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Dear Reader #101

Dear Reader,

My latest translation in Portuguese, The Olive Tree: Roots. A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂

Many of my London ancestors came from Lambeth. This is the Thames foreshore at Lambeth, c1866, a photograph by William Strudwick, one of a series showing images of working class London.

My article about SOE heroine Eileen Nearne appears on page 36 of this month’s Seaside News.

Mapping my ancestors over the past thousand years.

Map One: Twentieth Century.

My twentieth century ancestors lived in Glamorgan, London and Lancashire. My Glamorgan ancestors were born there while some of my London ancestors were evacuated to Lancashire during the Second World War where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Map Two: 1850 – 1900

Three new counties appear on this map: Carmarthenshire, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire. Yorkshire is represented by a sailor who lived in Canada for a while before settling in London. My Gloucestershire ancestors moved to London because they had family there, and no doubt they were looking for better employment opportunities. My Carmarthenshire ancestors moved to Glamorgan to work on the land, on the newly developing railway lines, and in the burgeoning coal mines. Some branches emigrated to Patagonia, but my direct ancestors remained in Glamorgan.

Published this weekend, Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series. My intention was to write one book, but I’m delighted that Sam convinced me to develop her story into a series 🙂

My 2 x great grandmother Jane Dent was baptised on 9 October 1870. The eldest daughter of Richard Davis Dent and Sarah Ann Cottrell, she lived in Whitechapel during the terror of Jack the Ripper.

The police investigated eleven brutal murders in Whitechapel and Spitalfields between 1888 and 1891. Subsequently, five of those murders were attributed to Jack the Ripper, those of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, the murders taking place between 31 August and 9 November 1888.

The murders attracted widespread newspaper coverage and were obviously the major talking point within the Whitechapel community. What did that community look like and where did my ancestor, Jane Dent fit in?

Members of the public on the streets of Whitechapel, London, circa 1890.

By the 1840s, Whitechapel had evolved into the classic image of Dickensian London beset with problems of poverty and overcrowding as people moved into the city from the countryside, mingling with an influx of immigrants. In 1884, actor Jacob Adler wrote, “The further we penetrated into this Whitechapel, the more our hearts sank. Was this London? Never in Russia, never later in the worst slums of New York, were we to see such poverty as in the London of the 1880s.”

In October 1888, Whitechapel contained an estimated six-two brothels and 1,200 prostitutes. However, the suggestion that all the Ripper’s victims were prostitutes is a myth. At least three of them were homeless alcoholics. The common thread they shared was they had fallen on hard times.

Jane’s father, Richard Davis Dent, died in 1883 when she was twelve so Jane lived in Whitechapel with her mother, Sarah Ann, and younger brothers and sisters, Thomas, Arthur, Eliza, Robert and Mary. The 1881 census listed Jane as a scholar, and it’s likely that she became a domestic servant after her schooling.

Charles Booth’s poverty map of Whitechapel. The red areas are affluent while the black areas indicate criminals and extreme poverty.

The Dent family lived in Urban Place. Their neighbours included a toy maker, a tobacco pipe maker, a French polisher, a vellum blind maker and a cabinet maker. These people were skilled artisans, so it wasn’t the roughest of neighbourhoods. Nevertheless, did Jane and her family discuss Jack the Ripper and his latest atrocities over the dining table? Almost certainly they did, and mothers throughout the generations have echoed Sarah Ann’s warnings to her daughters.

Did Jane meet Jack the Ripper, socially, at work or in the street? Possibly. Did she have a suspect in mind? Her thoughts were not recorded so we will never know. Did she modify her behaviour and avoid Whitechapel’s network of dark and dangerous allies? It is to be hoped that she did.

Although there are numerous suspects, from butchers to members of the royal family, it’s unlikely that we will ever discover Jack the Ripper’s true identity. The police at the time were led in the main by retired army officers, and were not the brightest detectives. Forensic science was basically unknown, so evidence gathering was limited. Nevertheless, the police’s failure to identify Jack the Ripper does raise some serious questions. 

‘Blind Man’s Bluff’. A Punch cartoon by John Tenniel, 22 September 1888, criticising the police investigation.

Was there a cover-up? It’s likely that members of the royal family did visit prostitutes – this is a common theme over many centuries – and the government would have issued instructions to the police to cover-up any royal association with prostitutes for fear of a public backlash and revolution, which was rife in parts of Europe. Any royal cover-up would have hampered the investigation, but ultimately Jack the Ripper evaded arrest because the Victorian police force did not have the skills required to solve complex murders.

By 1891, the Whitechapel murders had ceased and Jane had married William Richard Stokes, a cabinet maker. The couple moved to Gee Street, in the St Luke’s district of London where they raised a family of nine children, including my direct ancestor, Arthur Stokes, and Robert Stokes who died on 26 June 1916 at Hébuterne, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France during the First World War.

Jane Dent survived the terror of Jack the Ripper, but memories of his murders must have remained with her for the rest of her life. After all, she was only eighteen years old, an impressionable age in any era. She died on 6 June 1950 in the London suburb of Walthamstow.

As for Jack, I suspect that either he took his own life in November 1888 or, unknown as the Ripper, he entered an asylum at that time, and remained there for the rest of his life. Jack the Ripper was a compulsive murderer. He didn’t stop killing, something stopped him.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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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 #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 #94

Dear Reader,

On the trail of my 4 x great grandmother Sarah Foreman who packed her bags in the 1820s and left rural Lincolnshire to nurse in London. On 24 March 1834, Sarah married John Glissan, a surgeon. When John died in 1854, Sarah established herself as a dentist, chemist and monthly nurse, looking after newborn babies.

We’ve got the builders in 😉 And here’s some sheep 🐑


The Stokes branch of my family were carpenters for centuries, with fathers handing on the skills of the trade to their sons. 

Here is a document from 21 October 1794 when my 5 x great grandfather Richard Stokes took on an apprentice, William Reeves.

Along with his carpentry business in Pangbourne, Berkshire, Richard also owned a messuage in nearby Reading.

Richard married Martha in 1800. Unfortunately, Martha’s surname was not recorded on marriage or birth records so it isn’t possible to explore her branch of my family tree. She died young, in 1817.

Richard and Martha only had two children: Martha, who sadly died aged ten, and my direct ancestor, William. William broke the family tradition, which went back to the 1600s, when he turned his back on carpentry and moved to London. However, his son and my direct ancestor Richard resumed the trade.


From the 1930s. Hefty girls wanted. Must be ‘fairly good looking’ with no interest in marriage.


My 4 x great grandfather Henry Wheeler was born on 29 November 1797 in Westminster, London to Thomas Wheeler and Ann Fluin.

Henry married twice. First to Elizabeth Mitchell on 19 August 1817 then when Elizabeth died in 1844 he married Mary Ann Thorp of Colchester, Essex, a woman eighteen years his junior. Henry’s first marriage produced eight children while his second produced four, including my 3 x great grandmother Nancy Wheeler who changed her name to Annie Noulton.

Various censuses describe Henry as a labourer while Mary Ann’s mother, Hannah, was a straw hat maker, so maybe Mary Ann followed that trade. However, Henry also had another line of ‘work’, which resulted in regular visits to the Old Bailey.

The first evidence of Henry’s brushes with the law appear in 1817 when aged twenty in association with William Murray aged sixteen he was accused of stealing a set of harnesses value 20 shillings from Serach Atkinson. Henry duly stood trial and from the Old Bailey website https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/ here is an account of that trial.

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

HENRY WHEELER and WILLIAM MURRAY were indicted for stealing, on the 13th of January, one set of chaise harness, value 20 shillings the property of Serach Atkinson.

SERACH ATKINSON. I am a plasterer, and live in New court, Chapel-street, Westminster. On the 13th of January, between six and seven o’clock, I missed my harness from my passage, where it usually hung. My brother had it out that day. That is all I know.

JAMES GILLMORE. On Monday evening, the 13th of January, the prosecutor came to me, stating that he had lost his harness, and who he suspected to have stolen it. About twenty minutes afterwards the prosecutor came to me with part of the harness, (the collar and traces), after that he sent for me to take Murray into custody-which I did. I went with Murray to Wheeler’s house, and took him into custody. Wheeler’s friends threatened to prosecute Murray, for inducing Wheeler to commit the robbery. The next morning the prosecutor brought me the other part of the harness, which he said, in the prisoner’s presence, was delivered to him by Wheeler’s friends.

(Property produced and sworn to).

J’Accuse Henry Wheeler

ATKINSON re-examined by the Court. I got the harness from Murray. I had seen him that night. I do not know where the harness hung up that night. I do not know where it was.

Q. Did you never say, it hung behind the street door in the passage – A. I might. I do not know that it did

Q. Will you swear that it was not hanging there – A. I do not know. I did not see it there at all. I did not see it there that day; my brother had it out.

Q. Did you not tell the magistrate, that it hung up in the passage leading to the street door, and that the prisoner must go through that passage to go out – A. I do not know. I suspected Murray, by his calling on me; I missed it about half an hour afterwards. I had not seen it that evening.

Q. After you had seen Gillmore, where did you go to – A. Into Tothill-street, to Murray’s, he is a harness-maker, Wheeler was selling the harness there.

Q. How came you to tell me that you knew no more about it – A. It did not strike me then; I met him at this end of Tothill-street, the sadler’s is in the middle.

Q. Will you swear he was at the end of the street – A. Yes.

Q. How came you to swear that Murray was waiting at the other side of the street – A. Wheeler gave me part of the harness, and brought the other part home.

Q. Why did you not tell me this story before – A. I do not know.

Q. Is what you swore before the magistrate true or not? Which story do you stick by, what you swore before the magistrate, or what you say here – A. I stick by what I say here.

NOT GUILTY.

Second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Recorder.

Acquitted (on this occasion) Henry Wheeler

Henry disappeared from the historical record for gaps of several years. This is not unusual. However, the gaps between his first and second born children with Elizabeth Mitchell and Mary Ann Thorpe, nine years on each occasion, are very unusual. These women were fertile and produced children on average every two years. So why the infertile periods? The records don’t offer conclusive proof, but given Henry’s background it seems certain that he was in prison on each occasion. 

The situation is easy to imagine: Henry married Elizabeth then she gave birth. Surviving on a pauper’s wages and with a wife and baby to feed he resorted to stealing. This exact pattern was repeated with Mary Ann. Stealing is of course criminally and morally wrong, but when societies encourage vast gulfs between the rich and poor then the poor are often forced to step outside the law simply to survive.

Dorset Street, London, photographed in 1902 for Jack London’s book The People of the Abyss.

The Victorians were worried about the rising crime rate for good reason because offences shot up from around 5,000 per year in 1800 to around 20,000 per year in 1840. They were firm believers in punishment for criminals, but faced a problem: what should the punishment be?

Options included the often small and badly-run prisons, transportation to America, Australia or Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), or execution: hundreds of offences carried the death penalty. By the 1830s society was having its doubts about these punishments and favoured the building of new, larger prisons.

The Victorians also insisted that these prisons should be unpleasant places, to deter people from committing crimes. Inmates had to face up to their crimes and to encourage this they were placed in solitary confinement or when in company restricted to vows of silence. Work too was hard and boring with spells on the treadmill and picking oakum as common punishments.

Millbank Prison in London by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1829.

As my ancestor, I would like to think the best of Henry, and the pattern of his prison sentences suggest that he was stealing to support his wives and children. That said, he was an habitual criminal who did not feel inclined, or maybe did not have the opportunity, to mend his ways.

With Henry in prison, Elizabeth and Mary Ann must have struggled to survive. Yet, survive they did. There is no record of them entering the workhouse so somehow these women kept their families together.

Salamanca Court and Salamanca Street, deprived areas and home to various generations of the Wheeler family.

Henry was buried on 19 October 1874. At 76, he lived a long life considering his background and periods of hardship. In the Regency era life expectancy for poor people was extremely low – in cities a lifespan of 13% for poor people compared to the wealthy. From medieval times, through Henry’s time to our time the ratio is 85% life expectancy for the poor compared to the rich.

A widow, Mary Ann lodged with relatives until her death in 1903, aged 87. Another remarkable age given her background. You wonder what attracted Mary Ann to Henry. Maybe it was love. Or maybe she sought companionship and freedom from loneliness. If it was the latter, this is ironic because Mary Ann and Henry spent at least a third of their married lives apart.

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