Bishop, Thomas, fighting against Penda’s pagan Mercians. Tamworth is, of course, in Mercia and parts of the treasure can be seen there: in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as well as the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. All five of Anna’s children, including Ethelreda (Audrey) and Jurmin, his only son who died in the same battle.

* Male, despite his name, as were the C16 French warrior Anne de Montmorency and the historian Sharon Turner.

Richard III and Football

A few years ago, when Leicester City won the Premier League, some people connected the success to the then-recent discovery of Richard’s remains in the city.

This is a fanciful idea. However, there are three major clubs that play in Richard’s colours.

Aston Villa This historic club is by far the largest in the Midlands. They have many, many honours, albeit most of them were collected in the 19th Century. Having said that, they are one of the few English teams to have won the European Cup, a feat achieved in 1982. They are currently languishing in the Championship, the second tier of English football. It is likely that such a large and important club will soon regain a Premier League place.

West Ham United. This club has long been noted for playing open attractive football. Its finest hour was perhaps 1966, when it provided three players (Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst) to the England side that won the World Cup. West Ham won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965 and they have also won 3 FA Cups over the years, although never a top level Championship. Many people’s favourite London club, they recently moved into a new stadium at Stratford, forsaking their long-established and much-loved Boleyn Ground.

Burnley¬†Currently the nearest Premier League club to Middleham. Burnley are a “small town” club who have never been able to attract the crowds of their big city rivals and have always had to operate on a budget, often making good use of youth products. At the time of writing they are rather closer to the foot of the table than their friends and supporters would wish. The won the top-flight championship for the one and only time in 1960. They have also won the FA Cup once. Given their limited resources, mere survival in the top tier is a brilliant achievement.

 

 

 

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