Original hand-drawn battle plans by Admiral Lord Nelson for the Battle of Trafalgar are discovered.

Incredible a hand-drawn sketch by Admiral Lord Nelson himself showing his plan for victory at Trafalgar has been discovered tucked inside the pages of a scrapbook after nearly 200 years.

They were discovered by historian Martyn Downer in a scrap book book from the 1830s which was recently sold at auction.

It shows his plan for splitting the Royal Navy fleet into three divisions to break and destroy the enemy French and Spanish lines coming out of Cadiz harbour.

Lord Nelson

Painting of Admiral Lord Nelson

The plan even includes lines representing wind direction which give a unique insight into how Nelson intended to attack across the wind to take advantage of increased speed.

The drawing, which has been donated to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, was found alongside an address leaf bearing Nelson’s signature and is dated September 5 1805.  The early date also shows us Nelson had long been plotting on his final great victory long before he ever set foot on HMS Victory.

Admiral Lord Nelson's hand drawn sketch found on the top right of this page in an old scrap book after 200 years.

Admiral Lord Nelson’s hand drawn sketch found on the top right of this page in an old scrap book after 200 years.

The plan is on display today to mark the 214th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar before being placed on permanent exhibition from next spring in the museum’s refurbished Victory Gallery.

You can visit HMS Victory and the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on our hugely popular day tour from London with Ye Olde England Tours   or alternatively you can look at my HMS Victory and Portsmouth post from a few years ago Day Tour to Portsmouth Historic Dockyards

Nelson was already an assured national treasure before his great victory at Trafalgar which made him an eternal national hero and incidentally brought about a century or more of comparative peace on the waves.

It was September, of 1805, when Horatio Nelson first told someone of his plans for a new kind of naval warfare. The Vice Admiral was his home, at Merton Place in Surrey and taking a walk with his colleague Captain Richard Keats who was then the commanding officer of HMS Superb, a 74-gun battleship.

Until this time naval battles largely consisted of two lines of ships lining up parallel to each other at something like point blank range and blasting each other to smithereens until one side was clearly beaten.   Nelson wanted to change this not just because he saw the chance for a great victory but because navies had got so large it was getting impractical to fight in this way.

On hearing that the French-Spanish combined fleet had put into the port of Cadiz (in Spain), left his home on the 13th of September, 1805, to take command of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. Hoisting his flag aboard HMS Victory, he sailed to join the rest of the ships.

Nelson and his fleet finally got their opportunity to put the new tactics into practice  when Napoleon gave orders to his fleet to leave Cadiz as Emperor Napoleon was mounting a land campaign against Austria and wanted his ships closer to that action.

It was a decision that proved to be disastrous for Napoleon because as soon as they were out of the comparative safety of the harbour, it gave the Royal Navy a chance to strike.

The new plan envisioned that Nelson would position his ships very differently than enemy officers would expect. The British ships would approach the French and Spanish ships in separate columns.

One column of ships (led by Nelson) would be in the windward position, moving as fast as possible using as much sail power as circumstances allowed. They would split the French and Spanish line in the centre, thereby preventing those ships from helping the rest of their fleet.

The other column of British ships, led by Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, would rout the enemy’s rear.


The Battle of Trafalgar

The actual battle unfolded just as Nelson had planned. Smashing through the middle of the French and Spanish line, he cut the fleet in two. Ships in the northern part of the line could not join the battle in the south, where Collingwood was routing the enemy’s rear.

Nelson started the battle with 27 ships of the line and lost none. The combined fleet against him started the battle with 33 ships of the line and lost 18. and more enemy ships were lost following a terrible storm.

The Royal Navy didn’t quite have everything its own way as the wind had rather eased at the commencement of battle and HMS Victory became something of a sitting duck as it led the attack on the enemy fleets and suffered terrible damage.

As Victory came into close contact with the French ship Redoutable, a sniper in her rigging spotted Nelson who as always led from the front and was on the upper deck of HMS Victory. Nelson was mortally wounded by a musket ball in the left chest that caused numerous terrible external and internal injuries that would have been untreatable even in the bed hospital in London.

Nelson was correct when he told Thomas Hard “Hardy, I believe they have done it at last” and died hours later though not before knowing his navy had achieved perhaps the most famous history in naval history.

Spot where Nelson was shot

Freshly placed wreath on the plaque marking the spot where Nelson fell.

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A peek inside possibly the second smallest home in the U.K.

In my line of work I spend a lot of time walking round palaces, great houses and cathedrals but last week I had the opportunity to revisit one of the smallest houses imaginable in the beautiful Lake District in the country of Cumbria.  What makes this house extra special is not just its tiny size but the fact that it is built on a tiny bridge too.


Bridge House in Ambleside

Centuries ago in the small town of Ambleside a bridge was built across Stock Gyhll, gyhll being the local Cumbrian word for the numerous narrow ravines or valleys in this part of the world and a direct descendent of and old Norse word Gill from the times of the Vikings.

Later, larger nearby bridges made this bridge of the little Beck (or stream) almost obsolete and so a decision was taken to build a house upon it in the 17th century, perhaps to avoid land taxes!


You can see right through the house!

Bridge House was first owned by the local Braithwaite family. who lived in nearby Ambleside Hall.   Originally an apple store, its convenient location to nearby water mills meant that it became increasingly useful despite there originally being a doorways on both sides of the house just incase someone needed to cross the bridge.

Bridge House is possibly the most photographed building in the Lake District, and a popular subject for many artists over the years including Turner.

Lewis Pinhorn Wood’s The Cobbler’s Shop on the Bridge


Lewis Pinhorn Wood’s The Cobbler’s Shop on the Bridge

Over the years the building has seen use as a weaving shed, a counting house for the mills, a cobblers and a chairmaker.  At one point it was even the family home for a man, his wife and six children!  Some younger visitors in particular find this hard to comprehend though I myself remember having to share a tiny lower bunkbed with my brother when staying at my Grandparents for several weeks of the year so it is not that much of a stretch to imagine for myself at least.


Downstairs with the Victorian stove which makes things very cosy!

In the 19th century when it became a tea house, a stove was added to Bridge House but by the 1920s, Bridge House was in need of repair work. Fortunately, a group of dedicated local supporters, including William Heelis (who is better known as Beatrix Potter’s husband) recognised this and raised enough money to buy it and the immediate surroundings.


View of the upstairs of the house from the doorway.

The building was then donated to the National Trust to maintain the property and though in the 1940s it was also used as a bric-a-brac and antiques shop, it served as a tourist information centre from 1956.


A room with a view.

It only takes a few minutes to visit Bridge House in Ambleside and a little longer to listen to the great National Trust guide who can give you more information.  As you can kind of see in the photo above, just a minute away is an old water mill on the left and the wheel is still turning today.

Bridge House was very nearly brought down 10 or so years ago when unprecedented rainfall brought the little Beck right up to the base of the house as a roaring torrent.  It would be such a shame to lose this incredibly tiny and quirky old house.   Until then, you can visit it with Ye Olde England Tours




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Murky Moor photos

I’ve been away for a few weeks giving a long tour of parts of north east and north west England and having returned I have found my wordpress to stubbornly refuse to fully function on my iPad or even let me log in on my computer.

As such, I’m forced to do a simple post today as it is the only thing I hope to get posted albeit at my third attempt).

Moors have a foreboding reputation as being lonely and often dangerous places but I like them and the isolation the bring.  Of course even without Hounds of Baskervilles, serial killers and everything else that is associated with moors in a bad way, you always have to be aware of the weather. Whilst nice and sunny days do happen, so too does torrential rain, claustrophobic fogs, freezing winds and plenty of snow.

Numerous bogs and abandoned mines add to the fun but this time I was with a lovely Australian tour and so we merely set ourselves the goal of getting from the east to the west with as few a fatalities as possible!

A moody look to go with the weather and scenery

When we left the valley in the distance it was 14 degrees c / 58f and sunny but here it was down to 8 degrees c / 46f and unknown to us, we were only 45 minutes away from a cloudburst.

A main road over the moors

There aren’t that many places in England when you can just stop on a major road and not see any cars and hear only the wind in the mossy grass and heather.

Looking out over Upper Teesdale

My tourist and I are fans of the British detective show Vera which is often set in nearby locations to make the most of the brooding natural landscapes and that was one of the reasons we were visiting.

Snow poles, so you don’t drive off the road to your demise in the winter

Parts of Teesdale are the only part of the (mainland?) country that has a climate classification of sub-artic which says all you need to know.

Rush hour traffic!

My driving instructor used to always tell me to imagine driving around corners as if the road was blocked by something unexpected such a sheep.  I used to say where I used to go, I always expected sheep like these who appeared around a sharp bend in the road…. here being moved to slightly lower slopes for the winter.

When this happens there is nothing to do but switch off your engine and let them pass in their own time. Fortunately sheep aren’t very aggressive or even particularly bright creatures and they never seem to damage the car and squeeze last you as if you’d been there all along.

Click here to see my 2015 post with the moors in sunshine and a rare dose of hot weather.

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To be on Tenterhooks in Spitalfields

Have you ever heard of the phrase “on tenterhooks”?  It has come to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, and that is because tenterhooks were once very common sights indeed.  Tenterhooks aren’t the big hooks you might see in a meat market or butches but are instead related to the cloth trade.

After a piece of cloth was woven, it still contained oil and dirt from the fleece. A craftsman called a fuller (also called a tucker) cleaned the woollen cloth in a fulling mill, and then had to dry it carefully, to prevent the woollen fabric from shrinking.

To prevent this shrinkage, the fuller would place the wet cloth on a large wooden frame, called a tenter (from Latin tendere, meaning ‘to stretch’), and leave it to dry outdoors.


The lengths of wet cloth were stretched on the tenter using tenterhooks (hooked nails whose long shank was driven into the wood) all around the perimeter of the frame to which the cloth’s edges (selvedges) were fixed, so that as it dried the cloth would retain its shape and size.


Perhaps the final remaining 18th century tenters at a location in Northumberland

Just as today it is common sight to see fields full of solar panels, a century or two ago there would be tentergrounds (or teneter-fields), large open spaces full of tenters, wherever cloth was made, and as a result the word “tenter” is found in place names throughout the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations.


I was reminded of this a little while ago actually on the day I went to see the Aldgate Pump of Death and I found some modern art which I think illustrates two sides of Spitalfields (Whitechapel).

The material itself is of a type and colour that you might find in a sari which demonstrates the multicultural nature of the neighbourhood.  However, having it running down the alleys albeit in a very loose fashion makes me think it is also remembering the history of cloth making and tenterhooks for which it was once famous.


All that affords me the chance to promote my book Straight From The Horses Mouth 🙂 for some of the most famous and fun idioms in the English language.



Straight From The Horse’s Mouth is available from the UK in Kindle format from Amazon here and paperback format here.      American Amazon readers can squirm their way through the book in Kindle format here and in paperback format here.   As well as being available through Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Nook, you can also get in on the action on your favourite Apple product by purchasing the book on iBooks by clicking below!

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 16.37.55

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An old plan of Piccadilly Circus Underground Station.

I’m away on a 2-week tour in the near future and so this shorter than usual post is just to help fill the gap before, during or after I come back.

The incredible print below is of Piccadilly Circus Underground Station and dates from the late 1920’s.  It illustrates the multitude of tunnels needed to make a busy but far from the most complicated London Underground Station.


The amount of detail is incredible and it’s a good reminder of just what people could (and still can) do without the aid of computers.

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The Restoration of the Aldgate Pump of Death!

I’ve no doubt included photos and mentioned in passing the old Aldgate water pump which used to be right next to an eastern gate of the old Roman wall surrounding the city of London.

Aldgate Well was first mentioned all the way back in the thirteenth century during the reign of King John.  It possibly draws on the same water source that I discovered a year or so ago in Aldgate Priory – the medieval ruins inside a 21st century office block. which is only a few feet away.

The pump was referred to by sixteenth century historian, John Stowe, who described the execution of the Bailiff of Romford on the gibbet “near the well within Aldgate.”  It later entered popular culture and was the subject of everything from music hall songs to mentions in the works of Charles Dickens.


Arthur Lloyds ‘Aldgate Pump’ song.

The pump was first installed upon the well head in the sixteenth century, and subsequently replaced in the eighteenth century by the gracefully tapered and rusticated Portland stone obelisk that stands today.


Aldgate Pump Wolf Head.jpg

Wolf head spout on Aldgate Pump

On the front of the stone obelisk is a beautifully preserved brass spout which takes the form of a wolf’s head and it signifies the last such wolf to be shot outside the City of London.  It still has a somewhat vicious snarl perhaps to maintain its  “Pump of Death” reputation.


For all this time the water used to be drawn from a well but then in 1876 it was switched to a modern mains supply.  Just why was it?  The well had long been praised for its mineral properties and it’s distinctive and apparently health-giving pure qualities.  However in an entirely unexpected and typically Victorian London chain of events, it was discovered that horrifically the mineral qualities including plentiful amounts of calcium was in fact seeping from human bones (possibly like these human remains ) which had seeped into the underground stream from cemeteries, possibly the very one that my unfortunate but brave Liddell died in just 2 minutes walk away.

Several hundred people died in the resultant Aldgate Pump Epidemic as a result of drinking polluted water though by the 1920’s this must have been forgotten about as Whittard’s tea merchants used to “always get the kettles filled at the Aldgate Pump so that only the purest water was used for tea tasting.”

This dreadful event quickly entered popular folk lore with a bouncing cheque referred to as “a draught upon Aldgate Pump,” and in rhyming slang “Aldgate Pump” meant to be annoyed – “to get the hump.”


Two boys drawing water at the Aldgate Pump in the early 20th Century.

The terrible revelation confirmed widespread morbid prejudice about the East End, of which Aldgate Pump was a landmark defining the beginning of the territory. The “Pump of Death” became emblematic of the perceived degradation of life in East London and it was once declared with superlative partiality that “East of Aldgate Pump, people cared for nothing but drink, vice and crime.”

Sadly for a century or so the pump has fallen into ever increasing disrepair; water long ago stopped flowing from the pump and an ornate gas lantern that sat on top of the stonework vanished at the dawn of the 20th Century.

As a Listed Monument however, it was offered some level or protection from being completely erased from history and in recent months the pump has been blocked off behind wooden hoardings only to re-appear at the end of August 2019.

Fantastically the old gas lamp has been restored albeit with new low-energy lighting and there is now a modern style push button on the stonework which will hopefully allow pedestrians to drink to their hearts content once more at the Aldgate Pump of Death.


The restored Aldgate Pump

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A 1915 piece of fake news… with good intentions

When German Naval Airship Zeppelin L9 appeared over Blyth on the evening of 14 April 1915, it was only the second time bombs had been dropped on England. Although nobody was killed, it marked the beginning of a series of raids on the North-East which would kill many dozens of people.

The Zeppelin L9, on her first mission, headed inland north of Blyth and was attacked with rifle fire from the 1st Battalion Nothern Cyclists at Cambois. She then dropped bombs on West Sleekburn following a winding course over Northumberland dropping bombs as she went, before heading for Wallsend where one bomb resulted in the only casualties of the night, injuring a woman and a child.


Locals standing around a WW1 crater caused by a bomb released from a Zeppelin.

The Zeppelin then turned east and crossed the coast at Marsden. Newspaper reports at the time suggested she had missed her main target, Tyneside’s factories and shipyards. However a raid in June was much more deadly. Among those killed were 17 men at Palmer’s Works at Jarrow.

The photo above is exactly as it seems but what about the one below?

Zeppelin attack on Blyth.jpg

The image is from an old postcard of a town called Blyth, not too far away from Newcastle in NorthEast England and it depicts a Zeppelin attack on the 14th April 1915.

The streets are real, the aerial bombing was real but the actual photo has been photoshopped as we might say today, Fake news it might be called now or propaganda albeit for a good cause.

Zeppelins would normally attack in the dark; they were very slow moving and extremely vulnerable if they were spotted.  By the cover of darkness they could wreak havoc and in the days before radar it was sheer good luck if a pilot in an aeroplane could find them to shoot them down.

Zeppelins weren’t quite silent and if you’ve ever heard a modern day airship then you’ll know they emit a low hum at low altitudes.  However the noise of a WW1 aeroplane engine would drown it out in the dark.

As such there was no photograph of this zeppelin attack and the people under neath it may never have known they were about to be attacked.  However the image of the zeppelin was placed onto the photo as part of a fund raising effort to to support those families in what must have been a totally shocking incident to be attacked from the sky.

Such air-raids took place from Edinburgh all the way to London and NE towns like Scarborough, Whitby and North Shields were directly shelled by the German Navy under the cover of the famous North Sea fog.

It marked the first time that civilians were deliberately targeted in modern war.


Lest We Forget

My easy to understand but comprehensive history of WW1 in Kindle and Paperback.


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