Taking the Waters

Monday, 13 June 1881 - Royal Leamington Spa, UK

Downtown Royal Leamington Spa
Next to Warwick is the town of Leamington, so close in fact that I took the tramway for two pence rather than the train. One hundred years ago, this town was called Leamington Priors, to differentiate it from the other Leamington up the River Leam, called Leamington Hastings to differentiate it from this Leamington. Leamington Priors was a tiny hamlet in 1781. A couple of locals wanted to change that.

William Abbotts knew about a local spring owned by the Earl of Ayelsford that was reputed to have medicinal properties. Spas were all the rage with the rich in the Georgian period, and Bath with it’s famous mineral springs had become a boomtown. Maybe the same could happen here.

Abbotts tried to buy the spring, but Lord Ayelsford refused, preferring to just give the water away. Very noble, but it wasn’t making Abbott any money. He got together with his friend Benjamin Satchwell and began poking about on Abbotts property until they found a second spring in 14 January 1784. Two years later they opened the first commercial bath in town, now renamed Leamington Spa. Others wells were drilled. Abbotts opened a couple of pubs to accommodate the tourists.

By 1811 the tiny hamlet had grown to 543. In 1861 it was over 19,000, making it the fastest growing town in Great Britain. That was due in a large part to Dr. Henry Jephson who touted the miraculous waters of Leamington Spa, making it one of the most popular spas in the world in the 19th century. Queen Victoria loved it so much, she tacked “Royal” onto Leamington Spa’s name.

Royal Pump Rooms and Baths with benches to sit in the water
Another reason Royal Leamington Spa is so popular with the Victorians is because of the location. When one got tired of bathing in the waters, one could do a little sight-seeing. They loved Medieval castles and there is one of the best surviving next door in Warwick. Coventry with all it’s Medieval and Tudor buildings is ten miles away by train.

And eight miles to the south one can make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of HIM--William Shakespeare. Victorians love Shakespeare. Perhaps its his way with words or his knack for melodrama, but he is more popular now than he was in his own time. People come from all over the world just to visit the room he was born in.

Unlike other towns that grew up over night, Royal Leamington Spa does not have that tossed together look of other boomtowns. Streets are lined with trees as well as fancy homes, apartments and hotels. Valuable space was set aside for parks and gardens to further attract visitors (preferable rich ones.)

Victoria Terrace in Royal Leamington Spa
The town is very health minded. Not only is one to drink and bath in the mineral waters, but diet and exercise are recommended. The city has promenades along the Leam River and paths through the parks to stroll along. Recently in 1872, two local doctors, along with the inventors of the game, Harry Gem and Augurio Perera, opened the world’s first tennis club here in Leamington. Lawn tennis is definitely excellent exercise and a socially acceptable way to work up a sweat.

Lawn Tennis Club (obviously nice place to meet ladies)
I shall spend the next week hobnobbing with the health conscious, the desperately ill, wealthy hypochondriacs, and curious tourists as we all sit in a pool of water together trying to get healthier. Decidedly a golden opportunity for people watching.

All Saints Parish Church in Royal Leamington Spa
The small building in front is the well house built over
the first spring by Lord Aylesford in 1803.
The water from this spring is still free.
The horse-drawn tram on left is the one I took from Warwick.

A short documentary on Royal Leamington Spa history

A Practical Dissertation on the Waters of Leamington-Spa: Including the History of the Springs, a new Analysis of Their Gaseous and Solid Contents, the Rules for Drinking the Waters, Bathing, Diet of the Patients, and Other Regimen by Dr. Charles Loudon - 1828
a free download ebook (snappy title)


A Gift for the Woman Who Has Everything

Saturday, 11 June 1881 - Warwick, England

I tweeted last week to you about how the Great Warwick Fire of 1694 devastated this medieval town. There were a few buildings that survived. Perhaps the most famous is Lord Leycester Hospital next to the Westgate (which also survived.) The hospital is a retirement home for wounded veterans and their wives, but that is not how it started. It started because of Westgate.

Lord Leycester Hospital with Westgate and St. James Chapel on far left
The Westgate was the city entrance through the long-gone city wall that once surrounded Warwick. Traveling back in the Middle Ages was tough, what with bandits, wild animals and exposure to the elements. So the first thing many people did when they reached their destination was to find a church or chapel and thank God they made it in one piece. Roger de Newburgh, 2nd Norman Earl of Warwick, wanted to make it easy for visitors. In 1126 he built a chapel right on top of the Westgate. The chapel was dedicated to St. James the Great, patron of pilgrims (the medieval equivalent of tourists.)

Westgate with
St. James Chapel on top
In the late 14th century, Roger’s descendant, the 12th Earl of Warwick rebuilt the chapel and then handed it over to the Guild of St. George to upkeep. In 1450 the 16th Earl of Warwick built them a very nice guildhall next to the chapel, complete with dining halls, living quarters and meetings rooms.

In 15394 Thomas Oakum, the Master of the hall, got wind of Henry VIII starting a state church, so he handed the guildhall over to the city, making it municipal and not church property, thus saving it from the clutches of the greedy king. For the next 30 years, the city used the Guildhall for meetings and a court of law.

Enter Lord Leycester, better known as Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leycester. He had a problem...well, actually he had a lot of problems, but this particular problem was he needed a building to create a “hospital” or refuge for wounded veterans. Queen Elizabeth had charged all her nobles to do more to help those injured in the “service of the Queen.”

Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leycester
Dudley wanted to jump on that bandwagon and impress his Queen. He did whatever she wanted, always in arm’s reach. He was hoping she would marry him. Indeed, Her Majesty fell in love with Dudley when they met at the Tower of London when hardly more than teenagers. At the time the two were “guests” of her sister, Bloody Queen Mary. They consoled each other as they waited to get their heads cut off. Fortunately they both escaped that fate. Unfortunately Dudley waited 18 years in vain for the marriage. Elizabeth might have love Dudley, but she loved her crown even more and was not about to share her power with anyone.

Anyway, Lord Leycester acquired the Guildhall in 1571 and set about creating 12 apartments for aged or wounded soldiers and their wives. Dudley presented it to Her Majesty. Queen Elizabeth was pleased and gave the hospital her royal charter. I'm not sure if poor Dudley even got a peck on the cheek.

They kept the dining hall which came in handy when King James I came to visit Warwick. His Majesty had a wonderful time, but the feast put the city in debt for the next ten years.

Lord Leycester Hospital is still a retirement home for veterans in 1881. I understand that tradition will continue for a couple of more centuries. The city is very proud of this survivor from the middle ages, and it is well maintained. They also don’t mind a tourist looking about if they are polite.

The building looks long and skinny from the front. However, in typical Tudor design, there is a gate in front which leads to an inner courtyard. No attempts have been made to modernize the appearance. I can see why film crews in the following centuries liked using this as a set for their productions.

Lord Leycester Hospital courtyard
I recorded as much of Lord Leycester Hospital and the St. James the Great Chapel as I could without being rude. After all, this is home to at least twelve brave men who fought for their Queen--Victoria I, rather than Elizabeth I. I think they deserve a little respect.


The Vicar Who Took On the Luftwaffe--And Won

Sunday, 5 June 1881 - Coventry, Warwickshire, UK

I believe I mentioned “the Three Spires” of Coventry in my last blog? The towers all survived the Blitz of 1940-41, but the churches attached to them did not fair so well. Only one survived--Holy Trinity. That’s where I was today.

Built in the 12th century, and restored several times, Holy Trinity retains most of its medieval flavor. 194 feet long, it would be an impressive church if it wasn’t nearly kiddy-corner to the much larger and grander St. Michael’s Church, which will become a cathedral in 1918. How did Holy Trinity survive the Blitz when St. Michael’s was gutted? Did God protect the smaller house of worship? Well, partly. Mostly it was protected by a stubborn vicar who refused to lose his church.

I know I was at Holy Trinity to record today’s service, but my mind kept drifting back to that fateful day, so long ago (well, nearly sixty years in the future from where I sat.) The fourteenth of November 1940 the German Luftwaffe bombed Coventry. This was no hit and run bombing as they had done before. Five hundred planes, for nearly eleven hours, did their best wipe Coventry off the map.

Rev. Graham Clitheroe
While saner people were huddled in bomb shelters, Holy Trinity’s vicar, Rev Graham William Clitheroe was at his church, doing his best to protect it. He had the help of his son and the curate. It’s believed there was a third man, but no one remembers who it was. I do. His name was Dr. Basil Hancock from the University of London and my friend.

You are probably wondering how I knew someone from the 20th century when I’m only allowed back in the 19th, but Basil was a temporal anthropologist from the 27th century like myself. We went through training at the Institute of Time Travel together and received our licenses at the same time. Basil convinced the Institute that his being at Holy Trinity that night would change nothing and he would be safe.

Basil recorded that whole hellish night. Rev. Clitheroe ran about putting out fires around his church, and even climbed ladders to push bombs off the roof. How he managed is a wonder, for he was not a young man. Basil admitted to me he cried as he watched the city around him going up in flames. Rev. Clitheroe would cry later, that night he had his hands full just saving this one building.

Holy Trinity still standing after the Blitz
The next day Coventry was horrified to find out they had lost their beloved cathedral. However the vision of Holy Trinity standing above the rubble inspired them to carry on. Rev. Clitheroe invited St. Michael’s to share his church, and combined services were held until St. Michael’s could rebuild. For a time, Holy Trinity was the city’s unofficial cathedral.

I understand that when Graham Clitheroe died in 1968 (four years after he retired) his final wish was to be cremated and his ashes buried in the graveyard of the church he loved. He knew the burial ground had long since been filled up, but felt they could surely find a spot for a small urn. The current Vicar at the time, Lawrence Jackson, refused. Clitheroe would not be buried outside the church he had saved--he would be buried inside at a place of honor!

Graham Clitheroe buried inside Holy Trinity Church
The only major damage Holy Trinity suffered that night was the loss of their east and west side stained glass windows. As I stared at the doomed Victorian panes, I thought of Basil. He wanted to record Britain at it’s “finest hour.” He had records of where bombs would drop and what places were safe. He must have lost track, for he would later die in the London Blitz. Not the first temporal anthropologist to lose his life in the line of duty. Although it’s been twenty years since he died, I still miss Basil, even if he won’t be born for another 694 years.

A more detailed account of that night in 1940.

Holy Trinity Church through the ages (video)

Blitz: The Bombing of Coventry (documentary)
Part 1     Part 2    Part 3    Part 4


Monument to Endurance

Sunday, 29 May 1881 - Coventry, England

Today I attended the service of one of the oldest and newest churches in Coventry. Christchurch is Victorian but its spire is medieval and is one of the three spires, along with St. Michael’s and Holy Trinity, that loom above Coventry. This spot will also be the victim of the two worse attacks to hit Coventry.

Three Spires of Coventry
The first church built on this spot was Greyfriars Church, next to a Franciscan monastery, back in the 1200s. It started out humble but was added onto and decorated by nobility, hoping to get into God’s good graces.

The Greyfriars of Coventry were most famous for their mystery play held at the feat of Corpus Christi. The monks did The Bible in 42 acts, the first seven from the Old Testament, the rest from the New Testament. The various scenes were mounted on wheels and the stages drawn about the town for the better advantage of the spectators. Needless to say tourists and pilgrims (one and the same back then) flocked to Coventry to witness this spectacle. More than once the visitors included the reigning King.

Greyfriars Gate (long gone) and Steeple (still here)
It all came to an end in the 16th century. In 1533, when the Pope Clement VII told Henry VIII he would not annul his 24-year marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so the King could marry Anne Boleyn (who he beheaded 3 years later when he got bored with her.) Henry didn’t like anyone telling him what to do, so he broke away from Rome and started the Church of England with himself as the head.

Catholics were outlawed and the monasteries and nunneries disbanded. The Church’s property became his. Coventry at that time was not only home to the Franciscan Greyfriars and Whitefriars, but the even more powerful Benedictine priory and their Cathedral of St. Mary. Henry decided Coventry didn’t need a Cathedral since its population was now too small so St. Mary’s and Greyfriars church were torn down.

The reason why Coventry’s population had plummeted from 7,000 to 3,000 was because of Henry VIII. The kicked out monks not only made up a sizable chunk of the city’s body count, they also brought business to local merchants and craftsmen, as well as tourist money from pilgrims. In some ways, Henry’s destruction was more devastating to Coventry than Hitler’s Blitz!

A few churches were bought by locals and turned into Anglican churches, but not all of them could be saved. Those like Greyfriars were demolished, stone and wood salvaged for other building projects. But when they got to the tower and steeple, they stopped. No one could bring themselves to tear that down.

By the early 19th century, the tower was being used as a pig sty! Coventry was growing and needed a new church. The town decided to save the old steeple and make it part of a church once more. Christchurch was built in 1832, incorporating the tower. The new church was only 124 by 55 feet, nearly half the length of the original 240 by 60 foot Greyfriars Church. Still the steeple was once more part of a church

Then in April of 1941, a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe destroyed Christchurch. This tragedy was overshadowed by the destruction of the larger St. Michael’s Cathedral in the first air raid five months before. Ten years later Christchurch's shell was demolished and a new church built elsewhere.

Christchurch after Blitz
Spire 100 years from now
However the ancient steeple again survived. Neither Henry or Hitler could destroy it. The city will rebuild around it, careful not to disturb this monument to endurance.



Friday, 19 May 1881 - Coventry, England, UK

I will be exploring Warwickshire over the next few weeks. Right in the heart of England, It is one of her leading industrial counties. Indeed parts have been nicknamed “the Black Country” because of all the soot from the factories.

Broadgate in Coventry
(Kings Head Hotel on the left is where I am staying.)
My first stop is Coventry, an industrial town long before the Industrial Revolution. Coventry gets it’s name from a convent started here in the 700s by the Saxon lady, St. Osburg. In 1016 the not so great Danes, Canute and Edric, destroyed it. In 1043 Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his wife, Godgifu (Lady Godiva), rebuilt the nunnery as a monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Soon people noticed Coventry had more to offer than just a monastery and a castle. The River Sherbourne running through the town was perfect for water mills. There was plenty of forest for lumber and fuel, along with nearby stone quarries and lush fields. It was near the old Roman roads Watling Street and the Fosse Way, making it perfect for trade. Coventry became a wool and textile center, famous throughout Europe for it’s dyers and their non-fading or “true” blue. The town grew to be the fourth largest city in Medieval England. Much of Medieval and Tudor Coventry still remain in the oldest parts of town.

The fortunes of Coventry have waxed and waned since the Tudor period. Coventry’s current (1881) population is 42,111. The nearby and once much smaller Birmingham is over ten times that size of Coventry with 456,221. Still Coventry is hardly a sleepy hamlet. When textile trade was ruined by cheap imports, Coventry turned to “high tech” making watches, clocks, sewing machines and bicycles. Indeed James Starley, who started the first bicycle factory here, is considered the father of the bicycle industry. He and his family has developed many innovations that revolutionized bicycles more than once.

Bicycles factories will lead to England’s first automobile plant in 1897 which will lead to airplane manufactruing in 1916. Unfortunately this will lead to Coventry being a prime target of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. 1,236 people were killed, 75% of the factories were destroyed and much of the wooden medieval buildings in the city centre burned. The damage was so great the word Koventrieren, “to Coventrate,” was added to both the German and English languages. The word means "to annihilate or reduce to rubble." Coventry will not only rebuild, but in an act of reconciliation, make Dresden, the German city that suffered a similar fate, it’s “Twin City” soon after the war.

Coventry Blitz
It’s my job to record not only the ancient parts of the city while they are still here, but also the Victorian additions. Walking through parts of town I feel like I’ve gone back in time. Erm...yes, I know I am back in time, but I meant back to the Medieval Age and not 1881. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Victorians love Medieval things and Coventry has been on the railway lines since 1838, making tourism another important industry in this period. I can see the draw. I’m already charmed by Coventry.

Coventry's old Tudor and Medieval buildings


205th Temporal Anthropologist Ball

Sunday, 1 April 2659 - Versailles, Paris, France

It’s time again for the Association of Temporal Anthropologist Annual Meeting and Ball. (For those of you who don’t remember last year’s explanation, here is a link to that blog.)

This year the event is being held at the Palace of Versailles. We will all be staying at the fairly new Versailles Hotel across the street, but the meeting and the ball are held at the historic palace itself. The current French government (the 28th Republic) has pulled out all the stops, closing the building this weekend to the public.

Palace of Versailles
I am one of the few Temporal Anthropologists who has actually visited the palace in the Field. By the Victorian Age the place had been turned into a museum, which is the only reason I was let in. No T.A. has been into this palace while it was a royal residence. Since Temporal Anthropologists aren’t allowed to make friends in the Field, we never have the connections needed to be invited as guests to royal courts. My interview with King Mongkut this month was one of those rare occasions a T.A. was even allowed to enter a royal residence, and I was hardly allowed to run about the place.

Dr. Matilda Warwick joked that perhaps a female T.A. could become the mistress of Louis XV, since he had so many no one, including Louis, would notice her. I pretended to be horrified that a woman who spends all her time in Medieval convents would even think of such a thing.

This weekend several Temporal Anthropologists have put on presentation, some with ideas of how to survive in the field, others just showing off their latest findings. (For instance, did you know Neanderthals had a great sense of humor and loved to sing?)

I gave a presentation on how to wile away lonely hours at night by making shadows on the wall by just using your hands. One problem is that every room is stuffed full of artwork. They put me in the Salon de Mars which has paintings on the walls and ceiling. Very distracting, even with the lights off. I’m not sure if anyone paid too much attention to me. (Of course, the last time I gave this presentation in a normal classroom, it went just as well.)

Salon de Mars
The Palace of Versailles started as a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII in 1624. His son, Louis the XIV (better known as the Sun King) loved the place so much he expanded it into a grand palace and moved the court there in 1682. Now some historians think Louis XIV real purpose was to move the Royal Court away from the nobility in Paris and grab more control of the government for himself. (This was back before Paris swallowed Versailles, of course.) Unfortunately this move also distanced the king even more from the people, eventually leading to the French Revolution a century later and the beheading of his grandson.

After that the Palace of Versailles became the property of the new French Republic, and every other French Empire and Republic that followed. Let’s just say changes were made to the building from time to time and only stopped when some valiant art or history lovers fought to protect what remained. Even so, what does remain is jaw dropping.

The ball will be held in the Galerie des Glaces or Hall of Mirrors, perhaps one of the most famous rooms in the world. Built by Louis XIV, it is 239.5 feet by 34.4 feet by 40.4 feet. It got its name from the mirrors covering the walls, built at a time when even a hand mirror was very expensive. The Venetian Republic held a monopoly on mirror manufacturing, so Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of finances, enticed several Venetian workers to come work for France.

Hall of Mirrors
No one had ever installed such large mirrors in such quantity before. The mirror makers had to come up with new innovations. No one else in the world had a room like this, making Louis XIV the envy of all other monarchs of the day. Best of all, King Louis could admire himself everyday when he passed through the hall from his private apartment to the chapel.

I would like to say that having nearly a hundred Temporal Anthropologists in their very finest period attire would be the most opulent event to every be held here, but we aren’t even close. That distinction would probably go to the Siamese Embassy when they presented themselves to the Louis XIV in 1686. Ambassador Kosa Pan pulled out all the stops. King Narai of Siam not only wanted an alliance, he wanted to empress France. The exotic costumes and lavish gifts had the court buzzing for years.

Siam Embassy in the Hall of Mirrors
(Note the mirrors in the back reflecting the windows)
Well, I must get ready for the ball. I hope they play a couple of waltzes (my specialty, being Victorian.) I’m sure there will be a minuet in honor of King Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. Hmm, wonder if they’ll play a tango?

Palace of Versailles homepage
Photos, videos, virtual tours

Make your own Hand Shadows
(Hours of fun if you are stuck by yourself in the Victorian Age)