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Dear Reader #127

Dear Reader,

Preparing for 2022. The new year will see the continuation of my Sam Smith and Eve’s War series, the conclusion of my Olive Tree Spanish Civil War Saga, and the start of a new series, Women at War, five novels about ‘ordinary’ women fighting fascism in France, Spain and Bulgaria, 1936 – 1945.

Exciting news. My Sam Smith Mystery Series will be translated into Italian. We will make a start on Sam’s Song this week. As a European, I’m delighted that my books are available in twelve languages.

A rarity in the Victorian era, a husband’s petition for divorce, filed 16 November 1883. The husband stated that on ‘diverse occasions’ his wife committed adultery with ‘sundry persons’. Marriage dissolved. Damages awarded to the husband.

For Armistice Day.

My latest genealogy article for the Seaside News appears on page 36.

My direct ancestor Sir Edward Stradling was born c1295, the second son of Sir Peter de Stratelinges and Joan de Hawey. The exact location of his birthplace is unknown, but likely to be the family estates in Somerset.

When Sir Peter died, Joan married Sir John Penbrigg, who was granted wardship over Sir Peter’s estates and both young sons, Edward and his older brother, John, until they reached their twenty-first birthdays.

As an adult, Edward was Lord of St. Donats in Glamorgan, and Sheriff, Escheator, Justice of the Peace, and Knight of the Shire in Parliament for Somerset and Dorset. He rose to such prominence through his staunch support for Edward III.

St Donats Castle, a print from 1775.

Edward Stradling married Ellen, daughter and heiress of Sir Gilbert Strongbow. They produced the following children:

Edward (my direct ancestor) who married Gwenllian Berkerolles, daughter of Roger Berkerolles of East Orchard, Glamorgan.

John, who married Sarah, another daughter of Roger Berkerolles. Two bothers marrying two sisters.

When John died, c1316, Sir Edward inherited the following lands:

St Donat’s Castle, Glamorgan.

Combe Haweye, Watchet Haweye, Henley Grove by Bruton, Somerset, all of which included three messuages, a mill, five carucates, two virgates of land, thirty-one acres of meadow, and one hundred and forty-one acres of woodland.

Halsway and Coleford in Somerset.

Compton Hawey in Dorset.

Through his wife’s inheritance, he also obtained two manors in Oxfordshire. 

As Lord of St. Donats, Sir Edward rose against the Crown in the Despenser War of 1321–22. The war was a baronial revolt against Edward II led by marcher lords Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, fuelled by opposition to Hugh Despenser the Younger, the royal favourite.

15th-century illustration showing Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer; execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger in the background.

The Crown arrested Sir Edward in January 1322 and seized all his lands in England and Wales. It took two years and a loyalty payment of £200 – £92,000 in today’s money – before his estates were restored.

When Edward II was deposed in 1327, Edward Stradling was knighted by Edward III. Several appointments followed, including Sheriff and Escheator of Somerset and Dorset 1343, MP for Somerset 1343, and Justice of the Peace for Somerset and Dorset 1346–47. On 11 September 1346, Sir Edward was one of three knights of Somerset at Edward III’s Westminster parliament.

Sir Edward was one of the chief patrons of Neath Abbey and on 20 October 1341 he gifted the monastery one acre of land. He died c1363, either in St Donats or Somerset.

The Strandling line continued through the second Sir Edward, born in 1318 in St Donats Castle to Sir William, born in 1365 in St. Donats, to another Sir Edward, born in 1389 in St Donats. This Sir Edward was Chamberlain and Receiver of South Wales, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset 1424-6, Steward and Receiver of Cantreselly and Penkelly, Keeper of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire (appointed 22 August 1439), Constable of Taunton 1434-42, and Knight of the Sepulchre.

Already well established amongst the nobility, the Stradling’s influence increased through the deeds of the third Sir Edward. He married Jane, daughter of Cardinal Beaufort, great uncle of Henry VI. This marriage ensured that he held a powerful position within the royal court. 

Administrative posts in South Wales and money followed. As with modern nobility, medieval nobility was a moneymaking-racket, a mafia, exploiting the poor. Lords and knights gave money to the Church to assuage their sins. Many lords were brutal and ruled through fear. Some, and I hope Edward was amongst them, used their positions of privilege and wealth to better their communities. For Edward these communities included parishes in Glamorgan, Somerset, Dorset and Oxfordshire. Of particular interest to me is the Stradling manor of Merthyr Mawr, a beautiful village, which is on my doorstep.

Sir Edward fought at Agincourt. He was captured by the French, and wool, a staple product of South Wales, was shipped to Brittany to defray his ransom.

In 1411, Sir Edward Stradling went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1452, aged sixty-three, he went on a second pilgrimage, but did not return. He died on 27 June 1452 in Jerusalem.

View of Jerusalem (Conrad Grünenberg, 1487).

To be a peasant or a noble in medieval times? Although I’m descended from noble houses, my inclination is to side with the peasants. Life is hard for the poor in any age, and it was certainly hard in medieval times. Against that, the nobles had to contend with political intrigues, treachery, wars and pilgrimages, from which many did not return. 

Given a choice, I think I would select a middle course, neither peasant nor noble, but an observer, a chronicler, recording my life and times. After all, through fiction, that’s what I do today.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #118

Dear Reader,

My Sam Smith mystery The Hermit of Hisarya has been included in academic lectures this week in Bulgaria, discussing cultural studies and world literature, and the interrelation between cultural identity and the imagination. What an honour, I’m blown away 😱

https://academia.edu/51152850/

My latest translation, The Hermit of Hisarya in Portuguese.

My article about my ancestor John Howe features in this month’s Seaside News.

c1926, five generations from the Iveson branch of my family. More about the Ivesons next week.

My 5 x great grandmother Jennet, aka Jane, Williams was born to David Williams and Mary Jones in 1787 in Newton-Nottage, Wales. In the eighteenth century Newton-Nottage was a rural community and the majority of its inhabitants earned a living from the land.

Nottage, 19th century tithe map. Source: The National Library of Wales.

Jennet married Thomas Morgan in nearby Laleston on 10 October 1815. The couple produced five children: William, Richard, Mary, Sarah and a second child called Richard. Sadly, infant mortality was common in the nineteenth century and parents often reused a favourite name.

Jennet and Thomas’ eldest son, William, was born in 1812, three years before their marriage. Their first Richard was baptised on 21 January 1816, which indicates that Jennet was six months pregnant with her second child at the time of her marriage.

The accepted wisdom is that bastard children and their mothers were cast out by Victorian society. For the middle and upper classes this might well have been true. However, for the lower classes and those living in rural communities the locals took a more pragmatic view. Producing babies, in and out of wedlock, was literally a fact of life. An example from my family tree: my 3 x great grandparents William Bick and Fanny Brereton had six children before their marriage on 13 December 1868 (they had five more children after their marriage). Obviously, they did not feel pressurised into marriage and were not ostracised by their community. Marriages were expensive and many people needed the money for food and shelter. That said, some women were embarrassed about admitting to an illegitimate child as we shall see shortly.

Jennet’s husband, Thomas Morgan, was a shoemaker while his father, Richard, was a victualer in Laleston. When Thomas Morgan was born in 1784 only seven children were baptised in Laleston (population 2011, 12,586), which indicates that it was a small community, and that a birth, marriage or death was a major event.

Laleston baptisms, 1784.

Thomas Morgan died on 28 December 1827. A widow, Jennet supported herself and her family by working as a stone cutter at the local limestone quarries. Women who worked with stone, iron or coal usually wore shorter dresses compared to the Victorian norm because of the danger of those dresses catching fire. ‘Shorter’ in this instance means just a few inches above the ankle, so they were hardly a huge advertisement for health and safety.

In 1829 Jennet met Thomas Harris and the couple produced a son, George, baptised on 8 December 1829. In the ten years before 1829 and the ten years after there was no one called Harris living in Laleston or surrounding villages. A family called Harris arrived in the 1840s, but they were not related to Thomas or George.

George’s baptismal record.

So, what of the mysterious Thomas Harris? It would appear that he drifted into Laleston looking for work, took advantage of Jennet, a lonely widow, then drifted out again. There is nothing to suggest that he acknowledged George as his son or supported him during his childhood.

Between 1829 and 1851 George was know as George Morgan and George Harris. In 1841 Jennet told the census enumerator that George’s surname was Morgan, even though her husband had died two years previously. Clearly, with this untruth she was trying to save face.

On 24 December 1853 George, now a blacksmith, married Lydia Williams and the couple took the surname Morgan. Indeed, George acknowledged Thomas Morgan as his father. Did he know the truth? Probably, because at various times before his marriage he did call himself Harris. Thomas Harris played no part in George’s life, so George decided to adopt his mother’s married name.

Lydia was a ‘minor’ at the time of her marriage to George and the couple were living at the same address. A ‘minor’ in this context means someone under the age of twenty-one; Lydia was twenty. During her marriage to George she gave birth to ten children.

On 9 April 1873 at the age of 86 Jennet died in Laleston. In her later years she lived with her daughter, and my direct ancestor, Mary, along with Mary’s husband and children. All of my Welsh ancestors during the Victorian era were tight-knit and supported each other. To date, I have not discovered any of them in the workhouse.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #114

Dear Reader,

A lovely message from my local library this week. Apparently, my books are ‘proving popular’ with borrowers and the library would like to acquire more copies. We will send them a parcel of my books, free of charge. ‘Libraries gave us power.’ Support your local library!

Eve at #1 and another lovely review. “Great read! Can’t wait to read the next episode! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about the resistance, spy and wartime.”

Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

My article about SOE agent Pearl Witherington appears in the August issue of the Seaside News. Pearl is probably my favourite SOE agent, although all were truly remarkable.

A remarkable discovery. A writer in the family. On 24 December 1716 my direct ancestor William Axe, the son of a clergyman, boarded the St George bound for the Cape in Africa. He was one of four writers who joined the crew and the ‘Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa.’ 

The Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa, later known as the Royal African Company, was founded by the British royal family in 1660. It shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other company in the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade. I wonder if William Axe wrote about that. More research required.

In the spring of 1846 my 4 x great grandparents Thomas Thompson Dent Jr and Dorothy Hornsby set sail for New York bound for Canada. They arrived in New York on 24 June 1846 then with their five children, William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Richard and Henry, and baby Dorothy, travelled north where they established a farm in Ontario, Canada. Why did they make such a hazardous journey with the risk of disrupting their stable lives?

As the eldest son of Thomas Thompson Dent Sr, Thomas Jr stood to inherit much of his land – Thomas Sr owned at least four farms in Bowes, Yorkshire, and the surrounding area. Did father and son fall out, or did Thomas Jr reckon that the prospects for his family were better served in Canada? When Thomas Sr died in 1854 he made no mention of Thomas Jr in his will, so the migration to Canada appears to have severed all ties within that branch of my family. That said, passenger lists indicate that Thomas Jr did travel to Britain then back to Canada in 1871. Although travel was slower in the Victorian era our ancestors were often more mobile than we sometimes realise.

In 1846 Thomas and his family made their initial journey by steerage, the cheapest form of maritime travel. Their ship, the Rappahanock, sailed from Liverpool with 453 passengers. Travelling by steerage, one imagines that their journey was a challenging one.

The Pays d’en Haut region of New France, 1755, an area that included most of Ontario.

In the 1840s, Canada was a young developing country. The Canadian government were looking for settlers to farm the land and they made generous offers to entice people to settle. In Britain, orphans were often sent to Canada to work the land. Many of them stayed and you could argue that they faced better prospects in the fields of Canada than in the slums of a city like London.

Between 1815 and 1850, Over 960,000 people arrived in Canada from Britain. The new arrivals included refugees escaping the Great Irish Famine as well as people from Scotland displaced by the Highland Clearances. Infectious diseases killed between 25 and 33 percent of Europeans who immigrated to Canada before 1891.

The 1840s in particular saw heavy waves of immigration into Ontario. During this decade the population of Canada West more than doubled. As a result, for the first time, the English-speaking population of Canada West surpassed the French-speaking population of Canada East, tilting the representative balance of power.

An economic upturn followed in the 1850s, which coincided with an expansion of the railway system across the province. The economic situation improved further with the repeal of the Corn Laws and trade agreements with the United States. As a result, the timber trade, mining and alcohol distilling boomed. Farmers too benefited from this good fortune.

Halton County, Ontario, 1821, home to the Dent family from 1846.

In Ontario, Thomas and Dorothy had two more children: Mary and Robert. In 1851 Thomas and his family were farming in Halton County. All their immediate neighbours – farmers, shoemakers, carpenters and a clergyman – came from either England or Ireland.

Ten years later, in 1861, Thomas and Dorothy were living in a two storey farmhouse built of brick. They were prospering. However, as we have seen, life in Canada could be a struggle with a battle against infectious diseases and within two years two of their daughters, Mary and Dorothy, died.

By 1871 the family had dispersed with sons and daughters marrying. Thomas and Dorothy worked their farm with the assistance of their son, eighteenth year old Robert. Presumably, they hired servants for seasonal tasks. However, at the time of the 1871 census none of those servants lived on the farm.

Thomas died in 1876, aged 69, of typhoid. He was buried in St Stephen’s Anglican Cemetery, Hornby, Halton County, Ontario. 

By 1881 Robert was running the farm. Dorothy was seventy at this point and still going strong. However, she died in 1888 and was buried in the family plot at St Stephen’s Anglican Cemetery, Hornby, Halton County, Ontario. 

As for Thomas and Dorothy’s children: William Dent married Margaret Featherstone. They raised a family and ran a farm in Halton, Ontario. Henry Hornsby Dent married Mary Ann Gilley. He also raised a family and ran a farm in Halton, Ontario. By 1911 he regarded himself as a Canadian. Robert married Augusta Tuck. He also considered himself a Canadian and farmed in Halton, Ontario. For this branch of the family the transfer of allegiance from Yorkshire to Canada was complete.

Of the daughters, only Elizabeth survived into adulthood. On 30 October 1861 in Halton, Ontario she married Henry Gastle, a farmer originally from England. The couple produced eight sons, pictured, c1880.

In all of this, what happened to my 3 x great grandfather Richard Dent? In the 1860s he decided that a farmers life in Canada was not for him and returned to Britain. More about Richard next time.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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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 #86

Dear Reader,

This week, I discovered that Henry Wheeler, my 4 x great grandfather, was a regular visitor to the Old Bailey (pictured), as a defendant 😱 More about Henry, his two wives, eleven children and larcenous life on the streets of nineteenth century Westminster in future posts.

Our garden this week…

Incredible picture of the Earth from the Japanese Kayuga spacecraft orbiting the Moon.

New pools formed in Kenfig sand dunes this week.

My article about SOE heroine Phyllis Latour, still alive at 99, features on page 36 of the Seaside News.

Latest translation news. I’m delighted that Kamila has agreed to translate The Devil and Ms Devlin into Portuguese. Translation work started this week. Meanwhile, here’s one we made earlier.

My 9 x great grandfather, Captain John Hodsoll, was baptised on 31 March 1622 in Ash By Wrotham, Kent. A captain in the merchant navy, he married Mary Bucher in 1656.

Little is known of Mary Bucher. She was born in 1629, in Wadhurst, Sussex, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Bucher. Her surname suggests German ancestry and in some documents it features as Butcher or Batcher. There is a suggestion that Mary was a Quaker, but this might be a result of coincidental names and dates. Certainly, Quakers did marry into the Hodsell family, so the idea deserves consideration.

Seventeenth Century Lady, artwork by the French School.

During the 17th century, sea trade experienced significant change.  British shipbuilders adapted the superior design of the Dutch fluits to create ships that required smaller crews, yet had larger storage.  This resulted in a growth in maritime shipping through trade with the Mediterranean, the East Indies, the North American Colonies and Newfoundland. John became a captain and took advantage of that trade.

Captain John Hodsoll’s sailing exploits established a naval tradition within the family. Two Hodsolls, including an admiral, served in Charles II’s navy and later generations set sail for America where they were among the earliest settlers in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.

“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor,” by William Halsall.

In his Will, John mentions his “eldest sonne, William” his “deare and loveinge wife, Mary” and his “two youngerst daughters, Anne and Jane”, bequeathing the girls “the summe of ffifty pounds a peece out of her house in Wadhurst Towne in the County of Sussex.” John also left money to his “Seaven Sonns”, William, John, Henry, Charles, Thomas, Edmund and James. His sixth born son, Robert, died in infancy.

Branches, incomplete, of the Hodsoll family tree.

In the Hodsoll chancel in the Ash-by-Wrotham church, a monumental inscription above John Hodsoll reads, “Hereunder rests in hope of a joyfull resurrection the body of Captayne John Hodsoll, of South Ash, esq., who departed this life to enjoy a better (life) on the 6th day of July, 1683, aged 61 years. He was marryed to Mary, the daughter of John Batcher, of Wadhurst, in the county of Sussex, gent., whose Conjugall love hath occasioned this pious memorial of him.” 

John and Mary produced twelve children, eight boys and four girls. Their daughter, Mary, my direct ancestor, married the Reverend James Axe, uniting the Hodsoll and Axe branches of my family.

The birth date of William – John and Mary’s first born – looks sound –  9 January 1656 in Wadhurst, Sussex. Equally, their marriage date –  9 September 1656 in Cowden, Kent – is a matter of public record. This begs the question: why did John and Mary wait eight months to get married? Maybe John was away at sea and returned to find Mary cradling a baby in her arms.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx