english civil war cannonball

An English schoolboy digging a hole in his family’s yard unearthed an eight-pound cannonball dating back more than 350 years to the English Civil War.

Jack Sinclair, 10, of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, continued tunneling after his father had dug down to remove a tree root and the lad came across what he at first thought was a rock.

Further work revealed that it was bigger and denser, and when Jack pulled it from the ground he had a heavy, rusty, muddy lump.

“His mother was concerned that it might be an unexploded bomb from World War II, but when they cleaned off the dirt, they saw it was an iron cannonball,” according to The History Blog.

Jack’s grandfather researched the artifact and took it to the nearby Museum Resource Centre in Newark, where experts verified with 90 percent certainty that it is a 17th century cannonball used during the English Civil War.

Its weight and dimensions suggest it was shot from a saker cannon, a medium-caliber long-range cannon widely used in the early 16th century and 17th century, according to The History Blog.

The find strengthens Southwell’s strong links with the 1642-51 conflict.

Read the rest of this entry »

(c) The Bowes Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

An English museum has received confirmation that a painting in its collection since the 19th century is the work of Flemish Baroque master Anthony van Dyck.

Portrait of Olive Boteler Porter was purchased by the founders of the Bowes Museum in 1866 and has been in its collection since it opened to the public in 1892. However, because the work was in poor condition, it had long been relegated to storage.

“Its sophisticated drapery, coloring and facial expression are typical of van Dyck’s female portraits of the 1630s, although they were overlooked due to the painting’s poor condition, leading to it being recorded in the Museum’s files as, ‘School of Van Dyck,’” according to the museum.

But it was only through the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC’s Your Paintings website that the true identity of the artist was discovered.

“Art historian and dealer Dr. Bendor Grosvenor was perusing the Public Catalogue Foundation’s massive database of all 210,000 publicly owned paintings in the UK … to research an upcoming exhibition when he spotted the Portrait of Olive Boteler Porter,” according to The History Blog.

When Grosvenor suggested that it could be a work by van Dyke himself, the museum enlisted him and his colleagues at Philip Mould & Co., who have conserved more than 20 Van Dyck’s, to restore the painting.

Read the rest of this entry »

On this date in 1667 English writer John Milton sold the copyright for Paradise Lost for the seemingly insignificant sum of £10.

Even more galling in retrospect, given that Paradise Lost is now considered one of the greatest literary works in the English language, is that Milton didn’t even get all his money up front.

He received £5 outright and a further £5 to be paid each time a print run of between 1,300 and 1,500 copies sold out, as the blog Armchair Anglophile points out.

Given that Milton died in 1674 as a second edition was being planned, he therefore reaped but one extra payment of £5.

In fairness, that’s worth a total of about £15,000 today, but given that millions of copies of Milton’s book have been printed over the centuries, it still seems like a paltry sum.

The Toronto Globe and Mail called Milton’s rendering of the Fall of Man “the greatest epic poem in the English language, the anvil of words on which every subsequent poem has been forged, the only contender to Shakespeare’s greatness, (and) quite possibly the most profound meditation on good and evil ever written.”

Read the rest of this entry »