This blog is a selection of interesting things I've come across during my history research. I have a wide interest in history ranging from Wars of the Roses, country houses, Stuarts, Georgians, Louis XIV, Napoleon and criminals. So expect to see a bit of everything on here, with a focus on little known stories.
Hi everyone, apologies for the silence over the last few months. You may remember that my deadline for my Anthony Woodville biography was coming up. It was originally 1 May, but around Easter, I caught Covid and was quite poorly with it, which meant I had to ask for an extension. Thankfully my publishers gave me an extra month, which has helped so much, but it’s been a lot of hard work to get it done, but I’ve finally managed it and it’s now ready to send to the publishers.
After nearly 8 years of researching the life of Anthony Woodville, it feels strange that the book is a step closer to being out there. Of course I will update you when I know more. I want to give a massive thank you to Amberley Publishing for the opportunity they’ve given me.
Thankfully though, I think it means that I can get back to blogging and other research. I have missed delving into lots of different things, so I hope you will enjoy some of the things that will be coming up.
Last year I conducted research into the conditions of Napoleonic prisoners of war held in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. I wrote about my findings in two blog posts for the archives I work at, as well as talking through my findings with a lovely local group that I was involved with at the time. That went very well and all who heard about it said it was a very interesting topic.
Since then I have looked into the parish registers at the time and found a lot of examples of the prisoners and how they married and had children with local women. The most interesting find for me is that one prisoner brought his Egyptian wife to Chesterfield, whilst another brought his Caribbean servant with him. For this reason, I added it to my list of possible talks I could be booked to do and I’m so glad that I did as I have been booked to do it twice more.
The first will be for the Be Bold History Network, a group that connects history knowledge with the classroom. I did a talk for them back in 2021, talking about my book research on Anthony Woodville and was kindly invited back any time. So I will be giving the talk on Wednesday 9th of February. Whilst it is aimed at teachers, anyone is welcome to attend.
Well 2022 has been another strange year for me. The majority of this year has been disturbed thanks to building work at home. That has meant that I haven’t been able to get as much of things done as I would have liked, including not doing as much work on my Anthony Woodville biography as I would have liked. It did also mean that working from home came to an abrupt end. Whilst I miss aspects of that, it has been nice to get back into the archive building I work in. It’s meant being able to hold original documents again for the first time in a very long time, rather than looking at scanned versions on a computer screen.
Thankfully though, my blog work hasn’t been much affected and I hope that you have enjoyed the content that has been created this year. It has been the most successful year yet in terms of views since I started this blog four years ago. For that reason, I just want to take the time to thank each and every person who has read, shared, liked and followed the blog this year. It genuinely means a lot to me to see people enjoy the blog. The best post of all this year has been about William Morgan, who translated the first Welsh Bible. That can be read here.
I would also like to thank the people who have done guest posts for the blog this year. It has been a privilege to host such varied and interesting posts. The most popular of these guests posts has been Isabel and Hamelin de Warenne by historian, Sharon Bennett Connolly. It can be viewed here. There have also been a few firsts when it comes to guest posts too. One was a press release about the archaeology survey work at Greasley Castle in Nottinghamshire conducted by Triskele Heritage. James Wright of Triskele Heritage was kind enough to send the release and it can be viewed here. The other first was a book tour to celebrate the publication last month of Gemma Hollman’s latest book, The Queen and the Mistress: The Women of Edward III. If you’re interested, the post can be read here. I wish Gemma all the very best with it and I hope a few of you were given it as a Christmas present!
Back in September, I also returned to Bath for the Jane Austen Festival. It was our second year participating and it was a joy to be involved. This year, my parents also joined in, which was great to see. A big thank you once again to my sister for sewing our beautiful dresses! However, our holiday in Bath was also marked by the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II. It felt like a very surreal thing as it felt like one bit of stability we had in these very turbulent times was gone. We all wore black armbands and observed a minute’s silence in honour of her on the day of the promenade. I still miss the Queen in many ways but it was so interesting to witness a historical moment during her lying in state and funeral.
I also helped out at the first ever Derbyshire Georgian Festival. I helped out on a stall for work (the Derbyshire Record Office), where we showed some of the Georgian era collections. As we were at a mill, we also took some items relating to millworkers. I was also able to have my own table showcasing my research into the period that I have done for the blog. Of course I did this dressed in my Regency dress!
On happier news, I have been booked for two talks in February, including my first paid one, on some research I did this year on Napoleonic prisoners of war in Chesterfield, a town in my home county of Derbyshire. The group I am doing the paid talk for have also suggested that I might be able to go back and do some more. I was able to find out about the conditions the prisoners were held in and the fate of two officers, General Joseph Exelmans and Colonel Auguste de la Grange, who managed to escape. I can’t wait to share the interesting stories this research has shown with more people. There is also the possibility of finally doing a talk I was booked for in April 2020 about my research into Anthony Woodville, for the local branch of the Richard III Society, which I have been a member of since I was nine years old. Fingers crossed for that too! If you would like to know more about the talks I can do, I have added a specific page on the blog for them.
Following on from my research into Anthony Woodville, I have so far written 50,000 words of my 80,000 word target that my publishers set me. My deadline for it all is the 1st of May 2023. Hopefully I can get it all done by then. It does seem to have crept up on me! Sometimes I still can’t quite believe that after so many years of researching his life, I’m finally so close to having the book out. I will of course update you all after it’s been submitted about any possible publication date. Again on the Anthony theme, I was gifted an Anthony Woodville felt Christmas decoration by a friend and colleague, which he had made for me by a local shop. It’s just the best!!
All that is left now is to wish you all a healthy and wonderful 2023. Most importantly, thank you all once again for your support over the last year. Each and every view, like and share means a lot to me, so I pass on my hearty thanks and love to all of you.
Today marks the fourth anniversary of the blog. I would just to take the chance to thank all the followers, readers and supporters over those three years. It honestly means a lot that people read and love the content I produce. Whilst this is a hobby, history, and sharing it with others, is my passion. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the stories I write about for many more years to come.
Last week, I was away on holiday in Bath, one of my favourite places. On the way there, we stopped of to visit Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire. It is well-known for being the prison and place of death for Edward II, but the castle is so much more. Despite it raining quite badly, it is such a big place, that this really didn’t matter. There are so many wonderful things to see there, including a chest supposedly owned by Sir Francis Drake. I would honestly recommend it to everyone, as it is well worth a visit. A favourite thing for me was all the beautiful paintings and portraits, which were explained very well. However, I feel I must also apologise to the American tourists I feel I must have scared with my rather exuberant enthusiasm.
St Mary’s Church next door to Berkeley Castle is also a must visit. It may look like an ordinary medieval church from the outside, but inside it is fantastic. Whilst I have seen so many photos of medieval church wall paintings, I haven’t really seen many in person, but this church was full of so many beautiful examples. It is also the last resting place of many of the Jenner family, who lived next door, of whom Edward Jenner, the inventor of the vaccination, was one of them.
Once again I took part in the promenade of the Jane Austen Festival promenade for the second year running. A massive thank you to my sister for all her hard work in sewing all of the costumes!! Compared to last year, which had around 300 people taking part there were so many more people. It was quite easily about 500 people this year who came from all over the world. Everyone is so friendly and made us feel very welcome, so if anyone would like to take part in the future, please come and join us. You can find out more about the festival using the following link.
Our holiday was of course marked by the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on the 8th September. For the Jane Austen promenade, we marked her passing by wearing black armbands and observing a minute’s silence.
I have always been very fond of the Queen as she has maintained a faithful and loyal service over the United Kingdom and has often been a source of comfort. Some regular readers will remember that I wrote a piece for the Historians Magazine only a few months ago honouring the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip. Their wedding day was the day my mum was born, so for me, the Queen has always been a part of my family. Little did I know that actually, that would be my last tribute to her. You can read about that article here.
I wanted to take the time to offer my sincere condolences to the Royal Family in their time of grief. I also give my thanks for all the Queen has done and the kindness and love she has shown to so many people. For me, as well as many others, this is a very sad time, but I will certainly remember how well she served as an example to us all.
During the summer, I have been working for a community based charity local to me, called Blue Box Belper. Their aim is to offer community events in a town called Belper in Derbyshire, as well as to raise money for a brand new community centre. Me and another girl, Abi, have been helping out at some of their events, as well as pitching some new ideas for them.
One of the events I’ve been helping out at has a catchy title, ‘Cuppa Cake Chat’, which does what it says on the tin really. It’s a nice informal coffee morning, where sometimes guest speakers, or members of the group, share about themselves. It was my turn this week. As many of you regular followers will have guessed, I decided to make it history themed. I must admit I had to think for a while about what to talk on as I wanted something quite interesting and not too heavy. Thankfully, I had the perfect topic to talk about from some of my current research on Napoleonic prisoners of war in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
Back in March, following a trip to Ludlow in Shropshire, I discovered that Napoleon’s brother, Lucien, had been held prisoner there during the Napoleonic Wars. With my curiosity piqued, I brought a book on his time imprisoned, which also made some references to how other prisoners of war were kept at that time. In the same book, I saw a sentence explaining how two prisoners, called General Joseph Exelmans and Colonel Auguste de la Grange, had escaped from Chesterfield.
As little was mentioned about how they’d escaped, I decided to look more into it, as well as the conditions for the prisoners in Chesterfield at that time. That led me to an utterly fascinating discovery of many different and interesting stories, which I don’t really have the time to share now. It’s an amazing story and one that I’m glad I’m now able to share as it is something that seems to have been lost.
If you would like to know more, please to have a read of the two blog posts I wrote for my work at the local archives in Derbyshire, known as the Derbyshire Record Office, please do click here and here. I promise that they are full of entertaining and exciting things!
Back in April, I was kindly invited by the team at The Historians Magazine to contribute an article for their special edition commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s seventy years on the throne for the Platinum Jubilee. Whilst on the whole, that isn’t my forte, I agreed to contribute an article about the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip. You may ask why I agreed if this isn’t my usual thing. In fact, there was a deeply personal reason for choosing to write on the Queen and Philip, which I sadly didn’t have time to discuss in the article I wrote.
My Mum was born on the 20th November 1947, the exact day that the Queen and Prince Philip married. For that reason, as well as my admiration for the long lasting relationship the couple had, meant I always knew what I wanted to write the article on. Whenever I see photos of the wedding, I can’t help but always feel a sense of happiness for the couple, but always think of my mum too.
My Mum always told me that my Grandma, despite being in labour, demanded she watched the wedding on the television, which was a fairly new thing back then. In fact, she said she would hold off until it was over because nothing would stop her seeing the wedding! I never knew my Grandma, as she sadly died when my mum was five years old, just three weeks before the Queen’s coronation. Still, this is my tribute to both my Mum and my Grandma. I’m sure she’d have found it very surreal that I would be writing about that day, but I hope that she would have been proud too.
You can buy a copy of the latest edition of The Historians Magazine, or view this edition and previous ones, through the magazine’s website, by clicking here.
Thank you to James Wright of Triskele Heritage for this press release, really exciting stuff here!
Archaeological survey work by Dr James Wright of Triskele Heritage, funded by the Castle Studies Trust, has revealed exciting new evidence that Greasley Castle in Nottinghamshire once rivalled world-famous Haddon Hall in size and appearance.
The castle, lying 8 miles to the north-west of Nottingham, was built in the mid-fourteenth century for the soldier and politician Nicholas de Cantelupe. “Greasley Castle is an enigmatic site,” says Dr Wright, “but the project has allowed us to understand this astonishing place for the first time.”
The survey shows that the site was a courtyard castle with corner turrets. It had a fine great hall accessed via an impressive doorway. The room was illuminated by tracery windows flanking an early example of a recessed fireplace. Fragments of stonework reveal that the decoration at the castle was magnificent and include carved head sculptures, moulded copings, and the crown of a vault.
The castle was a prestigious building that allowed Cantelupe to display his power and status. In 1343, Cantelupe hosted the archbishop of York at Greasley, along with several other bishops, earls and knights, during a ceremony to found nearby Beauvale Priory.
“The castle was very similar to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire,” states Wright, “it was built around the same time and the layout of the great hall is comparable. The owners of castles were often inspired by one another’s buildings – although Greasley was slightly bigger than Haddon.” Haddon Hall, the home of Lord and Lady Manners, is a beautifully preserved late mediaeval building known the world over due to its appearance in television and film as the location for productions including The Princess Bride, Pride and Prejudice and The Other Boleyn Girl.
In 1485, Greasley was confiscated Henry VII after a later owner of the castle – John Lord Zouche – supported the doomed Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. A century later, records show that the site had been turned into a farm. The survey has been able to identify the remains of the castle surviving among later farm buildings.
Jeremy Cunnington, of the Castle Studies Trust said: “The Castle Studies Trust is delighted to have funded this work and provide a good understanding of this important, but little understood castle. We hope it will provide a base from which others can build on to learn more about this significant Nottinghamshire castle.”
Sarah Seaton of Greasley Castle Farm History Project said: “Triskele Heritage have done amazing research on behalf of the Castle Studies Trust and we are so grateful to be able to finally share the story of such an important landmark with the wider community.”
The Castle Studies Trust is a charity and is fully funded by public donations. To learn more about these and previous projects the trust has funded people can visit the Trust’s website: http://www.castlestudiestrust.org
Things have been a bit hectic here lately with lots of things going off here, so thought it would be best to explain what’s happening. Before I start though, I want to make it clear I will still be blogging, but it may reduce to one post a month from now on. There are still so many stories I want to share, so I will continue doing that for as long as I possibly can do. I also want to take the time to say thank you to all you readers and followers of the blog. It means a lot that people are interested in what I write.
Next week marks the 100th Anniversary of the first Remembrance Day here in the UK and to mark it, I’ll be writing about Walter Tull. He was one of the first black professional footballers and the first black officer in the British Army during World War One. His story is a very special one and it will be an honour to share it with you all.
Some of you regular readers will know about my research into the life of Anthony Woodville, the fifteenth century knight and brother- in-law of Edward IV. I have been doing this on and off for the past 6 or 7 years now, so you can imagine it means a lot to me. Back in June, I was asked, alongside my good friend Michele Schindler, to give a talk on Anthony Woodville and Francis Lovell’s connections to Richard III. This is now available to view on YouTube, so I’m attaching it here for you to watch if you want to.
I was also asked by Rebecca Larson, who runs the Tudor Dynasty podcast, to write an episode on Anthony Woodville. This is now available through any app you listen to podcasts through. If that’s not for you, you can easily listen by using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFEs4x9UMzg
There is also some other news that I’ll be announcing next week that I really can’t wait to share with you. It’s been a long time coming, but I hope you’ll be as excited about it as I am. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this content and let me know what you think.