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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Manchester and Salford Ancestors Now Out On Kindle!

Manchester Cathedral. 
Just a quick post to say that Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors is now available as an e-book from Pen and Sword, and as a Kindle edition on Amazon! It's also available from Amazon USA in Kindle format. 
If you are visiting Manchester Central Library, you can also buy it over the counter, which will save you paying postage. My book is also available on the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society online bookshop. 
Entries are now open for my Goodreads Giveaway, too, so do please have a go!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Win A Signed Copy of Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors by Sue Wilkes

Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors

by Sue Wilkes

Giveaway ends May 30, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
Win a signed copy of my new book Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors! Entries open on 26 April 2017 (UK residents only).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Kings of Georgian Britain

Today I'm welcoming fab historian Catherine Curzon back to my blog! Her new book Kings of Georgian Britain is available now from Pen and Sword, Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Over to you, Catherine!

A Family in Mourning

There is much to be said for a loving home and a warm hearth and for King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, family life was an anchor in stormy waters. As war raged in America, debate raged in Parliament and his eldest sons raged to whoever would listen, George took refuge in the gentle comfort of his wife and their growing brood of children.

As parents to fourteen children, the royal couple knew that they had been fortunate in not yet having lost  any of their offspring. They were devoted parents who always made time for play, yet real life was about to force its way brutally into this happy idyll. In the space of less than twelve short months, those loving parents would lose not one child, but two.

In the eighteenth century, smallpox was a very real and present threat to the lives of all, whether prince or pauper. The disease claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and those who survived were often left with devastating side effects that ranged from disfiguring scars to total blindness. For any parent, the news that their child had been infected would be terrifying and inoculation was growing in popularity, despite its risks.

In 1782, George and Charlotte took the decision to have their youngest children inoculated against
smallpox and by June, they no doubt rued that day. Little Alfred, the couple’s youngest son, younger than his oldest brother, fell ill not long after receiving the treatment. In order to speed his recovery, he was taken to enjoy the sea air at Deal in the care of Lady Charlotte Finch, the household’s trusted nurse.

A cheery little boy with a bright disposition, Alfred was nevertheless laid low by his inoculation and began to experience smallpox-like blemishes on his face, whilst his breathing grew ever more laboured. Only when it appeared that the seaside was not working its magic was he returned to Windsor. Here he was attended by court physicians and their conclusion, when it came, was devastating. Little Alfred would be dead within weeks.

“Yesterday morning died at the Royal Palace, Windsor, his Royal Highness Prince Alfred, their Majesties youngest son. The Queen is much affected at this domestic calamity, probably more so on account of its being the only one she has experienced after a marriage of 20 years and having been the mother of fourteen children.” (London Chronicle, August 20, 1782 – August 22, 1782; issue 4014, p.1.)

Prince Alfred of Great Britain passed away on 20th August 1782, just a month shy of his second birthday, and the royal family was rocked by his death. He was buried at Westminster Abbey with full honours and though George and Charlotte mourned his loss, they took comfort in their surviving children. The king, in particular, doted on the boy who was now his youngest son, three-year old Octavius. In his darkest moments he admitted that, should Octavius have died, then he would wish himself dead too.

These were to be fateful words.

Despite Alfred’s death, it was still reckoned that inoculating the children against smallpox posed less of a risk than leaving them open to the infection so Octavius and his sister, five-year-old Princess Sophia, were given the treatment. Whilst Sophia suffered no ill effects, things did not go so well for Octavius.

The queen was pregnant with her final child when, just days after receiving the inoculation, Octavius fell ill. Unlike Alfred, whose sickness progressed over time, Octavius declined with alarming speed and died on 3rd May 1783. The king was beyond devastated, tormented to distraction by grief and lower than he had ever been.

“On Saturday, on the Majesties arriving at Kew, in their way to Windsor, and finding Prince Octavius in a dangerous Way, they determined to stay there all Night and sent an Express to Windsor to acquaint the Attendants of the Reason of their continuing there. The same Night died at Kew, his Royal Highness Prince Octavius, his Majesty’s youngest Son, in the fifth Year of his Age.” (Daily Advertiser, Monday, May 5, 1783; issue 17249, p.1.)

The king brooded on the loss of his children, convinced that their inoculation against smallpox had contributed to their early deaths. Where once there had been the laughter of infants, the gentle distraction offered when Charlotte and George played adoringly with the youngsters, now there was only silence and grief, the royal household plunged into sadness. A little respite came with the birth of Princess Amelia in August of that same year and George showered her with love, filling the void where his sons had been with the cheer of this new daughter. Little Amelia, or Emily, as she was known, lived through childhood but years later it would be her death that was to have a catastrophic effect on the father who adored her.

Anonymous. An Historical Account of the Life and Reign of King George the Fourth. London: G Smeeton, 1830.
Anonymous. George III: His Court and Family, Vol I. London: Henry Colburn and Co, 1821.
Aspinall, Arthur. The Later Correspondence of George III.: December 1783 to January 1793, Vol II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.
Aspinall, Arthur. Letters of the Princess Charlotte 1811–1817. London: Home and Van Thal, 1949.
Baker, Kenneth. George III: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007.
Black, Jeremy. George III: America’s Last King. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007. Burney, Frances. The Diary and Letters of Frances Burney, Madame D’Arblay, Vol II. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1910.
Craig, William Marshall. Memoir of Her Majesty Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz, Queen of Great Britain. Liverpool: Henry Fisher, 1818.
Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians. London: William Collins, 2014.
Hibbert, Christopher. George III: A Personal History. London: Viking, 1998.
Tillyard, Stella. A Royal Affair: George III and his Troublesome Siblings. London: Vintage, 2007.

Author Biography

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at Her work has been featured on, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton,
Lichfield Guildhall, the National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House.
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

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About the Book
For over a century of turmoil, upheaval and scandal, Great Britain was a Georgian land.

From the day the German-speaking George I stepped off the boat from Hanover, to the night that George IV, bloated and diseased, breathed his last at Windsor, the four kings presided over a changing nation.

Kings of Georgian Britain offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the four Georges and the events that shaped their characters and reigns. From love affairs to family feuds, political wrangling and beyond, peer behind the pomp and follow these iconic figures from cradle to grave. After all, being
a king isn’t always grand parties and jaw-dropping jewels, and sometimes following in a father’s footsteps can be the hardest job around.

Take a trip back in time to meet the wives, mistresses, friends and foes of the men who shaped the nation, and find out what really went on behind closed palace doors. Whether dodging assassins, marrying for money, digging up their ancestors or sparking domestic disputes that echoed down the generations, the kings of Georgian Britain were never short on drama.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

New Release: Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors

I'm thrilled to announce that Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors has been released early! It's currently on special offer here on the Pen & Sword website, and should soon be in stock on Amazon.
Suffragist Lydia E. Becker.

Here's the blurb:
'For readers with family ties to Manchester and Salford, and researchers delving into the rich history of these cities, this informative, accessible guide will be essential reading and a fascinating source of reference. 
    Sue Wilkes outlines the social and family history of the region in a series of concise chapters. She discusses the origins of its religious and civic institutions, transport systems and major industries. Important local firms and families are used to illustrate aspects of local heritage, and each section directs the reader towards appropriate resources for their research. No previous knowledge of genealogy is assumed and in-depth reading on particular topics is recommended. The focus is on records relating to Manchester and Salford, including current districts and townships, and sources for religious and ethnic minorities are covered. A directory of the relevant archives, libraries, academic repositories, databases, societies, websites and places to visit, is a key feature of this practical book'.
Salford hero Mark Addy.

Tomorrow, I'm visiting the WDYTYA Live! show at the NEC, and if all goes to plan, I'll be signing copies of my new book at the Pen & Sword stand. Hope to see you there!

Black-and-white images from Manchester Faces and Places, Vol. I, J.G. Hammond & Co., c.1889. 
Manchester New Synagogue and Beth Hamedrash, Cheetham Hill.

Monday, 20 March 2017

84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester

84 Plymouth Grove.
Recently I had a very enjoyable visit to Mrs Gaskell's former home in Manchester - somewhere I've longed to explore for ages.

In this house (no. 42 in Gaskell's lifetime) Elizabeth wrote Cranford, Ruth, North and South, The Life of Charlotte Bronte, and her last, unfinished work, Wives and Daughters.

(Mary Barton was written at one of the Gaskells' previous houses, 121 Upper Rumford St in Manchester).

Family portraits and heirlooms.

Elizabeth grew to love her new home; there was plenty of room for family and friends, and it had a large garden for her children to play in.

William had his own study for his writing and pastoral work; Elizabeth often wrote at a round desk in the dining room.

After Elizabeth's sudden death in 1865, her husband William and unmarried daughters Meta and Julia stayed in the house. The two sisters were well known locally for their charity work.

Elizabeth's wedding veil. 

The house has been restored and furnished in a similar fashion to how the Gaskells would have known it; you can also see some family heirlooms, including Elizabeth's wedding veil, which was worn by her daughter Marianne on her own wedding day.

You have to pay for admission, but your ticket lasts for 12 months, so don't lose it! It was a cold, wet day when I visited, but it would be nice to explore the garden again in the summer.

Blue Plaque.
The dining room.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The March of the Blanketeers: March 1817

St Peter's Church in the early 1800s. 
Following the Spa Fields riot in London in 1816, the authorities in north-west England were very worried about local unrest. This was a time of great hardship for workers like the cotton weavers; many were starving.

The increasingly oppressive Lord Liverpool administration believed it faced a widespread underground movement plotting revolution. On 3 March 1817, the government suspended the Habeas Corpus Act: people could now be imprisoned without trial. 

All the Radicals in northwest England - those campaigning for parliamentary reform like weaver Samuel Bamford - were kept under close surveillance. Several spies were at work in the Manchester area, including Michael Hall (code-name ‘No. 1’) and James Rose (‘No.2’). 
Sometime around this date, Liverpudlian
Spy report from Hall and Rose, Dec 1816. HO40/10.
Joseph Mitchell, William Benbow and others decided to stage a grand march from Manchester to London. If those in power understood the depths of the weavers’ suffering, surely they would lower prices and help them find work? Each man would carry a petition to the Prince Regent; once he realized their distress, of course he would help them. Everyone would carry a blanket for their journey (so they were dubbed the ‘Blanketeers’).

The Blanketeers planned carefully. Each man would take three days’ provision in a knapsack; oatmeal and water was ‘the most nutritious and cheap’ food. They hoped that sympathisers along the route would put them up for the night, or maybe they could sleep in church halls. Some cotton spinners sent subscriptions of 5s each, and one friendly society sent £20.

The men would set off for London in groups of ten, headed by a leader with a petition tied round his arm; each leader would be under the control of a captain. Everything was now set for their grand march. 

But the government were not prepared to risk the spectre of a large body of men descending on the capital. What if riots broke out, as had so recently happened at Spa Fields? On the afternoon of 8 March, Bow St magistrate Robert Baker arrived in Manchester with warrants for the arrest of the northern reformers; several were caught and imprisoned.  

The plan was to stop the Blanketeers before they could pass the river Mersey. Baker was still sanguine that few would join the march; the weather was extremely poor. Nevertheless, Sir John Byng’s troops were ready and waiting to pounce as the Blanketeers gathered on the morning of 10 March. 
Letter re the Blanketeers' march, 10 March 1817. The signature was cut off the letter.
That evening, a Manchester man wrote to his father with exciting news: ‘We have today had the largest meeting of the lower orders ever known in this Town. They met near to St Peter’s Church where a Stage was erected for the Speakers to address them. The Soldiers and Constables were all upon the alert and about 11 O’clock the Horse Soldiers rode in upon them and succeeded in securing the whole of the Speakers and about 20 or 30 more of the ringleaders. They were sent to the New Bailey [the prison in Salford].

More Blanketeers were arrested at Heaton Norris, Stockport and Macclesfield by the yeomanry cavalry. Only one man reached London to hand in his petition: the grand march was over. 
The arrested Blanketeers were never brought to trial; they rotted in prison for several months before being released. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Lancashire Archives: Red Rose Collections

Lancashire Archives, Preston has just launched its new online digital resource, the Red Rose Collections. (It replaces the old Lancashire Lantern website). This wonderful resource includes: over 30,000 historic photos, an index to old Lancashire newspapers, an index to historical documents including Whittingham Asylum records, an index to the Preston Guild Rolls 1397-1992, an index of officers who served in Lancashire Constabulary, and the Fleetwood Online Archive of Trawlers.
If you find a record relating to the ancestor you are interested in, then you can contact Lancashire Archives and order a copy (but sadly an ordering facility is not currently available for the photos of Fleetwood trawlers).
There is also an ongoing project to index people and places named in the local history book collection, these indexes will appear on the Lancashire Libraries catalogue.
I did a 'quick search' for 'Manchester', and 'Salford' in the online search box and there were over 2000 results for Manchester and nearly 800 for Salford, so if your ancestors came from those cities or any other towns in historic Lancashire, it's well worth your time exploring the site.

It's worrying, however, that Lancashire County Council is thinking of making more changes to services like libraries owing to the unprecedented squeeze on local authority funding by the government - this is on top of the recent closures of five Lancashire's museums.
To think when I was growing up, I took it for granted that amenities like libraries and museums and social housing were an immutable part of the landscape. By the Tories' austerity ideology has run its full course we will have nothing left. There would be plenty of money for all these facilities if the big corporations and businesses paid a meaningful amount of tax instead of parking it offshore. In my humble opinion, anyway.