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

Caedmon Learns to Sing
two-part story
Music: Byzantine Chant
A shy and unmusical stable-hand suddenly began to sing wise and moving hymns.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

THE farmhands on the estates of the monastery at Whitby liked a song in the evening, but whenever the harp looked like coming his way, Caedmon would slip out and go to bed in the stables.

On one such occasion, a man appeared in his dreams and greeted him. ‘Caedmon’ he said, ‘sing to me’.

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Five Posts
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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St Wilfrid and the Angel of Light
Music: George Frideric Handel
St Wilfrid finds comfort during his tussle with the King of Northumbria
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)

AFTER the King of Northumbria, Ecgfrith, expelled Wilfrid from his place as Bishop of York in 678, Wilfrid went to Rome, and brought back with him a letter of support from the Pope. However, the letter only made the King more angry. He had his sheriff, Osfrith, lock Wilfrid in a deep dungeon where little daylight came, ordering for good measure that no lamps be lit there by night.

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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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St Wilfrid and the Sheriff’s Wife
St Wilfrid brings healing to the wife of his own gaoler.
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)

THE King’s sheriff, Osfrith, was a married man. One day, his wife suddenly fell ill. First, she experienced a growing stiffness, which in time became a complete numbness in all her limbs. The sheriff found her cold to the touch, and flecks of foam appeared round her mouth.

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Sir Titus Salt
two-part story
Music: Felix Mendelssohn; Sir George Macfarren
His alpaca-wool mills near Bradford proved the social benefits of private enterprise in the right hands.

ON a trip to Liverpool, shortly after taking over his father’s wool business in 1833, Titus Salt stumbled across some bales of alpaca-wool, then little-known in England. His father forbade him to buy them, but he did, and by 1850 his business had outgrown its Bradford premises.

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AZ Index

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

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Edwardian Era’ (12 posts)
page 1
1 Arthur MacPherson
MacPherson’s tireless afforts to promote Russian sport earned him a unique Imperial honour, and the enmity of the Communists.
2 The Aspden Cup
British factory workers started a historic three-cornered league in the Russian city of St Petersburg.
3 Hyder Ali and Tipu
The British encountered no stouter resistance in India than Mysore’s gifted commmander Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu.
4 Mysore’s Golden Age
The Princely State of Mysore (today in Karnataka) was hailed as an example of good governance to all the world.
5 Benno Moiseiwitsch
One of the twentieth century’s greatest pianists, who put himself and his art at the service of his adopted country.
6 The Boer Wars
South African settlers of Dutch descent could not escape the march of the British Empire.
page 2
7 ‘Risoluto’
Music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
(1833-1897)
Despite setback after setback, Stanford was determined to hear his music played in public.
8 The Man who Made the Headlines
William Stead conceived modern print journalism in the belief that newspapers could change the world.
9 West Auckland, European Champions
A team of amateurs gave Europe’s finest a drubbing.
10 The Fleming Valve
A Victorian children’s book inspired the birth of modern electronics.
11 ‘Nimrod’
Music by Edward Elgar
(1857-1934)
Edward Elgar suffered from depression, and ‘Nimrod’ is his token of thanks to the true friend who supported him through it.
12 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Music by Samuel Coleridge Taylor
(1875-1912)
A gifted composer of classical music in the romantic tradition, admired by Stanford, Elgar, and Sullivan.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Verb or Noun?

Use each of the words below once as a noun and once as a verb:

Prompt. Offer. Go.

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 ‘Wide’
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 WIND and finish with CASH.
An arithmetical puzzle combining addition, subtraction, division, multiplication and fractions.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with GOAT and finish with HERD.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
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