Postal History: Ride Mail Rail

July 12, 2018 at 8:31 am (entertainment, history, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

A friend recently rode the Mail Rail attached to the Postal Museum in London. She described great fun, and also a great learning experience. The tunnels utilized are original to the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office.

Mail rail

Of course, the original trains moved mail not people – but the Mail Rail takes visitors back in time by sharing stories from the past. The rail once kept mail “coursing through London for 22 hours a day” – Astounding!

My Smiths & Goslings, who loved to tour the marvels of industry, would have been at the “head of the queue” for obtaining tickets.

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Eastwick Park, Surrey

June 5, 2018 at 11:36 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, places, research) (, , )

This is in answer to the comments of “Chaz” on the post “Putting a Face to a Name“; the tidbits seemed just too long for inclusion in a “comment.”

Eastwick Park cropped up a several times in the family letters. What caught Chaz’s eye was their comment about the estate when owned by “Mr. Basilgate” (sic) (whom Chaz writes about, see Prinny’s Taylor).

It wasn’t until I translated a French letter that I realized the part Eastwick played in the young lives of the four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (which I really need to begin spelling Earl Stoke Park – for that was Joshua Smith’s consistent spelling of his estate). Since that time, I’ve found further letters, all of which wax nostalgic. I have not pinned down when the Smiths lived there, but it would have pre-dated the re-development of Earl Stoke, which began in the later 1780s. The girls were born between the years 1767 to 1774, yet even Emma (the youngest) wrote fond memories about Eastwick.

To see photos of Eastwick, c1904, see the Francis Firth website: Photo 1; Photo 2.
No 2 rather reminds me of Tring Park, Uncle Drummond’s place, before the Rothschilds enlarged it.

new matrimonial ladder_possession

And now for the whisperings of the Earl Stoke sisters and their mother:

1 Nov 1796 (Lady Northampton)
“I am obliged to Miss Black [an artist] for her remembrance . . . ; should you write to her remember me to her. I cannot forget the many pleasant days I have spent with her at Eastwick, & the many chearful mornings in George St [their London home]  She certainly endeavoured to please her pupils.”

18 June 1801 (Mrs Sarah Smith)
“we spent most part of the Mornings in visiting all the neighbourhood & Eastwick rides”

3 July 1801 (Emma Smith)
“As for seeing Eastwick, my Father went & walked all over it, but we did not; having been over it two or three y:rs ago . . . ; I think I told you Mr. Lawrell has bought it — –. The Country is so pretty on every side of it, that I even now almost regret Surrey.”

29 Sept 1802 (Eliza Chute) [translated from French]
“I made an attempt to see Eastwick again, the scene of my childhood, which seemed to me to be the happiest time of my life, but which I did not consider so then, as the view was spread far and wide over the future, which the imagination was pleased to embellish, and to adorn with its most amusing colors: I would have found much pleasure in traversing the rooms which I remember so well, and which at every step I would have recalled different circumstances, but Mrs. Lawrell was not at home, and I was afraid to ask to see the house, fearing that it might seem impertinent: the outside, however, very much interested me, and it was with regret that I went away; Augusta, who was bolder, entered the house. I met Mrs. Lawrel [sic] at Mr. Sumner’s, she told me that she was very angry that I had not done the same; that there were not many changes, but that they had a good deal of reason, and were quite important, and very judicious, as it seems to me. The park must also be enlarged & the manner of entry totally different; on the other hand, it was quite ugly, nothing but a short avenue leading to the house.”

 

 

 

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Regency Explorer explores BOOKS!

August 26, 2017 at 7:14 pm (books, entertainment, europe, news) (, , , )

Today, in looking for reviews of the book I’m currently reading (The Real Persuasion, by Peter James Bowman), I found the kind of post I’ve LONG longed for: All about new books!

Specifically, Regency Explorer – and its author Anna M. Thane – gives a monthly listing of releases in the area of ‘non-fiction Georgian age’ books. Anna’s list can include books in French, German, as well as English; and the books run the gamut of war and politics, as well as biography, history, art, architecture; not to mention scholarly monographs. Covers many contries outside of Europe, including India and the United States. I think readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will find the lists of as much help and guidance as I do.

regency explorer blog

I’ll list separate links to the recent months of:

(I’m not sure WHERE in the world the new releases take place, but bibliophiles all know how to buy from overseas vendors, if you have to do so.)

To whet your appetite, some ‘for instances’ that caught my eye:

A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England, by Monica Hall. This was Anna’s “choice” book in July. _I_ like the idea behind “everything you need to know in order to survive undetected among the ordinary people.”

A Political Biography of Frances Burney, by Lorna J. Clark

Fame and Fortune: Sir John Hill and London Life in the 1750s, by Clare Brant and George Rousseau

The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home, by Abigail Williams

Anna’s pick for August was Gainsburough; A Portrait, by James Hamilton

I am intrigued to see, in the September list, the biography A Striking Likeness: The Life of George Romney, by David A. Cross – especially as the lovely portrait of Mrs. Drummond Smith was once thought, in the 19th century, to have been painted by Romney instead of Sir Joshua Reynolds! [This may be a reprint]

Striking Likeness

Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760-1815, by Sarah Easterby-Smith

Cultivating Commerce

The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist: Contentions and Alliances in the Artistic Domain, 1760-1824, by Greg Smith

There’s even – to go with your Jane Austen and Food – a Poldark Cookery Book

poldark cookery

In short, we all owe Anna a debt of thanks for enumerating “new releases” every month, even if it means significantly lightening our wallets…

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Crossed-writing makes cross Reading

January 30, 2017 at 2:22 pm (books, history, World of Two Teens) (, , )

A delightful little booklet by Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) accompanied his invention of the Wonderland Stamp Case. From 1890, it makes amusing observations, which will strike the funny-bone of collectors and readers of Old Letters.

The title of this post comes from Carroll’s Ninth Rule of writing: “when you find you have more to say, take another piece of paper — a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but, whatever you do don’t cross! Remember the old proverb,’Cross-writing makes cross reading‘.

The booklet is entitled, Eight or Nine Words about Letter Writing – though, as you might guess by there being nine “rules”, the nine words should not be taken literally!

His GOLDEN rule (rule No. 1) is one the Mr. Bingleys and Lord Northamptons of fiction and life (respectively) should take to heart: Write legibly.

“A great deal of the bad writing in the world comes simply from writing too quickly. Of course you reply, “I do it to save time.” … but, what right have you to do it at your friend’s expense? Isn’t his time as valuable as yours? Years ago, I used to receive letters from a friend – and very interesting letters too – written in one of the most atrocious hands ever invented. It generally took me about a week to read one of his letters! I used to … puzzle over the riddles which composed it – holding it in different positions, and at different distances, till at last the meaning of some hopeless scrawl would flash upon me, when I at once wrote down the English under it…”

mad-hatter

Highly recommended, if your funny bone needs some tickling OR you (like me) read Old Letters that are CROSSED and in an “atrocious hand”.

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Sotheby’s Museum Network

August 9, 2016 at 8:40 pm (entertainment, estates) (, , )

Charlotte Frost’s Twitter account is always informative, with news, books, English history (and that’s just for starters) – but this sounded EXTRA-EXCITING:

sothebys museum network

An August 5th press release announcing “an online destination to discover video content created by and about the world’s leading museums,” called Sothey’s Museum Network. “The Treasures of Chatsworth,” which is now in production, will be a 13-part series, featured on the network in the fall.

To read the entire article, click on the photo.

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Articles @ Academia.edu

July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm (history, research) (, , , , , )

A reminder for some, and a “poke” for those new to the SMITH & GOSLING blog: I post “original” articles on Academia.edu, a website dedicated to papers, books, classes, etc. relating to academics and independent scholars.

Academia

These currently include:

Combine Jane Austen, Eliza Chute, and “Sense and Sensibility” with a true-life courtship and abandonment. Mrs. Wheeler, a woman taken in by the Chutes of The Vyne, left an orphan daughter, Hester, who left deep impressions on both Caroline Wiggett and Caroline Austen.

The flower painter Margaret Meen also taught painting: pupils included Queen Charlotte and the Royal Princesses; the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park: Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma. Little about Meen’s life has been uncovered — until now. Four letters lead to some surprisingly-full biographical details of the life of a woman artist in Georgian England.

{NB: “Miss Meen” appeared in the July/August 2014 issue No. 70 of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine as “Flowering in Four Letters”. The link, above, is the original article submitted to JARW. To purchase the magazine, please go to BACK ISSUES on the JARW website}

JARW

Links to ACADEMIA articles can always be found in the navigation at right.

And, soon, these two articles will be joined by a new treatise!

Early in the history of this blog, I dangled the idea that JAMES BOSWELL was one of the “famous” names connected with the Smiths & Goslings. So watch my Academia page for the upload (coming shortly) of “Boswell’s ‘Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal“.

Academia.edu will ask you to sign in to view articles (Google and Facebook are two alternatives to creating an Academia account); articles are PDF.

 

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The Handwriting on the Will

May 5, 2016 at 9:15 pm (history, research) (, , , , )

I have become CONSUMED with getting more and more Smith & Gosling material, and that has included the dreaded WILLS of even earlier ancestors. The one thing that has proven to be a help? The old wills means I have some earlier orthography, which often helps with the segue into “modern” spelling. The same holds for the earliest handwriting! I even READ some wills I downloaded from The National Archives five or six (or more…) years ago.

So while I thought to share a particularly fabulous hand, I chose this one because its (currently) the earliest example I have – although it is almost (ALMOST!) modern in its legibility.

elsewhere

The give-away: the first word; otherwise, doesn’t it rather look like a child writing?

Just in case you’re unsure what it says: Elsewhere in the Kingdom of England

Yes, this particular document has a most unusual (to me) ‘s’, which makes the first word look rather like Elfewhere… My document dates from 1726. And is related to family of my diarist Mary Gosling.

I’ll talk more about this document, which I’m just transcribing. In the meantime, I introduce you to palaeography on The National Archives website – which provides a delightful interactive tutorial.

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A trove of old letters

April 27, 2016 at 9:41 pm (books, history) (, , , )

Gotta love a book that begins,

“Years ago I found a trove of old letters. I found them in a broken-down steamer trunk buried under moldy blankets in a dilapidated shed attached to a decrepit row house.”

These words open the 2014 book Nina Sankovitch entitled, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing.

Although I’ve heard of her Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, it was a blog post about LETTERS that brought me to this later book. For the Love of Bookshops wrote about the genesis of Sankovitch’s “next” book:

old letters

Like Erin (the bookstore-loving blogger), I too cannot believe the “luck” of such a treasure trove. And, it’s addictive! The more I find on my Smiths & Goslings, the more I want to find.

Sankovitch’s “find” rather reminds me of the beginning of Célestine. Although Gillian Tindall’s trove was a handful of letters, the fascinating history of young Célestine, a French woman, made for a stupendous read and an enthralling untangling of someone’s past. Nina Sankovitch’s stash turned out to be early 20th century: a mother & son correspondence. Thanks goodness the letters found a home!

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In Conversation with Peter Ardern, author

February 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , )

dorothyOur guest today is Peter Ardern, author of Dorothy’s Dream: A Historical Romance.  With personal ties to Hettie, a woman healer, and Aunt Annie, who nursed in the Crimea, Dorothy Martin decides upon a career in nursing – a newly-formed profession for women. Fans of season two (WWI) of Downton Abbey or the (U.S.) Civil War era series Mercy Street will thrill at this glimpse of British nursing life in the Victorian era.

* * *

Q: Congratulations on your most recent publication, Dorothy’s Dream: A Historical Romance. Tell readers a bit about yourself, and, of course, your novel.

Peter: I trained as a nurse in Sheffield, England in the early 1960’s in both mental health and general nursing, choosing mental health for my nursing career. I retired from nursing in 1994 the year I was awarded United Kingdom Nurse of the Year. I then studied full time for a PhD in social studies. I followed this by publishing nursing histories and subsequently my current novel  Dorothy’s Dream. I see these writings as a direct result of my chosen career and the person-centered approach (mainly interviews) I used throughout my research.

Q: Your Twitter feed mentions (and has a photo of) your psychiatric training hospital, Sheffield’s Middlewood Hospital, being turned into housing. Have you been able to visit Middlewood, and if so, what do you think of the transformation? (and what memories did your visit bring up?)

Peter: I visited the hospital site after nearly forty years. I prepared myself for some sort of disappointment while driving towards the new estate. On reaching one of the old entrances, I was pleased to find that the gate house, The Lodge, still stood. This is now used as a children’s nursery. I then travelled along unfamiliar roads and got quite lost until I found (what was) the main entrance to the old hospital. It is now the frontage of a block of flats. I was pleased that this façade had been preserved, but also somewhat disappointed. It just felt very strange. What to me had been a very welcoming entrance was now unapproachable. I was a stranger, I almost felt like an intruder.

Q: You found more of the hospital still existed?

Peter: I travelled to what I remembered was a block called Kingswood Building and to my surprise there it was. I was delighted that another building had been preserved. Unfortunately the church that I had been so familiar with was derelict.

I know we have to move on and it’s important that we reuse what would otherwise be ruins but surely we should not almost obliterate the past along with it. I hope I am being clear when I say that these buildings are only preserved because the frontages come under the “Listed Building Act,” not because they honour the former patients and the decent and worthy work that was performed in these hospitals over the previous century. Apart from the name, there is little to give any indication that this site was a former mental hospital.

Regarding this visit to Middlewood, I think what surprised and shocked me most was that when the buildings were converted the insides were completely ripped out, thus destroying the whole history of the building. They had stripped the heart out of the old hospital.

when matronQ: Your previous books focused on nursing, especially in hospital wards – When Matron Ruled (2002), The Nursing Sister (2005) and When Sister Ruled (2009). Please tell us about your research, and why you began publishing your findings.

Peter: As I mention on English Historical Fiction Authors, I had the privilege of commencing my nurse training at the time of the traditional matron and ward sister. I developed a huge respect, and still hold fond memories of learning from these highly skilled ladies. Their professional demise in the 1970s led me, twenty years later, to meet with and write about many of their lives; and subsequently to examine the history of women in nursing.

I spent a good two years travelling the country and interviewing a number of these traditional but elusive matrons and sisters. I say elusive because many were quite private people who did not seek publicity. I wondered, and still wonder, if this personal privacy was an instilled/inherent tradition from the Victorian era? When I was interviewing the matrons and sisters I always took my wife, June, with me, as both note taker and chaperon. It undoubtedly proved very helpful as most of the ladies lived on their own, I am sure, I know, it made them more relaxed.

My histories are I hope a tribute to their selfless dedication to nursing.

Q: And now this background has contributed to your novel!

Peter: Yes. My new novel, Dorothy’s Dream, is set in the Victorian period just following the Crimean War when Florence Nightingale returned to England to introduce her reforms to nursing. The book combines many facets of this history and also sees the demise of the woman healer.

Q: Please tell readers about the characters.

Peter: As a child, Dorothy had been fascinated by the local healer Hettie Ferries, after all, Hettie had been the midwife at her birth.

Hettie is regarded as invaluable in this midlands rural area. In the absence of an accessible doctor, the villagers rely on Hettie for her many and varied cures. She is highly respected and sought after, her remedies and skills giving comfort, even to Poacher Bill. But the medical profession is advancing and a renewed intolerance for these notable ladies begins. This was to totally change Hettie’s life.

Q: The Smiths & Goslings used monthly nurses (after “confinement”), did Hettie just deliver babies?

Peter: To the poor villagers, Hettie is the midwife and the monthly nurse. Only the artisan-class and above could afford such a luxury.

Q: The “Lady of Lamp” must have been a wonderful influence.

Peter: Dorothy’s Aunt Annie was one of the brave nurses who accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimea. The stories of her experiences had an enormous influence on Dorothy’s desire to nurse. Prior to Nightingale’s reforms, nursing was not a respected profession; hospitals were certainly no place for a young lady from a respectable family.

Q: Has Dorothy a love interest? She seems to have to make the choice of a profession or a husband.

Peter: Frederick’s life was to change radically after the tragic accident and death of his father, Ben. But through a stroke of good fortune he is able to achieve an education. Thinking this sufficient to win Dorothy’s heart, he spends much of his life in disappointment.

Dorothy is such a young lady. She has to withstand the pain of her father’s anger (he had other ambitions for her), and travel to London to become a trainee nurse.

So Dorothy achieves this dream, only to discover that she is still a woman in a man’s world.

Q: Why? What happens to her?

Peter: Suffice it to say that in hospitals and the medical profession, as elsewhere in Victorian society, men dominated. For Dorothy the essential question is going to be, ‘Who would believe a woman’s word against that of a man?’

Q: From a writing standpoint, surely it felt “freeing” to create fiction rather than recreate lives based on interviews. Are you pleased enough with the work and the result to want to stay writing fiction, or will you go back?

Peter: I think you are right, I did find it freeing but at the same time more challenging. Freeing in the sense that you are not constantly having to be aware of being rigidly evidence based. Challenging because you are working with unknown boundaries.

For example, I wanted Dorothy to conform within the acceptable norms of the ‘Victorian’ era, and at the same time to have the freedom, as an individual, to respond as she chose to unexpected events.

I set the parameters, Dorothy made the choices.

Q: Over email, you mentioned the “Diggers” were “part of the reason for the previous books and certainly part of the inspiration for Dorothy”. What are/is “Diggers” – I’m imagining all sorts of things!

Peter: The True Levelers or Diggers were a 17th century religious group that advocated absolute equality, a ‘common storehouse for all.’ The leader was Gerrard Winstanley. Our Diggers group in a more loosely structured group acting as a forum for presentations and discussion of new areas of members’ work in a friendly, non-threatening environment. The group consists of 7 – 9 members who meet once a month for two hours.

Members are expected to (a) participate regularly, (b) provide regular critical feedback, and (c) demonstrate a commitment to productive research.

Q: The Diggers are a great resource to you, then. How lucky you are to have such a supportive group. How did you find them?

Peter: New membership is by invitation of a majority of existing members. I was introduced by Richard Brooks a published author, we were both learning German at the time.

Q: You’re in Portsmouth, England (which also figures in the Smith & Gosling world). Has location played a role in your writings?

Peter: I wonder if my chosen profession of nursing has had more influence on my writing than the location. As you know, it is said that it is best to write about what you know, and in my case it is true. Nursing has been such a large part of my life and the influences have been many.

It may be interesting to note that I started writing Dorothy using third voice, but I felt compelled to change to first voice. After all it was Dorothy’s story, and I felt that Dorothy should be narrating the story. To date I have not met any criticism to this.

Q: Dorothy’s Dream is published through Publish Nation and printed with Lulu. Why did you go that route for this book?

Peter: I was somewhat spoiled the first time when Robert Hale published my books, but at that time I did not know it. I forwarded the first chapters of Dorothy and they asked for more, but then returned it because they said it had too much historical content for a novel. Bit weird? It was then I decided take the route of self-publishing. I felt I was too old to go through the ritual of submitting and being rejected by endless publishers and agents.

Thanks, Peter, for taking the time to talk with us! and good luck with Dorothy’s Dream.

* * *

Click here Dorothy’s Dream (at Amazon.uk) for a preview of the book. Available on Kindle and paperback; or, print-on-demand paperback through Lulu – which company has really impressed me with well-bound and well-packaged (for shipping) books.

UPDATE 2/16/2016 – Peter was interviewed today on ANGEL RADIO (try the “radio player” link) from Havant, Hampshire, England, a fabulous find: it broadcasts “nostalgic” music from 1900 to the 1960s. If they ever post it, I’ll link Peter’s interview here. Just wonderful to hear about Peter’s childhood, military service (in Germany in the 1950s), and his thoughts on the early days of his chosen profession of nursing. Of course Tony (the host) asked about the books, towards the end. But for those of you on the lookout for alternative music – take a listen! Highly Recommended!!

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Diarist Mary Hardy: Podcasts!

January 2, 2016 at 1:54 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history) (, , , , )

Author, editor, researcher Margaret Bird has recently made three podcasts available on her Mary Hardy and Her World website. The subject matter touches on the fascinating topics of the clergy, children, and local militias:

  • ‘A person in black, sent to you from afar’: the Evangelical clergy’s awakening of the flock in rural Norfolk 1773–1813 [Royal Holloway, University of London; February 2010]
  • Inculcating an appreciation of time pressure in the young: the training of children for working life in 18th-century England [Royal Holloway, University of London; March 2015]
  • ‘Trust the people’: the English approach to arming and training the ‘mob’ 1779–1805 [Institute of Historical Research, London; October 2015] [1 hour and five minutes]

The podcasts are Illustrated! I am especially intent upon ‘Trust the people’ – for Lord Northampton (the first marquess; Emma’s uncle), Thomas Chute (another uncle, brother to William Chute of The Vyne), and Spencer Smith (Emma’s brother, serving a few decades later) all had ties to local Militias.

mary-hardy

A reminder:

* * *

UPDATE: Am in the midst of trying my first listen: the PowerPoint presentation is a .pptx file you are asked to save; I don’t have .*x programs on my computer and my Reader is old, too. The audio is “downloading”; I had expected it to stream and play. An alternative (at least for the third podcast, from IHR) is found on YouTube. Illustrations are NOT on screen; with streaming audio.

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