Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Passion for the Past ...

How and why I grew up with history 

The Alfred Jewel (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

WHEN bugs biet early, they tend to bite hardest.  I was a 7 year old when history bit me - and like all my obsessions it has stayed with me - even gathered in intensity.  It all began when my class were gathered on the carpet for the latest feast from good old 'schools and colleges'. It was during the 'standpipe summer' of 1976. Remember the clockface with the minute counting down?  Thrilling stuff!

Then on it came:  'Who will win the victory - and who will bear the loss?  Which banner shall triumphant be - the raven or the cross?'  

Alfred the Great fascinated this young Oldfield.  I spent the next few years endlessly drawing him - writing about him - wishing I could be transported to the south of England which, in those days, seemed like another country ...

I read every book I could get my hands on as far as battles, kings, queens and beheadings were concerned.  My poor dad had to drag me to castles, abbeys and other piles of stones ...

Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads

Course, later it was on to formal history at school (yawn!) tucking into Willam Pitt's Imperial Policy, Walpole and the South Sea Bubble - and generally being bored rigid.  I never even saw a picture of a flying shuttle - or a water frame - or a spinning mule.  There were no field trips, no photographs - just endless dictations of endless notes ....  I was a bored, naughty boy!

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow, Somerset

I was seriously worried that history was a good cure for insomnia .....! 

Avebury, Wiltshire.

Only as a young adult did I realise that history was there to find - and once I hit the road - there was no turning back.  I went everywhere that the school notes didn't mention: stone circles, barrows, battlefields - standing where this great king stood or where that one kicked the bucket.  

Silbury Hill

After a while I built up a massive series of photographs of all the major places in Britain where, in my view 'real history' had been made.  But they were all stuck in albums gathering dust for my eyes only.  You know how it is ...

The Devil's Arrows, North Yorkshire

THIS BLOG is going to build up slowly, but eventually take you (and me once again) to all those mouthwatering places you never saw in your school textbooks.  Ok - well maybe one or two you might have seen - but they are going to be looked at from a different angle - as far away from those dictated notes as possible.  

Tomb of crusader, Nantwich

We'll be visiting the great tombs of the famous and not so famous ...

Wren's masterpiece

Marvelling at the buildings you glimpsed on the telly but which seemed to be from another planet ..

And going in no particular order!  One minute we'll be in the streets of Tudor England - the next - back in the Neolithic ... wherever the journey happens to take us ...

Chapel of St. John, in the White Tower, Tower of London

Wandering into the great abbeys, churches and castles that pepper the British countryside ..

Drooling over the treasures in Britain's great museums ...

Traitor's Gate

And opening gateways to the past in as many ways as possible.

So join me in 'Old Fields of History' and we'll take a wander into times gone by .. with a smile or two ... and even a chuckle - along the way.  I'm buzzing to get back to those familiar places once again!!

Stephen x

(By the way - all photos are by the Oldfield himself - unless stated)

1 comment:

  1. High school killed my keen interest in history also. Now I'm enjoying what you are doing and rekindling that interest. We are lucky to be living in the UK where there is so much history. I will look forward to your very interesting posts, to add more fuel to that interest.