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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

The Restoration of the Icons
two-part story
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
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.

WHEN St Augustine preached Christianity to King Ethelbert of Kent in 597, he carried a silver cross and a painted icon of Christ. A century later, icons were putting a human face to the spoken word up in Bede’s Northumbria, from church walls to the pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels.

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Six Posts
St Bede of Wearmouth and Jarrow
three-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel; Byzantine Chant
The mild-mannered, artistic monk was nevertheless a founding father of the English nation.

THE church of St Peter in Monkwearmouth is all that remains today of a monastery founded in 674 by St Benedict Biscop, a local man who had studied abroad and was a frequent visitor to Rome.

The land was donated by Ecgfrith, King of Northumbria, and included the home of a Christian family with a one-year-old boy called Bede.

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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 Calendar ‘English Style’
two-part story
Music: Franz Joseph Haydn
An English monk warned of a flaw in the world’s most widely-used calendar.

AT the close of the tenth century, peoples from the eastern borders of the Roman Empire to newly-Christian Russia and even Britain shared one calendar, the Julian, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC. And thanks in no small degree to eighth-century Northumbrian monk Bede and his best-seller ‘On the Reckoning of Time’, they also shared one Easter.

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Vinland
Music: Edvard Grieg
Scandinavian warrior Leif Ericson was sent to bring Christianity to Greenland, but accidentally discovered North America instead.
Based on
The Saga of Eric the Red

OLAF Tryggvason became a Christian while visiting the Scilly Isles and England in 994, and after he came to the throne of Norway in 997, he entrusted Leif Ericson, one of his royal bodyguards and a fellow-Christian, with the conversion of the Orkneys and of Greenland, Leif’s home.

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The Alleluia Victory
Music: George Frideric Handel
How hard-pressed Christians on the Welsh border won a battle without bloodshed.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

EARLY in the 5th century, Christian villagers on the Welsh borders were being harried by pagan Picts and Saxons. And now, just after Easter in the year 429, the little community learnt that an army was on its way to murder them all.

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The Six Leaps of Faith
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf explores a prophecy from the Song of Solomon.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)

WHEN first he leapt, he lighted on a woman, an untouched maid; and human form he took there (though without sin) that he might be Comforter to all that dwell on earth.

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All Posts
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.
Authors
3 posts
Cynewulf (8th century)
6 posts
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
2 posts
Henry of Huntingdon (?1088-?1157)
1 post
Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901)
2 posts
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?

Learn. Make. Craft.

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 ‘Lime’
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
Try writing complete sentences using these adjectives in the attributive position.
Change HIDE into AWAY, one letter at a time.
Suggest opposites for these words, and illustrate them with example sentences.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘stout’ (6 letters), and ‘gloat’ (4 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (80)

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