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Monday, 29 October 2012

Sheffield City Giants

Last weekend we visited the Kelham Island Museum, where we were lucky enough to see the Sheffield City Giants perform a folk dance at the Kelham Island Museum. The Giants represent War and Peace, and you can read about their amazing history and the folk tradition behind them on their website.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Radio Interview and Lancashire Ancestors update

It was lovely to meet everyone at BBC Radio Lancashire this morning.  If you missed my interview with Ted Robbins, you can listen to it here, about 1 hour 33 minutes in.  I talked about my forthcoming book Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors, which will be published very soon, and gave some tips on how to research your family tree.

Blackburn's town centre is dominated by its glitzy shopping mall, but you can still explore some of the town's history.  The BBC Radio Lancashire studios are on the site of the Plug Plot riots of 1842.  The Free Library and Museum, which opened on 11 June 1874, and is now the Museum and Art Gallery,  has some very interesting sculpture friezes depicting the arts, sciences and industry.

Update 5.11.12: I've just heard that Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors has now been released, and you can order it from the Pen & Sword website.
Images:  The BBC Radio Lancashire studios.
Ornamental frieze of iron workers, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.
© Sue Wilkes

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Visit to BBC Radio Blackburn

Just a quick update to say I've been invited to speak on the Ted Robbins show on BBC Radio Blackburn next Wednesday - 24 October. I'll be talking about my new book, Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors, and if time permits, exploring some of my own ancestors' stories, and giving listeners tips on how to explore their own family tree.

It will be very interesting to visit Blackburn, which was famous for its 'greys' (fustians), and was also the original home of the famous Peel family of cotton manufacturers, who began the art of calico printing by rollers in Lancashire. I am really looking forward to exploring the town.

Fish Lane, Blackburn, traditional birthplace of Sir Robert Peel, first baronet (1750–1830).  Engraving by Evans from a drawing by Cardwell.  Pictorial History of the County of Lancashire, 1844.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Exploring Chawton

Very recently Chawton House Library held a heritage open day, and luckily I was in the area that weekend, as it’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for exploring the House and gardens.

The House was the former home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen-Knight, and it has some wonderful collections in The Library. It was a real privilege to explore inside. Sadly photography was not permitted the House, but you can see some photos of the interior and the fabulous library here. After visiting the gardens we peeked inside the church of St Nicholas – Jane Austen’s sister and mother are buried in the graveyard.

On the next day we returned to Chawton so that we could visit Chawton Cottage (Jane Austen's House Museum), where Jane lived for eight years. The weather was not as kind that day, but I didn’t mind. It has been many years since I last went inside the Cottage and it was so lovely to see it again.

As always when following in Jane’s footsteps, I have to resist the temptation to shriek ‘Jane Austen was here!’ and just hug myself inside, if you know what I mean. I stood next to Jane’s writing table and hoped that some of her incredible genius might somehow magically waft across to me, like the scent of the flowers in her garden. The museum has personal relics of the family, including the famous topaz crosses bought for Jane and Cassandra by their sailor brother Charles Austen.

It goes without saying that there is a wonderful gift shop, too, where you can stock up on goodies and books related to Austen and her works.

And in breaking news: Janeites will know that 2013 is the bicentenary of the publication of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A new, beautifully illustrated book by Hazel Jones and Maggie Lane, Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane’s Darling Child will be published by Lansdown Media this autumn.