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Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Tale of Two Jubilees

Just in case you missed it, this is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year and lots of celebrations are planned. Only one other British monarch, Queen Victoria, has celebrated their Diamond Jubilee. Queen Victoria’s reign was from 1837 to 1901: the longest for the United Kingdom to date. Third place in the ‘royal stakes’ goes to Victoria’s grandfather, George III, who was crowned king in 1760 and died in 1820. There were many celebrations for Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, even though the queen had been unpopular for a time following her virtual retirement from public life after the death of her beloved Alfred, the Prince Consort.
A major landmark of Victoria’s reign was the Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations at the Crystal Palace in 1851. But for ordinary people, perhaps the introduction of the Elementary Education Act in 1870 (which enshrined in law the principle that all children aged five to twelve years old should attend school) had a more lasting impact.
I think the most memorable event of our Queen’s reign was the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. But great strides have taken place in medicine, too, such as the eradication of smallpox. It’s hard to say what will be viewed by future generations as the most significant event of Her Majesty’s reign. Perhaps the invention of the world wide web? What do you think?

Images: The Coronation of Queen Victoria. Cassell’s Illustrated History of England Volume VII, (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, c. 1873).
Cover of Queen Victoria and Her People, (Educational Supply Association Ltd, 1897). This positively hagiographic biography of Victoria was a Diamond Jubilee souvenir for schoolchildren. Both images from the author’s collection.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors preview!

Here's a sneak preview of the cover for my forthcoming book Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors, which is provisionally scheduled for publication by Pen & Sword on 15 November.
My practical guide for family and local historians describes all the most important relevant national and local archives for the historic county of Lancashire, including sources for places such as Manchester, Warrington, Barrow-in-Furness and Liverpool.

Here’s a quote from the blurb:

‘Brings family history to life by exploring the world in which your ancestors lived…If you want to find out about Lancashire ‘s history, and particularly if you have family links to the area and your ancestors lived or worked in the county, then this is the ideal book for you. As well as helping you to trace when and where your ancestors were born, married and died, it gives you an insight into the world they knew and a chance to explore their lives at work and at home.

Sue Wilkes’s accessible and informative handbook outlines Lancashire’s history and describes the origins of its major industries - cotton, coal, transport, engineering, shipbuilding and others. She looks at the stories of important Lancashire families such as the Stanleys, Peels and Egertons, and famous entrepreneurs such as Richard Arkwright, in order to illustrate aspects of Lancashire life and to show how the many sources available for family and local history research can be used.

Relevant documents, specialist archives and libraries, background reading and other sources are recommended throughout this practical book. Also included is a directory of Lancashire archives, libraries and academic repositories, as well as databases of family history societies, useful genealogy websites, and places to visit which bring Lancashire’s past to life.

Sue Wilkes’s book is the essential companion for anyone who wants to discover their Lancashire roots’.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Childhood

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a new book contract for Pen & Sword! In Tracing Your Ancestors’ Childhood, I’ll be exploring the history of childhood and education in England and Wales, and discussing relevant records and archives for family historians. I’ll be looking at your ancestors’ childhood experiences at home, school, work, and in institutions such as workhouses for the period from 1750-1950. This handy reference guide will include court records, charities, wartime children, and child emigrants to the USA, Australia and Canada.
I’ll update this blog when more information becomes available about a release date.
Photo: The author growing up in Salford in the 1960s. Author’s collection.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Risings of the Luddites

The years 1811 to 1813 were marked by great poverty for workers in many trades. The war against Napoleon had led to high food prices and difficult trading conditions.In Nottinghamshire in November 1811, framework knitters protested against cheap, shoddy hosiery by smashing stocking and lace frames. In his maiden speech in parliament, Lord Byron (1788–1824) highlighted the hardships which working families were suffering, but despite his efforts, the government made frame-breaking a capital offence. Luddite activity peaked in the northern counties during April 1812.

In Yorkshire, resentment was running high amongst the woollen croppers or ‘shearmen’. They believed that new ‘shearing-frames’ were taking away their livelihoods. On Saturday 11 April, over 100 Luddites tried to break into Cartwright’s mill at Rawfolds in Yorkshire.
In Cheshire, food riots in Macclesfield on 13 April were followed the next day by attacks on cotton powerloom mills at Stockport. Then on 28 April Yorkshire mill-owner William Horsfall, well-known for his hatred of Luddites, was shot dead.
In Lancashire during the same month, a cotton powerloom factory at Middleton was targeted. Then on 24 April, Wroe and Duncroft’s factory at Westhoughton was torched. Many of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Luddites later died on the gallows.

You can find out more about the Luddites’ stories and why they took direct action in the forthcoming May issue of Jane Austen's Regency World.
Update April 2015: My forthcoming book Regency Spies (which if all goes well with be published by Pen & Sword later this year), will discuss the authorities' hunt to find the Luddite leaders, and the spies who tried to infiltrate the ranks of the frame-breakers.

Images: Interior of John Wood’s cropping shop: headquarters of the Yorkshire Luddites. Rising of the Luddites, Chartists & Plug-Drawers, 3rd edition, (Brighouse, 1895).
Lord Byron. Great Authors of English Literature, W. Scott Dalgleish, (Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1899).
Lancaster Castle. Lancashire Luddites were tried and executed here after the 1812 riots. Engraved by T. Higham from a drawing by T. Allom. People’s Gallery of Engravings Vol.2 (Fisher, Son & Co., 1845). Both images from the author’s collection.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Birmingham Children's Lives

I recently discovered a very interesting new blog about children's lives, a project by Birmingham Archives and Heritage. The blog has historical photos of children and images of documents which give an insight into their lives such as school logbooks, so do take a look if you are interested in exploring your ancestors' childhood records. 

Birmingham was home to the metal trades, such as the manufacture of steel pens. The two biggest factories were Joseph Gillott & Co. and Hinks,Wells & Co. In the 1860s, conditions in Gillott's factory were clean, and few children under thirteen were employed, but at Hinks's works like Jack Parden worked in rags because the vitriol  used to clean the steel strips for the pens splashed onto their clothes. The boys often cut their hands on the metal strips.

I hope to have some exciting news for you soon, so keep checking back for updates! 

Image: Rolling steel for pens at Hinks, Wells & Co., Birmingham. Some of the boy helpers were as young as nine years old. Illustrated London News, 22 February 1851.