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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Cvthbertvs
Music: John Garth
Henry VIII’s experts declared that saints were nothing special, but St Cuthbert had a surprise for them.

IN 1537, Henry VIII’s experts Dr Ley, Dr Henley and Dr Blythman travelled to Durham Cathedral to superintend another demolition: the shrine of St Cuthbert.

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At Heaven’s Gate
Music: George Frideric Handel
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf takes us to the threshold of God’s holy city, and gives us a choice.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)

OPEN, ye gates! Creation’s King would enter his citadel, would lead into the joy of joys a people (they are no small company) snatched from the devil by his Victory. Affinity shall angels and men have for ever after.

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St Bede and the Singing Stones
Music: George Frideric Handel
The Northumbrian monk is duped into wasting one of his beautifully-crafted sermons on a row of dumb rocks.
Based on The Golden Legend
(1275)

AS BEDE came to the end of his life, his eyesight started to fail. He did not ease up in his duties, though, and with the help of a guide continued to make his rounds of the nearby villages, preaching in the open air to any who cared to attend.

One day, his guide led him to a place where there were many standing stones, but no people. Bede, peering owlishly, nonetheless embarked on a sermon.

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How St Benedict Biscop brought Byzantium to Britain
Music: Byzantine Chant
The chapel of Bede’s monastery in Sunderland was full of the colours and sounds of the far-off Mediterranean world.
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

IN addition, Benedict introduced the Roman mode of chanting, singing, and ministering in the church.

With that in mind, he obtained permission from Pope Agatho to take back with him John, the archchanter of the church of St Peter and abbot of the monastery of St Martin, to teach the English.

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Cuthbert, the Bridle and the Book
Music: Sir John Blackwood McEwen
One of England’s most precious artefacts, the Lindisfarne Gospels, was nearly lost at sea.

IN about 882, the little band of monks who cared for St Cuthbert’s coffin boarded a ship at Workington, seeking refuge in Ireland from the Danish invasion. But three miles out a storm arose, washing their cherished, hand-painted copy of the Gospels overboard, and tossing their little ship ashore at Whithorn in Galloway.

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St Hild and the Synod of Whitby
The respected Abbess oversaw the English Church’s historic commitment to adopt Byzantine traditions.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

HILD was the Abbess of a monastery for both men and women in Whitby, on the north east coast of England. “All who knew her”, says St Bede, “called her mother, because of her outstanding devotion and grace”.

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All Posts
Tagged Northumbrian Enlightenment (30 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 Eddi’s Service
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
Rudyard Kipling’s poem about St Wilfrid’s chaplain and an unusual Christmas congregation.
3 St Bede and the Singing Stones
Based on The Golden Legend
(1275)
The Northumbrian monk is duped into wasting one of his beautifully-crafted sermons on a row of dumb rocks.
4 St Wilfrid and the Fishers of Men
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Driven out of Northumbria, Bishop Wilfrid goes to the south coast and saves a kingdom from starvation.
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 The Last Commandment
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf imagines the farewell between Jesus and his Apostles, forty days after his resurrection.
8 Crayke Abbey
The long-lost monastery at Crayke in North Yorkshire was home to two saints with different but equally valuable gifts.
9 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.
10 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.
11 Annunciation
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Cynewulf reflects on the mystery of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
12 St Chad and the Invisible Choir
Chad, the seventh-century Bishop of Mercia, seemed to be making a lot of music for one man.
page 3
13 St Cuthbert and the Phantom Fire
The Northumbrian saint warned of an enemy who would stop at nothing to silence the good news.
14 Cuthbert, the Bridle and the Book
One of England’s most precious artefacts, the Lindisfarne Gospels, was nearly lost at sea.
15 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.
16 Cuthbert and the Dun Cow
The magnificent cathedral at Durham owes its existence to a missing cow.
17 Cvthbertvs
Henry VIII’s experts declared that saints were nothing special, but St Cuthbert had a surprise for them.
18 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 4
19 The Lessons of History
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
England’s first and greatest historian explains why history is so important.
20 St Bede of Wearmouth and Jarrow
The mild-mannered, artistic monk was nevertheless a founding father of the English nation.
21 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.
22 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.
23 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.
24 St Wilfrid’s Debt
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)
The Blessed Virgin Mary adds four years to the life of Bishop Wilfrid, and an angel suggests a suitable thank-you.
page 5
25 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.
26 St Wilfrid and the Angel of Light
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)
St Wilfrid finds comfort during his tussle with the King of Northumbria
27 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.
28 St Wilfrid and the Sheriff’s Wife
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)
St Wilfrid brings healing to the wife of his own gaoler.
29 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.
30 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
2 posts
Cynewulf (8th century)
6 posts
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
1 post
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?

Put. Give in. Campaign.

By Ethel Smyth
(1858-1944)
Composer Ethel Smyth buys a new-fangled ladies’ bicycle, and scandalises the neighbours.
By Lewis Carroll
(1832-1898)
Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, and it turns out that she has been using words wrong all her life.
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
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 ‘Veil’
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 MILE and finish with POST.
Do you know ‘overbalance’ (6 letters), and ‘veteran’ (3,4 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with FLAG and finish with POLE.
Do you know ‘a republic in the Pyrenees’ (7 letters), and ‘shallow in sentiment’ (5 letters)?
Do you know ‘complaint’ (4 letters), and ‘be the right size and shape for a space’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (81)

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

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