London Fields is the name of a park in Hackney, east London. The surrounding area is also known by the same name. Roughly 31 acres in size, the park was first recorded in 1540 as an open area used for grazing cattle. Today it boasts a cricket pitch (used since the early nineteenth century), outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, play areas and bike paths and holds regular markets at the weekend. In recent years it has been the unfortunate location of some of London's gun crime involving local gang members.
Dover is a town on the south-east coast of England, in the county of Kent. The town has a population of just over 28,000 and dates back to the Stone Age. Due to its position, facing France across the English Channel, Dover was important as a point of communication and defence between Britain and France, and relics show a maritime influence as early as the Bronze Age. Its name derives from the River Dour which flows through the town, but it also held the ancient name of Albion, meaning ‘white’, due to the iconic chalk cliffs. The ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ have been voted Britain’s most popular stretch of coastline and were the subject of Vera Lynn’s popular World War II song.
One of the Medieval Cinque Ports (five south-east coast ports which were instrumental in Britain’s overseas trade and military action), it was a notable defence during the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. In the nineteenth century, the population of the town grew by 600% and it attempted to establish itself as a seaside resort to rival popular holiday destinations like Chatham. After the heavy defences built during the war, however, Dover was destined to remain a commercial and military port – the barracks closed finally in 2007. The Port of Dover provides many cross-channel ferry services to France and is the town’s main employer, although tourism also plays a part in the town’s economy.
Kent is a county in south-east England, bordering East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London. It also has a border with Essex in the middle of the River Thames and a nominal border with France halfway through the Channel Tunnel. With an estimated population of 1,684,200 a large amount of Kent is within the London commuter belt, but the south of the county relies on agriculture and tourism. Due to its proximity to France (which can be seen from Dover and
Folkestone on the coast), Kent has always been important to Britain in terms of a link to and defence from continental Europe. Much of the Battle of Britain was fought in its skies in World War II, and the dockyards at Chatham, Dover, Hythe, Sandwich and New Romney were used to build and launch warships since the twelfth century. Away from its naval coastline and transport links to France including the Channel Tunnel and ferry services from Dover, Kent is famous for its abundance of beautiful hop gardens and orchards, which have led it to be known as ‘The Garden of England’.
Hectate was a Greek Goddess, the equivalent to the Roman Goddess Trivia. A three-bodied Goddess who lived in the underworld, she was associated with the moon, childbirth, wilderness, crossroads and witchcraft, amongst others. Although early pictures of her showed only one woman, most images are of a triple Goddess with a virginal face, loose hair and a laurel crown. In modern history, probably due to her links to witchcraft, she was often depicted as a hag. She often holds a flaming torch, a serpent and a key, and is typically regarded as being a Goddess of ‘in between’ – borders, crossroads and the journey into the afterlife. The Ancient Greeks had two feast days a year dedicated to Hectate, whilst the Romans set aside the 29th day of every month in her honour.
The Prince William Henry is a public house in Southwark which was built in the early nineteenth century and named for the prince who would become King William IV in 1830. Alternatively, it is the name of a hotel in Bayswater. Almost certainly any establishment in existence in 1840 would have been named for this Prince William and opened in the late 1700s or early 1800s.
Titania is the Fairy Queen in William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Married to Oberon, the King of the Fairies, the beautiful, sharp-witted and proud Titania is enchanted by Puck, her husband’s servant, and falls in love with Nick Bottom the Weaver, whose head has been magically changed into that of a donkey.
Due to Shakespeare’s influence, Titania has since been taken as the name of a Fairy Queen for other works of literature and art. She appears in Goethe’s Faust I and Tennyson’s play The Foresters amongst others, and one of Uranus’s moons is named after her.
Full text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream online or watch a BBC animated version of the play:
The Nubian people are now an ethnic minority living in Egypt and the northern areas of Sudan; a large concentration in Cairo. Ancient Nubians had a 23-letter alphabet and the oldest recorded language in Africa, dating to the 8th century. Their independence as a national people was largely lost after years under Egyptian and Arab control – most Nubians converted to Islam and Arabic is their main language. However, their culture does remain a strong part of the Nubian identity; most speak the ancient indigenous language, and their dress, dances, music and traditional customs are still much in evidence today throughout Egypt and Sudan.
Hieroglyphs were the formal writing system used by Ancient Egyptians. A combination of alphabetical and pictorial elements, they were traditionally used for religious writings written on wood or papyrus. Eventually the system dissolved into two forms – hieratic (for the priests) and demotic (for the public). Originally there were around 800 symbols, but by Greco-Roman times this had turned into more than 5,000. The oldest examples of hieroglyphic writing date to around 3,000BC and they remained in use until the 4th century AD, when conquering foreign powers brought their own writing systems. Deciphering hieroglyphics is an incredibly complicated process, as the symbols can have many different meanings and be interpreted literally or allegorically. Some more useful hieroglyph websites, including explanations and translations, can be found at:
There were some crucial differences between Egyptian and Greek sphinxes – in Egypt they were male, benign and viewed as guardians, whereas in Greece they were female, sometimes winged and associated with demons and bad luck. In Greek mythology, there was a sphinx guarding the entrance to the city of Thebes, who would ask anyone wishing to pass a riddle – if they failed to answer, they would be devoured. The most famous riddle in history: ‘Which creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?’, was finally answered by Oedipus: ‘Man – who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks upright as an adult and uses the aid of a stick in old age.’ The sphinx, finally defeated, threw herself off a nearby cliff and the entrance to Thebes was once again free.
Liszt was born in Hungary and became known at a young age throughout Europe as a virtuoso pianist – he took lessons from Carl Czerny and met Beethoven and Schubert in Vienna, where he made his public debut in 1822. His first composition appeared in 1823, a Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli. Throughout his life, Liszt composed original pieces and a large number of creative variations on the work of other composers. His most well-known work is that for the piano, but he also wrote for the organ, orchestra and voice. He pioneered the concept of the ‘symphonic poem’ – an orchestral piece to provide illustration for another artistic element such as a poem, story or painting. Besides composing, he also wrote essays and conducted, and was an extremely well-regarded piano teacher. As a concert pianist he was regarded by contemporaries as being the most technically advanced ever, and in the 1840s was said to be the best of all time.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the subject of an earlier Bookmark.
Listen to Franz Liszt’s works online at the Classical Archives.
Christ Church is an Anglican church in Spitalfields. Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and built between 1714 and 1729, it was one of the first (and only twelve) churches built by the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, an effort to establish religious buildings for the growing new settlements in London. Spitalfields was then populated largely with Huguenot silk weavers who were not Church of England, so the church was in part a show of authority by the Anglican Church. Christ Church became nearly derelict around the mid-twentieth century but is undergoing serious restoration to return it to its pre-1850 condition.