Saturday, 30 January 2021
I'm very pleased to announce that I've just published my new book Caledonian Collection on Amazon Kindle! It's a collection of published articles inspired by our holidays in Scotland, in former happier times. The topics covered include the 'Killing Times', Radical rebels, and Bonnie Prince Charlie's ill-fated venture to gain the British throne. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it!
Wednesday, 16 December 2020
This has been a horrible year for so many people in so many countries.
However, the advent of several vaccines has given us fresh hope that some day soon we will be able to once again hug our loved ones safely.
This is not a good time of year weather-wise. But I do take pleasure in small things whilst unable to travel: the joy of spotting our resident Robin Redbreast; the last few chrysanthemums braving the December rain; and the first tentative harbingers of spring as next year's bulbs begin to appear.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the new year.
Here's to better times next year!
Image: The Aurora Borealis in Lapland. Penny Magazine, 21 December 1833.
Monday, 27 July 2020
I cannot remember a situation like this during my lifetime – so many weeks of anxiety about the safety of our loved ones, both family and friends.
I meant to start a diary at the start of the pandemic, but for the first time in my life I have been far too anxious and unsettled to write.
The first few weeks of lockdown were the worst – those blisteringly hot, seemingly endless days when we were confined to the house except for our permitted one walk per day.
We have been very lucky compared with many families – we were able to walk round our garden when we needed a breath of fresh air. It was a great comfort to see the spring flowers appearing and to watch birds playing on the lawn, oblivious to the drama unfolding in the human world.
Our son came home just before the start of the lockdown, and it has been a great comfort, knowing he was safe with us.
But the separation from other family members was the worst, especially my elderly parents and our daughter.
We missed our daughter’s birthday, and my sister’s too, during the lockdown. Video calls aren’t the same as a hug, but better than nothing. Even though the restrictions have eased, it still hurts that I can’t cuddle my Mum and Dad, or our daughter.
We have enjoyed a few days out recently, but with no end to our invisible enemy in sight, it is hard to see when or if our lives will ever return to normal.
I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well – and staying safe.
Monday, 3 February 2020
On Monday 1 May 1820, Arthur Thistlewood, James Ings, John Thomas Brunt, Richard Tidd and William Davidson were hanged for high treason before a vast crowd at Newgate prison.
What type of men were the conspirators?
All the plotters were as poor as church mice. Their ringleader, Arthur Thistlewood, was already well known to the authorities for his role in the Spa Fields Riots (December 1816). He was 5ft 8in high, with ‘a sallow complexion’, dark hair, ‘dark hazel eyes and arched eyebrows’, a wide mouth and good teeth. Arthur had a scar under his chin, and the ‘appearance of a military man’. He customarily wore a blue riding coat and blue pantaloons. Thistlewood, now about 25 years old, was on his second marriage, and had previously been unfortunate in his finances. Arthur had a pathological hatred of government ministers like Lord Castlereagh and Lord Sidmouth, and was notorious for his violent language and demeanour. When the police trap was sprung, Thistlewood fought his way out of the loft, killing a policeman, Smithers, with his sword. George Edwards later led the police to Thistlewood's hiding place.
George Edwards to rent a room which served as an arms depot for the conspirators.
John Thomas Brunt was lodging in the same house. A Londoner, he earned a living as a 'boot-closer', and was said to be an 'excellent workman'. A married man, in his late thirties, he had a fourteen-year-old son. Brunt was seemingly of a poetic turn. The night before his execution, he sent his wife the last shilling he possessed, begging her to 'keep the shilling for his sake for as long as she lived'.
He also wrote some verses for his wife:
William Davidson, 'a man of colour', was highly intelligent. Born in Kingston, Jamaica (where his father was Attorney-General), he came to England while still very young for a good education. He studied mathematics, and the law (for a time) before learning the trade of a cabinet-maker.
The Authentic History of the Cato Street Conspiracy gives Davidson a very bad character, accusing him not only of an 'indelicate attack' on a Sunday School teacher, but also the young ladies who attended the school. He too was extremely poor following the failure of his business.
Several of the conspirators who were arrested were lucky to escape the gallows. Five others were transported to Australia.
Two more, John Monument and Thomas Adams turned King's evidence to save their skins.
Thomas Hiden, who had a last-minute change of heart and alerted the authorities to the plot (which they already knew about), was later rewarded with a job by the government.
However, Thistlewood also had links with other revolutionary groups in the UK, and the full extent of the conspiracy may never be fully known.
Tuesday, 7 January 2020
You can see a contemporary 'Narrative' of the Conspiracy here on the British Library website, and some original documents relating to the conspirators here on the National Archives website. The Treasury Solicitor papers at the National Archives also include a weapon that was used in evidence at the trial of Arthur Thistlewood and his crew.
An exhibition on George IV's reign, 'Georgian Delights', is currently on show at the Weston Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham. Dr Richard Gaunt, the exhibition curator, will give a talk on Cato Street on 24 February at the Djanogly Theatre.
You can also find out more about the background and build-up to the Cato Street Conspiracy in my book Regency Spies.
Saturday, 4 January 2020
Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you have a lovely Christmas and peaceful New Year.