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Thursday, 1 November 2018

Thomas Harrison, Architect

Chester Castle and Shire Hall complex, 1820s. 
Please saunter over to All Things Georgian, the wonderful blog belonging to my fellow Pen & Sword authors Sarah Murden and Joanne Major. Today they've kindly hosted my guest post on Thomas Harrison, a stunning architect who gave Chester's buildings an air of classical elegance during Regency times

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Sold out - but don't panic!

A High Wind in the Park! 1819. 
I had some very good news this morning - A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England has sold out! However, Pen and Sword have scheduled a re-release for the end of November, and you can pre-order here (especially as it would make a lovely Christmas present for a Jane Austen fan!) Alternatively, there are still a few print copies left on Amazon UK and Amazon US, and of course you can still buy my book on Kindle while it's unavailable in print form.

Friday, 27 July 2018

'Liberty Or Death!' Peterloo Is Coming!

A new 'teaser' trailer for Mike Leigh's new film telling the story of the Peterloo Massacre has just been released.
It looks pretty awesome so far! To say I am excited about this movie is an understatement. The release date for the UK is 2 November - I hope it will be available in ordinary cinemas.

Don't forget, the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society are looking for Peterloo descendants, and my book Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors has a round-up of Peterloo sources. My book Regency Cheshire, now released on Amazon Kindle, also includes a look at the massacre from the point of view of the Cheshire Yeomanry, who were present at the massacre.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Regency Cheshire on Amazon Kindle!

I'm thrilled to announce that my book Regency Cheshire is now available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle!

The late Georgian period was an age of unique style and elegance - the era of Trafalgar and Waterloo. Regency Cheshire explores the scandals, sports and pastimes of the great county families such as the Grosvenors of Eaton Hall. Their glittering lifestyle is contrasted with conditions for humble farmers and factory workers. The gentry and mill owners created elegant new villas and beautiful gardens while workers huddled together in slums with inadequate sanitation.

The Prince Regent and his cronies danced and feasted while cotton and silk workers starved. In my book, I explore the county’s transport system and main industries: silk, cotton, salt and cheese. Stage coaches rattled through the streets, and packet boats and barges sailed down the canals.
Lyme Hall, Cheshire.

But reform and revolution threatened the old social order. Blood was spilt on city streets during election fever and in the struggle for democracy. Balls and bear-baiting; highwaymen and hangings; riots and reform: Regency Cheshire tells the story of everyday life during the age of Beau Brummell, Walter Scott and Jane Austen.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Manchester Cathedral

The earliest written record of Manchester’s churches may be the two mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086. St Mary’s and St Michael’s held a ‘carucate’ of land (about 120 acres). St Mary’s may have been located on or near the site of the modern Cathedral. St Michael’s may have been at Ashton-under-Lyne.
In 1421 Thomas La Warre, the lord of the manor, founded a ‘college’ of a warden and eight fellows to care for Manchester parish. The ‘collegiate church’ was endowed with lands, and a brand new building was built. Local worthies and merchants like the Stanley family beautified the new church.
Collegiate Church interior.

If your ancestor lived in Manchester parish before the 1850s, they were most likely baptized or married at the Collegiate Church (later the Cathedral). This is because for historical reasons, when a person was baptised or married at any church within the parish, the family paid two fees, one to the incumbent of their church of choice – and one fee to the Collegiate Church. But if people held the ceremony at the Collegiate Church, they only paid one fee. Mass baptisms and weddings were a regular sight at the Collegiate Church, so you should check those registers first if you are looking for a Manchester ancestor.

In 1847 the diocese of Manchester was created, and the Collegiate Church became a cathedral, dedicated to St Mary, St Denys and St George. The best way to access the Cathedral registers is via (free on Manchester library PCs) or on microfilm at Manchester Central Library. The Lancashire Online Parish Clerks website has some free transcripts of the Cathedral and Collegiate Church parish registers. My book also has more information on the history of the Cathedral and its records.

The Cathedral suffered greatly from bomb damage during WWII, but was painstakingly rebuilt. The modern day Cathedral has a visitor centre, which is open daily.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Manchester Suffragettes and Suffragists

Lydia Ernestine Becker, suffragist.
Today a statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett was unveiled near Parliament. My latest feature for Discover Your Ancestors online magazine explores the fight for women's rights by Manchester suffragettes and suffragists during the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries.

In the mid-to-late 1860s, Manchester committees to campaign for women’s property and voting rights were founded by Elizabeth Wolstenholme (later Elmy), Lydia Ernestine Becker, Emily Davies, Alice Scatcherd and others.

‘Suffragists’ like Lydia Becker and Margaret Ashton argued that voting reform should be fought for using only peaceful, constitutional means. The suffragists scored a major victory in 1869 when property-owning women were given the right to vote in local government elections and act as Poor Law Guardians.

But women (and working-class men) still could not vote in national elections. Sheer frustration at successive governments' refusal to give women the vote led 'suffragettes' like Manchester-born Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters to take direct action. However, it was not until 1928 that all women over the age 21 of were given the vote, and put on an equal footing with men.
The Pankhurst Centre, Manchester

My book Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors has several tips for researching suffragette and suffragist sources in Manchester libraries and specialist archives. I also thoroughly recommend visiting Emmeline Pankhurst’s home at 62 Nelson St, Manchester, which is now a museum and heritage centre, if you wish to find out more about the suffragettes' story.

Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827–1890), an early campaigner for women’s political rights and founder member of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1867. Manchester Faces and Places Vol. 1, J. G. Hammond & Co., c. 1895. Author’s collection.

62 Nelson St, Manchester, now the Pankhurst Centre. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters lived here from 1897–1907. © Sue Wilkes.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Jane Austen and Landscapes

Dr Syntax 'drawing after Nature'.
This year it's the bicentenary of the death of landscape gardener Humphry Repton. Gallop over to my Jane Austen blog to read more about Austen and her landscapes! You can also read my special feature on Austen and gardens here at Pride and Possibilities, published last year in the e-zine for the Jane Austen Literary Foundation.