Newsletter 39

Welcome to the December issue of our occasional newsletter for 2014.


For this newsletter we have a West Country bias, starting with a virtually illegible stone in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul at North Curry in Somerset. It marks the grave of an almost forgotten village ‘wise woman’ called Doctress Ann Pounsberry, who died in 1813 (the year when Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published). Only a few letters of the inscription can now be deciphered, but several lines were thankfully recorded over a century ago, and the position of the stone was noted in a later churchyard survey, enabling us to locate it on a recent visit. So who was this ‘Doctress’?

Pounsberry Gravestone

Gravestone of Doctress Ann Pounsberry

at North Curry, Somerset

Wise women

Doctress was an alternative name for the village wise woman. They were present in most rural communities and supplied remedies (often herbal ones) as an alternative to the more expensive professional physicians, surgeons and apothecaries. John Clare, the 19th-century poet who wrote a great deal about everyday rural life, devoted one long poem (of 24 verses) to ‘The Village Doctress’. He doubtless knew such healers and, judging from his final verse, had seen a gravestone similar to the North Curry one:

‘And when she dies, no doubt fame’s latent spark
Will light up epitaph her powers to tell,
And warm the muse of worthy parish clerk
To chime a stanza while he chimes the bell,
And unto all the world her praises tell
If all the world would read her humble stone;
For ‘twere a burning shame and sin as well
That one who hath such cures and wonders shown
Should leave the world for aye and be for aye unknown.’

A Jewish doctress

Gravestones of other doctresses are known, and the antiquary Daniel Lysons came across a recent one at Bethnal Green, which he included in his topographical survey The Environs of London, published from 1792:

‘Near Ducking-pond-row, within the parish of Bethnal-Green, is a burial-ground of the Dutch Jews belonging to the synagogue at Bricklayers-hall, in Leadenhall-street … The inscriptions are for the most part in Hebrew only: the following is one of the few English epitaphs:

S earch England or the universe around,
A doctress so compleat cannot be found;
M edicines prepar’d from herbs remove each ill,
P erfect great cures and proclaim her skill:
S ome hundreds her assistance frequent claim,
O ften recorded by the trump of fame–
N ow, reader, see if you can tell her name.

The date is 5550 [by the Jewish Calendar], which corresponds with 1790 of the Christian aera [era].’

Mass media

In the 1829 edition of The Journal of A Naturalist, the author J. L. Knapp discussed the uses of vervain, a common wild plant:

‘Our village doctresses, an almost extinct race of useful, valuable women, the consolers, the comforters, and often mitigators of the ailments of the poor, still make use of vervain tea as a strengthener, and the dried powder of its leaves as a vermifuge [for worms], but probably in another generation all the venerated virtues of the vervain will be consigned to oblivion.’

Doctresses were part of their local community and often the first person to call in an emergency, and although Knapp thought that they were much less in evidence, newspaper accounts continued to mention them, giving evidence at inquests. This was the case with Ann Thomas from the port of Dartmouth in Devon, as reported in the Western Times for 4th February 1837:

‘INQUEST AT DARTMOUTH … a girl aged ten years, daughter of William Michaelmore, lime-burner, Warfleet, who during the absence of her mother (who was gone to market) went to the fire about some potatoes, caught herself in the flames, and running from the house into the open air, her cries were heard by her father, who was at work in the garden near the house; he immediately ran towards her and endeavoured with the assistance of a mariner to cut the burnt clothes from her body and she was taken into the house. The child was most dreadfully burnt over the back, left side, and arm, and she continued to linger in indescribable agonies until Saturday evening, four o’clock, when death terminated her sufferings.’

The inquest took place the next day, Sunday, and the jury first of all viewed the girl’s body, ‘which was a sad spectacle’, and then gathered in the Marine Tavern:

‘[They] heard the evidence of the father, the seaman, and a single woman, named Ann Thomas, known as a doctress in the town, who was called by the father, and who applied laudanum and oil, and exerted herself in a most satisfactory manner in endeavouring to alleviate the sufferings of the poor girl as far as human aid was available. The surgeon, Mr. Burroughs, who attended the child, being heard in evidence, it was plainly shown that the depositions were each fully corroborated. The jurors returned a verdict – Accidentally burnt, by which burning the child died.’

Ann Thomas was lucky not to have lived in earlier times when doctresses risked being accused of witchcraft – she may have found herself being blamed for the child’s death.

Seventh daughter of a seventh daughter

Ann Pounsberry in North Curry was unusual in being given the Christian name ‘Docteris’ or ‘Doctress’. Local tradition holds that this was because she was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. The seventh son of a seventh son and the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter were believed to have healing powers and often made their living as a ‘doctor’ or ‘doctress’.

Details about Ann’s life can be gleaned from several newspapers and archive records, but they have contradictory dates, making her 73 or 79 at her death. The parish records show that she was the daughter of Joan and Robert Derham and was christened ‘Docteris Ann’ on 10th December 1734. After marrying John Pounsberry on 23rd November 1762, she was known as Doctress Ann Pounsberry. The most detailed record is published in Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset (volume 16, 1920, p.104):

‘More than twenty years ago I copied the following epitaph from a stone in North Curry Churchyard.

to the
Memory of DOCTRESS
departed this life Dec. 11th 1813
Aged 73 Years.
Stand still and consider
the wondrous works of God.

Other names were recorded on the same stone. I was told that Doctress received her name on account of her being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. When she grew to womanhood she practised healing, and one of her name [a relative] informed me that he had seen the mark on the cheek of a man whom Doctress had “touched” for the King’s Evil [scrofula]. She is said to have been a deft-looking woman and gathered herbs to make her medicines. She lived at Knapp [a mile from North Curry], opposite Doctress Dwilly who was credited with the evil eye.’

The contributor to Notes and Queries ended his piece with one of her remedies: ‘Doctress Ann prescribed for the King’s Evil in this manner:– Take the legs of a toad. Bake and grind them to powder with pestle and mortar. Place the powder in a bag tied round the neck of the sufferer against the stomach.’

If Ann Pounsberry was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, this is not supported by what is known of her family tree, though in the 18th century records were not always made of children who died soon after birth, particularly if unbaptised. There must have been something special about Ann for her to have been given the name Doctress, and the most likely explanation is that she was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.


Although smuggling took place all over Britain, the West Country is often regarded as the home of this ‘free trade’. Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn was set here, and there are many true stories of smugglers operating along the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. By the mid-19th century the romantic era of smuggling was over, bringing an end to supplies of cheap brandy, whisky and gin.


The solution was to produce liquor in secret and sell to friends, family and beyond, so avoiding the high government taxes that the distillery and retailer had to pay. Smuggled and illicitly distilled alcohol was often called ‘moonshine’, possibly because it was made in secret at night-time, by the light of the moon, though most smuggling activity took place when there was no full moon, away from prying eyes. Making liquor involves fermentation and then distillation, which separates liquids with different boiling points.

The raid

In 1893, one enterprising household in the village of Whitestone in Devon was operating an illicit still, no doubt expecting to make a great deal of liquor for the Christmas season, especially for customers in the Exeter suburb of St Thomas some 4 miles away. The police came to hear of it, and Sergeant Egan and Constables Vanstone and Callard undertook an investigation and then informed the Inland Revenue.



The scattered village of Whitestone, with Exeter
in the distant haze (far left)

It was decided to mount a raid in the early hours of 2nd December at the home of William Sampson, described by the Western Times as ‘an ordinary farm labourer in whose lonely cottage at little frequented Whitstone the officers concerned found the still in active operation’. This led to William being prosecuted a month later, and the newspapers reported the raid:

‘Police Sergeant Egan went to the defendant’s house at two o’clock in the morning with Mr. Lilburn [Inland Revenue] and P.C. Callard. They knocked at the front door, and the defendant [Sampson] looked out the bedroom window. Witness [Egan] said, “Have you lost any ducks?” Defendant said, “I don’t know” and the sergeant said, “You had better come down and see this man”, this man being Callard who was in plain clothes.’

Being woken at such an hour to be asked about missing ducks might seem surreal to most of us, but Sampson may have kept ducks on land by his cottage. Even so, he was obviously suspicious:

‘The defendant did not hurry himself to open the door, and the sergeant gave several further knocks at the door, Sampson each time calling out, “Be down d’rectly.” Whilst the sergeant and party were trying to get in at the front, the St. Thomas Inland Revenue officer (Mr Hurst) and P.C. Vanstone were watching affairs at a side door and saw Mrs. Sampson go to the still-house near the kitchen and proceed to empty a jar. They gave the alarm to the party in front who promptly burst open the door and caught Mrs. Sampson pouring spirit from a two gallon jar into the cooling tub of the still. The still was in full working order and quite hot and had evidently just been recharged with mash.’

‘Mash’ usually means the fermented grain that was heated in the still, but one report stated that ‘the distillation was being made from apple’ – which would have produced an apple brandy or calvados. The Western Times explained that ‘This sort of spirit is sold in an extremely impure state, and likely to work havoc with any one indulging in it.’

Drinkers with Tankards 1

Adam and Eve

During the court case held at Exeter Castle, it was learned that when William appeared in the stillhouse, he feigned surprise at seeing Frances, his wife. ‘Hullo old woman, what have you been doing?’ he said, followed by ‘Mother, I thought you’d be caught’. Frances Sampson merely commented to the police: ‘Pretty fine time of night this to come into peoples’ houses. Why didn’t you come in a proper manner and ask for a drop if you wanted it?’ At his trial, William admitted that he knew about the still, but it was his wife’s concern and he was too busy working for Mr Hawkins – at 12 shillings a week.

The Western Times was not impressed by his defence:

‘What was the extent of the trade run by the owner, of this rude still, is not known; but no doubt there were numerous customers for the crude product. The labourer … laid the blame of the enterprise on his wife … It was Adam’s excuse over again: It was Eve who led our first parent into trouble, and William Sampson said that his wife would distil spirit, and therefore what was he to do? She was a woman who would have her own way.’

The penalty

The maximum penalty for the crime of keeping an illicit still was a £200 fine or three months in prison:

‘Mr. Lilburn pointed out that the offence was a serious one, and encouraged drinking frightfully. He therefore asked that a substantial penalty be inflicted … Mr. Snow [Chairman of the Bench], addressing the defendant, said this was one of the most serious offences with which the Bench had to deal … The Bench felt, therefore, that they would not be doing their duty if they fined him less than £20 and the costs which amounted to 7s, or six weeks imprisonment without hard labour. A week was allowed defendant to pay the money.’

One week later, William told the Bench that he had only 6 shillings of the fine, and so he was sent to prison for six weeks. Unfortunately, this was not a good year for him, because a few months later, in August 1894, the Devon and Exeter Daily Gazette reported: ‘William Sampson, aged 52, labourer, of Whitstone, was walking along a bank five feet high at Whitstone yesterday when he fell and fractured his leg. He was conveyed to the Devon and Exeter Hospital and detained.’

After his recovery, William and his family continued to live in the village. This is not the end of the story, as a great deal more research could be done, such as tracking down the precise location of his cottage (described in the 1901 census as ‘very much out of repair’). Did he and his wife give up their illegal production of liquor or simply not get caught again? Did Mr Hawkins employ him again? We know of one Hawkins family, who were blacksmiths and farmers. William’s nine-year-old grandson was living with him in 1901. Did he later enlist to fight in the First World War? Like all history research, it’s possible to veer off into countless directions, and it highlights how a few shreds of information can provide a narrative that fits into local and national history.


A ship of presents

On the last day of 1902, an alcohol-free party was held in the little port of Appledore on the north coast of Devon, which was reported in the North Devon Journal a few days later:

‘On Wednesday evening an entertainment and tea was held at the Bible Christian Chapel and there was a crowded attendance. Mr. E. Deane, who has been carrying on a successful temperance work in the Chapel, organised the proceedings, and they proved a great success. A great attraction was a boat 22ft long which was rigged as a ship, by willing helpers and prettily decorated with Chinese lanterns, and formed quite a pretty centrepiece. She was lent by Mr Hinks and was named the “John Lilly” for the evening because 62 years ago that night a large ship named the “John Lilly” came ashore on the pebble ridge loaded with a general cargo, and the ship breaking up the contents were picked up by the inhabitants, and, as it was hard times at Appledore at the time, many families were provided for by the wreck of the “John Lilly”’.

The model ship was ‘filled with useful presents, principally garments for the children’, no doubt evoking memories of the wreck of the John Lilley that had proved so fruitful to the Appledore residents six decades previously, as another newspaper explained:

‘The naming of the model John and Lily was owing to the fact that, 62 years ago to the very day on which the above performance took place, a ship (an East Indiaman), homeward bound, came ashore on Appledore bar, loaded with a general cargo, and there became a total wreck, her cargo being washed ashore. The people of Appledore were made the richer by being able to secure from her articles of clothing, &c. At the time the following verse was sung through the streets:–

The John and Lily
Came ashore
To feed the hungry
And clothe the poor.

At the time the vessel foundered the people in and around Appledore were in great distress, and her coming was considered a great boon. In many of the homes of Appledore today [1903] may be found articles such as antique china, clothing, old guns, pistols, and such like, recovered at the time, and kept as mementoes of the occasion.’


       Market Street in Appledore, Devon

The fable and the facts

Over time, memories of the wreck became less reliable, and even the date became uncertain. The John Lilley was an East Indiaman, a full-rigged wooden sailing ship, with a captain and 25 crewmen, trading between Liverpool and West Africa. In January 1843, the vessel left Liverpool for Old Calabar with a cargo of cottons, silks, pots and pans, guns, gunpowder and tobacco, but they were driven into the Bristol Channel as far as Appledore by a severe storm that grew into a hurricane. On 15th January, the captain and crew (apparently drunk) were taken off by a brig and transferred to the Appledore lifeboat. A few hours later the ship was wrecked on the nearby Saunton Sands. Many other vessels in this storm were also wrecked, and a useful source for shipwrecks is the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles by Richard and Bridget Larn (several volumes).

Much of the John Lilley’s cargo was washed up on the beach, and as far as the local people were concerned, it was their right to take whatever they could. By law they were only entitled to a reward, and anything that was kept was regarded as theft. This ‘right’ that was assumed by coastal communities even extended to the practice of wrecking, especially in Cornwall. Ships were deliberately lured on to rocks by wreckers, so that they could salvage the timbers and cargo, while the crews perished. Although this wrecking is now disputed, folk-memory does seem to confirm such activity. In the case of the John Lilley, the crew were saved, but the newspapers were critical of the behaviour of the local people:

‘The scene on Sunday morning [15th January 1843] was very distressing: hundreds of empty casks of all sizes were scattered up and down the sands; large timbers–planking broken to shreds–loose tobacco–pieces of cotton goods–barrels of gunpowder, &c., &c., lay in all directions … The officers of the revenue customs and coast guards were very actively engaged all day on Sunday in superintending the saving of the cargo; and it required their utmost efforts to preserve it from pillage; and but for their timely assistance and resolute defence, most of the property would have found its way across the sand-hills … The vigilant precautions of the commanding officer of the customs were barely sufficient to deter the bands of men and women that came down from purloining and carrying away whatever they could lay their hands upon. Another tide or two, and the whole of this fine vessel will have disappeared.’

It was acknowledged that the revenue officers failed to secure the whole cargo:

‘It is with indignation that we record to the lasting disgrace of this neighbourhood, that the most barefaced and shameful robberies have been committed on the wreck, and that not merely by the poor and ignorant, but by those who should have set an example of honesty to others. It is reported that one gentleman in a horse and gig left the strand laden with booty on Sunday, but we hope this is not true. Many carts, however, carried off quantities of staves and other property, but some of them are known and will be traced.’

A few unlucky people were arrested, and the same newspaper carried another report:

‘Three men of Braunton, viz., Mr. Berry Avery, farmer, of Knowle in the parish of Braunton; John Jeffries, his servant-boy; and George Slocombe, labourer; were apprehended on Tuesday night, having on carts in their possession a quantity of tobacco (exceeding 1cwt.) which they had taken from the wreck of the “John Lilly”, on Saunton Sands.’

One correspondent to Notes and Queries in 1903 was incensed, thinking that many lives had been lost in 1843. ‘After sixty-two years of so-called civilization,’ he wrote, ‘the people, instead of being ashamed of their ancestors, regretfully recall the incident by naming their toy shipful of presents after the poor wrecked East Indiaman!’ Doubtless the inhabitants knew that their ancestors had been fortunate to have benefited from the harvest of the seas. Many must have evaded the law, because by 1903 the ‘lasting disgrace’ of Appledore had become transformed into a memorable event worthy of celebration.


As we said in our previous newsletter, some of the feedback for our latest book, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England (Jane Austen’s England in the USA), has expressed surprise that we have also written naval and archaeological books. We therefore decided to describe some of our earlier books in the next few newsletters. Last time we focused on The War for All the Oceans, and this time we are looking at The Handbook of British Archaeology. It was our very first book and is still in print.

The seed of an idea

We were inspired to write the book while working as field archaeologists, frustrated that the available dictionaries and encyclopaedias were too general. They gave a broad picture of archaeology worldwide, but no fine detail about Britain. One excellent book on everyone’s shelves was the Collins Field Guide to Archaeology in Britain by Eric S. Wood, but it had a different format and did not cover everything that we wanted.

The skeleton grows

Apart from being as comprehensive as possible, we decided that our book should give alternative names (including obsolete ones) and contain copious illustrations; it needed to be arranged a bit like a thesaurus, with a vast index to help locate topics; and references to other books and articles at the end of each section would enable anyone to continue their research. So as to keep the book to a reasonable length, we reluctantly decided to exclude Ireland and not go beyond the medieval period.

We eventually decided on ten chapters – eight of them covering the archaeological periods in Britain (Palaeolithic to medieval), another on archaeological techniques and a final miscellaneous chapter. We also decided to draw all the illustrations ourselves so that they could show the maximum amount of information. This was an era of typewriters, drawing film and Rotring pens, and the work was exacting and very time consuming. Desktop computers were rare and expensive, and mobile phones were science fiction. Fortunately, we were hopelessly naive and too young to realise what a huge task we were taking on.

History of a book

The book started life, rather a long time ago, as a hardback called A Thesaurus of British Archaeology. It was published (with our own jacket design) by David & Charles, who then had an impressive archaeology list. As was customary, they sold the rights to the paperback, which was published by Macmillan under the Papermac imprint. The title was changed to The Handbook of British Archaeology, with a photograph of a London excavation on the cover.


The rise of The Handbook of British Archaeology – from left to right,

the original hardback (David & Charles);

the first paperback (Papermac);

the second paperback (Papermac);

the third paperback (Constable)

; and the revised and enlarged paperback (Constable & Robinson)

The initial paperback did not sell as well as expected, and so Macmillan changed the cover design to the ornamented helmet from Sutton Hoo. This greatly increased sales, giving us a practical demonstration of the persuasive power of a good cover design. This paperback was reprinted several times, but eventually Macmillan decided not to reprint, and the rights reverted to us. We then approached Constable, who accepted, and so the next version of the book was born, with an attractive gold buckle (again from Sutton Hoo) on a blue background as the stunning cover design.

A fashionable idea

The original idea to use ‘Handbook’ as part of the title came from Macmillan, and we decided that it was a very useful way of presenting information. We had an idea for a Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, and the Oxford office of the American publisher Facts On File took it on. They then closed the Oxford office, so we found ourselves dealing with the New York office for this book and two further books, an excellent introduction to the world of American publishing. One of those books was Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, and Facts On File set up a history and archaeology ‘Handbook’ series. Our paperback rights were sold to Oxford University Press, but they no longer publish them, as they in turn set up their own Handbook series, as did other publishers. It became a fashionable concept!

Coming of age

Eventually Constable & Robinson (as the publisher was now called) began to press for the book to be revised. In reality, it had stood the test of time because few things covered by the book had changed or been disproved, but far more information was now available, many more discoveries had been made, and archaeological techniques and technology had advanced rapidly. It was an impossible task for the two of us to contemplate, and we agreed to take an advisory role, while the publisher commissioned other people to do the work. Victoria Leitch took on the heavy task of co-ordination and editing, and she assembled a team of specialists who revised the existing chapters and wrote two new ones – ‘The Post-Medieval Period’ and ‘Archaeological Specialisms, Organisations and Legislation’. New illustrations were added and some of the old ones were redrawn to give a consistent appearance. The result was a magnificent tome nearly twice the size of the original book.

The latest edition of The Handbook of British Archaeology is published in paperback by Constable & Robinson (ISBN 978-1-84529-606-3). It has 532 pages with an extensive bibliography and index and many illustrations.

Over the past few years, most of our books have been published by Little, Brown, starting with Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle in 2004. The final ironic twist to The Handbook of British Archaeology story is that earlier this year, Constable & Robinson was taken over by Little, Brown. Our very first and latest books are now in their hands.

COMPETITION! [now closed]

We have a copy of The Handbook of British Archaeology to give away to the winners of this competition. In Britain, the historical period is conventionally accepted as starting with the Roman period, and the time before that is known as prehistory. This prehistoric period is divided up into smaller periods named after the predominant type of material used for tools and weapons. So the period immediately before the Roman period is called the Iron Age, because tools and weapons were made mainly of iron. For this competition, please tell us the name of the period that came immediately before the Iron Age. Was it:

A. The Bronze Age
B. The Bone Age
C. The Broker Age
D. The Block Age



And now the answer to the previous competition! At the end of 1813 the allied forces ranged against Napoleon Bonaparte were closing in, and eventually his closest and most loyal followers persuaded him that there was no alternative to abdication. After negotiations between the two sides, Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau on 11th April 1814 and travelled south to Fréjus where the British frigate Undaunted was waiting to take him into exile on the island of Elba. Napoleon spent his last night at Fréjus in the Chapeau Rouge, which was co-incidentally the place he had stayed when he first set foot back in France after returning from Egypt in October 1799. His years in power began and ended at the Chapeau Rouge in Fréjus, but possibly not by choice, since Captain Thomas Ussher of the Undaunted described the Chapeau Rouge as ‘a small Auberge, or hotel and, I believe, the only one in Fréjus’. On 30th May 1814, Napoleon reached Elba.

Return from exile

By the end of February 1815, rumours of Napoleon’s imminent escape were spreading through France. On 1st March he was back at Fréjus and ready to march on Paris. His ten months of exile had seen the restoration of the monarchy, a settling of old scores and widespread dissatisfaction with the new regime. Many people in France were ready to welcome back their former emperor.

On 4th March, news reached Grenoble that Napoleon was marching towards the town, gathering an army as he travelled. By the 7th he had reached Laffrey, 25 miles from Grenoble, where he met his first resistance. A detachment of men from the 5th regiment had been sent out from Grenoble, and although Napoleon’s small army could probably have overwhelmed them, he knew that such a battle would lose him the propaganda war. Instead, he unbuttoned his grey greatcoat to show his white waistcoat beneath and called out, ‘I am here. Kill your Emperor if you wish.’ After a moment of indecision, he was met by a roar of ‘Vive l’Empereur’, and the soldiers threw down their weapons, broke ranks and crowded round him, pledging their support.

Grenoble Landscape

Grenoble, in the shadow of the Alps

At Grenoble

In Grenoble everything was in confusion, with the inhabitants dividing into two factions, for and against Napoleon. As he approached on the night of 7th March, it became obvious that the town would welcome him, and he entered through the Bonne Gate for a triumphal ride through streets lined with people holding torches and shouting ‘Vive l’Empereur’.

The troops at Grenoble joined Napoleon, who now had a credible army of over 8,000 men and 30 cannons. He remained in the town for 1½ days, during which time he asked the mayor to find someone who could help in his office. Recommending Jacques-Joseph Champollion, the mayor gave the old spelling of the family name, Champoléon. Always conscious of such things, Napoleon exclaimed: ‘It’s a good omen – he has half my name!’ Jacques-Joseph was the brother of Jean-François Champollion, the linguist who would eventually be the first to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. Jean-François was introduced to Napoleon, and they spoke for only a few minutes. It was the only time the two men – both destined to be heroes to the French – were to meet. (For the rest of the story, see our book The Keys of Egypt!)

Grenoble Plaque

Plaque commemorating Napoleon’s entry into Grenoble

Paris: power, glory and exile

Napoleon later acknowledged that the events leading up to his entry into Grenoble had been the turning point, saying: ‘Before Grenoble I was only an adventurer, after Grenoble I was a prince.’ He next hurried north, his forces building all the while, until he reached Paris on 20th March, just after the king, Louis XVIII, and his court had fled over the Belgian border. Napoleon was now one-fifth into the ‘hundred days’, which is convenient shorthand for the period between his exile on Elba and his subsequent exile – which was actually well over a hundred days. After his defeat at Waterloo and subsequent abdication, he was finally exiled to St Helena in the Atlantic. (By the way, Alaric Bond’s latest novel, The Torrid Zone, is set on St Helena and has evocative descriptions of the island – ISBN 9780988236097)

Competition winners

The competition in the previous issue of our newsletter asked for the name of the island on which Napoleon was exiled for the first time in 1814. The answer is of course Elba, and the winners are Phil Brice (West Midlands), Jerry Bryant (Massachusetts, USA) and Richard Venn (Surrey).


Folklife Quarterly issue 43 for October 2014 has an article by us called ‘The Handloom Weaver and the Factory Maid’ (on pages 44–5). Check out their new website here.


The South West branch of the Jane Austen Society is holding four conferences in 2015, each one lasting from 10.30am to 3.30pm, with morning coffee, buffet lunch and two lectures. They are held in central Exeter (at Southernhay Hall, Dix’s Field, EX1 1QA). The first one is on Saturday 31st January, and we will be talking on ‘Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England’, while Amy Frost will be talking about ‘Living in a Georgian House’. The annual membership of the South West branch is £8 – for further details, see here (you do not have to be a member of the main Jane Austen Society to join).


Take a look at this piece that we wrote for our blog recently, suggesting a few books that Jane Austen might choose to buy as gifts if she was teleported to the modern world (we have assumed that she would prefer books above all else).


In our newsletter for August 2014, we featured embroidered and woven silk postcards from France that were popular during the Great War (the First World War). In the Second World War there was a resurgence of such postcards, but they were never as popular and were not produced in the same quantities, probably because France was occupied from 1940.

Christmas Postcard

A wartime Christmas postcard

The embroidered postcard above was sent as a Christmas card to his family by a soldier in France, probably for Christmas 1944 or after the war, for Christmas 1945. It shows a decorated tree with lighted candles and a star. There is a brief Christmas greeting on the reverse, with no address or postmark, and so it was probably sent in an envelope.

We would like to wish you all an enjoyable festive season. Many thanks for your support throughout 2014. We appreciate your feedback relating to our books, blog and newsletters, including your reviews, comments, tweets, ‘likes’ and so on that you have done – or are about to do! It does make a difference in this digital age, as do your recommendations to all and sundry to buy our books. Here’s to an enjoyable 2015.