Small but perfectly formed, England’s story goes back millennia, where her rich and glorious past is permanently present on every hill, behind every wall, in every village, town and city and on long-abandoned battlefields.
Like the rest of the British Isles, England’s natural environment is spectacular. National parks, over 30 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and almost 2,800 miles of calming and craggy coastline litter the landscape but it’s the story of England told through its historical sites and people that draws millions of tourists every year armed with cameras.
From five thousand year-old Neolithic ruins to magnificent castles and cathedrals, royal palaces and even bridges, England’s history is all at once fascinating, dark, rich and varied and there are spectacular images to be had around every corner.
Photo opportunities are everywhere and when you’ve captured your perfect image or shot your fantastic film, send them in to Historic Photographer of the Year run by TripHistoric for a chance to win £1000 and the coveted title of 2018 Historic Photographer of the Year!
In 2017, Matt Emmet won with this amazing image of RAF Nocton Hall and US Military Hospital in Lincolnshire. This year it could be you…!
Also, if you’ve got a thing for historical sites pre-500AD, we are sponsoring the Ancient History category and we’d love to see what you’ve got!
So, what are the most photogenic and film-worthy historic sites in England?
One of Britain’s most picturesque castles, Bodiam Castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385 who came into its possession by way of marriage to Elizabeth Wardeux, the daughter of the owner.
Originally a manor home, Bodiam was converted into a castle characterised by a great moat and courtyard by Dalyngrigge who was granted a licence by King Richard II to crenellate the walls and fortify the structure. The castle served a dual purpose, both as a status symbol for Dalyngrigge, and as a defence against a potential, albeit unlikely, French invasion.
Apart from when then Lancastrian Constable of the castle Sir Thomas Lewknor surrendered to Yorkist forces during the Wars of the Roses, Bodiam Castle was never taken by force.
The interior was slighted by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War to avoid the castle being used by the Royalists and during this period the façade was also allowed to fall into ruin. A succession of owners in the 19th and 20th centuries, notably Lord Curzon who purchased the site in 1926, contributed to the restoration of Bodiam Castle to its current state as one of the most photographed historic sites in England.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London was commissioned by William the Conqueror and work on it was underway by the 1070s. It was designed as a fortress-stronghold, a role that remained unchanged right up until the late 19th century.
The Tower was also used as a residence for England’s monarchs, traditionally in the run up to their coronations however the Tower is most famous for its use as a prison.
It held prisoners for over 850 years – from the Bishop of Durham who was imprisoned for extortion in 1100 to East End villains Ronnie and Reggie Kray in 1952 for going AWOL from the army.
Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned here by her half-sister Mary I who sat on the steps by the Water Gate (known now as Traitor’s Gate) and wept. She was later forgiven and released.
Only seven people were executed within the Tower’s walls – including Anne Boleyn – but the list of people who at one time or another were imprisoned in the Tower reads like a who’s who of 1,000 years of British history:
William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace (1305)
King Richard II of England (1399)
King James I of Scotland (1406)
King Henry VI of England (1471)
Edward V of England & Richard of Shrewsbury, The Princes in the Tower (1483)
Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII (1536)
Thomas Cromwell (1540)
Lady Jane Grey, uncrowned Queen of England (1553)
Queen Elizabeth I (1554)
Sir Walter Raleigh (1603)
Guy Fawkes (1605)
Samuel Pepys (1679)
Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer of the Nazi Party (1941)
The Tower of London asks as many questions as it answers, most notably whatever happened to the Princes in the Tower and does the ghost of Arbella Stuart, cousin of James I who was imprisoned and possibly murdered in the Queens’ house in 1615 roam the tower’s halls and corridors?
Take your camera and capture 1,000 years of England’s history.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Blenheim Palace was built as a gift to the Duke of Marlborough following his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. On 30 November 1874, it also became the birthplace of arguably Britain’s greatest leader and statesman, Sir Winston Churchill. Today it is home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.
Blenheim Palace is full of artistic masterpieces such as the Blenheim Tapestry depicting Lord Marlborough accepting the surrender of the French and the stunning trompe l'œil paintings of Louis Laguerre. The 18th century house itself is an architectural marvel in its own right – the short-lived English Baroque style in which it is built continues to divide opinion as it did in the 1720s.
Unique in a number of ways – Blenheim Palace combines national monument, mausoleum and family home and it is the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace.
The grounds are also spectacular and with over 2,000 acres of parkland and gardens, butterfly house, adventure playground, mazes and even a train, you are guaranteed a good snap with so much incredible history to choose from!
The largest Roman artefact anywhere in the world, Hadrian’s Wall is a magnificent remnant of Roman Britain and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian between 122AD and 130AD, it took six legions to complete the wall – at its longest, 80 miles by Roman measurements (73 miles by modern measurements). At the time of its completion, Hadrian’s Wall would have been 13 - 15 feet high, made of stone and turf and would have stretched east to west from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.
The purpose of the wall was once thought to have been as a fortification to keep out the Scots, but today historians believe it was a way of monitoring movement between the north and south in an attempt to consolidate the Empire.
Large sections of Hadrian’s Wall remain intact in northern England and these are surrounded by various Roman monuments, forts and other ruins. It can be traversed on foot taking visitors past many of the 1,900 year old Roman towns and forts that spanned it’s length and is one of the most photographed historical sites in England.
Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world.
The world-famous visitor attraction – to the tune of around 1.5m per year – include the State Apartments, described by art historian Hugh Roberts as ‘a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste,’ and St George’s Chapel, the venue of Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018 and considered by historian John Martin Robinson to be ‘one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic design’.
Building began in the 1070s at the behest of William the Conqueror, with the intent that it was to guard the western approach to London and since then the structure has been embellished by many of England’s kings and queens. Notably in the 1170s, Henry II rebuilt most of the castle in stone instead of wood, including the Round Tower and the Upper Ward, where most monarchs have had their private apartments since the 14th century.
In the mid-14th century, Edward III built St George’s Hall for the use by the knights of the Order of the Garter, and St George’s Chapel, started by Edward IV but finished by Henry VIII, is the final resting place of monarchs including Henry VI, Henry VIII and his beloved Jane Seymour, Edward IV and VII, Charles I, George III, IV, V and VI and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
During the English Civil War, Windsor Castle served as a prison and it was to St George’s Chapel that the body of Charles I was brought for burial after his execution. Charles II and George IV (formerly the Prince Regent) made further contributions to the architecture of Windsor Castle in the 1650s and 1820s respectively.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved Windsor Castle, and Albert died there of typhoid in 1861. Queen Victoria built a mausoleum in the grounds of the castle where Albert and later Victoria herself were buried.
In the Second World War, Windsor Castle became home to Queen Elizabeth II and her family, George VI, the (future) Queen Mother and Princess Margaret but while you won’t be invited in for tea with Her Majesty, you will be able to take some amazing photographs!
Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a world-renowned site of immense historical importance consisting of standing (and lying) stones, some transported from South Wales and despite extensive archaeological investigation, it’s fundamental purpose remains a mystery.
The construction of Stonehenge – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – took place between 3000 BC and 1600 BC and is considered to be one of the most impressive structures of its time, especially considering each stone is four metres high, over two metres wide and weighs around 25 tonnes and that its founders had little by way of technological expertise to help them move the stones over the hundreds of miles that they travelled.
Considered an icon of England’s historical past and one of the true wonders of the world, it is all at once a spiritual centre, a masterpiece of Neolithic engineering and a source of inspiration.
Catch the sun at just the right moment and you’ll have the perfect image of one of the most visited historical sites in England.
Bletchley Park is a country estate fifty miles north of London. Originally built in a curious mix of Victorian Gothic, Tudor and Dutch Baroque styles in the 19th century for financial Sir Herbert Leon and family, Bletchley Park was bought by a property developer but in 1938 its role changed from being a family home to a vital centre of British intelligence.
As Adolf Hitler’s campaign to invade Europe intensified, Bletchley Park was taken over by the government who deemed it the perfect place to move the Government Code and Cypher School.
Bletchley Park, home of the codebreakers and known by the codename Station X, became the place where the British managed to decipher the machinations of the Enigma, the highly effective code encryption machines used by the Nazis. This intelligence was deemed by experts to have shortened the Second World War by between two and four years and without it, the outcome of the war would have been uncertain…
Widely considered to be the birthplace of modern technology, Bletchley Park is one of England’s most historically important places and it celebrates the values of those that risked their lives working there – broad-minded patriotism, commitment, discipline and technological excellence.
England – A Hotbed of History
Photographers and filmmakers are spoiled for choice in England. It is home to some of the most picturesque and historically significant sites in the UK so make sure you get the image of a lifetime and send them in to Historic Photographer of the Year run by TripHistoric.
This year, we are sponsoring the Ancient History category so if you’ve got something really old, and we do mean REALLY old, we’d love to see it!
Entries for the awards close on Sunday 14th October so there’s not much time left to submit your films and photographs.