Sep 262013
 

Apologies: this blog has got mangled in being posted, and the first part of it has “dropped off” into  the ether. Suffice to say it started with a diary entry from my ancestor recording the death of the Duke of Cumberland in 1790, and I was musing as to who the Duke was, and what he achieved…..

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The Duke as a young boy, painted by Jean-Etienne Liotard.

 

 

“He appears to have had the usual rather privileged upbringing, in the sense that nothing very much was ever expected of him. Just before his 21st birthday he was created Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, and Earl of Dublin.

When he was 22 he went to sea as a midshipman, was made Rear Admiral just one year later  (in 1768) and was rapidly promoted to Vice Admiral a year afterwards. Now that is some promotion …

But the Duke seems to be best remembered for his inability to control where he put his pecker. Rumour had it that on  4 March 1767 the Duke married a commoner by the name of Olive Wilmot, in a secret ceremony.

The story goes that she had a daughter, called Olivia, by the Duke. Olivia later styled herself “Princess Olivia of Cumberland” although there is no evidence to support the claim that  she was indeed his offspring.

aa2Then in 1769 when he was still only 24 the Duke got embroiled in more controversy. He was caught in flagrane delicto, in other words while having it off with Lady Grosvenor. Her husband was not best pleased and sued the Prince for “criminal conversation” (in other words adultery). He was awarded damages of £10,000 plus costs of another £3000, which Wikipedia asserts is the equivalent of £1,430,000 in today’s money. Rather an expensive bit on the side if you ask me….

Then in October 1771 the Duke went off and got himself married. The trouble was, he didn’t seek the approval of the monarch; he chose a commoner; and his wife was, how shall we say, a well-used lady whose favours had been enjoyed by many before the Duke appeared on the scene.

George III was most displeased and the furore led to the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772. which forbids any descendant of George II  to marry without the monarch’s permission. Incidentally it is the same enactment as prohibited a Roman Catholic from becoming the monarch, and which laid down the rule that male heirs to the throne were to have precedence over the female line.

The Duke continued his rise up the ladder of the Royal Navy, becoming Admiral in 1778. He also helped popularise Brighton as a seaside resort – indeed his nephew the Prince of Wales (later to become George IV)  first visited the town when he called on his uncle in 1783.

The Duke fell ill at his London home and died on 18 September 1790, aged 44. And, as Richard pointed out, was promptly accorded the honour of a six week period of mourning. No doubt Richard rubbed his hands with glee – an opportunity to sell black gloves, black stockings and black silks to any of his customers attending Court….a222

“The trial of the D. of C. and Lady G-r for crim. con” 1770, Lewis Walpole Library.

 

Sep 232013
 

When the French Revolution started, many in this country were in support of the uprising, horrified at the excesses of the French monarchy. This is borne out by the attitude of caricaturists such as Gillray, and of many other artists.

A popular support for the revolution is shown by Philip Astley who, within weeks of the storming of the Bastille, was re-creating events on stage at his amphitheatre premises at the Lambeth-end of Westminster Bridge. Similar re-enactments were being performed at Sadlers Wells and at Hughes’ Royal Circus on Blackfriars Road.Astley's re-creation of the storming of the BastilleA caricaturist’s view on Astley’s re-creation of the storming of the Bastille, 1792, shown courtesy of the British Museum.

The etching appeared on 1st November 1789, just a few months after the attack on the famous prison.  The British Museum site describes it as:

“A stage representation of the fall of the Bastille. At the back of the stage is the gate of a fortress flanked by pinnacled turrets, each with a cock on the summit. Next it is a flimsy timber drawbridge inscribed ‘This is a Drawbridge’. In front of the gate and behind a low battlement stands the governor (de Launay), a flag inscribed ‘France’ over his shoulder, but holding out a cloth inscribed ‘D—-n You What do you want’. In the foreground are the assailants of the Bastille with muskets, some in regimentals with cocked hats and long pigtail queues. One man in back view, striking an attitude, fires with his cane a toy cannon. They have a ‘Standard of Liberty’ of makeshift appearance. There are eight men on the right and two on the extreme left, one of whom holds up a cloth inscribed ‘No Bastille’. On the front of the stage is a paper: ‘Mr Centaur can assure the publick since his return from Paris [engraved above ‘Dublin’, which has been struck out] that this here Bastile is the most exactest of any of the Bastiles existin.’ The actors are out of proportion to the scenery which is on a very small scale. A festooned curtain hangs above the heads of the actors. ”

But as the horrors of The Terror became apparent, people in this country started to step back in dismay at the antics of the revolutionaries. In 1792 the month of September heralded a blood-bath of grotesque savagery in Paris.

The massacres began on 2nd September and lasted less than a week. The first attack occurred when two dozen priests being transported to a prison named L’Abbaye were attacked by a mob of angry citizens of Paris. They quickly and grotesquely killed all of the priests as they were trying to escape, mutilating their corpses. They went on to kill a considerable number of other prisoners. During the five days of the massacres approximately 1200 prisoners died – roughly half of the entire prison population in Paris. Many of the dead were women and young children – slaughtered in the name of the Revolution. Among the victims were more than 200 priests, almost 100 Swiss guards and hundreds of political prisoners and members of the aristocracy. As The Times asked  in its edition of 10th September 1792, “Are these ‘the Rights of Man’? Is this the LIBERTY  of Human Nature? The most savage four-footed tyrants that range the unexplored desarts  (sic) of Africa, in point of tenderness, rise superior to these two legged Parisian animals —Common Brutes do not prey upon each other.”

The article goes on: ” A ring, a watch chain, a handsome pair of buckles,  a new coat, or a good pair of boots – in a word, every thing which marked the appearance of a gentleman, and which the mob fancied – was sure to cost the owner his life. EQUALITY was the pistol, and PLUNDER the object.” abc1 The reaction of caricaturists such as Gillray was immediate and vicious, none more so than in this Gillray print  entitled “Un petit soupir a la Parisienne – or – a Family of Sans Culottes refreshing after the fatigues of the day.”

The phrase “sans culottes” was intended to refer to the working classes –  the shopkeepers and workmen who elected not to wear the pantaloons (“culottes”)  favoured by their wealthier superiors and who instead wore long trousers. Gillray takes the description literally, and shows the French plebeian family, sitting down for their evening meal, naked from the waist down because they have no pants (literally, ‘sans culottes’).   One man is  shown  obscenely sitting on the naked corpse of a woman, while he devours a human arm. His fellow diners are tucking in to a delicious meal…. of human parts. One eats the eye taken from the decapitated head on the dining table; another eats the heart while another prepares to tuck in to the kidneys. Below, to the left, the kids are encouraged to get stuck in on a meal of ….. human entrails. Over in front of the fire an old crone bastes fat over the body of a dead child, turning the spit as her repast gently tenderises.

It is a scene of indescribable horror and revulsion,  an assertion that the lower classes in France were despoiling and murdering the  entire country. Gillray rarely made for easy viewing – none more so than in this savage reaction to a barbaric act. What, I wonder, would his reaction have been to chemical attacks in Syria? How would he respond to the appalling events in Damascus, as civil war  destroys a nation and de-humanises a population? And would we, his audience, pay for a coloured print of a massacre to adorn our living room walls?

[Postscript: this will be the first of a number of posts mentioning Philip Astley (“the father of the modern circus”) – because I am just finishing writing a book about him, in time for the bicentenary of his death in 1814. But there will be no scenes of cannibalism, just loads of circus handbills and tales of horsemanship!]

Sep 212013
 

boxIt may not have escaped the attention of the more observant readers that I am a sucker for 18th Century boxes such as the coromandel jewellery box on the right – and containers, especially tea caddies. You may also have surmised that I spend a considerable amount of time trawling the ever-fascinating website of Hamptons Antiques, so it will come as no surprise that today features …. a lovely new website from Hampton Antiques, which in turn features a splendid old tea caddy made by a man called Henry Clay, who was a successful businessman in Birmingham and who died in 1812.

Clay had originally been an assistant to one of the pioneers in making things out of papier mache, by the name of John Baskerville. In the 1740’s Baskerville,  a merchant who had made a name for himself designing typefaces etc and producing fine quality books, had started to imitate the highly polished objects being imported from Japan, using lacquered papier mache. It became known as ‘japanning’. The style became very popular and by 1772 Henry Clay had learned enough to be able to set up on his own and in that year patented a new process for making a ‘new improved paper-ware’ in sheet form or, as the patent describes it: “making, in Paper, High Varnished Pannels or Roofs for Coaches, and all Sorts of Wheel Carriages, and Sedan Chairs, Pannels for Rooms, Doors, and Cabbins of Ships, Cabinets, Bookcases, Screens, Chimney Pieces, Tables, Teatrays, and Waiters.”

The process involved “pasting several papers upon boards… put in a stove sufficiently hot to deprive them of their flexibility, and at the same time are rubbed over or dipped in oil or varnish, which so immediately drenches into them as to secure them from damps… they are capable of being sawed into different forms, and planed as wood…. then coated with colour and oils sufficient to make the surface even, and then japanned and high varnished.”

The patent lasted thirty years i.e. until 1802 and after that date a plethora of smaller manufacturies popped up in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and indeed throughout the West Midlands. They helped popularise the use of the material in everyday items ranging from trays to boxes, small cabinets, dressing cases and the like.

One of the design features Clay introduced was inserting cameos, manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood, into the sides of caddies, knife boxes and the like. He attracted the attention of Matthew Boulton, who wanted to go into partnership with him, but Clay declined. After all, he was by now able to style himself ‘Japanner in Ordinary to His Majesty and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’. He appears to have worked closely with Robert Adams – or at least, he decorated many items in a style we associate with Adams. I was intrigued by two caddies sold by Bonhams within the last couple of years, which show, I suppose, that condition is everything.

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How else can you reconcile an achieved price of £10,625 for this item, above, sold in March 2013  and a paltry £4750 for this one, below, sold by the same auction house two months later?

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Both images appear courtesy of Bonhams and are their copyright.

But my real favourite is the one on Hamptons site which they describe as being made in 1780, is four inches high, and is described by them as being “A rare Single Tea Caddy by Henry Clay made of papier mache inset with white cameo panels depicting classical figures with glazed gold engraved surrounds, gold handle and escutcheon. The tea caddy is decorated with gold palmette borders and edges. It comes with a working lock and tasselled key”

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Based on the figures achieved by Bonhams the price of £4750 looks to be extremely keen – I mean, you know, you absolutely know, that the tea would have tasted exquisite when spooned out from this little gem!

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So, if you have a spare moment, wander over to the Hampton’s web page and be amazed at how much time you can happily spend exploring their Aladdin’s Cave of on-line delights. Ah well, Christmas is coming…

Sep 202013
 

ab11This week I finally got around to doing something which had been nagging at me for ages – arranging a visit to Dennis Sever’s house at 18 Folgate Street in London’s East End. And what an astonishing place it is! It is, to my way of thinking, one of the most remarkable “museums”  that I have ever seen (it chooses to tell us that it is in fact a private house rather than a museum). Indeed you don’t just see it – you smell it, you hear it, you feel the entire experience and it is  absolutely astonishing and  evocative.

Where is it? In a rather un-prepossessing street not far from Shoreditch High Street tube station, just a few hundred yards from where the famous Sunday street market in Petticoat Lane is held.

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It may look as though it is falling down, but you quickly realize, on entering, that looks are deceptive. Nothing is quite as it seems. The first thing you notice as you tip-toe through the hallway is the heavy silence. And the gloom. Venture down the unlit stairs into the kitchen and you can just make out the gleam of a shaft of light from the basement window, reflecting off a polished copper saucepan. You sense that the cook has just ventured out from her room, leaving the work surfaces  covered with a scattering of daily objects from centuries gone by.

18 folgate st

You slowly venture through the other rooms and up the stairs calling in on scenes where the last occupant has just left, two hundred years ago. A half-consumed biscuit, a nearly-drained cup of tea, a pipe spilling its tobacco –  are all carefully set as part of what Dennis Severs termed “a still life drama.”  It is, literally, sensational.

Smoking Room detail

Most museums exhibit prized possessions as individual items to be admired in isolation – here they are gathered together to show them in everyday use – cluttered, haphazard, and very much part of the story.

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The smell of bergamot hits you as you go into the bedroom, a discarded garment hangs over the  screen where it was draped  a few seconds, or maybe a few centuries, before you looked in and noticed it. Everywhere is half-light and  untidiness – in fact a delicious atmosphere of neglect. You were not expected to come into this room, so no-one has cleaned it up for you!

It really is a wonderful experience. The house itself was constructed in around 1724, and is Grade II Listed. Dennis Severs  lived there for twenty years, from 1979, and set about gradually recreating the rooms as a time capsule in the style of previous centuries. You are led to visualise the life of a fictional Huguenot family of silk weavers, called Jervis, with each room leading through from one period of time to another, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Severs bequeathed the house to the Spitalfields Trust shortly before his death on 27th December 1999. Its motto, often repeated as you soak it all in as you carefully wend your way through time, is  ‘You either see it or you don’t.’

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Rather more about the “museum” and the idea behind it can be seen at the website for the Dennis Severs house here. Be aware though – you do not need to book but do check the rather limited opening times.

The images are shown courtesy of the flickr.com/dennissevershouse site. Go see!

Sep 182013
 

In his diary the seventy-year-old Richard Hall writes:

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Small wonder that the rioters took to the streets when you consider just what a profound increase there had been in the cost of one of the staples of the British diet – a loaf of bread.

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Richard was terrified at the effects of inflation – especially at a time when his disposable income was being savaged by the introduction of income tax. A look at his household expenses shows why he was so concerned:

inflation 001

So, for 1798 Richard spent just over fourteen pounds on bread during the year. It remained much the same for 1799 (Thirteen pounds six shillings and nine pence halfpenny) but the following year it rocketed – doubling in just one year to a shade over twenty seven pounds and twelve shillings! Meat from the butcher went up by a third, while the other expenses were in line with earlier years. It must have been a bewildering time, and Richard’s diaires are full of little notes about how much corn was costing, the size of the harvest, and so on.

Ah well, let them eat cake ….. or, as James Gillray put it,  “Substitutes for Bread, or Right Honorables saving the loaves and dividing the Fishes”.

Substitutes_for_bread;_-_or_-_right_honorables,_saving_the_loaves,_and_dividing_the_fishes_by_James_Gillray

Sep 142013
 

I recently came across this print on the Museum of London site  showing the interior of a haberdashery shop: it is fair to assume that this is what my ancestor’s shop at One London Bridge would have looked like with a low counter suited for cutting out lengths of cloth, and a fitted unit containing shelves and drawers. The picture is entitled The Haberdasher Dandy and dates from 1818. It shows the dandified shop keeper measuring out muslin for two ladies, both of whom are sporting ludicrously long poke bonnets. It looks as though the woman with her elbows on the counter suspects that she is getting short measure. In reply to his question “And what is the next thing I will have the felicity to do for you Ma’m?” she exclaims “The next thing Mr Dandy is to measure that over again and see how much you have cut short.”

It is interesting to see in the caricature that a line has been stretched across the window in order to display ribbons and lace hanging down.

I recall fitted units like the one shown, from the fifties, and a quick look on the web shows that even these “vintage” ones are highly collectable as storage and display items. These two are from  Christies.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indeed they still have something rather similar at Rigby and Peller, corsetieres to Her Maj at their shop in Knightsbridge. Perhaps my family had similar units to these fitted out when the shop was built in 1767, although they were expressly excluded from the items covered by the expenditure of £111/11/5d recorded by Richard Hall in his diary.    The family shop was on the corner of Lower Thames Street and London Bridge  – both busy thoroughfares – and would have had windows opening onto two sides. I still have the trade cards for Bat (a type of cotton wadding) and Hall’s Velvet so I assume that the window displays would have consisted of small samples of fabric topped off with a descriptive card.

    

 

 

 

Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the bill-head or shop sign used by Richard – but am really grateful to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge who showed me this image from their collection, dating from the 1760’s. It is a receipt of purchases made out to a Mrs Blathwayte dated 1 December 1766 and is  signed by the proprietor John Skrym. It sets out the product range held by haberdashers and is an indication of prevailing “style”.

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I know that my ancestor specialized in making and selling silk stockings, like this one, and that he could charge three times the price for a fine embroidered effort compared to a plain stocking. I imagine that these would have been kept in colour co-ordinated sets in different compartments of the display cabinet.

I suspect that with all the coloured fabrics on display the place would have been a riot of colour – not unlike the wonderful Aladdin’s Cave which is the Ray Stitch haberdashery shop in Angel (London. N1) I am grateful to them for the images of fabric, ribbon and ruffles and next time I am in London I will try and visit their emporium, which does look rather splendid!

   

 

Sep 052013
 

c1Once in a while I think it is a good idea to escape the confines of the Eighteenth Century (just not very often!) and with this in mind I have asked the author C J Underwood to do a guest blog, linking in to yesterday’s launch of her novel “An Army of Judiths”.

She sets the historical background to her book as follows:

 

 

Netherlands, 1572

Across the Low Countries, towns and cities had barricaded their gates against Phillip II’s invading army led by the bloodthirsty Duke of Alva and his tyrannical son, Toledo. With Amsterdam subjugated, and the ongoing merciless conquest of smaller towns, Spain’s mighty foothold in the Netherlands was gaining strength.

Discharged as governor of the Netherlands by Spain, Prince William of Orange had amassed a fleet of ‘Sea Beggars’, his unofficial navy of furious and vengeful noblemen, bent on defending their faith, land and fortunes. But they were losing. Holland was in the grip of Spain, and the grip was tightening.

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The city of Haarlem, just ten miles west of Amsterdam, was in King Phillip’s way. Holland could not be conquered without Haarlem, and the Spanish army marched to take the city. As it neared Haarlem, the city was thrown into disorganised panic.

Mother, sister, widow and shipbuilder, Kenau Hasselaar was the sister-in-law of William of Orange’s physician. She had much to lose should Haarlem fall to Spain.

With a passion to rival King Phillip’s own, Kenau formed a troop of three hundred women, her Army of Judiths. Furious and driven, Kenau trained her troops to match the Spanish invaders blow for bloody blow. With these women, she launched a defence of the city in a desperate bid to protect her family, her way of life, and her beloved Haarlem.”

I vaguely remember learning about the siege of Haarlem in my school days, but had not heard of the extraordinary story of Kenau Hasselaar, so I asked the author for some more information about how her book came to be written. She tells me:

“When I moved to the Netherlands in the early 1990s to work on a novel, I discovered a much different nation to write about.

I first encountered the legend of Kenau Hasselaar when I overheard a professor and his students at the University of Leiden’s library, and was immediately captivated. The professor spoke about the savage sixteenth century Dutch Revolt against the invading Spanish King Phillip II, the revolt that inspired one woman’s fight to preserve the lifestyle that her family had nurtured for generations. Kenau’s battle was the seven-month Siege of Haarlem, 1572-1573. The professor recited the legend of this spirited aristocrat who had been driven to form an army of three hundred women soldiers. He said that Kenau had trained them to fight the Spanish back from the walls of Haarlem, but had refused to wear armour.

Kenau Hassellaar

Kenau Hasselaar

From the moment Kenau entered her consciousness, I determined to learn every possible detail about this inspirational female character, a woman that was grist to the mill of my own life story. Although I’d always written, I had spent my career at the time travelling a man’s world; I’d thought nothing of working as a chef in all-male brigades, and was the first woman in the British Merchant Navy to work in the North Sea.

My first surprise was that in the Netherlands the name Kenau was synonymous with the derogative, Bitch. If Kenau Hasselaar had indeed been a Dutch war heroine, I couldn’t understand why she was so maligned by modern Dutch society. After a thorough search of the Amsterdam women’s library, and various other institutions, I was baffled to find nothing more solid than a couple of cursory, albeit reliable, reference works and some old, unreliable stories of Kenau’s part in the siege. I found a tapestry of Kenau in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, but it wasn’t until some years later that paintings of Kenau Hasselaar were available online.

It seemed to me that legends have a lot to answer for, after all these years the fable that Kenau Hasselaar was a dedicated cutthroat for the sake of it should have morphed into something more honourable. She may indeed have been a hellcat, but she must have been so much more besides. Some legends just beg interrogation.

c5Having visited Haarlem many times to research Kenau Hasselaar’s role in the siege, I enlisted the help of a few eminent historians, one of whom explained that Kenau must have been a frequent visitor to the Cityhouse to meet with Haarlem’s magistrates in order to collect writs that she’d handed to her debtors, some whom lived as far afield as Delft.

Luckily, those official meetings were well documented; otherwise very little personal information would have survived about Kenau’s lifestyle. One historian suggested to me that Kenau might have been quite an unwelcome sight at the Cityhouse, just for that reason alone. I don’t think she’d have been too happy with anyone poking about in her affairs, however, which is why I was so keen to get my facts right.

My novel rigorously follows the historical details of the siege itself, which was also well documented. It is a remarkable history that needs no embellishment, and the more I discovered, the deeper went my respect for Kenau Hasselaar, and indeed all the courageous citizens of Haarlem, particularly the women who withstood the brutality of sixteenth century warfare.

c4My second big surprise was that in Northern Europe at the time, when a city was under attack, women had always fought. Towns and cities were built with ramparts, they were formed as citadels, or bastions, and when attacked everyone defended their home.

Women were probably more vicious in battle than we’ve ever given them credit for, as a woman I feel particularly touched by accounts of man’s inhumanity towards women. I immediately put myself in Kenau’s shoes, as a mature Dutch woman, mother, and no fool, Kenau must have known that once those marauding Spaniards broke through the bulwarks and gates of Haarlem, she and her daughters, sisters and nieces would lose their lives in ways too terrible to contemplate. So Kenau wasted no time in contemplating the obvious; she rounded up three hundred of Haarlem’s toughest, most formidable women, and taught them how to defend themselves; to fight off the enemy, and to protect their beloved city. But first they rebuilt the decrepit walls of Haarlem.

Then they waited.

Apart from her noble lineage, Kenau had a sister who was married to the Prince of Orange’s physician, which suggests that she may have been privy to the intricacies of the political turmoil of the day.

c8The first report of Kenau’s role in the siege, written before it had even ended in 1573 by a Friesian scholar named Arcerius, was a published account of Kenau’s contemptuous baiting of the enemy. This might have been sixteenth century Dutch propaganda, of course, but the marvellous image of this woman at the walls of Haarlem taunting the Spanish with icons, relics and at times of hardship, bread and beer, has never left me.

I discovered that historians have disagreed for generations about Kenau’s role, both as a war heroine, and as a business woman. Kenau was the widow of a Haarlem shipbuilder, and instead of marrying again after his death, it is entirely possible that she built ships in her own right. Her shipyard no longer exists, but had faced onto the Spaarne River, which runs through Haarlem, next to the Adriaan Windmill (Molen De Adriaan), which was built in 1778. I learned that she had indeed traded in timber, so even if she hadn’t built ships, for a woman to be in such a strong business position in the sixteenth century shows a remarkably hardy sort of personality. However, I learned that after she was widowed, Kenau’s shipyard took multiple orders for ships that were suitable for the Dutch inland waterways. It is also documented that not only had Kenau bought property, but supplied timber for Haarlem to build a single-decked sailing galley. This ship would have been fitted with guns, and was big enough to hold 1,000 men. The city owed her money for the timber, and Kenau’s daughters continued fighting for this debt to be paid long after their mother’s death.”

c7Thanks for that! As the strap-line says ‘She brought Haarlem to the edge of victory, and the enemy to its knees’.

For more information about the history behind this fascinating Dutch Revolt, and the siege of Haarlem, see the author’s website here.

“An army of Judiths” is available in hardback and eBook, and paperback in 2014. You can find the link to Amazon  here. It is an inspiring story – go read!

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Sep 032013
 

AA1I think it is really great when towns and cities try and do something about remembering their historical importance. O.K., maybe Stamford has not grown as much in size of population since the Georgian era as other giants such as Nottingham, or Leicester. But perhaps it is precisely because of that fact that it hasn’t lost as much either, in terms of buildings, or character -so full marks to the local authority for hosting the Stamford Georgian Festival later this month.

AA2Say “Georgian” and in this country we tend to think of Bath – and yet I seem to remember learning somewhere that Bristol has more extant Georgian buildings than Bath. Whatever, Stamford in Lincolnshire has a fine Georgian heritage, and one which deserves to be remembered. Besides, they had the foresight to ask me to speak on both main days of their upcoming Georgian Weekend, so I think they deserve a clap on the back for their shrewd choice of speakers, if nothing else!

There is loads going on: what is not to like about a cricket match played in Georgian outfits – a Twenty Twenty match played out for free on Stamford Meadows? Fancy something more  refined – try a Georgian Tea Dance. Or an organ recital at Burghley House Chapel. Or how about a trip round the local brewery while pretending to bone up on the history of brewing?

AA4There’s an exhibition of silhouette cutting – perhaps I should show them mine of dear old grandpa Richard Hall –  and talks about  the evolution of the English Garden. There’s an audience with Annie Gray on the Friday to kick things off – a chance to scoff various Georgian delicacies. And there are loads of street entertainers, a book fair, carriage rides and a specially written “Horrible Histories” about those Gorgeous Georgians in Stamford. Personally, I will be making a bee-line for the Knicker Lady and her talk on “250 years of bloomers briefs and bustles”, but that is because I never think you can know too much about a lady’s under-garments….

AA3And that is quite apart from the chance to hear me rabbit on about life in Georgian England  (at Burghley House, a modest little home nearby, on the Saturday) B1and on Entertainment in the Georgian period on the Sunday at the William Cecil Hotel.

So for all those living within a car journey of Stamford, dig out your diary, and your wallet, and head for Stamford. You can book tickets through 01780 763203 or visit the webpage at www.stamfordgeorgianfestival.co.uk