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  • Andrea Doria and Other Recent Liner Disasters by William H. Miller

    This year, 2016, is the 60th year of the Andrea Doria sinking.   That number prompted this book, Andrea Doria & Other Recent Liner Disasters, another look back. In addition, I have selected some other passenger ship disasters, but not all. Many liners finish their days at the scrap yard, reduced to rubble, but some have had tragic, very sad endings. This is a record, beginning in 1942, of some of those passenger ship disasters.

    Andrea 1 Andrea Doria departing Genoa (ALF Collection, Andrea Doria and other recent Liner Disasters, Amberley Publishing)

    The sinking of the Andrea Doria remains one of the most famous maritime disasters of the 20th century. Myself, I well remember the television newscasts and newspaper headlines on the morning of 26th July. The Doria had been rammed the night before by another liner, Sweden's Stockholm. It all seemed too sad, tragic, almost incomprehensible. Even I was in disbelief. How could the Andrea Doria sink? Perhaps, it was all a mistake. Still a schoolboy but already a devoted follower and observer of the great liners, I was puzzled. I asked a special favor of my father:  Would he take me by car a day later, the 27th, from Hoboken to the cliffs of nearby Weehawken to make absolutely sure that the Andrea Doria had not arrived. She was due at Pier 84, at the foot of West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan and just across from Weehawken, on the morning of the 26th. Soon after we arrived, I looked across, even in the fading light of a summer's evening, and the berth at Pier 84 was indeed empty. The Andrea Doria had not arrived as scheduled. Yes, she had sunk – the news reports were correct. Some thirteen New York City blocks north, the smallish, all-white Stockholm was in port. She had returned after having made an 11:30 am departure two days before, on Wednesday, the 25th.  She was again at Swedish American Line's terminal, Pier 97 at the foot of West 57th Street. She had not been due back in New York harbor for another month, until late August. The Stockholm was never one of the big, more imposing Atlantic liners – she was actually more of a passenger-cargo ship. But she seemed especially small on that July evening. Like a bad child, she almost seemed to be hiding, in disgrace, fearing punishment. To most, she was already the villain, the less important, little ship that sank the very important flagship of the entire Italian merchant marine and one of the post-Second World War's era finest new ocean liners.

    Newspapers and television followed-up for at least a week with further reports, recollections from survivors, tales from heroic rescue ships like the legendary Ile de France and the freighter Cape Ann. Rather quickly, Life magazine even rushed out an issue about salvaging the Andrea Doria. Could she be dragged to shore by a huge chains? Could she be systematically pumped-out and slowly float to the surface? Or in deeper imagination, could she be filled with the likes of thousands of ping pong balls and be refloated? In fact, the Italians wanted nothing of salvage. In deepening silence, the Company – both in New York and at its Genoa headquarters – slipped into total retreat on the subject of the Andrea Doria. Almost immediately, it was announced instead that a bigger, more luxurious replacement would be built – dubbed the "super Andrea Doria" by one newspaper – and would be in service in less than four years. The Italians focused on the positive, the future, the continuing of its famed trans-Atlantic liner service.

    Andrea 2 The Stockholm is on the left in this view from the harbor in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Albert Wilhelmi Collection, Andrea Doria and other recent Liner Disasters, Amberley Publishing)

    The Stockholm went into its own kind of hiding. After landing her passengers, survivors and most of crew, she was towed stern-first by Moran tugs from Pier 97, south along the Hudson and over to the bottom end of the Brooklyn waterfront, to the Bethlehem Steel shipyard at 56th Street. Placed immediately into dry dock, the Stockholm would need serious surgery: four months of repairs and the replacement of her raked, ice-strengthened bow. Tucked in an inner floating dock, the Stockholm was not easily seen (or photographed) from, say, a passing ship or Staten Island ferry.

    In the summer of 1988, I arrived in Genoa and had a short stay before heading off on two Mediterranean cruises, both on Italian liners, by the way – the Achille Lauro and the Ausonia. While in a Genoa hotel, I came across a newspaper. A headline read "Death Ship Arrives". A small, all-white passenger ship had arrived and was to be converted and made over as a contemporary cruise ship. Then over forty years old, it was the former Stockholm. The "villain" in 1956 was now an Italian ship.

    Andrea 3 A view of the badly damaged Stockholm. (Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Andrea Doria and other recent Liner Disasters, Amberley Publishing)

    In April 2001, I traveled to the Caribbean, to Montego Bay on Jamaica, to board a rather special cruise. It included three days in otherwise remote Cuba:  two days in Havana and a day at a beach resort called the Isle of Youth. The ship was the specially chartered Valtur Prima, the former Stockholm. She had been, however, so completely rebuilt that there was very little trace of her earlier Scandinavian heritage. I searched all through the passenger areas. While using the ship's tenders, however, we would pass the knife-like bow. Upon looking closely, the slightly raised but very faint lettering was visible – it spelled Stockholm.

    Five years later, in 2006, I was a board member of the Ocean Liner Museum, an on-going project then based at Lower Manhattan's South Street Seaport Museum. Along with a permanent exhibit, we offered periodic lectures and programs.   We decided to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the sinking of the Andrea Doria. There was a half-day exhibit of memorabilia, artifacts and photos of the Italian liner as well as a series of talks. John Moyer talked of his various salvage efforts, others spoke about the Italian Line and its ships, and still others recalled personal memories of the tragedy. One lady traveled from New Jersey and spoke, often with high emotion. She was a teenager in 1956 and was sent by her family to begin a new life by living with relatives in America. Her parents brought her to Naples and where she boarded the Andrea Doria. She shared a four-berth room in tourist class and was looked after by the three older ladies sharing the same room. On the night of 25th July, she was suddenly awakened and told to hurry – the three ladies would take her to the lifeboats up on Boat Deck. She described the great commotion, the sense of the unknown but fear as well and the crowds of frantic passengers on stairwells and in corridors. She was guided to a lifeboat, but then was deeply embarrassed. She was wearing only pajamas and slippers, but in front of a Catholic priest, who was joining the same lifeboat. That, she told us, was more upsetting than the drama unfolding with the ship itself.   The ship already had a great list as she was herded into a lifeboat and then, in the dark of night, went off to a rescue ship, the liner Ile de France. Seeing the ship sink the following morning was "horrifying". Later met by relatives at New York's Pier 88, she never forgot the Andrea Doria, that night and the sinking. Nightmares haunted her for years. To that morning in 2006, she was never again able to board another ship, not even a harbor ferryboat.


    William H. Miller's new book Andrea Doria and Other Recent Liner Disasters is available for purchase now.

  • A look at The A-Z of Victorian Crime by M W Oldridge

    Eliza Adkins couldn’t go on listening to the distressed cries of her child for another minute. Put yourself in her shoes. Homeless, friendless, without recourse to money and unemployable so long as little Zadock needed her. Forty-two years on the planet – possibly more – had finally brought her to the Loughborough Union Workhouse, and now she was separated from her son by an iron grid. His screams for her floated through the unbridgeable space between them. She seized him when she could, and they fled for the Leicestershire countryside.

    On 30 July 1865, Zadock’s body was found at the bottom of a well, drowned, with nothing but wild gooseberries in his stomach – an improvised last meal. This was only one of countless stories of Victorian crime in which the driving forces seemed to relate to prevailing social conditions, the circumscribed role of women, poverty and unconquerable despair. In retrospect, Eliza’s life sentence might be recognised as a merciful alternative to execution (the last executions in the UK were less than a hundred years away, and public executions were done away with on the British mainland in 1868), but we might still be appalled and outraged by the inability of the social institutions of Victorian Britain to alleviate suffering and to manage risk.

    Of course, there were others who did not fall into the category of the destitute and the despondent. Some, like Percy Lefroy Mapleton, selfishly preferred a daring but brutal crime to the quotidian rigours of work; some, like William Palmer (who was as workshy as Mapleton, in truth), seemed almost robotic in their manner, fixating on a modus operandi and pursuing it – quite literally – ad nauseam. Poisons were everywhere, not least in Palmer’s case, and their victims were distributed throughout society, from Thomas Ball, the obnoxious labourer whose death was caused (perhaps) by an accidental dose of arsenic-based insecticide, to James Maybrick, the no-less-objectionable cotton merchant who died with the contents of a small pharmacy in his insides.

    Along the way, crimes of diverse and sometimes unfamiliar descriptions kept the police – a social fixture by the middle of the century, but broadly unknown in its first quarter – on their toes. Terrorism became a problem, especially in the 1880s, and some of the finest men available to the Metropolitan Police, in London, were instrumental in attempts to blunt its often indiscriminate edge. The decade closed with more innovation: the shock and horror of the Whitechapel Murders, in which Jack the Ripper, whoever he was, defeated all attempts to ensure justice for the random, unfortunate victims of his unprecedented violence.

    As the nineteenth century went on, the law attempted to evolve, better reflecting the desperate situations of some of those whose actions deviated from the norm. Dealing with the case of Daniel M’Naghten, doctors and alienists helped to codify the legal implications of madness (not that these were greeted with enthusiasm by the Queen, who was too often the target of the murderous misjudgements of individuals who had become estranged from reality). There are signs of compassion in addition to the doctrinaire dispassion, but some groups – children, in particular – were always vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment by those with power over them. The demise of Reginald Channell Cancellor, a lad of fourteen who was stuck on his four times table, is only one sad example of this phenomenon at work.

    Our perception of Victorian society is affected as greatly by our understanding of its criminal underbelly as it is by its legacy of high culture – its literary fiction, its art, its drama. In The A-Z of Victorian Crime, we have attempted to illuminate some darkened corners, looking again at some familiar cases, and exploring some which may be less familiar. The reader is invited to follow us back there, among the ghosts of the past, and to make themselves ready to be appalled, horrified and saddened in equal measure.


    M W Oldridge and co- authors Neil Bell, Kate Clarke and Trevor Bond's new book The A-Z of Victorian Crime is available for purchase now.

  • Digging deep in the Pennines – The story of stone quarrying by David Johnson

    I can probably trace my interest in and fascination with quarries back to ingrained memories from early childhood when I would spend what seemed like hours gazing out of the window on gloomy winter days across the fields behind our little cottage. Entranced by the red glow from the open doors of a Hoffmann brick kiln, and when my best friend and I (illegally) played in the clay pits during school holidays. Add to that is a life-long love (well, since the age of 10) of being in hills and mountains, and an incurable obsession with peering down holes in the ground. I am drawn to rock, not just the ways in which it was won from the ground in quarries and underground mines, but how different types of stone have been used in buildings and how this all impacts on the landscape. I have also, and not just as a hobby, spent many a day repairing the dry stone walls that are such an iconic and essential feature of the landscape in the Yorkshire Dales where I have lived and worked for over 30 years. Up here it is hard not breathe rock, to feel it, to empathise with it and to become totally enveloped by its effects on life, work and landscape.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 1 Underground quarrymen using hammers and bars to prize away blocks of rock in a now-disused chert quarry in Swaledale. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    My deep interests in the quarrying of limestone, in particular, led to my undertaking a comprehensive field survey of the many hundred lime kilns that are peppered across the Dales and the former county of Westmorland, most now in a ruinous state – if they survive at all. One result of this was my first book for Amberley Publishing (the second, revised edition of Limestone industries of the Yorkshire Dales, October 2010) which has come to be recognised as THE classic work on limestone quarrying and lime burning.

    Quarrying in the Pennines is not just about limestone, though. The diversity of quarry materials – past and present – is a direct reflection of the region’s varied and complex geology, and of the multi-faceted ways in which stone products were such essential ingredients in the days before manmade substitutes started to kill off our traditional industries. For anyone of a certain age, when they were children, lime fired in kilns from limestone quarried in almost every parish, found its way into most aspects of daily life – in textile dyes, carpets, clothes, as whitewash and limewash, as disinfectant, in tanning leather, making soap the age-old way, for mortar, for preventing cereal seed from rotting, for improving the productivity of soil and pasture, for curing cattle disease ... the list is endless.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 2 A massive judd wall built to hold back waste stone in a disused sandstone quarry near Shibden in West Yorkshire. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    Houses and barns were roofed either with slate or flagstones – the thackstones of old – all of which came from quarries across the Dales and the wider Pennines. Dairies and domestic pantries had shelves made of Blue Flag, actually a hard mudstone quarried in Upper Ribblesdale; public buildings across the country had fireplaces and floors finished off in Black Marble (really just polished fossil-rich limestone) from Dentdale and Garsdale; terraced housing, town halls and other public edifices across Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire were built from sandstone rock quarried across the Pennines, each town’s character being partly determined by the type of sandstone used – some smooth and fine grained, others coarser, some light in colour, others deep brown. Chimney pots and sanitary ware were manufactured from fireclay dug from pits and underground workings across the region and, of course, the endless terraced houses of many an industrial town were built with bricks using clays, again of varying colours.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 3 A group of men in a limestone quarry in Ribblesdale in the 1880s proudly displaying the tools of their trade. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    Stone has been quarried in the Pennines since Roman times though it is difficult to pick out either Roman or medieval quarries today: they were not large and many have long since been in-filled or buried in vegetation but they can still be found and recognised by their hummocky and seemingly disorganised nature. Quarrying took off in a major way in the late seventeenth century, and grew apace during the next two hundred years as towns and industrial complexes mushroomed with their never-ending need for building materials and raw products. Until the late nineteenth century quarries were on a small scale compared to today’s giants, and most of the work was done by men reliant on hand tools and sheer graft. Dimension stone – large blocks of stone – were prized out using long iron bars, stone to be crushed was broken up in the quarries by men wielding sledge hammers; access to deep quarry holes was by often rickety ladders called stees while, later on, stone was hauled out by A-frames or steam cranes. It was hard and demanding work, and weather dependant, and accidents were common, but many quarrymen then as now took pride in their work and were loyal to the quarries where they toiled.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 4 Breaker and filler pushing V-skips full of limestone that they have broken up by hand. They were paid on a piece-work basis – the more skips they filled, the more they got paid. In poor weather they earned nothing. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    For this book I have drawn together a collection of historical photographs from across the Yorkshire Pennines which provide the reader with a wide-ranging view of quarries that have long since been abandoned or even in-filled, that quarried a broad range of stone types, and that used simple technology. Many of them are published here for the first time. In addition, I have included photographs I have taken especially for the book showing evidence of old quarries and methods as they are seen today. Each site has been given a grid reference so that the interested reader can visit those sites which are publicly accessible and safe to enter.

    My research interests do not just focus on quarrying and the use of quarry products: I am keenly interested in rural trades in general in the Pennines and Cumbria and my next book is due to be published by Amberley this year. An Improving Prospect? A  history of agricultural change in Cumbria examines the ways in which farming in Cumbria has changed over the centuries since medieval times – the hows, the whys and the by whoms of agriculture.


    David Johnson's new book Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines: An Illustrated History is available for purchase now.

  • Lichfield Pubs by Neil Coley

    The British pub is a unique institution. So-called pubs can be found in other countries but they are never quite the same as the real thing. We all have our own opinion as to what makes an ideal pub. Whether it is a venue to meet and chat with our friends or a refuge from the world with a quiet corner, perhaps in front of a roaring fire. It could be a favourite haunt where a great meal can be had or simply somewhere to relax with a packet of crisps and a pint of good ale. There are pubs for all tastes.

    Lichfield Pubs 1 The Bowling Green (Lichfield Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    A city such as Lichfield has many pubs, some of which are so old that their origins are lost in the mists of time. Today about thirty or so public houses can be found in or just outside the city centre. Over the years many more have disappeared. Indeed in the nineteenth century there were over eighty inns, taverns or simple beer houses in the city. Some of these were forced to close by local licensing authorities worried about the number of outlets selling alcohol at a time when the temperance movement was a force to be reckoned with. Others faded out of history for other diverse reasons. Some closed due to simple economics or the poor state of their buildings. One was closed after locals objected to its use as a brothel and another ancient pub reportedly fell down in the middle of the night after building work had been carried out.

    Some of the oldest pubs in Lichfield are ancient coaching inns. Back in the eighteenth century the city of Lichfield stood on the main north/south coaching route and in those days the city would have been incredibly busy with the comings and goings of laden stagecoaches clattering along its cobbled streets. Bird Street was the main coaching inn area of the city with the Swan and the George being the foremost ones. People often broke their journeys in Lichfield and stopped at such places for good meals and beds for the night. Another old coaching inn, the King’s Head, is also situated in Bird Street. It was here in 1705 that the Staffordshire regiment was founded, an army regiment that would subsequently take part in many important conflicts down the centuries.

    Lichfield’s most famous son and the writer of the renowned dictionary, Samuel Johnson, having made his name in London, often returned to his home city. When he visited Lichfield Johnson used to stay at the Three Crowns, which just happened to be next door to his childhood home (now the excellent Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum). Johnson’s love of the Three Crowns’ ale is well documented and indeed up until the early part of the nineteenth century most pubs in the city would have brewed their own beer with Lichfield rivaling nearby Burton as a brewing centre. Sadly the Three Crowns, magnificent in its day, is now no longer with us although the actual building still provides some evidence of its coaching inn past.

    Lichfield Pubs 2 The Bridge Tavern c. 1906 (Lichfield Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    My book Lichfield Pubs examines the history of the existing and the extinct pubs of the city. My main objective in writing it was to produce something that was very informative with historical stories that had never been gathered together in one place before, but also to write something that was readable and, hopefully, fun. It required me to do a great amount of research in the local records’ office where I accessed old newspapers, documents and books. As a result I was able to not only write about the famous people who interacted with the inns and taverns of the city (as well as Johnson there were individuals like the writers George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Farquhar) but also stories about the unsung people of the city.

    Most of the photographs in the book are of city pubs today as well as buildings that are still there but now have a different usage. I was extremely pleased at how the photographs have been reproduced in the book. (I can now, rather grandly, think of myself as not only a published author but as a published photographer!) The book also includes a number of historic photos of Lichfield pubs and I was very pleased to be able to delve into the St Mary’s Heritage Centre’s photographic collection for some wonderful views of bygone Lichfield and the old pubs of the city.

    Pubs are, without doubt, one of the great British inventions and a lot can be learned by studying their history and relevance to their local communities. In Lichfield there are, I believe, some of the most interesting pubs in the country and they are just one of the many reasons to visit this great cathedral city.


    Neil Coley's new book Lichfield Pubs is available for purchase now.

  • A History of St Mawes Sailing Club by Nigel Sharp

    I was born and brought up in St Mawes and, although I lived “up country” for thirty-five years, St Mawes was always “home”. It was probably inevitable that would I move back one day and I eventually did so in 2007.

    A History of St Mawes 1 Taken at the Marieholm/18 Footer Championship in 2011. (Photo by Graham Pinkney, A History of St Mawes Sailing Club, Amberley Publishing)

    I have been a member of St Mawes Sailing Club since 1955 when I was less than a year old (and my five siblings also joined at similar ages) and so it seemed natural to get involved with the running of the club almost as soon as I moved back to St Mawes. Initially I was Sailing Secretary (while also becoming the rather grandly-named Chairman of the Refurbishment Committee around the same time) and in 2011 I became Commodore. In doing so I was very much following in the family footsteps as my father was the first post-war Commodore and my brother was Commodore in the 1970s – neither for very long, however, and I am pleased to say that I am now the longest serving Commodore in my family!

    A History of St Mawes 2 In 2006 Classic Sailing and StMSC organised the first Pilot Cutter Review, a sereis of weekend races adn social events. (Photo by Nigel Sharp, A History of St Mawes Sailing Club, Amberley Publishing)

    In 2010 I ended my career in the boatbuilding industry and started out as a freelance marine writer/photographer, and so I was delighted when Amberley Publishing asked me to compile and write this picture-based book, A History of St Mawes Sailing Club. The process was extremely enjoyable and satisfying, and I inevitably learnt a lot about the club. There was a fair bit I was unable to find out, however, as there seem to be periods in the history of the club (especially the early days) when very little is known. The book seems to have been well received by many of our club members which is obviously very pleasing but also a little surprising. “Well, I knew all that already” was the sort of response I half expected from some of the old stalwarts (by which I mean the old stalwarts who didn't move away for most of their adult lives, as I did). On the contrary, several have told me that they have learnt a lot from reading the book.

    But of my three books now published by Amberley, the one that gives me the most satisfaction is Troubled Waters: Leisure Boating and the Second World War. The reason for this is that I started researching it about four years ago, with no idea if it would ever come to anything, if I would ever actually write it, and if anyone would ever publish it. I put an enormous amount of time and effort into it and the whole experience made me think much more than ever before about the horrors of war and, in particular, how lucky my generation has been to be able to choose to avoid it completely. Somehow that thought is particularly poignant (not that this is relevant to my book – in fact it’s even the wrong war) the 1st of July 2016 which is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme in which 19,240 British soldiers were killed just on that first day.


    Nigel Sharp's new book A History of St Mawes Sailing Club is available for purchase now.

  • Dolls' Houses: A History and Collector's Guide by Moi Ali

    As a kid, I longed for a dolls’ house. Growing up in a one-parent family, money was tight and my dream of owning one had to wait several decades – until my forties, to be precise. Some might find it strange to hear of an adult buying a toy, but most collectors of dolls’ houses and miniatures don’t regard dolls’ houses as playthings, but as historic or artistic miniature buildings containing authentically-styled, scaled and period furnishings. In fact, the very first dolls’ houses were also aimed at adults.

    Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria commissioned the Munich Baby House, the first recorded dolls’ house, in 1557. A “baby” house was not a house for babies or children, nor even a baby or small house. This one was a four storey miniaturised version of one of his grand ducal residences. With a garden, stable, barn and dairy, it was positively palatial. Sadly it was destroyed by fire in 1674.

    Doll House 1 This modern German dolls' house looks very different to the early Bavarian 'baby' houses of the sixteenth century. (Doll's Houses, Amberley Publishing)

    The world’s earliest surviving dolls’ house is on display in Bavaria. Dating to 1611, it is in the German National Museum in Nuremburg. Other early dolls’ houses are also in that museum, including the Stromer House, dating to 1639, and two later 17th century houses, the Kress House and the Baumler House. In the UK, a Nuremburg house dating to 1673 can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London.

    Exquisite replica houses commissioned from the finest craftsmen were proudly displayed in the grand mansions of Germany, Holland and Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. These bijou buildings contained fine furnishings, paintings, porcelain, silverwares and everything else that could be found in a stately home at that time. These baby houses served an educational purpose, teaching aristocratic girls the basics of running a grand house and keeping servants.

    Dutch baby houses were not what we would recognise today as dolls’ houses. They were effectively cabinets containing furnished miniature rooms, and are referred to as cabinet houses for that reason. Early Dutch houses can be seen in Utrecht (Petronella de la Court’s cabinet house of around 1670); and in Amsterdam, Petronella Dunois’ 1676 house.

    Doll House 2 Made for the daughter of merchant George Henry Loxdale of Kingsland House, Aigburth, Liverpool, this dolls' house is believed to be a copy of the family home. (Doll's Houses, Amberley Publishing)

    Early British dolls’ houses were also in cabinet form, although by the 18th century, we adopted the German taste for a more architectural style of dolls’ house. The earliest surviving British house, Ann Sharp’s Baby House of around 1695, is privately-owned and in the form of a cupboard rather than a house.

    Some say that these early miniature buildings were called baby houses because they were baby or small versions of big houses. Others take the view that as dolls were known at that time as babies, a house for dolls would be known as a baby house.

    Dolls’ houses enjoyed their heyday during the Victorian era. Mass production meant that instead of having to employ a skilled carpenter to produce a bespoke miniature building, families could walk into a toy shop and buy a more affordable machine-made dolls’ house. Hamley’s iconic Regent Street toy shop opened in 1881, and all big towns and cities would have a toy store of some sort.

    Dolls’ houses could also be purchased mail order, using the relatively new postal service. A newspaper advert from 1888 advertised Dimple Villa, “A real doll’s house for one shilling”. Postage and carriage for this flat-pack house would set you back another 4d!

    The manufacturer of Dimple Villa, London-based Hinde’s, had a range of popular shilling toys. Its shilling dolls’ house was advertised as a “quite wonderful toy for the money”, being “a most attractive double fronted residence” with “imitation red brick and stone facings, bay windows, green Venetian blinds.” We think of Victorian dolls’ houses as a taste of nostalgia, but to the Victorians these houses were bang up-to-date. The shilling house had “interior decoration all in the modern style. Dados, bright wallpapers &c.”

    The popularity of dolls’ houses created a market for affordable miniature furniture, furnishings and other items. Many were made by small family businesses in Britain and Germany, and may have been produced as a cottage industry using exploited child labour. Home-made items were also incorporated, some crafted by doting parents and others by the girls who owned the dolls’ houses. The average Victorian twelve-year-old girl was quite an accomplished needlewoman, well able to sew a small pair of curtains, make bedding and create a little tapestry rug.

    Doll House 3 Made in the Edwardian era, this English painted wooden dolls' house reflects the architectural style of a typical middle-class Edwardian home. (Doll's Houses, Amberley Publishing)

    The mother of all dolls’ houses is Queen Mary’s, created for her by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924. It has electricity, running water and functioning lifts. It contains Doulton and Wedgwood porcelain; oil paintings by respected artists; crystal chandeliers and marble-topped gilt wood tables; and a library of original books by prominent authors including Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and Sir James Barrie. (Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw refused to write miniature books for the Queen.) Each tiny book has a bookplate drawn by E.H. Shepherd, illustrator of Winnie the Pooh.

    Well into the 20th century, mass production did not lead to the extinction of home-made dolls’ houses. Fathers and grandfathers continued to make bespoke little (and not so little) houses for their daughters and granddaughters – and still make them, to this day, in sheds and garages across the land.

    Some of these home-made dolls’ houses tell a story of social history. A modernist dolls’ house in the Jewish Museum, London, was made by the son of an East End furniture maker for his daughter. Based on an actual house in Angmering-on-Sea, it demonstrates the aspirations of a Jewish community growing up in cramped housing in London’s East End. During the interwar period they started to build new communities in the suburbs, which offered more space and better housing.

    The Art Deco house of the 1930s was striking for its angular departure from the traditional, fussy Victorian and Edwardian styles. Streamlined houses in white, with the air of ocean liners, typified the era. The clean lines synonymous with Deco were reflected in mass-produced miniature houses such as the Number 53 by Tri-ang.

    Doll House 4 Internationally renowned miniaturist model-makers Mulvaney and Rogers made this room box, the French Room, for A World in Miniature Museum in Carlisle. this is a copy of one of the rooms at the Palace of Versailles near Paris. (Doll's Houses, Amberley Publishing)

    From the 1930s to the 1960s, there was a trend for home-built houses – not scratch-built, but models constructed at home using either commercially-available plans from leading companies such as Hobbies, or dolls’ house kits. Hobbies also sold components such as doors and windows, which could be incorporated into home-made houses for a more professional finish. Up until the 1960s, dolls’ houses were made from wood, sometimes with tin components such as windows.

    By the 1960s and ‘70s, plastic was being widely used in dolls’ house production, and by the 1980s, MDF too – although quality dolls’ houses have always been constructed from wood, and timber continues to be used today.

    In the 1980s, dolls’ house collecting (antique, vintage and new) became an increasingly popular adult pursuit. So when I bought my first one in the late 1990s, I was following a growing trend that continues today.

    032433 Dolls' Houses CVR.indd

    Moi Ali's new book Dolls' Houses: A History and Collector's Guide is available for purchase now.

  • 25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton

    Pint and A Walk...

    A long walk and the beacon of a pub goes hand in hand to many of us. Ideas are formed in Inns, conversations become firm plans and locals become friends. It’s also good to put something back into the communities we walk around.

    This book features pubs that cater specifically for walkers and have historical and cultural importance - with a detailed walk and suggested route to get those tastebuds going.

    Choosing twenty-five of what I considered to be the best was a hard job … well, someone had to do it. I met locals, landlords and real characters. I was told stories of ghosts, snow drifts, shootouts and quirks. To get on my list they had to be walker friendly; but that’s not a surprise in an area famed for its countryside. They also had to have character and, naturally, a damn good walk nearby. They also needed to be able to tolerate a very wet and muddy author following said rambles.

    I used many of the pubs from my own travels in the Dales over the last three decades. Several were very familiar. The Wheatsheaf in Ingleton has been the end point of many a walk and caving trip. The George & Dragon in Dent stems from my time as a child in the village hearing my dad sneak out of our friend’s cottage while I pretended to be asleep. Others came as recommendations such as the Fountaine in Linton and The Farmers Arms in Muker, and several were just the result of when preparation meets opportunity – serendipity.


    Five of the Best

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 5 No smoking, unless it’s from this.

    1) The New Inn, Clapham

    This grade II pub was traditionally a place for cavers to meet and share stories. It is next door to the Cave Rescue Organisation in the Dales village of Clapham. It has been revamped to attract people who aren't just cavers – a dwindling number these days!

    Originally, this pub was a farmhouse in the early 1700s but was covered into a coaching inn around 1745. In 1807, an extra floor was added to make it four storeys. The new decor aims to bring this out, being fresh inside and bright without removing some of the original features such as large tables where people would gather to swap those caving stories.

    The proof is in the eating… or drinking and suffice to say the menu is top class as is the beer.

    The suggested walk takes you past Ingleborough Cave, Gaping Gill and on to Ingleborough.


    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 1 Lots of walking to be had from Muker – Kisdon is a superb choice.

    2) The Farmers Arms, Muker

    “Remember when pubs used to be real pubs? Places where people would go to unwind and socialise with friends, drink good beer and eat hearty wholesome food … ”

    The marketing from The Farmers Arms in Muker couldn’t ring more true. This is a gem of pub in a beautiful Dales village. Darren and Emily Abbey took over the establishment in 2010 and have made it into a real destination for Dales walkers, whilst maintaining its history and atmosphere. They incorporated the walk from Keld, over Kisdon Hill, to the pub on their wedding day in 2008, well before they had the opportunity to take ownership.

    Muker in Old Norse means ‘the narrow newly cultivated field’ and it will be clear if you follow the suggested walk – to Kisdon Falls – why that is apt. The Norse settled here as it is near the River Swale - a perfect spot to establish crop growing. Originally, it had a chapel of ease in 1580 (restored in 1891) which was rebuilt and a graveyard consecrated. The tower, nave and chancel all date from this period. The village shop was built in 1680 and used to be the vicarage.

    The suggested walk takes you to Kisdon Falls.


    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 2 The George & Dragon is effectively the marker point for two roads out of the village.

    3) The George And Dragon, Dent

    Walk through Dent and you’re transported back to the Dales and country life how it used to be.

    The small village with its cobbled narrow streets and the smell of coal and wood fires, give a reflection on what remote Yorkshire Dales life would have been like many years ago. It’s this charm that makes it a very popular destination for visitors and walkers.

    More importantly, it has a great pub in the George and Dragon. Much of my ‘Dalean’ life has focused around this pub, situated between two roads in the middle of the village. As a child I would visit Dent with my father whose friend owned Ivy Cottage at the back of the Dragon. As I went to bed in an evening, tired from walking up Flintergill – a gorge nearby – or walking the River Dee, he would sneak out the front door with his mate John and have a few beers in the pub. I would wake the next morning none the wiser, only realising in my later years what had caused my dad’s thick head; the local brew in the George.

    Local ale is still the key and the main reason the pub is an important stop on an walker’s trip. The grade II listed George is the tap house for the Dent Brewery and source of many a hangover over the last few years! It is brewed just up the road in Cowgill and is internationally recognised. Originally, the idea was for the staple Dent beer to be sold at the Sun Inn in Dent, but as word spread so did demand and the brewery was at capacity. Now, it makes around six real ales - including my favourite, the blonde Golden Fleece. Ramsbottom is good too as is Kamikaze. The latter is exactly how it sounds. Say goodbye to any feeling in your body if you drink more than four!

    Originally, the pub stands on the site of Dent’s marketplace where a market cross and stocks would have been housed. It has a distinctive V shape because it is at a intersection with two roads coming narrowly to one point. It began life as a mill building, some two storeys high, but a third tier was added in the early 1800s. The beer was brewed in a local shop opposite wth the water taken from a fountain which was the village’s only source at one time. Now that fountain is a memorial to Adam Sedgwick (22 March 1785) one of the founders of modern geology.

    The suggested walk takes you up flintergill.


    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 3 The original Woolpack from Emmerdale.

    4) The Falcon Inn, Arncliffe

    Quirks abound in this fantastic pub based in the tranquil and sheltered Arncliffe - but this isn’t a gimmicky venue to be shunned - it is a pilgrimage all walkers should make!

    The Falcon was the original Woolpack in long running soap Emmerdale until filming relocated to Esholt in 1976. The ITV programme shot their outside scenes around the village - no doubt because it reflected Yorkshire life perfectly. The pub for instance is ivy clad with mullioned bay windows poking out where they can to enhance its look. The village follows a similar theme in effect making it an ideal film set.

    But it’s the way it serves its beer is the real treat here and well worth the journey. Whilst other beers are available, the ale of choice, Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, is served in the time honoured traditional way … from a jug. It is decanted from the cask in the back room and then poured from that jug, when ordered, into your glass. It gives the ale a chance to breathe and certainly brings out its flavour at room temperature.

    The suggested walk takes you to Malham... and more pubs!

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 4 The upside-down protest.

    5) The Black Bull, Reeth

    Classed as the unofficial capital of Swaledale, Reeth is a charming village in the north east.

    The Black Bull dates from 1680 and is the village’s oldest pub. You’ll notice it because the sign above the front entrance is upside down in an apparent two-fingered salute to National Park officials. Previous landlord Bob Sykes attempted to tidy up the exterior of the pub by removing its render to expose the original 250-year-old walls and to comply with English Tourist Board accommodation grading requirements. He was also worried about it being a danger to the public because the the existing facia was crumbling so much.

    The Park felt differently though and threatened legal action if it wasn’t replaced. They said it would have had some kind of render years ago and wanted it to be keeping with the original format. Upset at this, someone local turned the sign upside down in protest at the attitude of park officials - and although it has moved from its original spot, it is still that way round.

    The Black Bull won’t be to everyone’s tastes but is a true local pub!

    The suggested walks takes you along the river!


    Mike Appleton's new book 25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales is available for purchase now.

  • Automating the Northern Line by Owen Smithers

    This book begins with a potted history of the construction of the Northern Line and its various stages of expansion I hope you will find as absorbing as I did.

    The book features thirty-two years of signalling experience from boy to man, experiences like so many others who I was later to befriend, and eventually worked with so many in the last twenty or so years until the author's departure. Whilst each signal box operated in the same fashion, all had their own peculiarities – no two were the same. This is what made the work interesting.

    Automating the Northern Line 1 Morden Signal Box, 1955. The furthest drum sets up a train's platform number, the other the train's destination. (Automating the Northern Line)

    It was unfortunate that the general public in the period of 1958 to 1970 had to suffer mainly due to unforeseen circumstances. Unknown to them control staff suffered even more in their attempts to correct situations they were not responsible for.

    The attempts to relate the operating experiences of twenty-six signal boxes do not include the two on the Northern & City line, which operated between Moorgate and Finsbury Park. Learning and retaining the working knowledge of the whole of the Northern Line and its variety of operations was interesting. It will give the reader some idea of how, first as a signalman, then as relief signalman, it was all taken in. Now having retained all this knowledge, it was put to use when experiencing the break up of individual controlled areas a piece at a time which were transferred into a new control area, with restricted working conditions for eleven years. Whilst the first attempts of automation were making an appearance over the whole line none of us had ever experienced this type of push button operation, but we learnt with the help of our background knowledge. The complications were unimaginable since work was begun piece meal here and there along the line making the operation of passing information on to those signal boxes still manned stressful. As the work continued it was to create vast gaps between control areas that taxed operators to the limit. In 1969 the whole control operation was moved once more overnight into a new building that was just as stressful and complicated. It was made even more difficult since it was to be a while until the northern end of both branches were completed and added to our control. The room was also shared with the Victoria Line that also became our responsibility as the line was being constructed.

    Automating the Northern Line 2 Colindale during an early shift, with myself at the controls, 1956. (Automating the Northern Line)

    Working with long standing friends who were either formal signalmen from closed signal boxes or the lines relief signalmen, was to create a great team of work mates. Over the years we were joined by others from other Lines who moulded in making up what I always felt was a great family. You realise what a bond it was to become when the line was experiencing difficulties. It was during these moments when everyone banded together completing tasks to help as though they were thoughts already in your own head – it was uncanny.

    Obtaining an invitation to visit the very new control centre in 2015 was an eye opener that caused all the memories of what we all went through previously flooding my head and now to discover complete silence in the whole room. With all signals as we knew it having all been removed, a feat beyond our imagination during the 50's and 60's. The whole line now really is very automatic in its operations. The technicalities are all in the book relating as to how everything is now set up.

    Automating the Northern Line 3 Camden Town Kennington desk, 1970. (Automating the Northern Line)

    The hundred or so photographs taken should clearly illustrate to the reader what it was like operating areas during a very busy service, plus those many infrequent moments when things were not as they should be.

    This work is dedicated to all the men involved in working during the complete and final automation on the Northern Line and those unnamed who followed.


    Owen Smithers new book Automating the Northern Line is available for purchase now.

  • What was Stuart Britain? by Andrea Zuvich

    Stuart Britain was a remarkable period in British history – a period which followed fast upon the heels of the ever-popular Tudor dynasty. There is sometimes confusion over the time period and geographical region “Stuart Britain” encompasses. This confusion invariably leads to irrational offense being taken by some who think Scotland is being slighted by what they perceive to be the disregard of the events and people who made up the whole Stewart dynasty. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    To clarify, although the Stewart (Stuart) family reigned over Scotland since 1371, Stuart Britain, by contrast, refers specifically to the time period in which that family ruled over both Scotland and England (Ireland and Wales). This period began from the death of the last Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, when James VI of Scotland became King James I of England until 1714, when his great-great-granddaughter Queen Anne died. Had James remained in Scotland to rule over the Three Kingdoms, this period would naturally have had more of a focus on Scotland. He chose to move his family (his wife, Anna of Denmark and their children Henry Frederick, Elizabeth, and Charles) to England, and therefore the focus rests more on England since that was the base from which the Stuarts reigned.

    Stuart Britain 1 The execution of King Charles I on 30 January 1649, outside the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace, sent shockwaves throughout both the kingdoms of Stuart Britain and Europe. (Courtesy of the British Library Flickr)

    The Stuarts who ruled from 1603 to 1714 remain a truly controversial dynasty, not least because their reigns witnessed some very historic events. James I’s reign included the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, for example, and the death of his eldest son and heir, Henry Frederick in 1612. As a result of the latter circumstance, his surviving son, Charles, became Charles I upon James’s death in 1625, and Charles’s reputation is usually that of either a tyrant or martyr – though as usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The bloody English Civil Wars, which began during his reign in 1642 (there were three civil wars, ending finally in 1651) led to his public execution in 1649.

    This major event was followed by the Interregnum and Cromwellian Protectorate, which in turn was followed by the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 with King Charles II, who has become more famous for his love life than for the politics of his reign – the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London of 1666 occurred during his time. Although Charles II had numerous offspring with his many mistresses, he and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, had such trouble in bringing their children to term that by the time of his death in 1685 there was no heir. Charles’s brother, James Duke of York, ascended the throne as King James II – but the political landscape was such that several factors led to his exile and the ‘Glorious Revolution’ which saw the Dutchman William III of Orange successfully invade Britain and reign with his Stuart wife, Mary II, until her death in 1694, at which point he ruled alone until his death in 1702.

    It was this diarchy of William and Mary which has arguably proved most controversial. James II and his wife Mary of Modena had a legitimate male heir, and to this day, there are those (the Jacobites) who maintain that James and his son’s line were illegally taken from them because of their religion: James, you see, was a devout Catholic, and William a staunch Protestant (a Calvinist, in fact). Rulers had lost their thrones in the past, certainly, but that a sovereign and his legitimate descendants could be stripped from the line of succession because of their religion was extraordinary.

    Stuart Britain 2 The Queen's House, Greenwich, was designed by Inigo Jones for Anne od Denmark and completed in 1636 for her daughter-in-law, Henrietta Maria. (Author's collection)

    Royal family drama aside, great changes occurred during the seventeenth century, in particular during the 1640s, when radical new political and religious ideologies spread – resulting in the formation of new groups such as the Quakers, the Diggers, the Levellers, and more. Rightly or wrongly, some people questioned the authority of the monarch, parliament fought for more power by reducing that of the sovereign. The power held by parliament increased substantially during the Stuart period, ultimately creating a constitutional monarchy in which the sovereign’s powers were greatly diminished.

    It was during the era of Stuart Britain that some of the greatest names in literature flourished, including Shakespeare, Donne, and Dryden. Brilliant architecture was also created during this time, designed by the talented Inigo Jones (Banqueting House, the Queen’s House, etc) and Christopher Wren (St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Old Royal Naval College, etc). Art reached heights of sublime majesty and beauty with the works of Rubens, van Dyck, and Verrio, among others. Music transitioned from the late Renaissance into Baroque, which peaked in the latter half of the period with Henry Purcell.

    Stuart Britain has something for every history lover. So come join me and learn about A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain!


    Andrea Zuvich's new book A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain is available for purchase now.

  • The Beauty of Her Age 'Yolande Duvernay' by Jenifer Roberts

    The Beauty of Her Age 1 church Cambridge The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge. (© John Hagger)

    The Catholic church of our Lady and the English Martyrs is a major landmark in the city of Cambridge. Completed in 1890 when it was known as the pro-cathedral because of its size, the church was built at the sole expense of a Frenchwoman, Mrs Yolande Lyne Stephens.

    Countless scandals in Victorian England involved sex; others involved money; and the juiciest scandals involved both sex and money. Of these, the story of Yolande Lyne Stephens, the ballerina who became the richest woman in England, is perhaps the most extraordinary.

    Born in poverty in Paris in 1812, Yolande Duvernay entered the School of Dance when she was six years old. Under the control of a powerful stage mother, she was sold for sex when she reached puberty, and after the revolution of July 1830 toppled the Bourbon monarchy, she became the mistress of a new director of the Paris Opéra.

    The Beauty of Her Age 2 Yolande by Princess Victoria Yolande Duvernay in ballet costume, painted ‘from recollection’ by Princess Victoria, 5 April 1837. (© Royal Collection Trust, The Beauty of Her Age, Amberley Publishing)

    Described as ‘the most ravishing woman you could wish to see … with charming eyes, an adorably turned leg, and a figure of perfect elegance’, she became a star of the Opéra at the age of nineteen. She conquered London too, appearing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket, and soon became the favourite dancer of Princess Victoria.

    In 1837, her favours were bought by the sole heir to the largest industrial fortune in England, an unassuming young man who paid the equivalent of £1.5 million in today’s money for the privilege of keeping her as his mistress. This was scandalous enough – but society was scandalised still further when she trapped him into marriage a few years later. It was acceptable – if improper – to keep a mistress with a sexual history; to marry her was social disaster.

    There is a rumour in Cambridge, still prevalent today, that Yolande’s husband made his money by the invention of moveable eyes for dolls. The legend had its roots in the words ‘Dolls’ eyes for idols’, a catchphrase used by Protestants in the city offended at the building of a large Catholic church. The words referred to the manufacture of glass, the source of the Lyne Stephens fortune, and the legend became enshrined in literature when E. M. Forster’s novel The Longest Journey was published in 1907.

    The Beauty of Her Age 4 Yolande by Carolus-Duran Yolande Lyne Stephens, painted by Émile-Auguste Carolus-Duran, spring 1888. (© private collection, The Beauty of Her Age, Amberley Publishing)

    Like many such rumours, the story has no basis in fact. Yolande’s husband never worked for a living and had no interest in inventing anything. He was a cultured but indolent man who enjoyed spending money; his activities were restricted to hunting, shooting, building grand houses and buying expensive works of art, a lifestyle subsidised by a fortune made in Portugal.

    The wealth had been accumulated by his one of his grandfather’s cousins, the illegitimate son of a schoolmaster and a Cornish servant girl. William Stephens was sent to Portugal as a boy, survived the earthquake which destroyed Lisbon in 1755, and scraped a living during the next fourteen years burning lime to provide mortar for rebuilding the city. In 1769 he was asked by the Marquis of Pombal, first minister and virtual dictator of Portugal, to reopen a derelict glass factory in the village of Marinha Grande, ninety miles north of Lisbon.

    William was given ownership of the factory, together with 15,000 acres of land, and Pombal granted him a number of important – and lucrative – privileges: exemption from all domestic taxes; a monopoly of glass supply in Portugal and its colonies; freedom to set his own prices; and free use of fuel from the royal pine forest.

    Pombal fell from power when the king died in 1777, succeeded on the throne by his eldest daughter, Maria I, who loathed the minister and all his policies. In order to retain his privileges, William set out to woo the new queen. He charmed her so successfully that she not only renewed his privileges, she also made two visits to the glassworks – the second of which lasted for three days.

    The Beauty of Her Age 3 Marinha Grande house William Stephens’s house in Marinha Grande, Portugal. (© Câmara Municipal da Marinha Grande)

    Maria was an absolute monarch, ruling by divine right. Yet she was happy to sleep for two nights in the house of an Englishman, a man who was not only low-born and illegitimate, but also a Protestant, a heretic in the eyes of the Portuguese. As William’s sister wrote a few days after the visit: ‘My brother has attained what nobody else in the Kingdom can boast of, the honour of entertaining the Royal Family and all the Court for three days, and given universal satisfaction to everybody from the Queen down to the scullions and stable boys.’

    These royal visits added prestige to the factory and ensured that William retained his privileges for almost forty years. This enabled him to accumulate one of the largest industrial fortunes in Europe. After he died unmarried and childless, his massive wealth was bequeathed to a cousin in London, Charles Lyne, who added the name Stephens to his own and became the richest commoner in England.

    Charles Lyne Stephens died in 1851, followed nine years later by his only son, Yolande’s husband, who bequeathed her a life interest in the entire fortune. This gave her three stately homes in England and Paris, and an income of almost £7 million a year in today’s values. With an excess of income over expenditure, she soon built up a fortune of her own, allowing her to subsidise the Catholic diocese of Northampton, building churches and chapels and a new bishop’s house.

    In Cambridge, for the pleasure of ‘indulging my own taste and fancy,’ she paid for the entire cost of the church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, together with its adjacent rectory. She paid for the furniture and furnishings in both buildings and selected the design of every detail, including the shape and size of the altar rails, the style and decoration of vestments for the clergy, and the rugs laid on the floors of the rectory.

    To give some credence to the legend, it would be nice to think that William Stephens made glass eyes for dolls in his factory in Portugal. But sadly not.


    Jenifer Roberts new book The Beauty of Her Age is available for purchase now.

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