This month we commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) – 8 May 1945, when the Allied powers in the Second World War formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany’s armed forces. Joyful celebrations broke out throughout Britain, North America and much of the western world as nearly six years of military conflict ended in Europe. With many servicemen and women still overseas, civilians keeping the home fires burning welcomed the restoration of peace and a return
Its name today takes on connotations that make you wonder what its purpose is – but the inscription over the windows of this rather grand Victorian building on the waterfront at Ramsgate, in Kent, means something very different. Smack today is best known as a drug; but in the 19th century, the smacks that were well known in this seaside town were small boats, designed for fishing – and the building that remembers the boys who once worked on them was designed to give them a home where they could rest and be fed between exhausting shifts at sea. It also helped boys, who were usually drawn from workhouses, to be apprenticed to these smack boats.
He was an English barrister known for his calm and charming manner – a manner that was somewhat at odds with his bulldog relentlessness when it came to defending those accused of the most serious crimes. His attitude could be very much of his time, however, and his comments about some of the women he came into contact with are, to modern eyes, both unpleasant and misogynistic. His role, though, was important, and it led to his involvement with such highprofile cases as one involving the Titanic’s owners in 1913, aiming to award relatives of the deceased £100 each in compensation.
It can be tempting to think that our ancestors were very different from us, that they were more straight laced and that unmarried couples living together is a totally modern-day phenomenon. Our research, however, can sometimes find that not all of them conformed to the norm. Some married a person much older or younger than themselves, while others were not wed at all.
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The Industrial Revolution transformed Britain as many traditional crafts and cottage industries gave way to large-scale, mechanised factory production manned by staff whose working lives were regulated by the clock. When Samuel Gregg built a cotton textile mill at Quarry Bank, Styall, Cheshire in 1784, his apprentice indentures indicated provision of clothes, along with food and training. Some industrialists also offered clothing prizes to their workforce to encourage production, like Richard Arkwright at his Derbyshire cotton-spinning mill. Early mill-workers dressed similarly to other labourers: men wore breeches or, from the 1810s/20s, trousers, often removing jackets and waistcoats to work in light shirt sleeves. Female dress was cumbersome in hot and humid, or dusty, airless conditions, long skirts being easily caught in moving machinery, layers of underwear unbearably stifling.
After the Romans left, small Celtic kingdoms arose in Yorkshire. An army of Danish Vikings invaded Northumbrian territory in 866 AD. The Danes conquered what is now York and renamed it Jórvík, making it the capital city of a new Danish kingdom under the same name, the only truly Viking territory established on mainland Britain. The division of Yorkshire into three historic ‘Ridings’ (North, East and West) was made by the Danes (South Yorkshire is a modern division, split off from the West Riding in 1972).
Related to Phoebe? I am writing in connection with the article on Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the Discover Your Ancestorsmagazine, Issue 9, page 92-97. After reading the article, I am wondering if she is a distant relation of mine. It is mentioned that Waller- Bridge are landed gentry of Cuckfield, Sussex. I have recently discovered my 6x-great-grandfather, Alexander Bridges (1713-81), is landed gentry, my 7x-great-grandfather of the same name was born in Cuckfield, Sussex in 1673, and my 8x-great-grandfather also of the same name (1638-1714) was living there. These links, plus the similarity in our names, makes me wonder if there is a connection. James Bridges
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