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Pubs, trains & New England

This is a transcript of episode 6 of our podcast series A History of England in 100 Places. Join Emma Barnett and category judge Dr Bettany Hughes as we continue our journey through the history of travel and tourism in England.

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Voiceover:
This is a Historic England podcast, sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.

Emma Barnett:
Welcome to Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places. I’m Emma Barnett and in this series we’re exploring the amazing places which have helped make England the country it is today. You’ve been nominating the places you think should be on this list and today we’ll explore three more from our Travel & Tourism top ten as selected by our expert judge for this category, historian and author Dr Bettany Hughes. Alongside Bettany are the judges of the nine other categories including George Clarke, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Monica Ali who are revealing the hundred locations they’ve selected from your nominations to tell the story of England - and in these programmes we’re finding out why. Remember, there is still time to get involved. Nominate a place now at HistoricEngland.org.uk. Last time we heard about some great things the Romans did for us, and today we’ll explore how England’s biggest journeys began with some of its biggest ideas. Oh… And beer. I’ll explain why in just a moment. Joining me in the studio is our category judge Bettany Hughes, Bettany welcome.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
Hello, nice to see you.

Emma Barnett:
And also to steer us through the story of England, big job there, Dr Su Barton, Research Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Dr Su Barton:
Hello.

Emma Barnett:
Hello. Now we’re going to dive straight into our third location from your top ten Bettany, we’re starting with some refreshment, I hope?

Dr Bettany Hughes:
Indeed we are. Now I don’t know what this says about me, but I have selected a pub as one of the key places.

Emma Barnett:
I approve.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
In fact, I actually wanted to put two pubs in but I plumped in the end for Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn in Nottingham which is an extraordinary watering hole. We’re told that it was established as early as 1189 and is actually physically built into the sandstone rock which Nottingham Castle stands on. I think I chose it not just because I like having a pint in the evening…

Emma Barnett:

Don’t we all!

Dr Bettany Hughes:
…but because of this category about travel and tourism, because it seems to me that a pub is often a place that people go to share travellers’ tales, so it’s where you actually hear about other people’s travelling experience. And this one was given its name because the story goes that this was where men met before they went off on this extraordinary contentious journey to the Crusades so as either religious pilgrims or as religious soldiers. So if you just sort of think back in time - it’s remarkable to think about that moment close on 800 years ago and beyond when people talked about this adventure that they were about to go on. So I just think - I think there’s a whole heap of history wrapped up in this pub.

Emma Barnett:

It is a wonderful place. I was at university in Nottingham so, I have to say, it was one of my first pub visits because it felt legitimate: I was studying history and politics, it was history and beer - so it was all OK. Su let me bring you in on this. There’s a wooden chair inside which has got quite a curious reason for people going to sit on it. Do you know about this?

Dr Su Barton:
Well I haven’t actually sat on it myself. I think, whether it’s a myth or a legend that if women would sit on that chair it could mean that they may be pregnant shortly.

Emma Barnett:
Yes, I avoided that chair during university I want that to be known. It’s an amazing story, isn’t it, because people are still flocking there today. Do you think it’s the history that draws them in?

Dr Su Barton:
I think it is the history. It’s also next to Nottingham Castle and at Nottingham Castle you can have tours through the caves which are underneath the building. There are also other caves that you can visit in Nottingham. Some of them have pubs attached to them. And there are also rivals in Nottingham for the claim of the oldest pub in England.

Emma Barnett:
And that makes it into the tourism category doesn’t it Bettany, because you’ve got now travellers from around the world wanting to go to this place. Do you think they sort of take in the history of it? It’s quite phenomenal when you think about how long it’s been there.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
It is. Yes I think the pub’s very good at telling people there’s a lot of history going on. But it’s - there’s a sort of odd reason I like it as well - because it’s built into the rock and we know that people left from there to go to the Middle East and the Near East and, of course, if you go to places like Asia Minor, Anatolia, you find these extraordinary centres of meeting and leisure physically built into the rock in places like Cappadocia in Turkey so there’s this strange kind of symmetry as well that, you know, people left there travelled thousands of miles east to these worlds that they could hardly imagine before - and they would have themselves gone and sat and had a sherbet equivalent in a rock cave in Cappadocia or the Near East. So there’s something kind of very English and very universal about it.

Emma Barnett:
It’s interesting as well, Su that people relied on pubs in those days to genuinely rest. They were pilgrims, they were tradespeople, they were travelling - we were just talking in the previous episode about Fosse Way and these long journeys people were going on. Pubs played a very different role then.

Dr Su Barton:
Yes. The Trip to Jerusalem hasn’t been called that for very much of its history either. Its original name was The Pilgrim. Or its name at least when it was recorded in 1751 it was called The Pilgrim. So it shows that people were using it as a pilgrimage destination or as a stop-off point on the way to a pilgrimage to somewhere else.

Emma Barnett:
Well that’s given me the perfect segueway to move on to our fourth location in this category - this is where another important journey began but this one wasn’t fictional or something we don’t know for sure. We’re back in Nottinghamshire and the village of Scrooby. Bettany - tell me about this.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
Yes well this is the Scrooby Manor House. I hate to confess that until this was put in front of me I had not heard of it, so this was a real discovery for me. And the original manor house is no longer there. But I also think that’s rather exciting. I kind of like the idea that we walk with the ghosts of the past always. Even if the physical remains aren’t there, the stories about it are. And this was an incredible place. It was the home of William Brewster and in 1606 he broke away from the established Church. He just thought that Christians were heading in completely the wrong direction. Formed a group called the Separatists who would then meet in this home. They tried to leave England and go to Holland in 1608 - that failed. AN then eventually in 1620 it’s this group that board The Mayflower and head for the New World. So I love it for so many reasons, largely though just imagining the conversations that would have happened in those rooms. I mean, this was - you know you were taking your lives in your hands both spiritually and physically by making a decision like that. And the kind of bravery of the men and indeed women that we know attended as well just really kind of sings to me across the centuries.

Emma Barnett:
But it’s not something you’d necessarily think about from a peaceful English village, is it? This idea of world-changing ideas - I mean I don’t mean that in a patronising way, but it’s not something you’d necessarily put together.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
No - I think that’s right. And it’s terribly important for us to remember that I think. You know, it always strikes me that the concentration camps don’t start with persecution they start with the first harsh word in a street or a stone thrown at somebody. So it’s very little actions and little thoughts that end up in these huge game-changing, epoch-making, events and they always happen because people get together and talk about stuff and that’s what they were doing in Scrooby Manor. So I know I think it’s a quiet part of the world but my goodness it ended up generating quite a noisy country!

Emma Barnett:
And some of the first settlers in New England in 1620. I mean it’s fascinating. The 1600s, Su, they were a real time of turmoil in England’s religious landscape.

Dr Su Barton:

Yes, the people that were in Scrooby and set off for the New World were Puritans. They were called that because they want to purify the religion of the country. They believed that the Church of England established after the turmoil of Henry VIII’s reign just hadn’t gone far enough in reforming religious practice. They wanted the religion to be free of the rituals and the liturgy that were remaining from the Roman Catholic faith.

Emma Barnett:
So I mean this is a strong sense of conviction to go on this journey to change things.

Dr Su Barton:
Well they were persecuted as well for that belief because - it’s difficult to imagine now that having a belief that an individual could actually pray to god themselves without having a priest to tell them what to do would be seen as something subversive. Or that reading the Bible could be seen as something subversive if you were interpreting it for yourself, but it actually put people in danger that wanted to do that. And we have some evidence of what was perhaps going on in people’s minds when you look at the names of the children. One of them was called Love, another one called Wrestling. And I’m thinking he’s talking about the love of god and wrestling with the devil and demons to do the right thing. So it’s showing the difficulties of conscience that people were having.

Emma Barnett:
And another one called Patience, and Fear, other daughters would arrive at a later date to join them on part of this journey. It is fascinating to look back at those names. By the 1640s, the number of people living in Massachusetts Bay had reached 10,000 and it’s an interesting note to say that the immigrants were literate, you know, many of them documenting life so that’s why we know a lot about these journeys.

Dr Su Barton:
Well they would be literate because they would want to read the Bible for themselves. We’re moving into an age where people were not relying on priests to tell them what they ought to understand about Bible stories. They were reading them for themselves and then discussing it with their lecturers who were the preachers if you like that were giving sermons to tell people about what their interpretation of the Bible was and offering it as a guide to living.

Emma Barnett:

As you say, Bettany, you didn’t know anything about this. I certainly know anything about this. And I suppose obviously the hope with these podcasts is that people find out about places that have formed England and formed our history and formed those discussions.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
Well absolutely, and also that probably in every family history there will be somebody at some point who has actually made that journey. I think we often think that these kind of migrations, emigrations, they happen to other people, but if you dig deep in the local records most people will find they’ve got some relative who went. My daughter’s great great grandmother was left behind – eight of her sister went. She was ill, she couldn’t get on a boat. They travelled to America, and on the journey they stitched her this most beautiful quilt which was a kind of memory of their journey and she always stayed behind and you know - thank goodness that’s how I met my husband. It changed my life the fact that she didn’t go, but I think what’s really fascinating is that probably every single family in the country has that connection even if we don’t realise it.

Emma Barnett:
Well speaking of incredible journeys, this lead us to our fifth location. Bettany you’ve picked Skerne Railway Bridge in Darlington. Tell us about this. County Durham.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
Skerne Railway Bridge! The fact that it was built to carry steam trains which are so evocative and are so present in our heritage, both in the physical nature of the steam train but also the fact that authors, playwrights, have written about the train constantly in the story of England. So the steam train has a very special place. For a time the bridge was on the back of the five pound note. I was that important. We’ve got Jane Austen now. And it was this little bridge. So I think it’s a rather neglected little thing of beauty in and of itself.

Emma Barnett:
Well Sarah Gouldsborough from the Darlington Railway Museum has told us a little bit more.

Sarah Gouldsborough:
My name is Sarah Gouldsborough, I’m the learning and access officer here at Head of Steam, Darlington Railway Museum. We’re in the museum building, which was North Road station from 1842 into the 1960s and in 1975 opened as a museum. And we are stood next to Locomotion Number One which was the first steam locomotive on the Stockton and Darlington Railway. We’re here on a Monday, we’re closed to the public although we have had 38 schoolchildren here this morning from a local school. This part of Darlington is alongside Stockton and Darlington Railway - we’re on the route. The route used to go through the middle of the building before it crosses the Skerne Bridge. So in the early days of the railway we’re on the very outskirts of Darlington in a rural area and with the growth of the railway and the railway industry in Darlington, the town rapidly expanded.

192 years ago this year, the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened, and it was the first publically-owned railway, steam-powered, to carry goods and passengers. We have a beautiful stone-built bridge. It’s a basic arch-shaped bridge with a central arch and then smaller arches for pedestrian access through. It’s beautifully balanced, it’s sort of typically Georgian. You know it’s got those beautiful proportions. It’s a beautiful stone-built structure - elegant. It’s got elements of adornment. It’s not just a structure that’s useful, it looks great as well. It’s a lovely sort of honey-coloured stone - a local stone - and it still has daily traffic which is the oldest railway bridge to be in continuous use - which is pretty special. The bridge was designed by an architect called Ignatius Bonhomie who designed quite a lot of different structures and buildings in the north east of England. He was one of this group of men, pioneers in the north east, who were seeing how things went basically. Putting the design principles into practice for new ventures. Where we’re standing now is actually in the middle of Darlington. 192 years ago this was in the countryside. We’ve got a fantastic painting in the museum called The Opening Day of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and it shows the crowd surrounding this area looking at the bridge, down by the river, in the fields, watching Locomotion Number One go over the bridge.

One of the main barriers to getting the railway built was the attitudes of the landowners. So one of the main jobs was persuading the landowners to let them buy their land to let the railway go through. There was a concern that perhaps the steam locomotives would go past so fast that people’s sheep and cows would explode which just shows you that we humans always find change difficult. People also thought that women would faint if they travelled in one of these contrivances because it would be travelling so fast they would not be able to cope. That didn’t happen either. It really did sort of open up the way for society to change. There were changes in business law that meant that the titled classes couldn’t hold on to their land ownership if there was this need for industry. They couldn’t just say ‘No’ - they had to negotiate more and so on. With the way that the Industrial Revolution was working, you really got the rise of the tradespeople, the middle classes, the people who were working really hard, making lots of money, and doing lots with it. The railways opened up cheaper travel to people and meant that they could go out for the day.

Emma Barnett:
That’s an interesting point to pick up on, isn’t it Su? I mean, this Victorian bridge, all England’s Victorian bridges. Why is it so important to the history of our country, Su?

Dr Su Barton:

The Skerne Railway Bridge spans the gap between the modern age and everything that came before it. Before then you could only go somewhere if you walked, or you went on a boat, or you could ride a horse or you had a cart that could pull you. And it would take days to go on journeys that perhaps we could do in a few hours, so I think it makes that much difference to the way people lived. Also, the Stockton and Darlington Railway was the first railway that had steam power, but it also spanned that period of change because not all the trains were steam-hauled, there were still ones that were drawn by horses pulling trucks. So I guess when they first laid down the track, they didn’t know that this is going to change the way people travel all around the world. It must have been built with the idea that it would have been used with horse-drawn trucks and then Stephenson designed a steam engine - I think it was Locomotion Number One - which was able to pull trains and it was very soon used by passengers as well for excursions as well as just pulling trucks containing coal and industrial items.

Emma Barnett:

Transforming everyone’s lives forever if you can connect distant parts of England all together like that.

Dr Su Barton:
It’s just incredible. Within five years, Stephenson developed The Rocket. And it’s a much safer engine. I know there was a serious accident on Stockton and Darlington Railway where one of the original engines exploded and killed the driver. But it was such an important step.

Emma Barnett:
And Bettany, the women didn’t faint?

Dr Bettany Hughes:
The women didn’t faint. Nor did they fail to have children. That was another anxiety, wasn’t it? They thought it would make women infertile because it ran so fast.

Emma Barnett:
Fertility’s come up a bit already! We’ve got a seat in a pub in Nottingham that’s going to make you fertile, and possibly trains that make you infertile.

Dr Su Barton:
People thought that if you travelled at more than 40 miles an hour, you wouldn’t be able to breathe. Also there was the fear of suffocation in a tunnel. And if you imagine the noise and smoke of an engine going through a tunnel - that must have been really, really terrifying for someone who hadn’t experienced that before. People had to learn how to cope with speed. That you couldn’t just jump off the train as it was going past your house. Which some people did. People died because they thought you could just step off and get your hat if it blew away. They bashed their heads on bridges because they thought you could sit on the roof. So all those things about the way people behaved to travel at speed and also to be in close proximity to others in the carriages is amazing.

Dr Bettany Hughes:
And it was very social. There were loads of romances started on trains. You know it was genuinely exciting. Once people overcame their fear and all that ‘fake news’ about train travel. It kind of democratises travel, doesn’t it?

Emma Barnett:
Well that is all for this episode. But please do join us next time as we uncover more of Bettany’s choices in the Travel & Tourism category. We have some real gems for you to build on those ones we’ve already brought you. To nominate a place, you can nominate more than one, go to HistoricEngland.org.uk/100places. We’d love to hear your nominations, because, after all, it’s your history. Make sure you rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on your app of choice too please. You can also join the conversation online by using the hashtag #100Places. Thank you very much to my guests historians Dr Bettany Hughes and Dr Su Barton. We’ll see you next time for more of the locations that tell our nation’s story.

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