Saturday 3 August 2013

Great British Railway Journeys - Series 3

The exciting things
I always want to be fascinated, amused, amazed and sometimes surprised by things I see, hear, read or experience, I am, I hope a sponge for knowledge and insight about things, whatever they might be.
History resonates with me, the way one can glean knowledge from all sorts of things like this afternoon, I found myself watching Michael Portillo’s presentation of the Great British Railway Journeys now on repeat on BBC 2, is just good tonic for the brain.
He was travelling from Great Yarmouth down the eastern seaboard of Anglia through Essex to London and in the process showing the linkages between his experiences and historical events using George Bradshaw’s Railway Companion published in the Victorian times as his travel guide.
History, geography and politics
In the third series filmed in 2012, the episodes 1 to 4 now available in BBC iPlayer, the history of the founding of the railways linked up with grave robbing [On YouTube] in Great Yarmouth along with a law - The Anatomy Act 1832 - that passed to allow the corpses of paupers to be used for anatomical research, then to the lost city of Dunwich which was at one time as large as London and the capital of the East Angles but all lost to sea - dubbed our own Atlantis.
He comes face-to-face with the skull of Simon de Sudbury – Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor who introduced the Poll Tax in the 14th Century and was beheaded for it by the Peasants' Revolt, a lesson of history that Margaret Thatcher did not seem to have learnt when she got Micheal Portillo to introduce the Poll Tax in the 1990s almost bringing down the government because of the Poll Tax Riots that followed the implementation.
History will repeat itself if we fail to learn the lessons it teaches studiously, thoroughly and with proper attention to situation and circumstance.
Places and events
Really fascinating stuff like visiting Waltham Cross which apparently derives its name from being one of the 12 night-time resting places of the body of Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I when she was borne from Lincoln to London at Charing Cross – the king erected lavish stone crosses in all these towns in memory of her.
This all culminated in Hackney where we are told of the first railway murder – a city banker, Thomas Briggs was killed by Franz Muller, a German tailor – that did fill people with fear about travelling on trains.
Great and beautiful Britain and Northern Ireland
This was compelling stuff, I cannot wait to see the other episodes as they come online and I have seen many other episodes over the years that just give you the idea that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are such beautiful and wonderful places to visit as you tease out snippets of history, legends and yarns from city, town and village alike, of people, industry, events and change – I love this stuff.
The official website for the Great British Railway Journeys can be found here – If you can playback BBC iPlayer content, then if you are as curious as I am, that would have been time well spent.

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