Posts Tagged ‘history’

St George

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

The details of the life and death of St George (as you can read in Wikipedia) are recorded in accounts dating back to around 1600 years ago, though details vary and the Pope in 494 CE who officially made him a saint called him one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.

According to the early texts, George was born in Cappadocia, now a part of Turkey, where his father came from, but his mother was a Palestinian Christian. Cappadocians were generally historically regarded as Syrians, though St George’s family are usually said to be of Greek descent. St George became, like his father, a Roman soldier, becoming a member of the elite Praetorian Guard, and was beheaded in the eastern capital of the Roman Empire on 23 April 303CE, 1718 years ago, during Emperor Diocletian’s purge of Christians who refused to recant the faith.

His behaviour and suffering apparently convinced one prominent Roman woman, Empress Alexandra of Rome, possibly the Emperor’s wife – to become a Christian – and to share his fate. The purge failed to have its intended result, and around 21 years after George’s execution, Christianity became the preferred religion in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine.

George’s body was buried in Lydda in Palestine and Christians there soon became to regard him as a martyr. Some legends say that his martyrdom resulted in the conversion of not just the Emperors’s wife but 40,900 other pagans.

The dragon came along considerably later, only appearing in legends around 700 years after his death, apparently terrorising the city of Silene in Libya, which there is no evidence that St George ever visited. The dragon in my picture above, from a St George’s Day procession in Southwark, seems to have come from Chinatown. But dragons can fly.

The traditional patron saint of England was the last king of Wessex, Edward the Confessor who died in 1066, and it was only in 1552 that as a part of the English Reformation that St George officially became the only saint recognised in England, although along with various other countries English armies adopted him during the crusades and in our battles with the French in the Hundred Years War from 1337-1453. Surprisingly we didn’t drop St George although we lost rather badly.

St George’s Day remains an official feast celebrated by the Church of England, usually, though not always, on April 23, as Easter sometimes interferes. Rather more is made of it by some other countries and churches.

The St George’s cross, widely used by football supporters and right-wing extremists in England, comes from the 10th century in the city of Genoa in Italy, becoming used in England in 1348 when Edward III founded the Order of the Garter and made St George its patron saint. It has never been officially adopted as the national flag, though now widely used as such. It is of course a component of many other flags, including the UK’s national flag.

Over the years I’ve photographed many different celebrations of St George’s Day in and around London, and the pictures come from a few of these in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2016.

2005 St George’s Day
2009 St George & the Dragon
2009 England Supporters,Trafalgar Square
2009 The George Inn, Southwark
2009 The Lions part: St George & the Dragon
2009 St George’s Day – Trafalgar Square
2011 St George’s Day in London
2016 St George in Southwark Procession
2916 St Georges Day in London


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Stand with Hong Kong

Friday, January 24th, 2020
Supporters of Hong Kong and the protests there march from Trafalgar Square towards Downing St.

History is catching up on Hong Kong and Britain. Back in the 17th century the British East India Company had begun cultivating large quanties of opium in Bengal which was then imported into China in order to pay for the luxury Chinese goods much desired in Europe. This led to a huge increase in opium addiction in China, and in 1839 the Emperor decided the trade had to stop.

Chinese students and others in Trafalgar Square oppose the pro-Hong Kong march

The trade went through the port of Canton, and the Emperor’s man there tried to persuade the foreign merchants to hand over their opium in exchange for tea, and when they refused, seized around 1200 tons of the drug and publicly destroyed it. We sent in the Navy to fight this ‘First Opium War’, and Chinese war junks were no match for our gunboats. In 1842 China was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, opening up China to free trade and ceding Hong Kong to Britain.

Protesters pose for photographs before they march in support of the Hong Kong protests

This wasn’t the end of our quarrel with China over the opium trade, and in 1856 we picked a second fight with the Chinese to get greater access and to legalise the opium trade, ending in the 1869 Convention of Peking which also ceded a part of Kowloon to join Hong Kong. The final area of Hong Kong, the New Territories were added on a 99 year lease in 1898.

At the rally on Whitehall facing Downing St. But the British Government can no longer send a gunboat and dictate to China.

In 1984 when the end of that lease was only a dozen years away, Margaret Thatcher signed the Sino–British Joint Declaration with China, returning all of Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997. Under this agreement Hong Kong would be a ‘Special Administrative Region‘ which would retain its capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years until 2047 in what is known as the “one country, two systems” principle.

Posters make the Chinese response to the Hong Kong protests clear.

China now considers the joint declaration to be only of historical significance, while the UK government and the G7 still regard it as an important international treaty. In practice there is probably little Britain can do to see that either the letter or the spirit of the agreement is adhered to. China – and the Chinese students and others who came out to oppose the protest supporting the Hong Kong protesters see Hong Kong as a matter of China’s internal affairs.

More pictures from the pro-Hong Kong and Chinese protests at Stand with Hong Kong & opposition.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Osterley House

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Osterley is a place few people seem to know about, though many pass through its station on the Picadilly Line between Central London and Heathrow or drive past it on the Great West Road. It’s place where few actually live, a handful of streets to the north of that road along with a huge estate of Osterley Park House and an even vaster area of Green Belt with sports areas and a golf club between Southall, Heston, Hanwell, Isleworth and Brentford, whose football club have a training site there. Now the M25 runs through the northern part, cutting it off even more.

I knew it from my early years, an easy bike ride from my home in a densely built up part of Hounslow, with a grand avenue of Sweet Chestnuts where you could rummage through the grass to pick up chestnuts to take home and roast in the oven. Doubtless in earlier years one might have been transported to Australia for such theft, but things were easier in the 1950s.

Later I ran through the ‘Hole in the Wall’ into the fields of Osterley Park on cross-country runs from my secondary school – at least until we learned to disappear into Jersey Gardens on the way there, hiding out enjoying a few fags until the mud-spattered runners came past on their way to the finish a few hundred yards away, coming in respectfully down the field.

Osterley was a country house for two of the wealthiest of English Bankers, the first house built here for Sir Thomas Gresham in 1576.  Sir Francis Child acquired it after a mortgage default and his two grandsons had Robert Adam do a much more fashionable makeover in the 1760s. The stable block survived and now contains the shop and tea-room.

On the death of his brother the property as a whole passed to his younger brother Robert Child; when his only child, a daughter eloped with the Earl of Westmoreland the enraged father changed his will leaving the property in trust to his as yet unborn first granchild. She was born a couple of years later and went on to marry George Villiers, the 5th Earl of Jersey (later he got a royal licence to change his surname to Child Villiers) which explains why Osterley’s main road along which you approach the estate is Jersey Road.

The house was first opened to the public briefly by the 9th Earl in 1939, before becoming a Home Guard training establishment. After the war he moved to Jersey selling the furniture to the V&A and giving the house and park to the National Trust – who handed it over to the Ministry of Works and the V&A for restoration. There was some limited opening of the house to the public and I remember going there when quite young, but it was only in 1991 that it was handed back to the National Trust.

Our visit to Osterley was a short one, and I didn’t have time to go around the house but after a meal in the stables (not hay, but I don’t recommend it) did go into the gardens. Although the wider park is free to the public, there is a charge for the house and gardens, but free entry for members of the National Trust and the Art Fund.

More pictures at Osterley Park.
Images taken on National Trust property are copyright but not available for reproduction or sale.


Streets & people

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Thanks to PetaPixel for bringing to my attention the video 1838-2019: Street Photography – A Photo For Every Year with 182 photos — one photo for every year between 1838 when Daguerre set up his camera overlooking the Boulevard du Temple and 2019 with activists hassling an MP outside Parliament in London.

It’s a curiously hypnotic experience, with each photo appearing for around 6 seconds, with a musical soundtrack that reflects the changing decades, and a rather strange selection of images by Guy Jones, taken on streets around the world, though majoring on the USA. I found it rather annoying but I couldn’t stop watching, though I did turn the volume right down.

Almost all of the pictures certainly are taken on streets and show people, but it rather reflects the lack of any real integrity in the term ‘street photography‘. And while the pictures do reflect the changes in technology over the years, any real historical oversight is entirely prejudiced by every picture from the 20th and 21st century being presented as colour – which for most means a recently colorized version of an original black and white picture. Some colours were rather less than believable. This is faux history in the making.

You’ll probably recognise a few of the pictures, and some of the photographers, but mixed in with these are some rather anonymous postcard views, press images and amateur holiday snaps, which don’t always seem particularly appropriate to represent the year in which they are taken. It’s in a way a very uninformative video; often I found myself wanting to know more about why a particular picture was taken and what it it shows. And for those taken in more recent times I did wonder whether Jones has permission to use the images from the copyright holders. I hope so, though I saw no closing credits to indicate this.