Lone research is not easy and the last 18 months set new records for difficulty. Even if the pandemic ends soon the obstacles to accessing libraries and other archives will remain challenging. Zoom discussions have their uses, but involve a relative few. The time has come to extend the discussion. I am therefore setting up a History Mysteries project to widen the focus, and hopefully discuss with others some key issues.

This will involve my defining issues for debate and inviting colleagues to contribute to debate by email – in ways that Zoom cannot do. If you can help, then I would like to hear from you.

Please use the contact form to get in touch

If there is a resulting agreement then it will be posted on site, all contributions being acknowledged.. If not there will be a continuing private discussion group which will look at specifics.

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Blount’s ‘Boscobel’ Mystery

The classic account of Charles II’s escape in 1651 is the account he gave to Samuel Pepys in 1680. Yet as Pepys himself realized, the story as the King gave it was full of mistakes some of which Pepys corrected in footnotes. However, researchers have other accounts to draw upon, some of which are based on first hand research though many are little more than rumour and hearsay. Of the more reliable commentaries the book published by Thomas Blount in 1660, BOSCOBEL, seemed to be accurate and was initially backed by the King. This was much nearer to the events so the King’s poor memory of what happened when he spoke to Pepys did not appear crucial.

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The Great Bell of Tong​

In the medieval parish church of St Bartholomews in Tong, Shropshire, hangs a massive bell which is one of the 150 heaviest bells in the country. Other bells hang in the church and do the job of calling the faithful to prayer, so why this was commissioned in 1518 is a mystery. At a weight recently calculated at 46 hundredweight one stone – or well over two tons – this is totally unsuitable for a church of this size. The Church has a plethora of mediaeval tombs built between 1410 when the church was commissioned and 1518 when Sir Henry Vernon was buried here, in a new chapel called the Golden Chapel built to take an extra tomb – his own.

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The Batley Factor​

The second mystery is why skilled and presumably clever experts do not understand election results. This is shown by the co-incidence of the Batley by-election results of 1919 and 2021. A century or more apart, the same mistakes are made and in the meantime in 1971 a top Cambridge historian, Maurice Cowling, jumped on the same bandwagon and lost the plot.

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Charles II After Worcester​

The much celebrated escape of the heir to the throne, Charles Stuart, following total defeat in the Battle of Worcester (September 3rd 1651) is a turning point in the history of the monarchy. Some parts of the story are folklore, and the Royal Oak in which the King sheltered at Boscobel has become the name of Royal Navy warships and hundreds of pubs. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says the escape has become legendary, “not least because of the frequency with which he retold it”. The problem with the King’s accounts is that he told the story as a miracle, and by the time Samuel Pepys took in down in shorthand in 1680 some of what the King recalled was fantasy and imagination.

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Image credits:
Photo is courtesy of the John Taylor Bellfoundry