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The Death of Katherine Raleigh’s Youngest Son, Sir Walter and The Red Velvet Bag

October 28, 2023






Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh (painted around 1598) National Gallery of Ireland via Wikimedia Commons










There was an autumnal chill in the air as Sir Walter Raleigh left the cell in the Gatehouse near the West end of Westminster Abbey where he had spent what was to be his last night on earth.

On the morning of the twenty-ninth day of October 1618, the feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude and the day of Lord …

The Haccombe Horseshoes

August 29, 2023

These ancient horseshoes are nailed to the door of St  Blaise, Church, Haccombe, Devon.


Only one and half horseshoes still cling there today, but the marks where nails once held the other two shoes from a set or four are clearly visible in the weathered wood.




The Legend

Legend has it that these horseshoes belonged to a valiant steed, victor in a most extraordinary race to decide a reckless wager to decide the ownership of the Manor of Haccombe.


Inhabiting their sixteenth century world  — dressing as they did

June 20, 2023

The late Dame Hilary Mantel advised that those who aspire to write historical fiction should aim to inhabit the era in which their writing is set.

“Live in that world,” she said, “and this magic day comes and it becomes solid and real.  If you can get your five senses working for you, you are home and eventually your dreams will move to your chosen period as well.”

I’ve taken that advice on board and I now spend much more time in the sixteenth century than the twenty-first.

I …

Dartington Hall and John Holand’s White Hart Badge

February 12, 2023

Dartington Hall and John Holand’s White Hart Badge

Always look up as you enter the porch at Dartington Hall. In the centre, where the ribs of the vaulting meet, you will see a carved boss; a white hart atop a red rose from beneath which a few wheat ears protrude.










It is believed the carving was installed when John Holand (c.1352-16 January 1400), 1st Duke of Exeter, 1st Earl of Huntingdon and half brother …

Valentine’s day and the Tudors

February 12, 2023

Valentine’s day and the Tudors

Nowadays, in England and many other countries, February 14 is traditionally the day to present gifts like chocolates and flowers or to send cards and messages to those we love — all in the name of St Valentine. But who exactly was St Valentine and how was his feast day celebrated in the sixteenth century?




Early origins

The origins of our modern day festival of romance are shrouded in mystery. There is even confusion about the …

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