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Thursday, 31 March 2011

More Narrowboat Fun

It was lovely to see Macclesfield's silk museums featured on BBC1's The Boat That Guy Built last night. I was very interested to watch this episode as I explored the story of the silk industry and the growth of Cheshire's canal network in Regency Cheshire.

While Guy has brought Britain's industrial past to life each week while restoring his narrowboat, one aspect of life I don't think he's mentioned is that child workers were used in many of the trades and industries he's explored. Children were used as cheap labour in the silk and cotton industries, and metal industries, and you'll be able to read more about their stories in The Children History Forgot when it's launched later this year.
Image: Macclesfield, early 1900s. Etching by Roger Oldham (1871-1916) for Picturesque Cheshire (Sherratt & Hughes, 1903.)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tracing Ancestors Before the Censuses

Old newspapers and magazines can be a good way of tracking down your ancestors as they reported births and deaths in their columns.

The Monthly Chronicle for April 1758 (pictured left) mentions the death of Ralph Thrale on 8 April.
Ralph Thrale was the father of Henry Thrale, Dr Samuel Johnson’s friend, who succeeded to the brewing business.

After Henry Thrale's death in 1781, there was an expectation among Johnson and his friends that he would marry Mrs Thrale. Hester Lynch Thrale, however (whose first marriage was one of convenience) followed her heart. She married an Italian music teacher, Gabriel Piozzi, much to Johnson’s disgust (and that of her children, who thought she was marrying beneath her).
Humble folk are rarely mentioned in the newspapers of the day unless there was something extraordinary about their life or the way they died. Civil, military promotions, and ecclesiastical preferments (promotions) are also usually listed.
Some newspapers also included a list of bankrupts, and it’s here you are likelier to find references to ordinary people, such as Thomas Garret, a glass-seller in Bishop’s Gate St, London, and Robert Saxby, a tanner in Kent.
Images: Monthly Chronicle, April 1758. Hester Lynch Thrale, afterward Mrs Piozzi. Johnsonia, Vol. 1, (Henry G Bohn, 1859). Author’s collection.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives sold out again!

Some good news today - the second print run of my book Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives has sold out! The History Press has assured me it is already in the 'reprint queue', so hopefully you won't have too long to wait before it's back in stock if you'd like to buy a copy.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Is Prof Brian Cox a helpless weakling?

Seen in this week's TV Choice listing for BBC2's  Wonders of the Universe: 'Despite being a relatively weak force, Prof Brian Cox explores the powerful effects of gravity...' But Brian Cox fans need have no fear - this is a classic example of 'the mystery of the missing pronoun or noun', or put another way, a participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject. If you miss out the pronoun or noun (which is the subject of your sentence) at the beginning, you can fall into this stylistic trap. For example, 'Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap'. (This example is from The Elements of Style by Strunk & White).
To make perfect sense, the TV listing should read something like: 'Prof Brian Cox explores the powerful effects of gravity, which despite being a relatively weak force...'
So novice writers, please read through your work carefully and look out for stylistic traps like this.

Austen family portrait discovered?

Can you solve the mystery behind this illustration (left)? There's a possibility it may be a long-lost portrait of the Austen family in the 1780s. You can read the story so far here on Jane Odiwe's blog.  This picture has seemingly disappeared long ago, so if you know of its whereabouts, or have seen it in a sales catalogue, please contact Jane Odiwe via her blog, as she would love to hear from you.
Image supplied courtesy of Jane Odiwe.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tracing Your Canal Ancestors update

Here's a sneak preview of the cover for my forthcoming book 'Tracing Your Canal Ancestors' for Pen & Sword.  It's provisionally scheduled for publication this autumn  - I'll post an update to my blog as soon as I get a confirmed release date.

Monday, 14 March 2011

My Favourite Poems

Recent news that a Tennyson poem will provide inspiration for the 2012 Olympic athletes set me thinking about the poems which give me most pleasure, or most inspiration.  My favourite poem of all time is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner - I never tire of reading it.  Next favourite is Edward Thomas's Adlestrop. The poem which I find most inspiring, especially when I feel things are getting on top of me, is Arthur Hugh Clough's Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth. Which are your all-time favourites?
Image: Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey. © Sue Wilkes

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Chester's Historic Legacy

An interesting new report has just been published on Chester's use of its heritage, with some suggestions for maximising its potential, such as using the Roman Ampitheatre as part of an 'Chester History Experience Centre' and revamping the old harbour and canal to bring in more visitors to the city.
Image: The Rows on Eastgate St, Chester, Saturday Magazine, 1836.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Review of Mr Darcy's Secret

Get ready to relive the world of Pride and Prejudice! Jane Odiwe's Mr Darcy's Secret explores life for the newly married Darcy couple. The book begins just after Lizzy's fairytale wedding at Longbourn. But it's not long before our heroine has to cope with the hostility of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and  her friends.  Soon Elizabeth wonders if she knows her husband as well as she thought. Who is the mysterious child allegedly linked with the Darcy family? Is her husband involved? What is the meaning of Caroline Bingley's dark hints? The bride also has her hands full with Georgiana Darcy  - a rash engagement, egged on by her brother Darcy, could wreck Georgiana's happiness forever. Odiwe skilfully and lovingly recreates Austen's characters, and there are some wonderful touches of humour, too. The sizzling plot will keep readers turning the page to find out what happens next.  Will Lizzy and Darcy have a happy ending after all, or will a long-hidden Pemberley scandal wreck their marriage? You'll have to read the book to find out!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy 50th issue, JARW!

Many congratulations to Jane Austen's Regency World on its 50th issue! As ever, it’s packed with informative articles on Austen and her times. My feature for JARW this month contrasts the lives of George Austen and Patrick Bronte, both fathers of famous novelists. Brontë (1777-1861) was a controversial figure during his own lifetime. His children’s literary talent brought him an unwelcome taste of fame… but to find out more, you’ll have to buy a copy!

Images: Jane Austen’s Regency World March 2011 cover.
Title page from Mrs Gaskell’s controversial Life of Charlotte Brontë (Smith, Elder & Co, 1906).

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Narrowboat Fun

I very much enjoyed watching BBC1's The Boat That Guy Built last night. Guy's narrowboat sailed along the Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, and travelled through our local engineering wonder, the Anderton Boat Lift. The programme explored the world of the industrial revolution. Guy tried to make some items for his boat completely from scratch - he built a blast furnace so he could cast an iron pot to brew some tea, and visited the Wedgwood factory to create his own china mug. Can't wait for the next episode!

Image: A narrowboat leaving the Anderton Boat Lift. © Sue Wilkes

Update June 2014: You can see some British Pathe clips of the Boat Lift in action herehere (it is the Anderton Lift, not locks as in the caption) and here. Many thanks to Jim Shead's website for these links.