Tag Archives: Russian Revolution

Newark-on-Trent, The English Civil War and The Castle

Newark Civil War Statue

After leaving the church I made my way through the elegant streets of Newark passing by half timbered medieval houses, grand Georgian mansions and rows of traditional shops.  In places it reminded me of The Shambles in York but without the crowds or the tourist tat shops.

My next destination was the National Civil War Museum because since my Dad bought me an Airfix model kit of Oliver Cromwell in about 1960 I have always been fascinated by the English Civil War.  I think this was a defining moment in my life, I immediately became a Roundhead, a Parliamentarian and later a socialist, on the side of the people fighting against wealth, influence, privilege and injustice.

There was also an Airfix model of Charles I but I had Cromwell first.

Crowell Charles Airfix

I also blame a book my Dad gave me about British heroes in which Cromwell was included but Charles Stuart wasn’t.

An illustration from the book…

Oliver Cromwell

In 2002 the BBC conducted a poll to identify the Greatest Briton and Cromwell came tenth, hard to believe that he could come behind Diana, Princess of Wales  and John Lennon but there you are, such is the nature of these polls and the mentality of the people who vote.  Two thousand years of history and Princess Diana and John Lennon make the top ten.  It leaves me speechless.

Due to its strategic significance linking north of the country with the south Newark had an important part to play in the Civil War and the town and its castle supported the Royalist cause and suffered in three destructive sieges which brought destruction, pestilence and disease to the town.  Parliamentary forces and their Scottish allies were desperate to oust the Royalist garrison. The last siege saw over sixteen thousand troops seal off the Nottinghamshire town and dam a river to stop water mills producing bread and gunpowder. An outbreak of typhus and plague added to Newark’s woes as the population swelled to six thousand as people fled to the town from the countryside, creating near starvation conditions.

A third of the inhabitants died and one in six buildings were destroyed.  Despite this calamity, the Royalist troops refused to give in.  The garrison were brave supporters of the King and the Cavaliers but eventually were obliged to surrender upon the inevitable capture of Charles.

It is an interesting museum but I found it a little disappointing, it is rather small and although it has some interesting exhibits the information boards and displays give only facts but not interpretation.  I wanted more than iron breast plates and plumed hats, more than flintlocks and helmets but I guess museums like these are for tourists rather than historians.

Newark Civil War Museum

I have always considered the English Civil War to be the most important conflict of modern Europe because this was a revolution which provided a blueprint for those that followed, principally the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The revolution begins with the moderates calling for reasonable and restrained reform for the exclusive benefit of the aforementioned wealthy and privileged who wanted even more power and wealth.  The problem with moderates of course is that they are on the whole reasonable people but by beginning a process of reform they provide an opportunity  for radicals and agitators to go much further and the English Revolution like those that followed swiftly gained pace.  After the radicals came the extremists, then war, then terror, then regicide.

The English Civil War swept away the supremacy of the Church of England, ended the Divine Right of Kings and embodied the principal of Parliamentary Sovereignty into UK politics.  It was the end of medieval feudalism and paved the way for the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the next century.  At its most radical period it introduced the principals of socialism and even communism through the power of the New Model Army and the social ambitions of the Diggers and the Levellers, both proto-socialist political movements.

It is a shame that King Charles had his head cut off but even after sixty years or so of being given that Airfix model I confess that I remain a loyal Roundhead rather than a Cavalier.

One thing that I did learn at the museum is that musket balls were made from lead and that 1lb of lead would make twelve balls and that this is the origin of the twelve bore shotgun.

Newark Castle 01

I finished my day at the ruins of Newark Castle. Prior to the Civil War it was a grand medieval showpiece fortress but today it is an empty shell. The Parliamentarian forces blew it up and left it derelict to make sure that it could never again be used as a royalist obstacle to parliamentary supremacy.  After the troops were obliged to leave it fell into disrepair and to the mercy of stone thieves who dismantled it as a convenient supply of building material until we are left with what we see today.

It is still rather grand, especially when viewed from the opposite bank of the River Trent but beyond the outer east wall nothing remains except the ghosts of history and pleasant modern gardens.

I had enjoyed my day at Newark-on-Trent and as I drove away I thought to myself that it was about time that I spent more days in the United Kingdom.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Lenin Mausoleum

Queuing up like this to spend a few seconds looking at a mummified corpse might seem like a strange thing to do but I was fascinated to be able to do this and to be able to see for myself one of the men who shaped the twentieth century and the cold war world of my childhood – a world of spies and espionage, nuclear weapons, underground fallout shelters for the great and the good and the constant nagging fear of Armageddon.  Of course I wanted to see him, I’d go and see the preserved body of Adolf Hitler if someone hadn’t poured petrol on it and set it alight!

Read the full story…

It’s Nice to Feel Useful (2)

  

It’s nice to feel useful…

Six months or so ago I took a look at my statistics and was baffled by some of the search questions that seemed to have brought web-surfers by to visit my site.  I have done it again looked at my statistics for the last month and selected my favourite  Search Engine terms that brought people to my blog.

I have set them out here together with a link to the appropriate page…

First off this time…

“do flights landing in Naples fly over Vesuvius?”

Vesuvius the crater

Now, this seems to me to be an especially dumb question.  I am not an expert on aviation or air traffic control but it seems very unlikely to me that aeroplane carrying over three hundred passengers landing at an international airport in Italy would want to fly over the top of a 1,300 metre high active volcano because it sounds full of potential hazards to me.

The page they were directed to was probably my post about my visit to the mountain.

  •  

Now, I like to think that my posts are occasionally informative and the contents have some useful trivia but I really don’t see how I could possibly help with these two searches because it seems to me that someone is looking for a level of detail that I just can’t get down to:  Montreuil sur Mer allotments and the name of the street behind the Moulin Rouge?”.  I have posted on these two locations so perhaps this is where they were directed: 

Montreuil-Sur-Mer old town walls  

Montreuil-Sur-Mer                                      Moulin Rouge

  •  

This one cropped up before but it’s well worth repeating again here because I can’t believe anyone would google this – How big are Ryanair seat belts” – I dealt with flying with Ryanair in my post Travel Tips When Flying Budget Airlines – These people are going to be really disappointed when they get the answers!

Ryanair over the Alps

  •  

This is a really good one, I like it – committing suicide on p&o mini cruise”. Some people go to Switzerland to end their lives unnaturally whilst others look for a solution on line.

I have been on a P&O mini-cruse from Hull to Rotterdam and although it was not what you would describe as a luxury experience, the food was good and the bar prices reasonable so I can think of no really good reason to throw yourself overboard!

  •  

Another dumb historical question next – “how wealthy are the Romanovs?” and dumb because most people know that the entire Romanov family were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1917 during the Russian revolution.

There are some claimants to the titles of the Russian Tsars but even if they were confirmed to be true descendants they would be extremely unlikely to be wealthy because the Russian communist regime confiscated all their money and valuables.

I visited Russia in 2012 and posted about the fate of the Romanovs so I guess the enquirer might have ended up on my post about the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

Russia St Petersburg

  •  

I rather liked this question and for once I can be certain that I have the answer:  Is it always raining in Wales” and the answer in my personal experience is YES!  I went to Wales in 2011 for a week and it rained so much that after four days I gave up, abandoned the holiday cottage and drove back home.  This is my account of the journey!

North Wales

  •  

I was also delighted to be able to help with this enquiry – “seagulls on my roof” because I have had exactly the same problem and posted about it last year when the fledgling chicks started to fly – I called it ‘The Seagull has Landed” because although Seagulls may well be a feature of the seaside when I moved to Grimsby I didn’t expect to get a pair nesting on my roof!

  •  

Whilst it is nice to think that sometimes my posts might have been useful I have saved my absolute favourites for last and to be honest I have no idea at all where this search led people to on my blog pages – First: “Bodrum handbag prices”, because anyone that reads my posts will know that I am not by any stretch of the imagination what you would call a shopper.

But here is my absolute favourite, probably of all time:

can pubic  hair grow more with regain?”

because I don’t think I have ever written a post about pubic hair!

?????

I’d love to hear from you about weird search results on your sites!

Russia, Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin, Rotting Corpse or Waxwork…

It was quite an early start this morning because our first visit of the day was to the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square and we were warned that there was a strong possibility of long queues.

Since Perestroika fewer Russian people bother to visit the permanently preserved body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin lying in State in his glass coffin but there are still large visitor numbers every day which are swollen by several dozen coach loads of tourists because this is now a top Moscow mawkish visitor attraction.

Visiting the Lenin Mausoleum…

It is only open for four days a week and the opening hours are short so if you get there too late then it is possible to line up for an hour or two and then reach the front of the queue only to coincide with closing time and be turned away so Galina was mindful of this when she hurried us from the coach and to the back of the queue lining up at the entrance to Red Square.

It wasn’t a long queue but the army guards on duty only allowed a few people through at a time and this was only to go through the first check point to get to a second three hundred metres in front.  This meant that progress was tediously slow and it was about now that we discovered that Russian people are equally as bad as French or Greeks when it comes to line discipline and waiting times didn’t really matter to them so we had to be on our guard to make sure people didn’t push in.

Eventually it was our turn to go through the gate in the metal security fence and we made our way to the more rigorous checkpoint at the entrance to the mausoleum gardens.  Cameras and mobile phones are strictly forbidden because the authorities don’t want snapshots of Comrade Lenin turning up on the internet in peoples’ Blogs or Trip Advisor reviews so they have to be left in a locker room and if anyone tries to defy this and is caught by the thorough security checks then their punishment is to be sent to the back of the queue to start lining up all over again!

Sticking to the rules we got through without incident and made our way past the gardens with their memorials and wall plaques commemorating the lives of previous Soviet leaders and monsters and dubious heroes of the USSR and approached the mausoleum where there was a third and final check by army guards before being allowed to go through the entrance.

There was bright sunshine in Red Square but inside it was dark and gloomy so because of the contrast it took our eyes a while to adjust and this was rather dangerous because almost immediately we had to follow some black dog-leg marble stairs down into the underground chamber where Lenin is lying in his glass tomb.

Lenin, Lying In State – Forever…

It is quite common of course for World leaders, heroes and famous people to lie in State in this way so that the public can pay their last respects but usually it is only for a few days until a proper funeral can be arranged but poor old Vladimir Ilyich Lenin has suffered the indignity of being on continuous display in this way for almost ninety years!

Exhibiting his body like this was totally against his wishes and those of his family but his successor Stalin overruled this and when he was satisfied that the preservation process had been successful arranged for him to go on permanent display with what I detected as “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” sort of look on his troubled and chemically embalmed face.

Lenin Mausoleum

Queuing up like this to spend a few seconds looking at a mummified corpse might seem like a strange thing to do but I was fascinated to be able to do this and to be able to see for myself one of the men who shaped the twentieth century and the cold war world of my childhood – a world of spies and espionage, nuclear weapons, underground fallout shelters for the great and the good and the constant nagging fear of Armageddon.

Of course I wanted to see him, I’d go and see the preserved body of Adolf Hitler if someone hadn’t poured petrol on it and set it alight!

When Lenin died in January 1924 he was acclaimed as ‘the greatest genius of mankind’ and ‘the leader and teacher of the people’s of the whole world’.  Time Magazine named him one of the one hundred most important people of the twentieth century (Albert Einstein was first and Mahatma Ghandi and Theodore Roosevelt close runners-up).  According to the article in Encyclopaedia Britannica: ‘If the Bolshevik Revolution is, as some people have called it, the most significant political event of the twentieth century, then Lenin must for good or ill be considered the century’s most significant political leader… he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx’.

Lenin's Mausoleum

The Statue Legacy of Lenin…

Russia chooses to continue to remember Lenin in this way where elsewhere the legacy is being systematically dismantled. During the Soviet period, many statues of Lenin  were erected across Eastern Europe but many of these have subsequently been removed.  Russian lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) have agreed a proposal to remove all statues of Lenin from Russian cities, citing high maintenance costs and vandalism concerns as some of the main reasons. The proposal is being strongly opposed by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

Many places and entities were named in honour of Lenin. The city of Saint Petersburg, the site where both February and October revolutions started, was renamed Leningrad in 1924, four days after Lenin’s death but in 1991 after a contested vote between Communists and liberals, the Leningrad government reverted the city’s name to Saint Petersburg.

For a man responsible for the revolution and its legacy and the bloody elimination of the Romanovs he looked paradoxically rather gentle lying there with outstretched arms, one clenched in continuous communist defiance, in his black suit and favourite white spotted tie, his carefully groomed ginger beard and a slightly yellowing skin.

The body is removed every few months for running repairs, the application of more preservation chemicals and to be fitted up in a new suit.  There are rumours, stridently denied by the authorities, that this isn’t the body of Lenin at all and that the preservation process owes more to Madame Tussauds than the skill of the laboratory embalmer but it would be impossible to do a detailed investigation or stop for a while and look for waxy evidence because if anyone pauses for even a moment there is a guard in the room who immediately instructs them to move on and this means that time in the chamber is no longer than a few seconds before ascending the stairs on the opposite side and emerging blinking back into the sunlight.

We left the mausoleum gardens and went back into Red Square and went to get our cameras.  This meant going back out of the security fencing and once I had retrieved our property was refused entry back inside without going through the queuing up and security process all over again all of which seemed a bit unnecessary but appeared rather dangerous to argue with the armed guards and thankfully it didn’t take too long.

Russia, Saint-Petersburg and the Hermitage Museum

Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg

This was our final day in Saint-Petersburg and we were planning to set our own itinerary and despite the alarmist stories of ten kilometre long queues at the Hermitage this was where we were going to start first.

Read the full story…