struggle (vb)
If there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904), ‘Character’
Andy Carroll scores v. Ipswich. © mikebrown59, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.
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a traditional approach to essential grammar and composition
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English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

A to Z Index

September 23, 1779
The Battle of Flamborugh Head
The Battle of Flamborough Head
Music: John Hebden
An American revolutionary harassed British commercial shipping off the Yorkshire coast, with mixed results.

IN September 1779, John Paul Jones, a commander in the American Continental Navy, led a makeshift flotilla of French ships around Scotland and down into the North Sea, harassing commercial shipping as far as Bridlington.

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Thomas Brassey
two-part story
Music: Cipriani Potter
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.

THOMAS Brassey, son of a prosperous Cheshire farmer, began his career in road-building as an apprentice to surveyor William Lawton, on Thomas Telford’s Shrewsbury to Holyhead road. Brassey rose from apprentice to partner, and Lawton and Brassey relocated to Birkenhead to make road-building materials.

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Six Posts
Bede and the Paschal Controversy
three-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel
The earliest Christians longed to celebrate the resurrection together at Passover, but that was not as easy as it sounds.

CHRIST died and rose again at Passover, the week-long Jewish festival at the first full moon of Spring. Christians had always wanted to celebrate Easter at that time each year, but no astronomer could determine the vernal equinox or full moon with precision.

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The Gift of the Gab
Music: Ignaz Moscheles
There was one form of power that self-taught engineering genius George Stephenson never harnessed.

ONE evening, when staying with Sir Robert Peel at his country house in Derbyshire, Stephenson fell into animated conversation with William Buckland, the eccentric geologist and palaeontologist, about the formation of coal.

Buckland, a veteran debater, loftily dismissed Stephenson’s theories, but the tongue-tied engineer was certain he was right.

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Silver Swan
Music: Camille Saint-Saens
Mark Twain’s attention was drawn off people-watching for a moment by an extraordinarily lifelike machine.
By Mark Twain
(1835-1910)

OF course we visited the renowned International Exposition. It was a wonderful show, but the moving masses of people of all nations we saw there were a still more wonderful show.

I discovered that if I were to stay there a month, I should still find myself looking at the people instead of the inanimate objects on exhibition.

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High Beneath Heaven’s Roof
Music: George Frideric Handel
The Cross of Christ speaks, and tells of the amazing transformation from sign of shame to sign of redemption.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)

“NOW the time has come for men far and wide upon this earth to have me in veneration, and for the whole, wonderful creation to make its prayers to this Standard.

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The Tale of Beggar’s Bridge
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
The proof of Thomas Ferres’s rags-to-riches tale is quite literally written in stone, but popular lore adds some tantalising and romantic detail.

A GRACEFUL bridge over the Esk at Glaisdale bears the date 1619, and the initials T.F., for Thomas Ferres, Mayor of Hull. Thomas amassed a fortune plying the east coast as master of a trading-ship called the Francis, which he poured into housing, education and apprenticeships for the poor.

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Kipling and ‘Agamemnon’
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Both Rudyard Kipling and the Royal Navy saw Greek sovereignty as a universal symbol of freedom.

RUDYARD Kipling liked to pretend that he was hopeless at classical languages.

Yet he wrote half-a-dozen stories set in classical antiquity, and as the Great War drew to a close in 1918, sent to the ‘Telegraph’ a translation of the Greek national anthem, ‘Hymn to Liberty’, composed in 1823 as Greece fought for independence from the Turks.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
page 1
1 The Legend of Pollard’s Lands
An enterprising knight rids the Bishop of Durham of a troublesome boar, but the price comes as a shock to his lordship.
2 The Legend of King Leir
An early British king discovers what he is really worth to his daughters.
3 King Arthur’s Last Request
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson
(1809-1892)
The legendary British warrior makes ready for his final journey, leaving Sir Bedivere with one last duty to perform.
4 Cap o’ Rushes
A girl’s choice of words sees her turned out of hearth and home.
5 Robin Hood and the Debt of Honour
The outlaw showed that strange as it may be, he did have a code of honour.
6 The Knight, the Lady, and the Forest of Sorrow
Based on a fable by Jerome K. Jerome
(1859-1927)
A little fable of encouragement for all the suffering.
page 2
7 The Legend of Beowulf
The oldest surviving heroic legend in English begins with a wild creature of the fens that hunts men for prey.
8 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
A knight issues a bizarre challenge to King Arthur and his court.
9 How Brutus of Troy Became Britain’s First King
An early mediaeval myth linking British civilization to the Fall of Troy.
10 The Lambton Worm
Part One. John Lambton goes fishing on a Sunday, and lets loose all kinds of trouble.
11 William of Cloudsley
William is Cumbria’s very own blend of Robin Hood and William Tell - with a happy ending, too.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Active or Passive?

Use each of the verbs below in either the active or the passive form. Can you use both forms?

Keep. Own. Promise.

The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Bar’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with NEAT and finish with TIDY.
Make words like ‘give in’ and ‘switch off’, and then find other words to express their meaning.
Suggest things or circumstances which are just begging for these adjectives.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘knock over and scatter’ (7 letters), and ‘a measure of length equal to 45 inches’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (80)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: ‘Scrabble’ letters game Games with Words

numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Maths Gym Mental arithmetic