The Tower of London has held a number of notable prisoners, among them Sir Walter Raleigh, Samuel Pepys, and Anne Boleyn. A lesser known prisoner was Chidiock Tichborne, the author of our next poem, who achieved his fame not as a poet but as a member of a conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and enthrone Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, in her place.
As a child of London, Cleopatra’s Needle has long been present in my memory and my imagination. But it wasn’t until I began researching my book City of Verse: A London Poetry Trail/ that I learnt that when this ancient obelisk was erected on the Victoria Embankment in 1878, a pair of what would nowadays be called time capsules were sealed in its base.
Stonehenge may be the best-known Neolithic monument in Britain but it has never stood in glorious, awe-inspiring isolation. In fact, it is situated within what archaeologists call a ritual landscape, defined by Frances Pryor as a ‘concentration of funerary and ceremonial monuments that were constructed in the Neolithic (4000- 2500 BC) and Early Bronze Age (2500-1500 BC)’.
If the newspapers are to be believed (a big ‘if’, I know), the appearance of several three-foot-high figures of children in the neighbouring villages of Iver and Iver Heath caused quite a stir a couple of years ago. ‘If I was a driver they would scare me into crashing, super creepy,’ said one resident.
After Brian Epstein’s death, the Beatles were effectively managing themselves for a time and the business that was the Beatles took off in new and sometimes strange directions. Freed from what had become Epstein’s erratic oversight, the band felt liberated to conduct business experiments, more often than not with expensive consequences (though by this time they were making so much money that the losses were manageable).
The Saxon princess-abbess-saint Frideswide was not the founder of Oxford: there was certainly a settlement at the confluence of the Cherwell and the Thames well before her time. But she has a claim to be one of the founders of the idea of Oxford, the notion of the city as a nexus of learning, religion, and occasional miracles.