Dan Snow - Why I love historic Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 10:34 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:34 11 March 2020
Credit: Christopher Ison / Alamy Stock Photo
TV presenter Dan Snow has travelled the world to rediscover historic places, people and events, but he still believes that for really exciting history nobody needs to travel any further than Berkshire
'Think of Berkshire and Windsor immediately springs to mind, but almost every square metre of the county has a tale to tell that brings to life its fascinating past,' said Dan.
In a sense Dan Snow is a Crusader because he likes nothing better than to arouse an interest in history among people who perhaps had previously thought of it as little more than a boring school lesson. Already Dan has converted many with his television series, books, radio broadcasts and his History Hit podcast. Berkshire has provided him with many happy visits and he plans many more in the future.
'I have featured various parts of the county in my television series; it is such an amazing area producing centuries of historical facts,' said Dan. 'What I really like is that Berkshire people are so in touch with their history as can be seen by the large number of heritage and history groups within the county. They take a passionate interest and pride in it, whether we are going way back to Roman times and before, or to the more modern links with the 21st century.
Dan Snow came to our TV screens in a fascinating series on Battlefields, which he researched and presented with his famous and much-respected father, Peter Snow. The BBC2 series, called Battlefield Britain, won a BAFTA award for special effects and not only launched the nation into a much keener interest in history but launched Dan into a high-profile career as an expert.
'It has always been history first with me rather than the thought of a media career,' he explained. 'When you have parents who take an interest in history and are also media people it does rub off. They have been great role models but it was never a natural path for me to take, just a great way of sharing my passion for history.' Dan is not only renowned for his television work but is also something of an action man, having rowed three times for Oxford in the Boat Race, with
one win to his credit, and taken part in various other sports. He has also shown a caring side, typified by the time in 2010 when he and a few friends took three inflatable boats from Dover to Calais to help 25 people return to the UK after they were stranded in France by an air travel problem. The French authorities were none too pleased but Dan's Dunkirk spirit saved the day for those stranded and he made a little history of his own.
Dan is also a family man, married to Edwina, formerly Lady Edwina Grosvenor, whose godmother was Princess Diana. They have two daughters, Zia and Orla, and a son, Wolf. Of course, they are encouraged to take an interest in history from an early age.
'They have been with me to a few castles and trod the battlements in the rain. That's the sign of a true historian,' he joked.
Although Dan has been associated with battles, his interests go far beyond matters of conflict. His other projects bring back to life the golden age of steam railways in Britain.
'I think we all love steam trains, they are such magnificent creatures,' he enthused. 'It goes without saying that its location near London means that Berkshire has its own railway heritage as well.'
It is history, both British and global, that has made Dan a national treasure and his annual tours of theatres are usually sold out well in advance. He has even become affectionately known as the 'History Guy', a title he enjoys.
'Berkshire has the magnificent history of Windsor and its world-famous castle, plus the many battles fought on county soil that are really fascinating,' he says. 'History tells us that the Anglo-Saxons were busy here as were the Danes. King John spent a lot of time in the county and to our modern day there has been much military involvement, as well as political upheaval, and an agricultural heritage. It is such an exciting county.
'All that, beautiful parklands and the loveliest stretch of the Thames, no wonder Her Majesty the Queen loves it; Berkshire is just a delight.'
'Reading is especially fascinating,' said Dan. 'There have been many battles in the area throughout the centuries, featuring many historically famous names like Alfred the Great. Also, it is worth seeing the famous Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens, a memorial to 328 officers of the Royal Berkshire Regiment who died in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand fighting Afghan troops.
'Reading became a centre of trade and industry too, its links by canal to Bristol proving more than useful. Then there is the other side of Reading's great past. I was fascinated to learn that Jane Austen went to Reading Ladies' Boarding School, which must have contributed something to her amazing writing career.
'Of course, Windsor and Reading are just two of the great towns in Berkshire. A study of the histories of Newbury, Slough, Bracknell and, of course, Eton reveal so much of the county's incredible heritage.'
'We started History Hit about three years ago,' Dan explained. 'It has a great following of people who have a passion for the past. It came about, in part, because of the amount of letters and emails that were coming in to tell us about pieces of history that had been unearthed, or asking questions, giving opinions and so on.
'So we started the History Hit podcast and then in 2018 we started History Hit TV. It shows that most of the nation seems to be fascinated by history, both British and international, and all centuries too.
'We do indeed have people from Berkshire who subscribe to us and that doesn't surprise me too much. I do find that there is such a great interest in the county - and why not? People are understandably proud of their local and national history, their heritage and their roots.'