As 19th century Britain boomed in the Industrial Revolution, the traditional festival of Valentine’s Day was ripe for a makeover. Victorian entrepreneurs were always quick to spot business opportunities, and what was better than a card or two to smooth the path to the altar in a country which was awakening to the idea of romantic love?
Thomas Watson-Wentworth. The sheer range of records that have been preserved in record offices up and down the country is staggering. It was while working in Sheffield Archives, investigating the ways in which the coppice woods on the Irish estate of an absentee landlord earned large amounts of income, that I came across detailed entries in the estate account books of a trip in the early 1700s by the English landowner to his distant estates. And it must be emphasised to any reader who has not perused account books that they are not just boring lists of figures, they contain some fascinating information that can be used with other archive documents to paint a vivid picture of a place, a time and people. Because money was involved, either being received or paid out, no detail is spared. The records analysed here throw light on a number of related issues of interest to family and local historians, both professional and amateur: early travel, taking precautions against highwaymen, early migration, the transformation of the landscape, estate workers and tenants, to name a few.
In December 1878 a Birmingham chemist and inventor passed away aged 67. As a fellow of the Chemical Society, his obituary, in its journal, discussed at length his many skills and research. What the eulogy failed to even mention, however, was his 1837 invention that made him a household name, with his product still being a well-known brand to this day.
The 19th century saw a spate of theatrical disasters that prompted both headlines and calls for legislation to make these popular venues for entertaining Victorian safer. Many theatres crammed their audiences in; although some seats might be numbered, meaning that only one person could sit in the seat marked with that number, limiting the audience to the designed number, in other cases, people might share seats, or even stand – and if not in a seat, they might be allowed to stand in the aisles or gangways. There was little national guidance or legislation to make management create safe environments; instead, local building regulations varied from place to place, resulting in a patchwork of regulations that were inconsistently enforced. Safety measures might also be poor or non-existence either out of a lack of awareness, or a desire to save money: so there were not always safety (fire-proof) curtains, or fire buckets or hydrants, or rails and safety barriers on stairways. The lack of such measures contributed to the series of horrific incidents that occurred over the course of the century.
What we now call Stoke-on-Trent was actually formed in 1910 as a federation of six midlands pottery towns, namely Stoke-upon-Trent, Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall, Longton and Fenton – collectively they are also known as the Potteries. Stoke-on-Trent was given city status in 1925.
A year in the life of a peasant woman in medieval England is vividly evoked in this extraordinary fictionalised portrait of Marion, a carpenter’s wife, and her extended family. Based on years of research, Ann Baer brings to life the reality of a world that has been lost. Rising before dawn in a tiny village to a day of gruelling hard work, Marion and her husband face the daily struggle for survival. Starvation is never far away and travel to the next village is virtually unheard of. Existing without soap, paper or glass and with only the most basic of tools, sickness, fire and natural disaster ever threaten to engulf the small, tightly knit community. This is a unique approach to history, compressing decades of in-depth research on the Middle Ages into one single, immersive, compelling narrative.
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