Last weekend we attended the inaugural Awesome Bricks Show at Scotland’s National Museum of Flight. The show was attended by some of Scotland’s best builders as well as some international talent from Norway’s Are J. Heiseldal. For those who wanted some hands on action there was also a brick pit, train tracks and other fun actives, which all took place under the svelte shadow of Concorde!
Representing Brick to the Past was Dan Harris, who had along with him our fierce band of LEGO Vikings. Dan said:
“This show was an absolute joy. The museum makes a great venue and there was a really nice chilled out atmosphere among the displayers and visitors. I even got to play a few games of Ard Ri – the current score being Visitors 2, Dan 1; these kids are smart!”
We’re really hoping that the show is held again next year and becomes a permanent fixture in the LEGO calendar. Talk of next year is already underway and we will definitely be back!
All the models on display at the show are available for rent. See our commercial page or contact us for more information.
Today marks the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Sandwich, which took place on the 24th August 1217. Fought between the forces of Henry III of England and the future King Louis of VIII of France, the battle was the final major engagement of the First Baron's War, convincing Louis to seek terms and culminating in the Treaty of Lambeth a few weeks later. The war was a conflict between the supporters of King John and his son Henry's claim to the throne and those who supported the claim of Prince Louis; it would decide the character of the English monarchy and its relationship with Europe for centuries to come.
At the outbreak of the war in 1215, Louis and the Barons' position looked strong. They controlled most of south and east England and had the support of the Scottish and Welsh rulers in the north and west. Furthermore, when King John died in October 1216 Henry was just 9 years old and yet to reach his majority. This could be enormously problematic for medieval monarchies, however John had had the foresight to leave behind a group of very able people to administer the Kingdom, including William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, to act as regent.
On May 20th 1217 Marshal led a royalist army to victory at the Battle of Lincoln. This proved a significant blow to Louis as it significantly reduced his operational ability and removed many of his supporters from the field. Following the battle Louis attempted to come to terms with his opponents, however negotiations broke down and hearing that Eustace the Monk would soon be sailing from France with reinforcements and supplies, he resolved to fight on.
Eustace appears to have been a remarkable character. Born into minor nobility in the French county of Boulogne, he is said to have studied black magic in Toledo, Spain, then become a Benedictine monk at St. Samer Abbey near Calais, left the monastery to avenge the murder of his father and then become a mercenary pirate, selling his services to both English and French monarchs at different times. Between 1205 and 1208 he had been in the employ of King John and with the sovereign's blessing had seized the Channel Islands. In 2012 he switched sides and became instrumental in Louis’ successful capture of London and the Cinque Ports at the start of the Baron’s War.
On 24 August, in clear weather, Eustace and his fleet set out from Calais. With him were approximately 80 ships, around 10 of which were large and equipped for combat. Eustace's own vessel, the Great Ship of Bayonne, led the French squadron; aboard were some 36 knights under the command of Robert de Courtenay. All told, between the first four ships, including Eustace's flagship, were some 100-125 knights, while the remaining six troop ships carrying Men-at-arms.
Marshal had heard of Eustace's fleet and on the 19th August he arrived in New Romney to summon the sailors of the Cinque Ports. The sailors were hard to persuade, having been poorly treated by King John, however they were persuaded to fight with the promise of rewards should they defeat the French. With the exception of a large cog supplied by Marshal himself, the English ships were generally smaller than those of the French. They numbered around 40, with around 16-18 larger vessels and 20 smaller ones. Marshal was persuaded to remain a shore and the fleet was led by Hubert de Burgh. One ship was even commanded by King John's illegitimate son, Richard FitzRoy.
When the French fleet sailed past Sandwich, de Burgh ordered the English ships to leave port. As the French sailed towards the Thames Estuary it held the advantageous windward position, however perhaps overconfidently and against Eustace’s advice, Robert of Courtenay decided to engage the English fleet. However when the French shortened sail, the English ships were able to gain the windward position and attack. Aided by their position, the English archers were able to inflict considerable damage on the enemy before the French bowmen were able to respond. The English also opened pots of lime which blew in the French faces blinding them to the oncoming attack.
The Great Ship of Bayonne engaged FitzRoy’s ship early in the battle and as more English ships approached they would join the fight against the French flagship. The other French ships maintained a tight formation but failed to intervene. The Great Ship of Bayonne found itself caught between Marshal’s cog and FitzRoy's ship and after a one-sided melee, Robert of Courtenay and the French knights were captured for ransom, while the French sailors and common soldiers were massacred. Eustace was found hiding in the bilge and, seen as a traitor, beheaded on the deck of his ship. With their flagship taken, what was left of the French fleet headed back to Calais. They were pursued by the English who captured and plundered most of the fleeing French supply ships.
With supplies low and his connection with the continent severed Louis lost all hopes of a victory. The Treaty of Lambeth was signed in September and Louis returned to France, having renounced his claim to the English throne.
This model was built by Brick to the Past's James Pegrum as part of a series of scenes on important events in British history. Be the first to see them by following us on Twitter or Facebook.
On this day in 1745 the standard of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonny Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, was raised on a hill near Glenfinnan.
Sailing from France Charles had initially landed in Scotland on Eriskay in the Western Isles on the 23rd July and made his way to Glenfinnan by sea and on foot via Loch nan Uamh. Here he was met by a small number of MacDonalds and remained there for several days as more clansmen arrived. By the 19th August he felt that he had enough support and as the standard was raised he announced that he was there to claim the British throne in the name of his father James Stuart ('the Old Pretender').
The Glenfinnan Banner, as Charles' standard would be know, is depicted as being a white square on a dark red background and the raising of it marks its first recorded appearance. Interestingly, the banner's pattern is identical to the Royal Navy's signal flag for the number nine, which raises the distinct possibility that it was a hastily found makeshift option plundered from the Doutelle signal box.
Another interesting fact is that among those present at Glenfinnan were a handful of government troops who had been captured in an earlier skirmish with some MacDonalds'. One of these, Captain John Sweetman was released and was able to rendezvous with General Cope's force at Dalwhinnie and report on the arising threat.
The Jacobites would leave Glenfinnan and march south via Corrieyairack, made easily traversable by General Wade's new road. They would set a course that would see them reach as far south as Derby before returning north to face defeat on Culloden Moor in April 1746. Charles went into hiding and left Scotland's mainland via Loch nan Uamh not far from the place where just eight months before he had launched his rising.
Our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne explores the history of the Risings and particularly that of the 'Forty-five'. It will be next on display at the Great Western Brick Show in October, why not come and see it there?
On this day in AD 117, Hadrian became the 14th Emperor of the Roman Empire.
Hadrian was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus on January 24th AD 76 in either Italica or Rome. He was the adopted son of the Emperor Trajan, who died on 8th July 117, probably of a stroke. Hadrian's succession was not without controversy, with rumours that his adoption was illegitimate and the letter naming him successor fraudulent. Nevertheless, he quickly secured his position and his reign lasted just under 21 years, ending with his death of natural causes on July 10th AD 138.
During his reign, Hadrian travelled to nearly every province of the Empire and in Britain is perhaps best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of the province of Britannia. He also rebuilt the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma in Rome. He is regarded as the third of the Five Good Emperors.
We have always been fascinated with Roman history and in particular the Empire's effects on the British landscape, its people and their culture. Inspired by this, in 2015 we built an enormous 16 square metre model of Hadrian's Wall, which included a fort, milecastle and Vicus. Find out more and see the photos on our portfolio page:
The Roman villa and iron age village in this model are available to rent, contact us to find out more about prices and options.
The mosaic of the Emperor Hadrian was made by Jimmy and Tommy Clinch and is also available to rent.
While our models often focus on significant events and big buildings, we feel that one of the most important aspects of our work is the depiction of everyday life as lived by ordinary people and you can see this effort played out across all of our models. The Jacobite Risings gives us another great opportunity to do this, allowing us to re-imagine a little piece of 18th century highland life. The Highlands were reasonably well populated in the early 18th century, this being before the brutal reprisals that followed the “Forty-five” and before the Highland Clearances of later years. During this period the pattern of settlement was dominated by multiple-tenancy farms within which houses were usually clustered together in small townships, with ridged fields, which had grazing grounds beyond. This settlement pattern is now long gone yet these townships and their field systems are by-far the most extensive archaeological remains in the Cairngorms National Park, the area on which we have chosen to focus our build.
Luckily the National Park is also home to a resource that is of immeasurable use to builders like us – the Highland Folk Museum. When it was established in 1935 it was Britain’s first open air museum, though at the time it was located on the Island of Iona. It came to its present site in Newtonmore in the 1990s via Laggan and Kingussie.
The museum is home to a recreated 1700s Township, which features 6 houses and a number of other period structures. These were built using traditional methods based on what we can infer from archaeological evidence and written accounts. The Township is curated by a number of specialist staff who dress in 18th century clothing and provide interpretative displays for visitors. One building even houses a loom which is expertly operated by the staff. The Township proved so useful that we in fact took several trips to visit it. It provided us with a wealth of information to work into our model and also helped us get a feel for the way life was lived during the early 18th century.
Our model is home to its own Township as well as a sprinkling of isolated buildings, such as steadings and shielings. Designing these buildings has proved challenging as their rounded shapes do not easily lend themselves to the medium of LEGO. However, we have come up with a number of innovative solutions, some of which we have been developing over the last couple of years, that meet these challenges perfectly. We have also created a number of scenes based around traditional activities, including waulking the cloth, peat cutting and shinty – the aim being to make our landscape come alive with day to day activity.
The Highland Folk Museum is run by High Life Highland, which is a charity formed in 2011 by The Highland Council to develop and promote opportunities in culture, learning, sport, leisure, health and wellbeing. It is open from the beginning of April to the end of October and is free to enter, although you can make a donation if you wish. It’s a great day out, especially of you have a family; find out more at:
Our LEGO Township will be next on display as part of our epic model, The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at Swindon's Great Western Brick Show in October, why not come and see it there?
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