The subject matter for this week’s publication onto the London Shoes website – was influenced by a particular topic that made the national news last week – not just here in the UK, but also on the other side of the world.
One of the news headlines from last week covered an archeological discovery in the ‘Smoke’ of significant historical importance – as a result of the extensive amount of construction wort currently taking place in and around Euston Station in respect of the HS2 high powered rail link project under construction between London & Birmingham.
Part of the land being excavated down the side of the mainline Euston Station, was once a burial ground, where it is said that up to 40,000 bodies are laid to rest – and a particular ‘find’ during this construction/excavation work – had historians and archeologists getting all excited.
The grave/remains of a very important man in history, was unearthed and the excitement and interest of this ‘find’ literally just happened to then spread across the globe.
So – this week’s blog is all about “Captain Matthew Flinders”…the very first man to circumnavigate the continent of Australia – who was also the man responsible for naming the continent – making him one of Britain’s most influential naval explorers.
Matthew Flinders was born in 1774 in Donnington Lincolnshire.
He joined the Royal Navy in 1790 at the age of 15.
By 1795 he had become a ‘mid-shipman’ – and voyaged to ‘New South Wales’ in ‘New Holland’ – the original name of what is now Australia.
It was on this 1795 voyage to New South Wales that Matthew Flinders displayed noticeable promise and skill as a cartographer (e.g. Map-maker) and a navigator.
By 1798 ‘Flinders’ had been promoted to Lieutenant, and subsequently given command of his very first ship.
In 1801 ‘Flinders’ was specifically singled out to command a 334 ton ship called the ‘Investigator’, that was commissioned for the specific purpose of conducting an expedition to ‘chart’ (i.e. map-out) the entire coastline of ‘New Holland’ (the name given to Australia at that time).
Before setting sail, Flinders married his childhood sweetheart ‘Ann’ – who he wanted to take with him on the trip, but the Admiralty would not allow it.
However, Flinders was pleased that he was given permission to take his beloved ‘ships-cat’ Trim with him on the voyage. He absolutely adored Trim who had been on voyages with him since 1799 – and who he looked upon as being a loyal faithful companion.
Previous explorers had already reached and discovered certain areas of Australia – in fact the Dutch had already charted the North/West & South coasts back I the 17th Century – however, no one was really sure how big the country was, so it was all a bit of guess work –n for example, the early Dutch maps had Tasmania (then called Van Diemen’s Land) as part of the mainland.
However, the Investigator’s mission, under ‘Flinders’ command, was to sail all the round the continent – mapping it out as he went – which he did, and thus becoming the very ever person to actually circumnavigate the continent – and in doing so he dispelled a number of common myths, including the fact that ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ (e.g. Tasmania) was actually an ‘island’ situated off the southern coast.
Throughout his correspondence back and fort with the Admiralty during this expedition – Captain Flinders always referred to this new land as “Terra Australis” which is Latin for “unknown land of the south” – and upon his eventual return to Britain in 1810, he had abbreviated this naming of the land to ‘Australia’ – and this term was then picked up on and used often by the ‘powers that be’.
Arriving back in Britain in 1810, Captain Matthew Flinders was unfortunately not a well man – however, he did manage to write a book all about his adventures circumnavigating Australia, which was titled “A Voyage to Terra Australis” .
Very sadly, Captain Matthew Flinders died on the 18 July 1814 at the very young age of 40 – ironically, the very day before his book was published – and so he did not live long enough to see his book become a massive seller over the subsequent years, or get to see what an influence it had on future operations involving Australia.
Also – and probably more importantly, Flinders did not live to see his “Terra Australis” become officially named by the British Admiralty as “Australia” in 1824 – the abbreviated term that he had always used for the continent.
Captain Matthew Flinders left a massive legacy in relation to his connection to Australia’s history – as his name is now associated with hundreds of places throughout the continent – Flinders Island – Flinders Ranges – Finders Bay – Flinders Peak – Flinders University – many Flinders Street(s) – to name but a few.
The ‘Flinders’ family legacy doesn’t just end there – his only daughter Anne had a son named “William Matthew Flinders Petrie” (b 1853 – d 1942) – who went on to become one of the world’s leading ‘Egyptologists’ and Egyptian explorers. Flinders grandson was always known as ‘Flinders Petrie’ and today his museum of Egyptology proudly stands within the grounds of London’s ‘University College of London’ located very near Euston Station.
So – armed with all this info about old Matthew Flinders – the quest for London Shoes was to see if I could seek out any historic landmarks or commemorations there may be in the ‘smoke’ that acknowledge the achievements and importance of Captain Matthew Flinders, in terms of London and Britain’s history – and this is what I found:-
No. 52 Fitzroy Street – W1:
This small street that leads into the beautiful Fitzroy Square was once the London home of Captain Matthew Flinders – and today a blue plaque displayed on an external wall o9f the building commemorates the fact that he once lived there.
On the 200th anniversary of Captain Matthew Flinders death – a statue of Flinders (and his beloved cat ‘Trim’), was unveiled at London’s ‘Australia House’ by Prince William. The statue was later moved and is now on display outside the main entrances to Euston Station
The HS2 London to Birmingham Train Project:
The construction site for the new high speed rail link project, completely dominates the streets surrounding Euston Station. It is a totally chaotic nightmare – and there are security measures in place wherever you go – and I found myself being constantly stopped, questioned and told to ‘move along’ whenever I tried to get ‘close-up & personal’ to the actual excavation site where Flinders remains were discovered – However, I did manage to snap a photo of the site (well, the tent that covers it).
Petrie Flinders Museum of Egyptology:
The museum set-up by Petrie Flinders – grandson of Captain Matthew Flinders, and at one time, one of the world’s leading Egyptologists.
So – after all that exploring malarkey, in what was freezing conditions – I was in desperate need of some warmth and a ‘cheeky’ liquid refreshment – and so I stumbled upon the ‘Crown & Anchor’ a gastro type pub in Drummond Street, just 2 mins walk from the hustle, bustle and chaos of Euston Station.
The pub building was built in 1825 and today is Grade II listed – and although it is quite evident that this boozer has been extensively modernized with settee’s and wooden effect tables etc – it does serve up a lovely clean and fresh ‘cheeky’ one – and is the sort of pub that I would classify as being ‘an oasis of tranquility in a desert storm’ and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the area.
Returning to the discovery of the remains of Captain Matthew Flinders – excavators and archeologists were able to confirm their identity simply because a lead name plate had obviously been attached to his coffin – which is unusual because name plates of this sort were usually made out of tin in those times – and tin is perishable.
Archeologists are now looking to examine and study Flinders remains – to establish whether his time spent at sea contributed to his ill health. However, in the long term – the authorities in Lincolnshire are pressing for his remains to be returned to Donnington, the town of his birth – so that he can be left to rest in peace there.
Hope you enjoyed this currently topical story, about a man from Lincolnshire who clearly played such a big part in world history – and for me also, I feel it is a fitting topic to be the first full posting onto the newly created “London Shoes – Blog” Facebook page.
The ‘Flinders’ family legacy doesn’t just end there – Cpt Matthew Flinders daughter Anne had a son named “William Matthew Flinders Petrie” (b 1853 – d 1942) – who went on to become one of the world’s leading ‘Egyptologists’ and Egyptian explorers. Flinders grandson was always known as ‘Flinders Petrie’ and today his museum of Egyptology proudly stands within the grounds of London’s ‘University College of London’ located very near Euston Station