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Ten Most Tragic & Brutal Historical Events



Transatlantic Slave Trade
Slaves cutting the sugar cane on the Island of Antigua, 1823 - British Library

The past holds memories of some truly shocking historical events. These events are now etched in history books, but they carried profound sadness. While some of these events reported far fewer casualties, they still had a significant impact on their victims. 

The Transatlantic Slave Trade (15th to 19th Century)

Following the desire for European empires to establish themselves as economic power houses, they enslaved West African civilians. The slaves were placed in cramped ships and forced to endure deplorable conditions at sea. The ships were cramped, with food rations low and sanitary conditions dismal. Estimates put the number of African slaves who died over the course of Middle Passage at 60 million. Sadly, the inhumane trade carried on for four centuries and was finally abolished in the United States on January 1, 1808. 

The Witches of Salem (1692 – 1693)

In January 1692, two young girls in the village of Salem in colonial Massachusetts began suffering from fits of loud outbursts and violent contortions. A local doctor by the name of William Griggs diagnosed the girls’ symptoms as bewitchment. As other girls began showing similar symptoms, mass hysteria broke out, with the girls claiming to be possessed by the devil. Based on the fictitious evidence of the girls, the hearings and trials of men and women inculpated of witchcraft began. Over 200 people stood accused, and by the end of the trials in early 1693, 19 people had been sentenced to death. The colony eventually admitted wrongdoing and compensated the families of those who were convicted. In an effort to uncover the truth, a 1976 scientific study established that the fungus ergot was responsible for toxicity that led to the symptoms the girls experienced.

Jack the Ripper (1888)

The late summer of 1888 saw the rise of one of England’s most infamous serial killers. Jack the Ripper brought terror to the streets of England, killing and mutilating the bodies of at least five women. He would disembowel his victims, removing organs such as uteruses and kidneys. The mutilations he carried on the bodies after brutally stabbing his victims displayed a deep hatred for women. Several theories have been put forward as to why Jack the Ripper stopped killing, with some arguing that heightened police vigilance put him off while others suggest he might have been locked up for a different crime, or he died. Maybe time will unveil why the world’s most infamous serial killer vanished without a trace. 

Sinking of the RMS Titanic (1912)

On her maiden voyage on the night of April 12th, 1912, the grandest luxury liner of its time sank in the Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg. The Titanic was not your ordinary cruise ship. Boasting an incredible length of 882 feet and a maximum capacity of 3,547 passengers, this was the ship of dreams. The ship was famously lauded as “unsinkable”, but sadly met its demise barely a third into its journey from Newfoundland, England to New York. On that fateful night, approximately 1,500 of the 2,224 passengers on board perished in the icy waters of the Atlantic. Today, the remains of the RMS Titanic lie at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, along with the dream of a maiden voyage that never saw shore again.

World War I (1914 – 1918) and World War II (1939 – 1945)

World War I, also referred to as The Great War, broke out in the center of Europe following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The two antagonistic sides were the Allied Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire). The war lasted for four years from 1914 to 1918 and resulted in 16 million deaths of civilians and combatants. 21 years later in 1939, World War II broke out after the invasion of Poland by German forces. The second world war lasted for six years with at least 70 million people losing their lives. Both wars caused massive financial and psychological devastation on the countries involved.

Pearl Harbor (1941)

On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese sprung a surprise aerial attack on the United States naval base in Hawaii. Thanks to worsening relations over the past ten years, the USA cut all economic ties with Japan. The USA then started providing financial support and materials to China, who were Japan’s adversaries. Following the attack, 2,335 military personnel lost their lives, and the USA declared war on Japan the following day, leading them to World War II.

The Holocaust (1941 – 1945)

Perhaps one of the world’s most known act of barbarity the Holocaust saw the detaining and killing of over six million Jews. Assuming Jews as weaker individuals, the Nazis aim was to stop the Jews from procreating. The Nazis carried out mandatory sterilization and segregation of anyone they saw as “genetically diseased.” The Jews suffered about 400,000 forced sterilizations and 275,000 euthanasia deaths in what remains one of the darkest times in recent history.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings (1945)

On Monday, August 6th, 1945, the USA deployed the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb killed approximately 80,000 people representing 90 percent of the city’s population. Three days later, another bomb fell on the city of Nagasaki, killing about 40,000 people. That event remains the only time an atomic bomb was deployed in times of war. Japanese nationals still honor that brutal period each year, with survivors helping drive the movement against nuclear weapons.

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster (1986)

On the night of April 26th, 1986, Nuclear Reactor 4 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded following a sudden power surge. What ensued was the release of radioactive debris, nuclear components, and toxic fumes that were carried by wind as far as 60 miles. The gravity of the situation was not immediately apparent. However, in the aftermath of the explosion, radiation poisoning became evident to those close to the site. 34 years later, Chernobyl remains uninhabitable, owing to the still high levels of gamma radiation in the region.

The Genocide in Rwanda (1994)

The year was 1994. Two of Rwanda’s warring tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis, attacked each other in what is Africa’s worst genocide. The civil war broke out due to a coup by the Rwandan Patriotic Front in an attempt to overthrow the Hutu led government. What followed was a rebellion by the Hutu tribe and the subsequent death of about five hundred thousand to a million Rwandans, mostly Tutsis. The war lasted for three months and continues to haunt the survivors of the atrocities. 26 years later, some Rwandans still bear the physical scars of the war, with many more carrying the psychological effects of that dark event.

Human history is riddled with tales of tragic incidents. Some of these dire events are a painful reminder of the sometimes wretched human condition. Looking back, may the pain of the past forever inspire goodwill. 

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Prisons and historic palaces that once stood in London



Newgate Prison, London

You won’t believe the buildings that once stood in the very heart of the city!

London has expanded and altered much over the course of its existence and continues to do so and many old and wonderful historical buildings have thankfully remained. Sadly though, many more have also been lost and are little known about. Passing by some of the city’s well known and now sometime lesser interesting places it is fascinating to think about what once stood there. Here are just some of London’s lost buildings. Some more pleasant than others.

Baynard’s Castle

Beynards Castle
Baynard’s Castle circa 1200s

Named after the nobleman Ralph Baynard; who arrived in London following the Norman Conquest, this long-lost London fortification was situated by the River Thames at Blackfriars. Scant clues remain of its existence but if you were to glance up at the nearby street signs you would discover Castle Baynard Street nearby, a modern-day reminder of what once proudly stood at the site. King John had the castle demolished in 1213 but a grand mansion house was later built a short distance from the site. The royal house of York made use of the building, basing themselves there when in London during the lengthy Wars of the Roses, with Edward IV being crowned there.

The building later came into the hands of Henry VII when he took the crown from Yorkist King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The new king then had it reconstructed into a royal residence.

King Henry III later gifted the residence to his first wife Catherine of Aragon as a wedding present. The Earl of Pembroke; the brother of Henry’s sixth and final wife Catherine Parr, came to own the building after the king’s death, and it passed through various hands until like many other buildings, it was destroyed in London’s Great Fire of 1666. Today, office buildings occupy the site.

Montfichet’s Castle (or Tower)

Montfichet’s Castle - artist impression
Montfichet’s Castle – artist impression

This little known castle was the near neighbour of Baynard’s Castle. Another Norman fortress, it was situated on Ludgate Hill midway between where St Paul’s Cathedral and Thameslink station now stand. Earliest recordings of the castle date back to the 1130s and it is thought that it was constructed late in the 11th century. During the revolt against King Henry II by his wifeEleanor of Aquitaine and their three sons, the castle’s defences were strengthened.

King John was also responsible for the demolition of this castle in 1213 and the site was later sold off to accommodate Blackfriars Priory. Waste pits and the remnants of ditches were uncovered in the 1980s when excavations were carried out by The Museum of London. It is also said that the Old Bailey was so named after the fort’s Bailey wall.

The Savoy Palace

Savoy Palace
Savoy Palace – Credit: Wikipedia

Savoy Palace was said to be the very grandest house of the nobility during in the middle ages. Sited on the Strand beside the River Thames, this fine edifice was in what was even then a prime location, away from the stench of the City of London and approaching the grand Palace of Westminster. John of Gaunt owned the palace and when he introduced a very unpopular poll tax in 1381 the uprising that ensued; known as the Peasants Revolt, brought about the destruction of the building. The building and its contents were burned, smashed or simply tossed into the Thames by the unhappy mob.

Canterbury Tales creator Geoffrey Chaucer also began penning the famous works whilst living there as a clerk.

Later in 1512, Henry VII had a hospital erected on the site. The Savoy hospital for the poor and needy was said to be the first to employ medical staff on a permanent basis. Later still in 1642, the site became a military hospital then later still a barracks in 1679. It was destroyed by fire in 1779 when a prison had also come to be situated there.

Today the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre occupy the site and take their names from it.

Millbank Penitentiary

Millbank Penitentiary
Millbank Penitentiary – Credit: Wikipedia

Strolling past or visiting the Tate Britain today, most of us would likely have no idea about the notorious prison that was once sprawled across the site, its neighbouring art collage and a pleasant large housing complex in the quiet leafy streets nearby. Millbank Prison was vast.

Opened in 1816, the prison was purchased by the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham on behalf of the Crown. The first arrivals were initially women, with men subsequently being incarcerated at Millbank from 1817. Those deemed to be likely candidates for reform were given five-ten year sentences in the institution; which was said to be a dreadful place, rife with disease and abject misery. Others were sent from there to great hulks on the Thames, from where they were transported to Australia.

There are far more clues to the existence of this Thames-side prison; if one knows where to look, than that of other lost buildings of London. Behind the Tate Britain is a low segment of wall, incorporated into the modern-day wall; yet much older and somehow out of place, thought to have surrounded the site, as well as the remnants of the moat to the rear of a residential building which once encircled the prison. It is now used by local residents for growing herbs and hanging out washing to dry. Excavations beneath the art college uncovered some of the prison’s cells and the nearby Morpeth Arms public house claims to have cells remaining in its cellar. There is also a belief that the Victorian redbrick Millbank housing estate was constructed from bricks recycled from the penitentiary. However, this is most unlikely since it well known that the prison was constructed of yellow brick, some of which have been discovered on the Thames foreshore close by, along with buttons bearing a symbol of the Crown, which are thought to be from the uniforms of the prisons officers who worked there, possibly coming loose as they escorted prisoners to waiting hulks in the Thames. Also a stone’s throw away in tranquil St John’s public gardens on Horseferry Road, lays quite out of sight the decaying gravestone of one of the prison’s Governors. A reminder that history lies all around us, yet is so often unseen or unnoticed.

Newgate Prison

Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison – Photo credit:

So named because it was originally built into London’s old Roman wall, this hellish prison came to be when Henry II instigated legal reform giving the Crown more authority in administering justice. Newgate was rebuilt several times from the 12th century onwards until its demolition in 1902. Infamous for its horrific conditions, after a rebuild in 1782 the prison comprised of two main divisions, a common general section which housed societies poorest and most destitute and more comfortable state accommodation for those who could pay for it. Newgate was also the site of London’s public gallows, they having been relocated from Tyburn at modern day Marble Arch. Up until 1868, the execution of prisoners drew large crowds but after this time condemned men and women went to meet their maker from within the prison walls. Today we know the site better as the Central Criminal Court, or even better still as the Old Bailey but remnants of the prison do remain. In Amen Court to the rear of the present-day court building, you will find what survives of Newgate prison wall. Additionally, the prison bell; which rang out when an execution was imminent, can be found a short distance away in St Sepulchre’s church.

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Supermarkets That No Longer Exist In The UK




Have you ever wondered what happened to the supermarket that you, your parents or grandparents used to shop at many years ago? 

What Happened To Them?

Some historically popular supermarket brands used to be placed strategically in our towns and communities for our convenience.

In recent times, with the dominance of the major brands we know and love today, we have seen that a majority of independent and smaller chains of supermarkets have since disappeared, seemingly without a trace!

Where did they go, and why did they leave our towns and cities?

Here we can see where exactly they got to, and why we no longer see them on our travels!


Safeway was a staple essentials supermarket seen around towns and cities in the UK from as early as 1962. It was a subsidiary of its American parent company and boasted almost 500 stores around the UK.

It was, however, not designed to be around forever. After a successful merger with Argyll Foods in 2004, it was bought out entirely by WM Morrisons, with most of its existing stores and convenience shops being rebranded to the Morrisons empire and the rest of them being sold. 

We last saw the Brand of Safeway in the UK in late 2005.

Alldays Supermarkets

Allday’s supermarkets were seen in abundance in Scotland and Southeast England in the 1990s and hailed themselves as a chain of convenience stores.

The Alldays brand had high hopes for expanding and purchasing several more outlets that they successfully merged into the existing brand, but their profit did not match the brand’s expansion.

With a lot of courage and buyouts, they continued trading and accumulated almost 100 stores. However, in mid-2002, the brand put itself up for sale after a huge pre-tax loss and was bought out in its entirety by the Co-Operative Group.

Somerfield (Gateway)

Somerfield was a chain of supermarkets that were operating in the UK and were previously called Gateway. 

Somerfield, which was operational as a self-service supermarket from 1960, operated primarily in the Southwest of the UK, Opened its first store under the new branding in Nottingham in 1991.

After many other acquisitions and talks in the background regarding the future of the discount supermarket, the last store was seen open in the UK in the summer of 2011 after a successful takeover from the Co-Operative group.

Sainsbury’s Freezer Centres

As we know it today, the supermarket giant Sainsbury’s once operated a chain of frozen food stores in the UK called Sainsbury’s Freezer Centres. 

The first store opened its first store in 1974 near Bournemouth amid competition from rival frozen food stores. Still, the vision was not met with much success as not many people owned freezers, and, in 1975, stores that we being refurbished or built had freezer departments built into their plans.

In 1986 Sainsbury’s sold their freezer stores to a company called Bejam, and three years later, in 1989, these became part of the Iceland chain of frozen food stores.

Big W

Big W stores were designed to be on a vast scale and encompassed everything all under one roof!

Trading under the Kingfisher Group, which later became rebranded as Woolworths PLC (Which, incidentally, is no longer around anymore!) was operational between 1998 and 2004, so not an overly long time!

In 2004, Big W sold off a third of its store spaces to the likes of Tesco and Asda and rebranded to a more minor exercise called Woolworths out-of-town Stores.

You can no longer find the brand in any disguise on the high street.


Primarily a Northeast England supermarket, Hintons was founded in Middlesborough in 1871 and rapidly expanded in stores and had seven stores in its chain on Teesidde by 1919.

After Hinton’s continued success, it went on to by a chain of off-licenses which increased their premises numbers trading under this name to 55 stores and 30 off-licenses.

Hinton’s was acquired in 1984 by Argyll Foods, and they changed some of its products to the Presto brand while they still traded as HIntons, but slowly the Presto brand dominated, and the brand changed everything to the Presto brand shortly after.


Initially a Danish brand of cut-price supermarket products, Netto hit the UK in the very early 1990s bringing international food and bargain-basement food and products to the home.

Owned by the Salling Group, Netto had accumulated nearly 200 stores by May 2010 but was sold to Asda at this point.

However, Netto came back to the UK shores in 2014 as a collaboration with Sainsbury’s, which lasted two years before Sainsbury’s made the decision to dissolve this partnership and sell all of the stores, so Sainsbury’s could focus more on their investment ventures.


In the early 1960s, 1964 to be exact, Presto supermarkets became popular in Scotland and the North of England but ended up with a presence nationwide.

In 1982, the brand had accumulated 136 stores, and it had transferred all of its going concerts to Argyll Foods, which continued to operate under the presto umbrella until 1985 when a significant rebranding shuffle was decided upon and accumulated a lot of other affiliate stores into the Presto brand.

However, in 1987, the phasing into the Safeway brand began after the parent company Argyll Foods Acquired Safeway, and in 1998 the conversion was complete, and the Presto brand was no more.

As you can see, many of the major supermarket players we see today had some involvement with the disintegration of the smaller and older supermarket brands we used to see on our high streets and industrial estates many years ago.

The dominance of major brands such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and the Co-operative Group has taken over some of the smaller established brands as part of takeovers and business amalgamations.

By the giants being able to provide a holistic, self-service shopping experience on a more superior level, smaller and more independent supermarkets are a part of supermarket shopping history.

Related: High street stores which are sadly no longer with us

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The Third Man On The Podium



Olympics 1968 Mexico

The famous image of two African American athletes protesting at the 1968 Olympic games is one of those that has gone down in the history books but there is even more to the story than meets the eye.

It is said that every picture tells a story and in the spirit of the Olympic games we’d like to relate to you a sad yet empowering one.

Rewind to the Mexico games of 1968 and that iconic image of two African Americans, their fists held aloft as they stood on the podium, each with a hand clad in a single black glove in protest at the treatment of African Americans and the poverty many endured.

Tommie Smith had won the gold medal for the 200 metre race and his fellow countryman John Carlos had earned the bronze in the same race but as the Star- Spangled Banner rang out they stood not in triumph but shoeless; symbolic of poverty, each with one hand raised above their heads in protest, their faces not beaming but sombre and bowed down. A brave move in a time of high racial tension and with the recent assassinations of Martin Luther King and John Fitzgerald Kennedy still vivid in the hearts and minds of people across America and the world.

Although the photograph is well known and the protest immediately apparent, what is far less well known is the story of the third man on that podium and the part he played in the story, silver medallist Peter Norman.

Prior to the medal ceremony Smith and Carlos had approached Norman to inform him of their intention to use the moment as a platform for their protest and inquired of Norman if he was a believer in human rights and of God. Carlos reported that the Australian runner; who had broken an Aussie record with his performance which still stands to this day, said that yes he was very much a supporter of human rights and having come from a Salvation Army background, was a strong believer in God and he did not hesitate to offer his support. This at a time when his own homeland of Australia had a policy akin to that of South African apartheid.

There was a hitch though, Carlos had left his black gloves back in the Olympic village and it was Norman who suggested they each wear a single glove, hence each is seen raising opposing hands in the famous image. Furthermore, pinned to Norman’s chest is a human rights badge he had acquired from a white American teammate of Carlos and Smith, rower Paul Hoffman to show his support.

The consequences for Norman following the protest were lifelong. Although he qualified with ease for the subsequent Olympics, Australia did not send a team to represent their nation to the 1972 games. Norman went on to work as a gym teacher and in a butcher shop in subsequent years, his athletic career all but over for the stand he had made.

Many years later at the San Jose university campus, a statue was erected in honour of Smith and Carlos’ stand, each represented with fists in the air on a podium. Norman was not present though and Carlos felt strongly that he too had had earned his place alongside himself and Smith and so called the Australian to discuss the matter with his old friend. Norman’s response floored the American when he told him that the silver medal place must remain empty, leaving room for any man or woman to stand there and make their own individual stand for human rights.

Norman’s love for running never waned but in 1985, following a charity race he almost lost a leg when a torn Achilles tendon became gangrenous. Depression, painkiller addiction and heavy drinking ensued and Norman died of a heart attack in 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64.

Perhaps the most poignant image though, is that of both Smith and Carlos carrying Norman’s coffin at his funeral, each having stood on another podium to pay tribute to their friend as they gave a eulogy to him.

It was only in 2012 that the Australian government issued a posthumous apology to Peter Norman for the treatment he received after simply doing the right thing.

When speaking of Peter Norman, John Carlos recalled expecting to see fear present in Norman’s eyes when asking him to support he and Smith but said he remembered seeing “only love” there.

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