For millennia Britons have been trading goods with neighbouring and overseas communities, and ever since governments first tried to control domestic and international commerce, ‘smuggling’ has existed. Historically, this meant failure to pay the taxes required by law when importing certain categories of foreign items, avoidance of export duties on British commodities and evading regulations governing internal trade.
Between the late 17th and early 19th centuries, a motley band of men were ensconced in a fort on the Gold Coast of West Africa, which is Ghana today. These men were members of the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading with Africa, trading commodities with local communities – the area was, as the name suggests, home to gold as well as mahogany. For a long time, however, they also traded people: they were slave traders.
In the middle of the 1800s a family of jewellers built a business in London making timepieces and trading in gold. The generations that followed would continue to keep good time, whether it was in the jewellery line or in the very different one of pursuing speed records for Britain. They were the Campbells and we can meet some of them in the 1851 census for Paddington, where the household consisted of Andrew Campbell, his wife Jane and children Arthur, aged 6, William, 5, and daughters Jane (2) and Elizabeth (3 months). They were all looked after by two servants and a nurse for the children
A splendid church recalls the Somerset town of Shepton Mallet’s past as a wool town. Cider-making, brewing, shoe and glove making all prospered, and the fine market cross watched over people trading in the square. Methodist preacher John Wesley got a hostile reception here, as did the ‘Spinning Jenny’, which threatened jobs by industrialising textile manufacture. Today, the Bath and West Show is hosted close by at a 240-acre site. None of this brought me to Shepton Mallet, though: it was the old prison, HMP Cornhill, aka ‘The Mallet’, that drew me like a Black Maria delivering a dangerous prisoner.
In September 1921, Charlie Chaplin travelled to Southampton from New York on the RMS Olympic to publicise The Kid, Chaplin’s first full-length feature film, which would go on to become the second highest grossing film of the year. Arriving at platform 14 of Waterloo Station on 7 September, he was met by his cousin, Aubrey – and thousands of screaming fans, who all clamoured to catch a glimpse of their idol. ‘A fierce roar of the great crowds smote his ears,’ wrote one newspaper, while The Times added: ‘At Waterloo the stage might have been set for the homecoming of Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Lord Haig rolled into one.’ Escorted by police into a waiting limousine, Chaplin passed through Waterloo, down York Road and over Westminster Bridge. Returning to London after a nine-year absence, Chaplin marvelled at the new LCC building, but was moved by the ‘solemn’ sight of the Houses of Parliament, which left him on the verge of tears.
TheGenealogist’s Map Explorer, the powerful mapping tool for family historians, has been boosted by the addition of four new counties of georeferenced tithe maps into the record set layer. Diamond subscribers of TheGenealogist can now view the Victorian tithe maps linked to apportionment records for Cornwall, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Worcestershire. These historic maps are overlaid on the modern and historical maps of the base and middle layers. This enables the user to see the land as it appeared through time.
Linen is an ancient material and derives from flax (Linum usitatissimum) – one of the oldest continuously cultivated crops. For millennia, the flax plant has been valued for its seed, which is both edible and pressed to produce linseed oil, and for the fibre. Historians suggest that early humans gathering flax seeds also started collecting the tough, flexible flax stalks, intertwining them with vertical stakes to create wind breaks, or laying them across streams to trap fish. After prolonged weather exposure, the outer stalk bark would have rotted away, revealing the attractive and useful fibres underneath.
At the time of the Norman Conquest, Berkshire formed part of the Earldom of Harold, and supported him staunchly at the Battle of Hastings. This loyalty was punished by very sweeping confiscations, and at the time of the Domesday survey no estates of any importance were left in the hands of Englishmen. Much of the early history of the county is recorded in the Chronicles of the Abbey of Abingdon, which at the time of the survey was second only to the crown in the extent and number of its possessions. The assizes were formerly held at Reading, Abingdon and Newbury.
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