How to make a Dish of Snow & Ice Houses, November 29th

Photo Zdenek Machacek -unsplash

Tomorrow there is a 10% chance of snow, in London and 95% in Glenn Shee, Scotland, according to the Snow Risk Forecast. So you might like to try this medieval recipe:

To make a dish of Snowe

Take a potte of sweete thicke creme and the white of eight egges and beate them altogether with a spoone then putte them into your creame with a dish full of Rose Water and a dishfull of Sugar withall then take a sticke and make it cleane and then cutt it in the ende fowre square and therewith beate all the aforesayd thinges together and ever as it ariseth take it of and putte it into a Cullander thys done take a platter and set an aple in the middest of it and sticke a thicke bush of Rosemarye in the apple then cast your snowe upon the rosemarye and fill your platter therewith and if you have wafers cast some withall and thus serve them forth

From Medieval Manuscripts, British Library. Blog. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/medieval-history/page/2/

BF – Before Fridges

Before fridges, snow gave the chance for ice cream and other cold desserts. The problem was keeping it for longer than the cold spell. So many Stately Homes had ice-houses. The V&A had an ice-house just outside their glorious, Henry Cole commissioned restaurant. There is an ice house preserved at the Canal Museum, in Kings Cross. It was set up by Carlo Gatti in 1857 to store ice shipped in from Norway. Another one, in Holland Park, dates from 1770 and served the infamous Fox family (PM Charles James Fox etc).

The first ice house was in Mesopotamian, but in the UK they were introduced by James 1 at his palaces in, first, Greenwich Park, and then Hampton Court. An ice house generally consists of a pit in the ground, brick lined, which tapered to a point. Above was a circular, often domed building. The ice was protected by insulation such as straw, and this structure would allow ice to be available all through the summer.

My great-grandmother hung a basket outside the window in winter to keep things cold. On my fridge-less narrow boat, I have been known to keep milk and butter outside the door, and to suspend and submerge wine in a plastic bag in the canal in high summer.

Ice House Dillington, Somerset
Ice House Dillington, Somerset

For more on Icehouses and the history of ice cream, see my post from August.

Written November 28th 2022, revised and republished 2023

Stir Up Sunday! November 26th

1803 Christmas Cartoon of Napoleon and Mr and Mrs John Bull
By William Holland, 1803

Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent and the day for stirring the Christmas Pudding. It gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer, which has a verse:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.’

So, the Christmas pudding was made with dried fruit and had 13 ingredients for Jesus and the Disciples. It is stirred from west to east, in honour of the Three Wise Men, and stirred by every member of the household who get to make a secret wish.

Here is a recipe.

Normally, a coin in put in the pudding for the lucky one to get. My grandma, a Londoner, used to put in a couple of ‘silver joeys’, long out of legal tender when I was young. She would watch us like a hawk while we ate, and claim the coins back as soon as we found them! She would then put them in an old folded brown envelope and put them away for next year.

MJ Hughes Coins website gives the following excellent history of the Silver Joey:

Originally a Joey was the nickname given to a groat (4 pence) but when that went out of circulation in 1855 the silver 3 pence inherited the name. The name came about due to the reintroduction of 4 pence coins in the 1830s by the politician Joseph Hume, MP (1777-1855).

For some great, coin-based facts! Look no further.

First Published Nov 27th 2022. The Jimi Hendrix content transferred to its own page, and this post republished Nov 26th 2023

Next Walks

Dickens London. Life, Work and Christmas Virtual Tour Fri 15th Dec 2023 7.30pm To book
Roman London – A Literary & Archaeological Walk Saturday 16 Dec & 21st Jan 2023 11.30 am Monument Underground Station To book
The London Winter Solstice Virtual Tour Fri 22 Dec 2023 19:30 To book
Jane Austen’s Christmas Walk Sat 23 Dec 2.30 pm Green Park Underground To book
Christmas With Jane Austen London Virtual Tour Sat 23 December 2023 7.30pm to book Ring in the New Year Virtual Walk Monday 1st January 2024 7.00pm To book
Myths, Legends, Archaeology and the Origins of London Walk Sun 4th Feb & 23 March 2024 11.30pm Tower Hill Underground To book


For a complete list of my walks for London Walks in 2023 look here:

Archive of Events and Walks 2023

I update this from time to time to keep track of walks I have done and to keep them on the internet in case anyone is searching for someone to give a walk on one of ‘my’ subjects.

The ‘London Before and After the Roman invasion Walk’ was a brand new walk, although I had done it as a virtual tour.. But as an actual walk it was new and quite a challenge. Although the Roman finds are concentrated in an area that can reasonably be ‘walked’ the prehistoric element is spread all over Greater London. So I did quite a lot of waving my arms and saying ‘Over there, archaeologists found….’ or ‘To the South East was the Kingdom of the Atrebates, whose King Verica fled to the Romans asking their help to regain his throne. ‘ or ‘Claudius crossed the Thames with Nine Elephants some where, almost certainly to the West of us.’ It went quite well, although the sunny weather changed into a downpour which made the climax of the tour a bit of a damp squib.

But I learnt a lot, because it made me read Dominic Perring’s new book on Roman London ‘London in the Roman World’ more closely than I otherwise would have. I should say that I worked with Dominic when we were young archaeologists at the Museum of London. He is now a Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, and, occasionally, I am lucky enough to join him and a few archaeological friends, watching our football team, Tottenham Hotspur.

Tomorrow is my Plough Tuesday as I spent today, my last day of my ‘holiday’ period, bringing my boat up the Regent’s Canal to outside my flat in Hackney and what a glorious January day it was! Tomorrow I have a meeting to sort out my Road Scholar lecturing for the year and Wednesday is my first day lecturing at College.

Below are the walks I have done so far this year.

Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk

Medieval City Gate
Medieval City Gate


Aldgate Underground Sunday 12 November 2023 11.30pm

A Walk around Medieval London following in the footsteps of its resident medieval poet – Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate. His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London. His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives.

His work helped change the fashion from poetry in French or Latin to acceptance of the English language as suitable literary language. This was helped by the growth of literacy in London as its Merchants and Guildsmen became increasingly successful. In 1422, for example, the Brewers decided to keep their records in English ‘as there are many of our craft who have the knowledge of reading and writing in the English idiom.’

Chaucer and other poets such as Langland give a vivid portrait of Medieval London which was dynamic, successful but also torn by crisis such as the Lollard challenge to Catholic hegemony, and the Peasants who revolted against oppression as the ruling classes struggled to resist the increased independence of the working people following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House, and then to St Thomas Chapel on London Bridge, and across the River to where the Canterbury Tales start – at the Tabard Inn.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude

London before and after The Roman Invasion

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion

October 29th

The walk looks into the evidence for a prehistoric London and tells the story of the coming of the Romans in AD43

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London.

The walk investigates the City of London before and after the the Roman Conquest. What is the evidence for settlement before the Romans set up town of Londinium? Why did the Romans establish the town on this spot? Who were the early Roman Londoners and what made their choice of site so successful?

The fledgling Town was then burnt down by Queen Boudiccan and her Icenian rebels. We look at the evidence for the Revolt and London’s recovery to became the capital of Britain.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I look forward to them more than you can imagine! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue

London Before London – Prehistoric London Virtual Walk

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion


October 29th

An exploration of London before the foundation of Londinium

It was long thought that London was founded by a Trojan Exile in the Late Bronze Age. But historical analysis and archaeological excavation gradually demoted the idea to a myth.

On this tour we explore what was in the London area before the Romans. We begin at Heathrow and tour Greater London for evidence from the Paleolithic to the invasion of the Emperor Claudius.

We concentrate on the period since the introduction of farming, and bring together evidence for the prehistoric Kingdoms that controlled the area on the eve of the Invasion. We look for henges, barrows, hill forts, hut circles and look at genetic evidence for identity of prehistoric Londoners. The tour will end in the City.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude, ex Museum of London Archaeology and Museum Curator

The Peasants Revolt Anniversary Guided Walk (virtual tour on the same day at 7.30)
Aldersgate Underground Sunday 11th June 2023 10.45am

A Virtual Walk tracking the progress of the Peasants as they take control of London

On the anniversary of the Peasants Revolt we reconstruct the events that shook the medieval world. In June 1381, following the introduction of the iniquitous Poll Tax, England’s government nearly fell, shaken to the core by a revolt led by working men. This dramatic tour follows the events of the Revolt as the Peasants move through London in June 1381.

We met up with the Peasants at Aldgate, force our way into the City. We march on the Tower of London as the King makes concessions by ending serfdom, at Mile End. But the leaders take the mighty Tower of London and behead the leaders of Richard’s government. Attacks follow on the lawyers in the Temple, the Prior at St. John’s of Jerusalem, Flemish Londoners, and on Lambeth and Savoy Palaces.

The climax of the Revolt comes at Smithfield where a small Royal party confront the 30,000 peasants.
To Book:

Tudor London – The City of Wolf Hall

engraving of a smithfield burning in the Tudor period


Friday 28 April And June 4th 2023 5.15pm Barbican Underground Station

The Walk creates a portrait of London in the early 16th Century, with particular emphasis on the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More

More and Cromwell had much in common, both lawyers, commoners, who rose to be Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, and ended their careers on the block at Tower Hill.

The walk starts with an exploration of Smithfield – site of the stake where Heretics were burnt alive and to St Bartholomew’s Monastery – given to Richard Rich after his decisive role in the downfall of Thomas More. We continue to St Paul where Martin Luther’s books where burnt, and later, were Puritans attacked dancing round the Maypole. We walk along the main markets streets of London, to Thomas More’s birthplace, and to the site of More’s and Cromwell’s townhouses before, if time allows, finishing at the site of the Scaffold where More and Cromwell met their ends.

Myths & Legends of London May Eve Special Guided Walk

Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower
Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower

Sunday 30th April 2023 3.00pm Tower Hill Tube Station

The walk tells the story of London’s legendary past, explores May Day and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The walk is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the calendar. On this walk we celebrate May Day, or Beltane – the celebration of the coming of Summer.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran, Vortigern and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how May Day may have been celebrated in London.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, into the valley of the River Walbrook, past the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside towards the Roman Amphitheatre and St Pauls.

This is a London Walks guided walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I have wanted to be an archaeologist since 1978 at the ripe old age of 8 years,… I was told for years that I could not be an archaeologist [for any number of reasons, which I now realise are completely ridiculous!], so I ended up on a different course of study. And now at the age of 50, it is my one great regret in life. So, I am thoroughly enjoying living vicariously through you, the digs you’ve been on, and the history you bring to life for us! British archaeology would have been my specific area of study had I pursued it. ?? Thank you SO MUCH for these! I look forward to them more than you can imagine, and honestly, I’ll be sad if you get them down to 1.5 hours! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue

To Book:

Myths, Legends of London May Day Special Virtual Tour

Monday 1st May 2023 7.30pm

The virtual tour tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

The virtual tour is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

It is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the Celtic calendar. On this tour we celebrate May Day, or Beltane – the celebration of the coming of Summer.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran, Vortigern and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how May Day was celebrated in London.

The virtual route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls

This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/myths-and-legends-of-london-special-may-day-virtual-tour-tickets-601341648057

Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk
Aldgate Underground Sunday 16 April 2023 11.30pm

A Walk around Medieval London following in the footsteps of its resident medieval poet – Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate. His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London. His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives.

His work helped change the fashion from poetry in French or Latin to acceptance of the English language as suitable literary language. This was helped by the growth of literacy in London as its Merchants and Guildsmen became increasingly successful. In 1422, for example, the Brewers decided to keep their records in English ‘as there are many of our craft who have the knowledge of reading and writing in the English idiom.’

Chaucer and other poets such as Langland give a vivid portrait of Medieval London which was dynamic, successful but also torn by crisis such as the Lollard challenge to Catholic hegemony, and the Peasants who revolted against oppression as the ruling classes struggled to resist the increased independence of the working people following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House, and then to St Thomas Chapel on London Bridge, and across the River to where the Canterbury Tales start – at the Tabard Inn.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude

Archaeology of London Guided Walk

Reconstruction of Dark Age London Bridge
London in the 5th Century Reconstruction painting.

Sunday 16th April and 4th June 2023 2.30 Exit 3 Bank Underground Station

Legend says that London was founded as New Troy. Historians believed it was founded as Londinium after the Bridge was built by the legionaries of the Emperor Claudius in AD 43.   Archaeologists in the 1970s and 1980s discovered that London was refounded as Lundenwic in the 7th Century and again in the 9th Century when it was called Lundeburg.

This walk tells the epic tale of the uncovering of London’s past by Archaeologists. And provides an insight into the dramatic history of the Capital of Britannia, and how it survived revolts, fires, plagues, and reacted to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.  It became the foremost English City but with periods under Viking and Norman control.

We tell the story in the streets of the City of London, beginning in the valley of the River Walbrook by the Temple of Mithras, and visit many sites where important archaeological discoveries were made, including the Roman Forum, Amphitheatre. Bath Houses, Temples, Roman roads and the City Walls.

Chaucer’s London To Canterbury Virtual Pilgrimage
Sunday 16th April 2023 7.30pm
A Virtual Walk from Chaucer’s London on pilgrimage along the route of the the Canterbury Tales to Canterbury

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate, while he wrote the Canterbury Tales.
His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London.

His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives, following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, and takes us on the pilgrimage to Canterbury. We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House. We cross to Southwark via the famous London Bridge where we start the Pilgrimage at St Thomas Chapel. Then to the Tabard to meet the Pilgrims and onto the Old Kent Road to Canterbury.
This is a London Walks event. Look at their web site (www.walks.com) for a list of other of their amazing walks.

Archaeology of London Guided Walk Sunday 2nd April 2023 11:15 Exit 3 Bank Underground Station

A TALE OF FOUR CITIES

Legend says that London was founded as New Troy. Historians believed it was founded as Londinium after the Bridge was built by the legionaries of the Emperor Claudius in AD 43.   Archaeologists in the 1970s and 1980s discovered that London was refounded as Lundenwic in the 7th Century and again in the 9th Century when it was called Lundeburg.

This walk tells the epic tale of the uncovering of London’s past by Archaeologists. And provides an insight into the dramatic history of the Capital of Britannia, and how it survived revolts, fires, plagues, and reacted to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.  It became the foremost English City but with periods under Viking and Norman control.

We tell the story in the streets of the City of London, beginning in the valley of the River Walbrook by the Temple of Mithras, and visit many sites where important archaeological discoveries were made.

Jane Austen’s London
Sat 2.30 pm 02/04/23 Green Park underground station, London (north exit, on the corner)

An exploration of Mayfair, the centre of the London section of Sense & Sensibility and where Jane came to visit her brother

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen devotee in possession of the good fortune of a couple of free hours today must be in want of this walk.”

People associate Jane Austen and her characters with a rural setting. But London is central to both Jane Austen’s real life and her literary life. So, this tour will explore Jane’s connections with London and give the background to Sense and Sensibility, a good part of which is based in this very area. We begin with the place Jane’s coach would arrive from Hampshire, and then walk the streets haunted by Willougby; past shops visited by the Palmers, the Ferrars; visit the location of Jane Austen’s brother’s bank and see the publisher of Jane’s Books. The area around Old Bond Street was the home of the Regency elite and many buildings and a surprising number of the shops remain as they were in Jane Austen’s day.

This is a London Walk Guided Walk lead by Kevin Flude

CHAUCER’S MEDIEVAL LONDON VIRTUAL WALK

The Vintry 14th Century London


Sunday 12 February 2023 7.30pm

A Virtual Walk around Medieval London following in the footsteps of its resident medieval poet – Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate. His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London. His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives.

His work helped change the fashion from poetry in French or Latin to acceptance of the English language as suitable literary language. This was helped by the growth of literacy in London as its Merchants and Guildsmen became increasingly successful. In 1422, for example, the Brewers decided to keep their records in English ‘as there are many of our craft who have the knowledge of reading and writing in the English idiom.’

Chaucer and other poets such as Langland give a vivid portrait of Medieval London which was dynamic, successful but also torn by crisis such as the Lollard challenge to Catholic hegemony, and the Peasants who revolted against oppression as the ruling classes struggled to resist the increased independence of the working people following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House, and then to St Thomas Chapel on London Bridge, and through London to Poultry, Bucklersbury and Cheapside before visiting the Guildhall and St Pauls. We will walk in the muddy City Streets, exploring the unhealthy conditions and poverty amidst great riches and pageantry.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude

THE REBIRTH OF SAXON LONDON ARCHAEOLOGY VIRTUAL WALK

Reconstruction of Dark age London
Reconstruction of Dark Age London


Sunday 29 January 2023 7.30pm

An exploration of what happened following the Roman Period. How did a Celtic speaking Latin educated Roman City become, first deserted, then recovered to become the leading City in a germanic speaking Kingdom?

The Romans gave the name of Saxons to the barbarian pirates that plagued the North Sea region in the Late Roman Period. Historians link them with the Angles and Jutes who, according to the Venerable Bede, conquered the Roman Province of Britannia and turned it into England. London became its leading town.

But excavation and DNA analysis make the traditional story more difficult to sustain and although the Anglo-Saxons have a rich history how much of it can be trusted? Was there a Dark Age? Or was it just a ‘transition’ from Roman to English? How did English become the main language sweeping aside native Celtic and Latin languages? Much of the story of Saxon London has been founded on myth and dubious historical sources, but archaeological, documentary and genetic research are, perhaps, beginning to provide a clearer narrative.

Following the fall of Roman Britain, London was almost deserted. On this walk we explore how London recovered and grew to be the most important City in England by 1066. We begin our walk in the heart of the City at Bank, and walk through the City to St Pauls, Then along Fleet Street and the Strand to Covent Garden..

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude, ex Museum of London Archaeology and Museum Curator

The Decline And Fall Of Roman London Archaeology Virtual Walk

Reconstruction View of Roman Riverside Wall being built
Reconstruction View of Roman Riverside Wall being built

Sunday 22nd January 11.30am Exit 2 St Pauls Underground Station
 

An exploration of what happened at the end of the Roman Period, and how the City became deserted, and then, reborn as an English City.


The first British Brexit?   The Roman Britons kicked out the Romans in 407AD, and, soon, asked them to come back after a catastrophic collapse.  Faced with plaque, civil war, invasion, mass immigration,  industrial decline, reversion to barter; the authorities struggled against anarchy and descent into a dark age.

But was that how it was?  Wasn’t it a rather a transition into the Late Antique period in which life for most people went on much as before except paying taxes to local rulers rather than distant Romans?

The walk investigates why the Roman system in London broke down, and what really was the impact of the end of the Roman system in London? What is the evidence?  and can we trust it? Or can we really do nothing much more than guess? 

We tramp the streets of London in search of light to shine on the dark age of London.

The Decline And Fall Of Roman London Archaeology Virtual Walk

Reconstruction of Dark age London
Reconstruction of Dark Age London

Sunday 22nd January 7:00pm

An exploration of what happened at the end of the Roman Period, and how the City became deserted, and then, reborn as an English City.


The first British Brexit?   The Roman Britons kicked out the Romans in 407AD, and, soon, asked them to come back after a catastrophic collapse.  Faced with plaque, civil war, invasion, mass immigration,  industrial decline, reversion to barter; the authorities struggled against anarchy and descent into a dark age.

But was that how it was?  Wasn’t it a rather a transition into the Late Antique period in which life for most people went on much as before except paying taxes to local rulers rather than distant Romans?

This virtual walk explores why the Roman system in London broke down, and what really was the impact of the end of the Roman system in London? What is the evidence?  and can we trust it? Or can we really do nothing much more than guess? 

We tramp the virtual streets of London in search of light to shine on the Dark Ages in London.

London Before And After The Roman Invasion

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion

Tower Hill Underground Sunday 8th January 2023 11.30pm

The walk looks into the evidence for a prehistoric London and tells the story of the coming of the Romans in AD43

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London.

The walk investigates the City of London before and after the the Roman Conquest. What is the evidence for settlement before the Romans set up town of Londinium? Why did the Romans establish the town on this spot? Who were the early Roman Londoners and what made their choice of site so successful?

The fledgling Town was then burnt down by Queen Boudiccan and her Icenian rebels. We look at the evidence for the Revolt and London’s recovery to became the capital of Britain.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I look forward to them more than you can imagine! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue


London Before London – Prehistoric London Virtual Walk


Sunday 8th January 7pm

An exploration of London before the foundation of Londinium

It was long thought that London was founded by a Trojan Exile in the Late Bronze Age. But historical analysis and archaeological excavation gradually demoted the idea to a myth.

On this tour we explore what was in the London area before the Romans. We begin at Heathrow and tour Greater London for evidence from the Paleolithic to the invasion of the Emperor Claudius.

We concentrate on the period since the introduction of farming, and bring together evidence for the prehistoric Kingdoms that controlled the area on the eve of the Invasion. We look for henges, barrows, hill forts, hut circles and look at genetic evidence for identity of prehistoric Londoners. The tour will end in the City.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude, ex Museum of London Archaeology and Museum Curator

A New Year Walk on the Myths, Legends and the Origins of London

Sunday 1st January 2023 2.00pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the stories of London’s myths, legends and archaeology to find out what they say about the origins of London. As its New Year we also look at New Year as it was celebrated in London through the ages.

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in myths, legends and London’s Archaeology.

The walk will tell the story of the legendary origins of London which record that it was founded in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. The new City was called Troia Nova or New Troy, which became corrupted to Trinovantum, and then changed to Lud’s Dun or London. When the Roman system broke down in 410 AD, historical records were almost non-existent, until the Venerable Bede recorded the building of St Pauls Cathedral in 604 AD. The two hundred year gap, has another rich selection of legends. The walk will explore these stories and compare the legends with Archaeological discoveries. We also look at New Year Customs and Folklore, and the arrangements of the Calendar for different cultures.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River at Billingsgate, London Bridge, and into the centre of Roman London.

This is a London Walks Guided Walks. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks both physical and virtual.

Ring in the New Year Virtual Walk

Sunday 1st January 2023 7.00pm


On this walk we look at how London has celebrated the New Year over the past 2000 years.

The New Year has been a time of review, renewal and anticipation
of the future from time immemorial. The Ancient Britons saw the Solstice as a symbol of a promise of renewal as the Sun was reborn. As the weather turns to bleak mid winter, a festival or reflection and renewal cheers everyone up. This idea of renewal was followed by the Romans, and presided over by a two headed God called Janus who looked both backwards and forwards. Dickens Christmas Carol was based on redemption and his second great Christmas Book ‘The Chimes’ on the renewal that the New Year encouraged.

We look at London’s past to see where and how the New Year was celebrated. We also explore the different New Years we use and their associated Calendars – the Pagan year, the Christian year, the Roman year, the Jewish year, the Financial year, the Academic year and we reveal how these began. We look at folk traditions, Medieval Christmas Festivals, Boy Bishops, Distaff Sunday and Plough Monday, and other Winter Festival and New Year London tradition and folklore.

At the end we use ancient methods to divine what is in store for us in 2023..

The walk finds interesting and historic places in the City of London to link to our stories of Past New Year’s Days. We begin with the Druids at Tower Hill, and walk around the Roman City of London, and through London Histor

August – Time for Ice Cream (And, First Try, AI)

Photo of Ice House in grounds of Keystone Pub, York, from Doubletree Hilton
Ice House in grounds of Keystone Pub, York, from Doubletree Hilton

From my hotel room in York which overlooks the City Wall, near Monk Bar, I noticed a strange brick building dug into the bank in front of the City Wall. ‘Very curious.’ I thought, as I looked, ‘It’s either a kiln or an Icehouse. ‘ A ridiculous place for a kiln, I concluded, and as the weather was nice, I went out to explore.

By Monk Bar (Bar means Gate in York) I found a pub called the Keystones, and through its yard I could see the round brick structure, you can see below.

Ice House in grounds of Keystone Pub, York
Ice House in grounds of Keystone Pub, York

‘Icehouse!’ I thought to myself with increasing confidence, and the ladder to the cavernous conical hole beneath it proved the point. It dates to about 1800.

Detail of Ice House in grounds of Keystone Pub, York

I wrote a brief history of Ice Houses in November 2022, which you can read here.

But it doesn’t say much about ice cream. I have been meaning to write a piece on that subject since I got a great article on the history of Ice Cream from the Friends of the British Museum magazine. I intended to prĂ©cis it and do a little research and include here.

But, in the meantime, I received an email from ‘Jetpack’, a plugin for WordPress users, that offered me an AI plugin, which I wanted to try. So this is the first AI generated piece of information I have ever used.

WARNING AI GENERATED TEXT!

Ice cream has a long and fascinating history. It’s believed that the ancient Chinese were the first people to eat a form of ice cream, flavoured with fruit and honey. The Persians also had a version of ice cream using ice and grape syrup. In the 13th century, Marco Polo brought the idea of ice cream to Europe from China. The dessert became popular in Italy, where early recipes called for flavoured snow and ice. By the 18th century, ice cream was regularly served in English and American households. Today, ice cream is enjoyed all over the world in many variations and with a plethora of flavours.

Jet Pack AI Generated Text Ends (I’ve improved its UK spelling and grammar.)

Now, settle yourself down with that pistachio and ciocolata gelato and read real writing on the subject of the origins of Ice Cream from the British Museum, and please notice that the ice house pictured below is also, weirdly, just by a City Wall.

British Museum Blog ice-cream-inside-scoop

Blog Page from British Museum showing picture of an ancient Mesopotamian Ice House by a defensive wall.

June 21st Midsummer

A gentle reminder – Facebook post.

Midsummer Solstice is the 21st of June, but the Celtic version of it began when the Celtic Day begun, on June 20th, which we would call Midsummer Eve.

In the early medieval period the Church hijacked Midsummer’s Day and transferred it to June 24th St John the Baptist’s Day. The reasons is that St John was born 6 months before Jesus, hence the June 24th date.

Midsummer is a fire festival, dedicated to Belinus. His name might mean Powerful One or Shining One, and he is linked to Apollo, one of the Greco-Roman Sun Gods. His main festival is Beltane, May Day, but many of the attributes of May celebrations and indeed Halloween celebrations are also carried out in Midsummer.

John Aubrey in the 17th Century writes:

‘Still in many places on St John’s Night they make Fires on the Hills: but the Civil Warres coming on have putt all these Rites or customes quite out of fashion.’

John Aubrey, Miscellanies, 1695

Like May Fires, the fire should be made from wood donated from all farms in the area, and using a range of trees, ideally collected by 9 men and from 9 different trees. Blazing branches should be carried sunwise around the fields to bless the crops, and it was good luck to jump over the ashes of the fire.

To prepare for Midsummer remember that it is, like Halloween, uncanny when Hobgoblins, Fairies and Sprites, are, like in Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, all abroad making mischief.

First in your line of defence is St John’s Wort, known as Chasse-diable, Demon Chaser, Fuga Daemonum amongst many other appellations it could be used to keep demons away, and to exorcise haunted houses. John Aubrey in Miscellanies talks about a haunted London house which was cured by a Doctor who put St John’s Wort under the pillow of the bed at night. Bankes Herbel 1525 says:

‘The virtue of St John’s Wort is thus. If it be put in a man’s house, there shall come no wicked sprite therein.’

Vervain, yarrow, corn marigold, and orpins were also used often woven into garlands, and hung around the necks of cows, or on door lintels as protection. If the St John’s Wort withered the picker was to die or at least endure disappointment. If orpins entwined themselves on Midsummer’s Night, marriage would follow.

A girl seeking love should walk around the Church seven or twelve times (accounts vary!) at midnight scattering hempseed, and singing:

Hempseed I sow
Hempseed I hoe
Let him that is my true love
Come after me and mow

In the SW of England there was a custom to watch the church porch on Midsummer Evening, when the spirits of all the living people of the village could be seen entering the church. Those not seen coming out again would surely die as would the watcher who fell asleep.

Orpine, (Sedum Telephium) aka Live Long, Life Everlasting was valued for the length of time it remained fresh after being gathered. Medicinally, it was considered good to use outwardly to cool scaldings, inflammations, and wounds.

Sedum_telephium by Bernd Haynold wikipedia

St John’s Wort has a reputation for helping with depression, menopausal symptoms, ADHD, anxiety and other conditions.

St John’s Wort Photo by Lex Melony on Unsplash

Thanks to the ‘Customs and Ceremonies of Britain’ by Charles Kightly.

Digital Heritage – the Picture Room at the Sir John Soane Museum

Screen Shot of the Virtual Tour of the Sir John Soane Museum showing the approach to the Paintings Room
Screen Shot of the Virtual Tour of the Sir John Soane Museum

The Sir John Soane Museum is my second favourite London Museum. It’s the place I choose to take people who don’t know London. What I like about it is the atmosphere. It’s not a place I go because of the collection, it’s a place I go because I’m just awestruck when I enter the doors.

Architect Soane, made a Museum of his house, filling it with architectural and sculptural pieces but also some stupendous Art, particularly paintings by William Hogarth. But that isn’t my motivation to keep going back. It’s the Picture Room (and the domed ceilings). Soane had a great collection of paintings, but not enough walls. What he did was to design the Paintings Room. When you visit you go in, admire the paintings on the wall, and the attendant comes in, opens a shutter, and behind the great paintings are another wall of great paintings. And then he opens another set of shutters, and there, is another feast for your eyes.

Now, they have made high quality digital images of the rooms, and put them together using photogrammetry into a digital model which you can explore.

So, feast your eyes on it here: (choose Picture Room from the three options).

It’s not quite as user-friendly as it might be. Firstly, when the tour delivers you to the Picture Room, you have to take over control to go in and explore the 360 degree image of the room. Unfortunately, the pictures are not clickable, so you cannot get information about them from here. Also, the ‘hot spots’ which allow you to open the shutters, only reveal themselves, on my computer, if you approach them at a certain angle.

But don’t let this put you off, I’m sure you will find your way around. So go into the Room, look around, move the cursus, and you will see little signs pop up which open and close the shutters. Really, do try it! There are a couple of other rooms to explore too.

Here is a link to descriptions of the Picture Room and the paintings.

Oh, and the Dome Ceilings? Soane was a specialist in buildings that didn’t want windows in normal places. He was the architect of the Bank of England where windows in the walls were a security risk, and also of London’s first purpose built art gallery – the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Windows reduced the space for paintings, so he designed special low domed ceilings, and the Soane Museum is full of his experimentation in the form.

Scara Brae Three D Model

Another delight is the 3D model of Scara Brae which allows you to explore the Neolithic village, and walk around it. There are labels on this one, so you do get information too.

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/about-us/news/new-digital-model-of-skara-brae-welcomes-virtual-visitors/

360 Degree Panorama Virtual Tours. My part in their development.

I was an early adopter of this form of virtual reality, setting up virtual tours of the Old Operating Theatre Museum in the 1990’s. I have a draft post of this which I have been awaiting time to finish, which I hope to finish soon….

Thanks to the Museum’s Journal article on Photogrametry of May/June 2022 for the two examples above.

April 15th Time for a Tansy!

Tansy: by Georg Buzin (wikipedia)

Easter is time for a tansy! The plant is awesome, not least in that the flowers display a classical  Fibonacci spiral, which is two counter-rotating  logarithmic spirals. But Mrs Grieve in her Modern Herbal repeats the belief that their name derives from the Greek word for immortality ‘Athanaton’, and this might be because they grow so well that in some areas they are proscribed they are so prolific. But Tansy was supposed to have been given to Ganymede by Zeus to make him immortal, and according to Ambrosius, through their use for preserving dead bodies from corruption. Tansy was placed in coffins and winding sheets and tansy wreaths placed with the dead.

Its toxicity means that it repels many insects, particularly, flies and ants, and so it was used as a medieval and early modern strewing herb. And yet there are other insects that love Tansy – it seems to have a dark side and a light side.

It was collected in August (along with meadowsweet or elder leaves) and strewn on the floors of houses (and the ‘thresh’ was held in by the threshold). But it was also placed between mattresses to keep away bugs. People rubbed meat with Tansy to keep flies off. It is now used as a natural protection for crops from insects to reduce the amount of artificial pesticides.

It was an important medical and culinary herb, said to be a substitute for nutmeg and cinnamon, and the leaves, shredded, as a flavouring for puddings and omelettes. At Easter ball games a Tansy Cake was the reward for the winners. It was symbolic of the bitter herbs eaten by the Israelites at Passover. Tansy was thought to be a very wholesome ingredient to eat after the sparsity of Lent and Winter, and voiding the body of the worms caused by eating too many fish. It was used for expelling worms from the stomachs of children. Interestingly it contains thujone, which is also in Wormwood, the other main herb for expelling intestinal worms. Thujone can cause convulsions, liver and brain damage if too much is taken.

In the 14th Century it was used for treating wounds. It was thought to be useful both to induce abortions but also to help women conceive and to prevent miscarriages. Culpepper and Gerard suggests the root was a cure for gout.

Here is a recipe from the ‘The Closet of Kenelm Digby Opened‘ 1669. It was essentially a form of omelette. I would not try the recipe! In the BBC documentary “The Supersizers go … Restoration“, Sue Perkins suffered from the effects of the toxic tansy.

A TANSY (Do not try this at home!)

Take three pints of Cream, fourteen New-laid-eggs (seven whites put away)
one pint of juyce of Spinage, six or seven spoonfuls of juyce of Tansy, a
Nutmeg (or two) sliced small, half a pound of Sugar, and a little Salt.
Beat all these well together, then fryit in a pan with no more Butter then
is necessary. When it is enough, serve it up with juyce of Orange or slices
of Limon upon it.

Sir Kenelm Digby was a Catholic and a natural philosopher of some reputation. After his death an employee published his cookery book. His father was executed after the Gunpowder Plot, and he supported Charles 1st but found a way to work with Oliver Cromwell. He made a great success of his idea of the ‘powder of sympathy’ – 29 editions of his book on the subject were sold. He found the powder in France and it was made with precise ‘astrological’ techniques. The most famous example of a suggested application for the powder was to win the competition for a method of working out longitude (in the 18th Century). Basically, a working method meant knowing the time, normally noon, in two different places. This allowed a triangle to be created between the two points and the Sun which allowed the distance between the two places to be discovered by triangulation. Clocks were not accurate enough (yet) to help so Digby’s famous powder of sympathy was suggested.

A wounded dog would be taken on board a ship, and a bandage from the wound would be left in London. At noon in London it would be sprinkled with the powder of sympathy. The dog on the ship would, perforce, yelp when the powder was administered on the bandage in London and so the Captain would know when it was noon in London! Digby was long dead when the application for the prize money was made and rejected.

‘Longitude’ by Dava Sobel tells the story of the discovery of a clock-based method of calculating longitude.

April 7th – Good Friday – Hot Cross Buns & Long Rope Day

photo of three hot cross buns on a blue transfer ware plate
Hot Cross Buns

It is a simpler sort of bun than the Chelsea Bun, which was the bun to have at Easter, at least in London in the Georgian Period. To read my updated blog post on Chelsea Buns on Good Friday see below:

There seem to be all sorts of dubious traditions around the origins of the Hot Cross Bun. It has been suggested that the Greeks knew how to put a cross on a bun. Also that the Anglo-Saxons celebrated the Goddess Eostre with the crossed bun where the cross represents the four quarters of the moon, the four seasons and the Wheel of the Year. I doubt this folklore because there is very little evidence for Eostre other than the Venerable Bede’s mentioning her name, so her association with Hot Cross Buns cannot be known.

However, the addition of a cross, and the association with Easter, makes the bun powerful, so there are lots of superstitions on record. A piece of an Easter Hot Cross Bun given to the sick may promote a cure. It was said that a bun cooked and served at Easter will not go off for a year. This might help explain the traditions that hanging them up on a string or ribbon is a good thing – one hung in a kitchen prevents fire, on a ship prevents sinking, in the Widow’s Son pub in East London to remember a sailor son who never returned for his bun on Good Friday.

The technology of putting a cross on a Bun requires nothing more complicated than a flour and water paste so it might well be an ancient tradition. A more impressive cross can be made with shortcrust pastry as was traditional. The bun itself is simply flour, milk, butter, egg, salt, spices and mixed fruit.

They are, in my opinion, the sort of food that has been eaten so often after purchase from a shop that a home-made Hot Cross Bun would be strangely disappointing – better almost certainly but then just not the same. It’s normally eaten toasted and buttered although I really prefer the soft doughy untoasted and unbuttered bun. But then it is possible to get carried away and eat the entire pack of four.

Here is a recipe from the BBC www.bbcgoodfood.com

Long Rope Day

There is a tradition of Skipping on Good Friday. I can’t say I ever saw it – in my school skipping was a perennial activity, mostly enjoyed by the girls, but the boys would sometimes be intrigued enough to join in.

There is a great article about Long Rope Day in the Guardian with a wonderful picture of a collective skip.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2023/apr/06/english-heritage-tradition-skipping-aeaster

More traditions here:

Good Friday – Chelsea Buns

Old Chelsea Bun House Frederick Napoleon Shepherd - from a print at the Museum of London (Wikipedia)

Old Chelsea Bun House Frederick Napoleon Shepherd – from a print at the Museum of London (Wikipedia)

‘RRRRRare Chelsea Buns’ as Jonathan Swift called them in a letter to Stella in 1711.

T!he tradition was that on Good Friday Georgian period Londoners would go to Chelsea to buy Chelsea Buns. Thousands of people would turn up at the Five Fields which stretched from Belgravia to what is now Royal Hospital Street. There were swings, drinking booths, nine pins and ‘vicious events that disgraced the metropolis’. The Bun House was on Jew’s Row as Royal Hospital Street was then called. As several King Georges visited the Bun House it became known as the Royal Chelsea Bun House. It was run by the Hands family. They were said to sell 50,000 Buns on the day. Stromboli tea garden was nearby.

Fragrant as honey and sweeter in taste
As flaky and white as if baked by the light
As the flesh of an infant soft, doughy and slight.

The buns were made from eggs, butter, sugar, lemon and spices. Inside the Chelsea Bun House was a collection of curiosities. Chelsea became known for its collection of curiosities in the 18th Century. Of course, there was the great Hans Sloane’s collection which was the founding collection of the British Museum, And then there was Don Saltero’s which was a coffee house that had curiosities on the wall. The Bun house displayed clocks, curiosities, models, paintings and statues on display to attract a discerning Public.

Me. I love a Chelsea Bun above all buns, But can you get them any more? The British Library Cafe was the last place I found that sold them. And that was 6 years ago I reckon. If you see any let me know.

To make yourself one follow this link. https://www.christinascucina.com/chelsea-buns-british-buns-similar-to-cinnamon-rolls/

Chelsea_bun by Petecarney wikipedia
Chelsea Bun by Petecarney wikipedia
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