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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wakes Week

Whit Monday was the great working class holiday during the nineteenth century. Later it became the tradition for cotton mills to close down during the last week in May (Whit or Wakes Week.) Workers enjoyed a day out at the fair, or perhaps travelled by rail to the seaside. In general, workers were not necessarily all on holiday at the same time. Some millowners gave their workforce a week’s holiday each year, but others only had one or two days’ annual holiday. The workers had to scrimp and save up all year for their holidays, though – if they didn’t work, they didn’t get paid.

When I was a little girl, we would parade around the streets of Salford wearing our best clothes or dressed up in Brownie uniform for the annual Whit Walk. I carried the wooden Brown Owl once – it seemed very heavy after I’d been carrying it for a little while.

Image: Off to th’fair. Poems and Songs, (Edwin Waugh, 1889.) Author’s collection.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Busy Bees

We've been thinking of building a bee house in our garden to encourage our disappearing honeybees, but nature has already beaten us to it. There seems to be a little colony of bees living in one of the airbricks near our front door. They are small stripy yellow bees - they are too speedy for me to get a photo, but I think they might be white tailed bumble bees . I am very happy for them to live there so long as they don't start coming in the house!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Salt Sunday update

Sadly, the sun didn't shine for Salt Sunday. Instead, the Cheshire skies did their best to recreate Noah's Flood. The bad weather didn't deter the visitors, however, who showed true British spirit and turned out in spite of the deluge. If you didn't get a chance to go on the day, there's a video on YouTube of Salt Sunday where you can see salt making demos as well as the thanksgiving service.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Salt Sunday

Today is the first ever Salt Sunday at the The Lion Salt Works. There will be salt making demonstrations, and the visitor centre will have displays on Cheshire’s unique industrial past. Local artist Carolyn Shepherd, who specialises in industrial landscapes, will be at work. You can even create your very own artwork with salt; children can enjoy making salt dough crosses. At 4pm there will be a short thanksgiving service, led by the Bishop of Birkenhead, The Rt Revd Keith Sinclair. Let’s hope the sun shines!
Image: Salt Waggon at the Lion Saltworks © Sue Wilkes.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

By Command of Her Majesty

MPs and their ‘expenses’ have come under unprecedented public scrutiny. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the bad old days, when you couldn’t afford to be an MP unless you were a man (certainly not a woman) of considerable means. It wasn’t until 1911 that MPs received an allowance to help with their living costs. Now it seems the pendulum has swung too far the other way. The creativity and ingenuity exercised by some ‘black sheep’ in the House of Commons to maximise their expenses would have been put to far better use solving some of the nation’s dire problems.

Parliamentary papers are an often overlooked and underused resource for family historians; there’s a vast wealth of material available on how our ancestors lived. You can find out more in my latest feature for the May issue of Ancestors magazine.

Image: Interior of the House of Commons, 1834. Engraving from Old and New London, Vol. III, (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, c.1894.)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Lady's Monthly Museum

What might Jane Austen have been reading to while away a dull moment? We know she enjoyed novel reading. Regency ladies also had magazines specially written for them.
The Lady’s Monthly Museum (LMM), first published in 1798, was written and edited by a ‘Society of Ladies.’ A ‘Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction,’ it aimed to ‘please the Fancy, interest the Mind, or exalt the Character of the British Fair.’
The magazine contained moral essays and biographical pieces on famous women such as the actress Dorothy Jordan; it even had an agony aunt. And, of course, the LMM contained fashion plates with the latest modes. You can find out more about the LMM and its fair rivals in my latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World.
Images: Dorothy Jordan, mistress of the Duke of Clarence (the future William IV) as featured in the Lady’s Monthly Museum for January 1805.

‘Cabinet of Fashion’ fashion plate for Lady’s Monthly Museum, June 1805: Morning dress of cambric muslin with spencer cloak of blue silk. Full dress of straw-coloured sarsenet (sic) with a tunic of rich embroidered white crape. Hair dressed with ‘Diamonds set on Velvet, with a profusion of White Ostrich Feathers.’ Author's Collection.