I have news, gentle listeners, exciting news; there will be a History of England Tour! I have wanted to organise this for ages, and ages – but time is short and life is busy and all that. Thankfully, Albion Journeys rode into town to help me. They will organise all the logistics, which means the tour will be organised by a proper bone fide, professional travel company who know what they are doing rather than an amateur like me. The dates of the History of England tour will be September 15-22nd 2020.
Now in 6 days we can’t go everywhere. But given where we are in the podcast I thought we should focus on medieval and Tudor England; and while we are at it, make sure that alongside the palaces and architecture we’ll also be talking about how people lived.
There is a website at Albion Journeys where you can find out more, ask questions about the nuts and bolts. But here’s an outline of where we’ll go and what we’ll do.
The tour, where and why
We’ll start off in London for a couple of days – silly not to. We’ll go to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey of course how could we not, because they are amazing. But there are some other lesser known corners in London we should go to as well – St Bartholomew the Great, Charterhouse (founded by Hundred Year War Hainaulter Walter Manny), St Dunstan Gardens – and also we’ll go and see William the Marshal lying around in Temple Church. The Temple church is in a lovely place near Lincoln Inn fields and I have walked down there and stood outside it many times. As it happens though, I have never managed to stand outside it at a moment when it was open, so the visit will be as fresh for me as it will be for you. There’ll be an afternoon off to boot so that you can wander around, and I might take the chance to wander down to the church of St Magnus the Martyr.
In some of the locations throughout the tour we will have a special tour guide, and one evening I’ll have to stand on my hind legs and give some sort of talk. And we will have a professional tour guide at the next place, and a private tour of Windsor castle, which really is the best way to see Windsor Castle; there is so much to see and it’s very popular of course. The Chapel of St George is astounding, but the whys and wherefores of the castle are maybe the best.
After that, we head out of the Big Smoke into England’s green and pleasant land, heading for the Midlands and then western England. On the way, just to make sure that we don’t get bored of the motorway, we stop off at a smaller, more shall we say ‘bijou’ country house, Stonor Park. There are a few reasons for choosing Stonor. It is in my neck of the woods – I live over a hill or two and walk the hound past the gate sometimes. It’s set in lovely countryside, with a classic deer park, and it scrubs up well too. Plus since we have been doing the Reformation, it happens to have a proud recusant Catholic history; the Stonors were part of a network of catholic families in South Oxfordshire.
Then it’s off to Kenilworth, which has more than one connection with our story so far – Simon de Montfort, Tudors; and there’s the Abbey too. We’ll also then go to Stratford on Avon. While I’m on this; at Kenilworth and Stratford we’ll meet Richard Grove who will show us the landscapes of worship, trade and daily life, to make sure the lives of ordinary folk are not forgotten in all of this. Richard is a landscape archaeologist I met through the podcast and Oxford, and he’ll be great at bringing the place to life. And much to my disgust of course there’ll be the odd site connected with the Bard. Then off to glorious, glorious Tewkesbury – battle site, abbey, town are all superb. Berkeley castle next, which might just be my favourite castle. It’s not the biggest, but it’s got impeccable historical connection of course, what with Edward II but more it’s very long and very well preserved history. And also it’s just such a lovely, lived in human scale sort of place that allows you to visualise life as it might have been – the first time I visited it was something like 30 years go, and have never forgotten the experience.
Then we end up in Gloucester. Gloucester Cathedral is lovely, beautiful perpendicular architecture and medieval stained glass windows, and I think we are aiming to coincide with an evensong if anyone is interested, because I’m told the choir is really good.
Then to Chepstow for a towering medieval castle overlooking the beautiful Wye valley, and one of William’s pads again of course. Chepstow really brings home the feeling of life on the marches in times medieval. Richard joins us again because we go across to the prehistoric Avebury circle. I can’t claim very much that prehistoric Avebury fits in with the Medieval and Tudor theme (though actually there is a lovely manor house nearby which is Tudor) but it is a very special place. The stones are not Salisbury size, but you can walk among them. I first saw it stepping of a bus from Swindon a couple of decades ago before walking the ancient Ridgeway track, and again it’s a moment that has never left me. Also, we have the added joy of Richard walking us around the area.
That’s it; then it’s back to Windsor and a slap up supper. The following morning we drop you back to Heathrow if that’s where you go next. We thought keep the tour relatively short because if you are coming from far away you might want to take another week to go other places in the UK or wherever. Oh, and one evening I have committed to do some talk/presentation thing on some historical topic which is mildly terrifying but I have a year to prepare so…
Booking, nuts and bolts
The Albion Journeys website at bit.ly/thoetour is a US site which quotes in dollars, but if you are from the UK, or Oz, Canada, New Zealand, Mongolia wherever, just give them a call to book or ask questions, it is of course open to all. Or drop me an email at email@example.com and I will do as well as I can!
It would be very lovely to meet any of you who would like to come. And if it’s a rip roaring success, we’ll do it again.