On this day in 1715 The Riot Act, or to give it its full and more entertaining title, “An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters", came into force.
The Act was introduced during a time of civil disturbance in Great Britain, such as the Sacheverell riots of 1710, the Coronation riots of 1714 and the 1715 riots in England. The preamble makes reference to "many rebellious riots and tumults [that] have been [taking place of late] in diverse parts of this kingdom", adding that those involved "presum[e] so to do, for that the punishments provided by the laws now in being are not adequate to such heinous offences".
The act created a mechanism for certain local officials to make a proclamation ordering the dispersal of any group of more than twelve people who were "unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together".
If the group failed to disperse within one hour, then anyone remaining gathered was guilty of a felony without benefit of clergy, punishable by death.
The proclamation could be made in an incorporated town or city by the mayor, bailiff or "other head officer", or a justice of the peace. Elsewhere it could be made by a justice of the peace or the sheriff, undersheriff or parish constable. It had to be read out to the gathering concerned, and had to follow precise wording detailed in the act; several convictions were overturned because parts of the proclamation had been omitted, in particular "God save the King".
The wording that had to be read out to the assembled gathering was as follows:
“Our sovereign lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the King.”
If a group of people failed to disperse within one hour of the proclamation, the act provided that the authorities could use force to disperse them. Anyone assisting with the dispersal was specifically indemnified against any legal consequences in the event of any of the crowd being injured or killed.
Because of the broad authority that the act granted, it was used both for the maintenance of civil order and for political means.
At times, it was unclear to both rioters and authorities as to whether the reading of the Riot Act had occurred. One example of this is evident in the St. George's Fields Massacre of 1768. At the trials following the incident, there was confusion among witnesses as to when the Riot Act had actually been read. The Riot Act also caused confusion during the Gordon Riots of 1780, when the authorities felt uncertain of their power to take action to stop the riots without a reading of the Riot Act. After the riots, Lord Mansfield observed that the Riot Act did not take away the pre-existing power of the authorities to use force to stop a violent riot; it only created the additional offense of failing to disperse after a reading of the Riot Act.
The Riot Act was read prior to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, Cinderloo Uprising of 1821, as well as before the Bristol Riots at Queen's Square in 1831 and twice during the Merthyr Rising of the same year.
The Riot Act eventually drifted into disuse. The last time it was definitely read in England was in Birkenhead, Cheshire, on August 3rd 1919, during the second police strike, when large numbers of police officers from Birkenhead, Liverpool and Bootle joined the strike. Troops were called in to deal with the rioting and looting that had begun, and a magistrate read out the Riot Act.
The Act was repealed in England in Wales by the Criminal Law Act 1967. However, it would continue to be law in Scotland until July 18th 1973 when the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1973 came into force. The last known use of the Act in Scotland was in 1971 when it was read by the deputy town clerk James Gildea in Airdrie.
As a consequence of the Act, the expression "to read the Riot Act" has entered into common language as a phrase meaning "to reprimand severely", with the added sense of a stern warning. The phrase remains in common use in the English language.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on people and protest. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
According to the museum, if you have already booked a ticket, you should check your email inbox for information regarding refunds.
We look forward to returning to the Great Western Brick Show in 2021 and hope to see you there too!
On this day in 1540 Thomas Cromwell, who had for served as chief minister to King Henry VIII, was executed at Tower Hill in London. For nearly ten years Cromwell was one of the strongest and most powerful proponents of the English Reformation, coming to the fore through his engineering of the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533. During his years in power, he skillfully managed Crown finances and extended royal authority. In 1536, he established the Court of Augmentations to handle the massive windfall to the royal coffers from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He strengthened royal authority in the north of England through reform of the Council of the North, extended royal power and introduced Protestantism in Ireland, and was the architect of the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, which promoted stability and gained acceptance for the royal supremacy in Wales.
During this period Cromwell made many enemies and there were no shortage of those who would try and to oust him from his position of power. In 1540 he arranged for Henry to marry the German Princess Anne of Cleves, who Cromwell hoped would help breath fresh life into the Reformation in England and help protect England against the possibility of a French / Imperial alliance. This appears to have been a costly mistake, as the king was reportedly shocked by her plain appearance and Cromwell was accused of exaggerating her beauty. The wedding ceremony took place on January 6th at Greenwich, but the marriage was not consummated. For Cromwell’s conservative opponents, most notably the Duke of Norfolk, the King's anger at being forced to marry Anne was the opportunity to topple him they had been waiting for.
Cromwell was arrested at a Council meeting on June 10th and accused of various charges. His initial reaction was defiance: "This then is my reward for faithful service!" he cried out, and angrily defied his fellow Councillors to call him a traitor. A Bill of Attainder containing a long list of indictments, including supporting Anabaptists, corrupt practices, leniency in matters of justice, acting for personal gain, protecting Protestants accused of heresy and thus failing to enforce the Act of Six Articles, and plotting to marry Lady Mary Tudor, was introduced into the House of Lords a week later and passed on June 29th.
All Cromwell's honours were forfeited and it was publicly proclaimed that he could be called only "Thomas Cromwell, cloth carder". The King deferred the execution until his marriage to Anne of Cleves could be annulled: Anne, with remarkable common sense, happily agreed to an amicable annulment and was treated with great generosity by Henry as a result. Hoping for clemency, Cromwell wrote in support of the annulment, in his last personal address to the King. He ended the letter: "Most gracious Prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy."
Cromwell was however condemned to death without trial, lost all his titles and property and was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill on July 28th 1540, on the same day as the King's marriage to Catherine Howard. The circumstances of his execution are a source of debate: whilst some accounts state that the executioner had great difficulty severing the head, others claim that this is apocryphal and that it took only one blow. Afterwards, his head was set on a spike on London Bridge.
The king later expressed regret at the loss of his chief minister and later accused his ministers of bringing about Cromwell's downfall by "pretexts" and "false accusations".
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the English Reformation; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Marriages have served many purposes throughout history, including political and religious ones. Such was the case of Mary Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary, who was a Catholic, had come to the throne of England somewhat unexpectedly and against her younger brother’s wishes. However, Edward VI died at the age of 15 on July 6th 1553 from a lung infection and Mary was the next in line. England had undergone a religious upheaval under Henry VIII, who had separated the Church of England from Papal authority. Edward had been committed to the ongoing religious reform and was concerned that his oldest sister would return England to the old faith.
Edward attempted by means of the Succession Act, which excluded Mary and Elizabeth form the line of succession, failed and Mary, after political rankling with Jane Dudley, her first cousin once removed, became Queen of England at the age of 37. Once monarch she turned her attention to marriage, at least partly motivated by her desire to ensure that England remained a Catholic nation. Once married she would be able to produce a heir, thereby preventing her protestant half-sister Elizabeth, becoming the next English monarch in line with their father’s will and the Succession Act of 1554.
Early suitors put forward included the Catholic nobles Edward Courtenay and Reginald Pole, however it was her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s suggestion of his son, Prince Philip of Spain that went ahead. Mary was excited to be marrying Phillip who she considered to be handsome having previously seen a portrait of him. With Philip a powerful Catholic ruler, the marriage was also seen as a significant step to returning England to Catholicism once again. For Phillip this would be his second marriage (his first wife having died a few years before) and while not thrilled with the idea, he could see its political advantages.
The marriage proposal was not well received by the English nation and Lord Chancellor Gardniner, along with the House of Commons, petitioned Mary to consider marrying an Englishman. Despite the protestations Mary insisted on the marriage. Insurrections broke out, including the ambitious Wyatt’s Rebellion, led by Thomas Wyatt.
Mary swept all opposition the wedding took place at Winchester Cathedral on July 25th 1554, two days after their first meeting; it was a grand affair with the walls of the cathedral draped in Flemish flags, carpets and standards. The wedding was taken by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.
With the marriage having taken place Phillip was created “King of England” and ruled alongside rather than being a step below Mary. Though King he had to run things past Mary, much to his dissatisfaction. Mary had a deep affection for Phillip but apparently Phillip did not have the same feelings towards Mary.
In addition to being monarchs of England, Charles V ceded to Philip the crown of Naples along with his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, thereby making Mary Queen of Naples and titular Queen of Jerusalem.
The married couple's family life now looked to the next stage, producing an heir, the focus of our next blog on the couple.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1298 the Battle of Falkirk took place between the forces of Scotland under William Wallace and an English army under Edward I. A pivotal moment in the First War of Scottish Independence, it would be a significant defeat for the Scots leading to Wallace resigning as Guardian of Scotland.
In September 1297 the Scots had inflicted a crushing defeat upon the English at the Battle of Striling Bridge. Since then Wallace and his army had been able to travel south with little opposition and raid the countryside along the Scottish / English border. Hearing of the defeat at Stirling, Edward hastily agreed a truce with the French king, Philip the Fair and returned to England to prepare a counterstrike. He assembled a force of around 15,000 men, including some 10,500 Welshmen. Edward ordered his army to assemble at Roxburgh in the Scottish Borders on June 25th where he remained until July 3rd.
He reached Kirkliston in two weeks, where he awaited supplies expected to arrive along the coastal ports, delayed due to weather. There he was forced to deal with a mutiny among his Welsh troops but on July 20th was able to move on, reaching Linlithgow on the 21st. Hearing that a Scottish army was at Torwood, near Falkirk, he decided to place his army south of the town.
The Wallace’s army numbered around 6,000, perhaps consisting of four schiltrons with about 1,000 men each, in addition to the cavalry and archers. Absent however, were forces under the Comyns and Robert Bruce. Also absent was Andrew Moray, co-victor with Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, having been mortally wounded in that battle. It was Moray who used the schiltrons offensively.
The schiltrons formed the backbone of the Scottish army, consisting chiefly of spearmen arranged in a circular formation, with the long spears pointing outwards. At Falkirk it is thought four were arranged with archers filling the gaps between them and some 500 knights supporting them to their rear. When in formation however schiltrons were essentially static and at Falkirk they were fortified by stakes driven into the ground before them, with ropes between. In front of them was an area of marshy ground which would make an English charge difficult.
It was therefore up to the English to advance and since they were eager to do battle, advance they did. Their cavalry was divided into four battalions with the Earl of Lincoln leading from the right but moving left to avoid the marshy ground; they were followed by the Earl of Surrey's horse. Anthony Bek and Edward’s horse moved around the right of the marshy ground. Lincoln and Bek charged aggressively and Lincoln quickly routed the Scottish cavalry.
The Scots bowmen commanded by Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, the younger brother of the High Steward of Scotland, stood their ground and were quickly destroyed. But the schiltrons held firm, with the knights making little impression on the dense forest of long spears, and 111 horses were killed in the vain attempts. Edward's cavalry fell back as his infantry and archers arrived.
Edward's longbowmen were brought into place and quickly overcame the inexperienced force of badly armed Scottish archers. The schiltrons were an easy target; they had no defence and nowhere to hide. The hail of arrows was supplemented by crossbow and slingshot. Unable to retreat or attack the schiltrons were cut to pieces, the battle lost almost as soon as the first arrows began to fall. The English cavalry waited, this time observing the King's command, until the Scots ranks were thin enough to allow them to penetrate the Scottish formation and cause whatever damage they could. The English footsoldiers, who had been advancing during the English barrage on the Scottish formations, closed the distance and the schiltrons finally started to break and scatter. Wallace managed to escape and the surviving Scots fled into the woods.
Casualties among the Scottish leaders were not particularly heavy, but did include Wallace's second-in-command, Sir John de Graham, as well as Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, and Macduff of Fife. According to the historian Stuart Reid, "while unquestionably a good partisan leader, William Wallace's military abilities were simply not up to the job of organizing, training and leading a conventional military force." At Falkirk, Wallace "simply drew up his army in an open field and froze."
Edward occupied Stirling and raided Perth, St. Andrews and Ayrshire. Yet, he retreated to Carlisle by September 9th. By this time Wallace had resigned as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick and future king, and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, King John Balliol's nephew. Edward invaded again in the summer of 1300 and so began a new chapter of the First War of Scottish Independence.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
When Henry VIII died in 1547, his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, inherited the throne. Because Edward was given a Protestant humanist education, Protestants held high expectations that he would push forward further reforms. However, with Edward in his minority, he was of little political account initially. Real power was in the hands of the regency council, which elected Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, to be Lord Protector. Seymour and the council were themselves in a delicate position and therefore they were hesitant to pursue radical change at first.
Nevertheless, Seymour and Thomas Cranmer did plan to further the reformation of religion. In July 1547, a Book of Homilies was published, from which all clergy were to preach from on Sundays. The homilies were explicitly Protestant in their content, condemning relics, images, rosary beads, holy water, palms, and other "papistical superstitions". It also directly contradicted the King's Book by teaching "we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works". Despite objections from Gardiner, who questioned the legality of bypassing both Parliament and Convocation, justification by faith had been made a central teaching of the English Church.
In August, thirty commissioners - nearly all Protestants - were appointed to carry out a royal visitation of England's churches. The Royal Injunctions of 1547 issued to guide the commissioners were borrowed from Thomas Cromwell's 1538 injunctions but revised to be more radical. Church processions - one of the most dramatic and public aspects of the traditional liturgy - were banned. The injunctions also attacked the use of sacramentals, such as holy water, while Reciting the rosary was also condemned. The injunctions set off a wave of iconoclasm with stained glass, shrines, statues, and roods defaced or destroyed. Church walls were whitewashed and covered with biblical texts condemning idolatry.
When a new Parliament met in November 1547, it began to dismantle the laws passed during Henry VIII's reign to protect traditional religion:
Perhaps more significantly, a new prayer Book of Common Prayer was authorised by the Act of Uniformity 1549, replacing several regional Latin rites then in use with English-language liturgy. However it offered a compromise to conservatives, providing Protestants with a service free from what they considered superstition, while maintaining the traditional structure of the mass.
Nevertheless, the first Book of Common Prayer was a "radical" departure from traditional worship and it’s enforcement did not take place without a struggle. In the West Country, the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer was the catalyst for a series of uprisings through the summer of 1549. There were smaller upheavals elsewhere from the West Midlands to Yorkshire. The Prayer Book Rebellion was not only in reaction to the prayer book; the rebels demanded a full restoration of pre-Reformation Catholicism. They were also motivated by economic concerns, such as enclosure. In East Anglia, however, the rebellions lacked a Roman Catholic character. Kett's Rebellion in Norwich blended Protestant piety with demands for economic reforms and social justice.
The insurrections were put down only after considerable loss of life. Somerset was blamed and was removed from power in October. It was wrongly believed by both conservatives and reformers that the Reformation would be overturned. Succeeding Somerset as de facto regent was John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, newly appointed Lord President of the Privy Council. Warwick saw further implementation of the reforming policy as a means of gaining Protestant support and defeating his conservative rivals.
From that point on, the Reformation proceeded apace. Between 1550 and 1551 the episcopate was purged of conservative bishops who were replaced by Protestants. The enlarged and emboldend Protestant episcopate were then able to push forward further actions to stamp out conservative practices, including wiping out compromises that had been written into the Book of Common Prayer. In April 1552, a new Act of Uniformity authorised a revised Book of Common Prayer to be used in worship by November 1st. Changes were made to the communion service and many traditional sacramentals and observances were removed.
Throughout Edward's reign, inventories of parish valuables, ostensibly for preventing embezzlement, convinced many the government planned to seize parish property, just as was done to the chantries. These fears were confirmed in March 1551 when the Privy Council ordered the confiscation of church plate and vestments. No action was taken until 1552–1553 when commissioners were appointed. They were instructed to leave only the "bare essentials" required by the 1552 Book of Common Prayer - a surplice, tablecloths, communion cup and a bell. Items to be seized included copes, chalices, chrismatories, patens, monstrances and candlesticks. Many parishes sold their valuables rather than have them confiscated at a later date and the money was used to fundparish projects that could not be challenged by the crown. The money funded parish projects that could not be challenged by royal authorities.
The confiscations caused tensions between Protestant church leaders and Warwick, now Duke of Northumberland. Cranmer, Ridley and other Protestant leaders did not fully trust Northumberland. Northumberland in turn sought to undermine these bishops by promoting their critics, such as Jan Laski and John Knox. Cranmer's plan for a revision of English canon law, the Reformatio legum ecclesiasticarum, failed in Parliament due to Northumberland's opposition. Despite such tensions, a new doctrinal statement to replace the King's Book was issued on royal authority in May 1553. The Forty-two Articles reflected the Reformed theology and practice taking shape during Edward's reign, which historian Christopher Haigh describes as a "restrained Calvinism". It affirmed predestination and that the King of England was Supreme Head of the Church of England under Christ.
King Edward became seriously ill in February and died in July 1553. Before his death, Edward was concerned that Mary, his devoutly Catholic sister, would overturn his religious reforms. A new plan of succession was created in which both of Edward's sisters Mary and Elizabeth were bypassed on account of illegitimacy in favour of the Protestant Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Edward's aunt Mary Tudor and daughter in law of the Duke of Northumberland. This new succession violated the "Third" Succession Act of 1544 and was widely seen as an attempt by Northumberland to stay in power. Northumberland was unpopular due to the church confiscations, and support for Jane collapsed. So on July 19th, the Privy Council proclaimed Mary queen to the acclamation of the crowds in London and a new chapter in England’s relationship with the church began.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Dan Harris as part of a series of models on English Reformation. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1832 The Anatomy Act was passed, giving free licence to doctors, teachers of anatomy and bona fide medical students to dissect donated bodies while also effectively ending the practice of resurrectionists in Great Britain.
The 19th century ushered in a new-found medical interest in detailed anatomy thanks to an increase in the importance of surgery. In order to study anatomy, human cadavers were needed and thus ushered in the practice of grave robbing. Before 1832, the Murder Act 1752 stipulated that only the corpses of executed murderers could be used for dissection. By the early 19th century, the rise of medical science – coinciding with a reduction in the number of executions – had caused demand to outstrip supply.
The shortfall had been met by resurrectionists who dug up the recently dead. In London the graves were relatively shallow and wooden spades were used as they were quieter. The body snatchers were careful not to take any clothing and personal items as they would have been found guilty of a felony. The trade was a sufficiently lucrative business to run the risk of detection, despite interfering with a grave being a misdemeanour at common law, not a felony, and only punishable with a fine and imprisonment rather than transportation or execution.
Around 1810, an anatomical society was formed to impress upon the government the necessity for altering the law. The efforts of this body gave rise in 1828 to a select committee to report on the question which lead to the Bill that would become the act. There was however very little public interest in the cause.
However, around the same time the demand for bodies took on a new dimension when murder took the place of grave-robbing. In Edinburgh, William Burke and William Hare committed at least 16 murders over a period of about 10 months in 1828, and sold the corpses to Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures. In England a group known as the London Burkers apparently modelled their activity on Burke and Hare. They came to prominence in 1831 when they were found to be murdering victims to sell to anatomists, by luring and drugging them at their dwelling in the northern end of Bethnal Green. The public outcry at the activities of the London Burkers caused pressure for a Bill to be passed and a year later the Anatomy Act 1832 gained royal assent.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on interesting events in British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
While it was hoped a similar feat could be achieved in 2020, COVID-19 has obviously put a stop to that. However, following the callous and devastating theft from the Fairy Bricks warehouse at the weekend the group wanted to do something to help.
So, instead of going for a one long ride together it has bee decided that each rider will do their own shorter Lockdown ride on the same day, witht he aim of covering the 1,000km distance between London and Billund - that day will be August 15th!
The four original riders, namely Huw Mullington, Ed Diment, James Pegrum and Ralph Döring, will be joined by five new cyclists, Caspar Bennedsen, Jesper Vilstrup, Joe Perez, Gary Davis, and Jonathon Glodsworthy. So, with 9 riders, that's an average of just over 100Km each to cover!
The ride is called Dash in a Day 2020 and the guys really hope you'll sponsor them to raise much-needed funds for the charity. You can sponsor them here at the Dash in a Day GoFundMe Page:
In this blog we hear from Dan Harris who tells us about how he got back into LEGO after many years adrift and started building with Brick to the Past.
Returning to LEGO after so long apart is a strange but delightful thing; much like rekindling a romance with a long lost lover; a mixture of joy, fuzzy nostalgia and the creeping suspicion that it's probably going to cost you a lot of money and inflict no small measure of emotional pain.
For me it was over 15 years since I'd left my childhood LEGO in its box in my parents attic and entered a long Dark Age of teenage insecurity, followed by an ill-defined adulthood that loosely occupied my 20s. My re-awaking, if I may use this slightly evangelical term, came by accident, coming as it did during one of many acts of wanton procrastination that have continually hampered my productivity and thwarted my already limited ambitions. As usual, this procrastination took the form of idly scrolling through nonsense on the internet.
I cannot remember the hows or whys, but for some reason I came across a photo of the Mountain Climber CMF from Series 11. I should say that for years now I have been a keen rock climber, a passion which has taken me far and wide; so this little piece of kitsch was right up my alley. I could see this fellow accompanying me on my weekends in the mountains as well as the opportunities for the irreverent photographs that would follow. Indeed, LEGO Dan is now my most reliable climbing partner and is always by my side, no matter what absurd challenge I set for us or what trouble I manage to get us into; he can’t belay to save his life though.
Anyway, procrastination begets procrastination and so I launched a comprehensive investigation into what else the internet had to offer. This immediately led to the LEGO community on Flickr where I was blown away by the models people had built. Such was the impact that I was immediately thrown out of my Dark Age and into the world of brightly coloured plastic bricks (except mine are mostly to be reddish brown and blueish grey). I didn't know that at the time of course, it wouldn't be until much later that I became accustomed to all the Lego related jargon. For better or for worse, this investigation inevitably led me to Bricklink and a hitherto unforeseen drain on my personal finances.
Further Flickr related procrastination yielded my second important CMF related discovery – the Roman Soldier from Series 6. Now I was truly transported back to my childhood since I have always had a nerdish interest in Roman history. In fact, as a child my mother fashioned me some legionary armour out of cardboard and my brothers and I used to run around the garden launching bamboo pilum at each other. The point of this digression is that it underlines the fact that this discovery led to the inevitable conclusion that my first MOCs would show a clear Roman bias. So I went out and bought a few; a few actually turned into about 70 and a big hole in my pocket; it's a good thing I had an understanding girlfriend (now wife, so obsessively amassing vast quantities of LEGO need not be a barrier to finding love) who tolerated what most people my age would regard as a massive waste of money. Not me though, I love them.
Once I had amassed a nice haul of bricks and a bucket load of Roman Soldiers I set about making my first MOCs, the first being a scene from Julius Caesar's victory at Alesia in 52BC. To my delight it was well received and with my ego boosted I set about planning my next project – a Hadrian's Wall Milecastle. Like most civil engineering projects my initial estimates of cost were way off and so more money was spent, more bricks acquired and more time invested. It was at this point I started to doubt myself... was I just going through a mid-life crisis that would eventually be buried as an embarrassing mistake, only I was going through it some 20 years earlier than most? I decided to reflect, what would 10 year old Dan think of 30 year old Dan? A difficult question since 10 year old Dan hasn't existed for nay on 20 years. With some effort however, it turns out that 10 year old Dan thinks 30 year old Dan is awesome, mostly because 10 year old Dan's aspirations are limited by being 10 years old; that and because he has a great big TV, a PS4, a big box of Lego and a girlfriend who lets him play with them, sometimes all at once. It's a good thing 10 year old Dan could be channelled because otherwise the Milecastle would never have been finished and 30 year old Dan would have been crushed under the realisation that he'd just wasted several thousand pounds of his hard earned money on a child's toy, despite not having any children of his own.
The Milecastle was picked up by The Borthers Brick and the reaction blew me away. Now I could develop new Lego related ambitions and perhaps these ambitions could even avoid death through mindless procrastination. It was about this time that I started to make contact with the guys at Brick to the Past and after a few more months and a few more MOCs, it turns out they were recruiting and I was invited to join them for their 2015 collaborative build, which we soon decided should be based on Hadrian's Wall.
If, like me at the time, your experience of MOCing has been a solitary one, then collaborative working will conjure a whole new world of problems and concerns for you to wrestle with. Of course when we were children my brothers and I used to build together, but these early days of indiscriminately jamming together whatever bricks were at hand offers few transferable skills to the serious world of large-scale collaboration.
Joining Brick to the Past would be something of a watershed in my development as a LEGO builder. For one thing, it would force me to leave the comfort of my spare bedroom, which was converted into a fully operational arena for building, and taste the serious world of the LEGO event. After all, if you're going to get involved in a collaborative build, it would probably be a good idea to know what you're getting yourself into. And so in October 2014 I found myself standing outside Swindon's STEAM Museum, ready to attend the Great Western Brick Show and meet the Brick to the Past team. I have to admit to a sense of unease as a throng of overexcited children swept by me and into hall – is this really a normal way for a 30 year old man to be spending his time? I don't even really like children, they're noisy and carry disease, so why should I want to visit an event which appears to be aimed at them?
I was also feeling uneasy because up to this point my communication with the team had only been via the internet, and if I'm honest by the time I'd got to STEAM, I was beginning to question the wisdom of joining a group of people I'd never met in a project that would stretch my building ability, not to mention my wallet. So I meandered around their model, the now famous London 1875, and did some inconspicuous browsing before slowly sidling up to a man with a badge and introducing myself. The man with the badge turning out to be Steve Snasdell. And from here I was introduced to the rest of the team. I needn't have worried, these guys are as awesome as their online personas suggest.
That was one major and, as it turns out irrational fear, quashed, though it does raise an important point – if you're going to get involved in a big collaboration, make sure you like the folks you're getting involved with because, let's face it, who needs a dysfunctional relationship with a group of Lego obsessed man-children... or lady-children (...this does not describe Brick to the Past, or anyone else I've met for that matter)?
The other thing you probably want to make sure of before joining a collaboration is that you're interested in the subject matter, because when you build to the scale of Brick to the Past, you're going to be spending a lot of time building it. Since building bits of Hadrian's Wall was my self confessed forte, I reckoned I'd lucked out. Plus I already owned the minifigures. The scale for this collaboration was of course of an entirely different order and my ability to make good on my promises was to remain a concern throughout the build.
What meeting the guys at the Great Western Brick Show really bought home was the amount of time, care and effort they put into their sections; living up to these standards was therefore a bit intimidating. Because it was my first go at a collaboration, I decided to limit my contribution to a modest nine 48x48 baseplates, on which I built a small Romano-British settlement, known as a Vicus, to sit next to James Pegrum's auxiliary fort. The evidence of such settlements can be found alongside the remains of all of Hadrian's Wall's forts and I was really excited to be able to take on this aspect of the build. The final build also had a milecastle, Roman baths, a villa and a village of northern Celtic types.
When we unveiled The Wall: Rome's Northern Frontier at the Great Western Brick Show in 2015 we were blown away by the response. Unbelievably at the time, we were also reported on by the Smithsonian Magazine and Kotaku. Anyway, since then I’ve never looked back and have continued to feed my obsession with more and more LEGO… This has had some weird consequences; a couple of years ago my wife and I moved house… try explaining to an estate agent that you need a room exclusively to build LEGO in.
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The blog is modified from an article that first appeared in Blocks Magazine issue no. 6.
John Balliol was a King of Scotland, who reigned between November 30th 1292 and July 10th 1296. He was chosen to succeed Margaret, Maid of Norway, who died in September 1290 leaving no obvious heir. Following her death the Guardians of Scotland, who had been appointed to govern the realm during the young Queen's minority, called upon Edward I of England, to decide between various competitors for the Scottish throne in a process known as the Great Cause. Edward and his council would choose John, but the English king used it as an opportunity to turn Scotland into one of his vassals and what ensued was the bitter struggle of the First War of Scottish Independence.
Little of Balliol's early life is known. He was born between 1248 and 1250 at an unknown location; possibilities include Galloway, Picardy and Barnard Castle, County Durham. He derived his claim from being the great-great-great-grandson of David I (who reigned between 1124 and 1153), being senior in genealogical primogeniture but not in proximity of blood. His main rival was Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale (grandfather of Robert the Bruce, who later became king) and so following the Margaret's death there was a great risk that this rivalry would descend into a catastrophic civil war.
In an attempt to avoid conflict Guardians and other Scots magnates asked Edward I to intervene. Edward issued the ultimatum that his involvement would be on the condition that the realm of Scotland become a feudal dependency of the English throne. This was a long held ambition of the English monarchy, and while it was not unusual for Scottish kings to pay homage to their English neighbours, the practical implications were usually non-existent. What Edward sought was something more legally binding. This condition was not forthcoming, however a compromise was reached where Edward was put in temporary control of the principal royal castles of Scotland and for his part, Edward agreed that he would return control of both kingdom and castles to the successful claimant within two months.
Fourteen nobles put themselves forward as candidates for the throne. In reality only four had genuine claims, namely Balliol, Bruce, John Hastings, 1st Baron Hasting and Floris V, Count of Hooland. Of these only Bruce and Balliol had realistic grounds on which to claim the crown. The rest merely wished to have their claims put on the legal record. Edward gave judgement on November 17th 1292 and Balliol was chosen as king, with Edward’s son, the future Edward II, becoming heir designate. This decision had the support of the majority of Scots nobles and magnates. Balliol was crowned King of Scotland at Scone on November 30th 1292, St. Andrew's Day.
With the new king in place, Edward I coerced recognition as Lord Paramount of Scotland, the feudal superior of the realm, and steadily went about undermining John's authority. He demanded homage to be paid towards himself, legal authority over the Scottish King in any disputes brought against him by his own subjects, contribution towards the costs for the defense of England, and military support was expected in his war against France.
The Scottish nobility soon became weary of their king’s compromised position and so John’s authority was taken from him by the leading men of the kingdom, who appointed a council of twelve at Stirling in July 1295. They went on to conclude a treaty of mutual assistance with France, known in later years as the Auld Alliance.
The Franco-Scottish negotiations did not go unnoticed in England and in early October, Edward began to make preparations for an invasion of Scotland. One of Edward’s key appointments was that of Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale (father of the future King Robert the Bruce) as the governor of Carlisle Castle. He also ordered John to relinquish control of the castles and burghs of Berwick, Jedburgh and Roxburgh. Bit by bit, the English king began to build up his forces along the Scottish border.
In response John summoned all able-bodied Scotsmen to bear arms and gather at Caddonlee by March 11th 1296. Several Scottish nobles chose to ignore the summons, including Robert Bruce. On the 30th March, Edward sacked Berwick and then moving his forces north, met the Scots on the April 27th at the First Battle of Dunbar. The battle was a crushing defeat for the Scots, effectively ending the Scottish war effort. John retreated north, reaching Perth on June 21st, where he received a message from Edward, inviting him to surrender.
John abdicated at Stracathro near Montrose on July 10th 1296. Here the arms of Scotland were formally torn from his surcoat, giving him the abiding name of "Toom Tabard" (empty coat). By the end of August, most of Scotland was under Edward’s control and, after removing the Stone of Destiny from Scone Abbey and transporting it to Westminster Abbey, Edward convened a parliament at Berwick, where the Scottish nobles paid homage to him as King of England.
John was imprisoned in some comfort at the Tower of London until July 1299, when he was allowed to go to France on the request of Pope Boniface VIII. While initially he was required to stay with the Pope, in 1301 he was released and spent the rest of his life on his family’s ancestral lands in Picardy, France. He died in late 1314. He was survived by his son Edward Balliol, who later revived his family's claim to the Scottish throne and with the support of the English, would manage to briefly establish himself as king in opposition to David II.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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