Woop woop! We have our first save the date of 2020 for you! We will be at Edinbrick at the Potterrow Dome in Edinburgh on Saturday 16th May!
The event will run from 10.30am to 4pm and there are a limited number of Quiet Time spaces between 10 and 10.30am.
Entry is just £3 and under fives go free! A great deal all round!
Find out more and buy your tickets here:
The event will raise money for the good folks at Fairybricks who donate LEGO to sick and disadvantaged children in hospital. We look forward to seeing you there!
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Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born inventor, scientist, and engineer who is most famous for inventing and patenting the first practical telephone.
Bell was born on March 3rd 1847 in Edinburgh. His father and grandfather were both authorities on elocution and at the age of 16 Bell himself began researching the mechanics of speech. 1870, Bell emigrated with his family to Canada, and the following year he moved to the United States to teach. There he pioneered a system called visible speech, developed by his father, to teach deaf-mute children. In 1872 Bell founded a school in Boston to train teachers of the deaf. The school subsequently became part of Boston University, where Bell was appointed professor of vocal physiology in 1873.
Bell had long been fascinated by the idea of transmitting speech, and by 1875 had come up with a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound. Others were working along the same lines, including an Italian-American Antonio Meucci, and debate continues as to who should be credited with inventing the telephone. However, Bell was granted a patent for the telephone on March 7th 1876 and it developed quickly. Within a year the first telephone exchange was built in Connecticut and the Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877, with Bell the owner of a third of the shares, quickly making him a wealthy man.
In 1880, Bell was awarded the French Volta Prize for his invention and with the money, founded the Volta Laboratory in Washington, where he continued experiments in communication, in medical research, and in techniques for teaching speech to the deaf, working with Helen Keller among others. A less celebrated aspect of Bell’s work was his advocacy of compulsory sterilisation in which he served as the chairman or president of several eugenics organizations.
He became a naturalised U.S. citizen in 1882 and in 1885 he established a summer home in Nova Scotia where he continued experiments, particularly in the field of aviation.
In 1888, Bell was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society, and served as its president from 1896 to 1904, also helping to establish its journal.
He died on August 2nd 1922 at his home in Nova Scotia.
This scene was built by James Pegrum. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see all our work first.
Never, before this,
were more men in this island slain
by the sword's edge--as books and aged sages
confirm--since Angles and Saxons sailed here
from the east, sought the Britons over the wide seas,
since those warsmiths hammered the Welsh,
and earls, eager for glory, overran the land
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
If asked what the most important battles in British History are, it is likely that most people will mention Hastings, Agincourt, Waterloo or the Battle of Britain. There are loads of other candidates too, so there’s no need to write in. The point we are making is that few will mention, or perhaps even have heard of, The Battle of Brunanburh, which was fought sometime in 937 between the Kingdom of England and the combined might of the Kingdoms of Scotland, Strathclyde and Dublin. Yet Brunanburh would set the course for the political and cultural development Britain, and in particular that of England, which would see its unity preserved and its identity realised.
By 927 King Æthelstan had consolidated his position in England, making him the most powerful ruler in the British Isles. His realm may have even extended as far north as the Firth of Forth, but wherever the border lay, he seems to have faced opposition from Constantine II of Scotland and Owain of Strathclyde. John of Worcester's chronicle suggests that Æthelstan fought a short war against Scotland and Strathclyde, perhaps due to the latter kingdoms’ support of Æthelstan’s Viking enemies. In July of 927 however, this appears to have drawn to a conclusion because on the 12th of that month Constantine and Owain agreed with Æthelstan not to make further allegiances with Vikings. Apparently, Æthelstan stood godfather to a son of Constantine, probably Indulf, during the conference.
In 934, for reasons unknown, conflict between Æthelstan and Constantine seems to have broken out once again, with the former marching north with an English and Welsh army. It is said that the army reached as far north as present day Aberdeenshire and was accompanied by a fleet of ships that harried Caithness. No significant battle appears to have been fought and a settlement appears to have been negotiated, with a son of Constantine given as a hostage to Æthelstan and Constantine himself accompanying the English king on his return south. On September 13th 934, Constantine acknowledged Æthelstan's overlordship.
Following this invasion of Scotland, it became apparent to Constantine and his allies that Æthelstan could only be defeated by an allied force of his enemies; so in around 937, one was formed. The leader of the alliance was Olaf Guthfrithson, King of Dublin, joined by Constantine and Owain, King of Strathclyde. Though they had all been enemies in living memory, historian Michael Livingston points out that "they had agreed to set aside whatever political, cultural, historical, and even religious differences they might have had in order to achieve one common purpose: to destroy Æthelstan".
In August 937, Olaf sailed from Dublin with his army to join forces with Constantine and Owain and so it is suggested that the Battle of Brunanburh occurred in early October of that year.
The main source of information about the battle itself can be found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. After travelling north through Mercia, Æthelstan, his brother Edmund, and the combined Saxon army from Wessex and Mercia met the invading armies and attacked them. The location is unknown and a matter of contention, though somewhere on the Wirral is currently the favoured theory. The battle was exceptionally hard fought, with prolonged fighting taking place throughout the day. According to the poem, the Saxons "split the shield-wall" and "hewed battle shields with the remnants of hammers... [t]here lay many a warrior by spears destroyed; Northern men shot over shield, likewise Scottish as well, weary, war sated".
Æthelstan and his army pursued the invaders until the end of the day, slaying great numbers of enemy troops. The Chronicle states that "they pursued the hostile people... hew[ing] the fugitive grievously from behind with swords sharp from the grinding". Broken, Olaf and the remnants of his army fled back to Dublin while Constantine retreated to Scotland; Owain's fate is not mentioned. Æthelstan and Edmund returned to Wessex as victors, with the Chronical stating that "the brothers, both together, King and Prince, sought their home, West-Saxon land, exultant from battle."
The battle was a crushing defeat for the allies. According to the Chronicle, "countless of the army" died in the battle and there were "never yet as many people killed before this with sword's edge ... since from the east Angles and Saxons came up over the broad sea". The Annals of Ulster describe the battle as "great, lamentable and horrible" and record that "several thousands of Norsemen ... fell". Among the casualties were five kings and seven earls from Olaf's army, while Constantine is said to have lost several friends and family members, including one of his sons. A large number of Saxons also died, including two of Æthelstan's cousins, Ælfwine and Æthelwine.
Æthelstan's victory prevented the dissolution of England, though he failed to completely defeat Scotland and Strathclyde, who remained independent. However, the battle cemented the idea of the English as a unified people, and while Æthelstan's kingdom may have fallen apart following his death, future English kings and the people they ruled had an ideal to strive for. Indeed, if the battle had gone the other way, the England we see today may never have existed at all. According to Livingston, the battle was "the moment when Englishness came of age" and "one of the most significant battles in the long history not just of England but of the whole of the British isles".
We have our final save the date of 2019 for you! We will be at Oban Winter Bricks at St. Columba's Cathedral Hall on the 16th November!
Entry is just £3 and under fours go free! A great deal all round!
Find out more, here:
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Áed mac Cináeda, was a king of the Picts who reigned for around one year between 877 and 878. He was nicknamed Áed of the White Flowers, the wing-footed or the white-foot. Áed was the son of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), and succeeded his brother Constantine I (Causantín mac Cináeda). According to the national myth, his father was the first King of Scotland, and so Áed is Scotland’s fourth king according to most modern regal lists.
Little is known about Áed’s short reign, with the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba simply saying “The shortness of his reign has bequeathed nothing memorable to history. He was slain in the civitas of Nrurim.” The whereabouts of Nrurim is unknown, however Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland claims he was killed by one of his successors, Giric, in Strathallan, Perthshire. However, the 19th Century antiquarian George Chalmers believed that that the early-historic mound of the Cunninghillock by Inverurie, Aberdeenshire is the burial place of Áed. This is based on reading Nrurim as Inruriu. Other sources have Áed buried on Iona.
Áed was married, although his wife's name is unknown. They had two sons, Constantine, who would later be King of Scotland between 900 and 943 and Donald, who would become king of Strathclyde.
Áed was succeeded by two rulers, his nephew Eochaid and the mysterious Giric, who may have been his murderer. The relationship between these two kings is uncertain and probably complex and will be discussed in a later blogs.
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.
Constantine I, or rather Causantín or Constantín mac Cináeda (in Modern Gaelic: Còiseam mac Choinnich), was a king of the Picts who reigned between 862 and 877. He was the son of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), and succeeded his uncle Donald I (Domnall mac Ailpín) following the latter's death on 13th April 862. According to the national myth, his father was the first King of Scotland, and so Contantine is Scotland’s third king according to most modern regal lists.
Constantine’s reign fell during a period of increased Viking activity across the British Isles. In 865 the Great Heathen Army was moving across England, pillaging, looting and obtaining tribute. Viking armies were also active in Scotland and one of these was led by two brothers named Amlaíb and Auisle. In 866 Amlaíb brought an army to Fortriu, the Pictish Kingdom around present day Morayshire, which is often referred to synonymously with Pictland in general, and obtained tribute and hostages. While Amlaíb and Auisle were in north Britain, the Annals of Ulster record that Áed Findliath, High King of Ireland, and husband of Constantine’s sister, Máel Muire, took advantage of their absence to destroy the longphorts along the northern coasts of Ireland.
Amlaíb disappears from Irish annals after his return to Ireland in 871. According to the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba he was killed by Constantine either in 871 or 872, when he returned to Pictland in an attempt to collect further tribute. Late sources of uncertain reliability state that Auisle was killed by Amlaíb in 867 in a dispute over Amlaíb's wife, the daughter of a Cináed (Kenneth). It is unclear whether, if accurate, this woman should be identified as a daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, and thus Constantine’s sister, or as a daughter of Cináed mac Conaing, king of Brega, a petty Kingdom north of Dublin in Ireland.
In 875 a Viking army was once again present in Pictland and a battle, fought near Dollar in Clackmannanshire, resulted in a heavy defeat for the Picts. In 877, shortly after building a new church for Culdees monks at St Andrews, Constantine was captured and executed (or perhaps killed in battle) after defending against Viking raiders. According to some sources, his execution took place on a beach, though the exact location is not known. He was buried on Iona and was succeeded by his brother Áed.
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.
We are proud to announce the unveiling of another awesome Brick to the Past model – a minifigure scale LEGO model of Dun Deardail hillfort. The model, which was commissioned by the Nevis Partnership, is now on permanent display at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, overlooked by the real Dun Deardail on one side and Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, on the other.
Dun Deardail is thought to have been built and occupied, perhaps over several periods, between 700 BC and AD 900 and is unusual because the stones that once made up its walls have been vitrified. Vitrification is the process by which stones are fused together at temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius. It is uncertain why vitrification took place, but current theories tend to see it as either an act of aggression following capture or as ‘ritual closure’ at the end of the site’s active life, akin to the destruction of many Neolithic ritual monuments.
Nevis Landscape Partnership have been running an ambitious project to excavate the Dun Deardail. Working closely with Forestry Commission Scotland & AOC Archaeology, they aim to uncover the mysteries surrounding this ancient settlement and have got hundreds of ‘citizen archaeologists’ involved in the work. You can find out more about this on our previous blog on the project.
The LEGO version of Dun Deardail, which contains approximately 35,000 pieces, delved into this research to come up with a layout and appearance that reflects what the hillfort might have looked like early in the first millennium AD.
The model was built by our builder in the north, Dan Harris, who said:
“I've been visiting Glen Nevis and the surrounding area of years to walk and climb, so it's an absolute delight to have been able to build a model of one of its landmarks. It's great to be able to display at one of Scotland's most popular tourist destinations and I hope that the model will encourage people to get out and explore the real hill fort".
The funding to build the model of Dun Deardail was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Highland Council Discretionary Fund.
You can find out first about all of our projects by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
This weekend we’ll be at the totally awesome Awesome Bricks show at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Air Field in East Lothian.
Our model will have a distinctly Scottish flavour – the internationally travelled LEGO Corgarff Castle, last seen in Norway’s beautiful city of Trondheim. The museum is a great place for a show, because not only do you get to gawp at lots of awesome LEGO models, you also get to gawp at lots of awesome retro aircraft. Right, that’s enough of the word ‘awesome’.
Tickets cost between £9 and £14, while under 5s and National Museums Scotland Members go free! Remember, for the price you get access to the whole museum too, so this is a great value event!
Find out more and book your tickets at:
We have another show for your diary! On June 16th and 17th we will be on display at Awesome Bricks at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Air Field in East Lothian. Last year's inaugural show was great fun and the venue itself is one of the best we've displayed in - plenty of reasons to come along this year!
Reduced price early bird tickets are available until 3rd June, but full price tickets cost between £9 and £14, while under 5s and National Museums Scotland Members go free!
We'll announce the model we're taking closer to the time.
Find out more and book your tickets at:
On this day in 1746 the Battle of Culloden was fought between the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stewart, also known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, and a Government force under the command of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The battle resulted in total defeat for the Jacobites and the effective end of any efforts to place a Stuart on the British Throne.
Conflict had broken out in the summer of 1745 with the Jacobites achieving a number of unexpected successes. Having defeated a large government army at the Battle of Prestonpans in September, they effectively controlled the whole of Scotland and even penetrated England as far south as Derby before returning north. The withdrawal would lead them to their last stand on Culloden Moor, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
On the night before the battle the government army, which was camped around 12 miles from the Jacobites to the west, celebrated Cumberland's twenty-fifth birthday by issuing two gallons of brandy to each regiment. In an attempt to take the initiative, and repeat the victory at Prestonpans, the Jacobites forced a night march with the aim of catching the Hanovarian’s by surprise. The trek however prorated arduous and having already left late, took much longer than expected. In the dark, the right and left wings of the army became separated and by the time the leading troops had reached Culraick, still 2 miles from their objective, there was only one hour left before dawn. It was concluded that there was not enough time to mount a surprise attack and that the offensive should be aborted; the army returned in disarray.
Not long after the exhausted Jacobite forces had made it back to Culloden, reports came through of the advancing government troops. At about 11am the two armies were within sight of one another with about 2 miles (3.2 km) of open moorland between them. As the government forces steadily advanced across the moor, the driving rain and sleet blew from the north-east into the faces of the Jacobites.
The ensuing battle was brief. Unleashing their superior artillery, the government army opened by shelling the Jacobite lines. Charles, who had taken personal command of the army, left his men to endure the barrage for around 30 minutes, waiting for his opponents to move. Several clan leaders, worried about the resulting casualties, its effect on moral and angry at the lack of action, pressured Charles to issue the order to charge. Members of Clan Chattan were the first of the Jacobites to receive this order, but an area of boggy ground in front of them forced them to veer right so that they obstructed the following regiments and the attack was pushed towards the wall of the Culwhiniac enclosure. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the government troops, but were subjected to volleys of musket fire and the artillery which had switched from roundshot to grapeshot.
Despite taking heavy casualties the Jacobite charge met the government line, with two regiments, Barrell's 4th Foot and Dejean's 37th Foot, taking the brunt of the attack. The government’s second line was bought forward to plug any gaps and formed a five battalion strong horseshoe-shaped formation which trapped the Jacobite right wing on three sides.
The Jacobite left wing, which consisted of Macdonald regiments, had around 200m more to cover over much boggier ground and so engaged the government troops slightly later. As they took casualties the began to give way and sensing the advantage, Cumberland ordered his dragoons to ride them down. They too were impeded by the boggy ground and ended up engaging the French supplied Irish Picquets, who had been brought forward in an attempt to stabilise the deteriorating Jacobite left flank.
The Jacobite left collapsed and turned into a total rout. The Royal Écossais and Kilmarnock's Footguards, who had attempted an orderly retreat along the Culwhiniac enclosure were ambushed and forced into the centre of the field, where they were run down by Kerr's 11th Dragoons, though they put up a fierce fight and were able to retire. The rout would have become a massacre if it were not for the rear-guard action of the Irish Picquets who covered the Highlanders' retreat. This stand by the Royal Écossais may have given Charles Edward Stewart the time to make his escape.
From this point on the fleeing Jacobite forces were split into two groups: the Lowland regiments retired in order southwards, making their way to Ruthven Barracks; the Highland regiments however were cut off by the government cavalry, and forced to retreat down the road to Inverness. The result was that they were a perfect target for the government dragoons.
It is estimated that of the approximate 7,000 mend deployed at the outset of the battle, Jacobite casualties were around 1,500–2,000 killed or wounded. By contrast, the government only lost between 240-400 of their 8,000, while another 1,000 were wounded.
The 1,500 or so men who assembled at Ruthven Barracks in Badenoch received orders from Charles Edward Stewart to the effect that all was lost and to "shift for himself as best he could". Similar orders must have been received by the Highland units at Fort Augustus. By April 18th the Jacobite army had disbanded. Officers and men of the units in the French service made for Inverness, where they surrendered as prisoners of war on 19 April. The rest of the army broke up, with men heading for home or attempting to escape abroad.
The morning following the Battle of Culloden, Cumberland issued a written order reminding his men that "the public orders of the rebels yesterday was to give us no quarter". Contemporary accounts report then that for the next two days Culloden Moor was searched and all those found wounded there were put to death. Charles Edward returned to France and so ended any realistic attempt to place him, or any other Stuart, on the British throne.
Culloden Battlefield is now owned by National Trust Scotland who have an excellent visitor centre at the site. You can find out more here:
The scenes in this blog were part of our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne which explored the history of the Risings and in particular that of the 'Forty-five'. This model was on display at Stirling Castle over the winter of 2017 and 2018 where it proved hugely popular and received considerable media attention. While the full model no longer exists, parts of it do and are often on display, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out where and when.
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