The Gift That Didn’t Please His Wife

Cecil Chubb bought Stonehenge as a gift for his wife

Cecil Chubb (1876-1934) was in the market for the perfect gift for his wife and thought he found just the thing. Apparently thinking that her love for “big stones” meant something other than diamond jewelry, Chubb purchased Stonehenge for her.

The world-famous landmark became his for £6,600 (£477,000 or $624,000 in 2016 values). He was rather surprised and disappointed, however, to find that his wife was less than enthusiastic about her gift.

Since he had no other use for it, Chubb chose to donate Stonehenge to the government of Great Britain, subject to the following terms:

stonehenge deed
First page of Cecil Chubb’s deed of Stonehenge to Great Britain.
First that the public shall have free access to the premises hereby conveyed and every part thereof on the payment of such reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling for each visit and subject to such conditions as the Commissioners of Works in the exercise and execution of their statutory powers and duties may from time to time impose Secondly that the premises shall so far as possible maintained in their present condition Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises and Fourthly that the Commissioners of Works will at all times save harmless and keep indemnified the Donors and each of them their and each of their estates and effects from and against all proceedings costs claims and expenses on account of any breach or non observance of the covenants by the Donors to the like or similar effect contained in the Conveyance of the premises to the Donors.


Meet the Feathered Guardians of the United Kingdom

Ravenmaster Derrick Coyle cares for one of his special charges.
Ravenmaster Derrick Coyle cares for one of his special charges.

Permanent residents of the Tower of London include six ravens. They have been seen in and around the tower since being built in 1078. They have been officially-sanctioned since the days of Charles II (r. 1660-1685), who had been told that if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.

Henceforth, six ravens have been kept at the Tower to guard against the fall of the monarchy. Their wing feathers are clipped to keep them from flying away, but they are otherwise free to roam the grounds. During the attacks on London in World War II, all but one raven was killed. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the number to be replenished, thus, presumably, ensuring the survival of the nation.

The ravens are officially enlisted as soldiers and are given attestation cards in the same manner as those issued to members of the military and law enforcement. This allows ravens to be dismissed for failing to perform satisfactorily. Such was the case in 1986 when “Raven George” attacked and damaged a television antenna. A special decree was issued: “On Saturday 13th September 1986, Raven George, enlisted 1975, was posted to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Conduct unsatisfactory, service therefore no longer required.”

The care of the guardian birds falls to the Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster, who has the responsibility of feeding the birds and watching out for their welfare. The birds are fed a variety of fruit, cheese, fresh meat and vitamin supplements. The birds can live up to 40 years under such expert care.

Interestingly enough, a group of ravens is officially classified as an “unkindness.” One cannot help but wondering if this particular unkindness of ravens feels it has been treated unkindly.


What Happens If They Have a War, But Everyone Forgets About It?

The Isle of Scilly (in red on the left) and the Netherlands (in green on the right)
The Isle of Scilly (in red on the left) and the Netherlands (in green on the right)

Hostilities broke out in 1651 between the Netherlands and the Isle of Scilly. While the details are a bit sketchy, it appears that Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp arrived at Scilly to demand compensation for damages incurred by Dutch ships during the Second English Civil War. Scilly was the last holdout for the royalists, so Tromp expected his demands would be met there.

When his demands fell on deaf ears, Tromp declared war on the Isle of Scilly on behalf of the government of the Netherlands on April 17, 1651.

Before hostilities could commence, the royalists surrendered to England, ending the Second English Civil War and bringing the Isle of Scilly under English authority. Since the Isle of Scilly no longer officially existed as a sovereign nation, Netherlands did not feel an urgent need to follow up on its declaration of war.

With no navies preparing to attack each other, the war soon slipped from everyone’s minds … for 334 years.

It was in 1985 that Roy Duncan, Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, brought it to the attention of the Netherlands’ ambassador to the United Kingdom that a state war still existed. The embassy staff went searching through their records and discovered, much to their surprise, that they were, in fact, at war. On April 17, 1986 — on the 335th anniversary of the declaration of war — Dutch Ambassador Jonkheer Rein Huydecoper came to Scilly to sign a peace treaty, officially ending hostilities. He said, “It must have been harrowing to the Scillonians to know we could have attacked at any moment.”

Although this goes down as one of history’s longest wars, it happily was the least destructive, since no property was seized or destroyed, and no blood was shed.

In the end, if you have to fight a war, this is the way to do it.


Truly, a Fate Worse Than Death

Charlotte Taylor, the "Poo Girl"
Charlotte Taylor, the “Poo Girl”

Sometimes it just isn’t worth it to become a celebrity. Take, for example, the case of Charlotte Taylor. In 2009 the 18-year-old attended the Leeds Festival and stopped to make use of the port-a-potty. When her bag slipped and fell into the toilet, Charlotte lunged for it and missed, resulting in her bag falling into the mire below.

That wasn’t the worst of it.

In the process of reaching for the bag, Charlotte got her head stuck in the toilet, with her shoulders wedged in the bowl, preventing her from getting free on her own. For twenty minutes she found herself face-to-face with the murky contents of the port-a-potty’s tank before firefighters came to her rescue.

Word of her predicament quickly spread throughout the Festival and, thanks to social media, throughout the world, earning Charlotte the dubious title of “The Poo Girl.”

Read her horrifying first-hand account of the event here.

Want Their Autographs? It Will Take a While To Write All of It

Two friends, formerly known as Daniel Knox-Hewson and Kelvin Borbidge
Two friends, formerly known as Daniel Knox-Hewson and Kelvin Borbidge

Daniel Knox-Hewson and his friend Kelvin Borbidge of Nottingham, United Kingdom, decided in 2011 to have their names reflect their love of sci-fi and comic books.

Daniel formally changed his name to “Emperor Spiderman Gandalf Wolverine Skywalker Optimus Prime Goku Sonic Xavier Ryu Cloud Superman HeMan Batman Thrash.” He goes by “Emperor Thrash,” for short.

Kelvin also changed his name. He is now officially known as “Baron Venom Balrog Sabretooth Vader Megatron Vegeta Robotnik Magneto Bison Sephiroth Lex Luthor Skeletor Joker Grind,” or “Baron Grind,” among friends.

Mr Grind said he was looking forward to seeing his new name on his bank card.

“I wonder how they will fit it all on?” he said.


This Post Brought to You by DAMS: Speeding Mothers Against Dyslexia


In 2010 Matthew Cook was clocked at 103 mph in a 60 mph zone in East Sussex, United Kingdom. His defense? He said he had dyslexia, and thought he was only going 31 mph.

The court was skeptical of the defense and suspended Cook’s driving privileges for three years.


Welcome to the Heat Ray of Death Building

The "Walkie Talkie" Building at 20 Fenchurch Street, London, England
The “Walkie Talkie” Building at 20 Fenchurch Street, London, England

One of the newest additions to the London skyline is the skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street. Popularly known as the “Walkie Talkie” because of its shape, the building is rapidly becoming better known as the “Walkie Scorchie.”

Because of the concave, reflective shape of the structure, light is reflected and focused in an intense beam of light that can rapidly reach temperatures approaching 200 F (93 C).

Crowds gather as a television crew try to fry an egg as the sun glares down from the "Walkie Scorchie".
Crowds gather as a television crew try to fry an egg as the sun glares down from the “Walkie Scorchie”.

The heat has been demonstrated to be sufficient to fry an egg, melt plastic bottles, and fuel a hog roast. A less-amusing demonstration of the building’s heat ray occurred when plastic chairs in a nearby cafe melted, and a portion of a Jaguar car melted after being in the wrong place at the wrong time.