Methodist preacher John Wesley wrote of his first open air sermon.
"I could scarce reconcile myself to this strange way of preaching in the fields, having been all my life till very lately so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church."
John Wesley would go on to preach outdoors many times, one particularity impressive location that was perfect for this was in the village of Gwennap in Cornwall, a Cornish village situated in the heart of the counties tin mining region.
A depression, known as Gwennap Pit, that was created by mining subsidence, is situated on the edge of the village, the woodland that once surrounded it have long since disappeared, a direct result of the demand for charcoal that was used in the smelting of the tin. By the time Wesley visited Gwennap the pit had weathered and was completely covered with grass, Wesley described it as a round, green hollow, gently shelving down. John Wesley would preach in the open at Gwennap Pit eighteen times after first visiting on the 5th September 1762. Of this visit Wesley stated
“The wind was so high at five that I could not stand in the usual place at Gwennap. But at a small distance was a hollow capable of containing many thousand people. I stood on one side of the amphitheatre toward the top, with people beneath and on all sides, and enlarged on those words from the Gospel for the day ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see’...... and hear the things which ye hear’.
John Wesley's Methodism was popular in Cornwall, it's simple teachings of comfort and hope and ultimate salvation appealed to miners and fisherman who faced danger every day of their lives, people would flock to Gwennap where they could be reassured by Wesley's words.
My great grandparents were the second couple to be married in the their local Wesleyan Church when it was completed in 1904, my parents would be married there two generations later.
The Death of Henry of Grosmont.
Henry of Grosmont, writes author Kathryn Warner, was "brave, devout, intelligent, courteous, sensual, cultured, wise, gracious, flamboyant, humble and charismatic."
Henry was also generous and kind, an example of his generosity and kindness can be seen through his treatment of his father, Henry of Lancaster and the founding, in 1353, of the Collegiate Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke.
In the last years of his life Grosmont's father was blind and spent his remaining few years at Leicester Castle. It maybe due to his medical afflictions and the reliance on his son that in 1331 he founded an infirmary for the poor in Leicester. Henry of Lancaster died in 1345 and was buried at Leicester Castle.
Following the completion of his Collegiate Church, Henry of Grosmont had his father's remains re interred. Just sixteen years later Henry would be dead of the plague, he died on the 23rd March 1361, he would be laid to rest along side his father in Leicester.
You can read more of Henry of Grosmont in Kathyrn's blog at
The Reinternment of Richard III
King Richard III, the last English monarch to die in battle and the last to bear the name of Plantagenet was laid to rest on the 26th March in 2015.
Richard's mortal remains now rest in Leicester Cathedral under a newly carved tomb that is a far cry from the grave in which he spent the previous five hundred and thirty years.
The choice of cathedral had caused much controversy, many people were of the opinion that Richard should be re interred in a much grander cathedral, and most favoured York Minster. This resulted in the City of Leicester and the cathedral itself being subjected to name calling and abuse, which I found disgraceful.
To my mind, disregarding the facts that Richard died on a battlefield in Leicestershire and was buried in Leicester itself, it did not matter if Leicester Cathedral was not as grand as York, it is a house of God, and that should have been respected.
Leicester Cathedral should be proud of what they achieved, not only of the service which was respectful to all, but of the effort they made to mark the occasion. Flowers were in abundance, there were white roses, and yellow planta genista from which the Plantagenet dynasty gets its name. There were military and royal guests, historians, celebrities and members of the public, not me though, my name was not pulled from the hat. I watched it on the television in the comfort of my front room.
No matter that, for my husband and I spent three days during the week long re interment celebrations in Leicester. We started with a drive along the route the cortege would take, visiting Stoke Golding and Crown Hill, the place at which Henry VII received Richard's crown, at Dadlington where many of those killed at Bosworth were buried and Sutton Cheney church where Richard is said to prayed the night before the battle. We attended the Bosworth Field ceremony where the kings coffin passed directly in front of me. Finally, we queued among thousands of friendly people all waiting patiently to view Richards coffin in repose.
It is wonderful to think that I was part of history in the making.
Coronation of Henry V
The coronation of King Henry V on the 9th April 1413 in Westminster Abbey, according to chronicler Adam of Usk was
"marked by unprecedented storms, with driving snow which covered the country's mountains, burying men and animals and houses and, astonishingly, even inundating the valleys and fenlands, creating great danger and much loss of life."
People at the time could not decide whether this was good or bad and history has asked the same question.
So was Henry V, history's golden boy, an amiable and pious king or was he arrogant and cruel?
Henry is mostly remembered for his involvement with France between 1415 and 1420 where he was successful in taking the port of Harfleur, the town of Rouen, and managed to force the French to sign the Treaty of Troyes after which he was recognised as the heir to the French throne, which was sealed by his marriage to Charles VI's daughter Catherine of Valois.
Following their marriage the couple returned home to England, six months later Catherine's coronation took place and two months after that, Henry returned to France. The young queen gave birth to her son Henry, later Henry VI, in the December of 1421, but that day the of hero of Agincourt lay dying from dysentery at the Chateau de Vincennes, in France, where he died on the 31st of August, leaving his lands and titles in the tiny hands of his nine month old son.
Interestingly, one of the stones that is set into the Imperial State crown, that was worn by the queen after her coronation and at the state opening of Parliament, is said to have been in Henry's helmet at Agincourt.
Death of Henry IV
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown"
states a sickly Henry IV in Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part II.
Henry is tired of rebellion, he is feeling guilty for having usurped the throne from Richard II. Shakespeare has him dying burdened with much responsibility and that maybe so, but in reality he is thought to have died from whatever it was that caused a number of recurring illnesses that affected him nearly every year since 1405. This may have been syphilis, but most favour some skin disease such as psoriasis or leprosy. However, looking at is funeral effigy, it maybe he died from some kind of heart disease linked with weight or inactivity.
The alabaster Henry IV is nothing like the famous 16th century image of him, he looks more like Jeremy Irons in the television series The Hollow Crown. If he looks like anyone, its Henry VIII.
King Henry IV collapsed in Westminster Abbey and died this day in 1413 in the Jerusalem Chamber. He was buried, as was his wish, at Canterbury Cathedral.
Death of John Beaufort
John Beaufort, the first of the Beaufort's, a family base born was highly regarded and gave good service to the crown. He was a diplomat and performed a number of official roles. He escorted his niece Blanche to Cologne for her marriage, and Joan of Navarre from Brittany into England for her marriage to the king. Regardless of his royal position he had little to show for it, there were no estates or money to inherit, and what land he held was granted by Richard II and Henry IV.
The Beaufort family were the children born to Katherine Swynsford and John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III. They were given the name of Beaufort from Gaunt's castle in Champagne, in north-east France. Following the death of his second wife in 1394 Gaunt married Katherine in the February 1396. The following year Richard II acknowledged the children as members of the royal family and addressed them as consanguineos sous - his cousins. Just under one hundred years later, the last of the Beauforts would use this family connection to assert the Lancastrian's right to the throne of England, a claim that had no basis, as the Lancastrian king Henry IV had excluded them from the line of succession. This made no difference of course, if Henry IV claimed the throne by murder and usurpation then the son of the last remaining Beaufort could take it by conquest.
It seems John Beaufort was out shined by nearly all of his family, most had a role in an event that history remembers, John Beaufort is only really remembered as the bastard offspring of an adulterous affair. He died of an unknown illness on the 16th March 1410 at just forty years of age. Even in death he shares his tomb with his wife and her second husband in Canterbury Cathedral.
Death of Thomas Boleyn
What was Thomas Boleyn thinking when he was asked to inquire into allegations of sexual misconduct and witchcraft of his daughter or when his son was arrested and charged with incest? What was going through his mind in the May of 1536 as he listened when Anne was charged with "entertaining malice against the King" and having sexual relations with five men of the king's court. Did Thomas feel a sense of guilt as he sat in judgement on Anne and as he watched as her uncle, Thomas Howard, declared her guilty?
These questions cannot be answered of course, we can only wonder what was going through his mind in the days before Anne's trial. He may have wondered what would have happened if his great grandfather, Geoffrey Boleyn, the yeoman farmer from Norfolk, had discouraged his son William's move to London or talked to him about city life and how ambition could lead to greed and tragedy. History doesn't tell us Thomas Boleyn's thoughts, but it does tell us what he knew, and that was that he owed his royal favour to the fascination Henry VIII had for both is his daughters. Historians sees George, Anne and Mary Boleyn two ways, either victim or villain, but most don't write kindly of Thomas Boleyn.
Who was to blame for the way things turned out for the Boleyn family? Was Thomas Boleyn a willing participant or was he just a pawn in a greater game? Was banishment punishment enough when both his children lost their lives?
Thomas Boleyn stood to one side and let the axe come down on the necks of his two children, he had made a calculated decision, he didn't have the wool pulled over his eyes by his brother in law as is often argued. What I will say though, like many, he was blinded by the glittering golden world of the Tudor court and the charismatic bully at it head.
After the executions of Anne and George Boleyn, Boleyn lost the office of lord privy seal to Thomas Cromwell, and over the next couple of years he lost all his titles apart from his earldom, which he had no heir to inherit - justice some might say.
There are so many questions left unanswered running up to the death of Thomas Boleyn. But did he die a broken man as you might expect is one that can be answered - no he didn't, his life was not in ruins, for he was not long out of favour. He was back in the royal court by the 15th October 1537 and is recorded as carrying bowls of silver and gilt at the christening of the future Edward V, the son of the woman who replaced his daughter. However, he only survived another year, his death is recorded as the 12th/13th March 1539. He is buried in the family church on the Hever estate.
Murder of David Rizzio
It was on the 9th March 1566 that Italian David Rizzio, private secretary to Mary Queen of Scots was murdered at Holyrood House in Edinburgh.
Out of the fourteen men involved in Rizzio's death it had been Patrick, Lord Ruthven who was the first in the queen's bedchamber that evening, standing in the door way he was wearing full armour that covered his nightshirt, Forcing his way into the room he shouted the words
“May it please your majesty to let yonder man Davie come forth of your presence, for he has been overlong here.”
Rizzio is said to have hidden behind Mary's skirts before he was dragged kicking and screaming to his death, he was stabbed over fifty times before his body was pushed to the bottom of a stone staircase. Later, in his testimony on Rizzio's murder, Ruthven stated that the Scottish lords had acted in what they considered was the best for Mary's husband Henry Darnley, Mary herself, the State of Scotland and religion. State and religion, I imagine were the main factors behind this plot, Darnley I think was not.
It must have been very clear to the Scottish lords that Henry Darnley was jealous of Rizzio's relationship with the queen and he was easily persuaded to join in the plot. However, when it came to the day when action was needed Darnley refused to stab Rizzio, standing back, he distanced himself from what was a frenzied attack. Angered by this his dagger was cleverly left in the body to show his involvement, a fact that was mentioned thirteen days later in English state papers when diplomat Sir Thomas Smith wrote to Lord Burghley.
"His (Darnley) dagger was left standing in Rizzio's body. Their mind was to have hanged Rizzio. The Lords of this last attempt have written Murray not to forbear for their cause to agree with the Queen. Lennox remains at Dunbar much offended with his son. The King repents of it, and confesses that he was abused."
In this affair poor David Rizzio goes down his history as a scapegoat, and Henry Darnley a weak willed coward. Darnley's death a year later was a violent one too, implicated in that was James Bothwell. Lord Ruthven died in his bed three months later. Of the final fate of David Rizzio there is some confusion, but it is considered by many that he lies in unmarked grave at Hollyrood Abbey.
John Fredrick Herschel
Sometimes I wonder how people manage to achieve so much in their lives, and what drives them in their pursuit of knowledge. People such as astronomer John Herschel, whose daily life must have been taken up with constant study, writing and experimentation. To achieve what Herschel did, he must have been up at the crack of dawn, and at the end of the day he was climbing into bed when others had been asleep for hours.
Sir John Frederick William Herschel, English astronomer, mathematician and chemist was born on the 7th March in 1792 to a to a father who was equally industrious - composer and astronomer William Herschel. William Herschel is credited with the discovery the planet Uranus, and John would become equally influential in the field of astronomy as well as chemistry, botany and photography. Herschel continued the work of his father in the study of planets, he discovered the four moons of Uranus and the seven moons of Saturn.
Herschel's work in the field of botany influenced Charles Darwin. The opening lines of Darwin's The Origin of Species refers to Herschel, where he (Darwin) writes his intention is
"to throw some light on the origin of species that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers"
John Herschel was also influential in the new medium of photography, he helped to refine the process of fixing photographs, that is making images permanent and it was Herschel who advised William Henry Fox Talbot in his attempts to create the first photograph. It has been suggested that John Herschel was the first to use the word ‘photography’ and also coining the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative.’ Not only did he play an important part in the chemistry behind the invention of the photograph, he also encouraged others to use this medium, especially Margaret Cameron, whose work in the subject was influential in the world of art.
John Herschel and his father were not the only members of the family to study astronomy, John's aunt Caroline was famous in this field too. Caroline discovered a number of comets and in 1828 she received a gold medal award from the Royal Astronomical Society, she was the first woman to receive this prize.
St Piran's Day
Gool Peran Lowen! Happy St Pirans day to you all.
The Cornish cheered loudly when work began to uncover the ancient St Piran’s Oratory in Perranporth this time in 2014, it has taken the St Piran’s Trust fifteen years of campaigning to achieve this.
The 5th March is St Pirans Day where Cornwall celebrates the landing on a small Cornish beach many many years ago of St Piran.
St Piran was born in Ireland and made a Bishop after he returned from Rome where he had been studying. St Piran got into trouble when he brought soldiers back to life after they were killed during skirmishes between rival Irish kings. These tribal leaders were naturally angry and St Piran was forcefully expelled from his native Ireland by being flung into to sea with a large boulder around his neck. Ironically, the miracles that were the cause of his expulsion also saved his life, he is said to have miraculously floated across the sea coming ashore on Perran Beach, Perranporth. It was here he built his chapel or oratory.
The Oratory has been excavated twice and in 1910 a concrete shell was erected over the structure to protect it. The 2010 dig was to find out at what depth the remains. Two other small pits were dug to get an idea the nature of the below ground remains. James Gossip from the Historic Environment Service said of the exercise as a success. “The main trench identified some of the remains of the concrete block shell. We can now begin to work out how much sand would need to be removed to uncover the Oratory and design a detailed proposal to take the project forward”
Piran, of course, is also famous for accidentally discovering tin. The story goes when a black stone on his fireplace got so hot that a white liquid leaked out. It was this discovery that earned Piran the title ‘Patron Saint of Tinners’. Tin mining was the mainstay of Cornish industry for many years.
Pirans discovery also forms the basis of the Cornish flag, the white hot tin on the black of the ore.
After ten years in the workplace I became a mother to three very beautiful daughters, I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay at home and spend my time with them as they grew into the young women they are now. I am still in the position of being able to be at home and pursue all the interests I have previously mentioned. We live in a beautiful Victorian spa town with wooded walks for the dog, lovely shops and a host of lovely people, what more could I ask for.
All works © Andrea Povey 2014. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Andrea Povey.
My Family Stories
- Bustaine of Braunton: Introduction
- Hunt of Barnstaple Introduction >
- Lakeman of Mevagissey >
- Meavy Introduction >
- Mitchell of Crantock: An Introduction >
- Mohun of Dunster: Introduction >
- Purches of Hampshire and Cornwall >
- Scoboryo of St Columb Major >
Thomas Vaughan: An Introduction
- Smith of Barkby Introduction >
- Taylor Introduction >
- Tosny of Normandy >
- Toon of Leicestershire: Introduction >
- Underwood of Coleorton Introduction
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