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Berkeley is a town in Gloucestershire, England. It has the distinction of not being that other one (in California); nor being that school of music on the other American coast (which is spelled Berklee, anyway).
Berkeley was first recorded in 824AD as Berclea, from the Old English for "birch-tree wood or clearing". The name mutated into Berkeley over the years. The name is pronounced Barklee not Burklee. To call a stupid person a burk derives from this mispronunciation, so don’t be a burk call it bark.
Berkeley was the site of Berkeley nuclear power station, which had two Magnox nuclear reactors. This power station has since been decommissioned by Montgomery Burns and all that remains are the two reactors encased in concrete along with Mr Burns and his assistant Smithers.
edit Notable Berkeley People
edit Edward Jenner
Berkeley was the birthplace of Edward Jenner. After studying medicine he worked as the local GP. In 1796, realising that smallpox could not catch milkmaids he performed a pioneering experiment by inoculating a chicken with cowpox thus discovering vaccination.
edit Berkeley Hunt
Berkeley Hunt (not to be confused with The Berkeley Hunt – I say, tally ho! Let’s kill some foxes & perhaps some oiks) was a well known local actor.
He first appeared in the acclaimed production of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream. His Bottom was particularly admired by Noel Coward. Also appearing in the play was his friend Frampton Cotterell who played Oberon, King of the Faeries and never lived it down.
Berkeley Hunt went on to play opposite the lovely Easter Compton in the remake of Brief Encounters directed by Leonard Stanley. The film depicts a doomed romance in an underwear factory.
He appeared as Sherlock Holmes with Moreton Valence as Dr Watson in the film ‘The Second Stain’. Here Holmes attempts to establish who keeps squirting tomato sauce on the carpet. On being congratulated by Watson on resolving the mystery Holmes utters the famous words ‘alimentary my dear Watson’.
Despite that and other successes, in his twilight years he was reduced to appearing in Pantomime. The ultimate low point came when he appeared in the panto Dick Whittington as the back end of a pantomime cow. The front end was played by the exotic actress Ampney Crucis. Traditionally the pantomime cow would come on stage do a little dance and twirl its udders to howls of laughter from the audience. Ampney while in costume accused Berkeley of being careless where he put his hands, ‘you should concentrate on manipulating my udders, you disgusting thespian’ she cried. The ensuing scandal wrecked Berkeley’s career.
A blue plaque in commemoration of the actor Berkeley Hunt does not appear on the house in which he was born.
edit The Berkeley Hunt
The Berkeley Hunt (not to be confused with the actor Berkeley Hunt) was formed in the 12th century to hunt the stag. Later foxes and other vermin became the prey. The huntsman used hounds to flush out and attack the prey.
One of the breeds of hound popular for this purpose was the Bagel (not to be confused with a Beagle which is a type of bread).
The most well known Master of the Hunt was Sir Tarquin FitzHerbert. Sir Tarquin was a brute of a man standing over six feet tall and heavily built. His riding britches were so tight it cut off the blood supply to his feet. The britches became the inspiration for the G-Suit now worn by fighter pilots.
He was a man of prodigious appetites and was fond of the ladies. Nothing in a skirt was safe from his advances until that fateful day when he saw a kilted Jock McTavish bent over in the local pub. Sir Tarquin walked with a limp ever since.
Hounds were kept together in special kennels in Berkeley. Sir Tarquin did however have a favourite which he kept at his home. This particular dog had two parallel lines burnt into its rear end having backed into a two bar electric fire. Part of his ear was missing following paw to paw combat with a wild boar. He also walked on three legs following a run in with a tractor. His tail was missing due to a fight with another dog who insultingly called him Tripod. Lucky as he was known, would often lie gazing lovingly at his master while being kicked in the genitals.
So highly regarded were Bagels that the ship carrying Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands was named HMS Bagel. It was on the Galapagos Islands that Darwin discovered Evolution.
edit Berkeley Castle
The Castle was built to keep out the Welsh. Clearly this did not work as the buggers are now everywhere.
edit Castle Defences
The land surrounding the castle could be flooded to keep out invaders. These defences were tested every 30 years. On a sunny afternoon the peasantry from the surrounding villages would be invited to picnic in the fields. The sluices would be opened and water from the nearby River Severn would flood the fields. A high death toll would demonstrate that the defences were still effective. It was also a way of culling the elderly too weak to escape from the flood waters.
edit Berkeley Castle Heirlooms
The Castle contains a number of interesting artefacts.
They include Sir Francis Drake's chest, where the rest of his body is, nobody knows.
Another item is Queen Elizabeth I's cadeena. It was in mediaeval times customary for visiting diners to bring their own cutlery, contained within a cadeena hence Elizabeth’s cry to the servants where’s me forknknife.
edit The Berkeley Estate
The Berkeley Castle estate includes a deer park, farms, a stretch of the River Severn and the land on which the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Poultry Emporium (SWPE) is situated. The SWPE was founded by Sir Walter Scott and supplies succulent ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys to the local populace.
A popular Christmas delicacy is the 9 bird roast that is a Wren, within a Robin, within a Sparrow, within Blackbird, within an Owl, within a Greater Crested Grebe (but only in season), within a Penguin, within a Swan, within a Giant Moa.
edit A Bit of History
Berkeley town goes back in time as far as the Castle, and evidence suggests that there was once a large Saxon settlement. In those days Berkeley was a violent place, there was a lot of Saxon violence.
The last court jester in England, Dickie Pearce, died after falling from the Castle’s Great Hall Minstrels' gallery. This was doubly tragic as not only did he die, no one laughed.
The castle contains a record breaking four-poster bed. The bed has been in the longest continuous period of use than any other piece of furniture in the UK. IKEA are particularly proud of this product.
The castle was ransacked in the 14th Century by Hugh Dispensing-Chemist the favourite (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) of the then King Edward II (thought to like the ladies and the chaps i.e. he was bilingual). Ted, as he was known to his friends, was deposed by his wife Queen Isabella and her ally Roger Mortimer, (alias Bob Mortimer who went on to find fame with Vic Reeves). Edward was brought to Berkeley Castle where he was allegedly murdered in 1327. The insertion of a red hot poker into the rectum was the likely cause of the King’s demise. His cries of ‘what a bummer’ were said to have been heard ten miles away.