The Book of Days



  Today's Page

  Calendar of Days


  Search Site


  Contact Us

  Site Map


  The Book of Days is proudly brought to
you by the members of


October 20th

Born: Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul's, 1632, East Knoyle, Stanislaus Leczinski, king of Poland, 1677; Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, statesman, 1784, Broadlands, Hants.

Died: Charles VI, king of France, 1422; Lord William Howard, 1640, Naworth Castle, Cumberland; Henri Basnage du Fraquenet, eminent lawyer, 1695, Rouen. Archibald Pitcairn, physician and author, 1713, Edinburgh; Charles VI, emperor of Germany, 1740; Michael Dahl, Swedish portrait painter, 1743, London; Philip Astley, author of works on horsemanship, 1814, Paris.

Feast Day: St. Barsabias, abbot, and his companions, martyrs, in Persia, 342. St. Artemius, martyr, 262. St. Zenobius, bishop of Florence, confessor, 5th century. St. Sindulphus or Sendou, of Rheims, 7th century. St. Aida, bishop of Mayo, 768.


One of the most memorable worthies famed in English history is Lord William Howard, commonly known as 'Belted Will,' and one of the most picturesque monuments of Old England is his border stronghold of Naworth Castle, near Brampton, in Cumberland.

He was the third son of Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, the most potent and popular nobleman of his day; and his mother, the duke's second wife, was Margaret, who was daughter and sole heiress of Lord Chancellor Audley. It was not, however, by this alliance, but by the third marriage of the duke, that the Howard family acquired the magnificent inheritances they enjoy in Cumberland, Northumberland, and Yorkshire. Lord Will was born on the 19th December 1503; and in 1563 the duke married, as his third wife, the widow of Thomas, Lord Dacre of Gilsland and Greystoke, whose three daughters and co-heiresses came in ward to the duke, and were prudently destined by him for his three sons. One of the daughters was Elizabeth, who was born in the same year as Lord William Howard, was brought up with him, and became his bride when only fourteen years of age. The duke, however, did not live to see this object of his ambition realised, for Lord William was only in his ninth year when 'good' Queen Bess beheaded his father for his chivalrous devotion to Mary Queen of Scots, and Lord William and his brother were afterwards confined in the Tower for their adherence to the Catholic faith. Naworth Castle and the barony of Gilsland were part of the inheritance of Lord William Howard's youthful bride, but after the attainder of the duke, the crown withheld her estates for many years, and it was not until long after her marriage that they were restored to her, and only then upon her paying Queen Elizabeth a fine of �10,000.

The vindictive persecution thus suffered by Lord William, sadly overclouded his early manhood, and the long and costly litigation for recovery of his young wife's inheritance, impoverished his estate for many years; but adversity served to develop those high qualities of energy, prudence, courage, and perseverance which distinguished him throughout his eventful life. It was not until the accession of James I, when Lord William was in his fortieth year, that the fortunes of the Howard family were restored. He was soon afterwards appointed by the king his lieutenant, and warden of the marches; and it was probably the acquisition of this onerous and martial office, that determined him to repair Naworth Castle and make it his chief abode for the future.

This old stronghold and the adjacent territory had belonged from the days of the Norman kings to the lords of Gilsland a martial race of barons of the old historic family of Vallibus or De Vaux. By an heiress, the estates came, in the reign of Henry III, to the family of De Mallon, and in the following century the marriage of the heiress of the De Maltons to Ralph de Dacre brought Naworth and Gilsland to that nobleman and his posterity.

In those days, a building could not put on castellated dignity without the royal licence; and accordingly, in 1335, Ralph de Dacre obtained license to castellate Naworth. He built his fortress in quadrangular form, enclosing a large court-yard, and at each angle of the south front he built a massive tower; on the other sides the building was naturally fortified by the steep declivities on the edge of which its walls were built. And so in days:

'When English lords and Scottish chiefs were foes,
Stern on the angry confines Naworth rose.
In dark woods islanded its towers looked forth,
And frowned defiance on the growling north.'

For more than two centuries and a half, and until the marriage of Lord William Howard to the co heiress of Thomas, Lord Dacre, as already mentioned, the property was held by the Dacre family. It does not, however, appear to have been the scene of any very memorable events in our national annals, and the castle had fallen into decay before the reign of Elizabeth. Lord William Howard's repairs seem to have occupied from 1605 to 1620; and the architecture of the chief part of the quadrangle, as it stood down to the time of the fire in 1845, remained as he left it. Much of the massive architee tune of the time of Edward III that is to say, Lord Dacre's work was not only preserved at the time of Lord William's repairs, but is standing at the present day; but, conservative as has been the work of restoration, undertaken by the present Earl of Carlisle after the fire, the aspect of the old stronghold was, in 1845, more medieval than it is now.

The characteristic old hall and chapel, and some other antique features of the castle, were destroyed in the fire; but the tower at the south east angle, known as ' Lord William's Tower,' escaped destruction, and the formidable warden's own chambers, which consisted of his library, his oratory, and his bed chamber, all reached by a narrow winding stair, defended by doors strengthened with iron, retained, down to the time of the fire, the very furniture and books he had used, insomuch that these chambers seemed to recall the hour:

'When helm P d warders paced the keep,
And bugler blew for Belted Will.'

And when, as Sir Walter Scott remarked, the. lord warden in person might be heard ascending his turret stair, and the visitor was almost led to expect his arrival. And pleasantly does the poet bring the picturesque old chieftain before us:

'Costly his garb, his Flemish ruff
Fell o'er his doublet shaped of buff,
With satin slash'd and lined;
Tawny his boot and gold his spur,
His cloak was all of Poland fur,
His hose with silver twined;
His Bilboa blade, by marchmen felt,
Hung in a broad and studded belt.'

Apropos to his costume, it may be mentioned that the very suit of black in which he is represented in the portrait (attributed to Cornelius Jansen) at Castle Howard, is mentioned in his steward's account, and appears to have cost �17, 7s. 6d. The dress is a close jacket of black figured thick silk, with rounded skirts to mid thigh, and many small buttons; black silk is the material of the hose, and black silk stockings come above the knee; he wears a plain falling shirt collar, the sleeves turned up at the wrist. His dress rapier has a gilt basket hilt, and hangs by a narrow (not broad) belt of black velvet, with gilt hooks. So much for his costume.

There was much to occupy his energies besides the repair of his castle, for he had not only to recover and then to set in order the great inheritances he had acquired, but to govern, as one of the Lords Marchers, the turbulent border country committed to his care. It was in a state of rapine and desolation when he began his rule; but the lawless were soon made to feel the rule and presence of a great man. He maintained at Naworth a garrison of a hundred and forty men at arms, for protection of the country and apprehension of evil doers, and made his name a word of terror on the border lands. Yet Camden, the great antiquary, found the formidable warden occupied amongst his books, and speaks of him as 'an attentive and learned searcher into venerable antiquity.' His literary tastes and public duties may be said, indeed, to have blended in him the character of scholar and soldier; and it is evident that he was as well practised with the pen as with the sword.

His border stronghold of Naworth stands near the line of the old Roman Wall, and he copied for Camden the inscriptions on Boman altars and tablets, which he had collected from the vicinity. In his days, manuscripts the spoils of the monasteries were often to be found scattered in private hands; and Lord William himself collected some manuscripts which are now treasured in the British Museum and the Herald's College, in the collections which bear the name of the great Earl of Arundel, his illustrious nephew. Nor was he a collector only, for the same hand which drew up a list of sixty eight felons, whom he had captured and hung, edited the chronicle of Florence of Worcester, one of the old monastic historians. A large number of his books are still in his tower at Naworth (unfortunately they have remained stowed in chests ever since the fire); many of them are rare and early printed books, many are great and ponderous tomes, and most of them bear his annotations in his firm and distinct handwriting.

When we view him in:

'The tranquil hour
Of social pleasures ill exchanged for power,'

we see Lord William surrounded by a family circle numbering, on some festive occasions, fifty persons, for sons with their wives, and daughters with their husbands then assembled round their noble parents.

He was accustomed to travel with a large retinue, sometimes numbering eighteen persons, and the expenses of his journeys to London varied from �15 to �30 in the money of the time. When in town, he resided sometimes at Arundel House (then standing on the south side of the Strand), and sonic times in St. Martin's Lane.

At length this politic and martial chieftain, having won for himself the honourable distinction of CIVILISER OF THE ENGLISH BORDERS, having consolidated a noble inheritance for his posterity, and seen his children grow to be the comfort of his old age, died at Naworth Castle on the 20th October 1640, in his seventy seventh year.

The repairs and restorations of Naworth Castle, made by its present noble owner, have been already adverted to: this notice should not be concluded without stating that, in these works, the original character of the picturesque old stronghold has been so well studied, that an air of antiquity seems still to pervade it, and one might expect to find the warders spell bound in its gallery or court yards, ready to issue with their chieftain to repel some hostile foray.


The founder of the celebrated amphitheatre, bearing his name, and which, till its metamorphosis by Mr. Boucicault into a temple of the regular drama, formed one of the most attractive places of amusement in London to children, great and small, deserves a notice here, both from his own individual merits and the interest attaching to him as the father of the modern circus. He was a native of Newcastle under Lyne, and in his early years assisted his father in the occupation of a cabinet maker; but enlisted when a stripling of seventeen, in the 15th regiment of light horse, commanded by General Elliot. From his boyhood, he had shewn a marked predilection and aptness for equestrian exercises, for which his new mode of life supplied him with a congenial sphere, and he soon became famous as a regimental rough rider and instructor in horsemanship. During the last years of the Seven Years' War, he served abroad on the continent, and by his steadiness and intelligence, as well as courage, displayed on numerous occasions, attained the rank of sergeant major, but, not long afterwards he solicited and obtained his discharge from the army.

The object of his doing so, appears to have been the design of turning his equestrian abilities to account in the way of public exhibition; but at first his gains in this line were very scanty, and he was obliged to eke out a living by resuming occasionally his old trade as a cabinet maker. With a horse, which had been presented to him as a parting gift and token of esteem by General Elliot, and another which he purchased himself, he conducted his equestrian performances in a field near the Halfpenny Hatch, Lambeth, receiving such trifling gratuities as the liberality of the spectators and passers by might bestow. From this humble exhibition, he advanced first to the dignity of an unroofed wooden circus, erected by him in the midst of a timber yard. Here he achieved such success as to attract the patronage of royalty, and a few years later was enabled to erect, on the same site, a spacious wooden building, which he opened in 1780 under the title of the Amphitheatre Riding House, diversifying his feats by the introduction of musical pieces, and dancing on a regular stage with scenery. Such an interference, however, with dramatic monopoly, was not to be tolerated, and as he had obtained no licence, Astley was prosecuted and imprisoned. Through the influence of Lord Thurlow, whose daughters he had instructed in riding, he was released from confinement, and at the same time granted a licence.

A rapid and uninterrupted career of success now attended him, and, from time to time, he enlarged and embellished his amphitheatre, the name of which he changed first to The Royal Grove, and afterwards to the Amphitheatre of Arts; but the title of Astley's Amphitheatre, given it by the public, has proved a more enduring epithet than either. On the breaking out of the war with the French republic, the revival of the old spirit of military enthusiasm in the breast of Astley, induced him to proceed to the Low Countries. as a volunteer in the campaign there, under the Duke of York. From him he received the present of two horses, as a mark of esteem for his gallantry at the siege of Valenciennes; but the benevolence and generosity which were as conspicuous characteristics of Astley as courage, induced him to sell the steeds and employ their price in providing winter-comforts for the soldiers of his troop. The news of the burning of his amphitheatre made him hastily quit the seat of war and return to London, but the edifice was soon rebuilt and reopened. A similar disaster befell it a few years afterwards, with the same display of reconstructive energy on the part of the proprietor.

The death of Astley took, place at Paris, in October 1814, from gout in the stomach. With the no less celebrated Franconi, he was associated in the establishment of the Cirque Olympique, in the French capital. In physical organisation, Astley presented a fine type of English vigour, being upwards of six feet high, with extraordinary muscular power, and possessing all that love for, and dexterity in managing, the horse, so eminently characteristic of his countrymen. But the warmth and generosity of his heart, so unequivocally evinced during the Low Country campaign, as well as the unflinching bravery shown by him on many occasions, inspire us with a much higher respect than any amount of personal ability or worldly success. And as an author, his manuals of horsemanship, and his descriptive account of the theatre of war in the Netherlands, in which he himself had taken a part, if not displaying high merit in a literary point of view, are at least conspicuous for industry and good sense, and the thorough knowledge which the author possesses of his subject.


One of the most pleasing incidents in humble life, within the present century, was the heroic achievement of Grace Darling. Her very pretty name, too, had something to do with the popularity which she acquired; for, without attaching over-importance to the matter, there can be little doubt that lovable actions become more fixed in the public mind when connected with such gentle and pleasant names as Grace Darling and Florence Nightingale.

Grace Darling, born in November 1815, was the daughter of William Darling, keeper of the light house on the Longstone, one of the Fame Islands, off the coast of Northumberland. They are scarcely islands, indeed, being little more than barren and desolate rocks, in most parts very precipitous, and inhabited by little besides sea fowl. The sea rushes between the islands with great violence; and the spot is so dangerous to ships passing near, that a light house has long been maintained there. Almost shut out from the world in such a spot, Grace Darling saw very little society; yet her parents managed to give her a fair education for a girl in her station. She was described as being 'remarkable for a retiring and somewhat reserved disposition, gentle in aspect, and mild and benevolent in character; of a fair complexion and comely countenance, with nothing masculine in her appearance.'

It was on the 6th of September 1838, when Grace was about twenty two years of age, that the event took place which has given her celebrity. The Forfarshire, a steamer of about 300 tons, John Humble, master, was on her way from Hull to Dundee. She had a valuable cargo, and sixty three persons on board the master and his wife, a crew of twenty men, and forty one passengers. A slight leak, patched up before her departure, broke out afresh when off Flamborough Head, and rendered it difficult to maintain the fires for the engine. She passed between the Fame Islands and the mainland about six in the evening of the 5th, and then began to encounter a high sea and a strong north wind. The leak increasing, the engine fires gradually went out; and although the sails were then used, they could not prevent the vessel from being driven southward. Wind, rain, fog, and a heavy sea, all beset the hapless vessel at once. About four o'clock on the morning of the 6th, she struck bows foremost on a precipitous part of one of the rocky islands. Some of the crew and one of the passengers left the ship in one of the boats; two other passengers perished in the attempt to throw themselves into the boat. The females on board clustered round the master, shrieking, and imploring aid which he could not afford them. A heavy wave, striking the vessel on the quarter, raised her from the rock, and then caused her to fall violently on it again; she encountered a sharp ledge, which cut her in twain about mid ships; the forepart remained on the rock, while the hinder part was carried off by a rapid current through a channel called the Pifa gut. In this fearful plight the remainder of the passengers and crew awaited the arrival of day-light, no one knowing how soon the waves might destroy them altogether.

At daybreak, William Darling descried them from Longstone, about a mile distant; and it soon became known at Bamborough that a ship had been wrecked. So fearfully did the waves beat against the rock, that the boatman at Bamborough refused to push off; and Darling, accustomed to scenes of danger as he was, shrank from the peril of putting off to the wreck in a boat. Not so his gentle but heroic daughter. She could see, by the aid of a glass, the sufferers clinging to the wreck; and, agonized at the sight, she entreated him to let her go with him in a boat to endeavour to rescue them. At last he yielded; the mother helped to launch the boat into the water, and the father and daughter each took an oar. And so they rowed this fearful mile, at each instant in danger of being swamped by the waves. They reached the wreck, and found nine survivors. One of them, a weaver's wife, was found in the forecabin, exposed to the intrusion of the sea, and two children lay stiffened corpses in her arms. The whole nine went with Darling and his daughter into the boat, and safely reached the lighthouse, where, owing to the severity of the weather, they were forced to remain two days, kindly attended to by the three inmates.

When the news of this exploit reached the coast, all Northumberland was filled with admiration; and speedily the whole kingdom was similarly affected. Grace Darling's name became everywhere known, and she herself received attentions from all quarters. Tourists came from all parts to see the Longstone light house, and, still more, to see Grace herself. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland invited her and her father to Alnwick Castle, and gave her a gold watch; the silver medal of the Shipwreck Institution was awarded to her; and testimonials came from various public bodies. A purse of �700 was presented to her by public subscription. Portraits of her were eagerly sought for and purchased; and a speculating manager of a London theatre even offered a large sum to her, if she would merely sit in a boat on the stage for a few minutes, during the performance of a piece written for the occasion.

But her modest and retiring disposition revolted from this last named notoriety; she rejected the offer; and throughout the whole of this novel and tempting career, she never once departed from her gentle, womanly demeanour. Lovers, of course, she had in plenty, but she accepted none of them; she continued to reside with her father and mother at the light house. And there she died of consumption, on the 20th of October 1842, at the early age of twenty seven, about four years after the event which had given her fame. Long before her death, she had the means of seeing how literature was invoked in her honour; for memoirs, tales, and poems relating to her were issued from the press such as Grace Darling, the Heroine of the Fame Islands; Grace Darling, the Maid of the Isles; and so forth. One biographer managed to fill 480 octavo pages with an account of her life and of the shipwreck!

October 21st