Jurassic Coast Yields Record Dinosaur
THE SKULL of a mammoth pliosaur is the latest dramatic dinosaur discovery on England’s Jurassic Coast. The aquatic predator may be the largest such reptile ever found, with its 8-foot skull belonging to a body more than 50 feet long. The species is known to have had immense, powerful jaws and a huge set of razorsharp teeth. Richard Forest, a paleontologist and expert on pliosaurs, confirmed: “It would take T-Rex in one gulp. Compared to this beast T-Rex was a kitten. These things were big enough and powerful enough to bite a car in half.” After the fossil has been analyzed, it will be put on display at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.
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Leicester Square, London
Ticket Booth in Landmark Change
UNDOUBTEDLY, many British Heritage readers have made use over the years of the Society of London Theatres’ great half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square. Its only drawback, of course, was that the deeply discounted tickets were only for sale on a spaceavailable basis on the day of performance. Now, in a radical departure from the policy of more than 30 years, this autumn the famous ticket outlet began selling its discounted tickets for performances up to a week in advance. Theater lovers from all over the world are cheering, and standing in line.
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And Just in Passing
Michael Faraday Named Greatest British Inventor
A pioneer in electrochemistry whose discoveries, among other things, led to the electric motor, Michael Faraday (1791-1867) received a quarter of the votes recently in a General Motors poll to find the greatest inventor in British history. Faraday beat out Isambard Kingdom Brunel and William Caxton for top honors.
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Number One Record for Vera Lynn
Yes, the UK album charts this autumn showed Dame Vera Lynn in the top spot. Her album We’ll Meet Again—The Very Best of Vera Lynn made the 92-year-old Lynn, the Forces Sweetheart of World War II, the oldest living artist to have a No. 1 album—a full 70 years after she first recorded the title song.
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And Just in Passing
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Evening Standard Now a Giveaway
London’s only “quality” afternoon newspaper, the Evening Standard, has been a ubiquitous presence on the capital’s streets for decades. Now, the paper is being distributed free to bustling Londoners and visitors. Look for it at major intersections and tube stations.
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M1 Celebrates 50th Birthday
Rileys, Humbers and Austins were among the cars on the road when Britain’s first and most famous motorway opened to the public for the first time in November 1959. The first section, running from Watford to Rugby was designed for 13,000 cars a day. Now, it carries around 130,000 vehicles daily—and not a Humber in sight.
Market Bosworth, Leicestershire
The Historic Battle of Stoke Golding?
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AFTER A four-year investigation into the battle’s actual whereabouts, battlefield archaeologist Glenn Foard has announced that he’s found the true location of the Battle of Bosworth Field—some two miles to the southwest of Ambion Hill and the award-winning Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. The exact spot where the historic battle that ended the Plantagenet dynasty and the Middle Ages took place has long been something of a mystery. Now, Foard has uncovered hard evidence in the form of 22 pieces of lead cannon and musket balls. If indeed that shot comes from the famous battle of August 1485, it pushes back a full 10 years the earliest known presence of mobile firearms used in battle in Europe.
Secret Recipe Uncovered in Dumpster
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HISTORIANS opine that they have uncovered the original hand-written secret recipe for Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. The 150-year old ingredient list was discovered by a former company accountant and archivist in a skip by the company’s Worcester headquarters. A secret so closely guarded that no single employee knew the entire formula, the sauce recipes were recorded in sepia ink in two leather-bound folios.
The popular pungent seasoning contains such varied ingredients as cloves, anchovies, soy, lemon, tamarind, vinegar, peppers and pickle. Worcester City Museums officer David Nash, however, quickly notes that knowing these things wouldn’t enable anyone to reproduce the sauce, “Even with all the ingredients there is no guarantee you would be able to make the sauce, as what makes it distinctive is the way it is made, which is still a secret.”
Your Letterbox, Across Britain
Postal Service Dims a Merrie Christmas
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THROUGHOUT the mild autumn a continuing series of regional and national postal strikes has indeed dimmed hopes for a Happy Holiday season for many. Millions of letters and packages have backlogged since October, and leaders acknowledge the mess is unlikely to be sorted out before Christmas. The Communications Workers Union and Royal Mail have just been unable to come to terms over much-needed modernization and what that would mean for the union members. Meanwhile, the post is being archived as necessary in rented warehouses.
Grosvenor Square, London
American Embassy Sold to Qataris
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THE U.S. embassy in London has indeed been sold to the same Qatari real estate developers who own the controversial Chelsea Barracks site. The 600-room Chancery building in historic Mayfair will remain the working embassy until the new 20-story American complex has been completed in Wandsworth in 2016 (or so). Having been given Grade II listed status by English Heritage this autumn, the modernist Grosvenor Square property completed in 1957 will have to remain unaltered in its exterior by its new owners.
And Just in Passing
Scotland’s Colorful History Online
Developed initially to support the teaching of Scottish history in schools, the new Website, Scotland’s History Online, covers more than 200 topics and contains links to 1,000 other online resources. The interactive site at www.Itscotland.org.uk/scotlandshistory is being called among the Rolling postal strikes renders un- best of its kind in the world.
Hitting the Christmas Lights
This year for the first time the holiday lights of Regent Street and Oxford Street were switched on as part of the same event. Meanwhile, back at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Andrea Bocelli and the cathedral choir led Londoners across the West End in the world record for largest number of people singing a Christmas carol.
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Road Signs in Cornish?
Yes, down in Cornwall the county council has determined to have all road signs bilingual in future, bearing English and Cornish—despite the fact that only 300 people speak the Cornish tongue. “We have an obligation to promote the language, and this is an ideal way of doing it,” claims cabinet member for highways Graeme Hicks.
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The Staffordshire Hoard
“It Will change the history of the Dark Ages”
for two weeks, from September 24-October 13th, lines snaked around the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as more than 50,000 people queued to see the largest-ever discovery of Anglo-Saxon treasure on temporary display at the city-center museum.
Now, what has become known as the Staffordshire Hoard has been whisked off to the British Museum, where it is expected to take at least a year simply to value and evaluate the in excess of 1,500 pieces of 7th-century gold and silver.
The astonishing haul, scattered over 20 square yards, was uncovered in the field of farmer Fred Johnson, near Lichfield, Staffordshire, in July by amateur enthusiast Terry Herbert, (55) of Burntwood, with a metal detector he paid £2.5 for some 18 years ago. “This is what metal detectorists dream of, finding stuff like this,” said Herbert. “It’s been more fun than winning the lottery.”
The unprecedented find of treasure is unique in both quantity and quality. Virtually the entire hoard is militaryrelated, buried, it can only be assumed, as the plunder from battle. The great majority of the pieces are highly decorated gold—sword hilt collars, pommel caps, scabbard decorations, helmet cheek plates, dagger hilt plates and such. Many items have simply not yet been identified.
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The craftsmanship of the work is exquisite, and mind-boggling to both experts and to the public who queued to see its first public display. Many pieces contain inlays of cloisonné garnet in intricate, often zoomorphic, designs. The fine filigree work on other pieces would today be accomplished by skilled goldsmiths working under magnification with precision tools. While some pieces are still embedded in lumps of earth, the aggregate weight of the gold is taken at more than 11 pounds, with a further three pounds of silver.
Only two or three crosses discovered in the collection are obviously nonmartial items. The largest of these (and one of the largest pieces in the collection) was inlaid with garnets and folded or mangled prior to burial. Another of the largest pieces bears a Biblical inscription in Latin, taken from the Old Testament Book of Numbers.
Experts generally agree that the hoard was buried in the late 600s or early 700s, though many of the pieces date from AD 600-650. At the time, Staffordshire was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Contemporary written accounts of the time and place are scant. Leslie Webster of the Society of Medieval Archaeology, effused, “This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England … as radically, if not more so, than the Sutton Hoo discoveries.”
The Staffordshire coroner ruled at an inquest that the hoard is “treasure trove,” which means that it belongs to the Crown. In practice, however, such a classification is to prevent the hoard from being sent out of the country. In practice, the items will be valued by a panel of experts and offered for sale. Herbert and the land owner will split the resulting reward—expected to be worth well in excess of £1 million. Herbert opines that he’ll buy a bungalow.
A fundraising appeal has been launched to enable the hoard to be kept in the West Midlands, principally at the Birmingham Museum and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.
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