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Making History
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Listen to the latest edition of Making HistoryTuesday 3.00-3.30 p.m
Vanessa Collingridge and the team answer listener’s historical queries and celebrate the way in which we all ‘make’ history.
Programme 11
9 December 2008
Vanessa Collingridge and the team explore themes from Britain’s past thanks to queries raised by listener’s own historical research.

Listen to this programme in full

Church Spires

A Making History listener has just returned from a trip to Turkey and was rather taken with the minarets, or tall spires, found on Mosques. Could it be, she wondered, that British crusaders saw these back in the 11th and 12th centuries and then introduced them here?

Making History consulted Dr Richard Plant at Christie’s Education in London  who explained that the church spire was more of a technological innovation of the French gothic than a cultural or spiritual introduction.

It could be argued that the tower of Sompting church in West Sussex  is our earliest example of a spire or ‘Rhenish helm’ as it is properly called. However, it is agreed that the 12th century spire on Chartres cathedral in France is the best example of the early gothic spire and shows that architects and church-builders had managed to safely unite two different shapes – one square and the other pyramidal. In Britain,

Salisbury Cathedral’s 123 metre spire built between 1320 and 1380 is the tallest of the period anywhere in the world. Richard Plant accepts that the development of spires may well have been encouraged by a kind of municipal display of importance and that churchgoers would have seen the spire reaching to the heavens, but the real influence was technological from just across the North Sea and English Channel in Germany and France – not Turkey and the Middle East.
Who drained the Fens?

A Making History listener has found evidence that two Irish ancestors settled in Crowland near Peterborough in the 1630’s at the time when the drainage of the Fens was just about to begin. There is a suggestion that they may have been gifted land in return for their work on the drainage programme. Is this evidence of our first Irish navvies and, if not, who did all the spadework?

Making History’s Richard Daniel met up with social historian Dr Heather Falvey on the Ouse Washes in west Norfolk  where she explained the work that was carried out in the 1630’s. Then they moved to the Cambridgeshire Record Office in Cambridge to see if there were any record for the labourers.

Useful websites

There are several websites that tell the story of the drainage of the Fens, particular the work in the 1630s by Vermuyden the Dutch engineer who was sponsored by the Earl of Bedford. 
Wisbech and the Fenlands
Huntingdonshire Info
Vermuyden on Rootsweb
Teaching the Eighteenth Century

Following a discussion in last week’s Making History ( 2/12/08) in which a contributor suggested that a lack of research in our universities held back the teaching of the eighteenth century in our schools, one or two institutions contacted the programme to tell us that they put great emphasis on this period.

Southampton centre for Eighteenth Century Studies

Royal Holloway University of London

Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Exeter

Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, University of York

Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, Queens University. Belfast.

King’s College London

University of Sheffield

University of Leeds 

The British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies
The Whaler Diana

A Making History listener has discovered that two of his ancestors were aboard a Hull whaler caught in the Arctic ice for 13 months in the 1860’s. Making History consulted the outgoing Keeper of Maritime History at Kingston upon Hull Museum, Arthur Credland.

Useful Links
Shetland Marine News
National Register of Archives
Hull Museum’s Collection
Cornish Wrecking
Did the sea-faring communities of Cornwall really lure ships on to the rocks using false lights? Making History consulted Dr Cathryn Pearce from the University of Alaska and the Greenwich Maritime Institute and Dr Helen Doe of the University of Exeter

Cathyrn Pearce pointed out that most of the stories of false lights do not appear in primary sources until the mid-nineteenth century. She thinks that it is the romantic novelists of the Victorian period and the Methodist revival at this time that stokes up inaccurate stories about Cornish wreckers. She points out that local people have always salvaged material from wrecks and this is what many Cornish people understood by the term ‘wrecking’, however, the Methodists in particular need a ‘bogeyman’ and so-called ‘wreckers’ become such people. Records show that the Methodists used examples of people who were new to their faith who had, allegedly, once been ‘wreckers’, then turning over a new leaf and shunning their sinful past. There are also stories where the facts have been substantially changed throughout history, Cathryn points to one from the Scillies – see National Maritime Museum Cornwall

Helen Doe also thinks that the actions of smugglers may well have been confused with those of ‘wreckers’. The former used lights on cliff-tops to signal to ships at sea and this is where the legend of ‘false-lights’ has come from.
    Contact  Making History
    Use this link to email Vanessa Collingridge and the team: email Making History

    Write to: Making History
    BBC Radio 4
    PO Box 3096
    BN1 1TU

    Telephone: 08700 100 400

    Making History is produced by Nick Patrick and is a Pier Production.
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    Making History

    Vanessa Collingridge
    Vanessa CollingridgeVanessa has presented science and current affairs programmes for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Discovery and has presented for BBC Radio 4 & Five Live and a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday, Scotsman and Sunday Herald. 

    Contact Making History

    Send your comments and questions for future programmes to:
    Making History
    BBC Radio 4
    PO Box 3096 Brighton
    BN1 1PL

    Or email the programme

    Or telephone the Audience Line 08700 100 400

    Making History is a Pier Production for BBC Radio 4 and is produced by Nick Patrick.

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