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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Special Offer!

My new book The Children History Forgot will be available from Robert Hale at a special web price of £14 instead of £20 for the first month after the release date of 29 July, so get your orders in early if you would like to take advantage of this great offer!

Once upon a time, Britain forged a mighty industrial empire - built with the blood, sweat and tears of society's most vulnerable members. The Children History Forgot explores young people's working lives during the late Georgian and Victorian eras, when boys and girls created almost every item in our ancestors' homes: bricks, glass, cutlery, candles, lace, cotton and more. All over Britain, from the coal mines of Wales to the flax mills of Ireland, children toiled in factories and workshops, underground and on the land. A chosen few like Samuel Slater began new lives in America but thousands of others have been forgotten by history: killed by unguarded machinery or poisoned by metal or pottery dust. Many were conscript workers: pauper apprentices trapped by their poverty. 

My book tells the story of the long, heartbreaking fight for reform. The story of men like Lord Shaftesbury, Richard Oastler and the tireless factory inspectors who battled, not only to improve youngsters' working conditions and opportunities for education, but also to change society's attitudes towards childhood.

Image: Two children at work on a paper cutting machine. Penny Magazine, 1833. Author's collection.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Green Valley with a Dark Heart

We recently visited the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park at Holywell (Treffynnon), north Wales. You can enjoy a lovely tranquil walk along the valley. There’s a museum of rural life and farm, replete with friendly chickens and pigs, and you can picnic by the ruins of Basingwerk Abbey. As you explore the valley, there are many more reminders of Greenfield’s past. The stream which supplied St Winefride's Well (from which Holywell derives its name) provided the power for a thriving industrial community, with lead, brass and copper works, paper mills, cotton mills, and more. Child workers (some were parish apprentices) toiled in the cotton mills, and you’ll be able to find out more about the children’s stories in The Children History Forgot.

Images: Basingwerk Abbey. The remains of the Lower Cotton Mill at Greenfield Valley where children once worked. It was later converted into a flour mill. © Sue Wilkes

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

New cover for the Children History Forgot!

My publishers Robert Hale have come up with a lovely new cover for The Children History Forgot, which will be released in a few weeks. I think it really sums up the poverty which so many children endured, and which was a prime factor in the prevalence of child labour in Georgian and Victorian times.  Children were expected to earn their keep from an early age, unless they came from an extremely affluent family.

Friday, 13 May 2011

A windy fort on the Wirral

Recently we visited Fort Perch Rock, on the Wirral peninsula. A plaque on the inside proudly records that Captain Kitson of the Royal Engineers completed ‘Perch Rock Battery’ in 1829, and under the estimated cost. The fort, which was built to defend the port of Liverpool, is now a museum.

On the day of our visit it had displays devoted to WWII, and there are some very interesting mini-museums inside. There’s one dedicated to 610 (County of Chester) Squadron, which was based at Hooton Park during the Battle of Britain, an Aviation Archaeology Museum, a Marine Radio Museum, and lots more to see. The display on the horrific sinking of the submarine HMS Thetis made very sobering viewing – this was an awful tragedy in which many seamen and civilians perished very close to shore.
We found much more to see in the fort than we expected, and can thoroughly recommend it for a visit.

Photos: Fort Perch Rock, and the plaque on the fort’s wall recording the date when construction finished. © Sue Wilkes.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A lovely walk around Tatton Park

I’ve been so busy recently that I haven’t had time to update my blog for several days, so it will take me a little while to catch up! We took advantage of the gorgeous weather to visit some local history and heritage sites.
It was another really hot day, and although there were lots of visitors, the gardens are so huge that we didn’t feel crowded.

We visited Tatton Park, ancestral home of the Egerton family.  It was another really hot day, and although there were lots of visitors, the gardens are so huge that we didn’t feel crowded. The bluebells in the woods were really beautiful!
At the time of Regency Cheshire, The Beauties of England and Wales (1801) reported that the house was being rebuilt: ‘The building is situated in the midst of a park, containing nearly 2500 acres of arable and pasture land. It stands on an elevated spot of ground, from the front of which a lawn gradually declines to the level of Tatton-mere, a fine piece of water … The designs for the house were given by Mr (Samuel) Wyatt, and are conceived in a style of elegant simplicity, but only part of the edifice is yet finished.’ Several more years passed before the house was completed by Samuel’s nephew Lewis.
Photos:  Bluebells in the gardens in Tatton, and Tatton Hall. © Sue Wilkes