London, Manchester and Cobh, July 2004

History facts and figures

Chelsea Royal Hospital

Founded in 1682 and sponsored by Charles II, the Hospital was intended as a home for pensioned soldiers who had seen active duty but were either no longer able to serve due to injury or age. Parliament would not fund the hospital so Sir Stephen Fox bought the land and contributed 7000GB and the hospital has been supported by donations and pensions ever since. When James II became king, there were delays in completing the building due to mismanagement of the funding and military under his appointments but the first residents finally moved in in 1692. The buildings were expanded and more built on the grounds through the first half of the 18th century. The hospital still houses about 400 men at any given time, of pensionable age or disabled by active duty. They receive room, board, food, clothing and medical care in return for their pensions. They can also only be accepted as residents if they have no family that needs supporting.

There are lovely gardens, Ranelagh Gardens named after the late 17th C Earl of Ranelagh who acquired more land for the hospital. The Chelsea Flower show has been held on the south grounds since the early 20th C. Also on the grounds are two sets of artillery guns, some from the Napoleonic wards and some from the Indian Sikh wars. Bomb damage cause major reconstruction of some parts in both World Wars and the rooms or berths have been expanded to their present 9x9 square feet in 1991. The Sovereign's Mace and a Royal Parade chair are on display in the museum as well, the Mace being used in parades and for formal occasions.

There is extensive history and information on the buildings and history of the hospital on the website

Sir John Soane

Soane, an architect in the late 18th early 19th century, was responsible for a number of important buildings in the London area including the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. He was also attended and was later an instructor at the Royal Academy. He demolished and rebuilt three houses on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields and bequeathed them on his death to the nation to house his collection of antiquities, art and ephemera. The Website has an extensive list of all the collections which are very accessible, and the entrance to the museum is free.

Lincoln's Inn and the Inns of Court

One of the four Inns of Court, Lincoln"s Inn has records that go back as far as the early 15th c. The Inns of Court are organizations or societies of lawyers who for 500 years have been responsible for calling lawyers to the bar, hence "Barristers". They are also responsible for the law schools. There are four Inns of Court, Lincoln"s Inn, Gray"s Inn, Middle Temple and Inner Temple. All the Inns are in the same area, with Gray"s inn just north of Holborn and Chancery Lane/Carey Street, then Lincoln"s Inn which is just above the Royal Courts of Justice and the Middle and Inner Temple across the Strand near the Thames. Lincoln"s Inn is the oldest by documentation and probably even older than that. In medieval days, the concept of "Inn" meant hostels or housing for students. Very likely the name was derived from the third Earl of Lincoln who"s coat of arms contributes to the coat of arms of the Inn. The Inns became the epicentre for law, providing living accommodations, dining halls, libraries, and offices and chambers in which to work. These days few live there but it"s still the location of choice for barristers and solicitors, it"s close proximity to the law courts and Old Bailey contributing to it"s continuing longevity.

Thomas More

Sir Thomas More was a respected statesman and chancellor during the reign of Henry VIII. He was also a personal friend to the king. He attended Oxford and became a Law Student at Lincoln's Inn. He was a known scholar and became good friends with the philosopher Erasmus. He had thought at one time to study for the priesthood but in the end gave that up though he was always a strict and devoted Catholic. He was a member of Parliament during the reign of Henry VII and had a wife and family whom he adored. His star in the court of Henry VIII rose as he became ambassador, privy councillor, Speaker of the House of Commons, knighted and was eventually granted the office of Chancellor where he was responsible for keeping the laws against heresy. When Henry declared himself Supreme head of the Church in England, More resigned but it was not accepted. He strongly objected to Henry rejecting the authority of the Pope and his plans to divorce Queen Catherine. He refused to swear an oath that backed up the Act of Succession, and his downfall was complete. He was arrested and indicted for high treason and was beheaded on Tower Hill on July 6, 1535. A more detailed biography is found here.

Crosby Hall

Originally built in Bishopsgate in 1466, it was the home of Sir John Crosby. Richard III lived here when he was Duke of Gloucester and was later owned by Sir Thomas More during the reign of Henry VIII. It survived the Fire of London in 1666 but when it was in the path of progress in the early 20th c. it was dismantled and moved to Chelsea on the site of More's country estate, specifically where the orchards stood. Currently there is a project underway to convert the town house into a Tudor mansion, with the original manor house forming one side of a quadrangle so most of it will be changed dramatically from it's original state.

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester)

Richard was the younger brother of Edward IV, created Duke of Gloucester at his brother's coronation. He married Anne Neville of the powerful Neville family, the Earls of Warwick and had a son but the boy died in 1484. He was on the York side of the Wars of the Roses that had been ongoing for several decades. He manipulated himself into a position of power when Edward died, leaving two young boys, Edward and Richard as the heir and spare to the throne. Richard and his cohorts managed to have the heirs declared illegitimate and they imprisoned the two boys in the Tower of London. They never appeared in public again. Richard claimed the throne in 1483 but only kept hold of it for two years, defeated at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian, who's own claim to the throne was shaky at best. (grandson of an illegitimate son of Edward III's second son!) Richard was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty began with Henry II in the 12th C. and the last of the British monarchs to die in battle. The Tudor propaganda factory made sure Richard was portrayed as an evil murderer though the evidence is clearly circumstantial, reinforced by Shakespeare's plays in the early 17th C.

Regent Canal

The Regent Canal was built to link the Grand Junction canal from the Thames to the rising industrial center of the country around Birmingham and was finished in 1820. The famous architect John Nash was one of the directors of the company that sponsored the project. It was key in handling inland freight, pulled on barges by horses who walked along tow paths to either side. The Regent Canal was built as an extension to the Grand Union canal and the original route was to be through Regent Park but the exclusive residential area frowned upon the intrusion of commercial traffic. The advent of the train took a lot of business away from the canals eventually but during the 20th century during WWII, the canals again became busy as a replacement for the railways. Commercial traffic vanished eventually but the canals have become open to the public for tours and private boats and houseboats. The old warehouses and factories are being demolished and replaced by houses and residential developments. At the eastern end there is now a Canal museum and a complete history of the canal can be found here.