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Making History
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Listen to the latest editionTuesday 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 8
22 May 2007

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Lambin Warrin

Did a thirteenth century coppersmith from the town of Dinant in Belgium save King Henry III from drowning in Portsmouth harbour in 1226? Nick Baker travelled to Belgium to find our more.

This is the local legend as told to Making History by listener Iain Wood:

The town of Dinant, Belgium, has the honour of being the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. Of course, not only being an accomplished musician, he also needed his skills as a coppersmith to enable him to make the instrument. Dinant, with more than 800 years of coppersmith related trades has also someone else, perhaps a little less renowned but again just as important, (especially for England) to be embraced as a local hero. This man was Lambin Warrin.

In 1226, Warrin participated like many others in his trade, in the creation of religious artefacts for the local schools, churches and monasteries. (the Dinant monastery is where the famous Leffe trapiste beer is made). Kitchenware objects were also made and these were mostly destined for export to England. On one of his trips and having taken his usual place on Portsmouth harbour with 2 of his shipmates, Warrin prepared his merchandise for another day of sales. Early on in the afternoon, King Henry the 3rd arrived with his entourage to admire the market. During his walk–around, the unfortunate King stumbled and fell into the water. Being unable to swim, Warrin dived from his rowing boat to save the King's life.

In Dinant there are records indicating that the Royal Household sent money to Dinant as a thank-you and this money was used to reconstruct part of the local church after a rockslide from the adjacent cliffs. The King also offered the town 4 coats of arms which can be seen to this day in the same church…, La Collégiale Notre-Dame.

Making History consulted Professor David Carpenter at King’s College London. David is our leading authority on the reign of Henry III and author of these related works:

The Struggle for Mastery in Britain 1066-1284 (Oxford University Press, 2003)

The Reign of Henry III (Hambledon, 1996)

The Minority of King Henry III (Methuen, 1990)

Unfortunately for the people of Dinant, Professor Carpenter doesn’t think the story stands up. He checked the rolls for this period (the so-called ‘fine’ rolls) which provide a real insight into the life and times of Henry. There is no record of him being in Portsmouth in 1226. Indeed it also shows that monies sent to Dinant were for providing Henry with ships in his ongoing attempts to reclaim possessions in France – not for saving Henry for drowning. Furthermore, there is a record noting that Warrin failed to provide a vessel for the King. It seems that most of the Dinant legend comes about because an historian in the 1950’s misinterpreted records held in the town.

Professor Carpenter also spoke about the thirteenth century court rolls which provide a unique insight into the reign of Henry III. These have been translated and digitised by the Henry III Fine Rolls Project

Useful Links 

See more information on the town of Dinant 

More information on the reign of Henry III

Kids Zone

Admiral Vernon and the Battle for Carthagena

Making History listener Carlos Saenz is frustrated by the lack of information available on the Battle for Carthagena in Colombia in 1741. Dr Pieter van der Merwe, General Editor of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich provided information and insight.

Useful links:

War of Jenkins' Ear

Portobello and Carthagena

National Portrait Gallery

Royal Naval Museum

National Maritime Museum
The cartography of 18th and 19th century sealers and whalers

Dr Bob Headland, former archivist at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, explained the importance of the sealing and whaling industries in the mapping of the antartica.

Useful links

Scott Polar Research Institute

Cool Antarctica


New Zealand in History

Contact  Making History
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Write to: Making History
BBC Radio 4
PO Box 3096

Telephone: 08700 100400

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

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

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