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  • Pirates: Truth and Tales by Helen Hollick

    “.. A highly entertaining mine of fascinating information about all things piratical.”

     “Helen Hollick has an inimitable style which informs at the same time as being amusing and easily digestible.”

     “…A rich and lively vocabulary, with snippets of interesting facts about pirates and piracy that you never knew you needed to know, but which are all recounted with the authors sparkling wit and fine attention to detail… whichever page the book falls open at, you are guaranteed to find a fascinating snippet into the life and times of these colourful, and it must be said, decidedly, dangerous characters.”

    Helen has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today, Helen drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs …

    The common perception of a pirate. (c. jgroup, Pirates, Amberley Publishing)

    Mention ‘pirates’ to adults or children and a smile broadens the face and the clichéd ‘Arrr’ erupts from the lips. The romance of fiction, TV shows and big-screen movies have influenced our perception of the Caribbean pirates of the ‘Golden Age’ of the early 1700s. We have a romantic view of a life ‘On the Account’, we think of Jack Sparrow from the Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, or Captain Pugwash from the beloved children’s TV cartoon series. Do we care that these romantic portrayals are very far from the truth about pirates? Reality has its place, but for entertainment we like handsome heroes and pretty heroines. We enjoy the breath-taking alarm of make-believe danger and engrossing adventurous romps. Pirate stories give us the (safe) excitement we crave. Pirates seek treasure – don’t we all? How many of us hope for that winning lottery ticket every week? Although we don’t commit torture and murder to get it.

    Pirates were on a get-rich-quick mission and had no scruples about how they did it, as long as they had silver in their pockets to spend in the taverns and brothels. In stories, their ships are usually pristine and fast, the flag fluttering menacingly from the masthead is always a pair of crossed bones or cutlasses beneath a leering skull. Pirates wore a gold hooped earring, they drank rum, had swashbuckling fights with lethal cutlasses (which the hero in stories always won), lusted after buxom wenches and escaped the hangman at the very last minute.

    But what about the real pirates?

     

    To answer that question, and also to satisfy the passion of readers of the romantic fictional side of piracy, was my goal in producing Pirates: Truth and Tales when Amberley commissioned me to write it. I think I managed it. I wanted to write a ‘drop in at any chapter’ book. Mostly light-hearted, easy to read and with an ‘Oh, I didn’t know that’ feel. There are a lot of factual pirate books on the shelves in bookstores and on Amazon. I wanted something that might not necessarily be unique, but certainly very different.

    What I came up with were factual chapters ranging from the famous pirates, such as Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney and Mary Read and such, with a few not-so-well-knowns all running (sailing?) alongside more general seafaring chapters of interest: what they wore, what did they plunder, where and how did they sell it? Where did they get their ships from – and what type of ships did they use? Interspersed with all that, I investigated the fiction; the favourite novels such as Treasure Island and Frenchman’s Creek, my own Sea Witch Voyages series of nautical adventures that have a touch of fantasy about them, plus a few more excerpts from pirate novels by other authors, the fiction complimenting the factual, and bringing in an alternative perspective for the reader to enjoy.

    The result is a delightful mixture of the romantic and the reality. The swashbuckling movie and novel versions of pirates, and the not-so-nice horror of what these men (and women) were really like.

    I have to admit – honest pirate – give me the made-up romance version of pirates any day!

    Helen Hollick's new paperback edition of Pirates: Truth and Tales is available for purchase now.

     

    Sign up for Helen’s Newsletter and be entered for an annual prize draw.

    One name ‘picked from the hat’ in December will win a £10/$10 Amazon gift voucher.

    Subscribe here: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick

     

    Author's Links:

    Website: www.helenhollick.net

    Main Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/HelenHollickAuthor

    Twitter: @HelenHollick

    Discovering Diamonds: https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Scotland's Independent Coach Operators by David Devoy

    The author in Docherity's, Midland, JA 5515. (c. David Devoy, Scotland's Independent Coach Operators, Amberley Publishing)

    The mainland of Scotland comprises the northern third of the land mass of the United Kingdom. The only land border is with England, and runs for around 60 miles. The population at the 2011 Census was 5,295,400, the highest figure ever recorded. The Central Belt has highest population density, with a population of about 3.5 million. Public transport is obviously geared up to serve the busiest areas.

    The country recorded 693 bus and coach operators in 1967, but this has dropped in recent years as many businesses have closed their doors for a variety of reasons from owners wishing to retire to bankruptcy. Many well-known names have sadly disappeared over the years. Often they drop off the radar unnoticed at the time, but looking back it is amazing just how many have actually gone.

    I’d like to thank Amberley Publishing for giving me the opportunity to put information and pictures of some of these firms into print before they are all totally forgotten about. This is my thirteenth title on the subject of Scottish buses for Amberley. It can be time-consuming and hard work, but always very rewarding to see a finished book emerge from a project. Amberley have always just left me to do things “my own way”, and have never interfered. It is perhaps inevitable that my own preferences for particular fleets, types and liveries will shine through.

    Mason's of Bo'ness, TSM 475T. (c. David Devoy, Scotland's Independent Coach Operators, Amberley Publishing)

    Some colour schemes always appealed to me more than others, and when smartly presented with signwriting and attention to detail, some fleets always looked really smart. Fashions change through time and what looked “right” at one time, can look dated and past its sell-by date if not refreshed every so often. Many colour schemes are now just based on white or silver with a few vinyls to break up the monotony.

    I have had lots of help over the years from the owners and management of many Scottish coach firms, often getting vehicles moved for photographs to be taken in the sunshine. (It does actually shine on occasion!). I have even had owners washing their fleet before pictures were taken. For all that help I am eternally grateful. Digital photography has of course become the norm nowadays, but it was not always so. In the old days, the cost of film and processing often dictated what was taken. I am glad that I took as many pictures as I did, but at times the film had to be rationed and eked out.

    I can remember being out for a drive in the car with my wife on many occasions, and we would as often as not “just seem to pass a coach operators premises”. I would tell her, “I’ll not be long”, but would often get into conversation with someone or other. She soon got wise however and would come prepared with a book and some cross-word puzzles. I would often make it up to her with a nice pub-lunch or tea and cakes in a little café.

    Good taste never goes out of style, and many almost-forgotten fleets and coaches are depicted in my latest book. I hope you enjoy it.

    David Devoy's new book Scotland's Independent Coach Operators is available for purchase now.

  • Historic Streets of Liverpool by David Paul

    William Brown Street

    General view of William Brown Street. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The street that is now known as William Brown Street was originally called Shaw’s Brow and was very different in character and aspect from the present one. Predominantly heathland, the area boasted a number of windmills – perhaps because of its high elevation.

    At the beginning of the eighteenth century new industries were coming to Liverpool, together with a corresponding increase in the town’s population. Shipbuilding and its concomitant industries were developing along the Mersey’s shores, and other industries and trades were also finding a place in the flourishing town. A number of sugar refineries were located in Liverpool and the town was gaining a reputation for the beauty and accuracy of the timepieces that were now being manufactured. The area around Shaw’s Brow, Islington and Dale Street was also developing a reputation as being the home of fine pottery manufacture.

    James Shaw and his brothers were residents of Newton-in-the-Willows before coming to Liverpool. They came to the town as contractors for the building of St George’s Church. In addition, they also made bricks from the excavations of the Old Dock and built in and around King Street. But the Shaw’s are principally noted for another industry that they introduced to the town in the early eighteenth century: the manufacture of earthenware.

    Looking down William Brown Street. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Their pot works was first established on the brow of the hill by Samuel Shaw. The pottery ovens were built on both sides of the road but most of the activity took place on the north side. Much of the production was subsequently moved to Dale Street, where Samuel’s son, Thomas, owned a large mansion on the corner of Fontenoy Street. Other pot works soon became established on the Brow, and the industry grew to such an extent that the Brow had several different pot works and numerous workmen’s cottages. Many of the proprietors of the works also chose to live on the Brow.

    A famous potter who lived in Dale Street was Mr Chaffers. His pottery was on the north side of the Brow and he had moulding houses in Islington. His colourful and elegant pottery was manufactured from clay that was shipped directly from a mine in Cornwall. The Penningtons were another leading family in the area. Mr Pennington owned a pottery works on the Brow itself, while his eldest son, James, had a factory not far away at Copperas Hill. His second son, John, had his business near to Saint Anne Street, while Seth (Mr Pennington’s youngest son) had his works on the Brow like his father. The businesses owned by the family became famous for manufacturing punch bowls and ornamental ware. There were other leading potters in the vicinity, including Mr Phillip Christian, whose works were located on the Brow, and Mr Zachariah Barnes, who had a pottery in the Old Hay Market. Indeed, when the census of 1790 took place it was recorded that there were seventy-four potters’ houses inhabited by 374 people, all of whom were associated with the manufacture of pottery in some manner. Workers at the potteries were not known for their high wages and many who lived at the bottom of the Brow in the area known as St John’s Tillage, were not averse to exhuming recently interred bodies in the hope that they could be sold to medical students working at the nearby infirmary, thus supplementing their meagre wages.

    Former College of Technology. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Shaw’s Brow acquired its name as it was on the main coaching route out of Liverpool. This was an easterly direction via Dale Street and Townsend, but it was very steep, causing problems for coaches leaving the town. The route passed near to Mr Alderman Shaw’s pottery on the Brow. Because of the abundance of the passing coach trade, the Brow was littered with a good many almshouses and the like.

    In 1821, when Manchester Street was opened from Dale Street to St John’s Lane, a different route out of town was established, even though the crest of the Brow had been lowered on several occasions. Shaw’s Brow was widened in 1852.

    Towards the end of the century, the potteries in Liverpool were facing increasing competition from potteries in the Midlands and, with the demise of Shaw’s pot works and many of the other potteries, different industries soon sprung up in their wake. There was a coach factory, wheelwrights, grinding mills, a soap works and a number of builders’ yards.

    William Brown Street from Old Haymarket. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Before moving to the more recent history of William Brown Street, it’s worth recounting a curious incident took place in the area early in 1830. A widow living with her daughter and son in Islington – a little further up from the Brow – required the services of a maidservant. As a result of the recommendation of a woman who owned a shop nearby in London Road, a young woman was interviewed and given the job. Although her appearance and dress left much to be desired, she was conscientious and diligent in her duties. In fact, on a number of occasions she displayed skills and expertise that would normally not be associated with someone from her class. She was a talented pianist and artist, and had extensive knowledge of medicine and the treatment of the sick. She also proved to be fluent in a number of foreign languages – not a common accomplishment for a person from the lower classes. Hannah Brade – her given name – also displayed exemplary fortitude during her period of employment. One day, when she was alone in the house, burglars entered and attempted to steal some valuables. Hannah soon saw them off! But, curiously, whenever guests arrived at the house, Hannah was always reticent to meet them for some reason.

    Two years after joining the household, Hannah left her employment for no apparent reason, much to the dismay of the widow and her children. All contact and knowledge of her whereabouts was lost until a few months later, when a package was delivered to the home of her former employer. The parcel contained a number of lavish and expensive presents for members of the household, thanking them for the kindness that they had shown her during her period of employment. There was no forwarding address and there was no further contact with Hannah, so the mystery as to just who Hannah Brade was still remains.

     

    County Sessions House

    William Brown Street, often referred to as the cultural quarter of the city, has so much to offer that it’s worth taking some time to stroll down the street and maybe call into one or two of the many listed buildings in the area. Looking across from Wellington’s Column – a good place to start walking along this short but historic street – we can see the County Sessions House, which stands just to the east of the Walker Art Gallery. Up until 1877 magistrates in Liverpool tried non-capital offences at the court in Basnett Street and at Kirkdale Sessions House, but changes in the legal system at this time meant that the courts had to find another venue. The new County Session House was designed in the late Victorian style by Liverpool architects Francis and George Holme, who had also designed the omeopathic Hospital in Hope Street. Building work was started in 1882 and the first sitting in Islington took place on 4 August 1884.

    The courthouse was one of the first in the country to be air-conditioned, but because of other economic considerations, the court had been designed with the main emphasis on visual appearance from the front. The rear of the building – similar to others along William Brown Street – is far more utilitarian in aspect, being built of brick.

    Following the Courts Act of 1971, which curtailed all quarter sessions, the building was effectively redundant. It is now managed by the National Museums of Liverpool and houses a number of departments, including the Fine Art Curatorial and Learning Departments.

     

    Walker Art Gallery

    Walker Art Gallery. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    A little further down, on the same side as the County Courthouse, we come to the Walker Art Gallery. The gallery itself was not established on its current site until 1877, but before that, following the Public Libraries Act of 1852, a library and museum opened in 1860. The new public library was the venue for the first Liverpool Autumn Exhibition, held in 1871. The success of this exhibition enabled the town’s Library, Museum and Arts Committee to purchase in excess of 150 works of art over the next fifty years, perhaps one of the most famous being And When Did You Last See Your Father? by William Frederick Yeames. In addition to enabling a public library and museum to be built, the Act of 1852 also made provision for an art gallery to be established in the town. In order to commemorate his term as mayor, local brewer Andrew Barclay Walker donated £20,000 towards thebuilding of an art gallery in the town. The following year – 1874 – Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, laid the foundation stone. The gallery, named in honour of its founding benefactor, was designed by local architects Cornelius Sherlock and H. H. Vale, and opened on 6 September 1877 by Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby.

    In 1893, the gallery was given long-term loan of the Liverpool Royal Institution’s collection, and in 1948 the Institution gave the gallery the thirty-seven paintings from the William Roscoe collection it had acquired in 1819.

    The Walker Art Gallery was the first public art gallery in the country and has been extended on two occasions – first in 1884, then again in 1933. The gallery’s collection includes works by Degas, Rembrandt and Poussin, along with a major collection of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Works by twentieth-century artists such as David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Gilbert and George can also be seen in the gallery. Cardinal Sin, a statue by Banksy, was added to the gallery’s collection in 2011. The Walker Art Gallery is part of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside.

     

    Steble Fountain

    Steble Fountain in earlier times. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Walking down the street we come to Steble Fountain. It was in 1877 that a former mayor of the town, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Fell Steble, offered £1,000 to the Improvement Committee of the town council so that a fountain could be erected on a plot of land at the top of William Brown Street – just to the west of Wellington’s Column, between St George’s Hall and the buildings on the far side of the street.

    Michel Joseph Napoléon Liénard designed the fountain, which was unveiled in 1879 by the town’s mayor. However, because the water pressure was very low, the resulting ‘fountain’ was little more than a trickle! The steam pump, which was located in the basement of Saint George’s Hall, was replaced by a more efficient electric pump.

     

     

    Steble Fountain. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Steble Fountain stands 23 feet high and is constructed from cast iron, with the circular base being 30 feet in diameter. An octagonal stem rises from the centre of the basin and a marine god stands at each corner of the cruciform base, representing Acis, Galatea, Neptune and Amphitrite. Above this there is a shallow octagonal bowl 8 feet in diameter, and at the top of the fountain there is a mermaid holding a cornucopia. Steble Fountain is a designated Grade II-listed building and was refurbished in 1992.

     

     

     

     

    Liverpool Central Library

    Picton Reading Room. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    On the far side of the road we come to what is often called the Picton Library, but is more correctly known as the Liverpool Central Library.

    When St George’s Hall was completed in 1854 it became necessary to demolish all of the properties along the Brow, which required an Act of Parliament. The alignment was also changed: the modified street now skirted the perimeter of St John’s Churchyard. In its turn, this development freed a further area of land.

    Prior to this, Mr J. A. Picton (later Sir James) brought a scheme before the town council that would establish a free public library in the town. His scheme was adopted. The first library was opened on 18 October 1852 and located in Dale Street; however, the library proved to be such a success that new and larger premises were soon being sought. William Brown (a local MP) donated land in order to build a public library and museum. Born at Ballymena, Brown was the eldest son of a Belfast linen merchant. After spending some time learning the trade at his father’s business in America, Brown returned home in 1808. He then sailed to Liverpool, realising that the expanding port was the entry point for American exports. Then, after a number of years, he transferred his expertise in trading to merchant banking. Brown also became involved in politics and was elected to Parliament in 1846. He was re-elected on a further three occasions. When Brown had been made aware of the dire need for a public library in the town he financed the entire building costs, which amounted to £40,000.

    Looking towards St George's Hall. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Thomas Allom and the council’s architect and surveyor Mr John Weightman designed the building, with William Brown himself laying the foundation stone on 15 April 1856. Brown’s generosity not only provided funds for the new library, but also enabled a museum to be built on Shaw’s Brow. The library, known as the William Brown Library and Museum, was opened on 18 October 1860. Somewhat modestly, Brown described it as a ‘gift to the nhabitants of Liverpool’. Shortly after the opening of the library, the council voted to change the name of Shaw’s Brow to William Brown Street.

    Over the years, in order to accommodate the increasing collections, a number of extensions have been made to the library, the first being the opening of the Picton Reading Room in 1879, followed by the Hornby Library.

    Central Library. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The foundation stone for the new circular reading room was laid in 1875 by the chairman of the William Brown Library and Museum, Sir James Allanson Picton, and it was later named the Picton Reading Room in his honour. The reading room was designed by Cornelius Sherlock and was the first electrical-lit library in the country. The Picton Reading Room was modelled after the British Museum Reading Room.

    Standing directly behind the Picton Reading Room is the Hornby Reading Room, named in honour of Hugh Frederick Hornby, who bequeathed money for its construction to house his collection. The architect Thomas Shelmerdine designed the building and it opened in 1906. The Picton and Hornby Reading Rooms are two Grade II-listed buildings.

    More recently it was recognised that, with changing technology, a radical new approach was needed in Liverpool’s libraries. Following lengthy consultations and negotiations, it was decided to close the main library while extensive refurbishments were carried out to modernise it. The library closed its doors to the public on 23 July 2010 and reopened on Friday 17 May 2013.

     

    World Museum, Liverpool

    World Museum, Liverpool. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Directly below the library complex is Liverpool’s World Museum, but the first museum in the town was known as the Derby Museum. Towards the end of the nineteenth century there was no longer enough space for all of the artefacts housed in the William Brown Library and Museum, so a competition was held to design a suitable extension. The College of Technology and Museum extension opened in 1901. The number of exhibits continued to increase during the latter half of the twentieth century and early in the twenty-first century, the museum acquired more exhibition space in the former College of Technology. Because of the increasing diversity of the exhibits, the museum took the name of World Museum, Liverpool.

    The museum’s planetarium opened in 1970, which covers space exploration and the solar system. The museum’s Egyptology collection (which includes objects from Egypt and Sudan) ranges from the Prehistoric to the Islamic period.

    A number of new galleries have recently been opened in the museum, including World Cultures, the Bug House and the Weston Discovery Centre.

     

    St John’s Gardens

    Laying track in William Brown Street, 1905. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    On the opposite side to the World Museum is St John’s Gardens. In earlier times, because of the upwards slope of the land towards the east, the area of heath land known as the Great Heath was redolent with a large number of windmills and was an area much favoured for the public drying of washing. The area was first built upon when a general infirmary was opened in 1749. Later, the Seamen’s Hospital was built in 1752, followed by a dispensary in 1778 and an asylum in 1789 – all in close proximity to one another. The area also attracted industrial enterprises such as limekilns, potteries, a rope works and a marble yard.

    In 1767, the town’s cemetery was located on the side of Shaw’s Brow. The Church of St John the Baptist was built in the centre of the graveyard and dedicated in 1784. Documents in the Liverpool Records Office show that burials ceased on 11 June 1865 after 2,491 people (including many French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars) had been interred in the burial ground. Because of the building of St George’s Hall, all of the other buildings in the area had to be demolished and the work of local industries relocated. Because of its close proximity to the hall, the church was demolished in 1898.

    In 1888, a facility had been granted for the creation of a public garden in the area formerly occupied by the graveyard. The bodies were removed and interred elsewhere. Saint John’s Gardens were designed by the city’s surveyor, Thomas Shelmerdine, and opened in 1904 with the rather grand appellation of ‘St John’s Ornamental and Memorial Gardens’. There are seven memorial statues in the gardens, commemorating some of Liverpool’s most notable citizens, including William Rathbone and William Ewart Gladstone.

     

    Queensway Tunnel

    Opening of Queensway Tunnel, 1934. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    As our walk along William Brown Street draws to a close, we can look over towards the entrance to the original Birkenhead Tunnel, more correctly known as the Queensway Tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel is at Old Haymarket. A road tunnel going under the river had been proposed as early as 1825, but safety concerns were raised so the proposals were rejected. As motorised road traffic increased at the beginning of the twentieth century, long queues at the Mersey ferry terminal became an everyday occurrence. The Mersey Tunnel Act of 1925 enabled construction of the tunnel to proceed.

    Sir Basil Mott was the tunnel’s designer and during construction he worked in close partnership with John Brodie, the city engineer.

    Much of the 1.2 million tons of clay that was excavated during construction was used as backfill for Otterspool Promenade – some way down the Mersey at Aigburth.

    Queensway Tunnel entrance. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The tunnel took nine years to complete and was opened on 18 July 1934 by George V, watched by a crowd estimated at 200,000 people. When the tunnel was opened it was the longest road tunnel in the world, which had been built at a cost of £8 million. But, as early as 1960, the volume of traffic flowing through the tunnel had reached such a level that it was obvious another tunnel was needed in order to relieve congestion. The Kingsway Tunnel was opened in 1971.

     

     

     

    Hillsborough Monument Memorial

    Hillsborough Disaster Memorial. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The Hillsborough Monument Memorial is the final stop on our walk today; it stands at the bottom of William Brown Street in Old Haymarket. It commemorates the lives of the ninety-six Liverpool football supporters who lost their lives on 15 April 1989 while attending a football match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest. The work – by sculptor Tom Murphy – was commissioned by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. The circular monument has a particular design concept, which is meant to guides one’s thoughts back to recall all that happened on that tragic day and the struggles that have been endured and overcome by the Hillsborough families since that time. The design depicts a number of figures representing Justice, Hope and Loss. The ninety-six people who lost their lives are represented as free-flying birds, all of whom are listed on the memorial.

    David Paul's new book Historic Streets of Liverpool is available for purchase now.

  • Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk by John Ling

    Herringfleet Mill set against a spectacular summer sky. (Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk, Amberley Publishing)

    Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is a follow-up to my previous book for Amberley, Windmills of Norfolk (2015). As its title indicates, the new book includes watermills to reflect the rich diversity of milling in Suffolk over the centuries. Long before the first windmill turned a sail the county already had many water-powered mills, most of which were small and primitive structures using a single pair of millstones. Some watermill sites date back to Saxon times, though the mills themselves have been rebuilt or enlarged numerous times over that period of time.

    Suffolk was one of the first English counties to embrace the newfangled windmill in the late 12th century and many hundreds were built here during the next 700 years. The post mill was the earliest type of corn mill, followed by tower and smock types. Drainage mills or windpumps were primarily used to drain low-lying marshland but could also pump water from wells.

    Woodbridge Tide Mill has become a Living Museum. (Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk, Amberley Publishing)

    This book takes an in-depth look at most of the county’s surviving mills, some of which are still capable of working. Many others have been converted to family homes or holiday accommodation. Several watermills have become hotels or restaurants. The book acknowledges a number of the many mills that sadly no longer exist, including some of the long lost giants. It also traces the rise and fall of traditional windmills and watermills and looks at the reasons behind their decline. Windmills of various types outnumber surviving watermills in Suffolk and this is reflected in the amount of space devoted to each. The book is intended to inform and entertain those already interested in mills and also to introduce newcomers to these ancient machines. It includes histories of all featured mills along with one or more photograph(s) of each. The book includes relevant facts and figures but does not claim to be an exhaustive academic study.

     Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is mainly illustrated with new colour photographs specially taken for this publication. This necessitated several trips around Suffolk and led me to many locations I had not previously visited. Other images have kindly been supplied by various contributors. Information regarding the location of each mill is included to assist those who wish to visit or view them. Almost all of the main featured mills can be seen from the roadside and some are open to the public on at least a part-time basis. The two mills pictured here represent the wind and water varieties and both are in full working order. Herringfleet Mill is still operated by volunteers on open days and Woodbridge Tide Mill is open to the public as a Living Museum.

    John Ling's new book Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is available for purchase now.

  • Women in Medieval England by Lynda Telford

    Prostitutes were often depicted as mermaids, as in this illustration from the Luttrell Psalter. (Courtesy of the British Library, Women in Medieval England, Amberley Publishing)

    Prostitution

    This has always been one of the most misunderstood areas of the lives of women in any era, and women at the centre of the sex industry have endured similar conditions throughout the centuries.

    They have been considered sinful, unclean, the destroyers of happy homes and the carriers of disease – but few of those who used or vilified those women, stopped to consider why they were driven into that way of life, where abuse and contempt bred loss of self-respect, brought danger, and often early death.

    In the medieval period, a woman was defined by her respectability. Whether a pure virgin, or a mature matron, she had certain status, based on that of her family and her prospects as a wife and mother. These were easy to lose. The loss of a husband, the resulting loss of earnings and /or personal dignity, through hardship, could easily lead to desperation, which could entice any woman into the ‘oldest profession’, as a way of keeping body and soul together.

    Once on the slippery slope of becoming a “common woman” she also lost the support and approval of the church, and instead found herself opposed to all that was legal and decent in the society around her.

    Fornication at an amateur level was always present. Any working man might need to ensure that the woman he married could conceive, so he would try her out first. While to him, this was a sensible precaution, as divorce was not possible, it left her open to the charge of promiscuity, or being a “lecherwyte”. If she became pregnant, and she bore the child outside of marriage, she was also a “childwyte” and both these situations incurred fines.

    Casual fornication was not necessarily a problem BEFORE marriage, but adultery after marriage was, and a woman could be severely punished, whereas a man might be able to shrug off its consequences. An active sex life, if not transmuted at some point into respectability within a marriage, could lead to the degradation of being an out–and–out “fallen woman”.

    Springtime Seduction - 'If we were found, we would be dishonoured.' 'But inside you must come, for our love!' Redrawn from Giacomo Jaquerio's fresco at Castella della Manta in Saluzzo. (1418-1430) (Author, Women in Medieval England, Amberley Publishing)

    For those already at that level, the brothel gave the only possible, if variable, protection. As a member of a ‘bawdy house’ a woman at least had a roof over her head, and food to keep her working. That roof might be owned by the local landowner, or even the local abbot, as in the case of the Southwark properties of the Bishop of Winchester. This led to the women working in them being known as “Winchester Geese”. The goose-bumps, sometimes contracted from these women, have come down into present day language, though any woman too obviously diseased would find herself thrown out onto the street to fend for herself, without even the doubtful protection given by the organised brothel.

    Organised they certainly were, with the bawdy-house keeper always on the lookout for new women, fresh from the country, hoping for a better life in the towns. Bath-houses became an innovation, where men could wallow in warm water with the woman of their choice, often with food and drink served to them in situ. These at least had the benefit of ensuring that the clients had been washed, before intercourse was attempted.

     

    Some prostitutes could occasionally find themselves on the RIGHT side of the law, if they proved useful as “testers” in impotence cases. This was the only way a married woman could hope for an annulment, by proving that her husband was incapable of doing his duty, providing her with a sex life and with children. The York Cause Books give many examples of men being examined by a panel of respectable matrons, to decide whether they could achieve an erection. Sometimes a “tester” wasn’t quite so respectable, and in York a local whore named Margery Grey (professionally known as Cherrylips) was used instead. It was possibly believed she would be comfortable exposing herself to strange men, as well as probably being younger and more attractive, and more likely to gain some sexual response.

    The men who failed the test would have their marriages dissolved, and would find it difficult to make another, due to their inability to perform their husbandly duty.

    Some women were tricked, or otherwise forced, into prostitution. The archetypal innocent country girl was a common victim, being offered a living-in place as a servant, only to find that sleeping with strange men formed part of her duty. The landlord could then claim that she owed him money, and she could be imprisoned until she paid it, either in cash (usually impossible) or by selling sex.

    Naughty Nuns - Redrawn from a medieval original in the MS Douce 264, showing disobedient nuns being taken home to their convent in a wheelbarrow, pushed by a naked man. (Author, Women in Medieval England, Amberley Publishing)

    A slightly more unusual “female” whore was John Rykener, a transvestite prostitute caught with a client in the hayloft of an Inn. He was wearing women’s clothing, calling himself Eleanor, and claimed to be an embroideress. All very amusing – but the penalty for sodomy was being burned! John was arrested and turned up in court still dressed as a woman, apparently oblivious to the danger he was in. The judge did not appear to want to exact the full penalty, so charged John with “defrauding his clients of their expectations”. The pretence that any of his clients imagined he was really a female saved his life, and he was merely fined.

    The clergy were not exempt from the prevailing hypocrisy regarding sex. There were even some brothels known to cater exclusively for priests, while nuns, often in convents against their will, could also find opportunities to have a good time. One nunnery near Wakefield in Yorkshire became notorious, and the Bishop had to step in. He was finally convinced of the goodness of the nuns, by the lover of one of them!

    So, despite the official line that all prostitution was a menace to society, many people at all levels not only indulged in it, but made money from it. The only losers, as always, were the women at the bottom of the pile, the prostitutes themselves. Few of them could hope to save enough to start their own business, so the used and abused, cast off when no longer serviceable, remained the dregs of society, often through no fault of their own.

    While Magdalen houses were quite common in Europe, for the rehabilitation of such women, they were less usual in England, and the sex workers were left to live and die in the shadows.

    Lynda Telford's new book Women in Medieval England is available for purchase now.

  • Anfield Voices by David Paul

    Jubilant fans after the 1977 European Cup Final. (Anfield Voices, Amberley Publishing)

    Just as there are many thousands of supporters of Liverpool Football Club from many different walks of life, there is at least an equal number of tales told by those supporters – some happy, some funny, others quite simply bizarre, and, regrettably, some very sad. The volume of statistics goes back as far as 1892, when the club was founded, and it would be a brave person who tried to write a definitive history of Liverpool Football Club. This book is in no way an attempt to do that, instead it is the ordinary fans and their stories that feature in the following pages. Some stories are about players, some about exciting games and some about the weird and wonderful ways in which fans overcame seemingly insurmountable problems to see their glorious team.

    Tales of travelling to European ties are in amongst these pages, as are many personal anecdotes from fans who tell how Liverpool Football Club has played a part in their lives. And, because so many people just had to talk about him, a whole chapter is devoted to stories about the great Bill Shankly.

    Merseyside has a proud sporting heritage, with football taking pride of place. On any day of the week, conversation in pubs and clubs invariably gets around to football once politics has been cleared out of the way! Liverpudlians have a deep love of the game and many claim to have grown up in either a mixed family or a mixed marriage. This statement doesn’t relate to race or religion, but to peoples’ allegiance to the Merseyside football teams. Having said that, there is often heard around the city the words of that most famous of all football managers, ‘There’s two great sides in Liverpool – Liverpool and, er ... Liverpool Reserves’.

    I had to tell my Scouse friend that it wasn't the Germans who were responsible for the Coluseum looking like this! (Anfield Voices, Amberley Publishing)

    All of the photographs and other items of memorabilia in this book have been loaned by the fans themselves. The all-pervading theme of this oral history is the passion and loyalty which Liverpool fans have for their team. Many of the older supporters can no longer attend the games, but their love for Liverpool is just as strong and vivid as when they were young boys standing on the Kop.

    The Kop itself is now very different from the way it used to be and the Centenary and Anfield Road Stands have also seen extensive re-development, and no doubt there are more changes planned for the future. Amid all of these changes however, one aspect remains constant – and always will – the indefatigable spirit of the club and its supporters.

    How Did the Coliseum End Up Like This?

    In 1977 we flew out to Rome to see Liverpool play Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final of the European Cup. On the way out we met some Scousers who were based in Germany. The Aer Lingus jet that we flew out on was called the Saint Patrick. The whole experience was so amazing I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life. We went along to see the sights of the ruins of the Coliseum. These two Scousers tagged along with us. It was clear that they’d never ventured much further than the outskirts of town. When they saw the Coliseum they were outraged and asked if it was the Germans who had done the damage during the war!

    June Titherington

    The official UEFA souvenir programme for the Europen Cup Final held in Rome on Wednesday 30 May 1984. (Anfield Voices, Amberley Publishing)

    £99 For the Trip of a Lifetime

    My daughter got these tickets, £99 for each of us, that included the price of £3 for the game itself. We started off from Skelhorne Street, five National coaches, and there was a real sense of excitement and almost triumph - people were waving us off and cheering as the buses pulled out of the coach station. We were sleeping out of suitcases, but nobody seemed to mind. On the first night we stayed in France and the next morning we set off early to Switzerland. The following day we were aiming for Florence. It was a five-day tour, so we covered some miles during that time. On the day we got to Florence, we didn’t stay that long, as we then had to set off for Rome. We arrived early in the morning. It was absolutely magnificent. All the German supporters were there, arriving in their super-deluxe coaches, and we were in our somewhat less-grand National coaches, but that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. Anyway, there was much banter between the rival fans, but it was all very good-natured. We went to the Trevi Fountains, and many fans were splashing around, taking the opportunity of cooling themselves down. A German came over to me, and we got into quite a long conversation. He assured me that his team was going to win. I didn’t share this view.  He suggested that, irrespective of the outcome, we should have a drink after the game. We went our separate ways, he to his end of the ground and us to the other. We walked along as a group and, right in the middle of the group, was Bill Shankly himself. He was just like one of us. One of the supporters had lost his money. When Shanks heard this he gave him a few bob for himself. It was a little intimidating in the ground. At our end there were soldiers and police with guns. There were also several very large dogs, to say nothing of the heavy mesh wire which penned us in - almost like wild animals. There was just no need for it. Anyway, the game kicked-off, and it was very exciting game. It was just unbelievable! When we finally left the ground, it was decided that, instead of staying in Rome, we should make our way to Switzerland and do our celebrating there. We had a ball that night. We were one big happy family. From what I can gather, people who travelled either by train or jet didn’t have such a good time as we did.

    Ivy May

    David Paul's book Anfield Voices is available for purchase now.

  • Policing South Wales Docks by Viv Head

    Bute Dock Police Naval Style Cutlass. (Policing South Wales Docks, Amberley Publishing)

    During the Nineteenth Century, South Wales exploded into industrial activity; previously peaceful valleys were turned on their head. Iron masters built their furnaces, coal owners sank their pits, the railways arrived and great docks were built all along the coast; at Newport, Cardiff, Penarth, Barry, Port Talbot and Swansea. South Wales became the crucible of the Industrial Revolution.

    Men arrived from all over the country, eager to be part of these great mechanical workings. Seamen of every nationality came on ships ready to carry these fruits of industrial labour to all corners of the world. The docks became a land of opportunity; peaceful coastal communities were turned into overcrowded towns and cities. Disease, prostitution, violence and dishonesty were everywhere.

    Alexandra Railway & Dock Police in 1921. (Policing South Wales Docks, Amberley Publishing)

    Into this mix of blood, sweat and coal dust came the dock police, charged with keeping a lid on rough communities bent on self-intent. Crime and murderous violence were rife; it took a breed of hard men to step in and take control. The docks were a dark and treacherous place; PC John Foulkes served at Swansea Docks during the latter part of 1890.  One morning when he had not returned to the police station at the end of his night duty, a search was made and his body was found in the water by a fellow officer. There were no witnesses and no evidence of foul play. Cause of death was found to be drowning. So at some point in the night, he had stumbled and lost his footing, or perhaps simply lost his way, or perhaps had challenged someone and ended up in the water. Nobody knows – he was simply doing his job when, alone and in the dark, he had been overtaken by death. Neither was John Foulkes the only one, at least three other officers drowned on duty. The docks could be a fearsome lonely place sometimes.

    Each of the ports employed their own police forces. Over time they amalgamated to join into a single force, the British Transport Police. Then in the mid-1980s came privatisation and containerisation; it was perceived that the police had done their job and were no longer needed. So, in 1985, the last dock policeman switched off the light, locked the police station door, got into his car and drove away. Men, and they were almost entirely men, who had sort to preserve the peace 24 hours a day, seven days a week for almost 130 years. Men dedicated to looking after the lives of others, who occasionally gave their own lives to the cause; men who worked twelve hours a day without a single day off throughout the years of the Great War. Men who did the dirty work that others turned away from.

    Policing South Wales Docks provides an illustrated insight into some of the darker and lighter moments of the dock coppers’ working lives. They weren’t always angels themselves but they do deserve to be remembered. In the 1970s I was privileged to serve at Cardiff Docks for seven years before my police career took me elsewhere. It was an experience unlike any other and I recall it often.

    Viv Head's new book Policing South Wales Docks is available for purchase now.

  • East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995 by Robert Appleton

    Eastern Counties Bristol RELL6G with Eastern Coach Works body, RL680 (RAH 680F) in Stradbroke after working service 203 from Ipswich in June 1979. RL680 was based at the Stradbroke outstation. (East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995, Amberley Publishing)

    I was born and raised in Mistley north-east Essex, the nearby River Stour forming the natural boundary between Essex and Suffolk.

    In September 1965 I started travelling by bus to school in Colchester. These were the buses of the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company Ltd, operating service 221 East Bergholt – Colchester from an outstation at East Bergholt. Normally the bus was a Bristol – Eastern Coach Works LD5G Lodekka. For some reason I became intrigued by the builder’s plate on the rear platform, which stated the chassis builder as Bristol Commercial Vehicles at Bristol, and the bodybuilder Eastern Coach Works at Lowestoft. Also interesting that the fleet numbers and registration numbers agreed, for example fleet number LKD178 had registration number UNG 178.

    Service 221 also operated Mistley – Ipswich. Trips to Ipswich on Saturdays or in school holidays revealed that Eastern Counties had a lot of different Bristol buses and coaches with Eastern Coach Works bodies, and I was hooked, the start of my bus enthusiasm!

    Eastern Counties had a whole network of services radiating from Ipswich, a large depot in Ipswich, smaller depots at Felixstowe and Saxmundham, and a number of outstations in country towns and villages where buses were garaged overnight. The outstation system worked very well, it reduced dead mileage and gave employment to local people. At some point during the day, the outstation buses were refueled and cleaned at Ipswich depot, and swapped with other buses when regular maintenance was due.

    Over the years I enjoyed exploring Eastern Counties’ country bus services. My first journey on service 203 Ipswich – Stradbroke was in June 1979. Worked by Bristol RELL6G RL680 (RAH 680F) out stationed at Stradbroke, beyond Wickham Market we were going further and further in to rural Suffolk. The Stradbroke driver knew all his regular passengers, plus there were friendly waves to farm workers in the fields!

    Eastern National Leyland Tiger with Plaxton Paramount body 1131 (C131 HJN) in Drummer Street bus station at Cambridge in March 1986, working Highwayman service 801 from Chelmsford to Kings Lynn. (East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995, Amberley Publishing)

    Country bus services had a different character to frequent urban services. In 1974 Eastern Counties gave up services north of Ipswich to Debenham and Otley. These services were taken over by Bickers of Coddenham who provided a reliable service with reasonable fares and friendly drivers. Bickers developed other services to such an extent that in 1988 the business was purchased by Eastern Counties and Ipswich Buses.

    Mistley was also served by the Eastern National Omnibus Company Ltd. Their small depot at Harwich provided buses for the long service 70 to Bishops Stortford via Colchester and Braintree, plus local services to Dovercourt and Parkeston Quay, and some workings to Clacton. Eastern National had a larger depot at Clacton, which operated open-top seafront services in the summer.

    Eastern National and Eastern Counties were both Tilling companies that became part of the National Bus Company, but there were differences. Eastern National’s fleet numbering system was four digits displayed on a fleet number plate with a two letter depot allocation plate above. There were differences in vehicle purchasing as well, with Eastern National buying more Bristol FLF Lodekkas and Leyland Nationals than Eastern Counties, whilst Eastern Counties bought more Bristol FS5G Lodekkas, Bristol RELL6G and Bristol VRT buses.

    East Anglia had municipal operators in Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, and Colchester. Each with its distinctive livery and different makes of chassis and body on their buses.  I regret that I did not travel to Lowestoft in time to photograph the Waveney municipal buses there before they ceased operation. Later I did see the last Bristol VRT delivered to the National Bus Company, Eastern Counties VR294 (VEX 294X) at Lowestoft depot.

    As crew operation was replaced by one man operation, I travelled further afield to Norwich, Cambridge, and Peterborough to see, ride on, and photograph the remaining Bristol FS5G and FLF6G Lodekkas in the Eastern Counties fleet before they were withdrawn. These journeys also introduced me to the buses of two other National Bus Company subsidiaries. United Counties reached Cambridge from Northampton and Biggleswade. They also served Peterborough on joint services with Eastern Counties from Huntingdon and Kettering. Lincolnshire Road Car buses reached Kings Lynn from Spalding, and later their long service Skegness – Boston – Spalding was extended to Peterborough as part of the Fenlander network.

    Delaine Coaches 102 (GDB 181N) Leyland Atlantean with Northern Counties body, ex Greater Manchester Transport, leaving Peterborough for Bourne in September 1989. (East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995, Amberley Publishing)

    Innovations in the 1980s included Eastern National operating Highwayman limited stop services connecting Essex with surrounding towns and cities. Eastern Counties developed Eastline limited stop services connecting towns and cities in their area.

    Visits to Peterborough also introduced me to the immaculate fleet of Delaine Coaches, who operated in to Peterborough from their home town of Bourne in Lincolnshire. In East Anglia there were many examples of bus services crossing county boundaries. Chambers of Bures operated from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk to Colchester in Essex. Norfolk’s operated from Nayland in Suffolk to Colchester. Carter’s Coach Services operated from East Bergholt in Suffolk to Colchester, and later from Hadleigh in Suffolk to Colchester. Hedingham and District had services in both Essex and Suffolk.

    Eastern Counties was split up in September 1984, with most coach work passing to Ambassador Travel, and western area bus services to Cambus. In September 1989 Cambus was split with the Peterborough area services passing to Viscount Bus and Coach, which meant another new livery and fleet numbering system. It was time to go to Peterborough again, not that I minded, because the tall walls of the car parks and Queensgate shopping centre surrounding the bus station amplified the distinctive sounds of the buses, from the melodious sounds of a Bristol RELL6G to the deep throated roar of a Bristol VRT series three with Gardner 6LXB engine.

    1986 brought bus deregulation and privatisation of the National Bus Company. Eastern Counties was privatised in 1987, and became part of Grampian Regional Transport Holdings in 1994. Eastern National was privatised in 1986, and became part of Badgerline Holdings in 1990. Grampian Regional Transport and Badgerline merged in 1995 to form First Bus. Also in 1995 Cambus and Viscount became part of Stagecoach Group.

    Thus 1995 is the end date for this book, but why start in 1970? The reason is my late father was a keen amateur photographer who bought a secondhand Exacta 35mm camera for me in 1969. It had to be used with a separate exposure meter to calculate aperture and shutter speed, and I had to estimate the distance to the subject to set the focus. After a lot of trial and error I was able to achieve good results by 1970. Most of the images in this book were taken on Agfachrome colour slide film, CT18 rated at 50 ASA, or CT100 rated at 100 ASA.

    In this book I have tried to capture the essential character of bus services in East Anglia, especially the rural and inter-urban services that connected communities across East Anglia.

    Robert Appleton's new book East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995 is available for purchase now.

  • 50 Gems of Derbyshire by Mike Appleton

    'Of the High Peak are seven wonders writ.’

    There’s a saying … if you do what you have always done, then you will get what you always got.

    I’m paraphrasing a little but I’m sure the basic premise remains the same: if you stay with what you know then it is almost impossible to experience new horizons.

    Discovering 50 Gems of Derbyshire was a simple feat. The Peak District National Park itself, Britain’s first, covers 555 square miles. It has two distinct areas – the White Peak in the lower southern part of the park featuring its caves and valleys, and the Dark Park; more northern and wilder.

    It reaches into five counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester and more than ten million visitors a year enter its boundaries.

    Then you mix in those areas just outside the Park. Buxton for instance is the self-entitled Gateway to the Peak, whilst down in the South East, Derby is one of the finest cities in the country.

    Choosing gems with such an array on offer was a gift. Here are a sneak preview of five of the treasures the county contains.

    Edale Cross

    Sheltered and inset in the corner of the point where two drystone walls meet is an interesting medieval wayside and boundary cross. It stands on the parish boundary between Hatfield and Edale, next to the ancient moorland track between those two villages. It is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 because of its national importance – yet because of its location it begs the question – just how did it end up there?

    Edale Cross - Just a little wander from the Pennine Way, and well worth the diverson. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Kinder Downfall

    I’ve been lucky to visit Kinder Downfall, the 98 foot waterfall on Kinder, in two differing states – but largely in the same weather! The first was on a damp and dreary day, where the upper part of the fall near the Pennine Way was flowing decently and the lower part clouded in mist. The second was when I viewed it from lower down in more windy times and saw the fall blow back on itself. Both states were pretty impressive after a long walk and in winter ice-climbers take on its majesty too.

    The Downfall on a misty day. This is at the point where it crosses the Pennine Way. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Mam Tor

    Dominating the skyline to the west of Castleton is the ‘shivering mountain’ Mam Tor. It stands at 1,696 feet and is part of the Great Ridge which takes in Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill - one of the finest walks in the Peak.

    Mam Tor summit looking towards the great ridge. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Eldon Hole

    One of the ‘original’ wonders of the Peak, around half an hour’s walk from Peak Forest. Whilst its depths are the goal of cavers, the open chasm is well worth visiting. It is the largest open pothole in Derbyshire at 110 feet by 20 feet at the surface. It descends some 245 feet under the slopes of Eldon Hill and has some fine formations; Phil Wolstenholme’s attached picture doing it more than justice.

    Stunning formation. (c. Phil Wolstenholme, 50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Ashford-in-the-Water

    Edensor may have been designed as a model village, but Ashford-in-the-Water is an original catwalk star; one of the prettiest in the country. It’s a chocolate box scene with beautiful idyllic houses and buildings alongside a medieval packhorse bridge that is sure to be one of the most photographed in the area!

    A medieval packhorse bridge. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

     

    Mike Appleton's new book 50 Gems of Derbyshire is available for purchase now.

  • Illustrated Tales of Lancashire by David Paul

    Grave of Chylde of Hale. (Illustrated Tales of Lancashire, Amberley Publishing)

    The ‘Chylde of Hale’

    In 1578 John Middleton, known locally as the ‘Chylde of Hale’, was born in the village of Hale, which was in the parish of Childwall and under the jurisdiction of the See of Chester. He was buried in the village churchyard in 1623. His gravestone bears the following inscription: “Here lyeth the bodye of John Middleton, the Chylde of Hale.  Born ad 1578.  Dyed ad 1623.”

    Middleton’s claim to fame is that he was reputed to stand nine feet and three inches tall. His hand alone measured seventeen inches from the carpus to the end of the middle finger; and the breadth of his palm was eight inches and a half. Because of his size, the Sheriff of Lancashire, Sir Gilbert Ireland, hired him as a bodyguard. In 1620, at the direct invitation of King James I, Middleton was taken to the court where he is said to have been regaled “with large ruffs about his neck and hands; a striped doublet of crimson and white round his waist; a blue girdle embroidered with gold; large white plush breeches powdered with blue flowers; green stockings; broad shoes of a light colour, having red heels, and tied with large bows of red ribbon; just below his knees bandages of the same colour, with large bows; by his side a sword, suspended by a broad belt over his shoulder, and embroidered, as his girdle, with blue and gold, with the addition of gold fringe upon the edge.” Whilst at court, it is said that he pitted against the king’s wrestler whom he overcame and inflicted a degree of injury, causing some disquiet amongst the courtiers. Middleton was immediately dismissed from court with a purse of £20; a significant sum at the time. On the way back to Hale, Sir Gilbert stopped off at Brazenose College Oxford, his former college, where, so taken by Middleton, a life-sized portrait of him was painted. Unfortunately, when continuing on their journey, they were set upon by robbers and his purse of £20 was stolen. John Middleton died in penury.

    Chylde of Hale's cottage. (Illustrated Tales of Lancashire, Amberley Publishing)

    Many years after his death, Middleton’s body was taken up and his principal bones were preserved at Hale Hall, where they were subjected to further examination. It was recorded that Middleton’s thigh bone, when measured against a normally-sized man, reached from his hip to his feet, and all of the other measurements which were taken were found to be in a similar proportion. It is thought that when Middleton grew to his great height, reputedly overnight, he could only stand upright in the centre of his cottage, and therefore had to resort to sleeping with his legs hanging out of the open window!

    Statue of the Chylde of Hale. (Illustrated Tales of Lancashire, Amberley Publishing)

    On one occasion Middleton’s was said to have fallen asleep near to the banks of the Mersey, only to find a massive bull stood some way in front of him when he woke up. The bull went to charge, but, because of his immense strength, Middleton caught the bull by the horns and threw him over to the next field. Middleton was able to walk home without any further hindrance.

    Another legend that lives on in Hale relates to the time when Middleton was suffering from an unknown illness. During the period of the illness he was imbued with immense strength, so much so, that one of his closest friends was forced to chain him to his bed so that he would not cause any damage in his delirium. Upon his recovery two of the chains were given away.  One of the chains was sent to Boston in order to prevent the Stump from being blown into the sea, and the second chain was despatched to Chester so that the Dee Mills could be saved from floating down the river. There was a third chain which, it was said, helped to restrain the king when he was suffering from a particularly troublesome complaint.

    David Paul's new book Illustrated Tales of Lancashire is available for purchase now.

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