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    Fydell House. Image from Gemma King's Haunted Boston


    Located in the heart of the Lincolnshire fens, Boston is a town rich in Medieval history.  Having been one of the main ports for international shipping trade it was a busy Market town as early as the 12th century.   In the 13th century four orders of friars settled in Boston and some remnants of their establishments are still present today.  In the collaboration of this book I have explored locations in and around Boston where human remnants of the past still exist in the form of ghostly apparitions, spirit voices and other unexplained paranormal phenomena. 

    I have investigated some of the most haunted locations in Boston in an attempt to communicate with the entities present, capture evidence of paranormal activity and listen to their voices in order to try and establish why they are still around us, sharing our space and communicating with us.   In researching the stories of ghosts in and around Boston I have uncovered a wealth of different testimonials, new and old.  I have also drawn on both local history and contemporary sources to separate fact from folk-lore bring you the chilling stories of ghostly activity that have never previously been told and exclusive photographs that have never previously been published –plus the results of paranormal investigations in some of the town’s most celebrated locations.

    My eerie journey through Boston revealed that ghostly friars still occupy the land of their 13th century monastery and burial ground and, right from the heart of the town, comes a tragic tale of the infamous Sarah Preston whose ghostly apparition has been seen jumping from the top of St Boltoph’s church.  Plus, her former home, Church Key Studio, is where the disembodied laughter of a mischievous female spirit can be heard as she hides the belongings of unsuspecting occupants and staff in the building.  I have visited the ancient Guildhall of St Mary’s where a group of distinguished ghostly gentlemen hold board meetings in the upper hall and a lady apparition stares intently into the old prison cells and I have also explored the spectacular rooms and gardens of Fydell House - where previous occupants have been seen and their disembodied footsteps heard.  This book exclusively tells the stories of many well-known locations with first hand testimonials of paranormal activity from pubs, shops and restaurants to a former music venue where the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Tina Turner once performed.

    In addition to the book itself there is a website that running concurrently whereby readers will be able to listen to EVP clips (spirit voices) and other events captured on audio in some of the locations, see some my favourite photographs in more detail and look at some of the unpublished photographs.  I feel that the website feature is a unique and special way to add another dimension to the book which enables people to hear and see evidence of paranormal activity as well as just reading about it.


    Haunted Boston


    Haunted Boston by Gemma King is available to buy at The History Press now. Click here to see more....

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  • 06/12/13--05:40: Mrs Zigzag: behind the story
  • Ron Bonewitz and Betty Chapman (Mrs Zigzag)

    Betty Chapman is best known as 'Mrs Zigzag', the wife of Eddie Chapman or 'Agent Zigzag',  the most infamous double agent of the Second World War but she was an extraordinary woman in her own right. Ron Bonewitz is a close friend of Betty Chapman and knew both her and her late husband Eddie. Here he shares his thoughts on a truly exceptional woman.

    I was introduced to Betty and Eddie by the noted author and therapist Lilian Verner-Bonds (whose quote is on the back cover), a friend of the Chapmans for several decades. She knew that Betty was a remarkable person in her own right, and encouraged me to write the book for nearly 10 years. The time just wasn't right until recently, when Betty's story proved to be as promised.


    Eddie and Betty on their wedding day

    * For Betty, what was the most difficult part of being married to Eddie?

    From all the conversations I have had with Betty, the thing that upset her the most was the lack of recognition from the government; she is still furious to this day. He was out there, putting his life on the line, and the government didn't even recognise his contribution. If the Germans could look after him, why couldn't his own government?

    There was always this feeling that Eddie wasn't 'one of them', part of the 'old boys club' and the lack of respect shown is shocking. There was a gathering of MI5 agents about 25 years ago and Eddie wasn't invited despite his contribution to the war effort. Nigel West blew a gasket and made sure that Eddie was there, but he was one of the few people who treated Eddie with any kind of respect. 


    Betty once said ‘In some ways when he left home to go away with one of his mistresses to carry on an affair, it was bliss time for me to rest and establish some order again.’

    Did her many 'projects' help to prevent her from becoming a victim of Eddie's infidelties? 

    Let's just get one thing clear, Eddie didn't need a doormat. However much they loved each other Betty was always very much her own woman. When Eddie was home, they were together, when he was away, she was 100% focused on her projects. They weren't just idle amusements for her, she is a very self-contained person and was breaking down the social conventions of the time almost single-handedly.

    She was very independent from very early on, despite her family's desire for her to 'conform'. Of course Eddie's fame and/or notoriety helped, but she would have been remarkable anyway.


    * What about Betty's own love affairs? Did any of them compare to her relationship with Eddie?

    Betty once said to me 'I've always had a few boyfriends, I never let the grass grow!' and this just goes to show how forward thinking she was. When she became involved with the consultant, I think that could have been something; they really cared for each other. After the affair finished, he wrote her a very detailed letter which showed the depth of their feeling. It was truly beautiful, I think any woman or man would have melted! 


    Betty Chapman (Chapman collection)


    * Betty clearly had an entrepreneurial spirit, what was the most fulfilling of her challenges? Which was the most challenging experience?

    Poor Betty had so many disappointments, so many things were just stolen away from her. She was very proud of the health farm but I think it was losing the castle that hit her the hardest. She was devastated. 

    In terms of difficulty, setting up the shipping company with Eddie in Northern Ireland was the most challenging. Managing to set it up against IRA pressure, pressure from the Northern Irish government and the other shipping companies must have been unbelievably difficult. Everyone was doing everything they could to undermine her and they took that she was a woman personally - once again she faced unimaginable barriers. I doubt many people could do that now, let alone then!

    Whatever life threw at her, with her indomitable spirit, Betty managed. Moving to London in 1938/39 showed that she wasn't someone who shied away from a challenge!


    * Betty was initially reluctant about going to Ghana, what changed her mind?

    The fact of the matter was Eddie was going with or without her, so she decided to follow him. Her religious and spiritual committment to her marriage was something she took very seriously and so she went. Betty always had a front row seat to life and she really threw herself into the project. She 'covered herself with glory down there' but once again MI5 scuppered it for them. 

    * Eddie once said 'it was better to live one day as a tiger than a whole life as a lamb' - did they need the excitement for their relationship to work?

    I suspect that to varying degrees they were both adrenaline junkies, and they definitely needed the excitement to pull them together. To onlookers their life must have seemed completely unreal but to her this was normal, as difficult as that is to believe! It didn't matter that it was Richard Burton or Audrey Hepburn that they were meeting for dinner or drinks, to Betty they were just her friends. Even without Eddie, Betty led a very glamourous life and was part of that scene, especially during the war. As with everything, she wasn't going to wait around for Eddie (or anyone else for that matter) to give her what she wanted, she would go out and get it for herself...


    Mrs Zigzag

    Mrs Zigzag: The Extraordinary Life of a Secret Agent's Wife is available to buy now on The History Press website. The book tells the story of the Chapmans’ often fraught but ultimately loving relationship for the first time, and also introduces a truly remarkable woman. 

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  • 06/14/13--06:00: The Friday Digest 14/06/13
  • THP Friday digest

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:


    Trenches. Image taken from

    *  As the centenary of the First World War draws ever closer, two pupils and a teacher from every state secondary school in England are to
    visit French and Belgian battlefields as part of the commemoration project by the government. The project asks the pupils to research local people who fought in the war to pay tribute to the fallen. 

    The government will announce details of its cultural programme to commemorate the centenary on Monday morning and authors have been preparing to mark it with the release of many new books

    British journalist Sir Basil Clarke, KBE , circa 1920. Photograph: General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty

    * The subject of one such book is Sir Basil Clarke, a remarkable war reporter who defied the censorship imposed by the British military and went on to have a fascinating career as a national PR officer in London. He is credited with inventing the term 'no mans land' and is also lauded as the 'father of public relations'. I hadn't heard of Basil Clarke so this has piqued my curiosity, clearly he was a very interesting man! 

    Dornier 17. Image from the RAF Museum from

    * The RAF Museum have finally managed to raise the WWII Dornier bomber from the seabed at Goodwin Sands. Despite a number of issues that delayed the salvage, the plane is in one piece and will be restored in Shropshire before going on display at the RAF museum in Hendon. This piece from the museum pays its respects to the fallen airman and emphasises the importance of commemoration. Find out more about the Dornier 17 and see an interactive 3D model here

    Father's day. Image from

    * As it is Father's Day this Sunday (I hope you have already got your gift sorted!) Andre Gerard has chosen the top 10 father memoirs. As with most articles like this, the books suggested by the article are just the tip of the iceberg and the comments have many more brilliant suggestions. 

    I'm sure many people have key advice from their fathers (and mothers) that they will always remember (tip from my dad; always add the vinegar to your chips before the salt as it helps the salt to stick better!) and these 9 children's books have also got some powerful life lessons to share

    Jiroemon Kimura received awards from Guinness World Records in April. Image from

    *  Jiroemon Kimura, the oldest man in history, has died at the age of 116. I can't ever imagine living to that age but apparently Kimura's positivity is what kept him going - a life lesson for us all I think!

    Book shelf. Image from

    * From 'save our bookstores' to print is dead', 10 bookish conversations we never want to have again.

    * Is crime fiction the new punk

    Schwarz's first employer Jacob Fugger the Rich (depicted left in black clothing), is the only other person to feature as a life-size adult figure in the paintings. Researchers recreated the red and yellow outfit on the right. Image from

    * Fairly or not, accountants are often seen as being quite dull but the style obsessed
    accountant who created the first book of fashion begs to differ. Matthaeus Schwarz started commissioning watercolour paintings of himself and his outfits at the age of 23 and continued until he was 63, producing a truly unique piece of work. I'm not sure there are many fashion bloggers who have a 40 year archive!

    Public speaking. Image by Jeff Goldstein from

    * Public speaking is nerve-wracking at the best of times but reading extracts from your book can make it even more scary. Randy Susan Meyers has gathered 10 tips for writers talking in public

    San Domino, in the Tremitis. Image by Thinkstock from

    * In an effort to punish homosexuality, Mussolini accidentally created a gay island community.

    Richard III. Copyright Getty Images. Image from

    *  A location has been decided for the new King Richard III visitor centre in Leicester. The former Grammar School building will undergo a £4 million transformation and will be the location for a breathtaking new exhibition, entitled 'Richard III: Dynasty, Death and Discovery' which will guide visitors through the dramatic story of the king's life, brutal death at Bosworth Field in 1485, and the fascinating story of his rediscovery.

    Hannibal Crossing the Rhone - Henri-Paul Motte (1894) Image from

    * Everyone has heard the tale of Hannibal and his elephant army but how many elephants did the Carthiginians actually have

    Typewriter. Image from dgrosso23 on Flickr

    * Many people are nostalgic for the 'good old days' of pen and ink but one man feels only joy about relying on machines in his struggle to communicate with written language.

    The Giant's Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire. Image from
    * Heritage and preservation of history can be a controversial topic and the news that the Palace of Westminster and its environs, Hayle Harbour in Cornwall, and the Giant's Causeway in Antrim are threatened by commercial development has caused outrage. UNESCO have recommended that the three sites should be described as 'endangered', which is one step away from removal from the list altogether, a fate which has so far befallen only two of the 962 in the world.

    What do you think is the best way to preserve historical sites? 


    Lego Tube map. Image from

    * A Tube map made of Lego has been unveiled at King's Cross - I think this is even more fun than the world metro map!

    Valentina Tereshkova. Image from

    * 50 years ago , Valentina Tereshkova, a young Soviet worker became the first woman to travel into space but just how much has life changed for the 'Greta Garbo of space' and her family since 16 June 1963?

    The Shrewsbury family crypt has been rediscovered in the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul in Sheffield. Image from 
    * The Shrewsbury family crypt has been rediscovered in the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul in Sheffield, but where are all of the bodies?  


    Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?

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    5 Feb 1953 – A crowd of children rush to get into a sweetshop as it opens its doors on the day that sweet rationing ended. (Getty Images)

    The birth-rate in Britain shot up in the years immediately following the Second World War and the children from the first wave of that baby boom grew up in a 1950’s Britain so far removed from the one we live in today that the way of life back then seems almost primitive to us now.

    This was a generation of children who never developed a craving for chocolate and sweets because for most of their young lives such things were not freely available to them. These things were regarded as luxuries and an occasional treat to be eaten only in small quantities. Restricted access to sweet things was not for the good of their health or because they made their teeth rot, it was because up until 1953 the amount of sweet and sugary items you could buy in shops was restricted by post-war government rationing regulations, and so children had to make do without them.

    It is commonly thought that wartime rationing ended immediately after the war but that’s not the case at all. In fact some forms of rationing got even stricter after the war, and this went on for several years. The country had been operating within a controlled rationing system for six years when the war ended in 1945 and it just wasn’t possible to turn volumes of supply back up to pre-war levels overnight.

    Many of our working men had been away serving in the armed forces during the war and they were only returning home gradually. With this initial post-war shortage of labour and frequent strike action taken by key workers, Britain didn’t have the resources needed to handle any significant increases in food production. In addition to this, some of our crops were ruined by bad weather. There was also a huge increase in post-war demand for food in Europe, which affected the amount we were able to import. Imports were also adversely affected by industrial unrest at the docks and our dock workers striking.

    Lorries waiting to offload freight for export, London Docks (Image from Dockers' Stories from the Second World War - Author's collection)


    Having gone through the entire six years of war without bread being rationed, bread rationing was imposed one year after the war ended due to heavy rain flooding our fields and ruining our wheat crops. The rationing of bread continued until 1948. As with bread, potatoes were not rationed during the war but due to the harsh weather conditions in winter 1946/47 they had to be rationed. Between 1945 and 1950, private use of petrol was rationed and was periodically made unavailable. Meat and all other food rationing finally ended in Britain in 1954, but shortages were still quite common, especially with cheese products. Petrol rationing was briefly reintroduced for a few months towards the end of 1956 and through to May 1957, due to the Suez Crisis.

    It has been reported that housewives faced more difficulty in shopping after the war than they did during the war, but those post-war baby boomers didn’t grumble. After all, they knew no different - they had only ever known times of shortage, and things could only get better.


    Paul Feeney is the bestselling author of A 1950s Childhood, A 1960s Childhood and From Ration book to ebook.  

    Get 20% off ALL Paul Feeney titles with the code HPFEENEY20 on THP website

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    "Olympic" under construction


    As a young boy in the late fifties, whilst on holiday with my family in Bournemouth, I went to the cinema to see ‘A Night to Remember’ after which I became fascinated by the story of the sinking of Titanic. So much so, that my Mother bought me the Corgi paperback, with the same title, by Walter Lord. This then was the start of my interest in Titanic and later her sister ships Olympic and Britannic. I was thrilled when, in 1983, I bought from a memorabilia dealer a 'pre-sinking' postcard of Titanic and, from then on, I was hooked on collecting images of all the major vessels of The White Star Line. The acquisition of postcards became not just an enjoyable hobby but a major source of knowledge and information about the subject.

    A restaurant on board "Olympic"


    Most of my cards have come from dealers and postcard fairs but, more recently, I have made many purchases on Ebay. Some of these are 'one-off' images while others are very rare indeed. I have now amassed a collection of many thousands of postcards of The White Star line. These include views of Titanic and Olympic under construction and numerous images of the White Star Line’s impressive and stately vessels, in dock and at sea. I have also collected many postcards showing the splendid interiors of cabins and lounges, restaurants and cafés, swimming pools and Turkish baths. The collection also includes postcards of Olympic at war with her dazzle-paint camouflage, and of course many produced during her glamorous period as a transatlantic liner.

    HMS Hawke after collision with "Olympic"


    Few books have been published concerning the story of Titanic’s sister ship compared to the plethora of books printed at the time of the one hundredth anniversary of that ship’s loss last year. I have attempted to tell the story of the first, and less well known, vessel of the Olympic class liners and illustrate that story with some of the cards from my collection. Not wanting to include only pictures of the Olympic, I decided to also feature cards illustrating vessels involved in her quarter of a century career from launch in 1910 to demolition in 1935.


    The Unseen Olympic by Patrick Mylon

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  • 06/18/13--01:01: Who are your female icons?
  •  'Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.'- Myra Pollack Sadker

    Choosing a female icon is hard work, there are many extraordinary women throughout history and women such as 'Mrs Zigzag', Marie Stopes and Emily Wilding Davison continue to inspire people, even today. With so many figures to choose from, 
    how do you narrow your choice of heroine down to just one?

    Here at The History Press office, we are big fans of women's history and so we put our heads together and came up with a potted history of our favourite female icons below. All you have to do is decide who we have missed off the list...


    Dorothy Levitt on the frontispiece of The Woman and the Car


    Dorothy Elizabeth Levitt (1882/3 – 1922).

     ‘ The details of an engine may sound complicated and look "horrid", but an engine is easily mastered.’

    A renowned pioneer of female independence, Levitt is the most successful competitor of Great Britain and holds the water speed record and the Ladies World Land speed record.

    She was a well-known race car driver and her book, The Woman and the Car: A chatty little handbook for all women who motor or want to motor is notable for recommending women carry a little hand-mirror while driving for looking behind in traffic – inventing the rear view mirror before it was introduced by manufacturers in 1914.

    Her success as a race car driver is noteworthy due to the prevalent attitude of the time that female motorists were unnatural and mannish. She also lived a bachelor-type lifestyle unusual for a woman in the Edwardian era, living with friends and waited on by servants in the West End of London.

    When driving she took her dog Dodo with her with barked at the competitors; disgruntled male drivers responded by having dog toys on their bonnets during the races.

    Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797)


    Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797)

    ‘Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.’

    An English writer, Wollstonecraft went against what many believe women should do; such as encouraging her severely depressed sister Eliza to leave her unhappy marriage and her new baby for which she received much criticism.

    After a school she founded collapsed, she became a governess for the daughters of Lord and Lady Kingsborough. It was her loathing of Lady Kingsborough, who came to stand for all that was wrong with women in Wollstonecraft’s eyes, that developed her feminist philosophy.

    When the radical London publisher Joseph Johnson took her on as an editorial assistant it was the start of her new life. Becoming more sure of her own intellectualism, amongst her short career Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792. In this she argued that women were not naturally inferior to men, but that the current education system made it so, and that with the same opportunities as men, women would be just very capable working life as well as domestic. She suggested this change would benefit all of society.

    Mary died at the age of 38, due to complications in giving birth to her second child. The child grew to be Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

    Her husband published her radical novel as well a memoir of her life when she died. This revealed she had not been married whilst having a sexual relationship with a previous lover which diminished her reputation to that of a prostitute. Few later feminists would dare admit to her influence.

    The obverse of Eleanor's seal. She is identified as Eleanor, by the Grace of God, Queen of the English, Duchess of the Normans. The legend on the reverse calls her Eleanor, Duchess of the Aquitanians and Countess of the Angevins

    Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1122 – 1204)

    ‘Pitiful and pitied by no one, why have I come to the ignominy of this detestable old age, who was ruler of two kingdoms, mother of two kings?’

    Arguably the most powerful woman in twelfth-century Europe, Eleanor inherited one of the largest domains in France (even larger than the French King). She married the heir to French throne in 1137, Louis VI, and became Queen of France. In this position she held considerably influence, including over the king, for the next 15 years and bore two daughters.

    The failure of the Second Crusade deteriorated their already poor relationship and the marriage was annulled in 1152, in which Eleanor regained her inherited land. Two months later she married the future Henry II, King of England and had five sons and three daughters with her new husband, including Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland, who became king in 1199.

    She played various roles in ruling: travelling between their English and French territories as Henry’s Queen, in government with Richard I and as regent in England when Richard went to join the Third Crusade.

    She died in 1204 and was buried next to Henry II.

    George Eliot aged 30 by the Swiss artist Alexandre Louis François d'Albert Durade (1804–86)

    George Eliot (1819 – 1880)

    ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’

    George Eliot was the pen name for Mary Ann Evans, one of the leading novelists of the nineteenth century. A writer who developed the method of psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction, she used a male name so her works were taken seriously in an era when female novelists were mostly romance novelists.

    Her major works include Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876).

    The popularity of her novels made society more acceptable of her cohabiting with a married man, and their house even became a meeting place for writers and intellectuals.

    Queen Boudica in John Opie's painting "Boadicea Haranguing the Britons"


    Boudicca was queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England. When Boudicca’s husband died with no male heir, he left his wealth to his daughters and the Roman emperor Nero, thinking this would win imperial protection for his family. He was wrong. The Romans robbed his chief tribesmen, annexed his kingdom, stripped and flogged Boudicca and raped his daughters. Boudicca raised a rebellion through East Anglia, burning many locations and massacring an alleged 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons.

    When the provincial governor Suetonius Paulinus returned a desperate battle ensured, thought to be on Watling Street. The Romans emerged victorious and Boudicca is thought to have killed herself with poison to avoid capture.

    The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London (c. 1873)

    Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881)

    ‘Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?’

    Born in 1905 on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, Mary Seacole faced racial prejudice through her life – her and her family were not allowed to vote, hold public office or enter the professions. She learnt her nursing skills from her mother who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers.

    With a love of travelling, Seacole visited other parts of the Caribbean where she expanded her skills by exploring European medical ideas. Best known for her work in the Crimean War (a trip she funded herself after the War Office refused her as an army nurse) where she established the British Hotel for sick officers and frequently visited the battlefield (under fire) to nurse the wounded. The soldiers called her Mother Seacole and her reputation rivalled Florence Nightingale

    When she returned to England after the war she was destitute and in ill health. Her troubles got in the press and a benefits festivals was organised for her, attracting thousands of people.

    Roosevelt in 1932

    Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962)

    ‘A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.’

    As the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, she was America’s First Lady (1933-45). She taught herself many aspects of politics, partly in order to help with husband’s political career but also as she recognised it as an important cause. She became a member of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the League of Women’s Voters and began to study the Congressional Record to understand how to evaluate voting records and debates.

    As First Lady she understood social conditions and transformed the role of First Lady. She entertained, gave lecturers and radio broadcasts and instituted regular White House press conferences for women correspondents – forcing many companies to employ a woman that could attend in case they missed anything. As her husband, the president, grew more ill she became more involved in public outings and tours in order to report to him.

    Roosevelt showed particular interest in child welfare, housing reform and equal rights for women and racial minorities. This helped bring previously excluded groups into government. She had not supported the Equal Rights Amendment, worried it would take protective legislated from women, but eventually approved of it.

    Parliament has recently bought a portrait of Margot Asquith by Philip de Laszlo. Image from

    Margot Asquith (1864 – 1945)

    ‘Lord Birkenhead is very clever but sometimes his brains go to his head’

    The equivalent of a late Victorian and Edwardian celebrity, Asquith was one of society’s leading ladies. Fashionable, outspoken, witty she had no fear of defying gender conventions – she smoked, swore, flirted and even held midnight meetings in her bedroom with mixed company.

    Though she was always mixed into the word of politics – her father was an MP and she married Herbert Henry Asquith – she did not get involved in the politics of the day. The women’s suffrage movement is a notably example on which she had very little to say, though her husband was strongly against it.

    After the war she wrote her autobiography based on her diary which offended many of her friends with her brutally honest descriptions of them. Other books she wrote included Places and Persons (1925), Lay Sermons (1927), More Memories (1933), Myself when Young (1938) and Off the Record (1943).

    Mary Henrietta Kingsley

    Mary Kingsley

    ‘I feel certain that a black man is no more an undeveloped white man than a rabbit is an undeveloped hare’

    Kingsley’s mother was an invalid so Kingsley was expected to stay at home to look after her – which left her with little formal schooling but plenty to time to peruse her father’s library of travel books.

    Her father returned from a travel on rheumatic fever and died in 1892. With her mother’s death a few weeks after, and an income of £500 a year, Mary was able to travel. She travelled to Africa to finish her father’s book on their culture, and offered to collect tropical fish for the British Museum while she was touring.

    Having lived with the locals to learn the skills necessary for survival, she went off alone to search the mangrove swamps in search of rare specimens, adventures which include a crocodile attack and a tornado. She journeyed through forests filled with poisonous animals, met cannibal tribes and was the first European to climb Mount Cameroon. She found being identified not foremost as woman, but as white, to be liberating.

    Her adventurers made her famous and she toured the country giving lectures and disputing the popular notion of Africans as savages. She updated the Church of England for criticising the missionaries that tried to change them and suggested they try to live with them to understand. Perhaps surprisingly, she argued against women being given the vote in parliamentary elections as there were already enough poorly informed voters and women were unfit for parliament, with their expertise better suited to local elections.

    The book on her travels, Travels in West Africa (1897) was a best seller and the government’s Colonial Secretary even wrote asking her advice (albeit secretly, given Kingsley’s controversy). She volunteered as a nurse during the Boer War where she died, and was buried at sea as per her request.

    Elizabeth I , "Darnley Portrait", c. 1575

    Elizabeth I (1553 - 1603)

    ‘And, in the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin’

    Elizabeth I, also called ‘The Virgin Queen’, ‘Gloriana’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’ was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed when she was young and she was known as ‘Lady Elizabeth’ rather than princess. Despite this, she was one of the best educated women in her generation.

    Declared illegitimate by the Pope, Elizabeth’s life was threatened with several conspiracies – all happily thwarted with her minister’s secret service. She is associated with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, one of the greatest military victories in English histories. Elizabeth defied expectations and never married to produce an heir, despite numerous courtship attempts. The reason for this is still speculated; she could have known she was infertile, an earlier romance had dissuade her, or she was reluctant to lose part of her power to her husband. Elizabeth claimed she instead married to her kingdom and subjects.

    Elizabeth’s long (44 year) reign was a welcome change to a nation that had been subjected to many short reigns from monarchs with radically different views. The importance of her to the nation is part of her rule being called Elizabethan – not many monarchs can claim such personality!

    Who is your female icon?

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  • 06/21/13--07:13: The Friday Digest 21/06/13

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts...


    Stonehenge - History Today 

    *In March 2008 archaeologists excavated at Stonehenge for the first time in over forty years. The results of the excavation will hopefully throw new light on the origins of the little understood early bluestone structure.


    Medieval skeletons give clues to leprosy origins - BBC NEWS

    *The genetic code of leprosy-causing bacteria from 1,000-year-old skeletons has been laid bare. It has revealed, for example, the key role played by the medieval Crusades in moving the pathogen across the globe.


    Outstanding mistakes of all time - BBC NEWS 

    *After a string of newsworthy errors, the BBC stumble through the annals of time to choose a few favourites from history.


    British Museum launches gay history guide - BBC NEWS

    *The British Museum has launched a guide focusing on elements of homosexuality to be found in its collection. Written by curator Richard Parkinson, it explores artistic portrayals of what it means to be gay and the difficulties in finding records of same-sex desire.

    How accurately does Blackadder reflect history? - BBC NEWS

    *As fans of Blackadder celebrate the 30th anniversary of the comedy's first broadcast, its stars Tony Robinson and Rowan Atkinson are recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Its fast-and-loose attitude to real events and characters is part of the appeal, but how close is any of it to real history?

    The Funeral of a Suffragette - History Today

    *Ten days after her fateful intervention at the Epsom Derby, a funeral service was held in London for the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. The short clip above shows part of the procession, organised by the Women's Social and Political Union, which was attended by tens of thousands.

    WW2 Greatest Battle - The Telegraph

    The two victories over the Japanese, which took place in the same region of north east India over the same period in 1944, were voted the winner of a contest run by the National Army Museum to identify “Britain’s Greatest Battle”.

    Catch up on more snippets of history news next Friday. Anything you think we've missed? Let us know below. 

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts: - See more at:
    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts: - See more at:
    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts: - See more at:

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    The three Graces


    A colossal project to regenerate Liverpool's north docklands received planning permission a few months ago. “Liverpool Waters” – a development by landowners Peel – hit a wave of controversy and opposition, centred around UNESCO's threat to remove the coveted World Heritage Site badge from Merseyside if the plans went ahead.

    I'm not against regeneration in historic areas. In fact, to let old buildings get in the way of development is suicidal from a preservation perspective, and just provides fuel to those who are set to profit from unnecessarily demolishing the old and building anew.

    I’m not worried about what will be removed. I’m not worried about what will get demolished, dug up or thrown out. I’m concerned about the landscape of Liverpool. And it’s not just the historic landscape - that thing which furrows brows within UNESCO. It’s the landscape character of Liverpool, of which historic buildings are just one part, and which Liverpool Waters will impact upon.

    There are two routes this development may go down, both the subject of artists' impressions doing the rounds. The first is full of skyscrapers, crazy windmill-powered buildings and the ‘tallest structure outside London’. Does this in any way reflect the current Liverpool landscape, historic or otherwise?

    The second looks more like a marina, or a modern version of the Albert Dock. New buildings are the height of the Three Graces, or the hotels around the Kings Dock, and are interspersed with water and boats. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were already out there, somewhere between the Garden Festival site and the Echo Arena. They are modern, they are new, they replace empty space, and yet they are undoubtedly ‘Liverpool’.

    We went through a period, not so long ago, when the city was in a similar position to what it’s in now: austerity had bitten hard for many years, and unemployment was a huge problem. The 1960s gave us many great things, but architecturally it was a disaster. In our zeal to solve the social issues of the day, we were left with such gems as the Piggeries, the Kingsway Tunnel entrance, and Concourse House. In the last three decades we've pulled down many such brutalist eyesores as well as unloved and unsafe tower blocks. What were they replaced with? Low rise housing and more imaginative glass and steel structures.

    In short, I hope that the developments in the north docks reflect the landscape into which they are newcomers, that they fit the scale and historic characteristics that are distinctly Liverpudlian, and that the project is one that our descendents thank us for, rather than demolish in a few short decades.


    Liverpool A Landscape History 

     Martin Greaney is the author of Liverpool: A Landscape History, to find out more about Liverpools rich and varried history click here.

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    Piltdown.  Even today the name sends a shiver down the collective spine of the scientific community, for this was the most dramatic and daring fraud ever perpetrated upon the world of science and academia.  Between 1908 and 1912, a series of amazing discoveries relating to what appeared to be the earliest human were made close to the little village of Piltdown in Sussex. These remains belonged to the developmental 'missing link' between man and ape.  The basic principles of evolution, first propounded by Charles Darwin some fifty years before, now appeared as indisputable fact.   Forty-one years after he first became famous, the 'Earliest Englishman' was again hot news.  it was late November 1953, and the world was about to discover that Piltdown Man had been a hoax. 

    Miles Russell is a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at Bournemouth University in the UK. He has worked as a field officer and project manager for the UCL Field Archaeology Unit, the Oxford Archaeological Unit and Bournemouth Archaeology on sites across Britain, Germany, Sicily and Russia, and is a regular contributor to television and radio, as well as being the author of ten books, including Piltdown Man, Prehistoric Sussex, Roman Sussex, Digging Holes in Popular Culture: Archaeology and Science Fiction, Bloodline: the Celtic Kings of Roman Britain, and UnRoman Britain: Exposing the Great Myth of Britannia.


    The Piltdown Man Hoax: Case Closed By Miles Russell


    Miles Russell presents here a fun and interesting account of Charles Dawson, the man behind one of the greatest archaeological frauds in history. He shows us a devious, intelligent man who conducted a host of deceptions leading to fame, property and, had he lived longer, possibly even a knighthood.

    The book starts with a brief look at the background of the man himself, his origins, family and motives and what may have led him down the path of deception instead of honest hard research.

    The rest of the book is entitled The Hoax, and is subdivided into four parts, which tell us of the litany of frauds he committed. The first part, A Splendid Fellow, talks about his archaeological 'discoveries'. This list of no less than thirteen frauds taken in chronological order, gives us an understanding of how his desire for success led him to fabricate more and more evidence on a whole host of sites and objects to gain recognition and position. It is a fascinating section showing how his frauds developed in sophistication and scale over time, until he finally reached his great masterpiece, the Piltdown man. It's amazing how little suspicion there was at the time, and even for a long time after, with only modern technology, like dating systems and greater knowledge of past periods, showing us they are not genuine.

    The next part, A Man of Articles, looks at his published papers and book. He actually published several papers on all manner of fields from history and languages to physics and aerodynamics. Many of these were unsurprisingly heavily plagiarised, especially his book on Hastings castle, and is interesting to see how he did it and got away with it. 

    The third part, A Curious Mind, concerns his wider biological and paleontological works, from insects to fossils, and even a sighting of a sea monster.

    The final part, The Big Discovery, is the longest section of the book and looks at the 'find' of the Piltdown Man. It provides all the details of the find and excavation itself, but also shows how complex it was, and how devious was the man behind it. How he planned it, added to it and used other excavators and archaeologists to draw the attention from himself. It even shows how he dealt with suspicion and his many enemies accrued over the years, especially the Sussex archaeological society, whose property, Castle Lodge, he had purloined through duplicitous, and highly illegal means several years previously.

    This book is extremely well researched and provides an interesting analysis of the man and his works, showing us a very intelligent, hard working and motivated man, who at the same time was devious, manipulative, self centred and unscrupulous, getting everything he wanted, whatever the cost to others around him. This book provides the information to explain what he did, how and why in a reasonably fun and light way. My main complaint, however, is that the author missed the mark somewhat at judging the level of the book, with it neither being very academic and scientific nor fun and easy to read, dragging quite a lot in the middle, and, despite having a wealth of fascinating content, being a bit of a chore to finish.



    Book: 'The Piltdown Man Hoax: Case Closed'

    Author: Miles Russell

    Review by: Joe Medhurst


    Joe Medhurst is a teacher and historian, he writes articles on history and education for several magazines and websites. His website is:

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    The first true transatlantic liner was the Great Western built by Brunel. She was a paddle steamer and also carried auxiliary sales. The conditions aboard the ship weren't up to today's standards   there were no refrigerators and so "fresh" produce was carried in the form of livestock. Chickens were carried for eggs and cows for milk! You can only imagine how bad the smell must have been at the end of a 14 day voyage!


    Great Western by Brunel


    A reciprocating engine, or large steam engine, was the most common engine used aboard transatlantic liners until the Turbine was introduced in the 20th century. It was an enormous piece of machinery, several decks tall, and was used to drive the ship's propellers. They were also used to create electricity via a dynamo which then illuminated lights aboard the liners. Some of the largest reciprocating engines ever built were those aboard Cunard's Campania and Luciana from the late 1800's.


    Transatlantic liner lit up


    Imperator was the first ship built to exceed Titanic in size. She was German, built in 1913 by Hamburg-Amerika line. She was so opulent that her first class "Kaiser" suites had marble finishes which proved too heavy and destabilised the ship so they were later removed.


    The Kaiser suites on the SS Imperator



    SS Bremen & SS Europa. 

    The German Liners Bremen and Europa (1929) were technological marvels. Their streamlined exterior was modern and unique and it outwardly reflected their modern internal technology. They had twenty of the newer style "water tube boilers" which were located in four airtight boiler rooms. Eight steam turbine blowers delivered combustion air into the boiler rooms. This heightened pressure inside the boiler rooms meant that they were only accessible by passing through airlocks! There were two backup boilers in their own airlock for use in ports so the main boilers could be worked on. 

    Talk about space aged!! 


     SS Normandie

    Normandie was without doubt the most magnificent liner of her day. Her "Art Deco" (or liner style) and "Streamline Modern" interior was the most opulent shipboard interior ever created. The entire design was overseen by famed French architect expert Roger-Henri, who took very seriously the task of decorating France’s new flagship.  The majority of the lavish public spaces were devoted to first-class passengers and her grand saloon was designed to reflect the hall of mirrors in Versailles! 


    The QE2 was the last transatlantic ocean liner built in Britain. She went on to become the most travelled ship in history carrying 2.5 million passengers some 5.6 million miles. When she retired in 2008 it was promised she would have a long life as a floating hotel but sadly this great ship remains in layup.




    Cunard's QM2 is the last of the great transatlantic liners. She is also the biggest at 151,000 tons making her over three times the size of Titanic. She is so large that Cunard Line's first ship, RMS Britannia could fit into QM2's dining room. 



    The Evolution of the Transatlantic Liner


    Chris Frame and Rachelle Cross are the authors of  and  'The Evolution of the Transatlantic Liner' following the history of the transatlantic ocean liner from inception to the jet age. Detailing aspects from changing attitudes and social condittions which led to ever bigger, faster and grander ships, to how ship design has been influenced by changing needs and beliefs. They are also the authors of QE2: A Photogrpahic Journey which has been released in a new edition.



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  • 06/28/13--01:36: The Friday Digest 28/6/13

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:


    Solving Stonehenge – With the recent summer solstice, focus is once again turned upon Stonehenge and the mystery that still shrouds this iconic monument.  Over 250 years of speculation have led to the widely held belief that prehistoric spirituality was focused on the theatre of the celestial dome.



    The second dig of Leicester has commenced this week after the first dig unearthed the findings of Richard III.

    Workers began to remove a Victorian wall at the city council car park where Richard III was found last August. The demolition will allow University of Leicester archaeologists to continue their explorations of the buried Franciscan friary known as Greyfriars, which was home to Richard III's remains for more than 500 years. Led by archaeologist Richard Buckley, the team will excavate the church and pay special attention to the exhumation of a 600-year-old stone coffin, which is believed to contain the remains of a medieval knight called Sir William Moton. City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "I have no doubt that there are more exciting discoveries to be made within the old Grey Friars church".


    There has been much speculation in the news lately of which famous figures should feature on British bank notes.  With Sir Winston Churchill set to feature on the five pound note, replacing Elizabeth Fry and the possibility of Jane Austen to feature on the ten pound note, replacing Charles Darwin, this is a topic which has sparked much debate!



    Wimbledon is said to be the world's oldest tennis tournament and regarded by many as the most prestigious. But the Wimbledon tennis championships as we know them today owe much to the vision of one man, who came from a tiny Leicestershire village.

    George Hillyard, from Thorpe Satchville, near Melton, was married to Wimbledon champion Blanche Bingley. He became secretary of Wimbledon in 1907 and was the "lead man" in setting up the tournament's present home.


    Mick Aston, a former resident academic on Channel 4's Time Team, has died at the age of 66. He appeared on the show, which sees experts carry out archaeological digs, from its inception in 1994 until 2011. Professor Aston had appeared as the senior archaeologist in 19 series of the programme, he was also one of the authors of Recreating the Past, published by The History Press. 


    A former airman who was supposed to be on a World War II plane that crashed killing three men has visited the site for the first time. Royal Navy airman Frank Walton visited Great Gully, above Wastwater in the Lake District, where the plane went down during an exercise night-flight, in 1945.

    Members of Keighley Sub Aqua Club found the Royal Navy Grumman Avenger aircraft's engine block in the lake, during a dive in 2013. Divers returned in April to search the lake, which is England's deepest, to try and find the aircraft's tail section. They did not find it but are to return in August to try again.



    Re-writing Shakespeare - Jeanette Winterson is set to write a "cover version" of Shakespeare's late play, The Winter's Tale, as part of a "major" new project reimagining Shakespeare's canon for a 21st-century audience. Following the current trend for modern retellings of classic stories – Val McDermid, Joanna Trollope and Curtis Sittenfeld are all currently writing reworkings of Jane Austen – the Shakespeare project will launch in 2016, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death.


    Novels about Shakespeare are set to be published, written by Bartholomew Daniels, and purporting to be based on the Bard's own journals, the books will feature Shakespeare as the central character, investigating the death of his wealthy patron and uncovering a conspiracy that goes to the heart of the Elizabethan court.


    Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week? 

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    The Regency Detective

    David Lassman and Terence James will be appearing at Toppings Bookshop in Bath on Monday 1 July from 8.00 - 9.00 pm. They will be reading passages from their book and answering questions. Booksellers will be dressed in Regency costume, and may even start dancing the quadrille as the wine starts to flow. Period dress is optional for guests.

    To all appearances Jack Swann is a typical gentleman of the Regency period; educated, cultured and affluent. In his early thirties, he is an attractive and eligible bachelor, with all the resources needed to live a privileged life.Haunted by the murder of his father twenty years earlier – the perpetrators of which have never been caught – Swann has, however, turned his back on this world and chosen instead to fight crime as ‘The Regency Detective’, an unofficial consulting detective to the Bow Street Runners in London. 

    Arriving in Bath for a family funeral, Swann finds several reasons for staying in the city: to protect Mary, his sister, from the mysterious Lockhart; to find the ‘Scarred Man’, who might lead him to his father’s killer; and to end the reign of terror by Wicks, the local underworld boss who, in turn, sets out to have Swann assassinated.

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    Swansea Murders

    Find out more about Swansea's criminal past with Geoff Brookes at Uplands Bookshop on Thursday 4 July between 11.00 am and 12.00 pm. Geoff will be signing copies of his book, Swansea Murders and answering questions.

    Swansea has a dangerous past. As a seaport, the town confronted the unknown on a daily basis. In this book, we explore the dark underbelly of South Wales; from the dirty, lawless docks to the narrow, festering slums of the alleyways. Little Martha Nash, Claire Phillips, Peter Moitch … all met their sad end within these streets.

    Even where the town meets the countryside is no safer. It is this idyllic landscape that was home to Muriel Drinkwater and Eleanor Williams, both of whom were tragically killed.

    Swansea is alive with the memories of its crimes; from unfortunate sailors to jealous husbands and vengeful employees, Geoff Brookes’ well researched and compelling book presents a selection of some of the most famous crimes. Each case is analysed and the key facts outlined; some were closed. Many remain unresolved, and their stories linger still. You will never look at Swansea the same way again. 

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         Southampton books

    Penny Legg and James Marsh will be signing copies of their books at Waterstones Southampton West Quay on Saturday 6 July, from 11.00 am - 3.00 pm. Find out more about Southampton's history with 'A 1950s Southampton Childhood', 'Bloody British History Southampton' and 'Not A Guide To Southampton'

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    Surrey Folk Tales


    Join Janet Dowling for a storytelling and signing event at Waterstones Camberley on Saturday 13 July, from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm. She will be telling a selection of stories from her book, Surrey Folk Tales

    Surrey’s landscape, shaped by the Devil’s mischief and the whims of dancing Pharisees, is home to a wealth of tales. For Surrey is a place where dragons have stalked, dripping poisoned saliva from their yellow teeth; a place where horses have sprouted wings in order to rescue bewitched villagers; a place where pumas with the gift of speech have prowled the countryside.

    From the legends of Stephen Langton to the marvels of Captain Salvin and his flying pig, Janet Dowling has vividly retold these myths and stories of Surrey, and brought to life the county’s heroes, villains and saints. 

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    Suffolk Folk Tales


    Join Kirsty Hartsiotis for a storytelling and signing event at Waterstones Ipswich on Saturday 13 July, from 12.00 to 2.00 pm. She will be telling a selection of stories from her book, Suffolk Folk Tales

    With its wild eroding sea, its gentle rolling fields and tall churches, Suffolk is a county of contrasts. It may seem a kindly and civilised place, but in that sea, in the reed beds, the woods and even down dark town streets lurk strange beasts, ghosts and tricksters. 

    These thirty traditional tales retold by storyteller Kirsty Hartsiotis take you into a hidden world of green children and wildmen, of lovers from beyond the grave and tricksy fairy folk. Shaped by generations of Suffolk mardle and wit, in these stories you’ll discover the county’s last dragon, the secret behind Black Shuck, saintly King Edmund and heroic King Raedwald, haunted airfields, broken-hearted mermaids and the exploits of the county’s cunning folk. Embark on this journey around Suffolk and you’ll find you’re never far from a story. 

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    London's Industrial Heritage


    Join Geoff Marshall at Housman’s Bookshop on Wednesday 17 July,  from 7.00- 9.00 pm and get your copy of 'London’s Industrial Heritage' signed.

    Did you know that apart from Lancashire, the greatest concentration of Boulton & Watt steam engines was in London, demonstrating the enormous and often overlooked significance of London as an industrial centre?

    The story behind the many industries found in the capital is described in this unique book. London once had scores of breweries; the world’s first plastic material was synthesised in the East End; there was even a gasworks opposite the Palace of Westminster. Clerkenwell was a centre for watch and clock makers; the River Thames used to be full of colliers bringing coal from Newcastle; Joseph Bramah invented his water closet and hydraulic pump here, and Henry Maudslay made machines to make machines. Many household names began in London: Schweppes, Crosse & Blackwell, and Vauxhall motor cars.

    The list of fascinating facts goes on. In this, the first book of its kind on the subject, Geoff Marshall provides an enthralling overview of London’s industrial face through history.

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    Under the Queen's Colours


    Join Penny Legg at The War and Peace Revival Show from Wednesday 17 July to Sunday 21 July and find out more about the thousands of people who have served 'Under the Queen's Colours' since 1952. 


    In 1952 Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. In the sixty years of her reign so far, there have been thousands of conscripts and regular service personnel who have served under the Queen’s Colours. This book celebrates their incredible achievement, covering the period from 1952 to the Queen’s diamond jubilee year 2012.

    Service men and women recall their experiences from post-WW2 to the Falklands War in 1982, through to modern military service at the end of a millennium and into the first years of the twenty-first century.  The book looks at life in barracks at home, and overseas in a variety of hot and not-so-hot spots, and major conflicts worldwide. 

    Male and female service personnel talk candidly about their experiences, opening their world to an interested audience and allowing glimpses into military life. This book is not just about war, but the everyday lives of service men and women on land, sea and in the air, in celebration of a diamond jubilee. 

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    The South Downs National Park: An Archaeological Walking Guide

    Join author John Manley, at Waterstones Brighton, Clocktower on Wednesday 24 July from 7.30 to 9.30 pm for a talk on the South Downs National Park. John will also be signing copies of his book, 'The South Downs National Park: An Archaeological Walking Guide' at the event. 

    The South Downs National Park extends from the outskirts of Eastbourne in East Sussex, to the edge of Winchester in Hampshire. It consists of a considerable chunk of southern England and it contains an extraordinary variety of archaeological and historic monuments. You can explore the camps, flint mines and tombs of the earliest farmers, walk around great earthen banks bounding Iron Age hillforts, stroll along Roman roads, visit Saxon churches and medieval castles and houses and examine the remains of industry and more recent military conflicts.

    Take a walk anywhere in the Park and you find yourself taking a walk into the past. With easy-to-follow maps, evocative photographs and details of sites to visit, the reader can quickly gain both an overview of the Park’s rich history and appreciate the specifics of individual monuments. 

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    The Newcastle Book of Days

    Join Jo Bath and Richard F. Stevenson at Waterstones, Emerson Chambers on Saturday 27 July between 12 noon and 2.00 pm where they will be signing copies of their Book, 'The Newcastle Book of Days'.

    Taking you through the year day by day, The Newcastle Book of Days contains quirky, eccentric, amusing and important events and facts from different periods in the history of the city. Ideal for dipping into, this addictive little book will keep you entertained and informed.

    Featuring hundreds of snippets of information gleaned from the vaults of Newcastle’s archives and covering the social, criminal, political, religious, industrial, military and sporting history of the region, it will delight residents and visitors alike. 

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