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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

History With A Bang: The Battle of Nantwich

Last weekend we put on our thermals and had a trip to Nantwich. Every year the townsfolk celebrate Holly Holy Day, which commemorates the battle which took place here on 25 January 1644.

During the Civil Wars the loyalties of counties, towns and families were divided between the cause of Charles I, who believed in the ‘divine right’ of kings to do as he wished with his country, and the Parliamentarians who believed that the King should govern with the consent of parliament.

Cheshire, too, was split between the two factions: Chester was staunchly royalist, but Nantwich was Parliamentarian.  During the winter of 1643, Nantwich was besieged by Lord John Byron’s forces.  On 25 January, Sir Thomas Fairfax (‘Black Tom’) lifted the siege and many Royalist troops were captured.  

The Sealed Knot and the Holly Holy Day Society stage a thrilling re-enactment of the battle annually at Mill Island after a procession through the town centre. As you can see, the combatants sport wonderfully detailed costumes. During the battle, cannon and musket are fired, and a good time is had by all. We really enjoyed it!

Friday, 25 January 2013

200 Years of Pride & Prejudice!

Monday 28th January is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 1813. I never tire of reading it.   

Re-reading Jane’s novel isn’t just a case of re-discovering an old friend; it’s a journey of discovery, a realisation there were so many delights I missed last time.

 Pride and Prejudice is, first and foremost, a wonderful love story; but Jane Austen’s ‘darling child’ is much more than just a romance.  Her sparkling characters, her sure touch for comedy, and the elegance of her language are just the icing on the cake. 
There are so many layers of riches in her work; the exploration of an age-old human problem, some of the most dramatic scenes in English literature (Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth is my favourite), and, I believe, a closer acquaintance with Jane herself. 

I instinctively feel that Jane, a very private person, would not knowingly have created her own self-portrait for public display. However, many of Elizabeth’s speeches and her sense of fun bear an uncanny resemblance to some humorous passages in Jane’s letters.

When Elizabeth Bennett says, “I dearly love a laugh,” I can’t help thinking that this is the real Jane Austen, speaking to us in person.  

Images: The frontispiece to an 1833 edition of Pride and Prejudice, reproduced in R. Brimley Johnson, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family and Her Critics, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1930.
Gentlemen’s modes of 1811. French print, c.1830.
Chawton Cottage (Jane Austen’s House Museum), where Jane lived for the last eight years of her life. 

 © Sue Wilkes

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Lancashire Glass Ancestors

The deadline for my book is looming, so this is just a very quick post to say that my latest feature on tracing Lancashire glass ancestors appears in the February issue of BBC Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. And of course there's advice on finding out about your Lancashire ancestor's occupation in my new book.

Image from author's collection:

Rolling Plate Glass. Work and Workers, T.C. and E.C. Jack Ltd., c.1920.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Reviews of Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors

'I particularly chose this book to review because of my Lancashire ancestors, and I have not been disappointed.
I was fascinated with the opening story of Lancashire and its people...The ‘Matter of Religion’ is colourfully dealt with. It includes details of the trial of 19 people from the Pendle and Samlesbury areas being tried as witches, and this section also touches on parish registers, church records and marriage bonds etc
A chapter on ‘rags to riches’ follows showing how the new industries made fortunes for the mill owners.  It also highlights the dreadful living and working conditions of those working in them and in particular the children...
The last part of the book deals with how to search, which leads into a research guide and archive directory. Useful addresses in alphabetical order and two separate lists on free online resources and subscription ones make this book an invaluable companion'. Review by Marcia Kemp of HDFHS, FFHS website,
7 February 2013.  

‘Sue Wilkes’ latest book will be welcomed by family historians interested in Lancashire forebears, as it is perhaps the most comprehensive and wide-ranging work on the subject to date… it is good to see a book on family history that places so much emphasis on the context within which our forebears lived… Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors certainly deserves a place on the bookshelves of all those interested in the subject and local historians as well.’ Alan Crosby, BBC Who Do You Think You Are? magazine , January 2013.

 'Lancashire's rich social, cultural and industrial history has made the hunt for our ancestos an increasingly popular and addictive pastime. But family history novices often don't know where to start, so finding a trusty guide is an invaluable first step... No stone is left unturned in this fascinating and essential companion for anyone seeking out their Lancashire roots'. Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post, 3 January 2013. 

'Sue Wilkes's guide outlines the history of Lancashire, its industries, famous families and entrepreneurs, to give a real flavour of what life was like for residents in days gone by, as well as directing researchers to the many sources available... I found this book of great interest for the depth of its local and social, as well as family, history.  Lancashire was a birthplace of the industrial revolution and the story has been expertly woven into this useful guide, covering local sources from mining records to marriage bonds.  All life is here for those researching Lancashire forebears, and so are the archives and websites'.  Family Tree magazine, January 2013.