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Monday, 28 July 2014

Not Long Now!

My forthcoming book A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England is now available for pre-order from Amazon UK (release date 30 October) and Amazon US.  Update 14 August: You can now also pre-order the book direct from Pen and Sword Books.
Discover Jane Austen's world and immerse yourself in the vanished world inhabited by Austen’s contemporaries. My book is an intimate exploration of how the upper and middle classes lived from 1775, the year of Austen’s birth, to her death in 1817. You can read some advance reviews here.
'Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?' Darcy meets Elizabeth in the park. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Jane Austen and Whitchurch

Jane Austen.
Visit my Jane Austen blog for my new post on the pretty town of Whitchurch in Hampshire.

Our Flanders Adventure IV: Loos Memorial

Harry Dickman, Lancashire Fusiliers.
Our next stop on our Flanders journey was Loos Memorial (Dud Corner) in France, where the deaths of two of my great-uncles are commemorated. Harry and Herbert Dickman both volunteered to serve in 1915, but were killed within a few weeks of each other in 1916. Their bodies were never found.

This was a very moving moment for me as I have wanted to visit their memorials and pay my respects for a long time.

I felt sad when my visit was over, but the Loos Memorial seems a very fitting last resting place for my relatives as they were both Lancashire miners.

Harry Dickman, Loos Memorial panel, Lancs Fusiliers.
Dud Corner is sited in a mining area, and immense coal spoil heaps loom large on the horizon. But you can hear the birds singing, and the cemetery is bright with flowers.

Loos Memorial

Herbert Dickman, Loos Memorial panel, Royal Fusiliers.

Original modern photos © Sue Wilkes.
Photo of Harry Dickman in uniform published by kind permission of Mandy Taylor (to whom copyright is reserved). I am very grateful indeed to Mandy for letting me include this lovely photo of our ancestor. 


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Our Flanders Adventure III: Silent Witnesses

A silent memorial: the black marks on this tree stump (left) at the In Flanders Fields Museum (see my previous blog post) bears witness to the terrific bombing and shelling of Ypres during the Great War. The tree first grew in 1760, the year when George III came to the throne, and it was 235 years old when felled in 1994.
The tree ring marked #4 is 1815, the battle of Waterloo; #7 is 1865, the end of the American Civil War, and #10 marks the start of WW1 in 1914.

Storm clouds and rain over the Flanders fields behind the 'Cross of Sacrifice' at Tyne Cot.

Our next stop on our Belgian journey into the past was a visit to Tyne Cot near Passchendaele. It's the largest CWGC graveyard and memorial in the world, and it was sobering to see how many brave men are remembered there; almost three-quarters of the graves are of unknown soldiers. Like all the war grave sites, it's immaculately kept, and a very peaceful place. It's very difficult to imagine that battle raged here for so many months. 
If your ancestors died in the Great War, you can search the CWGC website for their memorial.

The remains of a German pillbox at Tyne Cot.

The remains of a blockhouse or pillbox, now a memorial, at Tyne Cot which was captured by the 3rd Australian Division in 1917.

All photos © Sue Wilkes.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Philip Astley, Father of the Modern Circus

My latest post on my Jane Austen blog is on Philip Astley and his Amphitheatre, where thrilling equestrian performances were staged in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Astley's Amphitheatre is also the focus of my latest article, the cover story for the July issue of Jane Austen's Regency World.