My grandparents’ house is perched on the side of a steep hill, and standing in the middle of the street you can just about see the old steam railway weaving through the valley below. The stone façade of their Victorian terraced cottage is black from the smoke that used to hang over the former mining village. It’s tiny inside, a typical two-up two-down, and venturing into the outdoor loo (unusually still serving its original purpose!) is like stepping back in time. It’s intriguing to think how many families have called this place home over the decades.
Although Scottish parish registers helpfully allow us to trace who our ancestors were, it is the records of the kirk sessions that more specifically help us to understand how the Kirk worked within society as an institution. The registers of individual kirk sessions not only recall the everyday administrations of a church’s elders and minister, but also provide a record for one of the session’s primary functions – its role as the lowest of the Kirk’s courts.
In 2014, the UK toy market was worth an estimated £3 billion; the equivalent figure in the US was a staggering $22 billion. Toys and games are a significant business in the Western world, and it is hard for us today to imagine a childhood without them. Imagine your own childhood for a moment; a lot of your memories will be punctuated by your favourite toys, or the ones you longed for but never had. Toys change quickly in the modern world, following fashions, fads and educational trends – the popular items of today will be quite different to the things you played with, which in turn will be different to those of your parents, grandparents and ancestors from the deeper past.
Charcoal making is thousands of years old. Metal smelting first took place across Europe in prehistoric times from about 1500 BC to smelt tin and copper (to make bronze) and then iron. The fuel used in the metal-smelting process from these early times until the 18th century, when Abraham Darby perfected the use of coke, was charcoal. But charcoal was still used well into the 20th century in the manufacture of blister steel and as a moulding material in iron foundries. Today in Britain the traditional method of making charcoal is now restricted to woodland craft demonstrations. But archaeological evidence of charcoal making remains in surviving woodlands and the English landscape is full of place-names indicating well-established charcoal-making locations. These include the Anglo-Saxon place-names of Cowley in South Yorkshire, which means woodland clearing where charcoal was made, Cowlersley in West Yorkshire (the colliers’ clearing) and Colsterdale in North Yorkshire (the valley of the charcoal makers). ‘Coal’ in early documents usually means charcoal and charcoal makers were formerly called wood colliers.
Like so many historic shipping companies, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) had humble beginnings. Formed by partners Brodie McGhie Willcox, a London ship broker, and Arthur Anderson, a sailor from the Shetland Isles, to operate on a single route, it grew to become arguably the most influential shipping company in the British Empire.
Historic treasures are to be revealed from a Chester museum and displayed for the first time in what historians believe to be the world’s only citywide museum. Thirty businesses in the heart of Chester city centre will become minimuseums and securely display never-before-seen artefacts from Chester Grosvenor Museum’s vaults as part of ‘Hoot’s Route’, a unique citywide museum trail which has just launched to the public.
Often referred to as the ‘Modern Domesday’, the Return of Owners of Land of 1873 – which can be accessed at The Genealogist website, www.thegenealogist.co.uk – provides family historians and genealogists with a unique snapshot of the distribution of landed property in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, the first of its kind since 1086’s more famous survey.
Swimwear originated in the 1700s when sea bathing became a new pursuit. The costumes worn at early resorts such as Scarborough and Brighton mirrored those used for the thermal baths at Bath and resembled undergarments. Initially some men bathed naked, following time-honoured tradition, but most wore linen drawers and, as modesty grew increasingly important, added a jacket-like ‘waistcoat’. Women typically donned a voluminous shift of stout linen or flannel, the hems sometimes weighted down. Nudity was prohibited on most public Victorian beaches and at first men wore short trunks, while female attire followed fashion. Illustrations from the 1860s depict heavy woollen flannel or serge ‘paletot’ ladies’ bathing dresses with fitted bodices and full skirts, echoing contemporary crinoline gowns but worn knee-length, with bloomer-style ‘Turkish’ trousers. Linen caps protected the head from the cold, while sunhats shaded delicate faces. Victorian swimwear advanced slowly, although gradually female garments became briefer, bloomers rising to calf-length and sleeves growing shorter. Meanwhile, by the late-1800s male swimsuits usually incorporated a sleeved chest section, for to bare the chest was now considered unseemly. These close-fitting woollen leotard-like suits were suited to energetic male swimming, whereas most ladies bobbed around genteelly in the sea.
Shropshire was established during the division of Saxon Mercia into shires in the 10th century. It is first mentioned in 1006. The border with Wales was only defined in the first half of the 16th century – the hundreds of Oswestry and Pimhill (including Wem), and part of Chirbury had previously formed various lordships in the Welsh Marches.
The Scum of the Earth follows the men Wellington called just that from victory at Waterloo to a Regency Britain at war with itself, and explodes some of the myths on the way; such as that the defeat of Napoleon ended the threat of revolution spreading from France. Did the victorious soldiers return to a land fit for heroes? They did not. There was the first of the Corn Laws in the same year as the battle, there was famine and chronic unemployment. In 1819, the Peterloo massacre saw 15 killed and at least 500 injured when cavalry sabred a crowd demanding parliamentary reform. Peace in Europe perhaps for 50 years – but at home, repression and revolution in the air. And at the same time, the sheer exuberance of the Regency period, with new buildings, new art, even 17 new colonies more or less accidentally acquired.
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