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Monday, 30 November 2009

Borders Books Signing III

Here’s a photo of me at the Cheshire Oaks Borders bookstore on Saturday, signing copies of ‘Regency Cheshire.’ I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the Borders staff, especially Stuart and Paul. They all made me feel really welcome on what must have been a very trying day for them – it was certainly a very busy one!
Thank you to everyone who bought a copy of my book – do get in touch if you can and let me know if you enjoyed reading it. It was lovely to meet everyone on the day.
Many people came up to me to say how shocked and sorry they were that Borders is closing, and we all hope that jobs can be saved somehow. There was no shortage of customers at the Cheshire Oaks store, and surely this must be a prime candidate for keeping open.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Borders book signing II

I was very sorry indeed to hear the sad news about Borders UK yesterday. This is obviously devastating news for hard-working staff and their families, especially just before Christmas. I would like to send my best wishes and sympathy to all the Borders staff; I sincerely hope that jobs can be saved wherever possible.

The stores are seemingly to remain open at present, so my book signing for Regency Cheshire at the Borders Cheshire Oaks store will be going ahead tomorrow (Saturday 28 November) from 11am until 4pm. I look forward to meeting everyone there.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Stirring times

I watched Neil Oliver's History of Scotland last night, and it was great to see some of the places I have been writing about recently although it is a shame he did not visit Wigtown or the Covenanters' memorial on Orkney. I love Oliver's wry sense of humour (and the flowing locks don't do him any harm) and think he did a brilliant job of summing up the pros and cons of the Covenanter movement, and explaining the differing religious sensitivities of the day.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Discover My Past England

Great news for family history fans with the launch of Discover My Past England! This is a 'must-see' if you are researching your ancestors. My first feature for this exciting new online magazine is 'Voices from the past,' which looks at how you can explore how your ancestors lived and worked using parliamentary papers. While I was researching Regency Cheshire and Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives I made some fascinating discoveries about the lives of Cheshire and Lancashire textile workers.

Image: Cotton weaving shed in Lancashire. Early 20th century postcard (Author’s collection.)
Photo: Macclesfield Heritage Centre, formerly the Sunday School which opened in 1813. © Sue and Nigel Wilkes.

History of Scotland

I am really looking forward to the new series of Neil Oliver's History of Scotland on BBC2 tonight, especially as he will be covering the story of the Covenanters' persecution which I covered recently for Discover My Past. The last series was beautifully presented, and I am hoping he will be visiting some of my favourite haunts in south west Scotland.

Monday, 23 November 2009

A Royal Love Affair

Queen Victoria first visited Scotland in 1842, in search of peace and quiet after surviving two attempts on her life that year. Victoria found her spiritual home in the tranquil, spectacular Highland scenery; it was the start of a love affair which lasted a lifetime.
The queen loved watching the local Highland games. In 1851, a writer for the Illustrated London News, reporting on the Braemar Gathering, commented on how times had changed: ‘From the time the Earl of Mar raised the standard of rebellion in 1715, almost within gunshot of where Victoria now has her Highland home, down to the fatal battle of Culloden, the Highland clans were mustered in strong force when the signal was passed through the glens…now…the signal to rally is the olive branch, and the clansmen muster to show off their Highland dress, and disport themselves in harmless Highland games’ (20 September 1851). You can find out more about Queen Victoria’s love for all things Scottish in my latest feature for Discover My Past Scotland.

Image: Highland ball in Braemar Castle – the clans’ reel. Illustrated London News, 20 September 1851.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Real Regency

Are we in danger of losing sight of the ‘real’ Regency? In my latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World, I argue it's time to paint a more realistic picture of the world in Jane Austen's day.
Far away from the glitzy world of clubs like Almack’s and White’s, social unrest in counties such as Cheshire embodied the real spirit of the age. While the Prince Regent and his chums enjoyed fantastic feasts at Brighton Pavilion, high food prices caused riots by hungry workers in 1812.

Those lovely frocks in La Belle AssemblĂ©e were made by cheap child labour. You can discover more about how textile workers in Cheshire towns such as Stockport, Macclesfield and Congleton lived in Regency Cheshire.

Image: Wesleyan Chapel (1825) at Tiviot Dale, Stockport. From Lancashire Illustrated (H. Fisher, Son, and Jackson, 1831.) Author’s collection. The ‘castle’ shaped building in the background on the right is the old Castle Mill built by Sir George Warren.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Conflict in Europe

Today is the day we remember the sacrifices and heroism of previous generations in two world wars, as well as more recent conflicts. During late Georgian times, it was Napoleon who plunged Europe into war. Millions of men died to feed his overweening ambition. This was a very anxious time for Cheshire families who had sons, fathers and brothers serving on land and sea. The postman’s knock was eagerly awaited, and newspapers scanned anxiously for tidings of loved ones. The nation went mad with joy when news came of Wellington’s masterly defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. The Royal Mail coach bringing the glad tidings to Chester was decked out with ribbons and flags. When Wellington visited Cheshire a few years later, he was given a hero’s welcome. You can find out more about Cheshire's story during those stirring times in Regency Cheshire .

Image: Wellington and Napoleon: Charles Knight’s History of England Vol. VII, (London, c. 1868.)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Book signing for Regency Cheshire!

I will be signing copies of Regency Cheshire at the Borders Cheshire Oaks bookstore on Saturday 28 November 2009. I'll be in the bookstore from 11am until 4pm, so look forward to meeting everyone then!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Review of Regency Cheshire

The Lancashire Evening Post has just published a lovely review of Regency Cheshire! I am thrilled with it!

I thought I had woken up in a strange parallel universe this morning! I often listen to Planet Rock first thing to try and wake up for the school run. But today, instead of the usual Black Sabbath or Alice Cooper, someone was singing a traditional soul-cakers' song. It seems Sting has released it as a single. All Hallows' Eve was the time of year when Cheshire folk, boys and girls would knock on people's doors and sing a song in the hope of receiving treats or money. Cheshire also had a special soul-caking play, and there were different versions of the soulers' song (this is from John Brand's Popular Antiquities)

Soul Day, Soul Day, Saul!
One for Peter, one for Paul,
Three for him who made us all.
An apple or pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing that will make us all merry…

You can find out more about traditional Cheshire customs in Regency Cheshire.