It is not hard to see why George Bernard Shaw chose what is now referred to as "Shaw's Corner" as his refuge from the outside world, and the brand that was "GBS". Situated in the tiny Hertfordshire village of Ayot St Lawrence, Shaw's Corner is a peaceful rural haven, despite being less than 30 miles from central London. What more appropriate place to host the 2013 International Shaw Society conference therefore, than Shaw's home for 44 years?
Shaw's Corner is now managed by the National Trust, whose team have been instrumental in their collaboration with the Shaw Societies in bringing together delegates and distinguished speakers from all corners of the globe (including Hong Kong, Canada, India and the USA) for five days of lectures, concerts, day trips and dinners; the first of which we had the opportunity of attending.
Perhaps no place in England is more commonly associated with Henry VIII than Hampton Court Palace, yet this sumptuous house on the banks of the River Thames was not built by Henry, but rather, by his chief counsellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey.
Henry liked Hampton Court so much that he pressed Wolsey to give it to him. Wolsey, anxious to retain the king's capricious favour, handed it over.
Sharp-eyed readers will note that the name of the abbey and the village are spelled differently. The discrepancy is rumoured to be the result of a mistake in spelling by a medieval monk.
The abbey was founded in the early 8th century. The story goes that St Guthlac chose Crowland, which was then little more than an island rising out of the surrounding fens, as the site for a hermit's cell. Guthlac came to Crowland on St. Bartholomew's Day, 699 AD, so he dedicated his cell to St Bartholomew.
The castle is Beeston, in Cheshire, a 13th century fortress set atop a 500 foot high cliff. The site now occupied by the castle has been used as a fortress since at least the Bronze Age. The current castle was built by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, around 1226.
Ranulf built Beeston in the style of the Saracen fortresses he had seen in Syria while he was on Crusade. Ranulf and his son both died before Beeston was completed, and the castle passed to the crown. It was used by Henry III as a garrison and prison during his Welsh wars, and the defenses were later strengthened by Edward II.