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

Taste and See
Music: John Playford
Wonder spread through a Tyneside monastery after Bishop Cuthbert asked for a drink of water.

AFTER Cuthbert and one of his priests had been on a tour of the remote villages of Northumbria’s high ground, they lodged at the monastery at South Shields, governed by Abbess Verca. They were kindly received by the community, and following an excellent meal Cuthbert was offered something to drink.

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Six Posts
St Cuthbert and the Phantom Fire
Music: Sir John Blackwood McEwen
The Northumbrian saint warned of an enemy who would stop at nothing to silence the good news.

CUTHBERT was once addressing a crowd gathered in the street of a small Northumbrian village, when he broke off in mid flow to say:

‘Whatever happens, never let yourselves be distracted by the devil’s trickery.’

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The Battle of Nechtansmere
Music: Scottish Traditional Song
King Ecgfrith of Northumbria dismissed repeated warnings about his imperial ambitions.

WHEN Ecgfrith became King of Northumbria in 670, his realm had never been stronger. The ambitious pagan King Penda of Mercia had fallen at the Battle of the Winwaed in 655, and though Penda’s Christian heir Ethelred rebuffed Ecgfrith’s advance southwards in 679, lands to the north looked promising.

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St Cuthbert and the Otters
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
An inquisitive monk spied on a guest’s night-time walks.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

IT was Cuthbert’s habit to walk alone down to the seashore after dark. Intrigued, one of the monks followed him at a discreet distance, hoping to see what it was that Cuthbert did at dead of night.

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Grace Darling
two-part story
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
Mild-mannered Grace Darling persuaded her father to let her help him rescue the survivors of a shipwreck.

IN the early hours of 7th September, 1838, the Forfarshire, a paddlesteamer laden with cotton, broke apart on Big Harcar, a rocky outcrop of the island of Outer Farne.

Distress flags flew and signal guns fired at Bamburgh Castle, but no lifeboat could escape the shore in the raging storm.

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The Man who Made the Headlines
Music: Edward Elgar
William Stead conceived modern print journalism in the belief that newspapers could change the world.

WHEN William Stead became editor of ‘The Northern Echo’ in 1871, he was just 22 and the youngest newspaper-editor in the country.

He exploited Darlington’s railway connections to expand the newspaper’s circulation, helping William Gladstone’s Liberal Party to power in 1880.

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The Bully and the Brakesman
Music: John Field
A young George Stephenson takes responsibility for the team spirit at Black Callerton mine.

ON one occasion, Stephenson’s handling of the winding mechanism displeased miner Ned Nelson, who on reaching the top berated him offensively.

This Nelson was a notorious bully, used to getting his own way, so he was taken aback when instead of cowering, Stephenson defended himself honestly.

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All Posts
Tagged Northumberland (26 posts)
page 1
1 Taste and See
Wonder spread through a Tyneside monastery after Bishop Cuthbert asked for a drink of water.
2 The Battle of Nechtansmere
King Ecgfrith of Northumbria dismissed repeated warnings about his imperial ambitions.
3 Crayke Abbey
The long-lost monastery at Crayke in North Yorkshire was home to two saints with different but equally valuable gifts.
4 St Cuthbert and the Phantom Fire
The Northumbrian saint warned of an enemy who would stop at nothing to silence the good news.
5 Cuthbert, the Bridle and the Book
One of England’s most precious artefacts, the Lindisfarne Gospels, was nearly lost at sea.
6 Cuthbert and the Mystery Guest
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
A young monk was rewarded for taking his duties as guest-master seriously.
page 2
7 Northumberland
By Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
(1878-1962)
A poem of nostalgia for the sea breezes and yellow gorse of Northumberland.
8 Cvthbertvs
Henry VIII’s experts declared that saints were nothing special, but St Cuthbert had a surprise for them.
9 Cuthbert and the Dun Cow
The magnificent cathedral at Durham owes its existence to a missing cow.
10 Burning Daylight
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson argued that his steam engines were solar-powered.
11 The Kings of Northumbria
Out of a restless alliance between two 6th century kingdoms came a civilisation that defined Englishness.
12 Bread from Heaven
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Cuthbert trusted that keeping his promised fast would not do him any harm.
page 3
13 The Pitman Poet
Joseph Skipsey taught himself to read and write by candlelight, hundreds of feet below ground in a Northumberland pit.
14 The Gift of the Gab
There was one form of power that self-taught engineering genius George Stephenson never harnessed.
15 The Bully and the Brakesman
A young George Stephenson takes responsibility for the team spirit at Black Callerton mine.
16 St Bede of Wearmouth and Jarrow
The mild-mannered, artistic monk was nevertheless a founding father of the English nation.
17 Grace Darling
Mild-mannered Grace Darling persuaded her father to let her help him rescue the survivors of a shipwreck.
18 Sharp’s Castle
At Bamburgh, John Sharp organised free healthcare and education, bargain groceries, and the world’s first coastguard service.
page 4
19 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.
20 Cragside: the Home of Modern Living
Lord Armstrong’s home was an Aladdin’s cave of Victorian technology.
21 The Man who Made the Headlines
William Stead conceived modern print journalism in the belief that newspapers could change the world.
22 Cuthbert and the Expert Witness
Based on the account by Reginald of Durham
(12th century)
A hungry monk thought he had got away with the tastiest of crimes, but St Cuthbert kept his promise to his beloved birds.
23 The Geordie Lamp
Based on an account by Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The engineer put his own life on the line for the safety of his fellow-workers in the coal industry.
24 St Cuthbert and the Otters
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
An inquisitive monk spied on a guest’s night-time walks.
page 5
25 Cuthbert and the Miracle of the Wind
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The young monk taught some hard-hearted pagans a lesson they’d never forget.
26 The Character of George Stephenson
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
A self-made man who never forgot his humble beginnings.
Authors
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962)
1 post
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)
2 posts
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Spinner

Use these words together in a single sentence:

Offered. Several. Silence.

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 ‘Fern’
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 CHIP and finish with PUTT.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘cunning’ (3 letters), and ‘Phobos’s primary’ (4 letters)?
Make opposites from these words using prefixes, like lucky → unlucky.
Do you know ‘part of a fish’ (3 letters), and ‘heart of the matter’ (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