The adoption of ‘disguises’ dates back millennia, masks and special costumes playing an important role in magical and religious rites, as well as public spectacles and celebrations. By the 19th century, occasions for donning ‘fancy dress’ were plentiful and appearing in costume is something that will have involved many of our more recent ancestors and relatives.
It was 1844. Queen Victoria was just 25 years old, but had already been queen for seven years. Charlotte Brontë and her siblings Emily and Anne were all alive, and scribbling away, although within four years Emily would be dead, followed a year later by her younger sister Anne. It was the early Victorian period, an era of gigot sleeves and crinolines; Robert Peel was prime minister with a Conservative government in power.
Born on 6 May 1894 in Camberwell, London, Alan John Cobham was fascinated by flight from an early age. In his boyhood he built and flew giant kites on Streatham Common, London, which only occasionally ended with a crash landing. After a visit to Brooklands Aerodrome in Surrey, it is said, he was prompted to build a bicycle-powered flying machine along with a friend – though this flying machine never managed to get airborne. When he was a teenager, and his school education had run its unspectacular course at Wilson’s Grammar School, it was not aviation that he gravitated to but farming. His agricultural job only came about, however, after a very brief spell in the clothing wholesale business. The farm at Brockbury on which he went to work had been owned by his father’s cousin and yet, aged 16 in the 1911 census, he is recorded at home in Streatham and with no occupation listed. The book A Time to Fly written by Alan Cobham himself (Shepheard-Walwyn, 1978) tells of some financial difficulties that caused him to quit as a farmhand at the end of 1913. With his career in agriculture cut short, Alan returned to London and according to his book he found employment with Hicks & Smith, a lingerie company.
There can be no argument that a sailor’s life has always involved more than its fair share of hardship, especially during the age of sail. Unfortunately, even the best writers about this period have tended to let their imaginations dominate their thinking and so tales of iron-thewed men existing on weevil-ridden biscuits, rotten meat and drinking water alive with greenery are found throughout contemporary literature, obscuring the true facts, which, as usual, turn out to be far more interesting than any fictional account.
TheGenealogist has released a collection of colour tithe maps for Bedfordshire to join the previously published greyscale maps in its National Tithe Records collection. This release of attractive colour digitised maps will provide the family historian with highly detailed plans sourced from The National Archives (TNA). TheGenealogist has linked these to the appropriate apportionment books that provide researchers with the details of the plots, their owners and their occupiers at the time that the survey was taken in Victorian times. These make the maps easier to understand as the streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, houses and trees are often highlighted in different colours.
During the 1860s and 1870s horse-drawn tramcars began operating in London and the provinces. The earliest tram drivers wore a formal frock coat and top hat, but soon favoured a more fashionable, shorter morning coat or jacket and bowler hat. In winter, an overcoat was teamed with a large apron or rug wrapped high around the chest. From the outset, most tram conductors were distinguished from drivers by their neat ‘kepi’-style peaked caps, and over time some adopted smart brass-buttoned jackets: even when wearing regular clothes, many conductors sported a cap bearing their tram company badge, the regulation PSV licence tag prominently displayed. Leather money satchels and new Bell Punch ticket machines were introduced in the 1880s, adding an efficient, business-like air. Yet there was great regional variety in Victorian tram crews’ attire, some companies issuing uniforms and insignia to their staff, while many never developed a recognisable uniform during the horse-drawn era.
The medieval era is often associated with dynastic struggles, gruesome wars and the formidable influence of the Church. But what about the everyday experience of the royal subjects and common people? Here, alongside the coronations, diplomatic dealings and key battles, can be found the fabric of medieval life as it was really lived, in its folk songs, recipes and local gossip. With a diverse range of entries – one for each day of the year – historian Toni Mount provides an almanac for lovers of all things medieval
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