Sweyn Forkbeard was king of Denmark from 986 to 1014 and in 1013, shortly before his death, he became the first Danish king of England. He was the father of King Harald II of Denmark, King Cnut the Great and Queen Estrid Svendsdatter.
Sweyn gained his Danish crown when he overthrew his father, Harald Bluetooth, sometime in the mid 980s. After establishing himself in Denmark, he led a large Viking fleet to England with the intention of capturing London. He would be unsuccessful and while away Eric Sersel, King of Sweden took advantage of his absence and occupied Denmark. Sweyn recovered Denmark on the death of Eric in in 994.
Sweyn’s relationship with the Swedes would improve following Eric’s death and he would build an alliance with Swedish king Olof Skötkonung and Eirik Hákonarson, Jarl of Lade, against Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason. At the battle of Svolder in 999 or 1000, Sweyn and his allies defeated and killed King Olaf I Trygvessön of Norway and divided his kingdom between them.
Sweyn’s attentions now returned to England, but rather than invading he instead resorted to extracting payment by blackmail. However, in November 1002 King Æthelred the Unready ordered the St. Brice’s Day Massacre resulting in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Danes in England. Among the dead was Gunhilde, who may have been the sister of Sweyn. The Massacre would instigate a change in policy from the Danish king, who turned to raiding the English coast in revenge. Sweyn campaigned in Wessex and East Anglia in 1003–1004, but a famine forced him to return to Denmark in 1005. Further raids took place in 1006–1007, and in 1009–1012 Thorkell the Tall led a Viking invasion into England. Sweyn acquired massive sums of Danegeld through the raids and in 1013, he led his forces in a full-scale invasion.
The contemporary Peterborough Chronicle (part of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) states:
“...before the month of August came king Sweyn with his fleet to Sandwich. He went very quickly about East Anglia into the Humber's mouth, and so upward along the Trent till he came to Gainsborough. Earl Uchtred and all Northumbria quickly bowed to him, as did all the people of the Kingdom of Lindsey, then the people of the Five Boroughs. He was given hostages from each shire. When he understood that all the people had submitted to him, he bade that his force should be provisioned and horsed; he went south with the main part of the invasion force, while some of the invasion force, as well as the hostages, were with his son Cnut. After he came over Watling Street, they went to Oxford, and the town-dwellers soon bowed to him, and gave hostages. From there they went to Winchester, and the people did the same, then eastward to London.”
By this time however, Thorkell the Tall had defected to the English and lead them in their defence of London. Sweyn therefore turned towards Bath where the western thanes submitted to him and gave hostages. The Londoners then followed suit, fearing Sweyn's revenge if they resisted any longer. King Æthelred sent his sons Edward and Alfred to Normandy, and himself retreated to the Isle of Wight, and then followed them into exile. On Christmas Day 1013 Sweyn was declared King of England.
Based in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, Sweyn began to organise his vast new kingdom, but he died there on 3 February 1014, having ruled England for only five weeks. His embalmed body was returned to Denmark for burial. Sweyn's elder son, Harald II, succeeded him as King of Denmark, while his younger son, Cnut, was proclaimed King of England by the people of the Danelaw. However, the English nobility sent for Æthelred, who upon his return from exile in Normandy in the spring of 1014 managed to drive Cnut out of England. Cnut soon returned and became king of all England in 1016, following the deaths of Æthelred and his son Edmund Ironside; he succeeded his brother as King of Denmark in 1019 and eventually also ruled Norway, parts of Sweden, Pomerania, and Schleswig.
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 1840 an unsuccessful Chartist rising took place in Bradford. In the wake of the failed Newport Rising in November of the previous year and the conviction of its leaders for high treason, Chartists in the Yorkshire town took to the streets to continue the fight for reform. The event would however be an unmitigated disaster.
Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform in Britain that existed from 1838 to 1857. It took its name from the People's Charter of 1838 and was a national protest movement, with particular strongholds of support in Northern England, the East Midlands, the Staffordshire Potteries, the Black Country and South Wales. The People's Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic, including a vote for every man twenty-one years of age, a secret ballot and equal constituencies.
Prior to events in Newport, the Yorkshire and Welsh Chartists had been in contact, agreeing in September 1839 that Chartists in South Wales and northern England would rise simultaneously. Arms had been collected, bullets cast and an insurrectionary network established throughout the industrial towns and villages of West Riding in preparation. In October however, a delegate from Bradford visited South Wales and tried to persuade the Welsh leader, John Frost, to postpone the Welsh rising, as the Yorkshire Chartists were ill-prepared. Despite these pleas Frost was not to be dissuaded and so it was promised that Bradford would rise once Newport was captured.
As the Welsh rising neared, the Yorkshire leader Peter Bussey got cold feet and went into hiding leaving the northern Chartists leaderless and the Welsh Chratists isolated. On November 4th the Newport Rising failed and shortly after John Frost was arrested. In December he was convicted of high treason and although he would eventually be deported, he was originally sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered; this would be the last time such a sentence would be handed out.
In Yorkshire, as in other places, there was much anger at the death sentences passed to Frost and the other Newport leaders. In Bradford Robert Peddie came to the fore eager to replace Bussey as leader and take action in response. Peddie hatched a hasty plan with other militants to take the town at night, plunder the shops and banks and then, with the assistance of other West Riding towns, size the local iron works (a major manufacturer of arms) before moving on to raise further insurrections at Dewsbury, Sheffield and the East Midlands. They would then march on the capital.
The Bradford rising was however doomed from the very beginning, having already been infiltrated by a spy. Around 40 armed men gathered on the night of January 26th, but when they marched on the town centre just after midnight, they were met by authorities who were well prepared for them. Chartist contingents from Dewsbury and Halifax never arrived – the messages calling them had been entrusted to the spy, who had naturally never delivered them. The Bradford Chartists were quickly rounded in and set to trial in York. On Wednesday March 18th Peddie, and three others were found guilty of riot and conspiracy. Their sentences were therefore lighter than those at Newport, with Peddie receiving three years hard labour and nine others lesser sentences.
By the spring the government had largely suppressed Chartism through mass arrests and the imprisonment of most national leaders, scores of local activists and hundreds of the rank-and-file. The first and most dramatic phase of Chartism was at an end and efforts moved onto a process of internal renewal and more systematic organisation.
This model was 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.
Britain has a long naval history, with vessels such as HMS Victory, The Golden Hinde, HMS Beagle, RMS Titanic and the Mayflower all playing a part in the formation of the country's national identity, or at least, certain versions of it.
In 2020 we will be bringing you the story of one of these ships, one which has become a cultural icon and part of the national myth of another country - the United States of America. Her name, the Mayflower.
2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's voyage to North America. Onboard were a collection of Puritans, traders and adventurers, now often known today as the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact prior to leaving the ship to establish Plymouth Colony, a document which established a rudimentary form of democracy with each member contributing to the welfare of the community.
Over the next few months Brick to the Past will be working on a huge LEGO model to commemorate this journey. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up-to-date!
We have another show for your diary! On October 26th our man Simon Pickard will be holding an event at Moose Hall in Taunton. The show will feature Simon's work, including his amazing models for Brick to the Past!
Tickets are available on the door for just £3 per person, which we guarantee is an absolute bargain. Under 3's go free!
We know we’ve already given this away with our many social media posts, not to mention our blog about Peterloo, but we want to make sure you have this firmly in your diary.
The Great Western Brick Show is back on October 5th and 6th at STEAM Museum in Swindon. We'll be there with our epic new model to commemorate the Peterloo Massacre, which had its 200th anniversary this year. Once again it promises to be a great event and we hope to see lots of you there!
Book your tickets at the museum’s website:
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On this day in 1819, 60,000 to 80,000 people gathered on St. Peter's Field in Manchester to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. Constituency boundaries had failed to keep pace with the profound effects of industrialisation, with the burgeoning cities bereft of representation, while so-called rotten boroughs, which returned MP’s form just a handful of voters, held a disproportionate sway over government. In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, high unemployment, depressed wages and famine, exacerbated by the punishing effects of the Corn Laws, had resulted in a strong desire among the working classes for change.
Previously planned meetings had been banned by local magistrate, who feared rioting or even a full insurrection; the events of the French Revolution and its aftermath were still fresh in the memory of the ruling classes. The meeting on the 16th of August was therefore held with the declared aim “to consider the propriety of adopting the most LEGAL and EFFECTUAL means of obtaining a reform in the Common House of Parliament“.
Among others, the crowd was there to hear the radical speaker Henry Hunt. However, no sooner had Hunt arrived at the hustings, constables assisted by the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry pushed through the crowd to arrest him; the charge would be sedition. The day had already seen its first casualty when 2-year old William Fildes was knocked from his mother’s arms by a galloping rider as he raced to catch his fellow Yeomanry on their way to the field. Now, having carried out the arrest, the inexperienced and possibly drunk riders of the Yeomanry began destroying the banners and flags of the hustings before turning on those in the crowd. In the ensuing melee, the Yeomanry began striking indiscriminately at the crowd with their sabres and trampling them with their horses. Hemmed into the field by its narrow exists as well as the bayonets of 88th Regiment of Foot, who blocked the main thoroughfares, the crowd was unable to disperse effectively.
The Corn Laws were tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food and grain enforced in the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1846. They were designed to keep grain prices high to favour domestic producers. While they enhanced the profits and political power associated with land ownership, they also raised food prices and the costs of living for the British public.
As a result 18 people would lose their lives and a further 400-700 injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in an ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier. Historian Robert Poole has called the Massacre one of the defining moments of its age. In its own time, the London and national papers shared the horror felt in the Manchester region, but Peterloo's immediate effect was to cause the government to crack down on reform, not embrace it. It would not be until the Great Reform Act of 1832 that Manchester would be able to elect MPs of its own.
Peterloo 200 years on
Furthermore, in a partnership with the Age of Revolution and The University of Kent, the authors and publishers have created a free twenty-page schools’ version of the graphic novel specially adapted for teachers wishing to explore the events in the classroom. Its aim is to help students to understand the event, and to identify links and symbols that bridge periods and topics. It will provoke insights into the nature of political protest in British history, its representation in art, and its relevance to the world today. Find out more and download the schools' version at:
Our model, which will depict the massacre and the local landmarks that existed in 1819, will go on display at the Great Western Brick Show in Swindon on the 5th and 6th October. Find out more and buy tickets at:
To keep up-to-date with our events and models, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We have our first save the date of 2019 for you. We will be at the Discovery Brick Show at Newcastle upon Tyne’s Discovery Museum on the 11th and 12th of May!
The show boasts some of the newest LEGO models alongside displays from a hand-picked selection of the best LEGO builders in the UK. That’s right, we’re hand picked!
You can also explore a range of specially selected LEGO traders and sellers and take part in a range of LEGO activities. In the unlikely event you don’t like LEGO, you can always just visit the museum itself.
At £2.50 per person plus booking fee, the tickets are an absolute bargain, but advance booking is essential to see the exhibits. Find out more and buy your tickets here:
On this day in 1547 one of England's most intriguing monarchs, Henry VIII, died. At the time of Henry birth on June 28th 1491, he was second in line to the throne. This changed in 1502 with the death of his older brother, Arthur aged 15. Within seven years of his brother's death, his father Henry VII died and so the younger Henry became king, being crowned on 24th June 1509.
His reign has gone down in history for many reasons. One of the foremost was his six wives and the resulting split from the Roman Catholic church, which was a consequence of his divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The cause for so many wives was his drive to secure the Tudor line, which at this time required a son. His first two marriages did not provide him with a male heir. At the time of his death, he had three successors, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, all of who would successively take the throne. His successors were to have varying relationships with the Roman Catholic church, which was to have a significant consequence in national and international politics for years to come. During his reign, his split from Rome and lead nationally to the dissolution of the monasteries and played its part in his international wars.
As a King, he was known for military achievements (and causalities, such as the loss of the Mary Rose) and his athleticism. It was during one of his sporting activities that his physical decline began following an accident in a jousting tournament in 1536, where he reopened a wound in his leg.
It took some ten years for this wound to cause his health to deteriorate to the point where it was life threatening and in August 1546 his youthful vigour was noticeable deserting him. As his health became a concern, his stools and sputum were regularly examined. Furthermore, the doctors at that time believed that the letting of his blood, in accordance with the waxing and waning of the moon could save him. Between August and December, the privy chamber spent increased amounts on his medical treatment to no avail.
It was treason to predict the king’s death, though it was obviously imminent by January 1547, and so Henry’s doctors did not summon the courage to break the news to the King. This was not surprising as Henry had ordered numerous executions during his reign (some estimates give as a high an estimate as 72,000), including two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. As the month wore on and his health declined, he took Holy Communion and gave his confessions on the 27th. It is also likely that during the evening of the same day he finalised his will, which was witnessed by eleven people (possibly including the ever-present lutenist, Patrec) and in doing so laid the way for Edward his son to become the next monarch, securing the future of the Church of England, for the time being at least.
In his room, Henry lay dying, the aroma of the air was heavy, oppressive, with grey amber and musk, smothering the stench of physical decay along with the shadowy gloom created by the window tapestries. With it being the depth of winter, they would have been drawn tightly, keeping the damp out. A great wood fire, continually fed, would have provided him with warmth whilst eliminating all ‘evil vapours’, whilst giving off a stifling fug. It is also possible that the king would have continued to have been attended with potions and plasters by his doctors, in vain, whilst they knew death was inevitable before the rising of another sun. Lying, dying he was not alone, as the death of a monarch during this period was a public affair.
In his last hours it was also crucial that Henry had time to prepare his soul and he we was aided by Sir Anthony Denny who warned his master that ‘in man’s judgement, he was not likely to live’ and that he should remember his sins, ‘as becometh every good Christian man to do’. In response, Henry said that he believed that Christ in all His mercy would ‘pardon me all my sins, yea, though they were greater than can be’. He later that evening of the 27th asked for Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, who rode at breakneck speed from Croydon, to be with the king. With Cranmer by his side, the archbishop begged the king to give a sign that he trusted Christ for salvation. In response, Cranmer felt the grip on his hand tighten slightly. And so at around 2 a.m., King Henry VIII left this world.
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.
Octavia Hill was an English social reformer whose main concern was the welfare of the inhabitants of Britain's cities, especially London. Born on December 3rd 1838 she would become one of the 19th centuries most active philanthropists, perhaps most importantly establishing a more enlightened approach to the provision and management of housing for working people, an approach on which most modern housing associations find their model.
Octavia was the daughter of James Hill, corn merchant, banker and follower of Owenism. The family's comfortably prosperous life was disrupted by James' financial problems and his subsequent mental collapse. In 1840 he was declared bankrupt.
The family settled in a small cottage in Finchley, now a north London suburb, but then a village. Octavia Hill was impressed and moved by Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, a book that portrayed the daily lives of slum dwellers. She was also strongly influenced by the theologian, Anglican priest and social reformer F. D. Maurice, who was a family friend.
A co-operative guild providing employment for 'distressed gentlewomen' accepted Hill for training in glass-painting when she was 13. When the work of the guild was expanded to provide work in toy-making for 'ragged school children', she was invited, at the age of 14, to take charge of the workroom. She was deeply aware of the dreadful living conditions of the children in her charge at the guild.
Since the early 1830s some members of Parliament and other social reformers had been attempting to improve the condition of housing for the working poor. From Hill's point of view most attempts had failed the poorest members of the working class, the unskilled labourers. She found that their landlords routinely ignored their obligations towards their tenants, and that the tenants were too ignorant and oppressed to better themselves. She tried to find new homes for her charges, but there was a severe shortage of available property, and Hill decided that her only solution was to become a landlord herself.
In 1853 Hill began working for John Ruskin as a copyist and being impressed with her work and drive, in 1865 he acquired for £750 the leases of three cottages of six rooms each in Paradise Place, Marylebone. Ruskin placed these houses, which were "in a dreadful state of dirt and neglect", under Hill's management. He told her that investors might be attracted to such schemes if a 5% annual return could be secured. In 1866 Ruskin acquired the freehold of five more houses for Hill to manage in Freshwater Place, Marylebone. Once the houses were repaired and improved they were let to those on intermittent and low incomes. The 5% annual was achieved and any excess was invested back into the properties. In consequence of her prudent management, Hill was able to attract new backers, and by 1874 she had 15 housing schemes with around 3,000 tenants.
In 1886 Hill founded the Horace Street Trust, which became the model for many subsequent housing associations, and has since developed into the present-day Octavia Housing association.
in 1889 Hill formed the first independent Cadet Battalion in London, a concept which rapidly spread, becoming the modern Army Cadets, with around 40,000 members today. She felt strongly that the military context would socialise urban youths struggling for direction.
Another of Hill's concerns was the availability of open spaces for poor people. She campaigned against development on existing suburban woodlands and helped to save London's Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields from being built on. In 1896 she was one of the three founders of the National Trust, set up to preserve places of historic interest or natural beauty for the enjoyment of the British public.
She died on August 13th 1912 in Marylebone.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of our model London 1875: Capital of an Empire. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see all of our models first.
Hello folks! Are you bored with the same old routine? Are you looking for something different to do at the weekends? Would you like to shake it up a bit with a visit to see some sick LEGO models by us and other talented individuals?
If the answer to just one of these is ‘yes’ then here’s what you need to know on where you can see us next!
First up – we’re going international with Denmark’s Skærbæk Fan Weekend at 29th and 30th of September. Representing us will be James Pegrum, who is going the extra mile by cycling there all the way from London. James is embarking on this 1,000 km ride to raise money for the charity Fairy Bricks. His models will be arriving separately,
Find out about the fan weekend here:
To sponsor James’ bike ride, please click here:
Bikes to Billdund Fundraising Page
Fairy Bricks PayPal Donation Page
The weekend after we have another of our big UK events – the Great Western Brick Show in Swindon on the 6th and 7th October. We will be there with our epic new model Henry Morgan: Welsh Raider of the Spanish Main!
Find out more and get your tickets here:
To keep up with all of our events, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
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On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past