Little Bits of History

Snowfall

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2015
The Avalanche at Lewes by Thomas Henwood

The Avalanche at Lewes by Thomas Henwood

December 27, 1836: The deadliest avalanche in the United Kingdom occurs. Lewes is around seven miles north of the Sussex coast in the county of East Sussex, England. It is in the South East part of England and borders the English Channel. It is less than fifty miles south of London. People have lived there since prehistoric times and the Romans may have built a settlement in the region. Today, around 17,000 people live there and their economy now is very diverse. Beginning in the late 18th century, wines and spirits were distributed from Lewes from the company that is today Harvey & Sons brewery, one of the finest ale producers in England. The town is located amidst the a series of cliffs and Cliffe Hill is on the east side of the town towering 540 feet above sea level.

The winter of 1836-37 was exceptionally severe across all of Great Britain. There was a greater amount of snowfall and gale force winds and freezing temperatures were recorded throughout the island. Between October 1836 and April 1837, many weather records were broken. On December 24, 1836 heavy snow began to fall across South East England. Especially hard hit was the South Downs region where Lewes is located. Strong winds blew the snow around and snowdrifts over ten feet high were reported in some areas of Lewes. The storm deposited a huge amount of snow atop Cliffe Hill and an overhanging cornice was formed on the sheer western edge.

Immediately at the foot of Cliffe Hill stood Boulder Row. This was a row of seven flimsy cottages where workers and their families lived. The exact number of people living there remains unknown, but it is said that 15 people were in their homes on this terrible day. The evening before, snow was seen falling from the top of the hill and the families were advised to leave, but they did not heed the warning. On this Tuesday morning, at 10.15 AM, the cornice collapsed and an avalanche headed immediately for Boulder Row. An eyewitness reported the snow hit at the base and launched the shabby houses upward before breaking over the remnants like a giant wave. There was nothing left of the area but a huge mound of pure white snow.

An immediate rescue effort was made by the townspeople who were able to pull seven survivors from freezing death. But hypothermia or suffocation overtook eight others whose bodies were eventually recovered. The eight people’s names are recorded inside the church of South Mailing parish where they were buried. A few prominent townspeople set up a fund to help the survivors. Snowdrop Inn, a pub, was built at the location of Boulder Row soon after the disaster and is still in business today. Fanny Boakes (two years old at the time) was one of the survivors and the dress she was wearing at the time is now shown at the Anne of Cleves House museum.

We hear the rain fall, but not the snow. Bitter grief is loud, calm grief is silent. – Berthold Auerbach

Snow. White, white, white, soft and clean, and maddening shapes, with the whole world in them. – Alfred Stieglitz

But where are the snows of last year? – Francois Rabelais

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Also on this day: Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.
Man Cave – In 1966, the Cave of Swallows was discovered.
Religious Freedom – In 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was signed.

Religious Freedom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2014
Peter Stuyvesant

Peter Stuyvesant

December 27, 1657: The Flushing Remonstrance is signed. New Netherland was established in 1614 as a Dutch colony in the New World. Peter Stuyvesant served as the last Dutch Director-General of the colony from 1647 to 1664 when the area came under British rule. On this date, Stuyvesant was presented with a petition requesting an exemption to his ban on Quaker worship. He had instituted a ban abolishing the practice of all religions except for the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1656 William Wickenden, a Baptist minister from Rhode Island, was arrested, jailed, fined, and exiled for baptizing Christians in Flushing.

A group of thirty English citizens were not happy with the ban and presented the petition on behalf of Quakers, although none of the signatories were Quakers. Four of the signers were arrested by Stuyvesant’s orders. Two of them immediately recanted. Edward Hart and Tobias Feake, the sheriff of Flushing, both held fast to their beliefs. They were taken to prison and forced to live on bread and water for over a month. Friends and family petitioned Stuyvesant for their release and Hart, an elderly man, was released but banished. Feake held out for a while longer and then recanted. He was pardoned and fined, but was no longer eligible for public office.

John Bowne permitted Quakers to meet at his house. He was arrested in 1662 and brought before Stuyvesant. Bowne was deported to Holland even though he was of English descent and spoke no Dutch. He spent several months on the continent before he was granted a hearing with the directors of the Dutch West India Company. After months more of deliberation, the Company agreed to support Bowne and sent Stuyvesant a letter in 1663 telling him to end religious persecution in the colony.

The Flushing Remonstrance was an important document and some consider it a precursor to the US Constitution’s freedom of religion amendment included in the Bill of Rights. In the 17th century document, it was stated that religious freedom was a fundamental right, as basic as any other of the freedoms afforded to the colonies in North America. Not only were the signers willing to make this statement, but they sent it off to Stuyvesant, a known intolerant individual. The signers stood up for others with little benefit to themselves. The language of the text is nearly as beautiful as the message contained within it.

The law of love, peace and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sonnes of Adam, which is the glory of the outward state of Holland, soe love, peace and liberty, extending to all in Christ Jesus, condemns hatred, war and bondage.

And because our Saviour sayeth it is impossible but that offences will come, but woe unto him by whom they cometh, our desire is not to offend one of his little ones, in whatsoever form, name or title hee appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker, but shall be glad to see anything of God in any of them, desiring to doe unto all men as we desire all men should doe unto us, which is the true law both of Church and State; for our Saviour sayeth this is the law and the prophets.

Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man.

And this is according to the patent and charter of our Towne, given unto us in the name of the States General, which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing. – the final paragraphs of the Flushing Remonstrance

Also on this day: Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.
Man Cave – In 1966, the Cave of Swallows was discovered.

Coming into Port

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2013
Port wine

Port wine

December 27, 1703: The Methuen Treaty is signed by Portugal and England. The War of the Spanish Succession was fought 1701-1714. In 1700, King Charles II of Spain died leaving all his possessions to Philip, duc d’Anjou – a grandson of French King Louis XIV. Many interested parties in Europe and North America had issues with the Frenchman being seated as King of Spain. The Holy Roman Empire along with Great Britain, Portugal and others went to war against France, Spain, and Hungary.

Spain ruled over an empire and there was a fear the new Frenchman king would also rule in France and merge the two major powers into one. Portugal originally sided with France with the French Navy supposedly protecting Portugal’s coast. In 1702, with a British naval presence close to Lisbon, it became evident France was not up to the task. Portugal switched sides with the signing of the treaty. The treaty established war aims and listed commercial practices between the two signatories. One of the difficulties of being at war with France was wine shipments were highly taxed. This treaty gave preferential treatment to port, wine from Portugal, making it a popular replacement beverage in England.

Wine is fermented juice, usually from grapes but other fruits can be used. The fermentation process turns natural sugars into alcohol. Wine first appeared around the border regions of what is today Georgia and Iran ≈ 6000 BC. It spread through Europe and was popular there by 4500 BC. The word wine derives from the Latin word for grapevine. There are a variety of wines, sometimes classified by the grape used, but more frequently by the region where it is made.

Port, also called Vinho do Porto, Oporto, or Porto is a fortified wine from Portugal, coming from the Douro Valley in the northern part of the country. A fortified wine is one to which alcohol, usually in the form of brandy, has been added. In the US, ‘”fortified wine” is not permitted on the label so they are often called dessert wines instead. The Douro River Valley has three official zones with each producing a particular variety of the beverage. There are more than 100 types of grapes used to make port and the export process has been highly regulated. Storing port, like wine, means keeping the bottles in a cool, dark place.

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Wine is a turncoat; first a friend and then an enemy.” – Henry Fielding

“The vine bears three kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of disgust.” – Diogenes

This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: The Douro River is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula. The origin is in Spain and the river runs for 557 miles before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. This makes it the third largest river on the peninsula. It flows from an elevation of 7,077 feet. The Douro vinhateiro is the wine growing portion of the valley located in Portugal. It has been classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before the mid-twentieth century, the wine was taken down river in flat-bottom boats known as rabelos. The wine was then stored in barrels in the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia. However, in 1950 and 1960 dams were built along the river making this no longer possible. Today, wine is transported in tanker trucks.

Also on this day: Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.
Man Cave – In 1966, the Cave of Swallows was discovered.

Man Cave?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2012
The Cave of Swallows interior

The Cave of Swallows interior

December 27, 1966: The Cave of Swallows is discovered. It is an open air pit cave located in the Minicipality of Aquismón, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The Spanish name for the cave is Sótano de las Golondrinas which translates into English as Basement of the Swallows. Although this date is given for the discovery of the cave, it was known to the local Haustec people since prehistoric time. On this date, it was first documented by T.R. Evans, Charles Borland, and Randy Sterns. The name of the cave is predicated on the many different birds who make it their home, mostly white-collared swifts and green parakeets.

The elliptical mouth of the cave is on a slope of karst. Karst terrain is formed by the dissolution of layers of soluble bedrock, usually carbonate rock suck as limestone or dolomite. The mouth is 160 feet by 200 feet and is undercut around the entire perimeter. The cave widens into a room about 995 feet by 440 feet and is a freefall drop from the mouth of 1,215 feet at the highest point. All these numbers make it the largest known cave shaft in the world. It is also the second deepest pit in Mexico and the 11th deepest in the world. To get an idea of the size of this cave, the Chrysler Building in New York City could easily fit inside the cave.

The birds exit the cave by flying in circles until they reach the mouth of the cave and then can take off up into the sky. Each evening, a spectacle takes place when the swifts (especially) return to roost. A large flock of the birds returns to the cave and about every minute or so, about fifty of them break off and head toward the cave. They head straight down into the cave and as they pass the surface, they pull their wings in and freefall , extending their wings and pulling out of their dive as they reach the level of their nests. This spectacle has become a popular tourist attraction.

The cave itself is quite cool with low temperatures. The rim of the cave is thickly covered with vegetation and during rains, there will be waterfalls cascading from the rim into the cave. The floor is covered, logically enough, with a thick layer of guano and lots of insects, snakes, and spiders feed there. There is a narrow sinkhole in the fault line of the limestone floor where the bottom lies another 1,680 feet lower. The cave is now a vertical caving destination with many rappelling down from the lower side where bolts have been affixed to the outside edge. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the floor, unless one freefalls to his or her death, which would take only about ten seconds. It takes 40 to 120 minutes to climb back out.

If there hadn’t been women we’d still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends. – Orson Welles

One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army. – Jose Marti

Houses mean a creation, something new, a shelter freed from the idea of a cave. – Stephen Gardiner

Every few thousand years some shepherd inhales smoke from a burning bush and has a vision or eats moldy rye bread in a cave and sees God. – Kerry Thornley

Also on this day:

Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.

Play Nice

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2011

King Ferdinand II

December 27, 1512: The Laws of Burgos are issued by the Spanish Crown. Burgos, a city in the Kingdom of Castile (now called Spain), set forth the rules entitled in Spanish Leyes de Burgos. These rules codified the behaviors of Spanish settlers in the New World. It was concerned over the wellbeing of indigenous people in the region and the new laws forbade the mistreatment of them, although it did encourage their conversion to Catholicism. The laws were issued because the common laws of Castile were not applied to the colonies.

Cardinal Archbishop Domingo de Mendoza of Seville had heard reports of abuse of the American Natives, known as Indians. The naming convention resulted after a confused Columbus thought he had reached the Indies instead of bumping into a huge land mass between Europe and Asia. The region became known as the West Indies because of this confusion and the natives were called Indians. Mendoza, appalled by stories of mistreatment, sent a group of Dominican missionaries to Hispaniola to try to intervene. The missionaries were unable to physically stop the abuse, but they agitated with enough vigor to bring about change.

The Spanish settlers were afraid of losing their lands if Mendoza continued and therefore they arranged their own ambassador to Spain. They chose a Franciscan Friar, Alonso de Espinal, to present their case to King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Their plan backfired and rather than making their case, the King was aghast at the treatment meted out to the natives. Ferdinand then created a committee of theologians and academics to arrive at a solution to this problem.

The committee came up with a set of 35 laws, some of which still seem draconian. Indians were to be removed from their land but then placed into “encomiendas” with housing provided and then forced to plant crops to feed the people. A law stated that Indians would leave their land willingly so as not to suffer being removed by force. Churches were to be built close by and natives were to be tested every two weeks to be sure they were learning the Ten Commandments. Two percent of the  natives were to be taught to read. There were many more regulations and they were yet again amended in July 28, 1513.

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

“If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.” – Marilyn Monroe

“Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules.” – Wayne Dyer

“Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Also on this day:

Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.

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Hagia Sophia

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2010

December 27, 537: The Hagia Sophia, translated as Holy Wisdom, is dedicated by Emperor Justinian in Constantinople, today called Istanbul, Turkey. The Church was first built by Constantine’s son, Emperor Constantius and opened in 360. The building was rectangular with a rounded apse and timbered roof. The emperor donated gold, silver, and religious objects to the construction and decoration efforts. The church was vandalized in 381 and much of the artwork taken.

In 404, John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, was sent into exile. Mobs rioted and destroyed the church. It was rebuilt by 415 in a basilica-style with five naves. Then with the rebellion of Monophysites in 532, the church was again destroyed. Emperor Justinian vowed to rebuilt and make it the most spectacular church in the world. Construction materials were brought from the four corners of the empire.

The new, improved church was rectangular with a huge dome. Construction of the dome used a new technique called pendentives. They used angled supports that allowed for the building of a round dome over a square room. Forty windows were placed around the base of the dome, giving the interior a special, ethereal illumination. The interior was also decorated with mosaics depicting: Jesus and Mary, many portraits including Emperor Justinian, some with Jesus and past emperors, and other saints.

The new architectural technique was not without faults. The methods used for construction caused overall weaknesses in the supporting walls. The church has been damaged often by earthquakes. The building began as a Byzantine Eastern Orthodox Church. During the Latin Occupation from 1204-61, it was a Roman Catholic Church. The Turks invaded in 1453 and turned it into a mosque. Islam does not tolerate pictures of humans and many of the mosaics were destroyed. Others were simply plastered over. In 1935, the building became a museum and was refurbished, revealing once again, the beautiful mosaics.

“Oh, Solomon, I have surpassed thee.” – Emperor Justinian at dedication of Hagia Sophia

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A Church is God between four walls.” – Victor Hugo

“I have no objections to churches so long as they do not interfere with God’s work.” – Brooks Atkinson

Also on this day, in 1703 the Methuen Treaty gave special treatment to port wines from Portugal to thirsty citizens in England.

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