Posts Tagged ‘history’

This post continues the Civil war theme of last week with a look at how the musket was used and also what might happen if a person was hit.

Maintaining a constant rate of fire.

As you can see from the previous post, firing the gun was not an easy process. An experienced person might manage just under 3 shots a minute but the rate of fire would most often be about one shot every 30 seconds. In order to maintain a constant volley of fire, groups of musketeers were arranged in ranks. Whilst the person at the front would be firing, the three people behind would be re-loading. As the first person discharged his gun he would retreat to the back of the line and begin re-loading,  the gunner at the front would then fire before returning to the back to load again. In this way the gunners would advance across the battlefield towards the enemy lines – firing more or less continually.

Comparison with the longbow.

Before this period the English longbow was the most feared weapon on the battlefield. It is interesting to note that the longbow has a longer useful range  than the more technologically advanced musket. It is estimated that a longbow could shoot an arrow up to at least 180 yards – compared to 70 to 100 yards for the musket. There is an idea that the musket was used because it was easier and quicker to train someone to use it. Another idea is that the longbow simply fell out of fashion – eventually there were less people who could use them in battle.

The Musket ball and it’s effectiveness.

12 bore musket ball

12 bore musket ball

This is a 12 bore musket ball and it measures about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. The term ‘bore’ comes from the number of balls that can be made from a pound of lead. It is possible to make 12 of these balls from a pound of lead. Sixteen bore shot was also commonly made i.e. 16 smaller balls from a pound of lead.

As stated in the last post test firing has revealed these guns to be much more accurate than expected but what effect did they have ?

It is generally thought that at up to a range of 30 yards the ball would go straight through a man. At a greater range it would still be enough to cause very significant injuries. At this time,  any serious wound would be almost certainly prove to be fatal. In his excellent book about the Civil War, Trevor Royle describes the death of a soldier called Gabriel Ludlow who was  wounded in the battle of Marston Moor

his belly broken and bowels torn, his hip bone broken, all the shivers and the bullet lodged in it’

Of course,  for poor Gabriel and thousands of others like him there was little chance of survival. The wound would have fragments of cloth and dirt driven into it, although not immediately fatal,  it would certainly become septic quite soon – causing a prolonged and painful death to the victim.

Just in case all this hasn’t put you off why not learn to be a Musketeer yourself?

(This is the second of a two part post – see also ‘Musket’




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This post has a Civil War theme – one of our occasional excursions away from the normal Tudor period.  Harvington Hall had a living history weekend at the end of August.  The Hall really comes to life during these occasions as there is always a wide range of re-enactors from a variety of different historical periods (click here to see the diary of events at the Hall – by the way, if you contact the Hall you can ask to be kept informed of future events, some sell out quite quickly )

Ian the deputy Hall manager was demonstrating  the use of this gun for the benefit of Hall visitors and kindly agreed to talk to Tudor Stuff.

Priming the gun

Priming the gun

Ian is holding is a musket of a type used in the English Civil War. This gun has an effective range of 70 to a maximum of 100 yards although it’s accuracy drops off sharply beyond it’s minimum range. It is often said that these weapons were quite innacurate but apparently the gun was much more accurate than expected when tested with live ammunition.

Process of firing the gun.

Firstly, Ian takes the priming flask which contains very fine gunpowder and pours it into the circular flash pan.  This is where the term ‘a flash in the pan’ comes from i.e. the gunpowder in the pan goes off but fails to ignite the powder inside the gun – resulting in a lot of smoke but nothing else.

Loose powder is blown away and then the musket is turned upwards to allow for gunpowder to be poured down the barrel.  A ball is then rolled down the barrel, in practice, an experienced gunner would hold several of these in his mouth and spit them down the barrel – people were unaware of the dangers from lead poisoning at the time!

The next thing is to add some wadding, ideally a bit of cloth but some grass would do just as well in an emergency. This partly serves to keep everything tightly in the barrel but is mainly neccesary because it causes the ball to be ejected more powerfully – thereby increasing accuracy and damage caused.  The scouring stick is then removed, pushed down the barrel so that the powder, ball and wadding sits at the bottom.

The match is a piece of cord impregnated with saltpetre which once set alight burns with a steady glow. Ian blows on this to make sure it is alight and then threads it into the ‘serpentine’, so called because it looks like a snake. This mechanism will plunge the lighted cord into the gunpowder in the flash pan – this causes the gunpowder in the barrel to ignite – ejecting the ball from the gun at an estimated speed of around 300 metres per second.

As mentioned above, these guns are more accurate than many would expect, however, there most effective use was probaly when fired into a crowd of opposing soldiers. The next post will say a little more about tactics as well as discussing the injuries these weapons would have caused.

PS Many thanks to Ian Fletcher at Harvington Hall for help in putting the post together.

Don’t forget the second part of this post ‘ The Musket – use in battle and a dreadful injury’



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Square composition, Central Tower, Canterbury Cathedral: archdiave on Flickr (click image)

Square composition, Central Tower, Canterbury Cathedral: archdiave on Flickr (click image)

My two great musical interests are English folk music, and polyphonic church music from the tudor period – English or otherwise.  William Cornysh, Thomas Tallis and Willaim Byrd are some of the major English composers from this period; Palestrina and Allegri being two great Italian composers of the time;and Tomas Luis de Victoria being probably the most famous Spanish composer of the late Renaissance.

Thomas TallisThomas Tallis

Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-23 to November 1585) made an appearance in the BBC ‘The Tudors’ series, and this seems to have stirred up a new interest in him.  Little is known about Tallis’s early life, but there seems to be agreement that he was born close to the end of the reign of Henry VII. We know that he was appointed as organist of the Benedictine priory at Dover in1532, moving, in the autumn of 1538, to the Augustinian abbey of Holy Cross at Waltham, until the abbey was dissolved.

(Try listening to the link below whilst looking at the picture on top of the blog – imagine the music echoing around the cathedral. Should you happen to be feeling in any way tense right now try doing this for a couple of minutes & see if you still feel tense! )

From there he went to Canterbury Cathedral (see photo at top of blog) and finally to Court as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1543, composing and performing for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I until he died in 1585.

Throughout his service to successive monarchs in turbulent times Tallis managed to avoid religious controversy, and, like William Byrd, stayed an “unreformed Roman Catholic.”

Spem in Alium

He changed the texts to which he set music for changing monarchs to match their religious standpoint, however his music in no way feels constrained by changing religious politics.  The mood of the country in the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign leant towards puritanism, which discouraged the liturgical polyphony. However for the Holy Week services in 1573 the motet Spem in alium was written for eight five-voice choirs. The text is penitential, but the music is mesmerising, and very far from dour.

I have never put my hope in any other but in you,

O God of Israel

who can show both anger

and graciousness,

and who absolves all the sins of suffering man

Lord God,

Creator of Heaven and Earth

be mindful of our lowliness

Marriage, death and an appearance in ‘The Tudors’

Tallis married around 1552.  His wife, Joan, outlived him by four years. They apparently had no children. The television series recently produced by the BBC shows Tallis arriving in London and attracting the attention of Sir William Compton, a close friend of King Henry VIII, with the two becoming lovers.  After Compton’s death Tallis begins to court two sisters.  I have no idea whether this is accurate or not – but it makes for a good story!  Late in his life Tallis lived in Greenwich, close to the royal palace, and was buried at St Alphege’s Church.  A couplet from his epitaph reads:

As he did live, so also did he die, in mild and quiet Sort (O! happy Man).

Spike Milligan: Janesdead / Sheldon Wood on Flickr (click image)

Spike Milligan: Janesdead / Sheldon Wood on Flickr (click image)

Thomas Tallis likewise inspired this poem by Spike Milligan,

Thomas Tallis

Bore no man any malice

Save an organist called Ken

Who played his music rather badly now and then.


PPS We had an email from Phillip Sheppard (composer of the music for the recent David Starkey TV series about Henry VIII) – Phillip has added a page of tracks to his blog – click here to listen to them (password is ‘crumpets’) – his blog is called ‘Radiomovies’



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On a busy day Harvington Hall attracts many visitors. As well as enjoying the history of the Hall it is a wonderfully peaceful and restful place. Someone once remarked that as soon as you cross the moat it can feel as if time has stood still here. If you have even a bit of imagination it is easy to sit quietly in the Hall and think about the people who once lived here.

I like to know everything that happens here

I like to know everything that happens here

Sometimes I like to try and see in my mind’s eye what it must have looked like. A lot of posts on Tudor Stuff have focused upon the big players on the Tudor stage, King Henry and his wives, Queen Elizabeth, Thomas Cromwell or Shakespeare. Otherwise, we talk about religion, persecution, torture – events that still have echoes today.
What about the ordinary folk though? I suspect that for the common people life (usually) went on, untroubled by events at court.  What would it be like to talk to these people? – what would they tell us about their lives?

Let’s go back to 1608 and meet Susan, a lady’s maid.

Susan in the herb garden

I am Lady’s maid to Mistress Abigail Packington.  She is married to the Master of the House, Humphrey Packington and she comes from a fine family in Derbyshire, the Sacheverell family.

My day begins early, before the sun is up. I make sure that my mistress has her clothes laid out to wear and that she has water to wash with. Mistress Packington says her prayers every morning before breakfast and I go with her to the little chapel in the house. The Master and Mistress like to keep to the old religion and so do I.

After breakfast, I go about my duties. I have to look after the Mistress’ things and  her own chamber. I make it my business to know what is going around the house and the mistress likes me to tell her what is going on. All of the servants have to look up to me and as I am responsible for helping the Mistress with her clothes and personal things I get to talk to her quite a lot – especially when the master is away on business. My clothes are quite nice too – I have a proper pair of shoes, an underskirt and a nice dress. I carry a lot of keys too – I know where the jewellery is and I am trusted by the Mistress.

I am trusted with things that the other servants don’t hear about too.

I was one of the first to hear that Mistress Abigail was pregnant, I was there this summer when the baby was born – a little baby girl. I was there at her Christening and at her funeral, poor little thing. That was hard on the Mistress.

Abigail Sacheverall

Abigail Sacheverall (1630)

I know about things that happen here too, things that other folk don’t know and have no business knowing.  I see the Priests that come here and I hear them say the Mass – poor things they are too! Some of them are so young; and they are so brave – especially when everyone knows what dreadful things will happen to them if they are caught by the priest hunters. There are so many treacherous people around these days, spies that would betray us – but they will never hear anything from me!

That is all from Susan right now but over the next few weeks I will try to introduce you to a few more of the people around the Hall.


PS – Historical note: The character ‘Susan’ is completely fictional. The above account  is a creative mixture of fact and imagination.

On the 23rd of June 1608 there is a record of the christening and burial of ‘Mistress Abigail Packington’ daughter of Humphrey and Abigail.


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Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I By Nicholas Hilliard 1586-1587 (V&A museum - click image)

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I By Nicholas Hilliard 1586-1587 (V&A museum - click image)

I was recently looking for a book about Tudor Portraits and came across this book by Maurice Howard. The book doesn’t just cover portraits, there are references to items such as engravings, tapestry and funeral monuments. The author points out that the Tudor period saw an explosion in the production and use of artistic imagery. Some things were designed for private contemplation, for example the portrait minature  (see this wonderful Blog for more about this).  However, many other items seem to have been designed to display wealth and power. Looking through collections of artwork one gets an idea of the competition to acquire the the most elaborate and decorative items.

Pair of Gloves 1603 -1625 Victoria & Albert Museum (click image)

Pair of Gloves 1603 -1625 Victoria & Albert Museum (click image)


It is suprising how many portraits include subjects wearing – or quite frequently just holding gloves. Many of these are very highly decorated and are elongated into lace and pearl covered gauntlets. It seems hard to imagine that it would have been practical (or even possible?) to wear some of these pairs of gloves.

In his biography of Shakespeare, Anthony Holden discusses the playwrights father John who was known to have been a glover. After soaking the hides of deer, goats and sheep he would make the leather into gloves as well as other items such as belts and purses.

Elizabethan glove: little miss sunnydale on Flickr (Click image)

Elizabethan glove: little miss sunnydale on Flickr (Click image)

Over elaborate & a bit odd?

Of course, Stratford was a rural provincial backwater and it seems unlikely that John Shakespeare would have been turning out anything as elaborate as items being produced for use in London. As well as gloves, there are over-decorated shoes, sleeves, hats and of course the ruff. Look at this image from 1613 of the 3rd Earl of Dorset, Richard Sackville. No doubt the Earl dressed in his very finest clothes for the portrait. Clearly, the fashion for elaboration had continued to develop long after John Shakespeares day.

Richard Sackville 3rd Earl of Dorset c1613 William Larkin

Richard Sackville 3rd Earl of Dorset c1613 William Larkin

Really quite odd?

The Saltonstall Family 1636-37. Odd and just a little disturbing - what was he thinking of?
The Saltonstall Family 1636-37. Odd and just a little disturbing – what was he thinking of?

Look at this picture by David des Granges of the Saltonstall family. This painting is a family record which shows Sir Richard Saltonstall with his new wife and baby (seated) as well as his two  children from his first marriage. It has been suggested that the children are painted as they were at the time of their mothers death. The dead mother is lying in bed behind them all – her husband is vaguely waving his gloves in her direction. Can you imagine how such a picture would be recieved today? – it would be quite easy to make this sort of thing in photoshop. Surely this is one of the oddest pictures ever? Would you want it on your wall?

Is it just me, but..

Not for the first time when looking at Tudor images I find myself thinking how, well – odd it all looks. The Tudors really had a very different idea about what looked good – to modern eyes it all looks a little strange. Don’t you think that the Earl above looks just a little ridiculous? For me, the best expression of this came in this episode of Blackadder – have a look at this and ask yourself what Blackadder would have said about the Earl.

What do you think? Comments as ever are really welcome.



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Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

This is a guest post from Robert Warwick who has written about an event that happened in his home town in Tudor times. We are delighted to have this post – partly because we have covered Catholic persecution quite often but as yet haven’t really said much about the dreadful religious persecutions that took place under the catholic rule of Queen Mary – hopefully this post will do a bit to redress the balance.

Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

On 18th July 1556 three people were burned to death in the small Sussex town of East Grinstead, between London and Brighton on the South Coast of the UK.  Their names were Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman.  To some they were witches, to others heretics, to many – martyrs for carrying their protestant beliefs to their deaths. Ordinary people caught up in the struggle between the protestant and catholic churches after the death of Henry VIII.

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

Remembered to this day

The five years of the reign of Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, from 1553 saw countless deaths, but even today these three martyrs are remembered by many who live in East Grinstead. In the churchyard of St Swithun’s, on the High Street, there are three slabs to commemorate them.  Even today it is not at all uncommon to see small posies of flowers laid underneath their inscribed names.  The actual resting place for their ashes remain unknown, but many think that they are somewhere in the graveyard, yards away from their memorial.  Just a few years ago over one hundred people turned up at a ceremony to commemorate the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of their death.  The three of them were each tied to a stake and burned alive a few paces over the road from the church just outside the gentleman’s and lady’s outfitters, Broadley Brothers, a shop that has remained almost completely unchanged for the forty years or so I have known it.

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here in 1556

East Grinstead

Today East Grinstead is the home for 24,000 or so people, many of whom have a daily commute into London.  In Tudor times things were very different.  The population of the town itself was about 300, comprising of a windmill, slaughter house, a currying house for dressing leather and a blacksmith’s forge.  Politically there were forty eight houses (or burgages) that were eligible to vote for the town’s two Members of Parliament.

Travelling in Sussex was a hazardous business, with poor roads and the constant threat of robbery.  East Grinstead was a convenient stopping off point for travellers and was a favoured location for Assizes for those judges that were too timid to venture further south.  The picture this paints is of a vibrant close knit community, small by today’s standards and certainly not immune to the political and religious upheavals of the day.  They were not the only ones to suffer.

St Swithuns churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

St Swithun's churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

Executed for heresy

In the same year Thomas Hoath, a priest was also accused of heresy and executed at the hand of the state.  John Smyth was excommunicated, his fate unknown.  But it is the story of these three ordinary people, killed in extra-ordinary times, that still manages to capture the imagination of East Grinstead townsfolk.

Although I live within a five minute walk of where the martyrs died I find it almost impossible to compare my life, and the town where I have lived most of my life, with that of the martyrs and others who lived here at the time of Mary’s reign.

All pictures by Rob Warwick



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Bedroom at Harvington - a hide is directly above this room

Bedroom at Harvington - a hide is directly above this room

Across the UK there are said to be around a hundred old houses which still have a Priest hole.  Harvington Hall is famous for it’s seven hides – more than any surviving house. Several of these hides can be seen by visitors to the Hall today. Visitors who don’t suffer from claustrophobia (and who are also fairly thin!) are allowed to enter one of the hides when accompanied by a guide.

You can see the entrance to the staircase hide in this post (well sort of, you have to come to the Hall to really see where it is!). This time I thought it would be good to let you see inside the biggest hide at the Hall, but I can’t show you the entrance – again, come to the Hall and someone will be happy to show you this.

Grafitti in the Attic - written 114 years & 8 days ago!

Grafitti in the Attic - 114 years & 3 days old!

A hide in the ceiling space.

In an earlier post I used this picture (very top of this post) of a bedroom at Harvington Hall. What I didn’t mention at the time was that anyone standing in this room would be very close to a hiding place – so close that they could be overheard by anyone in the hide. The room has an unusually high ceiling, and it may be that it’s height is intended to disguise the fact that just above is the largest hide in the house.

A disorientating jumble of beams

A disorientating jumble of beams

The attic, a disorientating place to be.

Entered through a secret passage in one of the bedrooms, the rooftop hide is by far the biggest hide at the Hall. As soon as you enter the attic space you are confronted by a jumble of beams – it is quite easy to become disorientated as to your whereabouts in relation to the Hall below. Of course, this confusion served the purpose of the hide builder perfectly.

The end of the roof space?

The end of the roof space?

The rooftop hide (in common with several other such hides at Harvington) is assumed to be the work of Nicholas Owen, the master builder of such places. At one point there is a false hide, intended to confuse searchers and recognised as a trademark of Owen’s. At the end of the building one comes to a wall, at about chest height there is an entrance to a large space beyond. At one time this entrance had hinges and a bolt, any searcher coming across this may well have assumed that they had reached the end of the building. In John Gerards autobiography he describes a similar hide in a house in London which was ‘built in a secret gable in the roof’ and that he had occasion to use during a search in July 1599.

Searchers gone & the hide opens to reveal a large space beyond

Searchers gone & the hide opens to reveal a large space beyond

A search at Harvington?

There is no record of Harvington ever having been searched – which is perhaps a little strange because the owner of the Hall, Humphrey Packington was known to the authorities as someone sympathetic to the outlawed catholic cause. Like a lot of the stories about Harvington Hall, the truth is only partly known and to a great extent the Hall keeps it’s secrets to itself – I feel quite sure that the original builders would be quite satisfied with this.

The Colditz connection.

One story about this hide is that the Hall was visited a few years back by people who had been held as prisoners of war at Colditz castle. There is a famous story that they built a glider in the attic of the castle, planning to use this in an escape attempt ( click here for more about this story). Apparently, these visitors were shocked to learn of the similarities between their hide and the one at Harvington. Many of the techniques developed to disguise the entrance to the Colditz hide had been thought up over 300 years earlier by whoever built the hide at Harvington.

Priests bedroom - imagine the ceiling has vanished & this is what you might see?

Priests bedroom - imagine the ceiling has vanished & this is what you might see?

(PS Important note – the panel shown on the picture above, entitled ‘the end of the roof space’ does not exist. I made this in Photoshop as a representation of how this may have looked.)



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