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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

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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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #92

Dear Reader,

Book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Operation Sherlock is now available for pre-order 🙂

“Arthur is concerned about the Nazis’ latest terror weapon,” Guy said. “Rockets; they have the potential to cause death, destruction and chaos in Britain. He wants us to locate the launch site so that the RAF can bomb it.”

“How do we achieve that?” I asked.

“The Resistance in Paris think that they have identified the site,” Guy said. “Arthur wants us to confirm their suspicions.”

“Why doesn’t the local Sherlock network deal with this?” Mimi asked.

“Recently,” Guy said, “the Gestapo captured their wireless operator. Their network is in chaos. Trust is at a low ebb.”

I glanced at Mimi and noticed her pale, drawn features. As our wireless operator, she lived under constant stress; each transmission represented a moment of potential capture.

A trip to Paris sounded sublime. However, Mimi’s troubled expression reminded me that we were travelling into danger, potentially to our deaths.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-Sherlock-Eves-Heroines-Book-ebook/dp/B08Y978SM6/

Electric cars are nothing new. Here’s one being charged in 1912.

From April 1807, Freedom of the City Admission Papers signed by my 4 x great grandfather James Richard Brereton of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London. Several of my ancestors signed these papers and entered into apprenticeships, in this case as a cutler. 

The text on this document is difficult to read, but basically it says that the apprentice was not allowed to visit taverns, gamble with cards or dice, fornicate or marry. Basically, he had to work for his master for seven years and not have any fun.

Later, James took his trade on the road as a tinker, marrying and establishing a family in Bristol. Sadly, he died shortly before his daughter, my 3 x great grandmother, Fanny, was born.

From our family archive, my great aunt Joan, 1924. I’ve studied this picture for years and still can’t decide if that’s her brother Roy at her side or a doll. What do you think?

My latest translations, Betrayal into French and The Devil and Ms Devlin into Spanish.

This week I discovered that my 12 x great grandfather, Rev Peter James Dent (1600 – 1671), was an apothecary 🙂

“Give me an ounce of civit, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.” – King Lear.

Picture: Italian pharmacy, 17th century (detail).

My 8 x great grandmother, Mary Troutbeck nee Ollyer, was the licensee at the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s Inn Lane, London. A young widow, she was a party to this case, heard at the Old Bailey on 22 May 1776.

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

The full trial account taken from the records at https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/

JAMES LECORES and WILLIAM GODFREY were indicted for stealing twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence in money numbered, the property of Daniel Dance , and a bank note for 20 l. the property of the said Daniel in the dwelling house of Mary Troutbeck, widow, May the 6th. (Approximately £3,000 in today’s money).

DANIEL DANCE sworn.

I live at Camberwell: I lost a 20 l. bank note, twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence at Mrs. Troutbeck’s, the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s-inn-lane ; I took the money to Mr. Child’s at Temple-bar; the office was shut up; I came away, and while I was looking up at a house near Temple-bar, Godfrey came up and said, Farmer, what are you looking at? I told him I came to pay my rent to my landlord, and the office was shut up; he said he came out of Kent to a lawyer, and he supposed he was too late to meet with him; we walked together and he talked of some people in Kent; he mentioned the names of several I was well acquainted with; I said I would carry the money to Mr. Silway’s chambers, for I would not carry it back again; he said he would go with me and shew me his chambers; we went up Chancery-lane and crossed Holborn into Gray’s-inn-lane; we went about two hundred yards up and down, and then he said, if I would go into a public house we might have intelligence; we went into a public house, and he called for six-penny worth of Crank, and he asked me if I would sit down; I sat down, and in came the other prisoner and pulled out a purse of money, and said he had drank fourteen glasses of brandy that morning standing; he said he was a captain just come home: we went out from there, and he said he would shew me the way to Mr. Silway’s chambers; then we went into Mrs. Troutbeck’s and called for a bottle of wine; they hit my knuckles with a half-penny, and then asked me to put the half-penny under a bottle; while I was doing it they took the money out of my pocket; I saw the money in their hand, but they ran away so fast I could not speak; they broke a glass in their hurry in running out; the money was in a bag in my coat pocket.

When they run out you felt in your pocket? – Yes, it was gone; I saw the bag in their hands, and the note was in the bag.

Cross Examination.

Whose hands did you see the money in? – Godfrey’s.

Did you ever see these people before? – Never before; he appeared like a country farmer; I know them as well as any man in the parish I live in; I know Godfrey by his backside; I took him by the tail; I have been always positive to him; he was taken the Tuesday after the Duchess of Kingston’s trial. 

Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston (8 March 1721 – 26 August 1788), sometimes called Countess of Bristol, was an English noble and courtier, known by her contemporaries for her adventurous lifestyle. She was found guilty of bigamy at a trial at Westminster Hall that attracted 4,000 spectators.

Was that a week or a fortnight after you was plundered? – I believe it was about a fortnight.

You knew the man immediately? – Yes; I pursued him every day; he owned he had the money; his friends offered me thirty pounds.

WILLIAM SWAN sworn.

I live with Mrs. Troutbeck: the prosecutor and three more came into our house on Easter Monday, and asked for a pot of beer; I told them we did not sell beer; then they called for a bottle of wine; I stood in the passage to watch them, lest they should go away and not pay the reckoning; three of them came out very sharp, and put two shillings in my hand; I asked my mistress how much it was, she said two shillings; I went in to see if there were any glasses broke, and met the old farmer coming out; a glass was broke; I asked him if he was to pay for the glass, he said he had lost enough: I know the prisoners are two of the men; they owned before the justice they had the money, but said they got it by gambling.

LECORES’ DEFENCE.

A parcel of people about me desired me to say so, and they would clear me; I was in liquor and did not know what I did.

GODFREY’s DEFENCE.

I leave it to my counsel.

Godfrey called four witnesses, who gave him a good character.

From the Jury to DANCE. Whether they used any other means besides that of the bottle to divert you? – Nothing in the world; there was no gaming.

How long might it be from the time you went in to the time they ran away? – Not above ten minutes.

BOTH GUILTY. Death .

Tried by the First Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

The judge sentenced both men to death. However, their cases were respited. On 13 September 1776, after the respite, Lecores and Godfrey came before the court again. This time the judge sentenced them to three years on a hulk. 

The beached convict ship HMS Discovery, at Depford.

The Old Bailey case revealed that the Queen’s Head Inn did not sell beer, but it did sell ‘Crack’ and wine. The inn was situated in Gray’s Inn Lane the road by which Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones entered London. The lane was a popular hub for scholarly, legal and literary people. James Shirley the dramatist resided there and it was the favourite haunt of the poet John Langhorne.

Baptised on 14 November 1717 in Holborn, London, Mary Ollyer was the daughter of Richard Ollyer and Mary Thomas. She married William Troutbeck on 17 August 1739. Their marriage was recorded in the Clandestine Marriages Register, which suggests an air of secrecy. This pattern was often repeated on this branch of my family tree due to religious nonconformity.

William and Mary produced eight children in fourteen years. When William died on 24 March 1753 Mary became the sole owner of the Queen’s Head and with the aid of servants ran the inn, rubbing shoulders with and serving drinks to some of the leading literary figures of the age. No doubt, she talked with these people and discussed their literary projects.

Gray’s Inn Lane, c1878.
(c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited /

In her autumn years, Mary bequeathed the Queen’s Head Inn to my direct ancestors, Daniel Cottrell and Mary Troutbeck who ensured that the public house prospered into the nineteenth century.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #91

Dear Reader,

My Top Ten Sales Countries in February.

In total, my eBooks were downloaded in 29 countries during February. Very exciting to see such diversity and grateful that I decided to publish wide and not limit myself to Amazon.

Through Smashwords

America 🇺🇸 Canada 🇨🇦 Australia 🇦🇺 Bulgaria 🇧🇬 Britain 🇬🇧 Japan 🇯🇵 Spain 🇪🇸 New Zealand 🇳🇿 Germany 🇩🇪 Italy 🇮🇹

Through Gardners

America 🇺🇸 Canada 🇨🇦 South Africa 🇿🇦 India 🇮🇳 Britain 🇬🇧 Netherlands 🇳🇱 Indonesia 🇮🇩 Malaysia 🇲🇾 Vietnam 🇻🇳 Venezuela 🇻🇪

Through Amazon

America 🇺🇸 Britain 🇬🇧 Canada 🇨🇦 Australia 🇦🇺 Germany 🇩🇪 Mexico 🇲🇽 Spain 🇪🇸 Brazil 🇧🇷 France 🇫🇷 India 🇮🇳

My latest translation, the Spanish version of The Olive Tree: Branches. Leaves, book three in my Spanish Civil War saga will be available in numerous languages in the summer.

Kenfig Pool sand dunes this week. And Mawdlam church, which overlooks the dunes, the final resting place for many of my ancestors.

Included in this month’s Seaside News, my article about SOE heroine Peggy Knight. In her 100th year, this remarkable woman now lives in New Zealand.

Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2021. Our spring issue.

In this issue…

A seasonal blend of articles including Mad as a March Hare, Dr Seuss, Reiki, World Wildlife Day, International Day of Forests, plus short stories, recipes, puzzles, humour, photographs and so much more!

Sheep took over the sand dunes this week 🐑 🐑 🐑

My 4 x great grandfather, Richard Morgan, was baptised on 2 December 1792 in Llantrisant, Glamorgan. The ninth of twelve children born to James Morgan and Hannah David, Richard established himself as an ostler tending the coaching horses that travelled through Glamorgan, transporting people and goods from Ireland to London, and vice-versa.

‘Ostler at Margam 1818’ by George Orleans Delamotte

At the relatively advanced age of 43, Richard married Margaret Jones in St James’ Church, Pyle. Born in 1811 to John and Mary, Margaret hailed from Pyle, a rural village that contained the main highway in Glamorgan.

During my research, I wondered what persuaded Richard to travel twenty miles west to settle in Pyle. Then, I hit upon a theory. As an ostler, he moved there to work at Pyle Coaching Inn, the main Inn on the main highway. Then, while researching the births of Richard and Margaret’s children, I discovered that Richard was listed as a horse keeper at Pyle Coaching Inn, and living in nearby Cefn Cribwr, or Tythegston Higher as it was also called. It’s lovely when your theories are confirmed in that fashion.

Mail deliveries had become available to the public in 1635 and the introduction of national mail coaches in 1785 further increased the traffic travelling along the highways. The ongoing war with France meant that the gentry could no longer take the ‘grand tour’ of Europe and so they looked around for alternatives, their eyes and minds soon focusing on Wales with its romantic landscapes and medieval ruins. All of this led to the building of Pyle Coaching Inn during the 1780s by Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam.

Thomas Mansel Talbot took a private apartment at the Inn and he would stay there while indulging in his passion for hunting and fishing. He had built the Inn in the fashionable Georgian style with three floors and rooms of various sizes. The largest room was five metres by four and a half metres, and the building contained forty beds and twelve double-bedded rooms. Moreover, the Inn also boasted a spacious dining room and stables for eight coaching horses.

Many 18th and 19th century antiquarians who travelled through South Wales would visit the buried medieval town at nearby Kenfig and invariably they would stay at the Inn. Also, it is rumoured that Admiral Lord Nelson resided there on one occasion. 

Pyle Coaching Inn, c1950

Isambard Kingdom Brunel did stay at the Inn in 1849 – 50 to oversee the construction of the South Wales leg of the Great Western Railway. Another distinguished guest was Josiah Wedgwood and it is said that he gained inspiration for some of his pottery from the colour of the rocks and pebbles on the beach at Pink Bay.

Richard and Margaret produced five children: Catherine, Thomas, Mary Ann, Richard and my direct ancestor, Hannah. With secure employment in a job that he clearly loved and in the green pastures and open spaces of Cefn Cribwr, life must have been good. Then, in the late 1840s, the railways arrived.

The railways took passenger and commercial trade away from the horse carriages and Richard lost his job at Pyle Coaching Inn. However, the family adapted. Richard became a colt breaker then a horse keeper. With his love and knowledge of horses, he worked with the animals for the rest of his life. 

Meanwhile, Margaret established her own ‘Inn’ boarding navigators who had travelled from their homes in Ireland to help construct the railways.

Residents of Pyle Coaching Inn in the early 1900s

Richard died in 1865 after a life well lived. By this time his children had married. After Richard’s death, Margaret moved to Mountain Ash to live with her son-in-law, John Davies, and help raise his children. Sadly, Margaret’s daughter, Mary Ann, had died and John was a widower.

I cannot leave this branch of my family without mentioning Margaret’s mother, Mary Jones. Born in 1765 in Carmarthen, she’d moved east with her husband, John, to work on the land. Mary lived with Richard and Margaret in later life. She had a strong constitution, which only failed on 19 January 1864 when she was ninety-nine years of age.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #89

Dear Reader,

Next week, I will complete the writing of Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen. I write my Sam Smith mysteries in ‘real time’ so the main decision was whether to include the pandemic. I realised early on that the nature of the pandemic and the government’s negligent response meant that the problem would remain with us for some time. Therefore, I decided to include the pandemic. The main theme of the story is the climate crisis so the pandemic and the way we abuse nature tied in with that theme. Stormy Weather is available for pre-order from all major Internet outlets.

Available soon, my latest translation, Escape in Afrikaans. We now have four books in this series published in Afrikaans while Nelmari is currently working on Victory, book five. It’s wonderful to see my books available in a number of languages, twelve at the latest count.

This week, I created the characters for Operation Sherlock, book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. This story is set in Paris and like all the stories in the series it’s based on true events. Character creation is my favourite part of the writing process. Once I’ve created the characters, I sit back and allow them to tell the stories. Operation Sherlock will be available for pre-order soon.

Meet the ancestors, my 29th great grandfather, Saunder de Sancto Alberico also know as Awbrey. He arrived with William the Conquerer (also a direct ancestor) in 1066. His son Sir Reginald Awbrey established a manor house and estate in Abercynrig, Brecon in 1093. The property, pictured, remained in the family until 1630.


One of my favourite pictures. This is a colourised image of Lamb Row, South Corneli. The original dates from 1905. During the Victorian era, Lamb Row was home to the Howe branch of my family. You can see their house on the top left of the picture. It’s possible that some of my ancestors are in this picture. The image is deceptive because every time you look at it you see a new person. How many people can you identify?

Property Developing, Freedom of the City and Carnal Knowledge 

Samuel Axe, my 5 x great grandfather, was born in Greenwich in April 1771, the son of William Axe and Ann. He was baptised on 14 April 1771 at St Alfege Church, Greenwich.

Samuel married Grace Austin (1786–1823) on 22 September 1803 at St Luke Old Street, Finsbury, London and the couple lived in Hoxton, Middlesex where they produced eight children, including my direct ancestor, Jane Esther Axe.

As a property owner, Samuel was eligible to vote and therefore appeared on the electoral registers, which confirm his address. 

Various documents describe Samuel’s occupation as ‘bricklayer’. In the first half of the nineteenth century a bricklayer was a builder, someone who designed and constructed houses. These houses could range from humble dwellings to huge city projects.

Colourised, Pitfield Street, Hoxton, London, 1896 – buildings built by Samuel? I love this image, it’s so full of life.

It would appear that all was not well with Samuel and Grace’s marriage because on 21 June 1816 Maria Hammont, single woman, petitioned the parish with the claim that ‘Samuel Axe, bricklayer of Hoxton Town gained carnal knowledge of her body.’ Maria gave birth to a bastard female on 12 May 1815 at her mother’s house in Hoxton Fields. The outcome of her petition was not recorded. However, Samuel was a wealthy man so hopefully he supported his child.

Samuel died on 26 November 1838 in Shoreditch, London and was buried on 2 December 1838. 

My direct ancestor, Jane Esther Axe, who lived in the same street as Samuel and Grace, was the sole executrix of Samuel’s will. Samuel left £600, approximately £40,000 in today’s money, which suggests he was successful in his trade.

On 17 January 1845 Samuel’s youngest son, John, paid £5 to acquire the ‘Benefits of a Fellowship Porter’. In other words, he could trade in ‘measurable goods’ such as coal, grain, flour and salt, overseeing their transportation from trading ships to dockside warehouses. This was a good position with the opportunity to make considerable sums of money.

The above records suggest that the Axe family lived in comfort during the first half of the nineteenth century. However, only five of Samuel’s eight children survived into adulthood.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx