How a part of Brunel’s Great Eastern ended up at Liverpool FC

At the South Eastern tip of Millwall near Canary Wharf in the East End of London lie the remains of the SS Great Eastern’s launch ramp. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Eastern was no ordinary ship, it was a structure so magnificent people paid just to walk around it. The ship was a massive 22,500-tons and nearly 700 feet in length and was so far ahead of its time that that it would be nearly four decades before the world would see a ship of this magnitude.

Brunel was the greatest engineer of his time, best known for the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the building of the Great Western Railway, connecting London to New York via Bristol and designing a ship which would ferry passengers from Bristol to New York, the Great Western at that time was the largest ship ever built.

Originally called the Leviathan, the Great Eastern had problems from the outset, on the day of her launch in front of 3000 paying customers she failed to launch, she was positioned sideways on iron rails to supposedly make the launch easier but due to technical difficulties she failed to enter the Thames, it would be another three months before the ship entered the Thames, much to the embarrassment of Brunel.  After being fitted out at Deptford, the ship was ready for its trials in September 1859.

Sadly Brunel who had made a final inspection visit on board the ship collapsed with a stroke and later died. From the outset the Great Eastern was plagued with ill-luck, with several fatalities during her construction and several more on the day of her botched launch. In September 1859, the ship was on her maiden voyage in the English Channel when she suffered a major explosion to one of her funnels and another five men were killed.

The Great Eastern struggled to find enough passengers on both the Australian or American route and as a consequence the company liquidated, the ship was put up for sale in 1864, with no one willing to purchase this magnificent vessel she was chartered to the Telegraph Construction Company, for the purpose of laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable.

After the world’s first submarine telegraph cable was laid connecting Dover with Calais in France in 1851 and a longer connection was laid linking Britain and Ireland. The next big target was North America where an attempt to lay a cable across the Atlantic in1858 was initially successful but unfortunately the signal only lasted a week, this however  proved that it was technically possible.

The Great Eastern was the only ship big enough to take the length of cable required for this huge operation, and it took five months just to load it. The first voyage of the new venture took place on 14 July 1865 to connect the 2600 miles of cable between Valentia Island, County Kerry and Newfoundland and although this too proved unsuccessful due to machinery hitches, plans were immediately in place for another attempt the following year in which this proved successful. For the next few years the Great Eastern went on to successfully lay many more submarine cables in many parts of the world, by 1872 she became redundant in this role after the introduction of purpose built cable-laying ships and spent the next 12 years laid up at Milford Haven on the South West Coast of Wales.

In 1885 the now redundant Great Eastern was transferred to the River Mersey and turned into a music hall and fun fair by the department store Lewis’s at a shilling a head, this magnificent structure was also used by Lewis’s as a giant billboard. After exhibition trips to Dublin and the River Clyde she returned to the River Mersey and in 1888 she was auctioned off.

This once great structure that played such a major role in the history of world communications ended its days at the mercy of the breakers, who took 2 years to dismantle her. 200 men worked on her consuming a total of 3.5 million man hours. Apparently skeletal remains were found inside the double hull of the ship, this would have occurred during the construction of the ship.

However, this was not the end for all of the Great Eastern due to the fact that the owners of Everton FC, who were then the custodians of Anfield, where Liverpool FC play today purchased one of the ship’s masts and placed it close to the Kop end at Anfield. The Great Eastern had 7 masts, each of them being called after the days of the week the one that stands proudly close to the entrance of what is now globally known as the Kop is called the Thursday mast

Liverpool FC was formed in 1892 and the original occupants Everton FC moved across Stanley Park to Goodison. Liverpool FC and its fans can proudly boast that they have a rare piece of history, a tribute to the greatest engineer Britain has ever known – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, architect of the SS Great Eastern.

This account came about thanks to the curiosity of an 12 year old Liverpool supporter called Paul Kelly who now lives in Belfast.


Highbury Barn Tavern and its sumptuous past

Highbury Barn Tavern

For many Arsenal supporters the Highbury Barn Tavern is a place to have a drink or meal before and after a match and to soak up the atmosphere before they stroll to the stadium, but did you know this was one of the most popular and talked about establishments throughout London in the 1800’s.

Highbury Barn started life as a small ale and cake house  in 1840, during these times Londoners flocked to drink milk that was still warm from the cow, and to eat cakes dipped in cream, custards plus many other dairy dishes. Highbury Barn grew into a tavern with tea-gardens and as trade increased the barn was extended and fitted out to the highest standard.

The enterprising owners added a hop plantation and brewery and added a bowling green with trap and ball ( a very old game played in England since the Middle Ages)grounds to compliment the tea gardens. It became widely known as a hub for public dinners for corporate bodies, public charities, clubs, and many other societies and could justly boast  that this magnificent location was one of the most popular venues for food and entertainment anywhere in London or its environs. It is hard to imagine today but over 1,500 guests could be accommodated at this hostelry with 800 people at any one time sitting down to a hot dinner and where you had the sight of seventy geese roasting on the one fire.

Highbury Barn was the scene of many festive celebrations and became renowned for its public entertainment with a hotel, public gardens, and a regularly licensed theatre along with  a sumptuous dancing saloon. Locals in the area did not share or support this place of entertainment and felt the area was becoming run down as a result of the loose morals attached to this establishment. After continuous complaints and petitions from the local residents the dancing licence for Highbury Barn was refused in 1871. It is believed that the final straw came when a riotous party of students from St Bartholomew’s hospital got out of hand.

During the opulent times of Highbury Barn in the 1800’s these were the customs and ettiquette that afternoon entailed:

Cream Tea was a simple tea consisting of scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd and tea.

Low Tea or Afternoon Tea was an afternoon meal which included sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, curd with 2-3 sweets and tea, it was known as “low tea” because guests were seated in low armchairs with low side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.

Royale Tea was a social tea that was served with champagne at the beginning or sherry at the end of the tea.

High Tea although perceived  as an idea of elegancy and regal-ness was in fact an evening meal which was most often enjoyed around 6 pm as labourers and miners returned home. High tea consists of meat and potatoes as well as other foods and tea. It was not exclusively a working class meal but was adopted by all social groups. Families with servants often took high tea on Sundays in order to allow the maids and butlers time to go to church and not worry about cooking an evening meal for the family.

The etiquette for those attending tea parties in Highbury Barn would have commenced with a greeting and a handshake, after sitting down the lady puts her purse on her lap or against the chair back, the napkin is then unfolded on the persons lap. Sugar is placed in the cup first and then a thinly sliced lemon however milk and lemon must never be mixed together the milk always goes in after the tea is poured. An old French superstition says that to put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love and perhaps never to marry.”

The correct order when eating on a tea tray is to eat savouries first, scones next and sweets last. However it is best to eat the scones first while they are hot and then move on to the savouries followed by sweets.

Scones must be split horizontally with a knife and curd and cream is then placed on the plate, the knife is used to put cream and curd on each bite then eat with fingers neatly.

The spoon always goes behind the cup and you should never leave the spoon in the cup. The correct holding of the cup is not to put your pinky finger “up”. A guest should look into the teacup when drinking never over it.

The birth of the raised pinkie goes back to ancient Rome when a cultured person would eat with 3 fingers and a commoner with five, today this 3 fingers etiquette rule is still correct when picking up food with the fingers and handling various pieces of flatware. This pinky “up” descended from a misinterpretation of the 3 fingers vs 5 fingers dining etiquette in the 11th century, in fact tea cups originally did not even have handles. Chinese tea bowls were used as the first European teacups and the English continued to make cups without handles in the traditional Chinese style until the middle 1700’s when a handle was added to prevent the ladies from burning their fingers. The saucer was once a small dish for sauce. In Victorian days, tea drinkers poured their tea into saucers to cool before sipping, this was perfectly acceptable.

Today you can visit The Highbury Barn Tavern and feast on this locations fantastic history, this traditional iconic London pub offers the finest food and drink and Footie fans can get three chances to eat during match nights with its quickie menu before the game or dining and viewing during the game, or dinner afterwards.

Greenwich Park is no ordinary park.

Greenwich Park is no ordinary park, it takes you on a journey through parts of our royal and scientific past that no other park can equal, this is a quick guide for those who have not been fortunate enough to visit this magnificent location.

With its magnificent views from the top of the park you can see the City of London, the Docklands and of course the River Thames and is the setting for several historic buildings, including the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House.

Henry VIII introduced deer to the park and in the early 1600’s when the park was laid out in the French style, many trees were planted, some of which remain today. After James I gave the palace and the park to his wife, Queen Anne, she commissioned Inigo Jones to design a special home which became known as the Queen’s House.

Charles II’s whose great interest in science resulted in the founding of The Royal Society in 1661. This led to the building of The Royal Observatory by Sir Christopher Wren, calling it Flamsteed House after the first Royal Astronomer John Flamsteed.  This is now part of the National Maritime Museum.

During World War II, there were anti-aircraft guns in the Flower Garden and the tips of some of the trees were cut off to widen the field of fire. Evidence of this can still be seen in the truncated shape of some of the trees. After the war, the park was restored to its former glory.

There has been a settlement on this site since Roman times, but Greenwich has always been strongly associated with royalty. Since the land was inherited in 1427 by the Duke of Gloucester, brother of Henry V, generations of monarchs have taken this magnificent park to their hearts.

Greenwich Park is not flat like most of the other Royal Parks and has been used to provide a wide range of landscapes to provide a setting for numerous and diverse uses from an observatory to a deer park. In the northern part of the park closest to Greenwich Town Centre you can see the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House which faces towards the Old Naval College to the north.

The Rose Garden which is located on the eastern side of the park and forms the backdrop to the Ranger’s House. This is an elegant Georgian villa which was originally the residence of the Park Ranger. It now belongs to English Heritage and houses the Wernher Collection, which is a collection of works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).

The Rose Garden was originally planted in 1960-61 and was enlarged and replanted in 1993-4 at which time it was enclosed on a yew hedge. The beds are laid out in a semi-circular design and planted with predominantly hybrid tea and floribunda roses, the rose garden peaks in flowering during June and July.

Another garden well worth visiting is the Flower Garden which was laid out in the late 1890’s. As one of the horticultural show pieces of Greenwich Park the Flower Garden has magnificent Cedar trees and Tulip trees set in fine lawns with seasonal beds of spring and summer flowers that are the classic Edwardian Garden. The Flower Garden is situated close to the lake and deer park.

The Herb Garden is located close to the St. Mary’s gate entrance to the park and beside St. Mary’s Lodge, it has an ornate pattern of box hedges that surrounds a central fountain, these are planted up with a wide variety of culinary herbs, this quiet corner of Greenwich Park offers an escape for park visitors.

The Queen’s Orchard is an enclosed area of approximately 0.3 hectares where fruit and vegetables are grown. It is located in the north-eastern corner of Greenwich Park. The Queen’s Orchard has a variety of heritage fruit trees that dates back to the 1500’s. The Queen’s Orchard has two ponds, a formal pond at the centre of the vegetable area and an informal pond by the fruit tree meadow.

The Queen’s Orchard has been part of Greenwich Park since the 17th century. It has been restored to its former glory with help from local volunteers and members of Greenwich Park Friends Group, in 2011 a variety of fruit trees were planted, with the earliest dating back to the 1500’s, pathways and planting beds were restored using timber and brick and two ponds were installed, a formal pond at the centre of the vegetable area and an informal pond by the fruit tree meadow. The Orchard’s name was found on records dating back to 1693 and has been incorporated into the new decorative gate.

The Queen’s Orchard now hosts ‘Meet the Expert Days’, where past and present Royal Parks staff are on hand to draw on their wealth of experience to help you with any allotment related questions and queries you may have.

The man who brought us drinking chocolate and his Chelsea past.

Sir Hans Sloane 

Sir Hans Sloane is remembered in place names throughout the Chelsea area, from Sloane Square to Hans Town to the Botanist pub. Hans Sloane was a physician and philanthropist and is best known for bringing to the nation a vast collection of natural specimens, books, coins, manuscripts and artefacts. But did you know he also introduced us to drinking chocolate.

Hans Sloane was born in County Down Northern Ireland in 1660 and studied botany at the Chelsea Physic Garden and chemistry at the Apothecaries’ Hall. He travelled around Europe to learn more about medicine and botany, and passed his Doctorate of Physic in 1683. Sloane became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1685 at the age of 25 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1687.

It was during his many visits to Jamaica that Sloane encountered cocoa where the locals were drinking it mixed with water. Sloane found the taste of this nauseating and decided to mix it with milk instead this made the drink much more pleasant. On returning to London he prescribed the milk for medicinal purposes as a beverage with health-giving properties, sometime later it came to the attention of the Cadbury brothers who purchased the recipe that Sloane had discovered in Jamaica. Cadbury produced their milk chocolate drink based on Sir Hans Sloane’s recipe between 1849 and 1875 and added their own milk chocolate bars in 1897.

Sloane was appointed the physician to three different monarchs during his life: Queen Anne in 1696, George I in 1716 and George II in 1727 and was knighted in 1716. He married Elizabeth Rose, a widow, in 1695, and they had two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth.

Sloane became president of the College of Physicians in 1719 and succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as president of the Royal Society in 1727. As a socially-minded man he used some of the fortune to give free services to the poor.

Sloane purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne to house and exhibit his growing collections in 1712. This also gave him the freehold of the Chelsea Physic Garden, which he supported by leasing it to the Society of Apothecaries in 1722 for £5 a year in perpetuity on the condition that ‘it be forever kept up and maintained as a physic garden’ and that 50 plant specimens a year were delivered to the Royal Society until 2,000 pressed and mounted species had been received. By 1795, the total had reached 3,700. The peppercorn rent is still paid to Sloane’s heirs at the Cadogan Estate by the charity that runs the Chelsea Physic Garden today.

Sloane retired to the Chelsea house that had been built for Henry VIII, where he remained until his death in 1753 at the age of 92 and was buried at Chelsea Old Church. In his will, Sloane offered his vast collection which consisted of over 71,000 natural history specimens, books, coins and medals to the nation for a fraction of its estimated value.

The collection was acquired by Parliament and used to found the British Museum and later the Natural History Museum. When he died, Sloane’s property was divided between his two daughters as his wife, Elizabeth, had died 29 years previously, in 1724.