England became a unified state in AD 927 and, since the 15th century, has had a significant impact on the wider world, developing the English language, the Anglican Church, and English law – the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world. Its beautiful and varied countryside is interspersed with quaint villages and cosmopolitan cities including the capital, London.
The name "England" is derived from the Old English name Engla land, which means "land of the Angles". The Angles were one of the Germanic tribes that settled in Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages.
Metropolitan Police: 180 years of policing the capital
THIS YEAR is the 180th birthday of the Metropolitan Police Service. Founded in 1829 by Robert Peel, Home Secretary, the Met has now opened a new museum looking back at police history in London
UNTIL 1829, there was no central organisation of law enforcement in London. As the population of the capital grew during the 18th and 19th centuries, the public became more and more concerned about the whole question of law and order and various parliamentary committees were appointed to investigate the subject. In 1828, Sir Robert Peel, who, as Home Secretary in the Tory government, introduced several important reforms of British criminal law, set up a committee and its findings paved the way for his police Bill, leading to the setting up of an organised police service in Greater London.
Before the passing of the Metropolitan Police Act, law enforcement among the general population was carried out by volunteer constables and ‘watchmen’. In cases of serious public disorder, the British Armed Forces would take over. Because the system was fairly unorganised and wasn’t set up to carry out criminal investigation, the novelist Henry Fielding (who had been appointed a Magistrate in 1748) introduced the first detective force, known as the Bow Street Runners. The creation of the Metropolitan Police Service in 1829 meant that Greater London finally had a single police force, except for in the City of London (the financial centre), which has kept its own force.
The Met is the largest police force in the UK and it is sometimes referred to as Scotland Yard, after the location of its original headquarters, which moved to New Scotland Yard in Westminster in the late 1960s. In 1934 the force opened its own training centre at Hendon in north London. The Met has been involved in many famous criminal cases, including The Brides in the Bath, Dr Crippen, Jack the Ripper and The Krays, and you can learn more about the force and its fascinating history on its website.
A new ‘mini-museum’, the Met Collection, has opened this summer at the recruitment centre at the Empress State Building opposite West Brompton underground station. On display are ancient truncheons, handcuffs and the uniform worn by the first TV cop, Dixon of Dock Green, artefacts dating back to the year the Met was founded, as well as archive photographs of the early days at Scotland Yard. For information, tel: (020) 7161 1234.
Tudor warship to get new home in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
This year, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the Mary Rose, the only Tudor warship on display in the world, is celebrating her 500th birthday.
As a birthday present, she is going to be getting a new home there. Work to create a £35-million museum around the ship started on 20 September. The new museum, expected to be completed during 2012, will be boat-shaped and house the thousands of artefacts found with the ship. Plus, for the first time, you’ll be able to see a recreation of the missing side of the wreck’s missing side.
The existing Mary Rose Museum, with its fascinating insights into the ship and over a thousand Tudor items, will remain open in the meantime, with new displays and the British Library’s exhibition, Henry VIII: Man and Monarch arriving later in the year. Mary Rosewas built in Portsmouth around 1510 and thought to be named after King Henry VIII’s sister, Mary and the Tudor rose emblem. After over 30 years in the Royal Navy, she sank in the Solent in 1545 during an engagement with the French fleet.
The ship hall and museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is at present included in a joint ticket for which gives you entry to Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, the Victorian HMS Warrior 1860 and the Royal Naval Museum.
Tribute to ‘the last Tommy’
WELLS CATHEDRAL in Somerset was the location of the funeral this week of Private Harry Patch, the last veteran of the First World War. Private Patch, who dies recently aged 111, was known as “the last Tommy”, and reportedly didn’t want a fuss made over him. However, thousands of people lined the streets of Wells for the funeral procession to honour him. He is also being remembered at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Patch laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in London on Armistice Day last November, and this wreath is being put on public display at at the Staffordshire memorial. He was a quiet man and refused to talk about the war publicly until he was 100. The National Memorial Arboretum is set in 150 acres of trees in the National Forest near Lichfield and is supported by the Royal British Legion. It is home to the National Forces Memorial, a focus for remembrance, designed by architect Liam O’Connor, who drew his inspiration from the landscapes of ancient Britain and the classical architecture of ancient Rome