The summer holidays have arrived and for many it’s off to the beach! Our love of the seaside dates back centuries, originating with the spas visited for therapeutic purposes. In about 1626 a natural spring was discovered beneath cliffs near Scarborough, offering mineral water that proved an effective remedy for minor ailments. Sea water began to be identified as having similar curative properties to spring water and learned medical publications extolled the benefits of both sea bathing and drinking sea water. Subsequently Scarborough evolved into a sophisticated commercialised town, Britain’s first seaside resort; by the mid-1700s Brighton, Margate, Weymouth and other well-appointed coastal settlements were also attracting a wealthy, fashionable clientele.
It is interesting how neighbourhoods in which our ancestors lived may have changed from being fashionable areas only to drop down the social ladder, and then rise again. It was while I was looking at the history of the area of St Giles in London, west of Drury Lane, that I found a place with a long history of attracting the impoverished and yet also containing a once comfortably-well-off person’s house.
When looking at faded old photographs of our ancestors, it’s easy to forget that they inhabited a world as full of sensory experiences as our own. Indeed, their lives might have buzzed with many sound, tastes, textures and smells which are now largely lost to us unless we make an effort to investigate them. The most overlooked of our ancestors’ experiences are probably the olfactory ones, and there may be a number of different clues to these among family papers or inherited items. Look for references to smells in family letters and diaries, include questions about smell in your oral history interviews of elderly relatives (see below) and contemplate the smell of inherited items such as old apple-presses, desks, snuffboxes, perfume bottles and clothing. From all the information you have about your ancestor you will probably be able to imagine what the smell-scape of his or her life might have been. And, a consideration of smell will not simply bring your ancestors’ lives more fully to life, it will also help you to understand something more about them – either about the part of the country from which they came, their religion, ethnicity, class, gender or occupation.
James W Marshall made history, and fortunes, in the 19th century. This one man was digging at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, one day in January 1848 when he found gold – and his actions led to a flood of some 300,000 people to the state, thinking they would make their fortune. These gold-diggers were drawn not only from other states of the US, but also from further afield, including Britain – and they led the way for a series of goldfield discoveries during the rest of the century that saw people travel across the Atlantic not only to California but also further north, to the Klondike of the north-west.
In 1904, an ordinary looking, middle-aged couple appeared in court to answer various charges. Charles Yates Stephenson and his wife, Martha, were well dressed, literate and well spoken. They were also two of the targets of a concerted effort by the Metropolitan Police to clamp down on a surfeit of fraudulent clairvoyants and spiritualists who were flocking the capital, advertising their services in the press, and encouraging the vulnerable, the grieving and the unhappy residents of the capital to pay good money to hear platitudes – voices of their dead loved ones, allegedly speaking beyond the grave.
TheGenealogist has released the second part of its exciting new record set, The Lloyd George Domesday Survey. This major new release can be used to find where an ancestor lived in 1910 in the area around Barnet, Edgware, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Hendon and Totteridge. This unique combination of maps and residential data, held by The National Archives and being digitised by TheGenealogist, can precisely locate your ancestor’s house on large scale and exceptionally detailed hand-annotated maps that indicates the exact property.
The first mechanical time pieces were large, static clocks, but in the early 1500s smaller wearable versions were developed using simple spring devices that did not need power from falling weights. A innovation of immense significance, these portable ‘clock-watches’ enabled humans to track time, plan schedules and organise the flow of daily life, ultimately transforming civilisation.
The Romans began settling Gloucester in the first century AD on account of it being next to the lowest point where the River Severn could be crossed. The city prospered, even after the Fall of Rome, although we know little of its subsequent life (under the Celts) until the Saxon Chronicles report of its capture in 577.
11 o’clock on the morning of 11 November 1918 heralded the end of a frightful era of bloody fighting and loss that affected every corner of the globe. However, upon the signing of the Armistice, sadness and mourning was briefly set aside to celebrate the close of the final chapter of this ‘war to end all wars’. While on the front lines, some spontaneous fraternisation did happen, the prevailing response was muted by sheer exhaustion; meanwhile, back home families rejoiced at the prospect of their men returning home – of there being a brighter future for their children. Here, using Mirrorpix’s formidable archive of contemporary images, we see fantastic scenes of jubilation, relief and homecoming, as well as commemoration of those lost and hints of what the future might hold.
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