How many of us have an old recipe book on the bookcase. It’s probably in a worse for wear condition with the cover falling off and bits of paper sticking out from every angle. It can give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors.
By looking at the recipes it can give you an insight into what foods your ancestors could afford to make and also what they liked to eat. It could also give you an insight into their kitchen as the more complicated the recipe the more kitchen equipment they may have needed so this may indicate they were from a wealthier background. These books can also span the generations as they are passed down from mother to daughter (or father to son). There are at least 5 different handwriting's in one of my family recipe book.
I’m lucky as I have access to my Grandma’s recipe book and my great Grandma’s.
So let’s look at the recipes inside.
Well in the main meals section we find a recipe for a meat mould which is sausage meat and corn beef mixed with a tomato and an egg all mixed together. Then it is steamed for 45 mins. Then there’s a Christmas pate which involves leftover turkey and lots of butter. There is also a terrine made with bacon, veal, port, liver and chicken liver, gross, I’ll just eat the bacon thanks.
The books also packed with recipes for chutneys, soups and pickles. Then it’s my favourite the cake and puddings section - boiled fruit cake my absolute favourite. This section does give a big clue about family life. There are lots of low sugar and diabetic recipes. This indicates someone suffered from diabetes and they did. It also shows how times have changed. There are recipes for jams and curds. I know some people still make them but many do just go to the shops and buy them.
Recipe books can also show regional foods. Now this would be seriously confusing in Grandmas recipe book. She was born and raised in Northamptonshire. He mum was from Cambridgeshire and her grandma was from Lincolnshire. Add into that her dad was from Nottinghamshire and the fact that she and grandpa travelled all over the country before settling in Yorkshire. Your family recipe book may offer better clues as to where their origins lie. One example of regional foods in grandma’s recipe book is for Yorkshire parkin. For those who don’t know it’s a spiced cake made with oats, treacle and ginger. Here’s the recipe, try it’s gorgeous.
If you consider my great Grandma’s recipe book then this too will have a hodge podge of regional recipes. She was born in Sunderland but raised in London. Her mother was from Sunderland but her dad was Scottish.
You may also find some really bizarre recipes. I took to the internet to see what other recipes I could find from peoples recipe books.
How’s this for a delicious recipe, stewed sparrows anyone. This 18th century recipe calls for boiling the sparrows in ale and water. Put 3 egg yolks, verjuice (made from unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit) cinnamon and ginger and stir. Add the sparrows to the sauce. I think I’ll give that one a miss.
One which maybe you can try next Christmas, picked turkey anyone.
If you try this recipe let me know how bad it is. Picked meat sound disgusting, but I suppose it preserved the meat so it would keep longer and could be used when fresh food stocks were low. It could have kept the entire family going when there was nothing else available.
If you have an old recipe book in the family why not play make a recipe. Just open the book and if you like the ingredients in the recipe on that page, and if you can still get them, make it and see what it’s like. If your ancestors took the time to write it down then maybe it was a family favourite. Who knows maybe it will become a future family favourite to another generation of the family.
When it comes to genealogy we gather all the information on our ancestors and store it either on our computers or in folders, but what do we do with it then. Over the years I’ve seen many articles describing how to store genealogy and I want to give you a feel of some creative ways to display your family.
Most of us will be familiar with the concepts of photos of our family on the wall but I’ve seen some fantastic alternatives to just having a line of photos.
You could go down a more traditional route. Once you’ve completed your tree, (does this ever happen?) you could decide to create an ancestry chart. I’m sure you’ve seen them. You can get them that go back a number of generations. On these you can write the name of your ancestors and on some you can add vital information such as birth, death and marriage. You can make these and print them out form your genealogy software or you can buy them and fill them in yourselves. I’ve got a 10 generation chart which one day I will fill in and frame. You can get great charts from My History, a wonderful genealogy supply company in South Yorkshire (my home county). You can see these at: https://www.my-history.co.uk/acatalog/Blank_Family_Tree_Charts.html
You could also go down the route of having you tree printed professionally. This can be printed in huge sizes so if you’ve got a massive tree you could have each side of your family printed out and framed. Each side could then be hung on your wall with a photo of the starting person in the middle. There are many companies that can do this including My History.
One of the best I’ve seen involved a drawing of a tree on the wall. On to this was placed photos of ancestors with a name plate underneath. On the plate was the person’s vital information. Now I know we’re not all that creative as to be able to draw a tree on our sitting room wall. You can buy massive stick on tree decals which you can put on the wall. On to this you could either stick photos of your ancestors or hang photos in frames on the wall in strategic places on the wall. I saw this done on the wall of a stair case so the tree started at the bottom of the stairs and the branches went up the wall to the upstairs. On it were the photos on the person’s ancestors.
It doesn’t have to be a permanent display of your ancestors. You can display your ancestry in books. You could make yourself a scrapbook to display your ancestry. You can get as creative as you like. You can add background papers, photos and information on your ancestors. You can also add embellishments relevant to your ancestors and family stories to help bring their lives to life for future generations.
You could write a book about your ancestors. I’m not talking about a novel, although you could, but more their lives story. You could fill it with stories of their lives, photos and all the information about them. In some ways this is much the same as the scrapbook idea but it could contain more information. You can include copies of your evidence such as certificate and census returns.
So why not make this year the year you pull all of your ancestors together so you can easily look at them and read all the information you have. It may help you to connect with them more easily and also make them accessible to other members of your family.
I really believe that children need to learn about their ancestors. These days we don’t live close together as families like our ancestors did and so were may not know as much about our forebears.
So since its Christmas time there is a good chance that families will be getting together and meeting up with family members they haven’t seen in ages. Kids tend to get bored at these gatherings. So why not set them the challenge of finding out more about their ancestors.
I remember as a kid having to ask questions of my Grandpa as part of a school project. I had a sheet with my questions on and Grandpa wrote down his answers in my Fraggle Rock note book as I sat with him in his bedroom and asked the questions.
I was trying to decide what the questions were and I think they must have been:
1. Where did you live growing up?
2. How many rooms were there in your house?
3. How many bedrooms did your house have?
4. Who lived in the house?
6. What was used for cleaning the house?
7. How did you do the washing?
8. How was the house heated?
9. What was there in the kitchen?
10. What furniture did you have in your bedroom?
11. What was in the bathroom?
12. What furniture was in the sitting room?
So from here I decided to compile a list of questions children could ask their parents, grandparents and if their lucky enough great grandparents (I was lucky I knew both my paternal great grandma’s).
1. What is your full name?
2. When and where were you born?
3. Did you have a nick name?
4. What were your parent’s names?
5. When were your parent’s dates of birth?
6. Where were your parents born?
7. What were your siblings called and when and where were they born?
8. Where did you live?
9. Where did you go to school?
10. What was you highest qualification?
11. Who did you marry?
12. Where did you meet your spouse?
13. When did you get married?
14. Who were your bridesmaids and best man?
15. Did you have any children?
16. What did you do for a living?
17. Who were your grandparents?
18. When and where were they born?
19. What were their occupations?
20. Did you know your Great Grandparents?
21. What can you tell me about them?
22. When and where did they die?
23. Where were they buried or cremated?
They could take a list of questions with them to the family gathering and ask away. Once they’ve got all their answers they could spend the rest of Christmas writing the story of their ancestors. Or they could have one of the many blank ancestor forms from the Internet download and printed and then file them in. There is a great selection at: https://www.cyndislist.com/free-stuff/printable-charts-and-forms/
They could also have a blank family tree printed out and filed in or even better make one. All you need to do is draw a tree and place small printed out photos of your ancestors and stick them on. Then write their names underneath. Alternatively use one of the many blank family trees which can be printed out that don’t have photos on.
Who knows what impact going through this process may have on the kids. They may develop an interest in genealogy. This may lead to a lifelong passion for the subject and who knows where they may end up. They may up being a professional genealogist like me. This could also lead them to a passion for history in general as a hobby and it’s well know a knowledge of the past can help in future.
Another quick thought is to get a cheap diary and get the kids to write all the birth, marriages and deaths of their ancestors in it so they can wish a happy birthday to them.
So enjoy Christmas however you spend it and if you can get some genealogy into it then that’s brilliant.
Merry Christmas to all for Family History Research England.
On the 2nd December 1697 the new St Paul’s Cathedral in London was consecrated after being rebuilt following the great fire of London in 1666. This new building is believed to be the 5th church to stand on this site. If you had any London based ancestors they may have seen the Cathedral being built and have witness the opening day.
The old St Paul’s cathedral was begun in 1087 after the previous building was destroyed by fire. It took until 1240 for the building to be completed and consecrated. The church was built in the gothic style and had features including pointed arches and large window. It’s most impressive feature was said to be the wooden vaulted ceiling. The building was not maintained over the years and by the time of King Henry VIII (1509 -1547) the church was in disrepair. The old St Paul’s suffered during the reformation (1536-1541) when all the iconography and shrines were removed. Then next tragedy to befall the Cathedral came in 1561 when the spire was struck by lightning and destroyed. Then came the year 1666.
During the great fire of London much of London was destroyed by the fire including 87 religious buildings. St Paul’s was gutted in the fire as the wooden ceiling acted as a wick to move the fire throughout the building. The decision was made to rebuild the Cathedral rather than repair.
Once the decision to rebuild was made plans were submitted for the new building. The winning entry came from Christopher Wren, the man who just before the fire was given the job of renovating the old St Paul’s and who was to rebuild many of the other lost churches in London. He was commissioned in 1669. By 1670 the old building was being removed and the site cleared. In 1675 building work began on the new Cathedral. The building wasn’t finished until 1711, but the statues on the outside of the building were not installed until the 1720’s.
St Paul’s Cathedral has some impressive statistics. The building is 158m long, at its widest point the transept it is 75m and the height of the building to the top of the dome is 111m. The dome itself is really impressive with it being the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St Peter’s in Rome, Italy. The diameter of the dome is 34m and you can go up to the base of the dome on what is called the whispering gallery. On this walk way if you stand against the wall and whisper something it can be heard on the other side of the dome perfectly.
The Cathedral has 12 bells and 3 bells for the clock. The largest clock bell is Big Tom which is rung on the death of a member of the Royal Family. It was last rung in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died.
The final cost of the rebuild was stated in 1719 as £1,095,556 which in today’s terms is about £127,202,268 and would probably have cost millions more.
The Cathedral was hit twice by bombs in WW2 with damage to the alter area and the north transept. It’s survival during the war gave hope to the city that London would survive.
There have been over 200 people buried or commemorated in the crypt of the cathedral. Probably the most famous is that of Sir Christopher Wren himself. His memorial plaque is just genius. It reads ‘Reader if you seek his monument, look around you’. I suppose what better memorial to the man than his own designed Cathedral. Also buried in the cathedral include The Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. The funeral of Winston Churchill was also held in the Cathedral.
So St Paul’s Cathedral may not be the main church of London, that’s Westminster Abbey, but it is the one we know the most about as we have pictures and records of it being built. We can see the original plans Wren submitted and can see the records of what was used to build it.
We’ve all heard of the Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in London in 1888 but still to this day we have no idea who he was or why he did what he did. It’s though he killed 5 women but many believe he was responsible for many more deaths.
The killings attributed to Jack began in August 1888 when he killed his first victim. She was Mary Ann Nichols, nee Walker. She was found on the 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durwand Street) in London. Mary was born in 1845 and was the estranged wife of William Nichols and the mother of 3 children.
Jack’s second victim was Annie Chapman who was born Eliza Ann Smith. She was born in 1841 and was the estranged wife of John Chapman and the mother of 3 children. On the night of the 8 September 1888 she was found dead at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
Victim three was Elizabeth Stride nee Gustafsdoffer. She was born in Sweden in 1843 where her career as a prostitute was thought to have begun. She was the widow of John Stride. She was found on the night of the 30th September 1888 on Berner Street (now Henriques Street), Whitechapel.
The fourth victim was Catherine Eddowes. She was the common law wife of Thomas Conway and the mother of 3 children. She was born in Wolverhampton in 1842. Her body was found on the 30 September 1888, the same night as Elizabeth Stride, in Mitre Square, Whitechapel.
The final confirmed victim of Jack was Mary Jane Kelly who was killed on the 9th November 1888 in Miller’s Court, Spitalfield.
All the murders had much in common. All were gruesome and involved the removal of organs. The attacks must have been brutal and terrifying for the women. They were investigated at the time by the Whitechapel division of the Metropolitan police and Scotland Yard. The lead investigators were:
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid from Whitechapel
Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Henry Moore from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Walter Andrews from Scotland Yard
Now I personally have an interest in the murders as I believe they may have impacted upon my Ancestors. My great, great Grandfather was George Dow who was born in Pollockshaw, Glasgow in 1842. He moved to Sunderland to work in the ship yards and it was here in 1867 that he married Eleanor Easton (born in 1844) the daughter of a local blacksmith. The couple had four children including my great Grandma Elizabeth Dow. To this day we don’t know why but between 1878 and 1880 the family moved to the Whitechapel area of London and started using the surname Smith. I know this as in 1880 the couple had another child named George Smith and my great Grandma was born in 1878. On the 1881 census the family was living on Sander Street in Whitechapel, which if you look at the map above you will see linked to Henriques Street where Elizabeth Stride was killed. We know that by 1891 the family was living in Walthamstow in Essex. The question is did they move because of the murders or had they already decided to move on? If they were still living in Whitechapel then the murders would have been a good enough incentive to move especially since Eleanor was of a similar age to the victims. It would have been no place to raise the 3 surviving of their 4 children.
When I started researching my family tree I knew nothing about this. I knew Elizabeth was born in Sunderland and raised in Woodford but I had no idea about the Whitechapel link. I have had an interest in the Ripper murders since I saw at TV drama called Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, also on the Two Ronnies Show they did a sketch called the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town which was a skit on the ripper case in which a raspberry was blow and the victim died. These both lead to an interest which was only boosted by my family connection.
So who was the Ripper? Several names have been connected to the case but there seems to be no chance of the Ripper being identified. So the mystery many never be revealed, but in my case the interest continues due to my own family’s connection.
When you get into genealogy it’s always fun to be able to visit where your ancestors lived and effectively walk in their footsteps. So one good way to do this is to go to where your ancestors lived.
This is something my Grandpa did in the 1990’s when he went to the time of Thorpe St Andrew in Norfolk and I recreated in 2010. Thorpe is a town just 3 miles from Norwich on the banks of the river Yare. Today the town has a population of just over 11,000 and the most notable event in the town was in 1874 when a train crashed killing 25 people and injuring 75.
Thorpe is the centre of one branch of my family, the Weeds family. Now not all member of this branch came from Thorpe but from my 6 times great Grandfather when his son John Weeds was born in the then village in 1755. The last member of my family with a connection to the town was my Grandpa when he was christened in St Andrew’s church in December 1914 just days before his father went to war.
So what do you need to consider before you make a trip.
Well make sure your research is correct. You don’t want to make a trip and be disappointed not to find what you’re looking for and then discover you were in the wrong place. It’s not uncommon for several places to have the same name so it pays to check.
Make sure you have the research you want with you and have made a list of anything you want to discover while you’re there. This means you’re not flapping while trying to find some information you need only to find it’s a home on your desk.
Set out your goals before you go. Don’t just go and make it up as you go along. This could lead to you not achieving everything you want to and finding your trip disappointing.
Make sure you know everything you need before you go. Look into what graveyards there are so you know where to go. It’s not uncommon for the church to have a grave yard as well as a cemetery. Make sure you’ve noted which place your ancestors are buried in. If you have time once you have finished what you set out to achieve then look in other places as you may find things you weren’t expecting to.
Expect to find things out that you weren’t expecting. You may discover the information you have is contradicted by what you have previously found. You may have found a death record which you assumed was you ancestor only to find a gravestone who’s information proves you were wrong.
Do make sure you have a camera and a note book and pen. In fact take several pens in case you lose one. You can photograph all the things you find and the places you ancestors went and lived and make notes as you go along so when you get home you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
Expect your trip to take longer than you though. If you’ve only planned to stay for a few hours, you’ll probably end up spending the day. Before you know it you’re trudging through the undergrowth of a church yard and have lost 3 hours, but you might find some new information.
Use the trip to answer all your questions and don’t forget to visit everywhere you can. Don’t skip things such as war memorials as you don’t think there relevant. Do if your ancestors lived a long time before the wars but if they lived at a similar time then you may find distant relatives on it. For example I found my Great Grandpa’s brother and 2 cousins on the one in Thorpe St Andrew.
Most of all enjoy the trip. It’s your chance to truly connect with your past and walk in their footsteps.
So Easter is upon us again and you can celebrate with religious festivals or eating far too much chocolate. But what things did your ancestors get up to? Well you may be pleases to hear that the UK has a proud tradition of doing some really weird things over Easter.
Well if your ancestors were from Yorkshire they may have taken part in the World Coal Carrying Championship. In this event held in the Yorkshire town of Ossett a sack of coal weighing 1 hundredweight or 50 kg for men and 20 kg for women has to be carried from the Royal Oak pub to the maypole in Gawsworth, a distance of just over 1000 meters, as fast as possible. This event has been held since 1963.
Your Leicestershire ancestors may have taken part in the ancient art of bottle kicking. The first mention of this event is in the 1770’s. In the event the villages of Hallaton and Medbourne fight over three barrels of beer. Each side has to try and get the barrels to their village in a rule free contest that usually end up in blood and pain for the contestants after several hours, but it’s OK as the villages share the beer!
What about in Lancashire well you ancestors may have taken place in Nutters Dance. This is similar to Morris Dancing but the men where black and white costumes and have dirty faces. So any ancestors from the town of Baccup may have done this on Easter Saturday. In fact any ancestors from a more rural community may have taken part in Morris Dancing throughout the country. These dances have been taking place since the 1400’s and involve a group of usually me dancing to music fiddle music accompanied by a drum. The men where white with brightly coloured ribbons tied to them and bells on their legs. They carry hankie or clubs. Some believe the dances are fertility dances to encourage the crops to grow. These days the dances are usually done outside pubs and involve drinking much beer in rural villages in England but there are now sides (the name for a group of morris men) throughout the world.
Ancestors who lived near Smithfield in London may have taken part in the practice of the widow’s charity. It was in effect a form of helping the poor. People would place 21 sixpences (a sixpence was about 2.5 pence so in total is about 50p) on to the tombs in the grave yard. This money was then distributed to 21 poor widows of the parish. Your ancestors could have been the givers or the receivers.
My personal favourite is the ancient art of egg rolling. In this people stand at the top of a hill and roll their eggs down a hill. The first to the bottom wins. This is done throughout the UK but in particular in Preston, Lancashire. In the Bedfordshire town of Dunstable they use oranges instead of eggs. I suppose an orange would survive better than an egg.
Each town or village probably had some sort of tradition they carried out. Some may have distributed relief to the poor, others may have had festivals and plays. In reality Easter, aside from the religious significance meant that winter had lost its grip on the land and new life began to spring up. Easter became a time for celebration as the days got longer and warmer. The harsh conditions were over, food was going to become more plentiful and the people had a reason to look forward to the summer to come.
So however you spend Easter, be it with an egg hunt, a bonnet competition, religious practices or just eating far too much chocolate until you feel sick have fun!
I know it’s not traditionally the season for weddings, especially in the UK (who wants to get married in the rain?) but for both my sets of grandparents they married out of season. Last month would have been my grandparent’s 79th wedding anniversary and December would have brought my other grandparents 70th anniversary.
Weddings aren’t something I ever really thought about much until recently. I’ve been to hundreds (I was in a church choir as a kid for a long time so weddings were great for pocket money) and never really took much notice until close family started getting married as we all grew up. Recently though I’ve found Say Yes to the Dress. I find the program so funny (I know I’m probably not supposed to but some of the things people say are hilarious, especially the bridesmaids episodes). It’s got me thinking about how weddings have changed over the years, especially for our ancestors.
It seems weddings these days are grand affairs in various venues with lavish receptions and often without involving the church in anyway. People travel abroad and the whole wedding party goes. It must cost an absolute fortune. Just the dress can cost more than fitting out a new house. All that expense for one day. Sorry I’m from Yorkshire and as the saying goes short arms and deep pockets. I’m not tight I just couldn’t spend all that money on one day. Put clean clothes on and got to the registry office. I hit the internet and found a nice wedding dress in the UK for £175, where as they pay thousands of dollars on Say Yes to the Dress, and I am yet to see one made of denim.
But what was it like in our ancestor’s time?
If you look at the photo of my grandparents wedding my grandma is not wearing a flowing dress or anything. In fact it was a pale blue (and still is as we have it). Blue throughout history has been used in wedding gowns as it symbolised purity, this is where the something blue comes from today. It may not have been until 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert that white became the norm in the UK. So all of you who want to wear colour, just say you’re only carrying on the traditions of your ancestors. Most of our ancestors will have just worn their Sunday best (if they had any) on their wedding day as they couldn’t even consider having a new outfit for one day. If they were from a wealthy family this may have been possible. In fact some people married on Christmas day as this was the only day they didn’t have to work and so their families could attend.
From 1215 in Europe marriage had to be recognised by the church. This stopped couples from using handfast as a legal form of marriage. They said a form of vows to each other and was designed “till death do us part”. It was common as although the recognised religion was common, not all had access to it and other pagan forms of worship were still used. By the 16th/17th century the church had to be involved for a marriage to be legal.
After 1836 couples could be married by a registrar in a registry office. This made life more difficult and better for couples. Vicars could refuse to marry a couple in their church. The main reason for this would be that the woman was pregnant. It was not uncommon for couples to marry if they became pregnant as it was expected of them. They probably would have anyway, but baby just moved things forward a bit. Now they could marry elsewhere and still have a fully recognised marriage. It could make things worse though as if they married in a registry office most people probably thought they were expecting a child and thus treated them differently, especially if they didn’t have a blessing in a recognised church afterwards. I’ve got ancestors who already had children before they were married and had married in a registry office. Does it really matter, as long as the children had a stable home? Registry Office weddings also made life easier for those who wanted to marry without the involvement of the church.
These days as long as a venue has a license you can marry anywhere you want and any couple no matter what their sexuality can legally marry each other and live their lives the way they want to.
As darkness falls across the land…… all the kids come out and bang on your door.
So it’s the end of October and Halloween comes around again. All the shops sell their wares and parties abound. There are loads of costumes in the shops to wear for the day, although some of the Goth dresses I’d wear every day and yes I do wear my dress with bats, pumpkins, ghosts and full moons on it in the summer. You can get foods from jelly eye balls to slime pie.
Halloween as a kid for me was scary. People would bang on the door demanding treats and if you didn’t answer or given them anything eggs would be thrown. Then there was the fact that all the ghosts and goolies, witches and vampires were roaming about ready to attack. To top it all of I was terrified of the glow in the dark skeleton my brother had. I was even scared of Professor Coldheart from my beloved Care Bears and don’t get me started on Skelator from He-Man, although I find him funny dancing in the current advert. How ironic now is it that I mainly read books with vampires and werewolves in them.
Halloween as we know it today mainly came from good marketing and the shops realised it was a great way to make you spend money, but where did the tradition of Halloween come from? Well it appears to be the merger of both pagan and Christian practices.
Let’s consider the pagan practices first. It was a celebration of the end of the harvest and the coming of the winter and in the Celtic countries was known as Samhain, the festival of the dead, but it also had other aspects to it. Many believe that at this time of year that the barrier between the living and the dead was at its thinnest and thus the dead could pass through. This meant the living had to protect themselves. They would do things such as lay out meals by a fire for the dead to welcome them so they would be peaceful and carve out turnips, as we do pumpkins today, to ward of the evil spirits as these were the ones they had to worry about. They also believed they had to protect themselves for the living evil spirits. Many homes would attempt to protect themselves by engraving witches marks into the fabric of the house. This was usually in the walls or the fireplace and was in the form of a pentagram. They can still be found today in old buildings. Another pagan practice which begun was the dressing up and playing tricks on people. This along with the carving of turnips is thought to have come from Ireland as many of the practices we still use today seem to have come from the Gaelic speaking regions of Europe.
The Christian practices mainly revolved around the honouring of the dead. In the Christian calendar All Hallowes Eve is the day before All Hallows Day which is the celebration of saints, or the dead in general. It is believed this day was set as the 1st November by Pope Gregory III in the 8th century when this honoured the relics of the saints, martyrs and confessors of the church. From the 12th century the ringing of church bells became common to honour the saints and departed souls. There was also the tradition from the mediaeval period of England of baking a soul cake. These were similar in appearance to the modern day hot cross buns. They were given out to children, the poor and the homeless who went from door to door saying prayers for the souls of the household. It’s believed this could also be the origin of trick or treat.
So if you combine both the pagan and Christian practices you get a good indication of where the modern day Halloween comes from. Maybe think upon your dead ancestors and celebrate them as you enjoy your pagan practices.
So it’s nearly that time of year where the kids go back to school and embark on the next phase of their education. Be it at primary, secondary, college or university level.
Education of the masses first became compulsory in 1880 in England. Before that the only education children would get would depend on their place in society. Children of the rich would have access to tutors and the best education establishments the country had to offer. Those from the poorer sectors of society would have attended Sunday School at the local church, or if they were really lucky they may have got into a ragged school (this was a free school started by John Pounds in 1818 which could be found in various places throughout the UK. The building for the school in Chesterfield still stands today).
From 1880 all children between the ages of 5 and 10 and from 1893 the age was raise to 13, had to attend school. This wasn’t well received in the poorer families who needed their children to work to help support the family. The financial loss to the family of a child going to school could be great, especially since children as young as 8 could work full time.
The school buildings were basic, with benches with tables attached and a black board at the front. The children would write on small chalk boards and have had access to very few books. They would have been taught the 3R’s or reading writing and arithmetic. How they could call it the 3R’s when only 1 started with an R is beyond me and surely implied bad education.
They would have been taught the basics which would have been enough for most for when they went back to the factories and fields. For some it would have perhaps lead them on to further education and maybe even a scholarship to go to university and given them a real chance to make a better future for them and their families.
I don’t envy the children going off to school. I hated school. The best part of the school day was the end. I wasn’t so much the education I didn’t like, although I still don’t get maths that’s what the calculator was invented for, no it was the other kids I didn’t like. School would have been fine without them. When they pulled my old secondary school down the other year to rebuild it I would gladly had done it for them. Same with my old college when it was pulled down this year.
I was lucky at primary school in that I had the best teacher in the world in Mrs Pryjomko. She really was great and I liked the 2 years she taught me for. I also loved the head teacher Mr Clark, he was like a granddad to us all.
The primary school I went to was built in 1928 and is still standing and used as a school today, although I think it has been modernised a lot. The old leaking classrooms in the playground have gone. Kids don’t know what their missing with buckets in the classroom when it was raining. Same to with the 1960’s secondary school I went to. Broken windows which didn’t shut and a ¼ mile walk between building in the pouring rain. My favourite is the college I went too. Most of it was built in the 1960’s but part of it was built in the 1990’s while I was a student there. They pulled it all down this year!
So good luck to you all with your studies, and good luck to the 4 munchkins of my extended family who start school this year. May you have a great time and learn all you can and enjoy your education. It’s only 12 years till you can leave or carry on if you want.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!