Edward, Samuel and a Possum Named Leadbeater

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Image from Wikipedia

During the summer in 2011 I decided that I would try and trace my family history. With almost no information on my mother’s side (mainly due to the fact that my grandfather discovered at a young age that the couple who had brought him up weren’t his biological parents) it seemed a daunting task, but after obtaining his birth certificate I managed to trace his birth mother with http://www.ancestry.com and from there was able to build an entire family tree and even speak to living relatives in the same area that my mother still resides in. It was a fascinating journey – especially when I contacted my great-grandmother’s family with information about my grandfather who they knew nothing about, but accepted immediately once they had seen the striking physical resemblance in photographs that I sent. Continue reading

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Visiting Guy’s Cliffe House: A Hidden Gem in Warwick

Visiting Guy's Cliffe House in Warwick

The Bloke and I recently had a rare opportunity to explore Guy’s Cliffe House in Warwick. It is rarely available to public viewing, so when we saw that it was open for its Heritage Open Day (and on a stunningly beautiful day) we were really excited about it.

Guy’s Cliffe House is a Grade II listed building that stands on an artificially levelled terrace above a north-facing cliff. At the present most of the house is in ruins and unsuitable to walk through, with only the Grade II listed chapel and service quarters in use.

From humble beginnings as a secluded place of worship in the 5th century, the house has grown and changed with numerous additions in different styles. Sir Guy of Warwick reputably died in ‘Guy’s Cave’ in 970AD,’ and King Henry V ordered the establishment of a chapel in the 15th century. It has been owned by Plantation Owner Samuel Greatheed – Member of Parliament for Coventry – and later by the Heber-Percy family, it was used as a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital in the First World War and  as a Boys Home by the Waifs and Strays Society during the Second World War… It is currently owned by the Freemasons and preserved by the Friends of Guy’s Cliffe Society. Continue reading

Walking the Walls of Dubrovnik: Travel Tips and Suggestions

Walking the Walls of Dubrovnik

Open from 8.00am until 7.30pm every day, the Walls of Dubrovnik (Murrales de Dubrovnik) are one of the most spectacular ways to see Old Town and beyond, offering stunning views of the iconic terracotta roofs (added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Series in 1979), Fort Lovrijenac, neighbouring islands and Adriatic Sea. They are considered to be one of the greatest fortifications of the Middle Ages.

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Things to See and Do at Witley Court, Worcestershire

The Bloke and I have taken to going out on day trips mid-week as of late, taking advantage of the general working day and term-time schedules to visit places that would be busier at the weekends. We’ve got Annual English Heritage passes which allows us unlimited free entry into English Heritage sites and discounts on other places like Blenheim Palace, and living in the West Midlands means that we are lucky enough to be a short drive away from some stunning stately homes, castles and historical places of interest.

One such place is Witley Court.

A hidden gem, I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of it before (despite living in Birmingham since 2001), and it is just a forty minute drive away from where I live.

Witley Court and Steps

Witley Court and Steps

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Things to See and Do When Visiting Blenheim Palace

Things to See and Do When Visiting Blenheim Palace 1

The Bloke and I decided to spontaneously go out on a day trip the other day – we’ve both been feeling a little low and have cabin fever from being in the house for an extended period of time, so we both took the day off and went to Blenheim Palace. As you do. It is something that has been on my UK bucket list for a while, the weather was fairly reasonable and surprisingly, it’s only a 90 minute drive away from Birmingham. 

Most famously known as being the birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is the principal residence of the Duke of Marlborough and the only non-royal country house in England that holds the title of ‘palace.’ Built between 1705 and 1722, it was a gift to John Churchill – the 1st Duke of Marlborough – by Queen Anne in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.  Continue reading

Ghosts of Students Past

Yesterday I received a Facebook message from a friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while. We met through a project – the school that I worked at did an annual concert with an orchestra and he was the composer for the music that we performed.

He now works for my former University that is currently moving to a new building. When he was cleaning out some of the cupboards, he found this:

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Things I Love About My Country #2: Inventions

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I’ve teamed up with the lovely Steve Says to compile a set of comparison lists about why we love our countries. He’s Scottish, I’m English and even though we are both currently part of the United Kingdom we thought that it might be fun to see the differences between the two…

This week’s subject is inventions and their inventors. I had to be careful on this one – England has produced some of the greatest scientist in the history of the world – Sir Isaac Newton, Ernest Rutherford, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Stephen Hawking to name just a few, but these didn’t invent anything as such, they were able to discover and explain the universe around them.

1. The World Wide Web (not to be confused with the Internet): Created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents that can be accessed through the Internet. With a web browser it is possible to view web pages and navigate them using hyperlinks.

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2. Christmas Cards: The first Christmas card was commissioned by Henry Cole and designed by John Calcott Horsely. There were 2,500 cards originally produced and sold for a shilling each.

3. DNA Fingerprinting: This was developed in the 1980’s by Sir Alec Jeffreys. Using this technique it was possible to identify a person based on their unique DNA profile in their genes. I still find it difficult to imagine a world without it – it is used throughout the criminal justice system, and where would talk show hosts be without it??

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4. The Sandwich: Contrary to popular belief, English food is exciting, varied and tasty. However, of all the culinary creations that England has produced, the biggest contribution to gastronomy is the sandwich. While it is possible to trace sandwich-like food back to 18th Century Europe, it is named after the Earl of Sandwich, who was said to like meat being placed between two pieces of bread

5. The Smallpox Vaccine (the worlds first vaccination): introduced by Edward Jenner in 1798, the smallpox vaccine has been so successful that smallpox is considered to be virtually extinct from the planet, aside from remaining in a few laboratories. It is also thought to have some protection against the HIV virus.

6. Ice Hockey: Sorry Canada, but Ice Hockey was a version of field hockey that was created by British soldiers based in Canada.

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7. Jet Engine: Ever flown to another country on an aeroplane? You’re welcome – the jet engine was created by Englishman Frank Whittle in 1928. The are lots of squabbles about who actually came up with original ideas, but the patent was awarded to him in 1932.

8. Mass – Produced Toothbrush: The English wrongly have a reputation for having bad teeth, but they were responsible for the first mass-produced toothbrush.

Stay tuned for the next instalment next Tuesday!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog