Unlike today’s affordable, disposable high street fashions, historically garments and accessories – whether professionally tailor/dressmaker-made, shop-bought or painstakingly hand-sewn – were considered valuable possessions and were expected to last. Even 60 or 70 years ago our parents and grandparents knew exactly what materials their clothes were made of and how to care for them properly, for optimum wear. Women usually took charge of their family’s laundry and understood the qualities of different fabrics, selecting their cleaning methods accordingly. Until the 1920s when artificial silk (rayon) became widely available, heralding a new era of synthetic drip-dry, non-iron fabrics, all textiles for clothing were woven from ‘natural’ fibres: linen, cotton, silk and wool, or fabrics containing a mixture of these. Many women wore silks and velvets for dressy occasions, linen and cotton for relaxed summer wear or workaday clothes, woollen fabrics for winter and sometimes as underwear. Some items were extremely difficult to look after, from heavy foundation garments to formal gowns with complex draperies and fragile trimmings, and even simple Victorian frocks unpicked before washing, then carefully sewn up again. Fine dresses could not be washed at all using water, so layers of underwear, including a shift/chemise, separate washable white collars and under-sleeves worn underneath protected costly fabrics from direct bodily contact.
In 1856 an 18-year-old Royal College of Chemistry student was experimenting at home in the holidays. His professor, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, had published a hypothesis on how it might be possible to synthesise quinine, an expensive natural substance that was in high demand for the treatment of malaria, from coal-tar. Hofmann, who was intrigued by the coal-tar that was a waste product of making gas, had spotted the ability of his young student and made him one of his assistants just the year before. The boy, William Henry Perkin, had entered the prestigious educational establishment, now part of Imperial College, when he was only 15 years old. Perkin was one of seven children of a successful carpenter and builder from the east end of London who had hoped that his son would become an architect but was prepared to fund his son’s scientific education.
Cycling is currently experiencing something of a renaissance in popularity in Britain. Road traffic statistics put the number of cycled miles in the UK during 2016 at 3.5 billion, an increase of 23% on a decade before. This renaissance is not just confined to Britain; there have been reported increases in cycle sales and use in Ireland and the United States, for example, following decades of decline as private car use soared. With cycling today being increasingly commonplace – seen as part of an environmentally responsible and active lifestyle – it is hard to imagine that not so long ago it was novel, innovative and even revolutionary.
Today, we get our crime news from a variety of sources. Newspapers are still read, but 21st century news is also gleaned from websites and social media, with police forces putting out information on Twitter, for example, and policemen even posing for selfies in front of crash scenes or the other scenes of crime, something that has recently got some officers into trouble.
For staunch unionists looking to shore up a wider historical narrative about the benefits of the 1707 Act which saw England and Scotland enter a political union for the first time, the Scottish Enlightenment is their proof that Unionism overwhelmingly benefited the Scottish people. Following unification, some of the greatest writers and thinkers flourished in a newly invigorated intellectual landscape, many of them able to rise up the ranks as previous prominent figures in law and politics moved to London to take up new opportunities.
The square of paper or hemmed fabric that we know as a ‘handkerchief’ was originally termed a ‘kerchief’, from the French words couvrir (‘to cover’) and chef, meaning ‘head’. Throughout the Middle Ages kerchiefs were generally worn as head-coverings, reflecting Christian notions of modesty and humility, King Richard II of England (1377-99) reportedly being the first recorded person to use a square cloth kerchief to wipe his nose. By the 1500s Europeans were carrying kerchiefs in a bag or pocket, for mopping their brow or wiping their nose, and these acquired the prefix hand – handkerchief - to distinguish these personal items from conventional head-coverings or kerchiefs.
At the end of Roman era in Britain (c410 AD) the inhabitants of this area were native Romano-Britons who spoke Cumbric, related to Old Welsh. During the Early Middle Ages Cumberland formed the core of the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. By the end of the 7th century most of Cumberland had been incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Most of modern-day Cumbria was ruled by Scotland at the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and thus was excluded from the Domesday Book survey of 1086. In 1092 Cumberland was invaded by William II and incorporated into England. The region was dominated by many wars and border skirmishes, and the raids of Border Reivers
Who was the murderer who committed an atrocity at an East End brothel in 1691? And was he ever caught? What superstitions lay behind the unfathomable slaughter of three innocent children at a remote farmhouse in County Durham in 1683? When was a parish constable murdered in cold blood by a party of men that allegedly included the illegitimate son of King Charles II? Where did violent, lethal confrontations occur between supporters and opponents of King James II during the so-called Bloodless Revolution of 1688? These cases, and many more, are explored in depth within this work, and harken back to a time of witchcraft purges, duelling and political assassinations, when the punishment for killing one’s fellow man or woman was either more barbaric than the crime itself, or corruptly lenient.
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