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Articles on this Page
- 01/23/18--07:00: _Gibraltar: Islamic,...
- 01/26/18--11:00: _Lady Lucan died rec...
- 01/29/18--23:00: _Petra - a Nabatean,...
- 02/02/18--11:00: _ London Silver Vaul...
- 02/05/18--23:00: _Burke and Hare: Edi...
- 02/09/18--11:00: _Canada's most speci...
- 02/12/18--23:00: _Prince Edward's Wor...
- 02/16/18--11:00: _Charles Dodgson and...
- 02/19/18--23:00: _Porto in Portugal -...
- 02/23/18--11:00: _Gun control in Aust...
- 02/26/18--23:00: _The Children's Crus...
- 03/02/18--11:00: _Danila Vassilieff -...
- 03/05/18--23:00: _Napoleon's last sta...
- 03/09/18--11:00: _Amazing and expensi...
- 03/13/18--00:00: _Modigliani revival ...
- 03/16/18--12:00: _Princes St Synagogu...
- 03/20/18--00:00: _Can a doctor be a m...
- 03/23/18--12:00: _Can a lonely butche...
- 03/27/18--00:00: _Moulin Rouge, canca...
- 03/30/18--12:00: _Vincent van Gogh an...
- 04/03/18--01:00: _Butlin's fun holida...
- 04/06/18--13:00: _Childe Hassam in Ca...
- 04/11/18--01:00: _Vlad III Dracula 14...
- 04/13/18--13:00: _Martello towers and...
- 04/17/18--01:00: _Sydney's first prop...
- 01/23/18--07:00: Gibraltar: Islamic, Spanish, British and modern
- 01/26/18--11:00: Lady Lucan died recently, but where is Lord John Lucan???
- 01/29/18--23:00: Petra - a Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine sandstone city in Jordan
- 02/05/18--23:00: Burke and Hare: Edinburgh's grave snatchers or murderers?
- 02/09/18--11:00: Canada's most special provinces - the Maritimes
- 02/12/18--23:00: Prince Edward's World War 1 experiences and his pro-Fascist views
- 02/16/18--11:00: Charles Dodgson and Alice (Lidell) in Wonderland
- 02/19/18--23:00: Porto in Portugal - one of the loveliest cities in Western Europe
- 02/23/18--11:00: Gun control in Australia and the USA
- 02/26/18--23:00: The Children's Crusade 1212 - holy, passionate and fatal
- 03/05/18--23:00: Napoleon's last stand in 1815
- 03/13/18--00:00: Modigliani revival at the Tate Modern
- 03/20/18--00:00: Can a doctor be a mass murderer? Dr H.H.Holmes
- 03/27/18--00:00: Moulin Rouge, cancan and Paris' belle epoque - oh la la
- 03/30/18--12:00: Vincent van Gogh and his love of Japanese art
- 04/03/18--01:00: Butlin's fun holiday camps in Britain 1936 - 1970
- 04/11/18--01:00: Vlad III Dracula 1431-1476 - national hero or brutal war lord?
- 04/13/18--13:00: Martello towers and maritime forts across the globe
- 04/17/18--01:00: Sydney's first proper church, Rev Marsden & Grace Cossington Smith
The Rock of Gibraltar is a narrow sandy isthmus off the Iberian Peninsula. Being limestone, the 6sq km Rock is riddled with 140+ caves. Off the eastern cliffs of the rock a flat, sandy plain stretched out towards the Mediterranean.
The Strait of Gibraltar is the narrow neck separating Europe from Africa, the only link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Since the Prophet died in Medina in 632 AD, the progress of Islam’s armies was rapid. Berber Tarik-ibn-Zeyad landed in 710 AD and from 742 on, the Moors defended their rock with a fort.
In 1068, the Arab Governor on Gibraltar ordered that a stronger Moorish Castle be built to watch events across the Strait. The castle had the largest keep and the tallest towers in all the Iberian Peninsula, plus buildings, gates and fortified walls. In 1160 the Caliph of Morocco commissioned a fully fortified city. The Rock remained in Arab hands until an unexpected Spanish attack between 1309-33, then it reverted to Arab control. The Moors’ City Walls surrounded the city, later strengthened by other nations.
In the Battle of Trafalgar 1805, Napoleon was allied with Spain in planning an invasion of Britain. The British fleet was commanded by Horacio Nelson and the combined Franco-Spanish fleet was commanded by Gen Villenueve. For two years, the fleets chased each other around the Atlantic and Mediterranean, before finally clashing at the Battle of Trafalgar where Nelson died.
Given Gibraltar's historical military role, it was not till the early C19th that the military governor focused on civilians’ social needs. By 1815 the governor created the Grand Parade, where locals could walk out of the extreme heat. Grand Parade became a hub of ceremonial military events.
In 1817 the Exchange and Commercial Library was founded for civilians. Soon after, a Charter of Justice was granted, civilian magistracy established and civil rights were given to citizens. A Supreme Court was created, with a chief justice and jury system. In 1830, responsibility for local affairs was transferred from the War Office to the Colonial Office, and the status of Gibraltar was changed from the “Garrison of Gibraltar in the Kingdom of Spain”, to the “Crown Colony of Gibraltar”. A local Police Force arrived in 1830.
At their peak in 1865, Gibraltar's fortifications housed 681 guns mounted in 110 batteries, guarding all land and sea approaches to Gibraltar. Lord Airey's Batteries were completed in 1891 and are located at the highest point on Gibraltar. The Military Heritage Centre is housed in one of the many batteries still found today.
In WW1 Spain remained neutral and was not a danger to Gibraltar. But Germany’s growing power led the British Government to expand its Navy. This heightened Gibraltar's role as major naval base, to keep the Straits clear of enemy shipping. The Bay developed modern dockyards, harbour and repair facilities for Allied warships.
The civilian population was evacuated to Britain and Jamaica, and 230 years of political gains under British rule seemed lost. However read how this isthmus played a role in defeating Hitler: Defending The Rock, Nicholas Rankin, Faber & Faber, 2017. In any case, the post-war years saw a growing demand for greater self-government, plus progress in medical, educational and housing services.
Perched on the peak of the Rock is the Top Station of The Cable Car 1966. There are great views across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa, to Spain and the Mediterranean. This Cable Car was constructed by the Swiss, but within the Top Station complex there is an “English” pub and shop.
Surrounded by sea, Gibraltar has 5 beaches: Catalan Bay, Camp Bay, Eastern Beach, Sandy Bay and Little Bay. Catalan Bay beach has the charm of a fishing village with attractive pubs and marinas.
In 1963 Gibraltar's status came before the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation. A 1967 referendum asked Gibraltans whether they wanted to remain British or become Spanish. 12,000+ people voted for Britain while 44 chose Spain!! Nonetheless Spain caused the complete closure of the border in 1969. Gen Franco had besieged the territory and cut it off, by telephone, land and by sea.
Barbary Apes' Den
Gibraltar (pop 34,000) was granted a new Constitution by Britain and their House of Assembly was established. The New Constitution of May 1969 stated that Gibraltar would never be handed to Spain without an Act of Parliament and without the people's consent. Gibraltar gained control over its own civil service, and power now lay in a democratically elected government under a Chief Minister. In 1973 Gibraltar joined the EU.
Franco’s death in 1975 led to an agreement which declared that both UK and Spain were committed to solve all differences; Spain would lift the restrictions. The election of a socialist government in Madrid oversighted the full opening of the border in 1984. Today Gibraltar is a British Territory that is self-governing except for foreign policy, which is controlled by Britain.
A former building for Franciscan friars, The Convent was named in 1531 by a wealthy Spaniard. Today it is the residence of Gibraltar’s Governor, the Queen's representative in Gibraltar. The red brick Jacobean style frontage is perfect for the weekly Changing of the Guard.
These days Cathedral Cave makes a unique crystalline auditorium for music, ballets and dramas. The mosque once built in the city centre for the Muslims was later converted by the Spanish into a Catholic church, now Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned.
By 1991 Alameda Gardens were converted into the Gibraltar Botanical Gardens, a paradise for wildlife. At the Barbary Apes' Den see apes up close, and see the whales and dolphins in the Bay below.
John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (1934 - ?) was the older son of George Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan, an Anglo-Irish peer. John’s mother went into full time care when he was a toddler and he was raised by a maid. After WW2, this good-looking but cold aristocrat served with the Coldstream Guards in Germany and later worked as a merchant banker.
But in his 20s he became a member of the very classy Clermont Club, spent a fortune on racing power boats and drove a very flashy car. In 1963 he married Veronica Duncan, a woman he did not like but felt obligated to marry because of their advancing ages (nearly 30). They quickly had three children.
Veronica had been beaten by her husband throughout their marriage with a cane and lash; then he had sex with her bleeding body straight afterwards! He was gambling full time and inevitably lost everything. John moved out of the Belgravia family home and a bitter custody battle ensued. He began to spy on his wife, intending to regain custody of their children, but he had spent all his money on gambling. Until his father died, this unemployed, very angry aristocrat would have no money to support himself or the children. As it happened, George Lord Lucan 6th died in Jan 1964.
On 7th Nov 1974, Lucan went to the five-storey family home at 46 Lower Belgrave St London. In the dark basement kitchen, he met the children's nanny Sandra Rivett who’d gone downstairs to make tea for Lady Lucan. In the dark basement Lucan bludgeoned the nanny to death with lead piping, apparently mistaking the nanny for his wife.
Lady Lucan went downstairs for the cup of tea. There she met Lord Lucan, who attacked her on top of the basement stairs, hitting her over the head with the piping. After grabbing his testicles, Veronica managed to escape. And covered in blood, she ran for help at the local pub.
In the meantime Lord Lucan drove for an hour to the home of Susan Maxwell-Scott, a Sussex friend. The friend didn’t call the police because she didn’t know about the murder. Yet Lucan said he had spotted a man attacking his wife while passing the family home, and “intervened to save his wife”.
On the 8th Nov, Lucan was seen driving from the Maxwell-Scott home. On the 10th, the car was found dumped in the port town of Newhaven, lead piping in the boot.
As Scotland Yard and Fleet St struggled to find Lucan, they met patronising attitudes from the upper-crust regulars of John Aspinall’s Mayfair Clermont Club casino. The Detective Chief Superintendent believed that gambler Michael Stoop’s car (a Ford Corsair) had been left in Newhaven as a decoy and Lucan had quietly slipped out to South Africa.
The Clermont Set did everything to protect their colleague. His friends warned him that, given the murder, Lady Lucan would get custody of the children and the family-trust money. But if he were to disappear, probate could not legally be granted on his estate for 7 years. In 7 years, his children would be just old enough to control the trust money. So, they agreed, Lord Lucan needed to vanish. But how? Not by fleeing abroad.
When artist Dominic Elwes told what he knew about the murder to the press, he found himself blackballed by other Clermont Club members. In 1975 Elwes suicided at 44, probably hounded to death by some of Lucan’s more vicious gambling mates.
When confronted by sightings in exotic locations abroad, Lady Lucan always dismissed them as nonsense. Her husband was not the sort of Englishman to cope abroad; he liked England; he couldn’t speak foreign languages; and he preferred English food. She believed that Lord Lucan was indeed an expert powerboat racer, so he could bravely throw himself under a cross-Channel ferry. The ferry’s propellers would have chopped him up.
Lucan’s friend James Wilson agreed. When Lord Lucan realised he had killed the nanny by mistake, remorse and honour demanded suicide. He must have parked his car at Newhaven where he had a boat, weighed himself down and jumped over the side.
Since 1974 Lord Lucan sightings have popped up across the world, none more important than Australia. On Christmas Eve 1974, just months after the disappearance, Australian police arrested a man in Melbourne thinking they’d caught Lord Lucan. British police and newspaper reporters quickly arrived in Melbourne. So close!! In fact, they had caught 48 year old John Stonehouse, the former British government minister with a posh British accent. Two years earlier Stonehouse had faked his own death on a Florida beach.
Months later he was seen in Cherbourg and St Malo, France. Fingerprints from a beer glass in Cape Town were located next. Then a Scotland Yard detective claimed that Lord Lucan had lived as a hippy in Goa India until his death in 1996. Or he was in the rural town of Marton in New Zealand. Others saw him backpacking on Mount Etna, waiting on tables in San Francisco, being treated in a private hospital in Johannesburg in 1995, in Greece or in Botswana. Later Lucan was seen working on a sheep station in the Australian outback.
Throughout her later life Veronica called herself Dowager to make her widowhood clear. Eventually Lord Lucan’s death certificate was issued by the High Court to his son, allowing George Bingham to become the 8th Earl Lucan. At her own death in 2017, Lady Lucan had been estranged from her own children for 40 years. Nor had she ever met her 5 grandchildren.
The medical records of one of the UK's most eminent Harley St plastic surgeons, Dr John Watson, remained hidden since the nanny's murder and Lord Lucan's disappearance. The records, which showed that Dr Watson did facial surgery on the Earl of Lucan after a speedboat accident, were found by daughter Carolyn Watson Allen (in Queensland) and shared with the BBC in 2013.
The Nabataean Kingdom once stretched from Damascus and included parts of the Sinai. Located amid rugged desert canyons and mountains in what is now the SW corner of Jordan, Petra was once a thriving trading centre and the capital of this kingdom from 400 BC–106 AD. I have spent only 1.5 days of my entire long life there, well worth the tour from Amman or Jerusalem.
The Nabateans were Arabic-speaking nomads who selected the best oases to settle in. And they used the inaccessible mountains to protect themselves from bandits and highway robbers.
But these people were a desert people, so they had no architectural heritage of their own. The Petra style was therefore a jumble of influences absorbed along the trading routes: Egyptian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Mesopotamian and Roman imagery.
By the C2nd BC, Petra was already internationally famous for its natural and architectural beauty, for its wealth and its pink colours. Petra had c30,000 people who used their knowledge of the desert to become a junction of the main caravan routes; spices came from the east to Egypt and the Mediterranean, all of it taxed in Petra.
Apart from the large, carved funerary monuments, ordinary facilities were also built eg baths, houses, theatres, water pipes, cisterns, temples. The vast tracts of the Nabataean Empire can be seen in the remains of their innovative networks of water capture, storage, transport and irrigation systems, showing how survival in this desert landscape flourished.
To get in, the visitor had to go via 1.5 ks of a narrow siq-gorge, surrounded by staggering 100m cliffs made of sheer pink sandstone. The siq’s entrance used to be marked by a Roman archway, but now only the vertical ruins are visible.
Enter the city via this pink sandstone sik/gorge
Petra’s siq first opens onto the vast façade of the C3rd BC Treasury and its towers, precisely and deeply carved into the soft sandstone mountainside. Built as a royal tomb, there was a constant belief that the giant urn carved into the centre of the second tier contained vast, hidden gold. But while the grand edifice was a statement of their wealth, the building was actually just a hall.
There are dozens of tombs and other built structures within Petra. The space from the Treasury to Qasr al-Bint is Petra’s main central business district, with the outlying hills further away. Though the weather-worn rockface is still peppered with ancient dwellings and sepulchres, many are more modest and some are unfinished.
Alas for Petra, its increasing influence and prosperity was seen as a threat to Rome; in 106 AD, Emperor Trajan annexed the Nabataeans into the Roman province of Arabia, with Petra as the capital. Once Romans took control of the trade routes, diverting them towards Bosra, Petra's decline was inevitable. This decline was worsened by early C6th earth quakes.
There was a second building resurgence during the later C6th AD, this time under Byzantine rule when Christianity arrived. Many buildings were converted to churches.
Which might explain why the tomb/hall was called a monastery. Following the route walked by the faithful, the Monastery was later re-purposed by the Crusaders as a temple. Crosses etched into the walls inside the building showed the Byzantines’ priority. But, still, why did religious pilgrims come to Petra?
Petra had been the location of many Biblical events. Moses struck a rock here, in order to give water to his people en route from Egypt to Israel. And the altar where Abraham intended to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac was also here. Lastly note a small white mosque called Jebel Haroun, the biblical mountain tomb in Mount Hor where Moses’ brother Aaron was buried. Aaron was sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Note the smallish platform known as the High Place of Sacrifice. The altar was a sacrificial site where priests cut the throats of beasts, in front of the pilgrims.
Ampitheatre with 8,000 seats
Next to the Treasury is the C1st AD Ampitheatre, dug out of the mountainside. Apparently there were surrounding buildings, but the Romans pulled them down because they spoilt the site’s acoustics. The 33 concentric tiers of seating could hold 8000 people in the audience!! People packed in for poetry reading, pantomimes and especially Roman gladiatorial contests.
So Petra is a place that has borne witness to the rise and fall of one civilisation after another. Yet the city remained hidden from the West since the time of the Crusades because local Bedouin tribes feared an influx of greedy treasure hunters.
In 1809, Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt moved to Aleppo, as part of his work with a British association seeing the source of the Niger River. He mastered Arabic, converted to Islam, wore a full beard and took the name Sheikh Ibrahim bin Abdullah. En route to Cairo, he heard rumour of ruins hidden in the Wadi Musa mountains!! But the locals need not have worried - the treasure Burckhardt sought was scientific not profiteering.
Map of Jordan and Israel, marking Amman, Petra, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
Burckhardt’s plan in 1812 worked. When he entered Petra, he was the first outsider to do so for centuries. He was amazed by countless tombs and the great amphitheatre carved into the rock. Having surprised his guide with his incursions, Burckhardt was hurried to the city’s parched core, the Colonnaded St and Qasr al-Bint. Burckhardt dared venture no further; his exploration of Petra was soon over. Luckily he had secretly made notes and sketches in his diary. Burckhardt sent a letter back to his colleagues excitedly reporting his discovery, but he hardly had time to enjoy his fame. He died in 1817, at 32.
With no surviving written sources, Petra’s built environment provides academics’ most valuable resource. Scholars know the Nabataeans were in Petra since 312 BC, yet no one has found any archaeological evidence from back then. Clearly most of the city is still underground. Now modern archaeological research is continuing by Jordanian, Israeli and foreign teams. In 1985, Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The date and maker’s-name symbols were required marks to add to silver objects in Britain from the late C15th on. Each piece, as it was presented for assay/content analysis, was therefore fully identifiable. Faking was possible, but improbable. Thus for hundreds of years, British silver has had the oldest quality-control standards in the world.
My personal passion for silver art started in 1685 with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in Catholic France. The king declared Protestantism illegal, beginning an intense persecution programme of Huguenots. All Protestants could convert to Catholicism, leave France or have their children removed. Some 400,000 Huguenots did flee France, taking their silver art and silk making skills with them to Britain, Germany, Netherlands or other safe Protestant havens.
I wanted to specialise in Huguenot silver art made in Britain from 1685 on. I introduced myself to every French silversmith, his master, wife, children and church in Britain, until 1725. By that time, the Huguenots' uniqueness had disappeared and British-born artists were creating similar work.
So once financial reality set in, the next task was to go to The London Silver Vaults which began when The Chancery Lane Safe Deposit Co. first opened its doors in the mid-1880s. Since my 1994 visit might be out of date, I have relied on Londonist for any up-to-date information.
An advertisement for the vaults that appeared in The London Illustrated News of 1884 shows elegant Victorian men and ladies passing through a massive, arched entrance at 61-62 Chancery Lane. It said “The vaults are built on columns, and are entirely isolated, having patrols or corridors around, over and under them, making it utterly impossible for anyone to approach unobserved. Night watchmen are armed with revolvers”.
The rooms were used by the local wealthy upper classes and rich merchants to store their valuables, whenever the owners travelled to their country estates or where going abroad. The vaults, protected by armed guards at 53-54 Chancery Lane, were also used as a safety deposit stronghold for anxious Londoners who were aware of the crime waves affecting Victorian London. These subterranean vaults in the centre of London succeeded because the 1.2 metres thick walls were lined with steel – no thief could get through.
Additionally the Chancery Lane location was ideally suited to the needs of merchants in nearby Hatton Garden. And for the solicitors and barristers of the Inns of Court, who needed a safe place for their legal documents. Victorians clearly paid to leave their priceless items in this high-security repository. A 1890 press report, five years after its opening, described 6,000+ safes and 3,000 customers. Some of the valuable State papers were in connection with the historic enquiry called the Parnell Commission.
The vaults were badly bombed during WW2. They were revived in the 1940s by renting space at The Chancery Lane Safe Deposit Co. and invited American officers and members of the diplomatic service down to their vault, to buy silver. These were the first retail customers in WW2 and as word spread to other dealers, London Silver Vaults began their second incarnation.
Did they remind citizens of the vaults' previous life as Britain's first safe deposit site? In 1953, several jewellery and silver dealers who had used the vaults for storage moved their operations to 53-54 Chancery Lane and opened shops there. Clearly the vaults retained their secure reputation! Downstairs, inside the London Silver Vaults, each of the c30 shops is in a small cell, each protected by a sturdy iron door off a long, prison-like corridor.
Today the shops are very often run by the grandchildren of the original owners, handed down through the generations.
The silverware in William Walter Antiques is predominantly Georgian eg a pair of Georgian openwork sweetmeat baskets ($480) and a pair of George III wine coasters ($1,200). William Walter also boasts a large soup tureen with a gadroon border, made by Paul Storr ($19,200) and a pair of Queen Anne sugar casters made by Charles Adam in 1713 ($2,220). The oldest objects are a set of Tudor spoons that cost tens of thousands and one Charles I seal-top spoon dating from 1628 ($595)
Anthony Green has specialised in antique pocket watches for 30 years, some of them Georgian timepieces. Nearby Clerkenwell was, after all, a world centre of watch-making. Belmont Jewellers stocks modern jewellery while Wolfe Jewellery specialises in antique items.
The London Silver Vaults are open till 5.30pm, after which you will need good food and wine. NY Times recommended two Chancery Lane eateries i.e Hodgson's Restaurant built in 1863, and Chez Gerard.
The Judgement of Death Act 1823 saw the number of crimes punishable by death in Britain drop. And since medical and anatomical schools were only legally allowed to dissect the cadavers of those who had been condemned to death by a court, this led to an extreme shortage of available bodies for students. Inevitably medical schools paid some criminals to find more bodies via grave-robbing.
Relatives were known to guard the recently dug graves of their dearly departed and watch-towers were installed in cemeteries. The fresher the body, the more money it was worth, thus it didn’t take long before grave-robbing graduated to anatomy murder, done for monetary reward. The most infamous were in Edinburgh in 1827–8 whose university was noted for top quality medical sciences.
They liked the money that they made on Old Donald; alas the money didn’t last. Burke and Hare could have become true grave robbers but digging up corpses would have involved too much effort. When Joseph, another of Hare's lodgers, became a bit ill, Burke and Hare decided to end Joseph’s suffering. They plied him with whisky and smothered him. This became their favoured method of execution as it left the body undamaged for the students who would later dissect the cadavers.
Without any other ill tenants, the pair decided to entice poor victims to the lodging house, selectively at first and then they regarded almost anyone who breathed as a potential victim. If desperate, the men would have even contemplated killing and selling their own partners, Helen and Margaret.
A prostitute, Janet Brown, was lucky to survive when she and a teenage prostitute friend, Mary Paterson, were invited to stay with Burke. Janet returned one evening to find her friend missing and was told Mary and Burke had stepped out. Actually Mary was lying dead in the next room, her body ready to be taken to Prof Knox!
Elizabeth Halden made the terrible mistake of calling at Hare’s lodging-house. After hearing she was last seen with Hare, Halden’s daughter Peggy called at the lodgings looking for her. Both women ended up dead and were delivered to Prof Knox for £10 each.
Burke and Hare reached a new low when they brought in a well loved, handicapped children’s entertainer called Daft James Wilson. How careless of them! James had a deformed foot and was instantly recognised by paying students at Prof Knox's anatomy class.
On Halloween 1828 Burke and Hare’s 16th and last victim, an old Irish woman called Marjory Docherty, was invited to stay with Burke and Helen. Burke’s other lodgers, a couple called James and Ann Gray, were invited to stay a night at Hare’s boarding house that evening so the murder could take place. On their return to Burke’s lodgings the following day, the Grays were told that Marjory had been asked to leave because she had been flirtatious with Burke. But they later discovered Marjory’s dead body hidden under the bed, in straw. The Grays challenged Helen over their discovery and she offered them a bribe of £10 a week to stay silence. The Grays reported the murder to the Police anyhow and the game was up.
In total, Burke and Hare are said to have murdered at least 16 people for £7-10 each, although the real total was possibly higher. The murders had all taken place within one year, Nov 1827-Oct 1828. The criminals were all arrested, interviewed separately and gave conflicting accounts. However after a month of interviewing, the Police had little hard evidence. Eventually the Lord Advocate, Sir William Rae, offered Hare immunity in return for testifying against Burke and Helen. Done deal!
The trial began on Christmas Eve 1828 when Burke and Helen were both charged with Marjory Docherty’s murder. Burke was also charged with the murder of Mary Paterson and James Wilson. While Helen’s complicity in Marjory’s murder was not proven under Scottish Law and she was set free, Burke was sentenced to death by hanging.
Hare was released in Feb 1829 and spent his days as a beggar in London. Helen and Margaret also fled Edinburgh, with Helen then leaving for Australia and Margaret to Ireland. Prof Knox was never called to court, thus escaping prosecution altogether (good grief!!!). But Knox did have to move to London, to resurrect his medical career.
The Burke and Hare murders led to the Anatomy Act 1832 which allowed doctors, anatomy lecturers and medical students greater access to cadavers and allowed for the legal donation of bodies to medical science. The illegal body-snatcher trade could end.
Thanks to Nell Darby in All About History, Issue 57.
I had been to family reunions in Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver, and especially in Winnipeg. Only in 1994 did we made the first trip to the easternmost Maritimes.
Susan Skelly (The Australian, 11th Nov 2017) wrote: in the Canadian Maritimes provinces notice their scents - pine resin, wood smoke, seawater, forest, tobacco, fish and peat. In unforgiving eastern Canada, the Maritimes provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have the Gulf of St Lawrence, Bay of Fundy and Atlantic Ocean to contend with.
This has been a strategic hub that has historically underpinned wars, immigration and trade. Nova Scotia’s coast has one of the highest concentrations of shipwrecks in North America, c25,000. But the forests of the Maritimes are more accommodating. They are an elegant, tight-knit community of conifers, maples and poplars, scarlet in autumn.
To understand why Edward the Prince of Wales (1894-1972) turned towards Fascism before WW2 and turned away his parents’ moral values, I will be citing the writing of Dr Heather Jones. Her journal article “Edward in the trenches” lays the blame firmly on his terrible war experiences.
So let us first canvas WW1. When Britain found itself under threat during WW1, Edward (20) had become the Prince of Wales three years earlier. Edward could easily have stayed at home in safety and inspected military training camps but he was desperate to serve on the Western Front. The Secretary of State for War naturally forbade the first in-line-to-the-throne to die in the trenches so Edward took a commission in the Grenadier Guards and accepted a junior officer role in France, far behind the front lines.
As soon as he could, Edward wanted a compromise. Although not directly involved in fighting, he was assigned to staff work on logistics. Thus Edward could go on frequent morale-boosting visits to the trenches, visit advanced positions, see the dead bodies lying unburied in the fields and smell the shell fire. The visits made him very popular with the men.
In contrast, his younger brother Prince Albert (1895-1952) would not ever become king under normal circumstances, so there was a less rigid approach to him serving in war. Everyone believed that Britain controlled the seas and the nation’s naval supremacy could not be challenged by Germany, so Albert, who was still in his teens, served in the Royal Navy as a midshipman.
However Germany embarked on a campaign of battleship building and by 1916 was ready to take on the British fleet which was blockading the North Sea. In May the Battle of Jutland was waged, becoming WW1’s biggest sea engagement. It was a catastrophe for both sides, including for the young prince in a gun turret, watching the ships being destroyed by torpedoes around him.
Thus both princes, who had lived in the lap of luxury back in their palaces, faced horror at war. Perhaps Edward seemed a little jealous of his younger brother who participated in direct action. But there was no questioning the bravery of both princes.
Edward the Prince of Wales in army uniform, and his brother in navy uniform, 1915.
During WW1, Edward had his first, hidden sexual experiences in Amiens, and then in Paris. But post war, living a vigorous social life was essential for any ex-serviceman, to regain his sanity. People were tolerant. In London Edward courted Lady Sybil Cadogan, his sister’s best friend, and wanted marriage in 1917. His next affair was with Lady Rosemary Leveson-Gower, a society beauty who the prince wanted to marry in 1918. However she married William Ward, 3rd Earl Dudley, in March 1919. Then Edward chose married women: Marian Coke, his much adored lover Freda Dudley Ward divorced wife of an MP who was vice chamberlain of the Royal House-hold and the American heiress Audrey James. Best of all was Lady Thelma Furness, daughter of an American diplomat who eloped at 16, divorced and then married the shipping magnate Viscount Furness. Thelma joined the Prince in Kenya in 1928 where the two fell in love.
first cousins and close friends, sharing a family wedding in Berlin
Edward fervently believed future European war had to be avoided, supporting the British Legion in interwar efforts at reconciliation with German ex-servicemen, even after Hitler came to power.
For King George V, individual personality had to be completely subordinated to the dignity of the office of king. But Prince Edward believed a king had to be a strong leader who embraced a cult of personality. He admired Fascist leadership because he believed appeasement with Fascism offered European peace. In particular Fascism seemed a modern answer to the Communist threat, for example by improving the lives of Germany’s poor.
I will add one more critical factor that Dr Jones did not mention. Edward VIII’s mother Queen Mary was almost entirely German and his father King George V was partly German. Edward remembered how older relatives would change to speaking German, as soon as any English-speaking staff left them in privacy. Edward himself was fluent in his "mother tongue". So asking the prince to devalue his German heritage would have been cruel, and ineffective.
After enrolling at Oxford in 1850, Dodgson became a fellow at Christ Church College. According to the rules, fellows had to be ordained, but Dodgson ignored the ordination rule and lived at the college unmarried. He was a maths lecturer and a devout deacon of the Anglican Church.
Like many Victorian bachelors, he became an “uncle” to his friends’ children, taking them out. In 1855, Dodgson’s Dean Henry Liddell arrived at Christ Church with his wife, Lorina and their first four children. As the 3 sisters grew older, Dodgson took the girls under his wing, with their parents’ blessing. In summer 1862, he took the Liddell girls on the river in Oxford and told them stories. Alice Liddell (1852-1934), then 10, was delighted that the main character shared her name and asked Dodgson to write his stories.
Dodgson wrote to Gertrude Thomson, an artist who was sketching girlish nymphs: "I am fond of children except boys." And "I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures”. He took exquisite, melancholy photographs of little girls. But it was Alice Liddell in particular who became his passion.
So why did the Liddells trust Dodgson with their precious daughters. I suggest a few significant reasons:
1. Harry Liddell was Dodgson’s dean and had a trusting professional relationship with him;
2. The Liddells had 9 children and were delighted when an adult offered to help keep them educated and amused;
3. Dodgson was a respectable Anglican deacon; and
4. The children loved Uncle Charles’ stories and activities.
Victorian culture clearly had a very sentimental view of young girls that could co-exist with disgust about adult sex!! There is no doubt that Dodgson was tormented by what HE called "the inclinations of my sinful heart"; that his own thoughts were “unholy”. But Dodgson felt his erotic fascination was under control; he was channelling his desires into a wild and lovely literary universe instead.
One example will suffice. On the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the BBC made a documentary called The Secret World of Lewis Carroll, 2015. It explored the nature of Carroll's relationship with children, and revealed a newly-discovered photograph of Alice’s elder sister, entirely nude. Although the picture was not 100% proven to have been Carroll’s, the uncomfortable pubescent model strongly suggested he was a somewhat repressed paedophile.
In 1865 a completed version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published as a book, published with John Tenniel's unmistakable art work. Dodgson published a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, in 1871, and a long poem in 1876.
He retired from teaching mathematics in 1881, and died in 1898 aged 66. At that stage, loving little girls was still acceptable. The London Daily Graphic’s 1898 obituary fondly noted his affection for girls. Also in 1898, Dodgson’s nephew published a biography that devoted two warm chapters to Dodgson’s child friends and their kissing.
Now my final questions. There is a gulf between how modern readers perceive an author and how they perceive his work. Is a good work of art, created by a bad person, tainted forever? Would you still read his stories to your children, thinking of them as classics of pure, innocent literature?
A settlement called Portus Cale was founded on the north bank of the Duoro River in the C4th BC. But nothing much was known before Porto was recovered in 868 AD from the Moorish empire.
Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) was born to English Queen Philippa and Portuguese King John I who had earlier married in Porto, creating a political alliance between Portugal and England. It was Prince Henry who, in the new Portuguese Empire, initiated the Age of Discoveries. Henry supervised the early development of Portuguese exploration and maritime trade with other continents through the exploration of Western Africa, Atlantic Ocean islands and the search for new routes. Only thus did Portugal become a sea-trade force, so it is appropriate that a statue in a park honours Prince Henry still today.
Prince Henry, the Navigator
The granite streets are everywhere but focus on the grand avenue Rua das Flores, once it was refurbished: its frontages now shine with restored tiles in blues and greens. The avenue is lined with stately stone facades and dominated by the town hall. Granite churches also display glazed blue and white tiles.
Of great beauty is the Capela das Almas/Chapel of Souls near the city’s main shopping street, Rua Santa Catarina. The chapel has its origin in an old chapel made of wood, built to honour Santa Catarina. The construction of the building that exists today dates back to the later C18th, when the Brotherhood of the Souls and the Chagas of San Francisco moved from the Monastery of Santa Clara to the Chapel of Santa Catarina. Capela das Almas’ exterior tiles, painted with scenes from the lives of saints, are inter-war.
Capela das Almas
Visit the Church of St Francisco, the only Gothic church in Porto; the severe, grey exterior has richly gilded, highly ornate, baroque wood carvings inside. Porto’s craftsmen in 17th and early C18th were special.
Sao Bento Railway Station was built on the site of a Renaissance Benedictine monastery. Work began on the terminal in 1900, in the French Beaux Arts architectural style. São Bento mainline’s central station is one of the most beautiful in Europe, displaying 20,000 glazed azulejos-tiles that, by 1916, depicted highlights of the nation’s history.
The Monastery da Serra do Pilar is a C16th former monastery is the architectural highlight of the Gaia side. Belonging to the Order of Saint Augustine, the church was made in a circular shape and was covered by a hemispheric vault and balcony. It took 72 year to complete because of financial difficulties and because of the political turmoil between Spain and Portugal.
Some fine architecture was built during the early C18th, including Clerigos Tower. Climb the Tower, the city’s most prominent landmark; it was built by Florentine architect Nicolau Nasoni, a man who was buried in the adjoining church. It is Porto’s best example of baroque architecture and is the tallest tower in Portugal.
Dona Maria Pia bridge, 1877
designed by Gustave Eiffel
To cross to the other side of the river, there is a choice of bridges. Dona Maria Pia, designed by Gustave Eiffel and built in 1877, is a railway bridge over the Portuguese northern municipalities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Another bridge, the Dom Luis I, boasts one of the biggest forged iron arches in the world.
Two water taxis cross the river as an alternative to the bridges, inspired by the design of the old rabelo cargo boats. River taxis are convenient for exploring the city on foot, with a dock at the Ribeira. The view of the city is best seen from the other side of the river, Vila Nova de Gaia, where the coloured, narrow dwellings stand out.
Book for a longer (eg 8 day) river cruise along the Douro River to see some of the most gorgeous natural scenery across Portugal, and sip on locally made port wine during a tasting session. Visit three vineyards to taste world-class wines while admiring scenic views from the Douro’s terraced vine yards. And have traditional lunches in the charming villages. All the major river-cruise operators organise Douro trips from late March to Nov eg Spain & Portugal Travel Connection or Euro River Cruises.
Two proposals have convinced the world that the USA is going mad vis a vis gun massacres.
In the second story, I cannot tell if the following newspaper article is positive advertising by right wingers or biting satire by left wingers. Neil Murphy wrote in the International Business Times that a Pennsylvania church will bless gun-toting couples in a ceremony taking place just half a mile from a local elementary school. Followers of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church will be blessed by spiritual leaders at their campus in Newfoundland Pennsylvania at the end of this month. Only heterosexual couples have been asked to take part.
Attendees are requested to bring their own semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s and AK47s, as part of the Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing. Those who cannot legally acquire a weapon have been asked to purchase a $700 gift voucher from a gun store.
Parents whose children attend neighbouring Wallenpaupack South Elementary School have voiced concern over the event, which comes just days after the massacre near Miami. Teenage Nikolas Cruz will be tried for killing 14 students and three adults with his legally-purchased AR-15 rifle.
Tim Elder, Unification Sanctuary's director of world missions, says that the event was planned months before the Miami school shooting and says all weapons will be securely checked by staff. According to Elder, Church teachings say assault weapons symbolise the New Testament's rod of iron passage and illustrates followers' intent and the ability to defend one's family, community and nation of Cheon Il Guk."
The Sanctuary is run by 38-year-old pastor Hyung Jin Moon, the son of Unification Church founder and self-professed messiah Sun Myung Moon. The Unification Church was founded by Moon in 1957 in Seoul, Korea using teachings from the Bible and his own family beliefs. The Unification Church off-shoot is a staunch supporter of Americans' rights bear arms and will host President Trump Thank You Dinner on Saturday — a fundraiser for Gun Owners of America.
So we have established a Caulfield Gun-Coffee Club for solving the gun catastrophe in the USA. Although Australia has never had much of a visible gun culture, we have had terrible mass gun murders in the past. The Milperra Bikie Massacre killed 6 bikies and one by-stander in 1984; Hoddle Street Massacre killed 7 city commuters in 1987; Queen Street Massacre killed 8 city shoppers and workers in 1987; and worst of all, the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre that killed 35 customers in an outdoor café.
The new Australian prime minister in 1996, John Howard, headed the conservative party. In his first speech to Parliament after the Port Arthur Massacre, he called for Australian legislators to take up the vexed issue of gun control, and vowed to devote his prime ministership to the issue. In May 1996, his government unveiled the National Firearms Agreement that radically strengthened Australia’s gun laws. The NFA established a registry of all guns owned in the country and required a permit for all new firearm purchases. It totally banned all automatic and semi-automatic guns.
Since many of these guns were already in circulation, the bill included a mandatory buy-back programme, which included large-scale gun confiscation and the destruction of 700,000 guns. Gun owners were compensated for the proper dollar value of the weapons seized by the state. Polls showed the new legislation was supported by 82% of the population.
Studies since 1996 reported that the new laws greatly reduced Australia’s homicide and suicide rates. And since the law’s passage, there has not been a single mass shooting in Australia. John Howard has described this programme as his greatest accomplishment as prime minister.
The Caulfield Gun-Coffee Club recognises that the American Constitution and its gun amendments cannot be changed without a mammoth effort at the Federal level. So instead we propose that A] 49 USA states ban guns WITHIN the borders of their states and B] all devoted gun owners be moved to Alaska, along with the weapons of their choice. C] Any current Alaskan citizens who do not approve of gun murders will be guaranteed a home and job in another state of Continental USA. Alaska is big enough to take in hundreds of thousands of gun fanatics and has the advantage of not bordering any other USA state. Sorry Canada :(
There will inevitably be issues with the underage children of those gun-loving parents who move to Alaska. Would the children be kept with aunts and grandparents in states other than Alaska, to be reunited to their parents when they reach their majority (aged 18 or 21)?
For those professionals who are legally entitled to use guns, such as the police, armed forces and Olympian athletes, locked training facilities must be provided across the USA.
Lasting only from May-Sept 1212, the Children’s Crusade was a popular religious movement in which thousands of young people took crusading vows and set out to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims. This was probably not as surprising an event back then, as it sounds to our ears.
Popular movements of religious fervour appeared whenever official crusades were preached. Preaching aroused mass enthusiasm, mostly in areas with a long tradition of crusading, as in and around the French town of Chartres. From the time of the First Crusade in the late C11th and continuing into the C13th, successive waves of crusading fervour swept over this region.
This was already a turbulent era. The Albigensian Crusade (1209–29) was being preached against the heretical southern Cathars, resulting in strong military recruitment from Chartres. Spain was the scene of another Crusading crisis. A Muslim invasion from North Africa in 1210 led to the fall of Salvatierra Castle in Spain in 1211. A fearful war was expected in 1212. Pope Innocent III quickly coordinated Christian prayers on behalf of the threatened Spanish church by holding processions in Rome in May 1212.
Similar processions were held at Chartres in May where the shepherd boy Stephen of Cloyes and his fellow workers participated. This young preacher believed he’d been chosen by Jesus to lead the divine mission: to lead pueri and puelle (Latin for boys and girls) to save Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre. He gathered followers by predicting miracles eg by claiming that the Mediterranean Sea would part for them en route to Jerusalem! Masses of children became wild with excitement, dropped their ploughs and sheep, took the crusader’s vow and flocked to the rendezvous point.
Some adults believed the children’s movement was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Other adults believed that sending off 11-12 year olds was the work of the Devil. Some parents were so anxious for the young lives that they locked up their children in the home, to prevent their departure. [I would certainly have locked my 11 year old sons up!]
Under Stephen’s leadership, French children assembled at St Denis during a popular annual June event, the Lendit Fair. The numbers of Stephen’s followers were uncertain but presumably c30,000 French children assembled in bands and marched through French towns. Carrying banners and crosses, some of the French children went all the way to Marseilles. Those that sailed from that port were probably sold as slaves in Alexandria or Tunisia. Other children were too hungry to go on, and returned home.
From the records of a German Children’s Crusade, we know that some of the French children arrived in Germany in mid-July. A lad named Nicholas from Cologne DID succeed in launching a crusade, carrying his charismatic tau cross and leading the German pueri southward to Mainz and Speyer.
Nicholas led his c50,000 lads to go over the Alps into Italy via Piacenza and Genoa, then onto the pope in Rome. The pope praised the children for their bravery, but stated that they were too young to crusade. From the port of Brindisi, a few thousand young crusaders got onto ships to sail to Jerusalem .. and disappeared. Quite separately we heard that of the 7,000 German pueri who arrived in Genoa, many remained because cheap labour was needed there. Only a few German children returned home to their frantic parents.
All in all, the Children’s Crusade was an utter disaster. As it was doomed to be from the beginning.
Yet it also represented the decline of the Crusades. Innocent III had already planned a crusade to recapture Jerusalem; in 1213 and 1215 he issued papal bulls calling on Christians to join in. The eventual failure of this 5th Crusade predicted the end. In 1270-2 the 8th and 9th Crusades failed totally; the mainland Crusader states ended with the fall of Tripoli (1289) and Acre (1291).
Johann Sporschil: Geschichte der Kreuzzüge.
I can easily imagine the excitement that these self-proclaimed, unarmed Crusaders evoked when they planned to regain Jerusalem and recover the True Cross. So despite the very short amount of time taken up by the children’s crusading movement, interest in the story continued over the centuries. Countless children’s books were written in later generations. Highly romanticised illustrations of the Children’s Crusade were still being published in prints and books, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.
After being captured and imprisoned by the Reds at Baku in 1920, Danila escaped on a motor bike, eventually travelling to China. Due to his wartime experiences, Vassilieff felt free to continue life as a womaniser; until he married Anisia Nicolaevna at the Shanghai Russian Church in 1923.
From Shanghai the couple sailed to Australia in 1923. In 1923 they bought a sugar-plantation near Townsville but in 1928 he separated from his wife and was employed on the Northern Territory railway.
In 1929 he left Australia, studying art in Brasil (1930-1) and in the West Indies and South America (1932-3). Then he spent two years in England, Spain and Portugal (1933-4), mixing with White Russian ex-pats and creating a relationship between modernist art and Russian decorative art.
During his 5 years travelling, the UK was where he met fellow Russian Vladimir Polunin who was a teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art. The period emphasised Vassilieff’s Russian heritage of strong colour.
In 1934 Vassilieff returned to Australia and became the link between Australian and European art history. Complete with his dark beret, nicotine-stained clothes and intense gaze, the Russian became a colourful man. In Oct 1935 Vassilieff settled in Sydney, painting stormy, inner-city street scenes. Only now did enthusiastic reviews of his work establish his reputation eg scruffy children playing in workingclass suburbs, still lifes and portraits. His expressionist works were shown twice at the Macquarie Galleries. His biggest supporter was the famous art critic Basil Burdett.
Heide was the home built around bourgeois art patrons John and Sunday Reed in the 1930s, and attracted artists Sidney Nolan, Bert Tucker and Joy Hester. Not far from Heide in Bulleen, Danila Vassilieff created his own bohemian stone-and-log house in North Warrandyte, a home he called Stonygrad. Here he created a terraced garden with fruit trees and flowers, and sculptures out of local stone.
Stonygrad became a focal point for the Angry Penguins and other locals. In the late 1930s-40s, Danila influenced many of the younger painters who later became Australia's stars - Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Joy Hester and Sid Nolan.
In 1944 his relationship with Helen Macdonald ended. Vassilieff had separated from his first wife way back in 1929 but they were not divorced until 1947. Because his art was unappreciated in Australia, he decided to sell Stonygrad and move to South Africa. In true Vassilieff style, he fell in love with the purchaser of Stonygrad, academic Elizabeth Orme Hamill. 3 months later they married and, newly inspired, the artist turned to sculpture using lime-stone from Lilydale.
Vassilieff building Stonygrad
His view that immediacy and message mattered more than intellect and aesthetics, influenced younger artists: Albert Tucker, Lina Bryans, Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan. He did exhibit again later at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Melbourne, but now his work was not in great demand.
Sickly and slim, Vassilieff had always spoken English in a low, accented voice. As he sold few paintings, he never had any money and traded portraits for hot dinners. He also traded on his romantic image to get women into bed. Sadly he spent his final months in a shack near Mildura painting unhappy water-colours, the last in 1958.
Vassilieff died of a heart attack alongside John Reed at Heide, who stood by the artist to the end. A memorial exhibition of Danil’s oeuvre was held at Melbourne’s Museum of Modern Art of Australia in 1959. His work is now represented in major Australian galleries.
Vassilieff's biographer Felicity St John Moore published Vassilieff and His Art in 2012. Vassilieff brought a stream of Russian folk art into Australian art, as well as exciting ideas about the indivisibility of art and life. The bright colours reflected his exuberant love of the river, its flora and fauna. Sadly, Felicity said, he divided critics and friends, thanks to a peculiarly Cossack chauvinism, fierce anti-intellectualism, dysfunctional relationships with women and crude painterly language.
In 2012 an exhibition at Heidi examined the profound influence of this artist in the history of Australian art. It comprised key paintings from the mid-1930s to mid-1940s, works on paper and sculpture. This project highlighted Vassilieff’s role in linking the expressive tradition of Russian folk art with modern Australia art.
In 2015 director Richard Moore's film, The Wolf in Australian Art: Life and Art of Danila Vassilieff was based on a book published by his mother, Felicity St John Moore. She also co-curated a 2012 show at Heide that did much to restore Vassilieff to the modern public.
Let me quote from the excellent Napoleon’s Last Stand paper, written by historian Jean-Noel Bregeon. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, skilfully managed to expel Emperor Napoleon from Portugal in 1811 and won decisive victories against the French in Spain in 1813. After the French Grand Army’s ruinous attempt to invade Russia, Allied forces invaded France from all sides in 1813.
The French Empire was weakening, damaging the Emperor’s plans for European domination. By April 1814 it looked as if the anti-French Allies had succeeded. Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the Italian island of Elba; Bourbon King Louis XVIII was restored to power instead.
Napoleon was not a prisoner on Elba; he was granted sovereignty of the island plus an armed guard. A flow of intelligence from French informants & letters helped him secretly plan for his future. Even from Elba, Napoleon knew the Bourbon government was unpopular and by May 1814, he expected he would be sent for... to "tranquilise" France.
Then in Feb 1815, Europe received a shock: the audacious Napoleon escaped from Elba and sailed for France. It is hard to over-estimate the horror this news provoked. Many nations feared that Napoleon’s escape would restart French imperial expansion, and re-plunge Europe into war.
In spring 1815 British, Prussian, Austrian and Russian forces re-grouped as Napoleon again mobilised the French army. A last, epic showdown loomed. This time Napoleon faced a coalition of nations led by his old skilled adversary, the Duke of Wellington.
In March, Napoleon reached Paris with the applause of the masses in his ears. Despite his claims to want peace, the Allies were wary. Together they signed what amounted to a declaration of war.
Events moved swiftly, and the restored French emperor had little time to organise. With enemy armies massing on France’s northern frontiers, he tried to organise a volunteer force to supplement the standing army. Even so, the French army was a fearful opponent. Its troops were experienced fighters, and its commander still inspired passionate loyalty.
The Allied forces consisted of British, Prussian and other troops who were divided into detachments. British commander, the Duke of Wellington, patiently decided to wait for the enemy to attack rather than force their hand.
Brimming with confidence, Napoleon was planning for a decisive victory. Ignoring advice to postpone engagement with the enemy, he left Paris on 12th June 1815 to join his army in Belgium where Wellington’s and Gebhard von Blücher’s troops lay in wait. On 14th June Napoleon proclaimed: “The honour and happiness of our country are at stake; Frenchmen, the moment has arrived when we must conqueror or die!”
A double battle took place on 16th June in Quatre-Bras and Ligny; both were French victories, although neither was a fatal blow to Napoleon’s enemies. On 17th June, heavy rains soaked the ground and the French soldiers. The wet fields and muddy roads became a swampy mess.
At dawn on 18th June, Wellington and Napoleon organised their forces. Wellington set up his headquarters in Mont-Saint-Jean, not far from Waterloo. He had deployed most of his 68,000 troops along a long ridge with three farms. The British commander stuck to his defensive tactic, knowing he needed to wait for Blücher’s detachments (c50,000 men) to arrive. After the clash at Ligny, Blücher withdrew to Wavre, closer to Waterloo.
Napoleon’s camp was in the village of Maison du Roi. Because French forces totalled c72,000 men, Napoleon hoped to take advantage of the distance between the Prussians and the British, to quickly destroy Wellington’s forces. The emperor believed that victory was within his grasp! But the emperor’s plan was thwarted by the mud and fog, which prevented an early start. Napoleon believed that had it not rained, he would have quickly defeated the Allied army, before the Prussians arrived.
But none of the French attacks breached the front. The Allied infantry, especially the British, showed determined resilience in facing the French onslaught. As a result, some formations suffered unprecedented losses e.g the Inniskilling Regiment lost two-thirds of its men in 45 minutes.
The strain was becoming intolerable on Wellington. He desperately awaited news of Blücher’s arrival so that the Prussians could save them. At 4 PM Blücher’s forces started to attack the French flanks but the danger for Wellington was not over yet. One farmhouse fell to the French at 6 PM. An hour later, the allied forces faced the terrifying charge from the Imperial Guard, the force Napoleon always reserved to decide battles. The Emperor thought the Imperial Guard would break the Allies, but he miscalculated. He had to send several regiments of his Imperial Guard to fight the Prussians, men who were sorely missed by their comrades during the final push. As they charged, Allied gunfire ripped them apart. The Imperial Guard faltered and the French troops scattered in terror-filled retreat.
At 8:15 PM Napoleon ordered a retreat, once he realised the mortal blow had been struck. But the Allies’ victory came at a heavy cost. Historians estimated Wellington’s casualties c15,000 and Blücher’s at c8,000. Napoleon suffered c25,000 casualties and 9,000 Frenchmen were captured. Wellington was overwhelmed by the loss of life.
Napoleon immediately returned to Paris where he abdicated in favour of his son on 22th June. A month after the battle, Napoleon gave himself up to the British, who banished him to St Helena, a mid-Atlantic island. The Napoleonic Era was over for good.
Yet... yet....whilst on Elba, Napoleon knew the Bourbon government was unpopular and that he would have to save France. So why, despite solid advice to postpone the battle, did Napoleon take full command of an unnecessary battle, stating that he could easily defeat the inept British soldiers and the remote Prussian soldiers?
We can acknowledge that the French under Marshal Michel Ney eventually captured a farmhouse in the Allied area and began decimating Wellington’s troops with artillery. But why was Napoleon so preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank that he did not release troops to aid Ney’s attack until later? By that time, Wellington had reorganised the British defences, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into chaotic retreat.
I know that ceramics from the later 17th century and all the 18th century are greatly prized by Chinese collectors, for their technical skills and often coloured decoration. The best work came from the three great Qing Dynasty emperors, Kangxi (ruled 1661-1722), Yongzheng (1722-35) and Qianlong (1735-96).
The Yongzheng Emperor (1678–1735) was the 5th emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, reigning for 13 years. According to the National Palace Museum in Taiwan the Yongzheng Emperor promulgated an order in 1727 for court objects that had to differ in appearance from those outside, thus establishing a unique style for his court. The painted enamel motifs that Yongzheng loved were blue landscapes, landscapes with flowers, peacocks and wild goose, plums, orchids, bamboo and chrysanthemums. The exquisite under-glaze blue wares made in Yongzheng’s imperial kilns are some the best creations of the entire Qing era.
In 2009 the Taiwan museum borrowed 37 relics from the Palace Museum in Beijing for its exhibition on Qing Dynasty Emperor Yongzheng. The pieces included an imperial stone seal and a massive Yongzheng portrait.
The original estimate was £100,000-150,000, but on the day of the auction, the bids came thick and fast. The successful buyer was a Chinese private collector who paid £482,800 ($740,000) for the lot, including auction costs.
Two references for Qing porcelain are very useful. Firstly consider For the Imperial Court: Qing Porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, written by Rosemary E Scott and published in 1997. Secondly Imperial Perfection: The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors: Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, published in 2004, is valuable.
An unexpected find was 9 cm tall teapot, decorated with a bright blue pattern featuring two cranes under a palm tree on one side, and a man on a bridge on the other side. When found in 2016 in Britain, the teapot was already missing a lid, and the handle was repaired.
Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury identified it as the work of John Bartlam, a Staffordshire potter who left Britain in 1763 for South Carolina, drawn by its plentiful supplies of local kaolin and its wealthy consumers. He established the first known manufacturer of porcelain in the USA. British appraisers said this was the only known Bartlam American teapot in existence, and thus earliest USA-made porcelain teapot to survive.
Woolley and Wallis Auctioneers said the vessel’s historic importance rested in its association with the beginning of American porcelain production. Because of era of manufacture, the pot was said to represent the unique entrepreneurial spirit and important historical era, before the Boston Tea Party of Dec 1773. Thus this art object meant so much more to the Americans than it did to the other buyers.
The tiny wine bowl was worth a fortune because of fine craftsmanship, delicate decoration and historical value to fans of early C18th Qing ceramics. The teapot was not valuable because of its fine craftsmanship or delicate decoration; rather because of its great rarity and strong nationalist sentiment.
What a creative life and a tragic death Amadeo Modigliani (1884–1920) had. He left home in Livorno Italy in 1906, at 21, with money from his mother, and moved to the centre of the art world: Paris. He was engrossed by the works he saw, from artists ranging from the late Paul Cézanne to his contemporary Kees van Dongen.
Modigliani lived at various addresses in the bohemian district of Montmartre, not far from Pablo Picasso’s home. In the early days in Paris, Amadeo’s subjects included figures from the demimonde eg circus performers. But during the 13 years that followed, he struggled with the dark side which, in turn, strengthened his art.
Modigliani’s years of poverty were clear from the beginning – he was tubercular, hungry and poor. The consequences of his short and disordered life have resulted in debates amongst scholars, museums, dealers, auction houses and private collectors. His official catalogue raisonné is no longer 100% trusted because of disputed forgeries and subsequent court cases. But at least the authenticity of Dr Paul Alexandre’s wonderful collection of Modiglianis was never challenged.
Now the Tate Modern in London has brought together drawings, paintings and sculptures by Modigliani which might help with understanding his art. All the early work done in Italy was destroyed at Modigliani’s own request. So the Tate Exhibition consists of paintings and carved stone sculpture done during his chaotic, artistic life in Paris.
The paintings were sensitively hung in the Tate Modern galleries, with their colours creating a radiance. And the display reflected Amadeus’ progress over time. In 1909, he painted a very handsome portrait of his friend Paul Alexandre with layers of almost Turner-like brushwork. That same year he depicted the youth he referred to as a Young Gypsy with a stylised geometric angularity, posing him with legs spread apart and hands loosely resting in his lap. In 1918, Modigliani painted the Little Peasant with a simplified classicism but left him with the same rounded hands and arms a la Paul Alexandre but in a lighter palette.
What about the 12 nudes in the same section of the Tate, perfectly timed to mark the 100-year anniversary of Modigliani’s only solo show. That exhibit, at Gallerie Berthe Weill, was closed by police on its first day because of indecency. The heroic Mrs Weill’s impressive list of artists included Raoul Dufy, André Derain, Georges Braque, Kees van Dongen, Maurice Utrillo and Suzanne Valadon.
Was being Jewish in post-Dreyfus Paris a problem? Modigliani was not interested in the issue! While there were several memoirs that described Modigliani’s passionate response to anti-Semitism, there was no evidence that he felt himself an “outsider”. This cosmopolitan family had come from France, Tunisia, Italy, Algeria and Sardinia; national boundaries melted away. In Paris, his friends included many Jewish artists eg Lipchitz, Soutine, Chagall, Zadkine, Nadelman and Kisling, artists of mixed origin eg Diego Rivera, and non-Jews like Picasso, Laurens, Gris and Cocteau. If he was considered Italian, it was because of his dashing, aristocratic style.
The end was tragic. Amadeus’s young lover Jeanne Hébuterne was 36 weeks pregnant with their second baby. Suffering from acute kidney pain and spitting blood, Modigliani lay in bed and a frightened Hébuterne huddled by his side in their Rue de la Grande Chaumière flat. They were cold that winter, hungry and messy. When he finally fell into a coma, Modigliani was carried to hospital and tended by nuns while friends surrounded him.
Amadeus died and the artist’s brother paid expenses for a lavish funeral, where thousands of people gathered behind a horse-drawn carriage bearing his flower-covered casket. As the funeral cortege passed by, Hébuterne leapt out the 5th storey open window and died on the footpath below. At Cimetière du Père Lachaise, the Jewish funeral was packed out. Hébuterne’s Catholic parents arranged their daughter’s tiny funeral early the next day.
Decades after her parents’ deaths, Amadeus’ daughter Jeanne wrote a book called Modigliani: Man and Myth. Jeanne described her father as the pampered and indulged youngest son in an eccentric Italian family, his own bankrupted father, and Amadeus’ near-death experiences in childhood from pleurisy and typhoid. Perhaps by choosing the life of a Bohemian artist, he was toughening himself up physically while saving his poetic soul.
Sleeping nude by Modigliani
The first Jewish settler in New Zealand was Joel Samuel Polack in 1831. Born in London to Dutch parents, he established a successful retail business and later branched out into shipping, mainly to California. When New Zealand became a British colony in 1840, it was the perfect time for the Auckland Jewish community’s foundation; they soon acquired land for their first cemetery.
The first Hebrew congregation began worship in Auckland in 1843. Their first formal place of worship was in Nathan & Joseph's Warehouse in Shortland Street. By 1853 the congregation had grown to 100 and worship was held in a small building in Emily Place. By the 1860s this building had become too small for the rapidly increasing population and moneys were collected to build a new synagogue.
In 1884, the Jewish Community purchased a section on the corner of Princes and Bowen Sts. At that time the site was occupied by the former Albert Barracks Guard House, which overlooked a vegetable garden used by soldiers.
The community asked architects to submit synagogue designs and they chose Edward Bartley to take on the project. Bartley was an Irish carpenter and joiner arrived in New Zealand in 1854 and trained as an architect and builder. In 1872, he went into partnership with another builder, forming Matthews & Bartley Builders. He moved to the North Shore in 1872, later building his own home in Devonport. Other significant Bartley buildings included the Foundation for the Blind Jubilee Building and the original Wellesley St Opera House. And was a founding member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.
The Princes St Synagogue structure was designed in a mixed Romanesque and Gothic style, the project influenced by an important Glasgow Synagogue. It was built out of concrete at a cost of 3000 pounds and could seat a congregation of 375. As one of NZ’s oldest massed concrete buildings, the basement was set aside for social and educational purposes, and a school annexe was later added.
The interior ornamentation was by the decorator JL Holland. The interior of the building featured a barrel vaulted timber ceiling and an ornate circular ark, covered by a stained glass dome imported from Australia. The blend of Arabic and Classical styles featuring ornate stained-glass windows; an elliptical staircase; a decorated barrel-vaulted, wood-panelled ceiling supported by graceful Arabic arches and columns; and ornate plaster work.
Along with his 3 sons who became architects, Bartley also trained Malcolm Keith Draffin (1890-1964). Draffin later became an Auckland War Memorial Museum architect.
The barrel-vaulted, wood-panelled ceiling with graceful Arabic arches and columns are still intact. The women's pews upstairs were removed and the bank office spaces remain.
The synagogue had been Auckland’s main synagogue until 1967. Only then, due to substantial growth in the Jewish Community, did the congregation move to a larger, newly synagogue opposite Myers Park.
After the original building was de-consecrated in 1969, ownership reverted to Auckland City Council. The building was left vacant and slowly deteriorated over 20+ years, until it was renovated to operate a branch of the National Bank in 1989. The interior of the former synagogue was meticulously restored to its original condition in the late 1980s, with extensive structural and strengthening work of the interior office spaces.
The University of Auckland has leased the old synagogue since 2003, using the building as home to the University’s Alumni Relations and Development office. It is located at the campus entrance.
The former synagogue is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and has Historic Place Category 1 Status. The conservation project won the inaugural Auckland City Heritage Award. And they won a New Zealand Institute of Architects National Award citation in 1990 for successfully reconciling the tenant’s commercial requirements with the need to conserve one of Auckland’s significant buildings.
Decoration and lamps on the arches and columns
This important part of Auckland’s cultural history is for sale. The synagogue is the only landmark historic building of its type in the city and one of only two extant C19th synagogues in all the country. It had acted as Auckland’s main synagogue and focal point for the Jewish community from 1885 until 1968! The adjoining building, the Trish Clark Gallery for contemporary art that was built in 1986, is one of Auckland’s leading art spaces. Along with the old synagogue, the whole complex is for sale in Apr 2018.
You might like to read The History of the Jews in New Zealand (1958) by Lazarus Morris Goldman for an excellent and detailed analysis of Jewish settlers in C19th New Zealand.
In 1861 Herman Webster Mudgett was born to a respected New Hampshire family. In childhood he was fascinated with skeletons and soon became obsessed with death. Mudgett changed his name to H.H Holmes and studied medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
While a student, Holmes stole cadavers from the laboratory, disfigured them and then planted the bodies as if they were killed in accidents. His passion for death had started early in life but his criminal skills began in medical school; it was only then he collected on fake insurance policies.
Holmes was a very good medical student. In 1884 he passed his exams easily and in 1885 he moved to Chicago where he worked at a pharmacy as Dr Henry Holmes. When the owner of the business passed away, Holmes convinced the widow to sell him the shop in 1887. Holmes hired the Conner family from Iowa to work in the shop and keep the books, and the widow was never seen again!
Holmes married a few times, often to more than one woman at the same time. Emeline Cigrand became Holmes' personal secretary but after accepting Holmes' marriage proposal, Cigrand disappeared. Soon after, Holmes sold an articulated female skeleton to a nearby medical school. Holmes later confessed to locking Cigard in the vault, before raping and murdering her.
On the ground floor of Holmes’ three-storey Murder Castle, thousands of people enter the shops, some operated by Holmes and some leased to local merchants. They knew nothing of what was happening above.
The angled, narrow corridors had poor lighting. Most of the rooms were rigged with gas pipes connected to a control panel in Holmes' closet. Stairways that led nowhere were interspersed with locked doors to which only Holmes had the key. And Holmes' personal office contained a walk-in bank vault, leaving the victims to suffocate. There were trap doors, secret passage ways, hidden closets with sliding panels, peepholes, doorways opening to brick walls, soundproofed bedrooms that were either airtight and lined with asbestos-coated steel plates, false battlements and wooden bay windows were covered in sheet iron.
Holmes' medical training paid off. The basement was designed for a good surgeon; it had a dissecting table, surgeon's cabinet, stretching rack and crematory. Sometimes he would send the bodies down the greased chute, dissect them, strip them of the flesh and sell them as skeleton models to medical schools. Or he placed the bodies into pits of quicklime vats or burnt them in the furnaces. Charles Chappell was an articulator i.e he could strip flesh from human bodies and reassemble the bones to form complete skeletons. Holmes paid Chappell to articulate a cadaver, then to sell the skeleton to a medical school.
When completed in 1891, Holmes placed ads in newspapers offering hotel jobs for young women and advertised the Castle for guests. He also placed ads presenting himself as a wealthy man looking for a wife. In May-October 1893 the Chicago World Fair was opened, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. The event attracted millions of people from all over the world.
All of Holmes’ employees, hotel guests, fiancés and wives were required to have life insurance policies. Holmes paid the premiums, as long as he was the beneficiary. Most of his fiancés, employees and guests suddenly disappeared, leaving Holmes to collect the insurance.
While in gaol, he devised an insurance scam with cellmate Marion Hedgepeth. Holmes would take out a valuable insurance policy, fake his own death and provide Hedgepeth with $500 in exchange for a helpful lawyer. Holmes did try his plan but the insurance company was suspicious and refused payment. Holmes then attempted a similar plan in Philadelphia, asking Pitezel to fake his own death. But Holmes killed Pitezel and collected the insurance anyhow!
In 1894 Hedgepath told police about Holmes’ scam. The police tracked Holmes, arresting him in Boston for insurance fraud. Almost accidentally, Chicago police investigated Holmes’ Castle where they discovered his tortures and murders. The bodies they found were so badly dismembered and decomposed, the number was unclear.
How did the crisis get so far? Because of the World's Fair and limited police procedure, missing persons had barely been investigated. And more difficult still, Holmes' innate charm could smooth over any major worries that neighbours and families were pursuing.
While conducting their investigation in Toronto, police discovered the dead Pitezel children who had gone missing sometime during Holmes’ insurance fraud spree. Linking Holmes to their murders, police arrested him and he then confessed to 28 other murders. Holmes' 6-day trial began in Philadelphia in late 1895. Throughout, he was charismatic to the day of his execution: May 1896. He was 36.
A man named AM Clark purchased the Murder Castle soon after the police investigation. Clark intended to capitalise on the Castle's notoriety and reopen it as a tourist attraction. However in August a watchman saw flames and explosions from the bedroom windows and the roof had collapsed. Only the first floor was salvaged and served as a bookshop until the Castle was sold in 1937. It was then pulled down.
After Holmes’ death, men who'd had dealings with Holmes came to violent ends. The last was Pat Quinlan, suspected accomplice and former Murder Castle caretaker. In March 1914, Quinlan committed suicide via strychnine.
In the next post I will examine a similar mass murderer (in Britain), and draw some conclusions.
Dennis Andrew Nilsen (b1945) was born in Aberdeenshire. His father was an alcoholic and his parents divorced early, so Dennis was sent to his adored grandparents. Sadly when grandpa died, the traumatised 6 years-old was shown his grandfather lying in his coffin.
The lad joined the army in 1961 at 15. His first three years in the army were spent undergoing training at the Aldershot Barracks. This was a very happy time for Nilsen who thrived on the hard work, discipline and comradeship of army life. He was no longer an outsider.
Nilsen's chosen army trade was in the catering corps - he trained as a butcher in Aden, Cyprus and Berlin. When Nilsen reached the rank of Corporal, his successful army career had lasted 11.5 years, but he disliked the Army's role in Northern Ireland and left.
In Dec 1972, he enrolled in the Metropolitan Police, hoping to recapture army-type comradeship. He was fascinated seeing autopsied bodies in a morgue. But he wasn’t happy and resigned in Dec 1973.
From the mid 1970s, Nilsen worked in a job centre. He met a man there who was looking for a job. They went to Nilsen's flat but David Painter saved himself and rushed to hospital. NB Nilsen was questioned by the police and released!
195 Melrose Avenue North London By 1974, Nilsen's life revolved around cruising bars. One night David Gallichan came home with Nilsen and stayed. It was Nilsen’s happiest affair. The two men went flat hunting together and rented 195 Melrose Ave for 2 years. When the relationship ended, Nilsen filled the void by visiting London’s bars and drinking.
The killings re-started a year after Gallichan left. As 1978 ended, Nilsen sank into a deep depression, until the old death fantasy came back out to comfort him. By New Year he went to a pub and returned home with an unknown teenager. The men drank themselves into a blear, and when Nilsen awoke, he wanted to keep this lad as a companion forever. So he strangled the youth with his necktie, drowned him and placed him under the floorboards.
In Oct 1979, a year after the first murder, another young student went home with Nilsen. Andrew Ho informed the police, but no charges were brought!!
All his partners were young men whom he picked up in bars and brought home for sex or for company. Nilsen strangled and drowned his victims during the night, then carefully used his butchering skills to help him dispose of the bodies. Nilsen had access to a large garden and was able to burn many of the remains in a bonfire.
Later on, the police inspected Nilsen's home at 195 at Melrose Avenue and found another 13 bodies.
23 Cranley Gardens in Muswell Hill, North London. The new house at Cranley Gardens had been divided into 6 flats and an attic for Nilsen. He’d lost the use of a garden and even of a space under floor boards, so he was certain this would be a deterrent for his compulsive homicides. Wrong!
Nilsen met a student in a Soho bar and invited him home. The student awoke the next morning not remembering the previous evening, but knew enough to see a doctor because of neck bruising. The doctor said the student had been strangled and advised him to go to the police. Alas the student would not.
Rather than being appalled by the sight of corpses, Nilsen thought them quite beautiful. He did not really know why he had killed any young men - he just wanted them to stay. Sometimes he decided to have sex with the corpses. Or he would make dinner and watch television with a corpse propped upright on the couch.
In just 1.5 years, Nilsen had killed twelve unemployed or homeless young men in Muswell Hill, largely unidentifiable. As his murders continued in the attic, Nilsen had to dispose of the human remains in suitcases; they were full of human organs stored in his wardrobe. Neighbours gagged at the smell. When he tried to dispose of the bodies by flushing them down the toilet, the sewerage clogged up. In 1983 the drain inspector immediately called the police who discovered the bones were human.
Despite being cautioned, Nilsen unburdened himself in nauseating detail. And he also accompanied police back to 195 Melrose Avenue and pointed out where he had buried body parts and made bonfires.
At the 1983 trial at Old Bailey, Nilsen’s interviews with the police were read verbatim, taking four hours, and surviving victims gave chilling evidence. Because this professional butcher knew how to cut up a body well and boil flesh off the heads in a large pot, they presented his pot, dissecting board and butchering knives in court. Finally Dennis Nilsen was convicted of 6 murders and 2 attempted murders, sentenced to life in prison, never to be released. Read Killing for Company 1985, by Nilsen’s friend Brian Masters.
Conclusion Different decades, countries, preferred victims, motives and killing methods. Yet the outcome was equally tragic for hundreds of people in the USA and Britain.
The police were rarely told of Dr Holmes’ killings for financial windfalls and few missing person’s reports were filed. Yet Holmes openly placed ads in newspapers offering jobs for young women, hotel rooms for guests and positions for potential wives. Did the parents do nothing when their daughters didn’t come home? And from the early insurance claims, the insurance companies must have understood what was happening. It was unthinkable that the insurance companies could make endless payouts to one person!
Of the victims who managed to escape lonely Nilsen’s grasp, many had made hospital records and police reports, so the police knew that they had been given solid evidence over four years. If only the various hospitals and police stations had been able to coordinate with each other, a more urgent & proactive police investigation may have saved many lives. If only the neighbours, workmates, sexual partners and parents had not averted their eyes and noses, even when they knew (or suspected) that the army butcher was psychotic.
La Belle Epoque in Paris was time of peace, scientific progress, prosperity and leisure, at least for those with money. Four events in the later C19th led to significant changes in how Parisians lived:
1] Paris’s C19th layout was redesigned by Baron Haussmann on behalf of Napoleon III, to beautify the city. Between 1852-72, Haussmann demolished medieval roads, built wide boulevards and elegant buildings, surrounded by greenery.
2] the destructive Franco Prussian war of 1870-1 ended.
3] arrival of the railways by the mid C19th meant Frenchmen could travel anywhere! And the Paris Metro opened in 1900, with the elegant Art Nouveau décor.
4] The 1889 World Fair & Eiffel Tower were a major stimulus to French and foreign tourism. Cafe life arrived.
Moulin Rouge interior, 1898
It was the Montmartre district in particular that became important during the Belle Epoch. Once a quiet rural district outside Paris, Montmartre was opened up to easy access during Haussmann's modernisation. Artists and writers flocked there.
Nightlife and cabarets thrived. Folies Bergère was the first music hall to open, in May 1869. In the early days the productions consisted of circus acts and sporty entertainers. Folies Bergere saw itself as the theatre of the ordinary people, offering unreserved seats for a modest cost.
Young ladies in revues began to appear almost naked as early as 1893, initially the result of a competition between artist's models concerning which of them had the best legs. Later the entire cast wore elaborate, skimpy costumes.
At night the Montmartre district started humming: soon night clubs opened for business all over the district. The Chat Noir Cabaret opened in 1881, attracting poets, singers and painters with Bohemian entertainment and decor.
The original Moulin Rouge was co-founded in 1889 by impresario Joseph Oller, who also owned the Paris Olympia, and his supporting showman Charles Zidler. Moulin Rouge's architecture was modelled on a mill at the foot of Mt Montmartre, on the very site of an old working windmill. In Oct 1889 it opened as a dance-music hall, with cabaret. The illuminated windmill vanes became a landmark, rotating above roof tops on Boulevard de Clichy. Moulin Rouge featured a big dance floor, mirrored walls and a fashionable gallery, lit by round, mounted glass gas lamps.
Early cancan dancers had been men, peacocking through a quadrille in ? defiance of France’s July Monarchy (1830-48). Women gradually joined in, and in 1867 the cancan dancer Finette imported the dance to London, where her high kicks inspired Kate Vaughan, first of the celebrated Gaiety Girls. They performed in black tights and foaming lacy petticoats over their flesh. Soon celebrated exponents like La Goulue and Jane Avril carried the cancan to a sexier show at the Folies Bergère and later in Moulin Rouge.
The cancan was about gorgeous, erotic underwear, and the girls doing high kicks, a dance that made the Moulin Rouge.
Jules Cheret (1836-1932)’s training as a lithographer raised the poster to sophisticated heights. His Folies Bergere posters showed how simple the design was and how dominant the colour block was. Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) began designing posters in the early 1890s. For Bonnard, Moulin Rouge was an ideal place for inspiration; he used sober palette, refined, detailed composition in his paintings.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was an integral part of Paris nightlife. He documented the city’s bohemian night life in the 1880s & 1890s, frequenting the Moulin Rouge and other Montmartre cabarets where he attracted a large group of artists and intellectuals. He sat at a crowded nightclub table, drinking and sketching. The next morning in his studio he’d expand the sketches into full paintings. Lively posters by Lautrec thrilled the cabarets and music halls owners.
The most famous tune associated with the cancan was written by Jacques Offenbach for his operetta Orpheus in the Underworld in 1858. The dance was originally titled the Infernal Galop and was first done by actors performing as the bawdy Olympian gods and Orpheus’ beloved Eurydice. He offered a brilliant view of how Parisian society and its wealthy visitors lived the high life, especially when Orpheus and cancan later became synonymous.
It is said that Paris was a seductive Babylon; that the cancan loosened the morals of an entire generation. Clearly British men couldn’t get to Paris fast enough!! But would Moulin Rouge and the cancan have been famous, if it wasn’t for artists like Toulouse-Lautrec and Offenbach? Yes!
The building burned in 1915 and was rebuilt in 1925. Today the Moulin Rouge is a musical and dance tourist attraction; the club's decor still embodies fin de siècle Paris.
When trade with Japan resumed in 1854 after centuries of isolationism and cultural blockade, a craze for its culture swept across France. But the French concept of Japonisme was not invented until the early 1870s. Art galleries in Paris were showing Oriental work, shops sold porcelain, lacquer ware, screens, fans and prints for homes, and 1878 World’s Fair showed many Far Eastern treasures to visitors.
Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)’s contact with Japonisme can be seen in his 1884 still-life in which he painted brother Theo’s cloisonné vase. Leaving his parents’ Nuenen home for Antwerp in 1885, Vincent bought his first Japanese prints. Urged by Theo to follow the Impressionist movement to make his art look more modern, Vincent was off and running.
By 1888 his visual vocabulary, with its decorative planes of garish colour, came literally from the woodcuts that he loved. He admired the bold way that Japanese prints cropped images, made striking use of strong colours and fixed on the beauty of nature. That very year was the pivotal point in the Dutchman’s art, refining his technique.
Vincent enjoyed painting in/near Paris throughout 1886 and it was then that he became openly interested in Japanese art. His palette began to move away from his Dutch-influenced darker, traditional colours, towards more vibrant hues of the Impressionists. The artist amassed a large collection of c600 Japanese woodcut prints (now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam), and his paintings combined Impressionist colours and distinct Japanese overtones. He wrote “My studio’s quite tolerable mainly because I’ve pinned a set of Japanese prints on the walls that I find very diverting. You know, those little female figures in gardens, horsemen, flowers, gnarled thorn branches.”
Disappointed by his futile efforts to become a priest and no longer believing that harsh suffering was the way to spiritual achievement, van Gogh turned instead what he saw as a cultural primitivism. Gauguin’s Arcadia focused on the tropics while Van Gogh preferred the Far East.
Moving to Arles in 1888, Vincent promoted his Eastern vision on top of colourful and sunny southern France. His drawings, done with a newly adopted reed pen, used the dots, streaks and hatchings, the sharp lines and short dashes of the master Hokusai. With the Japanese model, he began to work with broader brushstrokes to capture their flattened effects and abstracted backgrounds.
If Van Gogh wanted to contribute to modern art, he may have seen Japanese art as a way of doing this. His Japanese dream thrived with flowy peach blossom, a local foil to the Far Eastern cherry. Looking at Millet’s The Sower 1850, he set about modernising it with flat planes of colour and, in a manner adopted directly from Hiroshige, sliced it diagonally across with a tree trunk. The close-ups was re-cast according to an Oriental model, using butterflies and flowers.
The prints planted the seeds of van Gogh’s Japanese dream. He experimented with their stylistic devices: omitting the horizon or playing with abrupt compositional crops, trying forceful diagonals or exaggerating bird’s-eye views.
Two 2018 exhibitions examine Japonisme and van Gogh. In Tokyo’s Metropolitan Art Museum, the Van Gogh & Japan Exhibition (2018) showed how the enthusiastic assimilation of Japanese imagery encouraged bold experimentation for Van Gogh. This exhibition then explored the two-way relationship between Van Gogh and Japan; it presented a lovely symmetry about Van Gogh being inspired by, and in turn inspiring Japanese art in the 1920s and 30s.
But the Van Gogh & Japan Exhibition in the van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Mar-June 2018) is focusing more narrowly on the artist’s love of Japanese art, especially print making. Among the 60 paintings and drawings on display are special images such as L’Arlésienne; Irises; Orchard in Blossom; Self-Portrait as a Painter (1887) and The Bedroom (1888). The pieces that have been drawn from Van Gogh’s extensive collection are not terribly refined but there are some other great works of Japanese art eg Hokusai’s The Wave.
The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication collating 25 years of curatorial study; this catalogue assesses the impact Japanese printmaking had on Van Gogh’s creative output. The book details the ways in which the artist constructed his understanding of a Japanese aesthetic and his utopian ideal of a “primitive society”, and incorporated them into his own vision. The size, nature and importance of Van Gogh’s own collection of Japanese prints are analysed, and lavish illustrations of oil paintings and drawings by Van Gogh are included.
Butlin, the son of fairground owners, decided to develop a holiday facility where on-site entertainment would be provided for the guests during the day. Having arrived in Skegness at the height of the foreshore development with his hoopla stall, Butlin went on to build and operate a new amusement park. In fact he opened a permanent fairground and zoo in Skegness in 1927, becoming the first Brit to franchise American Dodgems bumper cars and import them into Britain.
Following his success in developing amusement parks, and based on what Butlin learned in Canadian family holidays, he decided to move on to camps. The first Butlin’s Holiday Camp opened in 1936, close to Skegness, officially opened by Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. On the opening night, an engineer was asked to entertain the guests with a comedy routine. The guests loved it, and thus the Butlin’s Redcoat was born. The redcoat’s duty was to keep the guests amused! Skegness camp soon included exciting facilities, such as dance halls and sports fields.
Within a year Skegness had doubled in size, so two years later Billy Butlin's chose Clacton-on-Sea for his second camp. In 1938, Dovercourt Camp was built but it was taken over by the government to house the Jewish children who fled from Nazi Eastern Europe to Britain as part of the Kindertransport Train.
Construction of the Filey Holiday Camp in Yorkshire began in 1939. Again, with the outbreak of WW2, building at Filey was completed by the Army. Similarly the camps at Skegness and Clacton were handed over as training camps for troops. Butlin built the government more camps, trusting that they would be returned to him after the war’s end.
Butlins ensured that family entertainment and activities were available for the equivalent of a week's pay. His empire grew when he opened camps in Ayr in Scotland, Saltdean in Essex, Blackpool and Cliftonville Kent. New sites opened in the 1960s in Bognor Regis in Sussex, Minehead in Somerset and, appropriately, Barry Island in Wales! Butlin’s Holiday Camps had become an icon of British holidaymaking. He received his knighthood in 1964.
Then the camping world changed. As Brits fell in love with holidaying abroad, the special quality of the British seaside and the attractiveness of basic holiday camps faded. Cheap air flights and package holidays provided strong competition to Butlin in the 1970s. And Mediterranean resorts had much better weather and more exotic food!
His numbers went down, but his camps remained open for business anyhow, seeking continuous development. The famous mono-rails were established in Skegness and Minehead, chairlifts became popular, and heated indoor pools with underwater viewing-windows and revolving bars were sensational! The number of camps peaked at ten in the late 1960s-early 70s.
In 1968 Billy's son Bobby Butlin took over the management of Butlins, and in 1972 the business was sold to the Rank Organisation for £43 million. It also had a specific image problem of being seen as providing regimented holidays, suitable only for the working class!
Ayr and Skegness gained separate self-contained hotels within their grounds, hotels that were refined enough. In later years, they were joined by further hotels in Scarborough (1978), London (1993) and elsewhere. In the 1960s and 1970s, the company also operated the Top of the Tower revolving restaurant in London.
The Skegness Esplanade and Tower Gardens Lincs, where Billy Butlin opened his first holiday camp in 1936, is the first Butlins holiday camp named as a Grade II Listed site.
Colin Ward’s book Goodnight Campers: The History of the British Holiday Camp 2010 records the development of the British holiday camp from the pioneer camps during the 1930s and 1940s… to the golden years of the Pontin, Butlin and Warner camps of the 1950s and 1960s. Commercial motives for the Butlin camps were important, but so were educational ideals, trade unions and welfare considerations, cult of the outdoor life and political utopianism. Butlin’s grand vision had been to provide good value holidays to Britain’s hard working population – and he did. These were the great years when holiday camps offered freedom, health, family fun and possible sex.
The Canton Museum of Art in Ohio began as the Little Civic Art Gallery above Canton's Carnegie Library in 1935. In time the gallery brought 3 works into its permanent collection, including their first watercolour, by Clyde Singer. Although the collection would grow in different ways in the coming decades, this selection anticipated the eventual collection focus of the Canton Museum of Art. In 1971, Ralph Wilson began donating works from his considerable art collection to the museum. His first donation included watercolours by Charles Demuth, Lyonel Feininger, John Marin, Maurice Prendergast and Alfred Maurer.
Ralph Wilson continued to donate his own works to the museum until he died in 1979. By then, Wilson had donated 40+ quality works on paper by American artists, eventually becoming the heart of Canton’s collection. Further growth of the Collection came with more fine watercolours by Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.
Canton’s permanent collection already had masters like Edward Hopper & Winslow Homer. Now the Canton Museum of Art is presenting a special exhibition, American Masters: Watercolours from the CMA Permanent Collection.
The central feature of the exhibition is the Museum's most recent acquisition: an 1890 Impressionist work Bleak House Broadstairs by the American artist, Childe Hassam (1859-1935). Major water-colours by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, George Luks, John Marin, Maurice Prendergast and John Singer Sargent are also featured in this special exhibition, which is on view until April 2018.
Bleak House Broadstairs, 1890
By Childe Hassam
watercolour, 36 x 25cm
Canton Museum of Art
Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was born in Mass, descendent of a C17th English immigrant. Raised in a cultured home, Hassam decided early on to become an artist. He left high school to work for important Boston publishers and began training as a wood-engraver and illustrator.
Early in his career, the artist dropped his Christian name Frederick. With his olive skin, the artist was thought by many to be Middle Eastern, a mistake he allowed to continue. In the mid-1880s, he started adding an Islamic-type crescent moon on his work.
In 1886 Hassam left for on a 3 year stay in Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian. Hassam saw a wide range of French and foreign styles but clearly it was Impressionism that really attracted this American. His 1887 Grand Prix Day demonstrates that after only a short time in Paris, he created a street scene that was Impressionist in its composition, broken brushstrokes and stronger colours.
Hassam eventually returned home with the technique and sensibilities of the French Impressionists, modified by American realism. Impressionism flourished in the 1880s in Boston without the furious protest it had aroused in France. So in 1898 Hassam felt free to join the artists Julian Alden Weir and John Henry Watchman in founding the Ten American Painters, which went on to include Frank Weston Benson, Robert Reid and Edmund Tarbell etc. This group of Impressionists arranged popular exhibitions.
Bowl of Goldfish, 1912
64 x 77 cm
Hassam created 2,000+ oils, watercolours, pastels and drawings, thus achieving critical acclaim at home. While Hassam is well known for his lush gardens and boulevard scenes of Manhattan and Paris, examine his Flag Series. These 30 paintings were created in support of the Allied efforts in WWI eg The Avenue in the Rain (1917), vibrant street scenes, filled with patriotic banners.
by Childe Hassam
93 x 77 cm
National Gallery of Art
Canton was a museum dedicated to American art, with a focus on watercolours. So the museum’s collection needed a Hassam that would complement the American Masters collection. Bleak House Broadstairs 1890 was that painting! Clearly inspired by the French style in the late 1800s, the image of a graceful young woman reading a book in summer, and walking a waterway in coastal Kent, is still fresh. Remember that Broadstairs was the town where Charles Dickens often spent his summer holidays, writing David Copperfield inside that very house.
The provenance of this painting traces back via private collections to the painter himself; Bleak House was exhibited in 1906 at the Philadelphia Water Colour Club. Almost 120 years after being painted, Bleak House is being exhibited until April 2018, with other prized works from the water-colour collection, including Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent.
Corfu The Terrace,
By John Singer Sargent,
watercolour 53 x 40 cm
Museum Fine Arts, Boston
The 1400s was the peak of the Ottoman–Hungarian Wars, when Wallachia in Southern Romania was one of Hungary's strongest rivals. Situated between Christian Europe and the Muslim lands of the Ottoman Empire, Transylvania and Wallachia (see map) were often the scene of bloody battles. The Ottoman forces pushed westward into Europe, and Christian Crusaders marched eastward toward the Holy Land.
Vlad the Impaler Tepes (1431-1476) was born in Transylvania in 1431, son of the famous war lord Vlad II and the Princess of Moldavia. He had two older half-brothers and a younger full brother. In his birth year Vlad's father travelled to Nuremberg where he was honoured with the Order of the Dragon, and was granted the surname Dracul after his induction into the Christian Military Order of the Dragon. In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended the Wallachian throne.
When Vlad II was called to a diplomatic meeting in 1442 with Sultan Murad II, he brought his young sons along. But the meeting was a trap: all three were arrested and held hostage. Vlad II was released, but he had to give his sons to the Ottoman court.
Vlad II was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary, but secured Ottoman support for his return, agreeing to pay the tax on non-Muslims to the Sultan!! At 11, Vlad III was imprisoned and whipped because of his verbal abuse towards his captors. These years presumably had a great influence on the young man's character and led to Vlad's hatred for the Ottoman Turks, Janissary military corps, brother Radu for converting to Islam and the young Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. He also distrusted his own father for trading him to the dreaded Ottoman Empire.
Note again that the boys' father, Vlad II Dracul, got the support of the Ottomans, returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II and some unfaithful Boyars. But dad was ousted as ruler of Wallachia by the boyars and was killed in the Wallachian swamps in 1447. Vlad's older brothers were tortured, blinded and buried alive.
Vladislav II took Wallachia over. But once Vlad III was freed by the Ottomans, he killed Vladislav with his own hands.
In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, threatening all of Europe with an invasion. In his battles to protect the home land, Vlad III became famous as a brute who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing. His weapons of choice were: the kilij, a curved Turkic sword, good for chopping bodies and the halberd an axe blade, topped with a spike on a long shaft and a hacking hook.
In 1462 invading Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II fled, after seeing the carnage: 20,000 decaying impaled corpses being eaten by crows in Vlad's capital: Târgoviște.
Pro-Vlad propaganda started appearing, including Vlad’s portraits, his weapons, captured enemies and religious images. One splendid religious image appeared on the altar piece of the Church of St Maria Vienna, painted in 1460.
Vlad III was a cunning tactician, even when vastly outnumbered. He was widely credited with bringing security to Wallachia and strengthening its economy; he built new villages for the peasants and encouraged the production of new agriculture. Trade became an important source of development and revenue.
Most importantly his Orthodox Christian victories over the invading Ottomans were celebrated throughout Wallachia, Transylvania and the rest of Europe, especially by Pope Pius II (ruled 1458-64). In a very real sense, Vlad was the Christian gatekeeper of Europe. But at what cost? The total number of Vlad III’s victims was c80,000. PLUS he also had whole villages and fortresses burned to the ground.
Created by Ambrosius Huber
The reputation of Vlad's cruelty was even more actively promoted by Matthias Corvinus (1430-90), King of Hungary & Croatia from 1458 on. Corvinus smeared Vlad’s political credibility on purpose, to build up his own standing.
Romania’s capital city was first mentioned as Bucuresti in 1459, when it was recorded in a document of Vlad III. In that same year, during Vlad III’s rule, the Old Princely Court was built as a palatial residence. Archaeological excavations have been very successful recently, and now the site is operated by the Municipality in Bucharest’s historic centre.
Each ruler extended the princely residence, built large cellars and surrounded it with stone walls. Today Dracula's Castle, near the town of Bran, is a major tourist attraction, even though its connection with Vlad is uncertain.
The first Martello Tower I ever saw was on a tour of Saint John in Canada, as we will see. But I have relied on LW Cowie for more detailed information.
These curved forts first spread across Europe, inspired by the Genovese defence system at Mortella Point in Corsica. Built from 1565 on, Corsican coastal towers were built to protect the villages from brutal Barbary-coast pirates. The towers and their watchmen were paid for by local villagers, and whenever a pirate threat was seen, watchmen alerted the locals by lighting a fire on the tower’s roof. Later the Genovese built another generation of circular towers, used against other foreign invasions.
Although close to the French coast, the island of Jersey wanted to remain British and thus constantly feared French invasion via the coastal bays. In 1779 there was an unsuccessful French attack in St Ouen’s Bay and in 1781, hundreds of French troops landed and marched on the capital, St Helier. Strengthening coastal defences became a priority. The Governor of Jersey planned to build 30 round towers to protect the island's coast line, a’ la Corsica. Although Jersey did get 22 of its towers, it took the British Navy years to realise what their defensive value might be. Some surviving Jersey towers are now used as exhibition space for adjacent wildlife conservation areas.
How quickly they were needed! Early in 1805, a series of strong sites were being built along the Irish and English coast-lines, to defend against Napoleon’s army lined up across the Channel. By the time the Napoleonic threat ended in 1815, 103 English towers were fully functioning, mainly on S.E and Sth coasts. You can still see 45 of them in Essex and Suffolk etc today. Two supporting forts were built at Dymchurch in Kent (now a museum) and Eastbourne in East Sussex.
In Ireland, they were concentrated around Dublin Bay, and Cork Harbour on the south coast. The West Cork islands of Garnish, Glengarriff and Bere, along Ireland's southwest coastline, have intact towers that can still be easily visited.
The British towers were c40’ in height and were 2-3 storeys high. The thick round walls of solid stonework had two great advantages. 1] they were very resistant to enemy cannon fire and 2] the garrison of men who lived there had complete 360 degree views from inside.
The wide roofs made a solid base to hold a rotating cannon on a pivot. Martellos used the ground floor as a stockroom where supplies of ammunition, food and water were kept; a cistern within the fort provided rain water. The first floor provided accommodation for 24 men plus 1 officer, plus a separate room for cooking. Fireplaces were built into the wall on the first floor for heating, bathing and cooking.
The Channel Islands had fortifications that included castles, forts, Martello towers, artillery batteries and seawalls. These islands were the only part of British soil to be occupied by the Germans during WW2 and German soldiers quickly realised that the towers could be adapted for their own defence. The Martello tower at Fort Saumerez on Guernsey, for example, had a German Observation tower added during WW2 and the tower at Bel Royal Jersey was strengthened by a concrete bunker.
Of Halifax’s five towers in Nova Scotia, visitors can see the Prince of Wales Tower, the oldest round fort in North America. It was built in 1796 and was used as a powder magazine. Restored, it too is a National Heritage site. The Duke of York Tower was built in 1798. The Duke of Clarence Martello Tower stood on the Dartmouth shore.
Of Quebec’s four Martello towers, Tower #1 stands on the Plains of Abraham, overlooking the St Lawrence River. It has been restored as a summer museum.
Six Martello towers were built at Kingston Ontario to defend its harbour and naval shipyards during the Oregon Boundary Crisis. Murney Tower and the tower at Point Frederick, once serving against marine attacks, are now summer museums. Fort Frederick Ontario had the most highly structured defences: earthen ramparts and a limestone curtain wall. The Shoal Tower, the only tower surrounded by water, stood in Kingston's Confederation Basin. Cathcart Tower, the 4th tower, stood on Cedar Island near Point Henry. The Oregon Boundary Crisis might have ended quickly, but the American Civil War made the Canadians fearful again. So the towers once again got armed up.
The last Martello tower in the British Empire was in Australia; Fort Denison, built on a small island in the centre of Sydney Harbour. Construction began in 1839 when two American warships crept into Sydney Harbour. The threat of foreign attack made the government carefully examine the harbour's limited defences. Re-construction in 1855 again provided Sydney with naval protection, this time against the threat of a naval attack by Russians during the Crimean War (ended 1856). Fort Denison still enjoys 360 degree views of Sydney and operates as a museum and gun powder store.
Defensive towers in the USA were concentrated on the east coast. They were built in the harbours of Portsmouth in New Hampshire, Charleston in South Carolina, Key West in Florida and one or two others that did not survive. Although the Key West towers were constructed with different building materials and in a different design from those in Britain and Canada, the Garden Club (west tower) and the Museum (east tower) were added to the nation's National Register of Historic Places.
I like Grace Cossington Smith’s art very much, but was surprised to see a historical scene, rather than her more usual images of contemporary life. More about her later.
Soon after the first load of convicts arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788, Gov Phillip travelled to the headwaters of Port Jackson. Finding good soil and fresh water there, he formed a settlement at Rose Hill and mapped out a town plan along the creek: Parramatta. There were soon 1000 people living in the district, ministered by the Rev Richard Johnstone once a fortnight. A temporary church, formed out of two old huts, was opened at Parramatta in 1796. Services were first performed in it in Apr 1803, making this church is the oldest in the colony.
In Mar 1794 the Rev Samuel Marsden arrived from Britain and was appointed assistant to Rev Richard Johnson, stationed at Parramatta. It was an important centre in the colony and Marsden remained there for some years. He was promised the position of senior chaplain in 1802, but was not properly paid and was not formally promoted until later. Still, Gov Lachlan Macquarie allowed him to live at Parramatta as being more convenient for carrying out his general superintending duties, and named Marsden as the resident chaplain.
By 1802 the Rev Marsden had received hundreds of Parramatta-acres in grants, so Marsden quickly committed himself to farming. It brought financial security for a large family, and social acceptability and power to which he could not have aspired at home. At the same time he was incited by the greedy temper of the colony; the officers had begun their single-minded pursuit of wealth.
Marsden was appointed magistrate and superintendent of government affairs at Parramatta. His harshness can be attributed to his vigorous morality, his loathing of sin and his view that Parramatta was an immoral cesspool; thus the most rigorous disciplinary measures were required. This flogging parson was of course loathed.
In 1799 he opened a Sunday school and progressed the building of a new church. The permanent St John’s Church (opened in 1803 but was still incomplete) had two brick towers, inspired by similar architecture on Reculver’s Church in Kent. The towers were designed at the request of Mrs Macquaire, as Reculver’s was the last church she saw as she left the UK. Gov Macquarie asked his aide-de-camp to come up with designs (which can still be found in the Mitchell Library Sydney today).
Marsden took an active and well-publicised interest in the creation of an orphan home and school. When he travelled back home in 1807-09, he was able to recruit additional assistant chaplains. Later he attracted Mrs Elizabeth Fry by his zeal for improving the lot of female convicts on the transport ships and in the colony. The immorality and crime that prevailed in Parramatta, he thought, was largely due to the dilapidation of the Female Work Factory.
St John’s Parsonage Parramatta, was Francis Greenway’s first major work as NSW’s Acting Civil Architect, the first house designed in the colony by a trained architect. The foundation-stone was laid by Marsden’s daughter in Apr 1816. Work was completed by Nov 1817, overseen by Rev Samuel Marsden who became the building’s first inhabitant.
Marsden died in 1838, was buried at St John's Parramatta and was replaced by his son-in-law. Later it was decided to pull down the old church so the original chapel was demolished in 1852 and replaced with a new sandstone nave built in Romanesque Revival style. The first building was removed except for the two towers and later, in 1883, the transepts were added.
Grace Cossington Smith
Shown at the Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW, an exhibition called 150 Years of Australian Art was organised by the then-Director, Will Ashton. It celebrated was the Sesquicentenary of European settlement of Australia 1788–1938, a historical event which witnessed a round of special celebrations. There was a major Commonwealth Government prize for the best oil painting depicting an aspect of Australia’s history. So as soon as she completed her painting in Jan 1938, Cossington Smith entered her painting, Samuel Marsden After Service at St John’s Church Parramatta.
Deutscher & Hackett's 2018 auction catalogue said Grace Cossington Smith’s highly personal choice of subject echoed her own life as a devout Anglican Christian. Marsden stood firmly at the centre of the image, the strong geometry of the composition led the eye towards him and then to the church which he was so instrumental in founding. Uniformed figures in the distance, and the small child to the right of Marsden, symbolised the development of the settlement from a penal colony to a place where the growing free population, gathered together for regular worship. This celebratory picture was infused with a deeply personal spiritual values, and displayed Cossington Smith’s belief that painting expresses form in colour vibrant with light.