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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #99

Dear Reader,

On 15 May 2021 we will publish Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series. Meanwhile, I’m working on Damaged, book nineteen in the series. We will publish this book in the autumn. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.

Chester, 1590, den of iniquity.

The Brereton’s are on my family tree. One generation were involved in a murder plot and an attempt to alter a will. The case reached the Star Chamber.

My latest translations, Ann’s War: Victory in Afrikaans and Eve’s War: Operation Broadsword in Portuguese.

The May 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.

In this month’s issue…

Am I a Real Mum?

The Benefits of Journaling

International Nurses Day

Discovering Your Eighteenth Century Ancestors 

Things to Celebrate in May

Plus, travel, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

Colourised image of Fleet Street, London, 1888.

Just discovered that my 5 x great grandfather James Noulton served in the Napoleonic Wars, receiving a decoration in 1811 for his participation in the Invasion of Java.

Picture: A plan of the Cornelia, 1808, one of the two ships James Noulton served on.

More about James in future posts.

My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick was born on 3 September 1879 in Battersea, Surrey, the youngest of William Bick and Fanny Brereton’s eleven children.

William and Fanny moved to Battersea from Gloucestershire. The family also had connections in Hampshire and over several generations moved between these counties. William was a labourer so money for the family was always tight.

Albert started school at a young age, three. He attended Sleaford Street School, one of the new board schools created to give working class children an education.

Albert at school

After school, Albert found a job as a car man at the coal wharf, transporting coal on a horse and cart. He was still in this form of employment when he married Annie Noulton on 22 March 1902 in Lambeth, London. In thirteen years the couple had seven children.

In 1911, Albert was still a car man, now working at Doulton’s Pipe Works in Lambeth. The birth records of Albert and Annie’s children reveal that he worked as a car man throughout his married life. On 7 April 1911 there was a mass baptism when four Bick children from various strands of the family were baptised.

When the First World War broke out in 1914 Albert and Annie had six children with another on the way. During the summer of 1915, after the birth of his seventh child, Albert volunteered to serve in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Why did he volunteer? 

Albert’s brothers William, John and Frederick also volunteered, Frederick for the Red Cross. It would appear that the brothers volunteered together, and that it was a family decision. In 1911, the  family baptised four children together, so obviously they were a tight-knit family. By this time, the war had been raging for a year so unlike the first wave of volunteers who set off with naive optimism, the Bicks volunteered in the knowledge that they were entering hell.

The hell Albert entered had a name, the Battle of Loos. He departed for France on 31 August 1915 and engaged in the battle less than a month later, on 25 September 1915. 

The Battle of Loos was the biggest British attack of 1915, and the first time that the British used poisoned gas. The plan was for the French and British forces to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne, and disrupt the pattern of trench warfare. 

At a conference on 6 September 1915 British commander Douglas Haig suggested that the extensive use of chlorine gas might facilitate an advance as long as the French and British were able to keep the attack secret.

Royal Engineers dug under no-man’s-land and planted mines under the parapets of the German front line trenches, ready to be detonated at zero hour.

Insufficient ammunition hampered the initial bombardment. Also, the British commanders did not fully appreciate the defensive formation of the German machine guns.

Prior to the attack, the British released 140 long tons of chlorine gas. The wind favoured no side and the gas affected both British and German troops.

British infantry advancing at Loos 25 September 1915

The gas masks were inefficient so many soldiers removed them to obtain clear vision and, ironically, to catch their breath. At 6.30 am on 25 September 1915 Albert engaged in battle, charging across open ground, the air full of gas and bullets.

In many places the British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire before the attack. Furthermore, the engineers manning the poison gas cylinders warned against their use, because of the unpredictability of the wind. However, they were overruled by General Sir Hubert Gough. 

As the battle developed, the gas claimed more British than German casualties. Despite that disaster, the British did capture the village of Loos-en-Gohelle. Bad planning meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. A contemporary account stated, ‘From what I can ascertain, some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy’s trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire.’

Major-General Richard Hilton, a Forward Observation Officer, said of the battle, ‘A great deal of nonsense has been written about Loos. The real tragedy of that battle was its nearness to complete success. Most of us who reached the crest of Hill 70, and survived, were firmly convinced that we had broken through on that Sunday, 26 September 1915. There seemed to be nothing ahead of us, but an unoccupied and incomplete trench system. The only two things that prevented our advancing into the suburbs of Lens were, firstly, the exhaustion of the “Jocks” themselves (for they had undergone a bellyfull of marching and fighting that day) and, secondly, the flanking fire of numerous German machine-guns, which swept that bare hill from some factory buildings in Cite St. Auguste to the south of us. All that we needed was more artillery ammunition to blast those clearly-located machine-guns, plus some fresh infantry to take over from the weary and depleted “Jocks.” But, alas, neither ammunition nor reinforcements were immediately available, and the great opportunity passed.’

Twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours. In total, the British suffered 48,367 casualties in the main attack and 10,880 more in the second attack, a total of 59,247 losses, a high percentage of the 285,107 British casualties on the Western Front in 1915. Though Haig and Gough were culpable for this disaster, they escaped much of the blame. 

Albert Charles Bick died at Loos on 25 September 1915, whether through gas poisoning, a machine gun bullet or a mortar bomb is not known, for his body was not recovered. In the official files he is listed as ‘presumed dead’.

Annie received a widow’s pension. She did not remarry and died in 1963. Her eldest daughter and my direct ancestor, also Annie, survived her. As a child, I met daughter Annie several times during her later years, although I was too young to appreciate what the family had been through.

Loos War Memorial

The poet Robert Graves featured in the Battle of Loos and wrote about his experiences in Goodbye to All That while the Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in the battle and have no known grave, including Albert Charles Bick.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #98

Dear Reader,

Through Joyce Alneto and Robert Mansell I have traced my family tree back to Alfred the Great, he who burned the cakes. At least I now know where my gene for burning the family dinner comes from 😄

Currently in production and available soon, Operation Broadsword the third audiobook in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, all narrated by Paula Branch.

America, 1930s. Not a competition for ‘Miss Ku Klux Klan’, but contestants for a ‘Miss Lovely Eyes’ pageant.

Horse-drawn and motorised traffic at the junction of Holborn and Kingsway in London, 1912. My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick was a car man, a person who drove a horse and cart in this area during this period. Albert transported coal and pipes.

A colourised version of the same picture.

Continuing the story of the Preston branch of my family.

Sir Richard had a son, Sir Richard, whose son Sir John also served in Edward III’s parliament. Sir John was the last of the Prestons to hold Preston Richard and Preston Patrick. Sir John’s daughter, Margaret, married Alan Pennington and he inherited Preston Richard.

Sir John’s son, Sir John, was a judge at the Court of Common Pleas under Henry IV and Henry V. Sir John retired in 1427 due to old age.

The Court of Common Pleas was a common law court in the English legal system that dealt with actions between individuals, actions that did not concern the king. Created at the end of the 12th century, the Court of Common Pleas remained as a mainstay of the legal system for around 600 years. 

Sir John had three children: John, who became a priest; Richard, my direct ancestor; and a daughter who married Thomas de Ros. The de Ros’ feature on another branch of my family tree and they produced Catherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII.

The Court of Common Pleas

Richard Preston married Jacobina Middleton, daughter of John Middleton of Middleton Hall. He added the manor of Under Levins Hall to the family estate and the couple produced my direct ancestor, Thomas.

Thomas married Miss Redmayne, adding Twistleton to the family estate. They produced a son, John, who also married into the Redmayne family. John married Margaret, daughter of Richard, of Harewood Castle and Over Levins Hall.

John and Margaret’s son, Sir Thomas, married Ann Thornburgh, daughter of William Thornburgh, of Hampsfield in Lancashire. Through the Musgrave, FitzWilliam, Plantagenet and de Warren families, Ann’s branch leads to William the Conqueror. Many noble families intermarried so I have several branches that lead to William the Conqueror.

Sir Thomas further enriched the family estate by adding Furness Abbey and Holker Park in Lancashire. Furness Abbey was the second richest Cistercian abbey in England, after Fountains Abbey.

Sir Thomas acquired Furness Abbey thanks to Henry VIII and his dissolution of the monasteries. Sir Thomas’ estates generated an income of £3,000 a year, approximately £2 million a year in today’s money.

Furness Abbey, c1895.

Sir Thomas had three sons and six daughters, including my direct ancestor, Christopher who founded the powerful Preston branch at Holker Hall. The line of Ellen, Christopher’s sister, led to William Morley who discovered the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

Christopher married three times: Miss Pickering, Margaret Southworth and Anne Jepson. The union with Margaret Southworth produced my direct ancestor, John Preston of Holker Hall. Christopher had a further son and two daughters, and died on 27 May 1594. 

Holker Hall

John Preston married Mabel Benson, daughter of William Benson Esq of Hughill. This marriage brought part of the Preston Richard manor back into the Preston family’s hands. John’s successor and only child was George Preston, my direct ancestor. John died three years after his father, on 11 September 1597, aged 48.

George Preston was a great benefactor of the stately church at Cartmel, Lancashire where the remains of his grandfather, Christopher, and of his father, John, lay buried. He also supported the poor people of Cartmel by arranging apprenticeships. Furthermore, he established a foundation for scholars so that they could attend St John’s College, Oxford.

George died on 5 April 1640, and was buried at Cartmel. His marriage to Margaret Strickland, daughter of Sir Thomas Strickland of Sizergh Castle, Westmoreland, produced my direct ancestor, Elizabeth. Elizabeth married John Sayer, uniting the Preston and Sayer branches of my family.

Memorial to the Preston family, Cartmel Priory

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #97

Dear Reader,

My home overlooks Margam Park and I just discovered that my 15 x great grandfather Sir Rice (Rhys) Mansell bought the park, and Margam Abbey, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536. Sir Rice demolished the monastery and built Margam House, pictured. 

This line dates back to Philip Mansell, born 1040 in Normandy. Philip was cup bearer to William the Conqueror, a highly responsible position. Philip served William his wine and made sure it wasn’t poisoned.

View of Margam House, Glamorgan, Looking North, c.1700 Attributed to Thomas Smith (fl.1680s-1719)

Oil on canvas

A baptismal record for my 4 x great grandmother Ann Locock has led to sixteen new branches on my family tree. My DNA revealed Dutch ancestors and one of these branches is Dutch, a family from Amsterdam. My 8 x great grandfather, Melgior Rosewel, worked for the Dutch East India Company, which offers scope for a lot more research.

My direct ancestor Sir John Mansell, 1188 – 1264, was a busy man.

  • Privy Counsellor 
  • Constable of Dover Castle, pictured (Wikipedia)
  • Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
  • Lord of the manor in Berkshire, Suffolk, Sussex, Lancashire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Kent
  • Cup Bearer to Henry III
  • Founder of a priory in Bilsington
  • Provost of Beverley
  • Treasurer of York
  • Lord Justiciary of England
  • Member of the Council of Fifteen
  • Constable of the Tower of London
  • Chancellor to Henry III
  • England’s first Secretary of State

I think I inherited my multi-tasking from him 😉

An article about Sir John Mansell will follow in a future post.

From my research, a lobby card for The City That Never Sleeps, a 1924 silent movie directed by James Cruze.

Many thanks to everyone who has placed my forthcoming Eve’s War story, Operation Sherlock, at #32 on the Hot New Releases chart.

One of modern life’s great imponderables…

I never expected to discover ancestors in Kiev, so I double-checked this line and established that it is correct. 

This is an image of my direct ancestor Olga ‘the beauty’ a Pskov woman of Varangian extraction who married Igor of Kiev. After Igor’s death, she ruled Kievan Rus as regent, c945-963, for their son, Svyatoslav.

Only joking 😉

I’ve traced the Preston branch of my family tree back to Leolphus de Preston, who lived during the reign of William the Lion of Scotland, floruit 1165 – 1214. 

Leolphus’ son, also Leolphus, made donations to Newbattle Abbey while his grandson, William de Preston, was one of the twenty-four Scottish nobles chosen by Edward I of England to arbitrate between John Balliol and Robert the Bruce, the main disputants for the crown of Scotland after the death of Margaret Maid of Norway, Queen of Scots.

The nobles met on 3 June 1291 to debate the succession. Debates and adjournments continued until 14 October 1292 when William de Preston and his fellow nobles decided that ‘succession by one degree from the eldest sister was preferable to succession nearer in degree from the second.’

Thus informed, on 17 November 1292 Edward I decided in favour of Balliol who ruled for four years, mainly as Edward I puppet. In 1296 the Scottish nobility deposed Balliol and appointed a Council of Twelve to rule instead. In retaliation, Edward I invaded Scotland, triggering the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Meanwhile, William de Preston’s role of arbiter set a family trend, which resulted in later generations of arbiters and judges.

John Balliol, his crown and sceptre symbolically broken, as depicted in the 1562 Forman Armorial, produced for Mary Queen of Scots.

Sir William’s son, Nichol de Preston, was one of the Scottish barons who signed the Ragman Roll in 1296, swearing his allegiance to Edward I.

The Preston line continued with Laurence and his son, Richard. With these generations the Prestons moved south, into Northern England where they owned vast estates in Westmorland, founding the towns of Preston Richard and Preston Patrick.

More Richards followed: Sir Richard Preston, his son Richard, and his son Sir Richard. The latter was called as one of the jurors to settle a dispute between the King of England and the Abbot of St Mary convent, Yorkshire. The dispute centred on the rights to make appointments to the two churches at Appleby. 

Yet another Richard followed and he married Annabella. They produced a son – you’ve guessed it – Richard, later knighted. Sir Richard represented Westmorland in Edward III’s parliament in the mid-1300s, the height of chivalry.

During Edward III’s reign membership of the English baronage was restricted to those who received a personal summons to parliament. At this point parliament developed into a House of Lords and a House of Commons, with the Commons gaining the ascendancy, thus marking a watershed in English political history.

Parliament, 13th century.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Sam Smith Mystery Series

Dear Reader #96

Dear Reader,

Amazing how one record can unlock the past. This baptism record from 14 February 1801 for my 4 x great grandmother Ann Locock has led to eight new branches on my family tree.

It looks like the Battle of Bosworth was a family gathering. I’ve discovered another ancestor there, my 15 x great grandfather Nicholas Wilder, a military leader in the army of the Earl of Richmond. Nicholas supported the victor, Henry Tudor, crowned Henry VII.

Trouble with the neighbours. In 1294 Lady Hornby accused my direct ancestor John de Tunstall of shooting an arrow at her steward because he wanted to seize a wagon laden with corn to make distraint.

A colourised version of a picture taken one hundred years ago, of my great grandmother Edith.

SOE heroine Pippa Latour, was 100 on 9 April 2021.

Available soon, the audiobook version of Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven.

My 12 x great grandfather Thomas Strickland was born on 6 June 1564 in Kendal, Westmorland, the eldest son of Walter Strickland Esq and Alice Tempest, both the products of gentry families. Thomas lacked Walter’s parental guidance for much of his childhood because his father died in 1569.

On 24 July 1603 Thomas was made a Knight of the Bath, a special knighthood conferred on important royal occasions such as coronations. This practice died out after the reign of Charles II. Later, George I introduced the Order of the Bath.

Sir Thomas Strickland, 1600, aged 36.

At a date unknown, probably during 1596, Thomas married Elizabeth Symon aka Seymour of Bristol, the daughter of John Seymour of Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire. The marriage produced a daughter, Alice, who married Sir William Webb, Equerry to Henry, Prince of Wales.

After Elizabeth’s death, Thomas married, c1599, Margaret Curwen, daughter of Sir Nicholas Curwen of Workington Hall, Cumbria, and Anne Musgrave. This marriage produced five children:

  1. Robert, who succeeded his father
  2. Thomas, who left no mark on history
  3. Walter, who married Anne Crofts of East Appleton, Yorkshire
  4. Dorothy, who married John Fleming of Rydal as his third wife
  5. Margaret, my direct ancestor, who married George Preston Esq of Holker Hall 

Through his birth and marriages, Thomas enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1584 was made a Justice of the Peace. In 1603 he became a Sheriff and a member of the Council in the North. His roles included overseeing gaols, sewers and charities. 

Thomas’ ancestors acquired the estate at Sizergh by marriage in 1239. The family regularly represented Westmorland in parliament from 1307 and Thomas was appointed custos rotulorum as soon as he came of age. 

Margaret Curwen, Thomas’ second wife, was a strong Catholic. However, Thomas remained a supporter of Elizabeth I and her Protestant beliefs. Like his father before him, Thomas served as junior knight of the shire in Elizabeth’s last Parliament, and moved up to the first seat when re-elected in 1604. 

Sizergh, castle and grounds. Wikipedia.

In parliament, Thomas was among those named to consider bills to preserve coppices, to reform informers’ abuses and to annex certain property indissolubly to the Crown. He also proffered a bill to extend alnage to narrow draperies, but it made no progress beyond a first reading.

In the second parliamentary session, Thomas sat on five legislative committees including three concerned with the cloth trade, granting customs allowances to the merchants of York, Hull and Newcastle. Another of Thomas’ committees regulated the wages of spinners and weavers while the fifth dealt with Welsh cottons in the statute of 1604.

As Thomas’ parliamentary career progressed, he considered bills to confirm the endowment of St. Bees grammar school in Cumberland and to strengthen the enforcement of the penal laws. On 19 March 1604, he was granted privilege as a defendant in a trial at York assizes.

Outwardly successful, the above trial offers a clue as to a flaw in Thomas’ character: he was a compulsive gambler. Even at the time of his first marriage, Thomas was raising substantial loans. Gambling in the Elizabethan era centred on cards, dice, backgammon and draughts, and often took place in gambling houses and gambling dens.

Elizabethans gambling at cards.

At Easter 1607, Thomas invited his wife’s cousin Anthony Curwen to supper where arguments and attempted arrests flared up over debt. However, before Curwen ‘could get any to serve the said Sir Thomas with a subpoena, he being a Parliament man’, Thomas abstracted the lease of Sherburn rectory from his study in New Inn and obtained judgment against him.

Thomas died intestate on 19 June 1612, leaving acknowledged debts of £9,500, which equates to approximately £1,274,000 in today’s money. His widow, Margaret, bought the wardship of her eldest son Robert and managed to preserve the Sizergh estate from creditors’ demands until the latter’s majority. 

Margaret, born c1560, survived Thomas by eighteen years and died in 1630. She did not remarry, but her fortitude held her family and its estates together. In 1629, Margaret’s son, Sir Robert Strickland, sent her a letter advising her how she should proceed with the Commissioners before the President at York, ‘so as to save her estate from sequestration.’

During 1623-4, while a young man, Robert Strickland was summond to parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Westmorland. A colonel in the army of Charles I, Robert commanded a troop of horse at the battle of Edgehill, while his son, Sir Thomas Strickland, led the regiment of foot. 

Because of Sir Thomas Strickland’s gambling, his family had to fight many battles. However, for them a bigger battle lay ahead in the shape of the English Civil War.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #95

Dear Reader,

Nice to receive correspondence from readers who enjoy my books and wish to discuss the subject matter. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series has generated a lot of interest in that respect.

My DNA result indicated that my ancestors were in the Caribbean. Now, this record suggests that my 7 x great grandfather Edward King was baptised in St Michael Parish, Barbados on 6 October 1722, aged two. What were his parents, Thomas and Anne, doing in Barbados? Were they involved in the sugar plantations? More research required…

Sulham House, home to the Wilder branch of my family. The Wilders arrived in Britain during the second half of the fifteen century, possibly from Bohemia.

My latest translation, Stardust in Portuguese.

I’ve traced one branch of my family tree back to Lord Tancrède (Tancred) “the Viking” aka de la Ville Tancréde, born c880 in Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark. One of the foremost Vikings of his generation, Tancrède built a castle on a spur overlooking the Seine.

“Tancarville castle was the seat of one of the most powerful lineages of the Pays de Caux. This family, grand officers of the crown, were as mentioned, early landowners in the Lillebonne region. Infamous in Knightly accomplishments and during the ducal epoch, becoming that of the Hereditary Chamberlains of Normandy.” 

Tancarville Castle – le Château Fort de la Ville Tancrède

The April 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads!

In this month’s issue…

Do Pets Really Make You Healthy?

Memories of Ireland

Author Features

Escape to Simplicity 

Women of Courage 

Plus, interviews, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

My 6 x great grandfather Jasper Wheeler was born in 1745 in Westminster, London. He married Mary Cherien on 24 May 1773 and the couple had two children, including my direct ancestor, Thomas Wheeler.

At this stage, little is known about Mary. Further research is required. Her surname suggests French origin and the marriage and birth dates suggest that her son Thomas was born out of wedlock.

The scene of Jasper and Mary’s wedding, St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Holborn (Picture: Wikipedia).

Jasper earned a living as a pawnbroker in Kew Road, Richmond. He rented a property from Henry Edmead and his rent at 16 shillings was considerably higher than the eight other tenants who rented property from Henry Edmead.

Richmond contained areas of great poverty, although on the whole it was well-to-do. I sense that Jasper and Mary straddled these two worlds, living in modest comfort while dealing in the main with people who had little money.

Pawnbrokers, with their distinctive symbols of three golden balls, were integral to working class life in the 1800s. Their symbols were initially associated with St Nicholas who, according to legend, saved three young girls from destitution by loaning them each a bag of gold, paving their way towards marriage.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, Harry Furniss, 1910.

Modern pawnbroking began with the Pawnbrokers Act of 1800. Lord Eldon, who promoted the Bill, admitted that he had used pawnshops in his youth. The Act increased the interest rate to 20 percent per year with licence fees set at £15 in London and £7 10 shillings in the countryside. Although sometimes associated with crime and stolen goods, a report in the Victorian era concluded that only one in 14,000 items were pawned dishonestly.

Often referred to as ‘Uncle’, quite often the pawnbroker was the difference between a regular meal and starvation. Indeed, some communities boasted more pawnbrokers than public houses, the pawnbroker lending money on anything from bedlinen to cutlery, from jewellery to furniture, from tools to the family’s Sunday best clothes.

With the workhouse an ever-present threat, pawning became acceptable, a way of life. Families, and pawnbrokers, recognised a regular pattern, centred on Saturdays and Mondays. A family, usually through the wife, would pledge its clothing on Monday then redeem it on Saturday, after pay day. Suitably dressed, the family would attend church on a Sunday, then resume the pawning cycle, the pawnbroker earning his living from the interest charged.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, 1876. 

The entrance to a pawnbroker’s shop was usually via a side-street. In Sketches by Boz, Charles Dickens offered this description of a pawnshop near Drury Lane, ‘which affords a side entrance for the accommodation of such customers as may be desirous of avoiding the observation of the passers-by, or the chance of recognition in the public street’. The door, ‘half inviting, half repelling the hesitating visitor, who, if he be as yet uninitiated, examines one of the old garnet brooches in the window for a minute or two with affected eagerness, as if he contemplated making a purchase; and then cautiously looking round to ascertain that no one watches him, hastily slinks in…’

Although associated with the working class, a pawnbroker also received visits from the middle and upper classes in need of instant cash. Due to the sums involved, these clients offered the pawnbroker richer pickings and a chance to make sizeable profits from the transactions.

The pawnbroker was entitled to keep and sell items valued at under ten shillings once the redemption period of one year and seven days elapsed. Items valued at over ten shillings were sold at public auction.

No one described the scene better than Charles Dickens, ‘several sets of chessmen, two or three flutes, a few fiddles…some gaudily-bound prayer books and testaments, two rows of silver watches…numerous old-fashioned tables and tea spoons….cards of rings and brooches….cheap silver penholders and snuff-boxes…silk and cotton handkerchiefs, and wearing apparel of every description…’ 

Charles Dickens, 1868.

Did Jasper exploit the poor, or offer an essential service? He made a living from their poverty. However, he also placed food on their dining tables. With little support from the state, the pawnbroker was an essential member of the community.

Jasper’s Will – he died in late January 1812, aged 67, and was buried on 2 February – makes no mention of his wife Mary or his son Thomas. Instead, he bequeathed money to a widow, Elizabeth Tibbs, and her family. Was this bequest a business arrangement or the result of a romantic relationship? I suspect the latter. Given that Jasper and Mary only had two children it suggests that Mary died young. But what of Thomas?

Although there is no record of Jasper falling foul of the law, the Wheelers were regular visitors to the Old Bailey. More about that, and Thomas’ fate, in a future post.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx