Robert Pashley – antiquarian traveller to Crete

ROBERT PASHLEY (1805-1859) was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn and Inner Temple but became an intrepid traveller of Crete in 1834. This is not a ‘blow by blow’ account of his travels around the island (you can find that in my book Dawn of Discovery), but more of a look at how Pashley came to be there and the supporting correspondence.

In saying that, I would just mention that one of the most interesting places he encountered was the Melidoni (Melidhoni) cave wherein a room which he discovered was named after him (see pics further below). During the 1824 Revolution against the Turks, following a three month siege of the cave, some 250 unarmed villagers, including women and children, were suffocated when the entrance was sealed and fires, lit by the Turks, thrown in to the cave. It was not until Pashley visited the cave in 1834, did Manolis Kirmizakis, the only survivor of the events, inspect it and discover the bones of the martyrs. They were put in a large sarcophagus which is in the cave today and defines the independent Cretan character. Later finds in the cave gave evidence to its usage for worship by the ‘Minoans’ of Bronze Age Crete (2100-1600 BC – see my very last paragraph below).

I’ve not been able to find an image of Pashley but below could be a sketch of him from his own book, Travels in Crete (1837), most likely by his companion and illustrator, Antonio Schranz, but not acknowledged.

pashPossibly Pashley (on the right)

Despite the work of Richard Pococke (see last blog), prior to Pashley, Crete had no known ancient historical ancestry and the historian, Sir Moses Finley, said of Pashley:

“The first important breakthrough [in Crete] was made in 1834 by a young man from Trinity College, Cambridge, named Robert Pashley … he joined that remarkable constellation of nineteenth-century British explorers and archaeologists who were opening up vast new and exotic fields of inquiry … a modern expert could say of his seven-odd months work [in Crete] that Pashley identified most of the important sites with accuracy which had never before been attained and has in few cases since been challenged.”


Sir Moses Finley (1912-1986)

The Royal Naval hydrographer, Captain (later Rear Admiral) Francis Beaufort (of the ‘Beaufort Scale’) was keen to investigate the ancient antiquities of the Aegean and was fully supportive of any persons wishing to join a ship for the purpose of antiquarian research. It was Beaufort who proposed Pashley for such a venture in Crete.


Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857)

On the 18th July 1832, Beaufort wrote to Captain Richard Copeland of HMS Beacon, prior to the latter’s departure for a hydrographic survey of the eastern Mediterranean, enquiring:

“Would you like to have a classical traveller in the Beacon to hunt for antiquities while engaged on the coast of Asia Minor? I have no one in my eye nor do I know whether their Lordships [at the Admiralty] would permit it but before I ask them or enquire at the universities I wished to ascertain your candid opinion of the utility of the scheme, and still more your personal feeling about it.”

Copeland obviously agreed as Beaufort wrote to him again (26th July 1832), “I am much pleased that you approve of the idea of having a savant to accompany to you.” In fact Pashley was not Beaufort’s first choice as he added in his letter to Copeland, “… and I will take care that none but a 1st rate man, and gentleman, [be] sent out. There is somewhere in Italy the son of the Master of Trinity College Camb[ridge] who I understand would likely to jump at such an offer.”  The man he had in mind was the son of Christopher Wordsworth brother of the poet). It is not clear which son, John, Charles or Christopher Jr., he was thinking of but none of them did ‘jump at such an offer’. (As the letter was written in July 1832, Beaufort was most likely referring to Christopher Jr as he was in Greece between 1832-33, whereas John and Charles did not travel to Europe until 1833).


Christopher Wordsworth Jr (1807-1885)

Sir John Barrow, Second Secretary of the Admiralty, wrote to Pashley in December 1832 informing him that their Lordships of the Admiralty had approved him to investigate “the antiquities, the geology and the botany at the parts of the Coast of Asia Minor and Greece on which he [Copeland] may be employed surveying.” The Admiralty obviously got the idea that Pashley was a geologist or naturalist from Beaufort who was covering his options. Beaufort informed Copeland of Pashley’s appointment (17th December 1832):

“I have at last the great pleasure of introducing Mr Pashley to you – he is a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge – not only a distinguished scholar, but imbued with a proper zeal for antiquity hunting. That zeal will I am quite sure meet with every possible encouragement and assistance at your hands … and the important aid you will derive from the company of such a person on the interesting service in which you are engaged” (my italics – see next paragraph).

The ‘antiquity hunting’ is a clear reference to the intention of seeking antiquities. The ‘important aid’, as Beaufort told Pashley (17th December 1832), would be the “determining of the ancient names and places as may be included in his Survey.”  This was Beaufort’s excuse for the usefulness of Pashley’s attendance. The ‘interesting service’ is possibly a reference to Beaufort’s own frustration at failing to secure antiquities on his own visit to the Mediterranean as he commented to Pashley (17th December 1832), “… as I well recollect the provoking opportunities I lost on the coast of Asia Minor, and the feebleness of  my last efforts to rescue a few vestiges of ancient geography from oblivion.”

mel 1

Entrance to Melidoni cave when I was there in 2006 (pigeon on step gives an idea of scale….)

According to Beaufort, in a letter to Lt Thomas Graves (surveying in the Mediterranean) (also 17th December 1832), Copeland “welcomed a classical scholar Robert Pashley of Cambridge to help him identify ancient sites [in the Aegean].”


Plan of Melidoni cave (room discovered by Pashley on right [9] – now closed off)

Pashley set out on his extensive exploration of antiquities on the island of Crete with the aid of Captain Manias (a guide from Sfakia in the southwest of Crete), Antonio Schranz (an illustrator) and a mule. He was very enthusiastic about the early undiscovered history of Crete and shortly after his arrival on the island he wrote to Beaufort (15th February 1834):

“I believe we know but little indeed in England of the value and capabilities of this island. I must say a word of its history, which is so very interesting from the earliest dawn of Grecian civilization down to the present hour. You know how it is connected with many of the ancient theogonies & myths with the origin of laws, of the fine & useful arts, in fact with everything of any importance in the progress of society before the wars of Troy.”

However, his search for ancient cities was not an easy task and he remarked in his book (above), “Crete has been so little explored that it was necessary to enquire everywhere for ancient ruins.” He reported back to Beaufort on his findings of ancient sites with mixed feelings as he did not always find sites where he had anticipated them to be from references to his maps but was pleased with what he had seen (3rd April 1834):

“I have visited the sites of nearly twenty ancient cities, most of which I am sorry to say are either not placed at all or are placed entirely out of their proper places in all the maps I have seen. Many of the remains are extensive, most of them interesting, & some are very singular… I consider the two months I have spent here as more profitability employed as worth more in every point of view than all the rest of my eastern travels.”

mel 4

Drawing of Melidoni cave by Schranz from Pashley’s book

When he had completed his travels he was convinced that he had seen nearly all the cities of ancient Crete and informed Beaufort accordingly (9th October 1834), “… as for Crete, you will find … that I have visited most of the ancient sites.” That was quite correct as there were many more awaiting discovery.

mel 3

Melidoni cave (with the sarcophagus containing the bones of the 250 who died in 1824) 

Of Pashley’s venture, the historian Llewellyn Smith rather short-sightedly wrote in 1973, “A large part of his book is wasted in speculation about topography of the ancient Cretan cities: a fashionable game at the time, but exceedingly boring for the reader today.” No pleasing some people. Although he did add, “Skip the topography, for the rest is pure gold.”

pash map

Ancient sites visited by Pashley in Crete

As a final word on Pashley, in his work on Edward Lear in 1995, Peter Levi commented, “Crete was more or less unexcavated until Sir Arthur Evans’ dig at Knossos in 1900, though its innumerable ancient sites were charted by Pashley.” So Pashley had discovered Minoan Crete before Evans who happily received the credit for it – okay he did good work at Knossos.


Next week: I’m on a roll now – Thomas Spratt RN, another antiquarian traveller to Crete (if you have been paying attention you will have met Spratt before – a June blog, ‘Crete: the island that tipped’)

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

My good friend and mentor, Idley Blanchwater, had farmed all his life and was a great amateur archaeologist. Now, at the age of 98, he was sadly departing from us. His son and I were at his bedside shortly before his demise. To make his last journey more comfortable his son tried giving him warm milk to drink. “It’s from one of your own cows, father,” his son said. But Idley refused it. With a wink, the son gave the glass to his father’s nurse and she took it to the kitchen and poured a generous amount of whisky into the warm milk and returned with it insisting Idley try a little. So persuaded, he took a sip – then drank the whole glass – and his eyes brightened.

His son took this as a good opportunity to ask him for some final words of wisdom before he passed away. Idley raised himself up in bed on one elbow, looked at his son and said,

“Don’t sell that cow.”


Richard Pococke – antiquarian traveller to Crete

IF YOU HAVE been reading my past bogs you will realize that one of my passions is Crete. I’m also interested in the early travellers to the island and what they found there before archaeological became ‘fashionable’ following Sir Arthur Evans’ excavations at Knossos in the early 1900s. Most of these early pioneers were either members of the clergy, the legal profession or the military,  maybe because they had nothing better to do (but let’s not go there). Anyway, I like to bring some of these fellows to the fore as I fear their names have been lost in the passages of time (see my books, In Search of Agamemnon and Dawn of Discovery on MY PUBLICATIONS on this blog – go on, buy one, you know you want to …..).

book 1                  book2

Click here                                                             Click here

One such traveller was Richard Pococke. He was a member of the clergy and he visited Crete in 1739. Archaeology was not ‘something’ one did in the 18th century but Pococke was in search of ancient cities. He was, perhaps, the first British/Irish travel to the island to consider the existence of an ancient civilization. I was looking to see if he had found anything of the Bronze Age – then not a term used – before Arthur Evans’ great discoveries.

 pococke 2Richard Pococke (1704-1765)

There have been certain interesting views of Pococke. He was believed to be a man of “mild manners and primitive simplicity … In his carriage and deportment he seemed to have contracted something of the Arab character [see pic below], yet there was no austerity in his silence, and though his air was solemn, his temper was serene” (Cumberland, from Kemp, 1887, Tours in Scotland, 1747, 1750, 1760, Edinburgh University Press).

In 1761, a Mrs Delaney described Pococke as “the dullest man that ever travelled …” (Quane, 1950, ‘Pococke School, Kilkenny’ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland). This may have been because he had no time for small talk or tittle-tattle at her tea parties (‘woman scorned’ …..). Whatever her view, Pococke was certainly not dull with regard to his travels. Kemp, the 19th century biographer of Pococke’s tour of Scotland (above), reported that “His [Pococke’s] contemporary, Bishop Forbes, has preserved a pen-picture of Dr Pococke … and represents him rather as a pleasant, genial, jocular man, able to adapt himself to every circumstance and society – qualities essential to travel.”

pococke 1

Pococke in his ‘Arab’ attire

On arriving in Khania (Canea) on the northwest coast of Crete he called upon the “only English house on the island” – that of the English Consul General. With the Consul and the Bishop of Kisamos, he set off to see the sites on the western part of the island. His first encounter with the ancients was on Cape Spada at Dictynnaeon but the first ancient remains seen by him at Magnia were small and of marble, possibly of the Dictynnaeon Temple mentioned by Strabo (Geography, 10.12).

 pococke 8Ancient sites visited by Pococke in Crete

Pococke found a ruined city at Aptera (Palicastro), some five miles from the port of Kisamos. He wrote to his mother on 29th September 1739 about Palicastro:

“Came near to the sea west of Cape Spada … and went south west about 4 miles to Palaio Castro, the old ruined city of Aptera on a high hill, at the foot of which, the muses and the sirens had a trial of musick & the sirens being vanquished lost their wings. We viewed the Antiquities.”

This reference to the ‘trial by musick’ relates to the mythological tale of the victory of the Muses over the Sirens following a musical contest which took place at the city and after which the Sirens plucked off their feathers in sorrow and threw themselves into the sea – Aptera is Greek for ‘Featherless’. The antiquities he viewed included a very antique bas relief (a sepulchral monument) which he purchased.


Bas relief procured by Pococke (1 ft, 9 ins in length, 13 ins wide)

At Artacina, or Rocca, he saw the remains of some rooms which, he said, “the people say belong to the ancient Greeks, and they have some fables relating to it of a giant whom they call Ienes.” Unfortunately his lack of description does not help identify these rooms in any manner.

Pococke left Khania and headed eastward to Retimo (Rethyminon) in order to “make a tour round the island” although he was not to achieve this intention. He then headed south east to Matala where he came across some ruins of Castro Matala and cut into the rocks semicircular niches “hollowed in like graves, and a stone laid over them” but gave no indication of date of the site. He then observed, “In searching for Lebena further to the west, I found a place which I thought to be of greater consequence … that is the fair havens, near unto the city of Lasea; for there is a small bay about two leagues east of Matala, which is now called … Fair Havens.” This is confusing as Lasea (Lisia) is about 6 miles south east of where Matala is today and Lebena is the same distance east of Lasea. He was misplacing these sites – putting Lasea (‘Fair Havens’) where Lebena is today and Matala where Lasea is and Lebena where Matala is now situated (get it? ……. never mind).

 Fair Havens

Fair Havens

At Gortyns (not on the above map but just north of Lasea – 6 on map), Pococke was aware of its early origins, referring to Homer’s mention of it as a walled city (Iliad 2.646) and that “the walls were afterwards destroyed”. Indeed, there are no Bronze Age walls remaining at the city, although it does date back to this period (having been inhabited without interruption since 4000 BC). He described several ruins which would have been most likely Roman, including a theatre.  He did mention the ‘labyrinth’ (see blog in June) but believed it to be “nothing more than a quarry, out of which Gortynia was built … and they might choose to hollow out such a large grotto, rather than work this quarry in the common way, that their families might retire to it on any invasion, and secure their riches.”

 labrnth gortyns

Gortyns labyrinth/quarry

At Knossos, Pococke came upon what he thought was the ancient city and observed that it was the place of the labyrinth of King Minos and “In the time of Minos, Amniso was used as its (Knossos) harbour.” Certainly this reference to Amniso(s) as port of Minos perhaps supports the idea that he believed in – and recognized – an early civilization. He did then go on to describe some ruins that he saw, including several large arches which he described as platforms for seats of a theatre.

Not far from Knossos, to the south, is Mount Iouktas (Joukta), the supposed burial place of Zeus. It is not clear whether Pococke actually visited the top of the mountain – probably not as he talked of what the modern Greeks said was up there (a temple and tomb) rather than what he saw for himself, “They relate (my italics) that there was a temple dedicated to him [Zeus] on this hill …”. Turning north he headed for Candia (Herakleion), but other than assuming it may have also been a port to Knossos, he made no ancient discoveries around the town.


Cyclopean remains on Mount Iouktas – what Pococke missed!

He did ascend the Idaian Mountains (Mount Ida), the site where Zeus was said to have grown up, hiding from his father, Cronos, but Pococke was not impressed.  He made a mere reference to a small rough grotto on the north side of the mountain but the cave that was later to reveal many Bronze Age Minoan artifacts was not a ‘small grotto’ (see pic below).


The cave of Mount Ida

On his return to Khania he announced, “Having seen everything that was curious, I returned to Canea [Khania].” This was to be proven not the case by the likes of Robert Pashley (1830s), Thomas Spratt (1850s) and Sir Arthur Evans (1900s) – much more was to be discovered.

pck map

Pococke’s map of Crete, 1745


Next week: Whilst on the subject of antiquarian travellers to Crete, let me introduce you to Robert Pashley, barrister.

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

A crazy place America. I spent some time living and excavating on a farm in Arizona. One day a DEA (Drugs Enforcement Administration) officer called in on me and said, “I need to inspect your farm for illegally grown drugs.” I said, “Okay, but do not go in that field over there,” and pointed out the location.

The DEA verbally exploded and said, “Mister, that’s exactly where I’m gonna start. Reaching into his rear trouser pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to me.  “See this badge?  This badge means I’m with the Federal Government and I am allowed to go wherever I wish . . . . on any land.  No questions asked or answers given.  Have I made myself clear?  Do you understand?”

I nodded politely, apologized, and went about my business.

A short time later, I heard loud screams and saw the DEA officer running for his life chased by my big Santa Gertrudis bull.  With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he would be gored before he reached safety. I threw down my tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of my lungs . . . . .

 “Your badge, show him your badge!”


Eadweard Muybridge: moving picture-maker and murderer – or not…..

LET US START with the ‘moving picture-maker’. Supposedly motion pictures began in 1890 with the introduction of the first motion-picture camera. In fact, Eadweard Muybridge was there first in 1878. He was born Edward James Muggeridge in England in 1830 but that spelling (his name not the country) was too boring for him so he changed it (several times, in fact).


 Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) – ‘Edweard the beard’!

Anyway, he was very interested in photography and there was this chap, an America (ex-governor of California in fact) named Leland Stanford who owned race horses. Now, one of the great questions of the day was whether all four of a horse’s feet ever left the ground all at once (no, I don’t know why it was such a great question either – bored curiosity I expect). In 1872 Stanford commissioned Muybridge to resolve the question through photography – and this he did: the answer proved to be yes, at one point a horse is airborne with no feet on the ground when at the trot and gallop. Muybridge did this by setting numerous large glass-plate cameras in a line along the edge of the track and the shutter of each was triggered by a thread as the horse passed.


Muybridge’s photos showing the horse in motion – top sequence, pics 2 & 3, show the horse airborne

He then copied the images in the form of silhouettes onto a disc to be viewed in a machine invented by him which he called a zoopraxiscope (see below). This was later regarded as an early movie projector – motion pictures were not far away!

Muybridge’s horse on the move as viewed through the zooprxiscope – this is was produced in 2006 using Muybridge’s photos

So what about getting away with murder? Well, let’s first go back to 1860. Muybridge was travelling in a stage coach in Texas when it crashed and he suffered head injuries and, in particular, to the orbitofrontal cortex  (front of the brain, okay) which was the likely cause of his later eccentricity and strange behaviour. One such ‘strange behaviour’ was to shoot dead his wife’s alleged lover, Major Harry Larkyns (well, perhaps it wasn’t so strange – depends on one’s point of view I suppose). Apparently, having previously ‘given her child’, Larkyns had written to Muybridge’s wife, Flora. Muybridge had obviously seen the letter and visited Larkyns in Calistoga in California and said to him, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife,” and shot him.


Flora Muybridge (1872)

Muybridge was put on trial and pleaded not guilty due to insanity caused by his above mentioned head injury. Four colleagues gave evidence to say that his personality had indeed changed from genial to erratic since the accident. Muybridge’s own behaviour in court whilst giving evidence was both contrary and explosive. The jury rejected insanity but found him not guilty on the grounds of ‘justifiable homicide’. So he got away with it, jammy … fellow (don’t try this at home as ‘crimes of passion’ are not deemed justifiable as a defence to murder in the UK – unreasonable, I know).

Muybridge went on to make many more motion studies being sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania. He returned to England in 1894 and died in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1904.


Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope



                  Muggeridge’s dancing phenakistoscope disc (1893)


Next week:  Richard Pococke – 18th century antiquarian traveller

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I was digging in the Negev Desert in Israel and came upon a casket containing a mummy. After examining it, I called the curator of the local museum.

“I’ve just discovered a 3,000 year old mummy of a man who died of heart failure,” I told him.

To which the curator replied, “That’s a very quick assumption regarding date and cause of death. Bring him in and we’ll check it out.”

A week later, the amazed curator called me. “You were right about the mummy’s age and cause of death. How in the world did you know?”

“Easy,” I replied, and showed him a piece of papyrus that I had found in the mummy’s hand. It read, ‘10,000 Shekels on Goliath’.


William Price – the druid who created cremation

SO THERE I WAS preparing a talk on ‘Human Bones and the Law’ when I came upon this case R v Price 1884. Now the law on ownership of bones dates way-back. Basically no one owns bones, not even if they belong to a member of your family. Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice in the 17th century, pontificated, “The burial of the cadaver [corpse], that is caro data vermibus [flesh given to the worms] is nullius in bonis [among the property of no person] and belongs to the ecclesiastical cognizance.” [1]


Sir Edward Coke (pronounced ‘Cook’) C.J. (1552-1634)

Well, there was this Welshman, William Price (1800-93), who had qualified as a medical doctor and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (having trained in London). He returned to Wales to work as a GP and, in 1823, became the chief surgeon at the Brown Lenox Chainworks in Pontypridd. So far so good.


Dr William Price in 1822 as a respectable medical student – ‘so far so good’

He then became involved in the Chartist movement (believing in votes for all men regardless of status – next there will be votes for women!) which led to an uprising which led to Price escaping to France. In Paris, at the Louvre Museum, he experienced his ‘turning point in his religious life’ when he saw an ancient Greek inscription which, for some bizarre reason, he interpreted as a Celtic bard addressing the moon. Yeah, okay. This was a sign to him to spread the word of the ‘true secrets’ of the Welsh language and free the Welsh from English dominance. Nothing new there. Anyway, as a result he became a druid and founded a new Druidic group which gained many followers. Just to give you an idea of some of his antics: he christened his daughter Gwenhiolan Iarlles Morganwg – meaning ‘Gwenhiolan, Countess of Glamorgan’; he organised an eisteddfod at Pontypridd but no one turned up (bad marketing); he held a Welsh nationalist parade along with a half-naked man called Myrddin (the Welsh name for Merlin) and a goat … of course.


Price in his druid gear in 1884

So wacky or what? But I digress, so now to the point. In 1883, when Price was 83 years old, his second wife, who was in her mid twenties (let’s not go there), gave birth to a son whom he named  Iesu Grist (the Welsh for Jesus Christ) as he had ‘great expectations’ for him. Sadly the child died after 5 months. Price’s religious belief prevented him from burying the corpse as it would pollute the earth. So he decided to cremate him on the hill outside his village of Llantrisant which was ‘not the done thing’ then. In fact, many of the villagers saw the smoke of the fire and attacked him. He was rescued by the police and the child was taken from the pyre before it had been engulfed in flames.


Painting of Price in his famous fox-skinned headdress 

Price was then arrested for illegal disposal of a corpse (the police were satisfied that the child had died of natural causes prior to the cremation attempt). At his trial at Cardiff Crown Court, whilst he accepted that cremation was not legal, he argued that there was no law against it either. Going back to Sir Edward Coke (above), the principle here is that if no one owns a body how can it be illegal to do what one wishes with it?  The judge, Mr Justice Stephen, agreed with Price and he was released from custody to much cheering from the people (not the ones from his village obviously). It would appear that cremation was here to stay and on the 14th March Price did, indeed, cremate his son. This led to the newly founded Cremation Society of Great Britain which put sufficient pressure on the government to introduce the Cremation Act 1902 (of which there have been several amended versions since).

Restricted useage

Cremation of William Price

The case made Price famous, so much so that a statute of him was erected in Llantrisant in 1982 by the Cremation Society of Great Britain. His wife produced another boy who was also named Iesu Grist for the same reason as his first, the coming of the second (or third) Jesus Christ – he wasn’t (but that is no surprise). William Price was cremated in 1893 on the same hillside as his first son and was watched by some 20,000 people (see pic above). He certainly made an impression!


Statute of Price at Llantrisant


[1] Unless they have “acquired different attributes by virtue of the application of skill, such as dissection or preservation techniques, for exhibition or teaching purposes. It thereby acquires a usefulness or value. It is capable of becoming property in the usual way, and can be stolen.” (See the case of R v Kelly & Lindsay 1998 – stealing bones used for educational purposes by a hospital).


Next week: Odd bods: Eadweard Muybridge ….. ‘moving picture-maker’ who got away with murder

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

 My neighbour, George Shortbrain, came into the public house and sat next to me. An unfortunate name but similar to his nature – a man of limited intelligence. The public house had a television set and was showing the 10:00 PM news. The news crew was covering a story of a man on a ledge of a large building preparing to jump.

George said, “Do you think he’ll jump?”

“Yes he will,” I answered.

“Well, I bet he won’t,” said George. “In fact, I bet you a five pounds he won’t.’”

I agreed to the bet.

Just then the chap on the ledge did a swan dive off the building, falling to his demise.

George was very upset but willingly handed me the five pounds.

I said, “I can’t take your money, George, I saw this earlier on the 6:00 PM news and so I knew he would jump.'”

George replied, “I did too, but I didn’t think he’d do it again.”

I took the money.           



The Magna Carta …. and all that

THE MAGNA CARTA was signed 800 years ago (well almost) on 15th June 1215. It means, of course, Great Charter. In fact it was so great that it was redundant by the middle of September of the same year, after having been annulled by Pope by letters dated the 24th August. But it did live on …….


King John (reign 1199-1216)

Basically King John was a bit of a tyrant king, wanting supreme power over the Church and his barons. Being very silly, by 1204, he had lost most of his ancestral lands in France to Philip II and so he raised taxes on his barons to ‘save-up’ for a conquest of France to retrieve these lands. Result: very miffed barons. It didn’t help that John was a bit naughty with some of these barons’ wives and daughters but we won’t go there.   The barons in the north and east of England ganged together taking an oath to ‘stand fast for the liberty of the church and the realm’ and raised their ‘We Hate John’ banners. Civil war was looming.

Philip_II,_King_of_France,Philip II of France (reign 1180-1223)

John took an oath to become a crusader trusting that such an action would put him in favour with the Church (remember the Knight Templar crusader monks last week) – or, at least give him some protection under church (papal) law. I bet he had his fingers crossed behind his back when he took that oath.


King John’s seal used to sign the Magna Carta and other documents making other promises he wouldn’t keep

Anyway, to avoid civil war, John and his barons met at Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta which had been drawn up by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was an agreement of 63 clauses including the protection of church rights, prevention of unlawful imprisonment of barons, swift access to justice and limitations on taxes and other feudal payments to the Crown.  Any impeachment of terms by the King would be enforced by 25 barons (the ‘security clause’). It’s known as a liberty agreement but it only affected the higher ranking members of society – about 10-20% of the populace – so a democratic document it was not. In effect, the Magna Carta was a peace treaty between John and his rebel barons.


King John (reluctantly) signing the Magna Carta

Needless to say, it almost immediately encountered problems. Firstly, the barons refused to surrender London which they controlled; secondly, the agreement forbid an appeal to any higher authority but John complained to the Pope, Innocent III (ironically, because I don’t suppose John accepted the Pope as a higher authority), as Langton (above) refused to enforce an earlier excommunication against the rebel barons (why would he if they had come to a peaceful agreement?!). Thirdly, Langton refused to give up Rochester Castle which was strategically vital as it guarded the access to the coast and a defensive position for any possible invasion by the French at Dover (so John wanted control over it). Then, when the Pope read the Magna Carta he was not impressed, particularly with the ‘security clause’ which implied use of violence which made the agreement unlawful in canon (church) law. That was it and, in August, the Pope sent his papal bull letters denouncing the agreement presumably as a ‘load of old bull’ (sorry).


Pope Innocent III (1161-1216)

Civil war was inevitable as the barons were convinced (probably even prior to the signing of the charter) that John was going to be impossible to deal with. They allied with King Philip of France who sent them his son, the future Louis VII, to claim the English throne. Well, why not. The conflict achieved very little and John died in October 1216 leaving the crown to his nine year old son, Henry III (and if you remember last week, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke was his regent). The charter was then resurrected – three times, in fact, during Henry’s reign – in 1216, 1217 and 1225  with Pembroke and the papal legate Guala sealing it whilst Henry was ‘under-age’. On each occasion certain modifications were made to it including the removal of the ‘security clause’. In 1253 it was first proclaimed to the public at large and, as well as its re-issue, Henry promised around a dozen or so times to uphold it. In 1297, Henry’s successor, his son Edward I, reissued the 1225 charter and guaranteed to comply with it on various occasions thereafter, as have the monarchs over the centuries ever since (okay, Charles I was a little difficult with it but there was no need to lose his head over it). It is this 1297 re-issue that sort of remains in force today.


Henry III (reign 1216-1272)

I say ‘sort of remains in force today’ because most of the clauses were repealed in Queen Victoria’s reign and a few more during the 20th century leaving, now, only four in force, 1, 13, 39 and 40. Clause 1 confirms that the English Church shall be free to elect its own dignitaries without royal interference; clause 13 grants ancient liberties and free customs (trade) by land and water and to all other cities and towns;  clause 39 protects against unlawful imprisonment; clause 40 prevents a denial of justice. So there you have it – a great charter minus 59 of its original 63 clauses, although it had a great effect on future monarchs and their relationship with what was to become parliament. It stands for liberty, or, as the esteemed judge Lord Denning described it in 1964, ‘the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot’. Well, in principle anyway.


 1216 Magna Carta in the British London

 Many copies of the charter have been made over the centuries but there are very few of the ‘original copies’ around today. The ‘very original’ Magna Carta signed by John no longer exists but several copies were made for distribution around the realm. Only four of these 1215 copies still exist, two are in the British Library in London, one of which has suffered fire damage and is illegible but the only one to retain its seal (the other one, pictured above, was saved by the antiquarian, Sir Robert Cotton, from being cut up by his tailor for use as suit patterns). Another one is in Salisbury Cathedral, and the other in Lincoln Cathedral (both of these have been with these Cathedrals since 1215.  One 1216 original remains and is at Durham Cathedral.  Four 1217 editions still exist, three in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (one with William Marshall’s seal) and one at Hereford Cathedral.  A 1225 edition (the ‘Lacock Magna Carta’) had been hidden under the floorboards of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire by its owner Miss Talbot in 1939 until 1945 and is now in the British Library. This one was to be loaned to the USA (the English setting up in the New World in the 17th century relied on the liberties of the Magna Carta) and a certain Lt-Cdr Douglas Fairbanks Jr USN set aside a public holiday as  a result (such authority for a movie star!),  but the loan required an Act of Parliament and Parliament couldn’t agree – nothing new there.  However, fear not America, there is a 1297 one in the US which was sold by the Brudenell family (the earls of Cardigan), to the Perot Foundation in the US in 1985, who sold to a US businessman, David Rubenstein, for $21.3 million dollars, who then gave it on permanent loan to the National Archives in Washington. Well done that man.


The 1297 Rubenstein Magna Carta in Washington US

However, the 1297 Bruton Magna Carta was a bargain compared with the Rubenstein MC as it was sold at auction by the King’s School, Bruton, UK, to the Australian Government for only £12,500, although that was in 1952, and it is now on display in Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. It was not clear how the school came by this document – one suggestion was that it was simply found in a school desk in the 1936! The British Museum wanted to keep it but couldn’t afford it (they were thinking of offering around £2,500). Then there’s the ‘twist’ to the story. Later investigations revealed that the Bruton Magna Carta would have been part of a collection of documents, including a companion to the Magna Carta, the Forest Charter also of 1297 bearing the same sealing, owned by the nunnery at Eastbourne Priory in Sussex. On the dissolution of the monasteries the priory and its documents were transferred into private hands and the documents found their way into the possession of a solicitor, one John Louche of Drayton. In 1905, John Douche’s son granted all these documents to the British Museum.  The documents included the 1297 Forest Charter but not the Magna Carta. It should have been among the documents being a companion to the same-year and same-sealed Forest Charter. It would appear that John Douche may have muddled up the priory documents at some point and the Magna Carta had been accidentally ‘filed’ away with papers that eventually found their way to King’s School Bruton. So,  in reality, it was highly likely that the British Museum should have had the Magna Carta free of charge. Hmmm …… solicitors!


  The 1297 Bruton Magna Carta on display in Canberra, Australia


Next week: Odd bods: the druid who created cremation ……

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I was acquainted (not by friendship I must add) with a solicitor of rather undesirable habits, one of which was his continual boasting of his powers of negotiation.

 He met his match the other day with a good friend of mine, a barrister, Soames Maltravers.

 Now Maltravers had a great legal mind and would charge £100 for each question he answered. The solicitor was determined to negotiate a better deal. He asked Maltravers, “Can I ask you two questions for £150?”

 Maltravers responded, “Indeed you may. What’s the second question?”



Sadly and tragically, Dud left us on 28th January 2016 whilst undergoing emergency heart surgery.  However, I (that is Sarah, his wife) have decided to keep the blog (and his memory) alive.  I will leave his ‘contents intro’ exactly as he wrote it, but I will update it as I add in new blogs myself.

New posts from Mrs Dud

July 2016

Travels in Crete 8 – Boat Trips, Churches, Houses & Cemeteries

Let’s Talk About ……

February 2016

Dr Dud and ‘I am Spartacus’

Dr Dud by Mrs Dud



Original Contents from Dr Dud

Many thanks for following my blog. If are receiving the blog through the email it may be coming out with a rather bland white background and, in some cases, you have to click in a box for the pictures. To avoid this, when you get notification of the blog through the email, your best bet is to simply click on either as a separate link on an email or in Google – then you get the pretty blue background and should have no problem with the pictures.

For those of you just picking up the odd post, here is my contents list. If you want to see any post  in particular, just click on the the title below, or if you are looking for something specific, click on a likely Categories link on the right.


January 2016

Kit Carson in the Wild West

Travels in Crete 7: the Greek Epiphany

The Romans and the Space Shuttle

December 2015

Merry Christmas (and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)



Battle of Waterloo

November 2015

If you go down to the woods today …. (teddy bears)

The Curse of Cowdray House

Dan Snow on the Mary Rose

The Linnean Society

October 2015

Battle of Agincourt

Alfred Wallace on evolution: credit where due

That Hamilton Woman: Hollywood fact or fiction?

Matinee idols: a role for men – but is it worth it?

Non-national Knighthoods

September 2015

A walk from Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge

The Iliad in print

Buying a Book of Hours 2

Buying a Book of Hours

August 2015

The Venerable Bede on immigration

Latest publications

The Magna Carta revisited

Travels in Crete 6: keep out the water

Travels in Crete 5: Toplou revisited

Travels in Crete 4: the anniversary

July 2015

The British Skiing and the Ski Club of Great Britain

Diving the Red Sea

Travels in Crete 3: religious sanctuaries


June 2015


George Jeffreys: The Hanging Judge

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

My Cousin Ralph (Judge Ralph Garlick)

May 2015

200 years of Oxford rowing

The Other ‘Great Escape’ (Alcoentre prison)

Outlander – and the Jacobite Rebellion

Alcibiades the Lad

Greek Drama-rama

April 2015

300 [Spartans}: Hollywood fact or fiction?

17th century British Travellers to Crete

Travels in Crete 2: Bramber Tours

Charles I: above the Law?

March 2015

Stonehenge and the druids

Mary Rose

Herstmonceux Castle

Thomas Edward Booth of the Booth Museum

February 2015

Juries – a good thing or a bad thing

The Parthenon – then and now

Wolf Hall, Anne Boleyn and all that

Thomas Spratt – antiquarian traveller to Crete

January 2015

Robert Pashley – antiquarian traveller to Crete

Richard Pococke – antiquarian traveller to Crete

Odd Bods: Eadweard Muybridge

Odd Bods: William Price- the druid who created cremation

Magna Carta … and all that

December 2014

Middle Temple and Temple Church

Brasenose – an Oxford College

Ye Olde Bramber Castle Inn

Thomas Spratt and the Fellows marbles

November 2014

Lord Elgin loses his marbles

The Grand Tour

Homer and the Bagpus theory

Gladiator: Hollywood fact or fiction?

Devolopment of Societies with archaeological interests

October 2014

Glastonbury: fact and fiction?

U-boats: U-671 and U-413 and sinking of HMS Warwick

Tutankhamun: road traffic accident?

Spartacus: Hollywood fact or fiction?

September 2014

Decipherment of Linear B

E for Excellent class submarines in the Dardanelles

K for Klot class submarines

Ill met by moonlight: Hollywood fact or fiction?

August 2014

John Pendlebury

Wild Bill [Hickok]: Hollywood fact or fiction?

Alamo: Hollywood fact or fiction?

Lawrence of Arabia: Hollywood fact or fiction?

The Great Escape: Hollywood fact or fiction?

July 2014

House of Virgin Mary, Ephesus

Troy: Hollywood fact or fiction?

Mycenae forgotten tombs

Mycenae citadel

June 2014

Crete: the island that tipped

The Labyrinth of Minos in Crete

Myth and the Minoans

Bronze Age Crete: the Minoans

May 2014

Travels in Crete: Mochlos

St Mary’s, Bramber

Ghosts of Bramber Castle

St Nicholas’ Church at Bramber Castle

Artemus Smith

April 2014

Bramber Castle – architecture and archaeology

Bramber Castle – history