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Each issue is packed full of entertaining stories, case studies, social history articles and research advice – great for anyone starting out in family history research, for experienced researchers needing help overcoming stumbling blocks, and for those with a general interest in how our ancestors lived their lives.
As London baked under the sweltering summer of 1858, foul-smelling deeds were afoot. Several men were seen throwing dung into the river Thames from the pierhead at St Katharine’s Dock, and the summonses to court were applied for and granted – reluctantly – by an official named Mr Yardley. The *Morning Advertiser* picked up the story on 9 July, giving it the headline ‘The State of the Thames’…
The smell of the Great Stink, and fears of its possible effects on the population, elicited action from the national and local administrators who had been weighing up possible solutions. The authorities would eventually accept a proposal from the civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer of London's Metropolitan Board of Works, to move the effluent eastwards along a series of interconnecting sewers that sloped towards outfalls beyond the metropolitan area. It was not, however, a quick fix, taking many years to complete.
By the end of the Victorian era almost all British towns and cities had at least one public drinking fountain. Thousands of these survive as part of our modern townscape yet, since few of them still work, they are easy to walk past and ignore. This is a shame because they represent a huge step forward in public health, providing our ancestors with free, clean drinking water at a time when only the wealthy could enjoy this luxury in their own homes.
A high incidence of death and injury was one of the by-products of industrialisation. Although employers could profit handsomely from a person’s labour, the risks to life and limb posed by dangerous practices remained with every man, woman and child worker. Despite the inequality in bargaining power, employees were considered to have accepted whatever conditions their employer provided.
The search for my maternal biological grandparents started 15 years ago when my mother, Joy, was then in her seventies. I had started researching the maternal branch of my family tree and I could not find my mother’s birth certificate online. Furthermore and curiously, mum’s passport showed a birthplace in County Durham in the North of England, hundreds of miles from her parents’ home in Hampshire. When I asked her about all this she clammed up and, intrigued by her secrecy, I started to dig deeper.
They were the hinges of history when our fate lay with armies and our destiny with the outcome on a blood-soaked field. Over the coming months I’ll consider ten occasions when a clash of steel helped determine what happened next. I’m starting with Edington in 878 AD.
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