Search This Blog

Thursday, 18 February 2010


The Regency period was an age of scandal. Cheshire newspaper readers thrilled to the news of the Prince Regent’s very public feud with his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, and the divorce of Lord and Lady Byron – there were dark rumours circulating of Byron’s incest with his half-sister Augusta. Harriette Wilson’s memoirs took the polite world by storm, too. But Cheshire had its own home-grown scandals. There were murders most foul, such as the notorious case of George Morrey (a farmer) and the mysterious death of a Northwich flatman in 1817.

In the early spring of 1826, one scandal made the national news for months on end: the outrageous abduction of Ellen Turner, a Macclesfield heiress. Ellen was taken to Gretna Green by adventurer Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who wanted to marry her and control her fortune. You can find out more about Ellen’s amazing story in Regency Cheshire.
Image: Eloped! Engraving by Hugh Thomson for Coaching Days and Coaching Ways, (Macmillan, 1910).

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Chester’s Ancient Rows

Chester’s famous Rows have attracted visitors to the city for centuries. The Rows are situated on Watergate St, Eastgate St and Northgate St, Bridge St and (in earlier times) Lower Bridge St. Antiquarian Thomas Pennant was greatly intrigued by the Rows’ peculiar construction, which probably dates back to the mid-thirteenth century; carved stone under-crofts are still visible inside some shops. As time went by, the Row architecture fell in and out of fashion; writers such as Celia Fiennes and Daniel Defoe thought the Rows looked ugly. In Regency Cheshire , the Rows were extremely prosperous; all the best shops were found there.

Chester lost one Row without warning in 1821. Part of Lamb Row fell into the street ‘with a loud crash’ and ‘an immense volume of dust’ (Gentleman’s Magazine, December 1824.) Luckily, no-one was injured.

Chester historian Joseph Hemingway, writing in 1831, described how old dilapidated shop fronts were replaced by shining glass windows and elegant new shops: ‘drapers, clothiers, jewellers, perfumers, booksellers as respectable as the kingdom can produce.’ William and Henry Brown, silk mercers and milliners, opened a splendid new shop in Eastgate Row which was compared with ‘the magnificence of Regent St.’  There are tips for researching your Chester and Cheshire family history in my Chester feature in this month’s Discover My Past England.

Images from author’s collection: The Rows on Eastgate St, Chester. Saturday Magazine, 1836.
Lamb Row, Chester, built c.1655 by Randle Holme on the west side of Bridge St. It collapsed in 1821. Gentleman’s Magazine (Supplement), December 1824.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Scotland’s Pride

Heavy snow is forecast later today; I hope it will somehow miss us. Spring seems like a long way away… the last few winters, spring bulbs have been peeking above ground before Christmas, but I haven’t spotted any yet this year.
My latest feature on Sir Walter Scott is in Discover My Past Scotland now. Scott would have been thrilled Scotland has its own Parliament nowadays (currently debating its budget), but I wonder if the Parliament Building would be to his taste? I suspect he would prefer a more traditional design, perhaps something along the style of his house at Abbotsford.
Images: Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott’s home. History of England, Charles Knight, (London, c.1868.)
The Scottish Regalia. Scott was instrumental in recovering the long-lost Scottish regalia. He got permission from the Prince Regent (later George IV) to search in Edinburgh Castle for the lost treasure in 1818. Black’s Picturesque Tourist of Scotland (24th edition), (A& C Black, 1882.)