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Subject: ‘Architecture’

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The Palace of Whitehall in London about 1680

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Royalty on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Palace of Whitehall about 1680,  picture, image, illustration
A reconstruction of the Palace of Whitehall in London about 1680 by Peter Jackson

This detailed architectural drawing is a reconstruction of the Palace of Whitehall around 1680, a few years before the Glorious Revolution. The Palace was a treasure house of the ancient and the modern, with many buildings dating back to mediaeval times alongside the magnificent new additions of the Tudor and Stuart period. The original residence had been bought by the Archbishop of York in the 13th century, but once it was acquired by Cardinal Wolsey its splendour was not long in the making. Henry VIII acquired it after the vainglorious prelate’s demise, and it served as the monarch’s palace until 1698 when it was almost entirely destroyed by fire, save for the magnificent Banqueting House built in 1622 to the designs of Inigo Jones, its interior painted by Rubens a decade later. It stands at the centre of our reconstruction, while to the right can be seen the Horse Guards barracks and at the top the Holbein Gate, the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall.

Many more pictures relating to Whitehall in London can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Old Palace of Westminster in London about 1530

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Politics on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Old Palace of Westminster, picture, image, illustration
The Old Palace of Westminster about 1530 by Peter Jackson

This historically accurate drawing shows a reconstruction of the Old Palace of Westminster in the reign of Henry VIII. It is a bird’s eye view from the north east showing the Old Palace itself, with its waterfront and the Westminster jetty or landing stage. There was no bridge over the Thames at Westminster until Labelye’s Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750. To the right can be seen the clock tower in what is New Palace Yard, and in the background rises the impressive Gothic majesty of Westminster Abbey, and in the distant corner the Holbein Gate. Westminster Hall sits at the centre, the oldest extant building of the Old Palace, which still stands today at the heart of Britain’s history and political establishment, over 900 years since it was built.

Many more pictures relating to the City of Westminster, London, can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Old St Paul’s Churchyard in London around the year 1600

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Religion, Trade on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Old St Paul's Churchyard
Old St Paul's Churchyard next to Old St Paul's Cathedral in C17 London by Peter Jackson

Old St Paul’s Cathedral was a Gothic church which dominated the City of London and the skyline of the capital. Its fabric, however, was in a dire state of repair and during the 16th century various depredations took place, including a wholesale stripping of the cathedral’s interior ornaments after a mob was incited by evangelical Protestants, who preached a ranting sermon from St Paul’s Cross in 1549. Many subordinate buildings were demolished and the stone sold off to developers, including the builders responsible for Cromwell’s new London palace, Somerset House. Other properties were sold or rented out as commercial premises, and booksellers colonised the formerly sacred site.

Many more pictures relating to St Paul’s Cathedral, London, can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Beargarden in the entertainment district of Southwark

Posted in Animals, Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Leisure, London, Sport on Friday, 14 March 2014

Bear Garden,  picture, image, illustration

The Beargarden in Southwark, London

The Beargarden was an enclosure in Southwark with a purpose-built theatre-like stadium for the baiting of bears. The exact location of this famous entertainment spot has been difficult to find, and it is thought that the original Elizabethan beargarden may have moved around the time of the building of the Globe Theatre in 1599. The theatrical impresario and entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, bought the prestigious Mastership of His Majesty’s Game in 1604, since he had already been engaged in staging bull and bear baiting as well as pursuing his more famous theatrical career of staging plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He continued to provide the sport in the famous old Beargarden well into the Jacobean period, until in 1614 he decided to demolish it and build the Hope theatre, which was used for both plays and animal baiting. Half a century later Samuel Pepys called the sport “a rude and nasty pleasure” after visiting the very same venue in 1666.

Many more pictures relating to Southwark can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Rose Theatre at Bankside in Southwark, London

Posted in Actors, Architecture, English Literature, Historical articles, History, London, Shakespeare, Theatre on Friday, 14 March 2014

Rose Theatre,  picture, image, illustration
The Rose Theatre, Southwark by Peter Jackson

The Rose Theatre was one of four theatres on the south side of the Thames in Southwark, that district notorious for leisure and lascivious pleasures, whence the revenues went to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, and undoubtedly paid for the establishment of his New College at Oxford, as well as Winchester College itself. It was the first London theatre to stage any play by Shakespeare, and yet its success was short lived. It was built by Philip Henslowe, whose diary from the period remains the most important historical primary source for the study of the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. It was the smallest of the London theatres, but despite later enlargement by Henslowe himself, seems to have been unpopular with many theatre-goers. An outbreak of the Plague closed all playhouses for two years, and when they re-opened the Rose failed to increase its popularity. The Privy Council’s decree in 1600 that there should only be two theatres in the district signalled its demise, along with the building of the Globe in 1599. The Rose was abandoned and closed in 1603 when its lease expired. It was probably demolished around 1606.

Many more pictures relating to Southwark can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The great fire of 1861 at the Surrey Docks in Southwark

Posted in Architecture, Disasters, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, London on Friday, 14 March 2014

Tooley Street Fire,  picture, image, illustration
Front View of the Great Tooley Street Fire of 1861 at Surrey Docks in London

The Surrey Docks opened in 1807 and as the Empire grew this part of Southwark saw a huge expansion in trade and commerce coming into London from all corners of the globe. There was building expansion too, with scores of warehouses springing up in the area, vast brick caverns bursting with imports and exports of every description: animal, vegetable and mineral. It was in one of these buildings, Scovell’s warehouse at Cotton’s Wharf, that a fire broke out in a consignment of jute. It quickly spread throughout the vulnerable district and before long the whole Tooley Street area was ablaze. The fire raged for the two days it took to bring it under control and was not fully extinguished until after a fortnight. It was the greatest fire in London since the Great Fire itself, almost two hundred years earlier. This disaster confounded the insurance companies, who raised premiums substantially, and led to the creation of the London Fire Brigade by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1865.

Many more pictures relating to Southwark can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the master of siege warfare

Posted in Architecture, Historical articles, History, War, Weapons on Wednesday, 26 February 2014

This edited article about Sebastien Vauban first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 569 published on 9 December 1972.

Sebastien Vauban,  picture, image, illustration
"You are Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban? You were responsible for the defence of the Argonne towns?" asked the Royalist Commander; picture by Pat Nicolle

As the last embers of civil war died in France in 1653 the Prince of Conde, leader of the rebels, fled to Spain leaving the Royalists under Cardinal Mazarin to mop up any remaining resistance. It was a tough fight, particularly in the Argonne region north-east of Paris where a group of little towns put up a stout defence against the Royal forces.

When the towns finally fell the prisoners were brought in, each fearing the worst.

“You!” bellowed a tough looking guard at one of the prisoners. “Yes you! The Commander wants to see you – personally.” A young officer stepped from the ranks of captives. His heart sank. He knew that the victorious Royalists had good reason to hate him, he had caused them much loss in men and materials.

“You are Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban? You were responsible for the defence of the Argonne towns?” asked the Royalist Commander as he sat behind his desk in the HQ tent. “Explain your conduct. Why did you take up arms against your king?”

Young Vauban was only twenty, and of course he was scared.

“I have the honour to serve in the Prince of Conde’s own regiment. My commander ordered me to defend those towns and I did so to the best of my ability. As to the success of our defence. I have always been interested in fortification and so, perhaps, I put more thought into it than might be expected from a mere rebel.”

The Royalist officer noticed the irony in Vauban’s reply but ignored it. He had a plan of his own and wanted to talk to Vauban alone. The other officers left.

Some time later the Commander came out of the tent with young Vauban and announced, “Meet Monsieur Vauban who has enlisted in the King’s service. I feel that his talent as a builder of walls and ditches may serve our Royal Sovereign well.”

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Gunpowder challenged castle builders in the Renaissance

Posted in Architecture, Castles, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Science, War, Weapons on Wednesday, 26 February 2014

This edited article about castles first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 568 published on 2 December 1972.

Artillery castles,  picture, image, illustration
Artillery Castles: the simplest was Camber Castle (top), made up of a 12-sided structure with a central tower, whilst Deal Castle (centre) was more complicated and built on three levels; (bottom) the round castle at Dover; pictures by Pat Nicolle

“Who is this man?” snapped Pierre d’Aubusson, Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes of the Order of St. John.

“His name is Roger, Sire. He is an English sailor,” replied one of the knights. “He has a scheme to destroy the Turkish assault bridge.” At this the Grand Master pricked up his ears. Though he was a busy man organising the defences, d’Aubusson was particularly interested in anything that could stop another Turkish attack on the St. Nicholas Tower, the northern outpost of Rhodes’ defences.

For months the Turks had hurled themselves with incredible courage and ferocity at the walls of Rhodes. Their cannon had smashed ramparts, towers and battlements. Once they had tried to take the St. Nicholas Tower and this time they were planning to float across an assault bridge. But how did they intend to do it? Roger the Englishman had the answer.

“Sire, the Turks brought an anchor in secret across the harbour last night. They have now passed a rope through it and tomorrow they will haul their bridge across on the rope.”

“Two hundred crowns if you can get rid of that anchor!” boomed the Grand Master. And two hundred crowns Roger earned the following night, for he was a fine swimmer. Yet the Turks were not so easily deterred. They concentrated a barrage of artillery fire on the St. Nicholas Tower while thirty ships towed the bridge across. With ships, shouts, giant cannon and janissaries the Turks once more attacked. The walls of Rhodes crumbled – but the Knights of St. John drove back their fanatical foe until after three months of siege the Turks retreated.

The shattered fortress of Rhodes had survived, yet all Europe knew that this Christian victory had been won because the knights were as fanatical as their foes. The weakness of their fortifications in the face of artillery fire was plain for all to see.

During the 15th century Italy was in the front line of the war against the Turk. Then in 1494 Charles VIII of France rampaged through Italy and gave the Italians yet another reason to improve their defences. One of the best Italian fortification engineers was Michele San Michele and in 1520 it was he who came up with an entirely new idea – artillery bastions which he designed for the defences of Verona.

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Castles were designed for fine living as well as defending

Posted in Architecture, Castles, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, War on Tuesday, 25 February 2014

This edited article about castles first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 567 published on 25 November 1972.

Tattershall Castle,  picture, image, illustration
(Top) Pierrefonds in France, owned by the Duke of Valois; (centre) Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire, built in the early 15th century by the Lord Treasurer of England; (below) from a French illuminated manuscript showing soldiers attacking a Spanish town, by Pat Nicolle

“Hey – Leonello, there’s the little kitchen maid who likes you so much!” shouted a young man dressed in blue and yellow. Leonello blushed, and so did the kitchen maid who hurried away. The young men laughed. They always teased Leonello d’Este because he was the serious minded member of the gang. But Leonello took it in good spirits.

The Italians sauntered down the wide streets of Ferrara towards a great castle that dominated the city centre. This was the Castello d’Este, Leonello’s home. Leonello let them walk ahead. His friends were good company but Leonello had seen someone he wanted to talk to.

“Good day Master Guarino da Verona,” said the young man respectfully to an old gentleman who gazed thoughtfully at the brick-built towers of Leonello’s home. Guarino da Verona just nodded. They stood in silence for a while, the dashing young nobleman and his white haired teacher.

” ‘Tis a fine castle is it not? My grandfather must have been as proud to build it as my father is to rule it,” said Leonello.

Guarino da Verona merely grunted for he was of a philosophical turn of mind. “Yes a fine castle – a fine castle – but a sign of man’s stupidity that such things should be necessary in this world.” Leonello was a bit taken aback by this description of his huge home battlements, barbicans, bridges and moat. Of course people were not peaceful, he thought, and so castles were needed, and anyway this one was very handsome.

The 14th and 15th centuries were the age of the Renaissance when new ideas and learning were completely altering men’s attitudes. On a more practical level it was a time of great change. The nobility wanted to live in more comfort and enjoy a really civilised life. This was just as true in Britain and France as it was in Italy. Castles were originally meant to be strong places safe from attack but now their function as homes was growing more important.

Homely comfort is not easy to combine with defensive strength. One way to get round the problem is to make your defences as clever as possible rather than relying on brute strength. Many Italian Renaissance castles show this sort of cleverness. The Castello d’Este is in the middle of Ferrara town which means that its outer defences cannot stretch very far. On the other hand it is near an arm of the river Po, so the Castello d’Este relied a great deal on its moat.

The castle itself is a rectangular building around a central courtyard. Its four gateways are each defended by a separate tiny castle or barbican in the middle of the moat. Two of these barbicans are isolated from the castle while two are joined to the main structure by an archway over a drawbridge.

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Siege warfare could destroy entire towns and cities

Posted in Architecture, Castles, Famous landmarks, Royalty, War, Weapons on Tuesday, 25 February 2014

This edited article about Mediaeval fortified towns first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 566 published on 18 November 1972.

Carcassonne,  picture, image, illustration
A picture history of the mediaeval French walled city of Carcassonne by Pat Nicolle

A sudden bell sounded over the silent city of Calais. For a while it seemed to be ringing for the dead. Calais was utterly silent. Then there was a murmer. You could not tell where it came from – then there was a shout, and then another. A woman cried out in a high pitched voice, a man bellowed to his neighbour, doors creaked open, hurrying feet rang on stone steps. People came out of their houses, poured into the streets.

“What news? What news!” they shouted to each other as they rushed along towards the main square in the middle of Calais.

They were a pitiable sight – old people with faces drawn and yellow, little children in the last stages of starvation, women clinging to their husbands in fear and hope, and men, once proud and strong but now walking with the uncertain steps of those whose bodies cry out for food. The people of Calais were starving.

For almost a year since September 1346 the French city of Calais had defied an English army under Edward III. It had been a long and terrible siege but now the commander of Calais’ garrison, Sir Jean de Vienne, had news from the English camp.

A silence fell on the citizens as they stood before their grim faced leader. Then Sir Jean spoke.

“The English King is angry. Our resistance has cost him much in men and money, yet we have won terms from him, though they are hard. Our city must submit to the English. We, the knights and squires, must go as prisoners to the enemy camp. But . . .”, Sir Jean looked at the fearful faces all around. “. . . six of your leading citizens must also go to the English King dressed for their own execution, wearing only their shirts, and with ropes around their necks. They shall take with them the keys of Calais.”

For a moment there was a horrified silence, then the richest man in Calais, a proud man whose once wide waist had given little clue to his courage, stepped forward. His name was Seigneur Eustache de Saint Pierre. Five other rich merchants followed him and with their self-sacrifice Calais was saved.

As it turned out, those six brave burghers of Calais did not die. Edward of England would have executed them but his kind-hearted wife, Queen Philippa, softened his heart. That siege had a happy ending. Most sieges did not! They were bitterly cruel and often dragged on for years. The reason was simple – fortifications were getting too good for the siege weapons then available.

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