Tuesday, November 01, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #22 - Canal finale, tactics and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another (all too infrequent) update...

This is worth an hour of your time if you have an interest in the development of the Royalist infantry tactics in the First English Civil War .. top level certainly, but well written, coherent, and well argued...

“To what extent did Royalist infantry tactics develop during the First Civil War (1642-1646)?” | Laird Matthew Callen - Academia.edu


With the very sad news of the death of Hilary Mantel earlier this year I thought it more than time that I finally got round to reading her tour de force novelisation of the life of Thomas Cromwell - probably more popularly known as Henry VIII's "hatchet man", but so much more than that as we find out over the course of the three books in the series... more than that it's the first 10+ of the year so worth mentioning here..

This, the first book, deals with the burgeoning British Protestant church, and also the quite extraordinary lengths Cromwell had to go through in order to secure and legitimise Henry's divorce from Katherine (of Aragon) and marriage to Anne (Boleyn) - much like the best story tellers, the book is utterly immersive, unusually, it is told from a first person perspective (you are Cromwell) - it really does feel like you are there in the court of Henry VIII with all the favouritism, wealth, treachery, gossip, danger and social and political manoeuvring that would mean - outstanding, extraordinary even, and it's clear that Mantel would have been more than happy to sit down with a glass of wine with Cromwell..  😊 My first 10+ of the year... 10+
Henry is married to the "Boleyn woman" but the cracks are already beginning to show - she's given him a child, but it's a girl (Elizabeth I to be), and Anne is making Henry's life a misery with her demands for preference for the Boleyn family, and the de-legitimisation of Katherine and his other daughter (Mary). The stress and strain on Anne of trying to bring forth another full pregnancy (she has at least one miscarriage), and more importantly a boy, is brought to life with frightening detail until in the end Henry again comes to Cromwell to request his assistance in getting rid of her for whatever legitimate and legal reason he can come up with in order that he can marry Jane Seymour (chosen purely because of her very opposite nature to Anne by the way). Anne's date with the French executioner was almost pre-ordained once Cromwell started to dig up the "facts" - brilliant! 10


...and finally, I grabbed an opportunity on Sunday to use the last good weather we have a for a while to leap on Gertrude and complete my documenting of the Portsmouth and Arundel canal (click here [clicky] for previous posts) - it was time to document and trace the basin for the canal - this bit (red circle) which would have been the end point of the canal, and the unloading spot...

There used to be a big department store near the basin called Landport's, named after the area where the canal basin was built - Landport is the historical centre of modern-day Portsmouth and developed just outside the dockyard (the area gets its name from one of the gates that controlled access), and as such would have been the logical place to build the basin...

As we learned previously this end of the canal was sold off to the railway, so the current track route provides the best views of what would have been the old canal in terms of size and direction. Starting at the Fratton end (see map) the following was taken looking back at Fratton bridge (I was halfway between the basin and Fratton) - the width of the canal is clear =>

The terminus is now gone of course, and the area is so developed now that it's hard to get an idea of exactly how big it was - Portsmouth and Southsea Station covers a lot of it, but the basin would have been roughly the area covered by the red circle following - also note the giveaway street names, the canal is gone but not forgotten...

Last two shots... this was south side of the track/canal looking towards the basin... would have been quite a sight when it was full of water and 150-ton sailing barges!

South side of the track looking back to Fratton...

...and that's me done - time to find another little local history project to fill the time!  😄


 Laters, as the young people are want to say...


  1. I am impressed with your drive to document local history.

    We have run out of kings buried under car parks so what next?

    1. Hiya Matt - LOL - Canute is supposed to be buried in one of our local churches, never been there so maybe you've given me an idea... :o)) I am thinking one of two things... the old gates to Landport (see above) are still existent so maybe a visit to them, or more likely a visit to what's left of the "Hilsea Lines"...

  2. I found Manda Scott's series on the Britons and Romans very enjoyable reads.