jest (vb)
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Mortar fire in Afghanistan. By Sgt Rupert Frere RLC, via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain.
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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
The Stockton and Darlington Railway
two-part story
Music: John Field
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.

THE Stockton and Darlington Railway is celebrated as the first public railway for fare-paying passengers, and over 30,000 travelled the line in twelve months from July 1826. But their single, horse-drawn carriages on rails (fare one-and-six) were not the line’s real business.

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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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The Peasants’ Revolt
Music: York Bowen
In 1381, violent agitators hijacked a protest against the government’s meddling in the labour market.

AFTER the Black Death wiped out nearly three-quarters of England’s population in the 1340s, fit working men were scarce. Much to their disgust, wealthy landowners actually found themselves bidding against each other for a labourer’s favour.

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The Arts of Fair Rowena
two-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel
Charles Dickens believed that Britain’s Saxon invaders gained power by force of arms – but not by weapons.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

THEY sent a letter to Rome entreating help — which they called the Groans of the Britons; and in which they said, ‘The barbarians chase us into the sea, the sea throws us back upon the barbarians, and we have only the hard choice left us of perishing by the sword, or perishing by the waves.’

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The Lambton Worm
two-part story
Music: Malcolm Arnold
Part One. John Lambton goes fishing on a Sunday, and lets loose all kinds of trouble.

ONE Sunday morning, John, the young heir of Lambton Hall, skipped Mass and went fishing in the Wear. No good could come of that, and no good did.

That morning, he hooked only an ugly-looking worm, tossed it with disgust down a well, and promptly forgot about it.

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The Jerusalem Temple
two-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel
The story of the once magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, the city God chose for Israel’s capital.

THE first Temple in Jerusalem was founded in 957 BC upon a hill in the heart of his capital by King Solomon, son of the legendary King David, and painstakingly patterned after a heavenly sanctuary glimpsed by Moses himself on the cloud-capped summit of Mount Sinai some three hundred years before.

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AZ Index

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

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Anglo-Saxon History’ (42 posts)
page 1
1 The Restoration of the Icons
By the early eighth century, sacred art was thriving in newly-Christian England, but in the East seeds of doubt and confusion had been sown.
2 ‘Filioque’
It started as an honest mistake, became a diplomatic standoff, and brought down an Empire.
3 The Synod of Hatfield
Pope Agatho reached out to the English church to help him make his case at an important Council in the Imperial capital.
4 The Arts of Fair Rowena
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Charles Dickens believed that Britain’s Saxon invaders gained power by force of arms – but not by weapons.
5 Birds of Paradise
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf paints a word-picture of heaven and the seraph-band that swoops and soars before the throne.
6 Taste and See
Wonder spread through a Tyneside monastery after Bishop Cuthbert asked for a drink of water.
page 2
7 Lost Innocence
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
In the fourth century, Britain’s Christians acquired a taste for watering down the mystery of their message.
8 The Last Commandment
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf imagines the farewell between Jesus and his Apostles, forty days after his resurrection.
9 The Battle of Nechtansmere
King Ecgfrith of Northumbria dismissed repeated warnings about his imperial ambitions.
10 St Erkenwald, Light of London
The seventh-century Bishop of London helped kings and clergy to shine Christian light into the darkness of mere religion.
11 At Heaven’s Gate
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf takes us to the threshold of God’s holy city, and gives us a choice.
12 The Six Leaps of Faith
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf explores a prophecy from the Song of Solomon.
page 3
13 Annunciation
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Cynewulf reflects on the mystery of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
14 The Battle of Brunanburh
Athelstan confirmed himself as King of the English, and also reawakened a feeling that all Britain should be a united people.
15 St Chad and the Invisible Choir
Chad, the seventh-century Bishop of Mercia, seemed to be making a lot of music for one man.
16 St Cuthbert and the Phantom Fire
The Northumbrian saint warned of an enemy who would stop at nothing to silence the good news.
17 Cuthbert, the Bridle and the Book
One of England’s most precious artefacts, the Lindisfarne Gospels, was nearly lost at sea.
18 Gytha and Vladimir
Scandinavian tradition says that the daughter of King Harold was consort to one the great rulers of Kievan Rus’.
page 4
19 Gregory and the Slave Children
How some English slave children sparked the conversion of Britain to Christianity.
20 Vinland
Based on
The Saga of Eric the Red
Scandinavian warrior Leif Ericson was sent to bring Christianity to Greenland, but accidentally discovered North America instead.
21 Turning the Tide
By Henry of Huntingdon
(?1088-?1157)
King Canute enacted a memorable demonstration of the limits of government power.
22 The Last English King
The Normans conquered England in 1066, and the country would never be the same again.
23 Wulfstan and the Seal of Approval
Based on an account by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
William the Conqueror’s purge of the English Church was halted by a humble bishop and a dead king.
24 Terror in the Deep
Irish monk St Columba is credited with being among the first witnesses to the ‘Loch Ness monster’.
page 5
25 The Lessons of History
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
England’s first and greatest historian explains why history is so important.
26 St Bede of Wearmouth and Jarrow
The mild-mannered, artistic monk was nevertheless a founding father of the English nation.
27 Welcome to Micklegarth
After the Norman Conquest, thousands of worried Englishmen departed for a new life in the Byzantine world.
28 High Beneath Heaven’s Roof
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The Cross of Christ speaks, and tells of the amazing transformation from sign of shame to sign of redemption.
29 St Aidan Returns King Penda’s Fire
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
When Penda tried to burn down Bamburgh Castle, St Aidan turned the pagan King’s own weapons against him.
30 Alfred Learns To Read
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Even as a child, King Alfred couldn’t resist a challenge.
page 6
31 King Edwin and the Hand of Destiny
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Forced from his throne and threatened with murder, Edwin makes a curious bargain for his deliverance.
32 Caedmon Learns to Sing
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
A shy and unmusical stable-hand suddenly began to sing wise and moving hymns.
33 St Dwynwen
St Dwynwen was a 5th century princess regarded by some as Wales’s answer to St Valentine.
34 The Law of the Innocents
St Adamnán worked tirelessly to secure protection, rights and dignity for the women of Ireland.
35 The Alleluia Victory
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
How hard-pressed Christians on the Welsh border won a battle without bloodshed.
36 The Battle of the Winwaed
In 655, the future of England as a Christian nation hung by the slenderest of threads.
page 7
37 Edith and Edward
Based on an account by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A King and Queen gentler than the times in which they lived.
38 How Alfred Burnt the Cakes
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A popular tale of scorched cakes and a scolded king.
39 The Hermit of Handbridge
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
King Harold died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Or did he?
40 The Calendar ‘English Style’
An English monk warned of a flaw in the world’s most widely-used calendar.
41 St Hild and the Synod of Whitby
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The respected Abbess oversaw the English Church’s historic commitment to adopt Byzantine traditions.
42 How St Benedict Biscop brought Byzantium to Britain
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The chapel of Bede’s monastery in Sunderland was full of the colours and sounds of the far-off Mediterranean world.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Subject and Object

Use each of the words below as either the subject or the object of a verb.

Anxiety. Tale. Shame.

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 ‘Dray’
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 NAIL and finish with SHOE.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
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)?
Do you know ‘pull along’ (3 letters), and ‘examine someone’s background and credentials’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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History (375)
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letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

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

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numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps Mental arithmetic