History of England

The contact for the group is Janet Kirk, tel 01773 770 183, email janetlorrainekirk@icloud.com

We now meet in the Hayloft at 10.00 am on the 1st Thursday each month.

At the moment we have 11 members so there is room for people to join us.


January 2024 – still Victoria!

We are concentrating on the happenings in the Victorian period – anything connected with Queen Victoria.
In December we discussed Servants of the Victorian household.
On 1st February we will be discussing many aspects of THE BRITISH EMPIRE.

2023 – Victorian England

You may be surprised to know that if you were a Victorian lady your best hat would be adorned with several stuffed birds, feathers and all!

The History of England group have been learning about Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the developments in the Victorian era for several months now, both the factual and the quirky.

Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 and her love for Prince Albert is well known. They had nine children and resided on the Isle of Wight in Osbourne House.

Prince Albert died in1861 from typhoid but modern research has shown he may have been suffering from  Chrone’s disease.

Major events during the period include the introduction of the penny post, the Victoria Cross is founded for Military bravery, Charles Darwin wrote ‘The Origin of the Species’,the Education Act made primary education compulsory andVictoria became empress of India.

The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace was the first international exhibition, conceived by Prince Albert in 1851 to celebrate the Industrial Revolution. There were more than 100,000 products on display and more than six million people visited it.

We now go on to look at the British Empire next month.; by the end of the 19th century Victoria ruled over “the greatest empire the world has ever seen”.

But back to some of the quirky fashions of the time. Ladies used arsenic to ensure a clear and fresh complexion; families posed for photographs with their newly departed; Victorians who had travelled to Egypt brought back mummys to unwrap at special unwrapping parties and there were many clubs dedicated to eating the weirdest animals. Even Charles Darwin was a keen eater of anything exotic.

Lets hope these don’t catch on again!                                                                                                              Pat Potter

May 2022 – Queen Anne


November 2021 – Oliver Cromwell

September/October 2021  – Charles I

We have been talking about Charles I who reigned 1625-1649.

……………overheard in the marketplace. 1642

…….. “the country is going to the dogs !

“Our King, Charles, Mr Divine Right, is still up to his tricks, arguing with parliament but using them to help him raise taxes to pay for the rebellions .Do you remember years ago all that performance with his strange relationship with George Villiers? Charles was totally under his influence and dissolved parliament when they tried to impeach George. Eleven long years without a parliament and the King getting his own way.

“And no way is he following the rules of the Church, his French wife openly going to mass andtaking the children with her. He should never allow it but instead he’s in with Archbishop Laud to bring back incense, bells and stained glass to the Churches. This country is divided! This is affecting a Puritan way of life if that’s what you want. If you belong to the Puritan community youare working hard to keep your hands busy, making clothes and soap and tending the garden, not strutting round in frills and furbelows.

“Before we know it we’ll be back under the thumb of the Pope in Rome.

“We’ve had so many rebellions and wars with Scotland and Ireland the country is broke and things are really hotting up now.

“Have you heard about the King barging his way into Parliament to try and arrest 5 puritan members for treason? Supposedly for plotting against him and for threatening to impeach the Queen for involvement in Catholic plots. I reckon Oliver Cromwell is the one to watch! What a way to run a country !”

Suddenly there is an upheaval in the marketplace as a horseman gallops in at speed over the cobblestones.

The place is in turmoil and people crowd round to hear what has happened.

The news is that the King has rejected outright the nineteen proposals put to him by parliament. He has raised his standard in Nottingham, wanting to gain support and followers to fight the enemies of his sovereign power

It will be war.  Civil war.                                                     Pat Potter Oct.’21


October 2020 – King Henry VIII
We’ve begun to look at the giant piece of history that is Henry VIII.  We began by looking at Henry as a child.  His brother Prince Arthur, as heir to the throne, was brought up away from his family and the royal court. As a young child, he was sent away to Ludlow to become King in waiting, in a heavily male household.  In contrast Henry grew up in the company of women – his mother, sisters,  nurses and ladies in waiting.  Henry grew up loving the company of women.  He was gentle and kind to his wives— until he beheaded them!

It has been written that Henry grew up in the shadow of his brother but in reality he saw very little of him.  The fact that Henry was brought up in the court put him in a much better place to navigate his path to power.  His mother’s influence was important.  As Elizabeth of York she instilled in Henry the belief that he was a Yorkist.  Although the Wars of the Roses ended after the death of King Richard III, Henry VII spent a lot of his reign defending his position against Yorkists.   It is Henry VIII, with his Yorkist blood and closeness to his mother – and her place at the heart of the surviving members of the Yorkist royal family – who is able to bring about peace in England.

Born 28th June 1491,  2nd son of Henry VII  and Elizabeth.  Died 28th January 1547 at the Palace of Whitehall, London and was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

He ruled for 36 yrs and is famous for the Protestant Reformation and the marrying of his 6 wives in search of political alliance and a healthy male heir.

Henry’s achievements:
– Parliament was made the centre of the English constitution, where formally parliament had met only occasionally.
– He established himself as King of Ireland and incorporated  Wales into England, their members of parliament also attending Westminster. I
– Henry established the start of the Royal College of Physicians which granted licences to those qualified to practice.
– Maritime developments were made. He launched a campaign to map the whole coastline of Britain. He turned it into a defensible island, building forts along the south coast and establishing a Royal Navy consisting of a fleet of battle ships.
– Henry had an impact on British culture. Great art forms of sonnets and blank verse were inspired and the complete works of Geoffrey Chaucer [1340’s – 1400] was officially issued.

September 2020 – King Henry VII


August 2020 – King Richard III

We’re really getting into Zoom now, 10 members were online for this meeting.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was named as protector of Edward V when Edward IV died.  Edward V was King of England from 9 April to 26 June 1483 but never crowned.  His parents’ marriage was declared bigamous and their offspring illegitimate and therefore he was unable to claim the throne.  Richard of Gloucester was proclaimed king.

Edward V and his brother Richard of York were kept in the the Tower of London (the boys in the tower) and it has been questioned for many years whether they were killed  there and if so who killed them.  Was it Richard III? Buckingham? Margaret Beaufort?  They were never seen again after a failed rescue attempt.  It has also been suggested that one or both princes may have escaped assassination and 2 men later came forward claiming to be Richard, Duke of York.

In 1674, workmen at the tower dug up a wooden box containing two small human skeletons. The bones were found in a box under the staircase in the Tower of London. The bones were widely accepted at the time as those of the princes, but this has not been proven and is far from certain.  The bones were reburied in Westminster Abbey where they remain.

We also looked at the life of Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker.  Anne was used as a pawn by her father.  Initially betrothed to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, she was married to Edward, son and heir of King Henry VI when her father changed sides from York to Lancaster.  After his death and the death of her father, she married Richard, Duke of Gloucester.  She had 1 son who was sickly and died young, leaving Richard III without an heir.

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, Leicestershire.

One member had looked at the Tower of London and the events that played out there over its long history.

Next time we will be discussing the life and times of Henry VII.

July 2020 – King Edward IV

On the 2nd July we held our second History of England Zoom meeting with 10 of our members participating.  We discussed the life and time of Edward IV, 1461-1470, 1471-1483 and the many battles which were fought in the War of the Roses.

We heard how Edward married Elizabeth Woodville, a widow, in secret, to of the annoyance of Richard Neville (the Kingmaker) who was negotiating a marriage for Edward to a French Princess.

We learnt how to make a rush light which was used instead of candles as candle wax was expensive.

Also, although it happened earlier than the period we were discussing, it seemed relevant to compare the similarities of COVID 19 to the Black Death and with those thoughts we ended our meeting.

I now look forward to our next meeting in August when we will be discussing the life and times of Richard III.                                                                                         Barbara Bailey

February 2020

HENRY VI   1421 – 1461 & 1470-1471

Henry VI inherited the throne as an infant.  He was only nine months old when he succeeded his father, Henry V. He became King of England on the 1st of September 1422, and a few weeks later, on the death of his grandfather Charles VI, was proclaimed king of France also. As early as 1423 the baby king was made to appear at public functions and take his place in parliament.

In 1453, at 31 he had a sudden, dramatic mental illness in which he was mute and unresponsive. In August 1453, he fell into an inertia that lasted 18 months. Some historians believe he was suffering from catatonic schizophrenia, a condition characterised by symptoms including stupor, catalepsy (loss of consciousness) and mutism. Others have referred to it simply as a mental breakdown.

Henry VI is remembered as a weak and mentally unstable king, swayed too easily by his court favourites and his over-bearing wife. He is compared unfavourably with his father who had success in battle, and is remembered as the cause of the Wars of the Roses.

January 2020

HENRY V   1413-1422

Henry succeeded his father, Henry IV at the age of 25, and within months re-opened the 100 Years War with France because he wanted to win back territories in France which were lost by his ancestors.  He was England’s most successful warrior-king since Henry II.  His portrayal in three of Shakespeare’s histories made him a paragon of English spirit and chivalry—though his wartime actions reveal a more ruthless approach.

His true genius is revealed in the planning and execution of his campaigns for the conquest of France.   It stands in marked contrast with the haphazard and spasmodic operations of the English in France in the previous century.  Henry used his diplomatic skills to secure support from the Duke of Burgundy.  His attempts to deprive France of maritime assistance show an awareness of the importance of sea power unusual in medieval kings

He planned the systematic financing of his projected invasion.  His main objective, to which the winning of battles was largely irrelevant, was the systematic reduction of the great towns and fortresses of northern France. These, kept as headquarters of permanent English garrisons, would become focal points for the subjection of the surrounding countryside; behind the soldiers were to come administrators and tax collectors, who would make the war pay for itself.


Henry took an army across the Chanel in 1415 accompanied by nearly the whole of the English nobility and defeated an army three times the size of his at the battle of Agincourt – Henry’s army of about 6,000 battled up to 30,000 French soldiers.

On 25th October 1415 an exhausted English force, consisting of mainly foot soldiers and archers destroyed the superior might of the French cavalry.

In a brilliant strategic operation 6000# Frenchmen were killed while fewer than 400# English soldiers lost their lives.

# these figures vary in different documents.

Previous Meetings 2018 – 2019 (Olden Times)