New Hall, Sutton Coldfield

If you’re ever in the Birmingham area, you should definitely go see New Hall, a historic manor house, hotel and host of many weddings and private parties. In fact, New Hall is reputed to be the oldest surviving moated manor house in England, having been inhabitted from around the 12th century. As a result it boasts a rich history, surviving Norman invasions, the War of the Roses, and the transfer from royal to private property. One particularly noteworthy feature is what is called the Great Chamber. There is a very interesting story behind this room:

Henry Sacheverall (not to be confused with the Jacobite Dr. Henry Sacheverall) purchased the estate in 1590 and passed it on to his son, who eventually passed it on to the grandson George Sacheverall. But in the mean time, apparently the young George fell in love with his sister and was severely punished by being locked in the dining room for several months, to cure him of his lovelust. During his imprisonment in the room, having plenty of time for contemplation, he wrote short Latin epitaphs in the lead glass windows, using the diamond on his ring. Each of these phrases is signed and dated and remain on the windows of the Great Room (some of which have been translated and posted on one wall). Most of them are very clever little phrases concerning love and loss, even raising some question as to who was the pursuer and the pursued…

This was not the only time that the house was used as a prison. Later, in the 18th century, the unrelated Doctor Henry Sacheverall took up residence in the house and was there imprisoned for his Jacobite leanings.

We had the good fortune of being there for the wedding of my brother-in-law and his bride. Needless to say, it was magical.


Run up to the election and anniversary of 9/11

Now that election season is open, it is interesting to see how the lines are being drawn. A couple of things that have recently caught my attention:

  • The New York Times is reporting that the Senate Intelligence Committee has officially stated there was no connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, nor between al-Zarkawi and Saddam Hussein, also reiterating that there was no plausible evidence that Hussein was actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
  • Garrison Keiller has published a very interesting op-ed (I don’t know if this is a habit for him), commenting on the recent FAA admission that it did not warn the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001 about any potential air traffic problems until after the third plane had already hit their building. This contradicts their testimony before the 9/11 commission.
  • Dana Priest, who published the Washington Post Articles ousting the secret overseas dention facilities engaged in unusual interrogation methods on terrorist suspects (and who subsequently received both a Pulitzer Prize and a storm of criticism for her efforts), appears on PBS’s Washington Week with Gwen Ifill providing some interesting perspective of the recent triumphal announcements by the White House that it is now moving these highly dangerous and previously non-existent terror suspects to Guantanamo.
  • And Juan Gonzalez, co-anchor on Democracy Now! and staff writer for the New York Daily News, follows up on his groundbreaking story in Oct. 26, 2001 that the air in lower Manhattan was unsafe in the days and weeks following 9-11 given the recently published longitudinal study showing that 70% of ground zero responders have developed serious resperatory complications since then.