York honours its King

York yesterday was the focus of several events arranged by its people to honour King Richard III ,Lord of the North.


Many of its citizens and those in the surrounding area were involved but so too were many from around the UK and from further afield ,Europe and the USA.

Its was a breezy but mostly sunny Spring day and the trees were starting to bloom providing a beautiful backdrop to the day

cherry blossum york

The highlight of the afternoon was the Guildhall celebration of Richards life.The Guildhall was the perfect setting

the guildhall window

(many thanks to Vanessa Maria Roe for this beautiful image of light shining through the guildhall windows)

The program a well thought out tribute to King Richard

program guildhall

.There was a beautiful floral tribute

Richard third event guildhall

It was well attended with no free seats .Admission was free but by ticket to prevent disappointment at the door or overcrowding,people turned up early and the Hall started to fill

guildhall 1

There was a varied but entirely appropriate program .

guidlhall band

I am indebted to the Northern Dales Richard III groups for these photos and the short account below.

A commemoration in Prayers, Readings and Music of The Most Famous Prince of Blessed Memory. The Guildhall was packed with Ricardians – a lovely, well-designed, well-executed tribute to King Richard.

FB page link


The highlight of the evening ought to have been the evensong at Yorks magnificent  Minister .

York minister sd

the spiritual heart of Yorkshire.For many who like me had been prevented from attending other events due to family or work commitments this was a long and eagerly awaited event.  The  greater part of service was beautiful and many gave their free time to supplement the normal evensong choir .The service was attended by dignitaries and minster clergy.

people leave minister

.Sadly the Dean  who had previously come to York as dean fresh from her post at Leicester Cathedral choose this service to preach a divisive sermon,I covered this elswhere .Most people left looking less than happy .

people leaving minister

The service was followed by a very well attended procession through York and a short address.

the processesion york

The Minister looked beautiful in the golden light of early evening and for me this was my last sight of York .

the minister magic hour

After the sad events in the Minister many found the beautiful and moving  Requim Mass  at ST Wilfrid,s  RC church  a great consolation

.(the photo below is from Wikipedia by Kaihsu Tai http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Wilfrid%27s,_York#/media/File:St_Wilfrids_York_interior.JPG


other had not attended the evensong  due to other commitments and for them this service was a beautiful end to the day.It also fulfilled the wishes for Richard to have a suitable Catholic service .This account is from the Churches website .

“a Requiem Mass for King Richard III on Thursday 26th March (the day of his burial in Leicester) at 7pm in St Wilfrid’s Church after the events in York Minster. This is at the request of some members of the Richard III Society who point out that King Richard left instructions for a chantry chapel in York Minster with one hundred priests to say Masses for his soul.

The celebrant will be Rt Rev. Terence Drainey the Bishop of Middlesbrough and the preacher, Fr Richard Duffield, Parish Priest of St Wilfrid’s.

The Mass will be in English with the Latin Plainchant familiar to King Richard sung by the choir.


St Wilfreds has now put up an account with images of its beautiful requiem mass


The people of York  honoured Richard with dignity and respect.

We have never needed to go “Looking for Richard” because we were never careless enough to lose him .

Richard Lord of the North may currently be entombed in Leicester but he has always and will always reign in York and in the hearts of its people

Loyalty binds us

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“You think of me as the Enemy in your midst” ,,hmm well now we do Dean Faull

I am just returned from the  special Choral Evensong at York Minister that was supposed to be in honour of Richard III  Lord of the North.

Like many I felt Richard ought to have been re interred in York Minister ,however this was not uppermost in the minds of all those I met waiting to enter the chapel to celebrate Evensong,I heard many northern accents but also many from around the UK ,I spoke  to visitors from Europe and the USA who had come long  distances to honour Richards memory in his spiritual home ,this included some ladies from the Leicester area.  We had all travelled either individually ,with friends or in some cases in groups to come to York and honour our King .

york minister 1

The Minister is breathtakingly magnificent and hallowed by centuries of prayer, the peace was palpable .The choir sang beautifully and the service was moving and spiritually uplifting .That is until the Dean gave her homily  .I had noticed at the beginning of the service when she welcomed everyone she seemed slightly nervous and I felt a little sorry for her as did others .She had been responsible for the statement saying York would not accept Richard III ,s body which probably strongly influenced opinion  against York  and had not long before been Dean of Leicester ,so I guess she may have felt a bit apprehensive. While I in common with others  may have preferred  someone else  to lead worship   we where willing to submit to the decision without too much thought she is after all Dean.

I assumed she had insisted on taking the service to build bridges and repair damage .Unfortunately this was clearly not the case.What followed was unbelievable ,utterly incredible,it was an eulogy to Leicester ,She  opened her address by admitting she had  “some trepidation” in giving her homily ,she said many of those present would be thinking of her as “the enemy in your midst”. Then plainly stated that we might have wanted Richard buried in York but the law had found against us and we couldn’t.  (apparently this statement was accompanied by a wide smile) She then stated  that he was buried in Leicester now and would shortly be sealed in his tomb there in the Cathedral.The greater part of the homily then concerned what had been done in Leicester ,how good Leicester was  and some rather weirdly reasoned comments about Leicester and its people reinventing its history ,embracing other cultures etc which had no obvious links to either the Christian faith or Richard III .There was barely any  mention of Richard III by name  what few “facts” she mentioned she got wrong,for instance she said he had reigned for “a few months” .There was no mention of his life ,his links to the North or the love of the North for him.There was actually no spiritual input to the homily either .I don’t believe that the name of Jesus Christ was mentioned even once,it was a lost chance to present  the gospel of Christ to a congregation that was probably partly composed on non church goers. Considering the content there can have been no other reason for her homily than to teach us a lesson in humility .The outrage caused by the deans address can be most clearly seen by the fact that a petition to have her removed from her post at York (started by a non attendee at the evensong  )received over 100 signatures in its first 24 hours and currently stands after 7 days at 152 signatures .This must be at least 10 percent of people at the evensong and considering the limited space  I suspect it is nearer to 20 percent or more ,assuming that many people attending do not know of the petition or may not own computers this is a huge number of people outraged by Dean Faulls behaviour.(Prior to the Thursday services homily I would not have signed the petition )

It is so very, very sad that what was supposed to be a positive thing  namely a celebration of Richards life became a platform for personal vendettas . The house of God was used to promote the Deans personal agendas and promote a city that is not  now part of her spiritual care .

She and the Minister have betrayed their spiritual duty to their congregation .They or at least Dean Faull ignored their promise on the York Minister s own website which reads

“We are working closely with other organisations in York to celebrate the life of Richard III over the course of the next 12 months. Richard III is remembered fondly in the city, and so we are pleased that City of York Council, York Minster, the University of York, York Museums Trust, the Richard III Society and the king’s descendants are working together in this way. We welcome the chance to involve York Minster’s archives and building to support commemorations of Richard III who is remembered here in stained glass, in our historic records and through the investiture of his son as Prince of Wales”


I think its fair to say that many at the service felt at least a little disheartened at what is felt ( rightly or wrongly) to have been the disrespectful events in the time leading up to the re interment of King Richard. We were wounded souls seeing solace in honouring Richard in York and looking perhaps for reaffirmation of the godliness of  the church as we had not had the best of experience of it over the the past few months.

The dean ought to have reached out to her flock ,offered encouragement and solace , She could  and should have built bridges and reaffirmed our faith in the Church.Instead she choose to  use the pulpit to kick us while we were down .

After the service while still in the minister  she was overheard by several people telling those around  her that she did not  care if she had upset people ,she was laughing on exiting the service and looked happy and smiling greeting the leaving VIPs.

An  onlooker stated

“when I was listening to her after we left the Minster, she was basically just bragging to other people that she isn’t bothered that she annoyed people by mentioning Leicester ”

I am told the Dean received a bouquet of White roses from Leicester in the days after her address.I have also had it confirmed  by several people that that York Minister had refused to allow white roses to be carried in  or used at the service and that people had been prevented from placing them under the Richard III window.While it was Lent when flowers are traditionally absent from churches ,the Minister had several other wreaths in its side chapels.Leicester Cathedral had white roses and many other flowers at the re interment .Banning white roses from Yorkshire’s spiritual centre seems quite simply wrong .

.We also discovered later that she had been on record on more than one occasion making assurances that York events would not divert attention from those in Leicester or take the focus from it.A promise she has more than fulfilled though it did not need to have been so militantly observed.

Shame on her!  and shame on the Minister! who has allowed the Dean to bring division and distress to a congregation seeking only to honour its own and were many had been keenly hoping for solace and reconciliation.

york minister dean


Here is a sample of the comments from the changeorg petition.It should also be made public knowledge that the author of the petition has had pressure put on them to remove it ,,an anonymous spokesperson from the Minister  has complained about it.Though Minster staff are clearly keeping abreast of the comments below ,no offer at an apology has been made ,only the Ministers statement to the press criticising it .

By contrast full credit to  Professor Gordon Campbell who issued a full and total apology for his factual errors which I reproduce below

I regret to say that on the Historical Note that I wrote for the Orders of Service for the reinterment of Richard III, I inadvertently substituted the birthday of Richard’s mother (3 May) for the birthday of Richard (2 October).  I also stated that he emerged into public life in 1459: the date should have read 1469.

I apologise for the error, which was entirely my fault.

Gordon Campbell DLitt FBA
Fellow in Renaissance Studies
University of Leicester

I also include a selection of comments from the changeorg petition

  • dawn bailey SCUNTHORPE, ENG
    • 6 days ago

    The Dean of York doesn’t have the interests of York at heart

  • Angela cuthbert NORTHALLERTON, ENG
    • 6 days ago

    I was there at Evensong and witnessed the travesty of the sermon.

    • Marjorie hodgkinson BRADFORD, ENG
      • 5 days ago

      How can her congregation have respect for her When it is obvious she has no respect for them. Whichever side people are on the service for Richard 111 in York was NOT the place for politics or to extol the virtues of Leicester Which is obviously where her allegiance lies. I suggests she is dismissed from York Minster, and returned to the town she think more of for the people of Yorkshire don’t want here. I for one will Not enter the Minster while she is there

      • Dee Boucher OLDBURY, ENG
        • 1 day ago

        She is obviously forgetting her flock in York and her duty to the Minster and is still feeling piqued that she has missed out on being the centre of attention in Leicester. I can see no other reason for her constantly promoting her former parish. You cannot deny King Richard’s connections to York as described by the Yorkshire Museum later that evening, the York Fabric Rolls and many documents that Yorkshire has in its archives. She couldn’t even mention one connection in her homily as if she were ashamed, which I think she has has she has discouraged even the York Minster staff from acknowledging his window and telling visitors about it.

        Sonia Dimmock NOTTINGHAM, ENG
        • 5 days ago

        She deliberately set out to sabotage what should have been a reverent service. Before she spoke it was. She is not fit to be a representative of the Church of England

      Tee Bylo  N yorks

      her contemptuous resolve to destroy the Service of Evensong at York Minster on Thursday March 26 2014 was sadly a further indication that she has neither the humility nor the understanding equal to her role as the Dean of York Minster.

      It is my personal belief that Vivienne Faull is unsuited to her calling as the Dean of York Minster and that the people of York deserve a Dean possessed of integrity and compassion.

      zi jones LLANDYSUL, WLS
      • 4 days ago

      This woman is self seeking self serving and smug. Instead of acting for good, she acted in the basest way imaginable, favouring her previous place of employment shamefully. She clearly doesnt believe in God, because she obviously has no worries about meeting him her one day to explain her wicked actions. Rumours  of threats to members of the York clergy should they push for Richard to be reinterred where he wished to be are also extremely disturbing and should be thoroughly investigated by a church commision. I would urge those members who were threatened to blow that whistle as hard as they can and make York Minster sacred ground again instead of what she has made it. A big old building you have to ay to get into.

      • Nick Ford SOUTHAMPTON, ENG
        • 3 days ago

        The Church should offer comfort to the downcast, and reconciliation where there is enmity. Dean Faull used the occasion of the choral evensong at the Minster on 26th March to crow about her co-operative achievements with her opposite number in Lecicester in ignoring the easily-inferrable wishes of the deceased. It was unChristian, petty, triumphalist and well below the standard the Church should expect of its senior clergy.

          • 3 days ago

          I am disgraced by it all

          • Gerri Andrades WIRRAL, ENG
            • 2 days ago

            Dean Faulls homily the during the service of evensong could have been such an opportunity to attempt to heal divisions that have happened between the supporters of a York versus Leicester re internment. Sadly she took an opposite line which resulted in more hurt and anger. I am only glad that from the Minster I went to St Wilfred’s RC church where a requiem mass for King Richard was said. Thanks be to St Wilfred’s.

            Wendy Saunders SYDNEY, NSW
            • 2 days ago

            Another person in the wrong place, send her packing if she doesn’t want to represent the people of Yorkshires wishes dead or alive.

            R Simmons

            I  attended the service from about halfway through – I missed the earlier comments. But most of the service I heard, Richard wasn’t mentioned at all, and when he finally was, it was all about Leicester. I too walked out. I didn’t go to York to hear about Leicester, I went to pay my respects to Richard. Dean Faull wasn’t doing that, and continued to support her former parish. It isn’t good enough, her biased behaviour has no place in the church.

            rita Jackson · Potters Bar

            I had been unwell up until Thursday and still not feeling up to travelling to York from London, but I felt I had to be there, in the Minster, to witness the commemorative service for King Richard, afterall, this was the church he loved and prayed in. To say we were let down would be the biggest understatement. This service was a Leicester excuse service, and nothing more. Nothing about Richard’s life in the North whatsoever. Dean Faull insulted us further by telling us that Richard had been king for ‘a few months’. I’m sorry to say that she’s an absolute disgrace.

            We were so much looking forward to this Service in the Minster and people had travelled from America and Australia to attent this and also the Guildhall event. The Guildhall was magnificent and the programme was filled with love for Richard and genuine Honour, Respect And Loyaulty…… We went from this to high expectations to the Minster

            Sheffield, United Kingdom

            27 Mar 2015 — “In spite of efforts to arrange a dedicated ceremony in the Minster, the Solemn Evensong was the only service they would allow. It was advertised as being “in commemoration of King Richard III” and orders of service were handed out with that title on the cover.,,,

            The ceremony was basically their usual evensong with no specific mention of Richard until around the final third of the service which was a homily delivered by Dean Vivienne Faull. To the great horror of those crammed into the tightly packed seats we very quickly realised this homily was no homage to Richard, but instead was a validation of Leicester’s right to own him. Nothing was said about Richard’s time in York. It was pure and simple Leicester propaganda. A handful of us could take no more. We got up and walked out while she was still speaking, having to walk the full length of the quire with all eyes upon us. It felt right and it felt good. I know a lot of others would have joined us, but they were so tightly packed in they were unable to get out of their seats (a genuine health and safety hazard I think).
            Also, the order of ceremony contained no specifically written words about Richard, just a reproduction of a piece written for the service in Leicester.
            Both churches disgust me.”

            The further damage done to York /Leicester relations cane been seen by reaction to the petition ,Leicester people see it as a vendetta against the Dean purely because she is from Leicester

            Lyn Studley

            What a ridiculous petition. These people are fanatics who attack anyone and anything with links to Leicester . Sour grapes doesn’t come close , they are so jealous of our city.

            Darren Blackburn · Leicester, United Kingdom

            Totally silly petition by fanatics


This was the initial statement made by Dean Faull on behalf of the minister when she refused to have King Richards Remains

“York Minster itself has a window in his memory and many reminders of Richard’s place in our story.

However, the recent verification of the identity of his remains follows a significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death. It was Leicester Franciscans who gave him burial, and the cathedral has a major memorial to his memory at its heart.

When the possibility of an excavation of the Greyfriars site began, it was agreed from the start that any remains found would be reinterred in Leicester. When the archaeologists found an intact body the Ministry of Justice licence was drawn up in those terms and explicitly named Leicester Cathedral.

Since the news of the finding last year local people, like the people of York, have expressed a very strong wish that Richard, who has been with them since 1485, should stay in their keeping.

The Chapter supports the terms of the Ministry of Justice licence and the wish of Chapter of Leicester that Richard should be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.”

the minister magic hour

Re the “Walk out”

A few brave souls made a dignified exit down the main nave and other left through side exits .I know some feel that if there was such strong feeling more people should have left. There would almost certainly have been more “walk outs” if the space had not been so overcrowded and cramped .

Leaving for most of us in the old narrow box pews and antique  wooden bench seats would have meant requiring others to move out of their place in the pew or at the very least gather up their things and stand up to let you pass before you could get out.There were many elderly people in the congregation who were unable to move quickly  and most of us were seated with at least some people we didn’t know .If once you had stood up one person in the pew was likely to refuse to move  then you would be stood mid pew cramped and hovering over someone in limbo.In some cases people were seated next to pews full of dignitaries which could have made leaving look threatening and caused an incident with security as the Minister now has its own self governing police force.In some cases ushers were present at pew ends and I personally felt they would have been unwilling to allow you to leave without a confrontation .I also think there was a lot of stunned disbelief  it was very hard to actually believe what was being said one of the most common comments I heard while leaving was “unbelivable”

Honestly my own thoughts through the address ran as follows, though I cant remember all the address verbatim  or its exact order after the first few words  but  the overall tenor is precise

The Deans opened with  “some of you consider me the enemy in your midst” at which I thought” well thats a bit OTT ,dont be silly “,,it also felt vaguely accusatory ., I was slightly irritated ,but I figured she was just mentioning the elephant in the room ,,that she was unpopular in some quarters.

Dean  stated  Richard “reigned for a few short months “,,,I thought WHAT .no he didnt ,,what ,,whhh

She continued” You would have liked Richard buried here ,but the law said no ,”, I thought ,,”bloody hell  thats a bit rude and confrontational ,,but true so maybe its leading to something better”,

Dean “Richard is now being interred in Leicester “,I thought “What !  really ,your going there ,,,I  know that ,but thats why I am here to honour him in york”

His tomb sealed  this night ,,”WHAT really your dwelling on that ,,for pitys sake woman!”

Now the first thoughts of escape started to surface but I was in a box pew  at the very end and  I also wasnt sure where the nearest open door was ,as I am around the height of a  taller than average  hobbit the box pew limited my view A LOT ! I sat as tall as possible in the pew trying to see  over the top looking for an open exit ,saw a few people slip  out of one opposite and wondered if I dared cross the aisle and run the gauntlet of officials.

Meanwhile the dean was talking about Leicester,,A LOT  ,its achievements ,what she had been doing etc

Now I really ,really wanted to leave ,but there was a long row of people all with bags and coats on the floor in front of them and some were elderly ,I was debating how many would stand up quickly or at all or if being directly in front of the deans pulpit it might be too confrontational.

Meanwhile on and on went the Leicester comments occasionally I would think “whhhhhat ,,did she actually really ,really say that ?”

I started a weird  to and fro argument in my head “Theres no possible explanation for this except that she is  trying to humble and humiliate  us ,she,s decided to settle old scores” ,,”no surely not shes a minister of god,”,,

“OK enough  !I don’t  want or need to listen to her ,how dare she use the house of God and the homily which is supposed to preach the word of god for her own personal agenda,I should stand up and say something” ,,nervous look at the ushers,”,maybe not “,My daughter would go barmy if she saw mum being dragged out of the minister by police and maybe I am being over sensitive and over reacting .

Several people left quietly and with dignity down the central nave ,from somewhere behind me an usher or possibly  security came quickly forward and there was muttering behind him by others , I honestly thought he was planning on stopping any further walk outs ,he looked a bit anxious .

“Ok “I thought” thats ,that I am stuck here.How can I express discontent ,,say something? ,nope bad move it  will cause an upset and bring the event into disrepute everyone will say”there you are they are all trouble makers ,bad losers,just as well they didnt get  King Richard up north.”also it just possible I will get arrested ,,that will upset becks and dad

I thought “so this is what it felt like back in time being  a dissenter or peasant forced to listen to sermons that were directed at denigrating you and your region,,,I  came quite close to tears.

My Mum had died just before Christmas and  Dad had travelled up from Wales to Scatter her ashes which we had done the day before the Evensong .I had gone to the Minister to honour Richard but also hoping perhaps for some spiritual solace as it had felt like a week of death and sadness ,futility and defeat.As a Christian of over thirty years I had naively believed the service  would give me some strength to deal with the coming week.

At the end of the service I  and some others decided to show our  distaste by pointedly sitting down as the dean processed towards the door.I felt that by then standing as soon as she had passed,it would show respect for the officials and clergy present but disapproval to the specific person responsible for bringing shame to the Minister .

As I left  it was clear people were unhappy ,I head a lot of  people saying “unbelievable ” or just shaking their heads,my favourite comment has to be an elderly gentlemen who said to his neighbour “that womans not right in her head”

I still wish I had walked out like those brave souls.

Footnote 2

After the Deans overreaction to criticism  and exaggerated tales of “threats ” after the perfectly reasonable criticism of her refusal to allow reburial in York I felt a post service photo might be in order  .Despite her rudeness and confrontational  homily she was not disturbed or worried but stood shaking hands and talking to dignitaries ,she was not accosted and was involved in the procession through York where many of those who were upset  walked in close proximity  made no attempt to speak to her.I do understand however that she was triumphalist at having given her address and unconcerned over suggestions that she may have upset people.

york minister dean

The event was covered by media from around the region and  the event despite the Dean ran smoothly and was dignified

press york minister

Footnote with regard to the petition

This is a statement from one of those concerned which all those present including myself can verify .

“A couple of further points, just to set the record straight. Firstly, none of us who walked out actually said anything. It was a completely silent and dignified exit. So if anyone says comments, abusive or otherwise, were shouted at the Dean, this is untrue.

Secondly, the petition regarding the Dean was not started by any one of us who walked out last night. Speaking just for myself, I haven’t signed it and I have strong reservations about its efficacy. Again, if anyone states it was instigated by us, this also is false.

I’ve heard various reports along the lines of “people walked out and shouted abuse at the Dean and now they’ve started a petition”, so I felt it was necessary to set the record straight on both counts. Thank you.”


Perhaps instead of choosing a bible reading on “submitting to authority” which I did find odd (or at least I found it odd until I heard the homily ) the dean ought to have considered this reading from Micah

“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise;”

The Dean may  feel she can continue to insult and denigrate the people of her parish and she may escape censor from the  leaders of church militant but she was heard and will be judged more harshly by the  Head of Church Triumphant .

With regard to King Richard may he rest in peace .

He may indeed lie in Leicester but he reigns in York and always will ,Loyalty binds us

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Thinking outside the box ,starting out on my rented city houses wildlife friendly garden. Part one keeping animals in and out

An unusual post for a costume blog but we have moved to a new house that has some wildlife challenges including a large number of visiting foxes ,several hedgehogs that passed through but didn’t visit properly.
Three grey squirrels
squirrel trex
and a range of birdlife from the tiniest of tits

blue tit and nuthatch

to magpies.

magpies feeding shed

.Originaly there were no frequent bird visitors except  around a dozen magpies of which  only four visited regularly.Two of these  looked very sorry for themselves with lost feathers ,,apparently parent magpies often get out of condition caring for their juvenile offspring’s demands (so its not just human parents who have teenagers that cause problems )
magpie parent
We also had pigeons ,both woodpigeons and the standard pigeon.

and crows

We see occasional bats pass by mostly larger ones .Add to these the smaller slugs ,snails insects and butterflies which were attracted by a very large buddleia and which I like to watch but which I also have a totally illogical fear of.
butterly one

We have pets  ,A large Norwegian forest cat that loves the outside


And a very timid part Bengal

Plus two dogs a medium sized Belgium Shepherd  and cavalier King Charles Spaniel
All these needed accommodating.I also wanted to encourage fungi and native flora.

We live in a privately owned ex council house ,so there were limits to how much we could do in the garden ,though our landlord is very happy for us to sort fences and plant small shrubs etc .Its a semi detached on a very quiet road ,but we no longer had the extensive gardens we had at our last house just a small front garden mostly pea gravel .
front garden
A narrow very short drive that provided off road parking and was concrete.
side house drive
I had to block this off with some bought railings to stop our dogs escaping and foxes getting in but its looking pretty untidy at the moment as this is still a work in progress as we rent the house and cant fix permanent gates.I am ordering shrubs for the planers next week .It keeps the dogs in and so far has kept foxes out as though the fence is short its a wide fence as there’s planters at both sides and I put the bins near by .I will be putting nicer much larger planters there in the next couple of weeks which will make it nicer and more effective.

front garden side
I don’t think it would be possible to completely fox proof the front  garden while it has its current gate which is low ,however I haven’t seen foxes in it since I made the barrier as they don’t like not being able to see clearly were they can jump and probably more importantly its much easier just to go in our neighbours gardens as they don’t have hedges.I left gaps at ground level for the hedgehogs which has been effective.
drive front

I put wire across some large gaps in the gravel part of the garden as the dogs got out through them  and the foxes came in there.The wire  isnt visible and worked well .I have a small table ,chair  ,granite slabs and planters  which focus attention on that corner rather than the more or less invisible green chicken wire
garden front pro

I also added some stainless steel “balls” which deter the magpies from settling on the ground and leave the space free for smaller birds to eat from the feeders and off the table

The main garden
We also have a fairly decent sized back garden with hedges.
back garden
This backs onto one of those small hundred or so sq metres of lawn with a bit of green space and mature trees that are a common part of council estate planning and encourages wildlife.However that fact  that we now live on the edge of a big city (all be it surrounded by large areas of park and woodland)I originally assumed we wouldn’t be able to attract wildlife but this is far from the case so I thought I would post a few progress reports .

My aim was to allow the foxes ,hedgehogs and a possible polecat that I see glimpses of to continue their journeys across what was their territory while ensuring our small Cavalier King Charles couldn’t escape and that if a cat was cornered by a another cat ,a fox or the polecat it could escape and have easy multiple access routes to our garden .
I also wanted to widen the birdlife ,when we first arrived there was only the magpies and pigeons that visited regularly ,no songbirds and only an occasional blue tit .
First problem limiting and controlling  access
Making the garden secure ,We had a lot of foxes that passed through the garden and three semi residents that sat or lay down in it at night.
fox and vixen
Plus two juveniles that appeared often but not nightly. We also had what was clearly a foxes earth at the very end of the garden. I loved to see them but the foxes had made quite large gaps in the hedging out of which our spaniel escaped regularly as there was almost no other barrier except random panels of chicken wire and a broken picket fence along two sides. They marked their territory in the garden which I didn’t mind but our spaniel insisted on rolling in the fox poop.which made her very happy but meant fairly regularly having to bath her
tilly dirty
It was also worrying to have the quite large foxes in both the front and back gardens at night when they came within a couple of feet of the house and front door and we needed to let the dogs out to relieve themselves before bed .Despite the commonly recited “fact” that foxes are nut much bigger than domestic cats several of ours are very large indeed ,,almost the same height as our Belgium Shepard dog ,though more lightly built.
I took photos of the foxes next to garden chairs to compare them to dogs sizes. This is one of the smaller foxes
vizen chair
Not all the foxes are timid ,though the local cats seemed to scare them and I have seen them waiting  in line behind one to eat some food that had been left out in a garden .Our quite big cat despite being used to holding her own and terrorising our dogs didnt scare it at all and on one occasion she came across one and started hissing it and lashing out with her claws but rather alarmingly it held its ground and seemed ready for a fight ,I am not sure what the outcome would have been had I not intervened. I know all the local cats wander about at night and in the streets the foxes pass by within a few yards and tend to avoid them but I have also seen a few missing cats posters so I keep our cats in now at night.I suspect the problem in our garden was that our cats were newly introduced in to what the foxes would see as their territory and which they relied on for a food source as they were fed by a lot of people close by had this not been the case I doubt there would have been any problem.
Also the foxes would run off our dogs ball if we forgot to put them up high ,which was funny.(I did at one point have to do something I hadn’t done since childhood and knock on a neighbours door to ask if I could have my ball back ) but it was starting to work out expensive. Unfortunately our cat who used to nosey around nr the earth and sit were the foxes sat ,caught Sarcoptic mange and passed it on to all our pets not a major problem we caught it early and its easy to treat ,but it was an expensive vets trip and a huge amount of house cleaning as we also got the odd bite ,though the mites cant complete their life cycle on humans so this wasn’t a major problem .Bites are just a little worse than the odd flea bite . The foxes are currently being treated by our neighbours with free mange treatment from the foxes trust
, http://www.nfws.org.uk/
Its also fairly unusual for foxes to pass it on to pets ,we were unlucky in that the foxes spent a lot of time in our garden sitting were our pets sat and our cat would nosey around nr their paths and earth.Theres also a LOT of foxes in the area they run up and down the street ,across the gardens and come from some woodland close by. I read a great many blogs and sites that all claimed there was no way to exclude foxes from your garden and the best way to deter them was to make sure there was no food out ,unfortunately several people in the area feed them regularly and our garden is a route to those other gardens and we also had an earth that seemed currently to be unused but which had been used recently. I was determined that I would exclude the foxes completely as it was the only way to keep our Spaniel in as she’s much smaller than the foxes so were they get in she can easily get out, I still wanted to give the foxes access though so I therefore bought an metal arbour and a lot of varying widths of coated chicken wire . I made a second barrier at the end of the garden nr the earth and the fence gaps were the foxes mostly came in ,this gave a passageway behind the sheds to the food sources for the foxes and secured the garden . I did this by assembling the arbour ,which only took a hour or so and so special skills or tools as it came flat packed .I then attached the wide space gauge chicken wire to the arbour and shed up to a height of 7 feet curving it slightly at the top to create an overhang it left a wide very clear path to the other gardens.
arbour fence
I threw dog food along the alternative route for a few days and the foxes are quite happy to go that way now and don’t bother trying to get to the garden through that route .The wire is wide enough to allow small birds access to the shrubs
I left a small hedgehog sized gap at the bottom for the hedgehogs and ground feeding birds while weighting down the rest with wicker planters ,they house an nice variety of bug life for the birds to eat).I feed the hedgerow birds in an overgrown part where the magpies cant get and I intend to add some much wider gauge chicken wire over the tops of some of the shrubs and brambles and plant some hawthorns to create a safe space for smaller birds to eat and nest as this should create a barrier to the squirrels and magpies and prevent the nests being raided in spring. I used green plastic coated chicken wire which is invisible from a distance (I put green ribbons at intervals to avoid the birds flying into it)The Arbour is the only thing that’s noticeable when you look up the garden ,I intend to further disguise it by adding native trees and shrubs to the top of the garden soon
garden top progress 1
There were several other transient foxes that came front next doors garden through ours and out the other side into neighbours gardens all the neighbours gardens has gaps that the foxes got through and so I wanted to leave our fox visitors a route too . I blocked as many big gaps as I could with plastic mesh fencing pieces and just left ones I could get to ,I also blocked off completely large gaps in the hedge at one side .This left half of the garden with a long narrow corridor that would comfortably allow foxes along to get to the back route behind the arbour .however it meant they also didn’t have unlimited access along the fence and had to go that way .I made three of these barriers with branches pulled across in-between .The blocked off parts had gaps big enough for cats and hedgehogs to squeeze under and but not for foxes as there wasn’t enough space between the barriers which were extremely well intermingled with branches . It also meant while our cats could get in through comfortable sized gaps the route was far too restricted for a fox or our spaniel . corridor hedge I will be sowing wild flowers in parts this gap so that theres some food for butterfly’s and bees ,I plan to plant honesty and feverfew which I have found will grow more or less anywhere .I am also gradually adding bits of rotten branches and chunks of logs from my walks to promote a nice range of bug life for the hedgehogs ,birds and as homes for burrowing bees etc ,these will reinforce the barrier parts but also provide habitats. I will further plant some climbers such as sweet briar and honeysuckle to cover the wire were its visible but not block the routes. I have already run the wire up to seven feet high on the hedge side and the top part is narrow wire to prevent big birds access, I intend to add another panel of wire higher up and curved over to enclose parts of the hedge against squirrels and magpies then add bird boxes for tits etc. Further along I am going to add wider still plastic fencing to make spaces wide enough for blackbirds and thrushes but not magpies or pigeons which are bigger
pigeon eyc
.I don’t think it would exclude a determined squirrel but later I may try to come up with something more effective. I have kept part of the fox and squirrel corridor unplanted so we can still enjoy watching the foxes and I placed a wide bowl of water there for them as there’s very few natural water sources in the immediate area and our dogs water bowls had been a major attraction to the garden .I will probably treat the foxes next spring with the mange treatment by dropping food on this route which will help them and protect our pets. The corridor solution is extremely effective ,we have had no  regular fox visitors  in the garden since its completion.We see an occasional one which was worked its way through parts of loose wire so we just refasten it down .The dogs cant get out but the cats can get in and ,the hedgehogs still come across the garden,its also a very handy way of creating protected planting spaces that your dogs cant dig up or kids run on ,it stops balls getting on the beds and it would be possible to create cat free zones for planting bulbs . While we are lucky to have a mature hedge at three sides ,this could easily be done in a more exposed garden as the fencing is supported by the arbour and where it isn’t the chicken wire is easy to support.if I were startinf entirely from scratch I would use chicken wire attached to young native small trees planted at regular intervals  .I plan a second arched arbour in one corner to create a bigger song bird space . As the gardens a work in progress this was the first and to me most important part ,securing it safely for pets ,kids and for security as we do live in an area that has a large student population which is regularly targeted by burglars looking for laptop and ipad hauls. This double fencing creates a perfect burglar deterrent as its tall but too insubstantial to climb and too wide to get over .

Lastly with regard to limiting access.Once I started feeding birds the back garden attracted a lot of magpies and pigeons that would hang around waiting for food and the magpies scared off small birds.I sorted this problem by placing a number of shiny objects on top of the shed they used to perch on ,they now avoid spending too much time there ,most wont go on at all one perches briefly then fly’s down to the ground,I don’t mind feeding either the magpies or pigeons but did want to prevent them being a permant problem to small birds,They also terrorised our cat swooping down on her when she crossed the lawn.

Part two Will focus on how to attract a diverse bird life and creating spaces for all the birds “good” and “bad”  to feed and be happy in.

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How to make a Jane Austen era,18thc ,Regency gown ,a cheats guide ,for people who dont like sewing

Heres a very quick cheats guide to making a Regency era gown ,its the easiest way and needs nothing but a needle and thread ,some ribbon or cord and an hour or so .
There’s also some very brief background on Regency fashion and brief instructions for making some cheats versiosn of the under layers ,also at the foot of the page are some tips on Jewellery and hair.
 emma regency bonnet
You will need
1/ A sari sometimes spelled as Saree ,this will make the dresses skirt
2/A sari blouse,this will make the dresses bodice
3/ Cotton in the colour closest to the sari
4/ A needle
5/Something to use to lace up the back around 2 metres maximum less if your narrow chested .This can be very narrow curtain tie back cord or piping cord, narrow ribbon ,narrow jewellery making cord or at a pinch though not ideal string,This should be as close as possible to the sari fabrics colour.
6/ Cellotape ,gaffer tape or similar ,, Any sticky tape ,Elastoplast may work on some fabrics ,
7/Something pointy and sharp to make holes, a skewer that you use to test meat or cakes or for threading kebabs on ,a bradel or similar.
Time needed
between one and three hours
1/buy a Sari, these are very long Asian “dresses” though they are not actually a dress but a long piece of fabric with hemmed or otherwise finished edges ,these are wrapped around the body to give the distinctive Indian Sari outfit.Saris come in all style and qualities ,from plain cotton to jewelled silks.These were probably the source of many regency gown fabrics and there is likely to be a sari in the fabric you want
sari green
sari wedding
sari cotton
If you look at actual Regency gowns its easy to spot militaries in fabrics
regency traiend gown
regency ball gown

They usually around 5 metres. They often have a decorative front panel and the rest is either plain or a less elaborate pattern with an embroidered or otherwise detailed edge either side, this eliminates any need to hem your gown.
sari red 1
2/Buy a sari blouse,these come in all shapes and sizes some square necked ,some scoop necked ,some with puffed sleeves ,some with no sleeves so finding a neckline to suit your gown shouldn’t be too hard.Any sleeveless one will be good for an under gown but will need sleeves sewing in for use as a ballgown or day gown.Its also occasionally possible to find long sleeved ones but they are unusual

sair blouse  1
sari blouse 5
sair blouse puffed sleevs
sometimes blouses come with the saris and have matching trim on the sleeves as above ,this is the best choice as the colours will be identical which they might not be otherwise unless you buy plain white or black
sair white back lacing

Saris can be bought on ebay and some online Asian retailers ,or if you like in the UK from your nearest Asian store, Bombay Stores in Bradford is excellent.
OR you can buy a plain white sari blouse and a plain white sari or some white fabric or a white flat sheet ,a sheet means you wont need to hem anything .This plain white one could also be used as an underdress
3/ Note some sari blouses are closed at the front and have a small back lacing panel ,these are perfect as you will not even need to buy something to lace up the dress or do any sewing at the back.
4/If your blouse front fastens
sari front blouse
,sew up the front
sari blouse sewn
,cut the back up the middle
sari blouse cut
and turn over the edge ideally as narrow as possible and if possible twice to make it stronger at the lacing points, you could also turn it over a small length of cord to make it stronger
5/.you need to add some small holes to this with a barbecue skewer or cake/meat tester something long,narrow and pointed .
Its possible you may decide to leave adding cord or ribbon until you have sewn the skirt part onto the bodice,this makes it easier to sew the skirt on ,but harder to check what the whole dress will look like when finished before joining the skirt and bodice )
6/Use , around a meter or two metres of cord or ribbon ,,one metre if your very petite or more if your very busty.You can use narrow ribbon ,though ideally narrow cord ,curtain cord or jewellery making cord is best
7/.cellotape the edges of the cord and thread it through the holes ,you may need to poke it through the holes with the end of a pencil or blunt pointy object.
7.Tie knots in the end of the cord
The skirt part
1/ Unrole the sari and put it as flat as possible ,if it has a front decorative panel either cut this off
sari 2
or use it as a front panel on your gown.
green sari
(this also shows how your dress will look hwne the blouse/bodice and skirt are attached)
The easiest way if your a non sewer or cant view the dress on a mannequin or friend is to just remove it as it avoids the need to match the front pleats perfectly.(You could hem this panel and use it as a shawl if you leave a reasonable sized piece but don’t leave yourself short for the dress)
1A/If your under 5.4 and need the dress to touch the floor in flat shoes your lucky and don’t need to do any further cutting or much sewing.If your over 5/4 and only 5/5 /5.6 don’t mind having the dress skim your ankles you can likewise get by ,If your over that height ou will either need to cut the sari into strips long enough to touch the floor and sew each strip together to make a long strip then hem them or use the sari as it is add a trim or lace around the bottom of the finished dress to make it floor length.
2/ cut a narrow strip ,,only 4 inches wide is needed though 6 inches is best of the sari fabric ,this will go under the lacing panel on your blouse to avoid showing a gap when the dress is laced, ideally this should be stitched on and hemmed all around the edges but you could just hem the top or iron the top over and push it under the bodice when its on and not bother edging it as it wont be seen.
3/ gather or pleat the sari fabric so it looks as close as possible to a regency shape skirt,For non sewers the easiest is gathers ,you can just tie a know in the end of the cotton then do big long stitches and pull them together to make gathers,try to make the gathers mostly at the sides and back and keep the front fairly flat .This finished gathered part needs to fit around your chest just below your bust.You can check this by trying it against your bra ,crop top etc leave a few inches leeway and cut a straight opening around 6 inches long at the center of the back ,the shorter this is the better as its only to let you pull the dress over your head and is not going to fasten closed .If wanted hem this gap or iron the rough edges over so they don’t show.
3a/ For anyone wanting an accurately pleated skirt to their gown regency gowns are usually flat at the front then pleated and full at the back .
beents again
4/Arrange the gathers or pleats so they are very full near the gap and go slightly over it to hide the opening then try it actually on you.
5/Sew this “skirt” onto the bottom of the sari blouse either by turning the blouse inside out and sewing both insides /wrong sides together ,this is the neatest way .Or if you really don’t like to sew you can just sew it to the blouse ,as neatly as possible and hide the join with a big sash or piece of trim ,,this wont look good enough to wear without a sash or belt though.
6/turn the dress right side out and try it on .
7/if its a bit too loose you can just over over the lacing panel more and re add the tape.if its too short you can buy trim or lace and sew it around the hem.
8/you have your Jane Austen gown.

regency golden gown
you can make a regency “bra” by using Sari blouse and cutting out the sleeves and making a bigger neck leaving a very wide arm hole and narrow strips around the neck ,hem these edges or buying a sleeveless low back sari blouse
.Alternatively to give the impression of Regency stays being worn under your gown or to get the Pride and Prejudice Eliza Bennet look you can wear a balconette bra or underwired non padded bra,Balconettes give the closest shape to a Regency pair of boned stays.
bennet 1
.A non wired unpadded bra or cropped internal support vest top will give a softer look.
beent keira
2/Regency underskirt ,again use a sari blouse cut out the sleeves sew a narrower panel of fabric around the bottom in the same way as for the actual dress but it needs to not be gathered at the front and not as full ,either plain white sari fabric, sheeting or white cotton curtain voile .If you don’t have much fabric you can make it very narrow and put a split up the back or sides.
If you cant get a sari blouse cut a long strip of sheeting or cotton voile curtain make sure this is long enough to be ankle length.
sew the edges together making a long tube of fabric and gather this to a width that fits over your bust and directly under your arms,,as though it was a bath towel wrapped around you .
Sew ribbons or similar onto this strip of fabric ,ideally this needs to be one piece to make a strap either side ,but if this is likely to be difficult to get right you can just sew toe pieces of ribbon each side ,the put it on ,tie the ribbons tighter at your shoulders and either leave them tied or sew the ends together.
sometimes Saris have matching shawls called dupattas.
duppatta paisly
If not these dupattas can be bought fairly cheaply at Asian stores or online, they are long rectangular shawls and probably what where the original regency shawls were.You can also buy a large plain or paisley pashmina as these are also a good shape ,Regency shawls were very long rather than square.
regency shawl
regency shawl 1
outerwear ,spencers
Directions for making a Spencer in half an hour can be found on another post .though a contrasting blouse could again be used,ora retailerd and cut short cropped jacket, instructions in my next post
 regency gown
Hats ,headdresses and Bonnets
I will also do a post soon on how to make a regency bonnet from a sun hat or modern hat in an hour
Alternatively you can buy a Turban and add feathers and trims or just feathers
tiara and feather
,these can be bought from Asian Stores. Another option is to buy a velvet Beret and again add feathers. Tiaras came into fashion at this time so a simple Tiara in an appropriate style of jewelled headband can work for balls.
a plain pearl or coral necklace
regn necklace
A delicate diamanté necklace for balls or double sign of coral ,pearls etc
regenc necklace

or for day time a very simple cross with stones set into it or nothing at all.
reg necklace

This will be difficult to do accurately unless your good with curling tongs and have at least shoulder length hair.
For a simple style you can just pull it back to the back of your head and make a bun.For daytime you can cover the join between your own hair and hairpiece with a strip of fabric folded and tiedhair
I have a hairpiece that has ringlets attached ,pull my hair into a bun and pin this over it ,you could also use a clip on short curly ponytail hairpiece.Use lots of hairspray

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“Thy master is bought and sold “.The Richard III reburial debate an overview with links

richard third

It was sad news for the North this week as it was officially declared that Leicester is to be the burial place of King Richard III bones.A judicial review found “There was no public law grounds for the court to interfere “in the plans for Richard III interment.
a legal summary is here
Its possible for an appeal to be made and also for other private legal action to be taken.
There has been criticism of the case but this is founded on the mistaken idea that this is just about two cities wanting the bones of a dead king or a group of fanatics obsessed with Richard or that it was purely at the instigation of the Plantagenet alliance.
In reality support for burial in Yorkshire or elsewhere than Leicester was widespread, international and spanned all groups of people.A list of the famous who supported the cause shows exactly how wide ranging
The list included numerous MPs, numerous eminent academics, sportsmen such as Geoff boycott and Olympic athletes, several sirs, including Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Bernard Ingram, Dame Judi Dench,
Judi Dench
, Edward Fox, actors such as Brian Blessed and Steve Coogan
steve_coogan_a_p ,
and a wide ranging diverse groups of others, such as Mike Loads
and Julian Fellows
The Facebook group “petition to Bring Richard back to Yorkshire was responsible for gaining the attention and support of academics ,actors ,writers and many others and continues its campaign to achieve a lasting and honourable resting place for Richard III lord of the North ,it can be found here
Likewise support for a burial in York and strong feeling that Leicester was inappropriate was global
The support for Leicester was by contrast quite localised or based on a finders keepers, why does it matter? attitude. Even Leicester itself seems to be aware that Richard’s home is in the North as they have recently (very graciously I felt) offered to use York stone for his Tomb.
The support base for reburial in York while significant is only part of the story and motivation for the appeals and campaigns. There are greater issues involved such as how human remains ought to be treated and how much time passes before the wishes of the deceased are ignored, what are the rights of relative and friends and when do those rights no longer matter.
The battle over the burial place of Richard the third is about more than two rival cities or the place that a single man’s bones will lie.
The issue is much wider and includes concerns about how it’s acceptable to treat human bones or remains.
riii photo bones
The campaign gained a great deal of support due to concern over how Richards bones will be treated and if they will be interred at all, these are human bones, this person was a living breathing person.
The university made a promise to those funding the dig that the bones would be treated with dignity and respect.
riii joe applyby
image source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-26790933
and kept in a respectful manner and interred promptly with due dignity. None of this occurred, the bones were at first displayed with a certain reserve
but then any attempt to respect the original undertaking was ignored, further tests were carried out and more work done on the bones.
The university made clear it wanted to keep them indefinitely for further study and place them on public display, for which there was some support in the town but mostly outrage, to the credit of its townsfolk, who were also instrumental in pushing for Richard to have a proper tomb.
Due to this huge outcry and the plan was dropped at least publicly. It’s likely there has been some display of the bones to academics or specialists to produce some of the university’s recent research. This research which has only recently been completed and would even without the review had created the delay in burial.

The university is still pushing for burial in an ossuary (box) so that they can be easily disinterred when the university wants to study them.
However the bones by the university’s own admission have been kept in very lax conditions even for archaeological specimens and in an appalling manner for human remains which seriously calls into doubt their fitness to have custody of them. The King’s remains have spent at least some of their time in a cardboard box under a broken kettle.
Lin Foxall

stated on BBC radio
We had this problem of ‘what do you do with a dead king – you don’t find them every day’– and of course what he was was a nice long box, full of bones, that’s how you store a skeletons and where you put them, so for a while he lived in my office: under a dead kettle.” -Quote from Lin Foxhall, head of archaeology at Leicester university.
Interview given BBc radio 4pm 28/10/2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03f92q9 (for a BBC headline quote of the relevant comment check the page of petition to bring Richard back to Yorkshire for the same date).
The University recently denied this making the following statement
“Mr Buckley insisted the royal remains were being treated appropriately.
“Richard’s remains are in a secure location at the University of Leicester – this is a lot better than under a Victorian outhouse under council tarmac,” he said.

“We cannot rewrite history and give him some kind of medieval lying in state. He was killed in battle and the new king of England, Henry VII, decided where and how he should be buried.

“The intention is for the studying of the remains to be of a limited time and for the interment to be final. He will not be put on a tray to be pulled out whenever someone asks.”
It is hoped that the remains are indeed now being kept in more appropriate conditions. Being stored with broken kitchen appliances is poor treatment for any artefact let alone human bones, it does not create good conditions for preservation or prevent contamination, it’s poor practice and for supporters of York interment shows perfectly the university’s disrespectful attitude. A paragraph from a document which lays down museum’s guidlines shows the university at variance with proper practice
2.5 De-accessioning
Claims for the return or reburial of human remains are considered in part 3. Any institution wishing to de-accession human remains in other circumstances must be pro-active in trying to establish whether any genealogical or cultural descendants exist who might wish to make a claim for return or reburial.
Many human remains, for example those disinterred as a result of rescue archaeology, are removed on the authority of a Department for Constitutional Affairs licence or Church of England faculty. The method of ultimate disposal, after study, should have been stated clearly on the licence or faculty, and burial (or, occasionally, cremation) or retention of the remains will be included as a condition of the licence or faculty.
Through consultation with the relevant statutory and religious authorities, reburial or respectful storage in designated, marked, sites may satisfy the requirements of the law and religious or civil tradition and need not remove the remains altogether from the purview of scientific study in the future.
Where no mode of disposal is specified, the remains must be disposed of safely and respectfully in a sealed container. The Human Tissue Act 2004 also deals with these matters. In the case of burials from Christian contexts in England the CofE/EH 2005 guidance should be used.
The full guidelines can be downloaded as a PDF here
The document is called
Guidance for the care of Human Remains in Museums.
The university has never shown particular care over the bones, it damaged them significantly with a mattock while excavating. This was captured in the channel 4 documentary and readily admitted to and later confirmed by Dr Appleby in interviews.
richard iii skull
Yet something else that has been ignored since, but increased support for a burial outside of Leicester, the clumsy excavation damage to leg bone, possibly by a JCB or mattock and more especially the Skull caused outrage online amongst many and not just so called Yorkists.

This does not inspire people with confidence in a dignified burial if left in control of the city and university. As a human being and a King Richard deserves a burial and should not have his bones publicly displayed or interred in such a way as to facilitate disinterment whenever the university want to do more tests.
Also at variance with correct practice was the disregard for Richards wishes
Despite earlier widespread claims that Richards wishes were unknown.
The letters content was made public just days after the judicial review result but it is inconceivable that the academic community did not know about its contents previously ,creating distrust of Leicester university
Another issue is King Richard’s right to a Roman Catholic burial in line with his beliefs and his right to be buried on Roman Catholic consecrated ground and in an manner that would honour his beliefs.
The Cathedral in Leicester is post reformation so the ground would not be considered sanctified and originally there was no intention of providing any Roman Catholic input, it has taken an e-petition for some backtracking on the issue but plans are still not inline with the correct manner of burial. Richard despite later being covered by a car park had been buried in Catholic sanctified ground, he has now been removed from that. Though this seems an abstract concept its something of importance to many.
(I realise that its been suggested that Leicester cathedral is in fact pre reformation as there was originally a church on the site but the then St Martins suffered widespread destruction during the reformation ,the current church does not occupy the same space and claiming that one bit of ground is the same as the other would logically mean that Richard III bones were just as well interred under the nearby car park.
http://leicestercathedral.org/about-us/history-of-leicester-cathedral/ for the pro pre reformation case
The official Church of England guide which details the extensive restricting and expansion is here
Likewise the cathedral has backtracked on its promise to provide a fitting tomb, it had promised a table tomb like many medieval tombs, so certain was this decision that money was raised by Richard’s supporters for the expenses of the tomb’s construction and its design had been discussed in enough detail for the media to provide images alongside their reports.
richard iii RS tomb
However the cathedral changed its mind and said there would only be a slab in the floor which would be more or less similar to the memorial slab present at the moment.
Claiming it wanted something modest
“The bones of Richard III should be reburied under a modest slab in the floor of Leicester Cathedral, “a place of dignified simplicity” rather than a grandiose modern reinvention of a medieval tomb, the cathedral authorities have decided – in a move that will do nothing to resolve the debate over where and how the king should finally be buried”
source Guardian newspaper march 2014)(
RIII current tomb
This plan was again changed to a more modern very plain raised tomb,
riii  new tomb
which it seems didn’t meet with the church buildings and fabrics authority’s approval and due to widespread criticism the Cathedral promised a different more fitting version .This new version is for the most part identical to the old version except for the removal of the Rose and addition of a black plinth
“Dean Monteith said: “This is a tomb which reflects the era in which it is designed, as well as the solemn purpose for which it is commissioned. ”
The updated version which is an answer to those concerns is here
new tomb
Even the Cathedral itself agrees that this tomb is widely regarded as inappropriate
It’s been very interesting reading the reactions to this final design, with the earlier idea of the rose inscribed on the floor replaced by a plinth in dark marble with the royal coat of arms emblazoned on it in pieta dura (‘hard rock’!). Some – predictably – remain opposed, often forcibly, and there’s no shortage of disparaging descriptions coming from that quarter (‘cheese slicer’ is one of the more whimsical), including some well-organised lobbying from the four quarters of the globe (including Tasmania). But there’s also been some encouragingly positive discussion in other places, as people engage with how we’ve described what we’re doing, and found themselves coming to appreciate it more and more. I can recommend the Facebook group King Richard in Leicester – which describes itself as ‘a friendly place for interesting discussions’. It is – both of those things, that is. And nothing to do with us here at the Cathedral.
.A brief summary of the tomb issue as it unfolded can be found here.
Tomb issues raised concerns about later treatment of the gravesite. The cathedral hosts vintage fairs /flea markets in the actual sacred space ,the church is cleared for stalls.
leic 2

leic fair
photocredit (http://minimummouse.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/2011-festivals-fairs-and-fun.html)
The frequency and continuance of which was confirmed by the Cathedral staff as reported by a local newspaper.
“Claire Recorden, from Leicester Cathedral’s marketing team, said: “The LouLou Vintage Fair is held in Leicester Cathedral three times a year. The next one will take place on November 30.”
Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Visitors-bag-bargains-vintage-fair/story-19808459-detail/story.html#ixzz32lRhW7vf

Read more at http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Visitors-bag-bargains-vintage-fair/story-19808459-detail/story.html#FMO2ySqwtgTZ80JJ.99
One writer commented
“I was disgusted to read of the UK’s biggest vintage fair being held in Leicester Cathedral”
Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Cathedral-market/story-18232955-detail/story.html#ixzz32lQVoR7j
and futher comment can be found here

Read more at http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Cathedral-market/story-18232955-detail/story.html#dYDToc74oP7Uwdqs.99
Its possibly this and other events which made the cathedral reluctant to provide a proper tomb
again from their own publicly released statement
“According to the design brief: “They will be reluctant to site a large memorial in the cathedral which would assume disproportionate significance in a modest building and cannot easily be located in any position in which it would not restrict the capacity of the building on major occasions.”
leic fair
“It is unlikely that a large table top tomb or effigy would be acceptable to the chapter or the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE),” it says.”

Update now the re interment of Richard in Leicester is complete the final design can be confirmed by the photographs of recent events

Tomb leicester-richard-_3246746k

There have been no fixed and approved designs made public for any further memorial except for ongoing discussions about a memorial window, the design for this window has been produced and made public but there is as yet no funding, the window features
“a battle scene and a man’s body on the back of a horse being led through the streets. They are said to be generic images suggestive of Richard’s story.”

Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/King-Richard-III-commemorative-window-designs/story-20609405-detail/story.html#ixzz32lKxYZ7
Read more at http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/King-Richard-III-commemorative-window-designs/story-20609405-detail/story.html#LmhPblrArR5VZVx6.99 funding has not been found and permission from the buildingsd commission is still pending.
and is unlikely to be as attractive as the window at Cardiff castle.
A further immediate concern was the clearly stated intention of the cathedral staff to focus on Richard’s sins and alleged sins in their funeral oration thus further blackening his name. A selection of quotes from Cathedral staff show at the very least ambivalence.


“What has this to do with Richard? He won’t have beloved artefacts in his ossuary. Well one thing he wasn’t was a saint!
or in defence of their approach to Richard’s burial
“The phrase we repeatedly use to describe our approach is Dignity and Honour. And that’s not because it’s a slogan. We really mean it. The Dignity we all owe each other as human beings, made in the image of God. And the Honour a nation ought to show to its former King – however divided we may be as to his personal qualities, or the nature of his reign”
contrast that with their initial statement
“it should not be forgotten that Richard demonstrated both the honourable and dishonourable characteristics of human beings.

“Opportunities for prayer and reflection should focus on themes of sin and redemption, justice and peace, as reflected in our history and our present.”

The cathedral’s Richard related material is here
Though in fairness to the cathedral they did publish an entire page on Richard’s many achievements
However its approach has often fallen short of the “dignity and honour” it claims to have as its guiding principle. Its also made little if any attempt to read Richards own words and contempory reports .It claims
“What are we wanting to do, when we reinter the remains of a long-dead monarch? Not mourn him, surely? No-one living knew him, and at this distance in time it seems to me no-one can possibly know who he ‘really’ was or what he was ‘really’ like. The best that we can manage is speculation.
Yes this is not true any Christian reading another Christians thoughts or seeing their public statements can see exactly what they are thinking and their motivation ad its very clear Richard was extremely devote.
Also logically if you can never know anything about people long dead,,how exactly do Authors and Historians and the University of Leicester’s staff make any kind of credible living and why are there’s thousands of reputable universities across the globe running History courses .
The cathedrals perceived monetary attitude has attracted the criticism of many not just those favouring York Burial but even the decidedly secular Private eye commented.
Nooks and Corners column in Private Eye, No.1351, 18-31 October
“it is odd that so much passion has been engendered about which Anglican church should house the body of a medieval Catholic monarch who was scarcely a national hero or founding father. As far as the Dean and Chapter was concerned, what mattered was ‘the possibility of the cathedral and its surroundings becoming a tourist attraction,’”
“for all their ideas about dragging the cathedral into the 21st century, the Dean and Chapter are behaving like their superstitious medieval forbears, for every pre-Reformation cathedral needed a prominent shrine to rake in money from the pilgrims”.
I am indebted to the site below for the Private Eye reference
(The site is not pro York and is an interesting read)
Yet despite being certain to benefit from the presence of Richard’s bones the cathedral has been unwilling to spend money on a fitting service and interment,the budget is small as admitted by the Cathedral on their Fb page
The aspirational budget for this is £2.5 million – a rather small sum in comparison to other major public occasions.
Aspirational means the amount is dependent almost entirely on donations
The word ‘aspirational’ means we can only do it all like this if we raise the money, of course. But then, we’ve never pretended otherwise. And we’re quietly confident that we will.
This is slightly disingenuous as just a few paragraphs below he makes the very public statement that
Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral, has explained the considerable efforts and expenditure invested by the Cathedral in order to create a lasting burial place “as befits an anointed King”. We agree that it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest
The one certain honour to be accorded Richard at his burial will be from Dr John Ashdown-Hill who has commissioned a magnificent crown.
(photo credit Dr John Ashedown-Hill
funeral crown Dr JA hill
Dr John Ashdown-Hill was responsible for much of the research and impetus behind discovering the body but has been largely ignored perhaps due to modesty but also due to the the policy of downplaying the key role of academics not connected to the university.
Likewise there are concerns for Richard’s long term reputation, the tourism industry now starting up around Richard will inevitably focus on the now academically discredited view of him as a murderer, usurper and monster as portrayed by Shakespeare. The illustrations to the Richard iii exhibition at Bosworth battlefield for instance are not particularly flattering to Richard.
bosworth riii
In York he has always been respected and remembered with affection, though tiny due to its funding by donations and legacy, York has always had a museum to his memory which presented a positive view of him.
Furthermore with regard to interment, it seems most likely Richard intended to be buried in Yorkshire, he founded chantry chapels and the largest was in York, these were usually created in places intended to be the site of burial.
There is no record of one in Leicester. Richard was so attached to the North and York that he made an extended visit there shorty after becoming king and favoured the city and the north throughout his reign.
This was something that probably cost him valuable and essential support at court and was almost certainly a contributing factor to his death and defeat.
There is still strong deeply felt outrage in the north over Richard’s treatment in Leicester. His body was striped and abused,
“The team found 10 wounds to his body in total, including a “humiliation” stab wound to his right buttock and several to his trunk that were likely inflicted after his death; there was also evidence that his hands had been bound.
humilation wound rib
(damage rib from a post mortem stab wound)


Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-battle-over-richard-iiis-bonesand-his-reputation-14232878/#8T8rkGrqzSJDu0Qf.99

buttock wound
This indignity probably occurred while his body was being taken back to Leicester as its recorded his body was strung naked, trussed over a horse. He was then laid out naked and dirty and bloodied to be viewed, while it was normal to put dead monarchs on display doing so naked and dishonoured was not.
The friars obviously tried very hard to give him a decent burial as far as they were able, it is thought king Richard was probably buried with some rites and in hallowed ground but they had no way to give him a decent service, the grave used was too small and there was no shroud even which is almost unbelievable for a Christian burial even plague victims in mass graves are usually shown to have been in a shroud. Leicester made no effort to find his bones, the only major interest was from outside funded excavations, including the one which discovered his remains.

The university’s own publicity pack shows the substantial financial contribution made towards the dig by sources
University of Leicester announce the costs of the Richard III project

The search was instigated by Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society. The University led the dig and the scientific analysis. The funding for the project is shown below and we thank all the funders.

Funder Excavation & Post Excavation Total % Contribution
of Leicester* £19,935 £94,115 £114,050 80.0%

(My note,the university’s expenditure was for the most part post excavation, that is to say once the bones of Richard III had been found. Previous to that their expenditure was £19,000 only £1000 more than the contribution of the RIII society making their initial percentage closer to that of the Richard III society. Their actual contribution was in fact lower than the society as they have included in their contribution £1300 donated to them by the public to finance the excavation see the university’s own text at base of the figures)

Richard III
Society £18,083 £18,083 12.7%

Leicester Shire
Promotions £5,000 £5,000 3.5%
Leicester City
Council £5,000 £5,000 3.5%

Leicester Adult
Schools £500 £500 0.4%

Total £48,518 £94,115 £142,633

*University funding includes £4,970 committed to under-write LCC which was later paid by LCC. The University’s funding includes £1,300 in public donations to finance the work.
The money raised by Leicester’s citizens and donated to the university makes clear some of the citizens feel a genuine interest and affection for king Richard especially as this is a city that is not doing well during the current economic climate and provided by people who would reap no rewards. However the council and university showed very little interest in him their contributions being a mere £5000.
see footnote for further table)
While much has been made of Richard’s connection to Leicester there is no actual historical link beyond his night spent prior to the battle and the time his corpse was displayed there. The statue that has been a focus of the city’s efforts to show their affection for Richard was provided by donations from the Richard III society and has been vandalised repeatedly (hence the need for it to be restored).
Statements from Leicester have been almost entirely focused on what Richard can do for the town.

City councillor Ross Willmott said: “The discovery of Richard III is wonderful news, yet there remains something of a mystery about what happened to Wolsey, who rivalled Henry VIII in wealth and power and was one of the most significant political figures of the era.

“Arguably, he is far more influential than Richard III. To discover his remains would help tell the story of another historic figure linked to the city.”
By contrast York has stressed that it wanted the return of its King, its campaign slogans being “Bring him Home, those campaigning using the plural of Richards motto Loyaultie me Lie, Loyalty Binds us. The talk was always of returning Richard to his home. To be fair York would not significantly benefit from Richard’s burial there and already have a thriving tourist industry. Leicester by contrast saw a huge influx of visitors and in the midst of a recession it must have been like manna from heaven for the town.
In contrast to Leicester the desire to have Richard returned to York for burial was from the bottom up. Local people were so insistent that Richard be buried in the area that the minister who had at first refused to consider burial there did a small u-turn
The statement that York minister didn’t want Richard came from fairly recently arrived Dean, previously Dean of Leicester, and it was felt she had acted outside her authority in making the statement despite an attempt to backpedal.
<Dean Faull, who until her appointment at York last summer was the Dean of Leicester, has maintained a “neutral” stance over the issue. /
This was unfortunately the occasion of the only blot on the campaign for York burial, though condemned by all those campaigning for York burial and in no way indicative of the tone of the campaign it does seem the Dean received abusive mail. Not, however as was claimed, death threats. The official statement by the minister is here as is a link to the story
“York Minster Spokesman • 11 hours ago −”news emerging this week that death threats have been made to the Dean of York” is inaccurate. The official statement reads:
“York Minster has received a number of letters about Richard III, a small number of these have been abusive. These have been passed to the Minster Police, and they continue to monitor the situation closely.”
York Minster has declined to reveal any more details about either the content or the origin of the letters.’
The nature of the abusive mail was never revealed and could have amounted to no more than the angry outbursts of people feeling they had been betrayed. There was never a suggestion that any threatened violence. It also makes clear that MOST letters merely expressed strong feelings
In the north Richard is remembered with love, respect and affection and especially in Yorkshire. For many he is remembered as Good King Richard, his short reign was the only brief time when the north was treated with favour. He was in his lifetime loved and respected deeply. He spent much of his life in the North and especially in Middleham
(photo credite English Heritage)
It’s clear Richard was in turn fond of York, calling his return there a homecoming. He favoured the North and York. He chose York for the investiture of his son as Prince of Wales in a ceremony and celebration so lavish that later historians have mistaken it for a second coronation. For the original accounts and a summary please check here. The writer’s interpretation of the request to provide rich cloth has been challenged by a wider study showing that Richard wanted to promote the North
It is also now clear Richard would have wanted a York Burial
An unfavourable but concise account of Richard reign recounts the story and events
It has been claimed York let Richard down at Bosworth, in fact one of its great lords died at Richard’s side and this was despite being warned Richard had been betrayed (the header to the post is based on a note that is said to have been placed on the lord’s tent warning him the cause was already lost and not to fight. York often sent forces and funds to him and only delays outside their control caused their failure to send more troops to Bosworth. It made a brave statement of support for Richard when news of his defeat and death reached the city on the day after the Battle of Bosworth,
king Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the duc of Northfolk [sic] and many other that turned ayenst hyme, with many other lordes and nobilles of this north parties was piteously slane murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie …’

York city archives, Minutes of the council of York,indeed a lord who was believed to have betrayed Richard at Bosworth was later publicly lynched.
Likewise the Legal proceedings have been blamed for the delay burying Richard and yet the University is primarily at fault as it has until recently insisted it keep the remains for study
The University likewise is being challenged as to its right to be “custodian of the bones due to its refusal to honour an agreement with Ms Langley
As a footnote to this story
The university is also under fire for refusing to give due credit to the academics who did most of the research for the grave site and raised the funds for the dig
This has never been a wars of the roses, many people have been balanced in their views on the opposing towns, many can see why it city’s people would want Richard and accept they are interested in him, however there is certainly strong feeling about the way the authorities in Leicester and the University have behaved. There is also very strong feeling that Richard should not rest in the place of his defeat and humiliation, that Richard as lord of the north, is a fallen warrior king who deserves to rest with his own.
Supporters of York with a few exceptions bear no ill will to Leicester’s towns people, argument focuses on not current residents but on history and a sense of loyalty to and desire for justice for King Richard

footnote the teams finding on the humiliation wounds
“The team from the University of Leicester said that the body displayed 10 wounds, 8 of them in the skull and some likely to have caused death, possibly by a blow from a halberd, a kind of medieval weapon with an ax-like head on a long pole. Other wounds seem to have been inflicted after his death to humiliate the monarch after his armor was stripped away and he was paraded naked over the back of a horse, the researchers said.”
detailed account of the various legal challenges, on testing on the remains and other related issue can be found here
The universitys own excavation report is here
The official review of March 2014 is printed in full here
Statements between the cathedral and university are here
For a readily accessible viehttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-III-Contemporary-Chronicles-Letters/dp/1781553130w of Richard by contemporary sources there is an excellent book
or an online collection ,though shorter can be viewed here
For Leicesters investigation on the mixed York support for Leicester.
Interviews on reaction to the review results can be found here
Notes on treatment of human bones for comparison with the university practices ,This is an independent scholarly article. It also explains why there was opposition to further testing ,production of moulds for reconstruction etc as most of the process involved risks to the skeleton
Re dean of York Ministers employment record

York Minster

November 2012 – Present (1 year 7 months)

Dean of Leicester

Leicester Cathedral

2000 – 2012 (12 years)

Also Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals
Dean of York from Dec 2012

Canon Pastor and Vice Provost

Coventry Cathedral
A good overview of opinion about Richard III in Leicester can be found here
heres a brief selection that is fairly representative of the opinions most commonly expressed

The extensive works around Leicester Cathedral have been going on now for a considerable time and must already have cost millions, just to enhance a burial place for a king with an extremely dubious reputation.

I, for one, would like to know who is paying for all this?

The promised long-term pay-off in terms of tourist revenue can only be a guess at best – and my guess is that initial interest will dwindle quite quickly.

The cost to retail businesses in that area during this expensive revamp must be dire because of its continued inaccessibility to cars.

When it is finished, it will become yet another Soulsby-inspired pedestrianised area which will exclude the disabled from parking close by, as applies to much of the city centre already.

John Yates, Glenfield.

On the pro Richard side

“So glad that the High Court has upheld the licence, properly applied for and granted, allowing this tragic and much-maligned young king to be given a dignified reinterment in Leicester Cathedral.

As a Blue Badge Guide, I have been leading Richard III guided walks for 20 years.

He was always an important part of Leicester’s history. Now at last he can stay here, as he has, just yards away, for more than five centuries.

Colin Crosby, Leicester.

Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Glad-Richard-s-staying-city/story-21146431-detail/story.html#CkcZYXMEP3ApVUdI.99#ixzz32y6mROk2

Read more at http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Glad-Richard-s-staying-city/story-21146431-detail/story.html#wHyj80Z9yiwusWHP.99

Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Glad-Richard-s-staying-city/story-21146431-detail/story.html#CkcZYXMEP3ApVUdI.99#ixzz32y5otUO4

Read more at http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Glad-Richard-s-staying-city/story-21146431-detail/story.html#wHyj80Z9yiwusWHP.99
excavation details
dig figuress

ricjard signature
leicester costs dig
I am deeply indebted to the following for information and links which helped with creating this post
Kim Harding BAhons
Draj Hibbard,BA hons,MD
Patrica Rice Jones
David Atkin

Foot note.

Sadly King Richards re interment fulfilled all the worst prophecies of   those who felt Leicester was only interested in its tourism benefits and that it would be penny pinching and undignified.A strange mix of cheap modern practicalities and flashy medieval  display to make the tourists happy.What little dignified input existed was from Richards distant relations or other Richardians


It was touching that Richards descendent had made the coffin and its  well made simplicity probably reflects the limited resources made available  to him by Leicester but at least  its been made lovingly ,by hand ,by someone emotionally tied to Richard .Likewise the linen covering is beautifuly worked and made with loving care ,Very movingly Veterans stood vigil at  the warrior kings coffin,something I am sure Richard would have been deeply moved by


But for the rest it  has been  sad to see the lack of effort ,the use of the easiest cheapest methods and exploitation of the reburial to promote elements of Leicester Quite independently of pro York  views  its clear the world can also now see why Leicester wanted King Richard.


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A possible Bronte Photograph?

As I have occasionally been asked about the possible “new Bronte Photograph “,it has a fascinating history and is interesting in its own right .I do not however belive it’s a photograph of the sisters.

three.sisters.ambrotype.x400Photo from   http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/ please follow the link to find our more about its discovery and the case put forward by the owners for its authenticity.

I firmly belive the photo is from the early 1860s or late 1850s ,depending on where it was taken.This is primarily because of the hat the standing girl is wearing .This style of hat only became widely fashionable for women  in the very late 1850s and outside  of fashionable circles would have been common only in early 1860s.Hats were  extremely uncommon for formal wear in the 1840s .

I know this is a point the photographs owners have considered and their views and research are here


I  would disagree with their  findings as they have not closely considered context, not considered that the word  hat might  be exchanged for bonnet in some accounts and not examined stylistic details  closely enough, small details that seem irrelevant can distinguish  styles separated by decades, fashion often revisits the past for inspiration ,consider the 1980s  and late 1990s when 1940s style fashions were popular with designers and the high street stores alike ,its easy to pass many of these clothes off as genuine 1940s clothes at 40s weekends and often an 1980s 40s revival jacket can be impossible to distinguish from an 90s jacket  unless you pay attention to the fabrics ,colours and small details like labels  buttons or pockets finishes

.Likewise  they have not fully included relevant details probably because they are not experts on the Bronte’s life and letters so  were not aware of them ,eg the comment on the site supporting the wearing of a hat by the Brontes includes an incident in London.

When Charlotte Bronte visited the studio of George Richmond in 1850 she was asked to remove her hat, not a bonnet. (,my note this is true but in this quote Richmond goes onto to mention that he mistook Charlotte’s very poor quality hair piece for a small cap or hat ,,)

An assortment of 1840s and early 1850s images

I have collected together a diverse group of images  from 1840s and 1850s  which show bonnets in assorted styles were the usual form of headwear for women of all classes, though I have focused primarily on the middle classes as the Bronte were from roughly this strata of society

Ford.madox.brown.last.emma.study 1853(Photo wiki commons from Wikipedia’s fashion page

this is a preliminary sketch for

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_fashion . I  use a lot of Wikipedia’s images as they are  non copyright but I don’t in any way endorse Wikipedia as a reliable source of information)

1840s-hatsThe photos above are from an excellent post which can be seen if you click the link below ,the post there also shows a later image of an almost identical hat to that in the photo of the three young lady’s


Costume collections  don’t have any extant hats like that in the photo from 1840 they do however have lots of bonnets.

Below is an early 19thc bonnet

green and white silk bonnet

The bonnet below is from the Bronte parsonage museum collection

bronte-bonnet-parsThere are at least two possibly three bonnets in the museum collection and the sisters mention buying bonnets but never mention buying hats.(The only hat in the collection is a quite pretty  petite straw one worn by Ellen Nussey )

True small hats in a similar style were fashionable in earlier decades in the  1760s /1770s.These were Berger hats ,shallow crowned and usually flat rimmed ,there are only a very few 18thc hats have turned back rims.The hat below from the Met Museum (metropolitan museum of art )shows the common style and shape of the hat which varied only in size ,fabric and trims across classes.

Bergère-hat-18th-century-British-straw-Met-401x500(Theres a full description with images of the Berger hat  in all its forms here http://thedreamstress.com/tag/terminology/page/3/


It’s true that  quite similar hats were worn from time to time in the early Victorian era. However  in Britain  they were not usually worn not for everyday wear and not often at other times .The fashion plates below show the difference in both shape and use .The fashion plate below is from Goodeys ladies magazine 1842 and indeed both women wear hats not bonnets

goodys 1842However one lady is riding and hats not bonnets were always worn for riding as bonnets would interfere with the riders vision and would also be quite hot and cumbersome ,the other lady is in summer  wear and does again wear a hat but  though its a wide-brimmed hat,it has a much deeper crown and  has ribbon ties and lace trims ,It’s probably showing the kind of clothing ladies would wear in their gardens etc as the woman is wearing neither gloves ,mittens or a shawl and no lady would leave the house without gloves and a shawl or mantle .

Where outdoor  public or formal wear is shown the women always  have on bonnets as can be seen from the fashion plate below which is from a few months later in 1843.Note the ladies are also either in mantles or in the case of the lady in blue carrying one

1843 fashion plateLater fashion plates  from around the time the photo was supposed to have been taken also show hats  but again  they are not everyday wear  and those on adults don’t resemble that in the photograph,one lady is in riding habit .The  plat does show one other hat which is on a young girl  and as  the photographs  owner show a photograph of a child in a hat ,I thought this worth commenting on ,young girls did wear straw hats  and often similar hats to that in the photo but they were not adult clothing  and would have been seen as such ,ladies wouldn’t dream of wearing a children’s  fashion  just as the ladies in the fashion plate would not dream of wearing knee length skirts .

journal des femmes 1847What is also noteworthy in this image is that despite the range of headwear  the woman in her everyday clothing has on a close-fitting bonnet .This fashion plate is from 1847 and is around the latest time the photo if genuine could have been taken .It’s also unlikely the Brontes would have followed fashion closely enough to have the new seasons clothing ,indeed we know they were usually considered if anything  old fashioned.In the two years 1846 and 1847 there is no major fashion magazine showing hats as everyday wear



The first time a hat of a vaguely similar style starts to appear is in the late 1850s .

450_1859_FashionPlateAThese hats  are still flat brimmed with fairly shallow crowns  and most importantly still have ties. It’s not until the early 1860s you see fashion plates regularly show hast of a style identical to the hat on the standing figure in the photo and minus their little ties.

godey's summer 1862(Goodys magazine summer 1862)

1862 hats

For a more in-depth collection of fashion plates try the page link below


The girls cloaks

Another problem with the girls clothing is the mantles or cloaks they are wearing .They may be early Victorian  but one seems to be made of velvet .This is the one on the seated face on girl ,velvet was extremely expensive and a fabric outside the reach of the  Bronte sisters for everyday clothing .

Patrick does seem to have treated his children  to the odd luxury Anne wears a fine gauze overgrown for her  16th birthday portrait painted by Charlotte and  a fairly plain brown gown does exist at the parsonage which has a quite wide band of velvet added at  its hemline which was probably  to make the gown longer  so its possible they may have had  some velvet item of clothing  in the past but it seems unlikely that was something as mundane as a cape ,,it would also have been unseemly for a governess to wear something as luxurious as a velvet cape or mantle and it would have definitely been considered uppity in a middle class parsons daughter.

The mantles  could possibly be late 1840s are its hard to see but they seem much more like these below from 1859

1858 fashion plate

for descriptions of Victorian outer layers and more images please check out the excellent fashion era website which as lots of fashion plates and articles


The girls gowns

All the girls  in the photo are wearing full-skirted gowns these were becoming fashionable in the late 1840s but were not often this wide and  its unlikely that the three sisters would all have had such full skirts as you need a lot of  fabric .Fabric was  the main expense for any item of clothing ,the fabric  for a gown often cost more than a seamstresses wages for making a gown,we know from Bronte correspondence that even when Charlotte was becoming financialy comfortable she was thrifty about fabric costs and Emily and Ann would certainly not have enough disposable income for yards and yards of surplus fabric .

They are also wearing  a lot petticoats to create the dome shape in the photo.The standing figure in particular  is wearing a lot of petticoats ,you can see the curve of them under her mantle ,assuming  as is suggested that the standing figure is supposed to be Emily then this directly contradicts what little we know of Emily .She  did not wear a large number of petticoats and in fact objected to wearing even enough to look fashionable.She was described as refusing to wear extra petticoats in Brussels as she wished to be “as god made her” Mrs Gaskel comments on Emilys skirts being straight and Emily as the housekeeper would be unlikely to have worn bulky and hot surplus layers ,all of which would need laundering and starching and ironing.

A final note of costume

I belive the owners suggest a date shortly after Branwells death ,but if that were the case the girls would all be in full mourning this was always head to toe black and the girls in the photograph are not in mourning  ,sadly Emily and Anne both spent their final months waiting for their own deaths dressed in mourning for those who they had lost.

Purely subjective and personal thoughts on the photo

I don’t think Emily would have chosen a hat when she could wear a bonnet they wouldn’t stay put for more a few seconds once outside the parsonage without a hat pin and even then it would be difficult.They are cold and the wind would make your ears sting once outside on the moor they would get wet and ruined and they don’t properly shield your eyes from the sun in summer.


The background of brick is out-of-place for Yorkshire I can’t think of anywhere in Haworth with light coloured brick walls and there’s nowhere else that all three sisters would have been at the time possible for the photo.Its just possible the “bricks” are stone but even so they seem to me to be the wrong texture ,size and shape and colour for the locality, I include a photo of the parsonage front for comparison  ,while had the photo been taken at the Red house in Gomersal ,which was  charlotte’s friend the Taylors home, then the brickwork is too light .

Emily Bronte Parsonage

Its far too “staged” for a normal family portrait compared to most other similar photos of the time .It looks to me like girls “playing dress up “for a fun photo or perhaps its part of a posed photo for an event or play.I doubt however the girls in the 1860s were dressing up as the Bronte sisters as not  all  the three sisters were not popular then .I would buy the idea that it’s a photo to use as a  preliminary  “sketch ” for a line  drawing for a book perhaps Mrs Robinson’s “Emily Bronte” but not a photo of the sisters or a copy of a photo of the sisters.


If the  standing figure is Emily she’s quite plump and curvy ,not something anyone ever described Emily as being and  if this was after Branwells death Emily was already ill ,shes not reported as being seen outside the Parsonage again after Branwells funeral and though Charlottes letters talk about her own  and her family’s ill health in general just after Branwells death  which  also makes the photos dating seem unlikely and its not very long after Branwells funeral she begins to worry  more specifically about Emily’s health  in the final months of her life she  quite quickly became extremely thin and finally utterly emaciated.


all the girls have thick glossy hair.Emily does seem to have had thick and lovely hair which she wore up in a similar style to the  standing lady in the photo but Charlotte had very fine hair and Anne’s hair was never described as being thick or full.


Lastly the photo seems too clear to be an early photograph  from the 1840s most early photographs /daguerreotype ,tintype ambrotype etc all lack a certain clarity and the poses are more set it seems much more likely to be an 1860s photo.

Theres a great collection of Victorian portrait photos here for comparison

Or perhaps it a post-mortem photo of the girl seen side on these photos were occasionally quite staged looking more so than normal photos and post-mortem photos were very still very common in the 1860s .

I feel sure the owners genuinely  belive the photo genuine but I don’t belive it to be a Bronte photograph

Further reading

There is an excellent post on Victorian straw hats here


Posted in 19thc, brontes, costume research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Haworth 1940s weekend a cheats guide to the 1940s look

As Haworth 1940s weekend is this Saturday ,heres brief cheats guide to looking authentic without buying vintage 40s clothing,which while  being without doubt the most desirable option is often not practical especially if like myself  you are curvy and big footed as most 1940s ladies clothing is very petite and shoes are often  small sizes and quite narrow fitting.Luckily there was a trend for 1940s clothing and shoes in the 1980s and many of these clothes look surprisingly like 40s originals .All the clothing below (except for the fur and hat )is vintage 1980s from charity shops ,though  given time is best to shop around vintage shops and on ebay or etsy it’s also possible to pick up bargains at local charity shops.
Good brands to look out for are Hobbs for jackets and skirts ,coast for jackets,skirts and stunning vintage look evening gowns. Older Laura Ashley dresses and jackets can be good,the blue jacket in the photos is a vintage Laura Ashely.Primark is often a good place to find vintage look faux furs and seamed stockings or tights


The ideal is to find a jacket and skirt that look close enough in colour to be a suit,while both the above and below ensembles are obviously not colour perfect matches this wont be too noticeable while the outfits being worn with accessories .
A straight or slightly Aline skirt is best as these are the easiest to find and match to jackets.skirts should not be split at the back unless the split is hidden in a kick pleat and not too short no more than an inch above knee height at most.Its also authentic to wear pleated skirts but these are often harder to match to jackets
Jackets need to be nicely tailored ,either with a little flounced peplum waist or cut in a fairly masculine way . For skirts and jackets wool or wool look synthetic fabrics work best.

1940s haworth 2


I also often buy more recent vintage clothing ,from the Hitchcock blond fashion trend around 2004 as even the 1980s clothing can be a little bit too small on the bust and hips for me and is much more difficult to maintain as it often creases whereas modern fabrics are much more crease resistant .If you can afford it splash out on new clothing then a trip to Boundary Mill ,to a Hobbs, Coast ,Laura Ashley or Debenhams will probably yield results.

brown suit apothacvires

haworth 1940s 1

To go under your “suit” you need a 40s look blouse ,something in muted colours is best ,either with a wide collar or a peter pan style collar as these two styles have been popular recently so are quite easy to find online or in charity shops.I prefer either plain silk blouses or polka dot cotton blouses with peter pan collars.Muted very small print florals can also work but these are harder to match to skirts and jackets so if your only using the outfit once its best to keep to easy to match colours.

to give the outfit an authentic look its necessary to add  accessories .

The main essentials are a 40s style hat and a fur which can be a mink ,squirrel or fox cape or stole .
cindy 40s weekend
The most instantly recognisable 1940s fur is the  fox with its head and legs etc still attached (The reason so many 1940s furs have their heads and legs is that furs made into coats ,stoles capes etc without their legs and head were subject to rationing  and you would need to have the required number of ration tokens to buy it.whereas anything with limbs or its head was classed as a pelt and excluded from rationing .Furs are not always expensive while am artic fox can cost well over one hundred pounds a small mink can  usually be bought for single figures and if you willing to buy something slightly less than perfect its also possible to pick up stoles and foxes.

If you dont like to wear fur then its still possible to look the part but it requires much more work as other details will need to be much more precise.
last 40s talk

try to focus on a stunning hat and eye-catching bags or jewellery. Also to required if you will be outside are gloves  and a handbag .
To complete the look a pearl necklace and earings,perhaps a brooch. While there was a great variety of 1940s costume jewellery pearls are the best and easiest to find choice. Many supermarkets and stores will have simple pearl necklaces and though one were the pearls are graduated in size is more historically accurate any short necklace made of small pearls will look great. If you want something a bit different try an AB crystal necklace,these will need to be bought vintage but are often easier to find cheaply than genuine 1940s pearl necklaces which can be expensive as charity shops have begun to realise re enactors brose them and increased the price of things they consider “1940s y (sometimes to prices substantiality more expensive than an actual vintage shop) wereas AB necklaces are not popular and tend to still be in the cheap sections and can be picked up for a couple of pounds or less.AB or Aurora Borealis chrystals are the sparkling clear crystals that reflect different coloured light ,they are usualy cut with a lot of facets .
ab necklace
A gas mask is essential for complete accuracy as they had to be carried at all times when out ,though my friend gets around this by carrying an 1945 newspaper so she says its the end of the war.It is also possible to buy empty gas mask boxes to carry and as no one ever sees inside the box this is a cheap and easy solution, the empty box is also much lighter than a box and mask.

haworth 1940s 3A  bag of some kind is another essential ,unlike today no woman would go out without a handbag ,,at a pinch a  nw or preferably vintage shopping basket will do ,maybe you have one  left over from school cookery classes ?,even a modern new one is a great alternative to a genuine 1940s handbag which are usually very expensive

40s-shot gloves

.If you prefer a bag or are going to an event such as a dance were a basket obviously isn’t an option finding bags that look like 1940s bags can be hard as far as handbags go but some 1980s clutch bags are quite convincing and there has recently been a trend towards retro style clutch bags so a visit to Primark or a similar store might bear fruit ,try to keep to muted colours as though some 1940s bags were quite bright most were fairly conservative colours and certainly darker colours give a more “vintage” impression. I would remove any clip on straps as they wouldn’t usually have been used.(often 1940s clutch bags have a loop at the back to loop through your hand ).If you do buy vintage make sure its a 1940s style not the similar 1950s style.Avoid patent leather as these are most likely to be later bags .Its also best to try to find single strap bags as while 1940s style did sometimes have two handles or even shoulder straps the iconic 1940s bag is the single handled clasp top bag.

re tea dances or evening events

If you can ,try to find short dress not a long  one as either a faux 40s or genuine 1940s dress such as the satin one below .A wrap dress style in silk or wool or a button front style in silk cotton or wool are the style that are easiest to wear ,bias cut dresses look beautiful but are hard to wear if your not tall and skinny and also hard to source underwear for as modern cut knickers may leave lines ,but so will the catches from suspenders .
cream fox cerise dress
If you buy a short dress can easily be teamed with a jacket if you need to go  to other outside events whereas a long evening gown is only useful for indoor night events.

me and tilly 40s

As can be seen in the full length shots  of my outfits I usually wear high heeled shoes ,1940s shoes were often quite high ,I tend to wear either brogues or peep toe shoes as these are the two most well-known 40s styles.Suede looks authentic for peep toe shoes while brogues are best in plain black or brown.
Due to war time shortages shoes were not infrequently made with fabric and wood or cork was also sometimes used often for wedge heels but these styles though authentic tend to look more modern Again Primark can be fruitful for peep toe shoes.Tesco also occasionally have quite authentic looking 40s styles .Ladies did wear flat shoes but its harder to find authentic looking replica flat shoes and 1940s ones are very hard to find in sizes above uk 4 or 5

1940s womenA mistake sometimes made is to wear pointed toe high heels  or narrow heels which were not in fashion until the 1950s,,I forgot to change my shoes before this photo below was taken and it does spoil the effect.

haworth 1940s 4

Seamed stockings or tights add a nice authentic detail but should be flesh coloured not grey or black,It is possible to draw lines on the backs of each others legs but much harder than you might imagine to get the lines straight and in the uk bare legs can be chilly .

All the hats I have worn above are replica hats made specially for me however you can easily cheat and buy a 1980s wide-brimmed hat and modify it ,I had hoped to go a brief tutorial on how to do this but unfortunately I have not yet done so .Some 1980s wide-brimmed hats can be used as they are. Others if you remove the maribou or ostrich feathers and replace them with pheasant feathers look pretty good.If you do want to try restyling ,take a modern felt hat or even one of the posh school hats ,then cut two thirds of brim from the crown.Twist this free part of brim around to create an interesting shape,tack it in place and perhaps add a feather,any offcuts of the hat fabric can be cut into leaf shapes to decorate the hat .A google search for 1940s hats will give some ideas for styles.
school hat restyled

The hat above is made from an old school hat the brim was cut almost completely off leaving a narrow strip of fabric it was then twist slightly and stitched at an angle to the crown, I also cut the crown slightly to curve to the head, smaller hats will need a hat pin to keep them in place and indeed most hats feel easier to wear if you put a hat pin in them .To use a hat pin push it into the hat so its not sticking out then put the hat on and push the hat pin through your hair style and out of the hat the other side,this is safer than trying to just push the hat pin straight in while your wearing the hat .If yopu cant buy a hat you can wear a headscarf twisted or folded into a narrow strip and tied at the top of your head but this is not particularly authentic unless your in an informal environment or dressing as a worker
For gloves
any neatly cut plain leather or faux leather pair work well and you may already have some or be able to pick them up easily and cheaply from stores.If you prefer vintage a pair of little crochet gloves such as those seen in the photo of me with the shopping basket are the prettiest and cheapest option ,nylon gloves are often later 1950s or 60s and are also really hot to wear. Vintage gloves can be tiny or narrow fitting ,I have fairly small hands and need a sz 7 which I would imagine is the smallest size likely to fit modern ladies hands though perhaps for crochet gloves you may just get away with a sz 6.5 .

Lastly make up

The make up for the 1940s is fairly pale compared to modern tanned look foundations though not as pale as in earlier decades.The key thing is pale foundation ,flesh coloured or very pale eyeshadow and a red lipstick ,pillar box red or something similar as though not all lipstick was red it was very popular  is the look most associated with the 1940s .
For hair if you have short hair or don’t want to put your hair up ,buy a wide brimmed hat and you don’t need to worry about styling it ,if your hair is long enough then you can wear it looped up at the front in two v shapes but to do this you need something under your hair to get the height ,little hair cushions on combs can be bought but if you don’t have any roll up a couple of pieces of faux fur or velvet and roll your hair over these. You will need lots and ,lots of very stiff hairspray ,maximum hold ,spray it as you go along with your make up ,spray it again when your finished and again before you leave and if you have space take the hairspray with you as Haworth’s often breezy ,my hair will usually still stay up even without the hairpins.
I hope these are helpful hints
Have a lovely time at your event .

related posts
hair styles on youtube

footnote .
some ladies needed to kit out their menfolk so heres a little added bit.
I am not overly experienced at searching out mens clothing how ever I do have to kit out my husband and have friends who had helpful hints
John wears a wide lapel jacket which I think is actual vintage 40s but a vintage 80s jacket would work too and plain trousers (without turn ups as turn ups were not allowed under the clothing restrictions) He makes it look more 40s like with a civil defence arm band.Under the jacket he wears a modern shirt and either a bow tie or narrow tie and fedora hat.If you can pick up a waistcoat that would make a nice addition . He also has a back up James Herriot style outfit ,tweed jacket ,corduroy trousers brogues.A friend has a fairly easy outfit ,he wears a long old fashioned mens overall ,like the shopkeeper from open all hours ,he wears a normal shirt ,bow tie and flat cap .
for easy to find mens hats you can get flat caps ,tweed caps or Indianana Jones style hats ,Bowlers hats are also fairly easy to find but expensive.
Flat caps and tweed caps are usually available in charity shops ,The Souke Haworth also has them usually as well as a lot of great mens jackets and hats ,John also got his civil defence armband from there and they are fairly cheap .
I don’t advise uniforms for men who are not regular re enactors as they are hard to get entirely right and often expensive .You might be able to create a faux navel outfit with a roll neck jumper and captains cap from a fancy dress shop ,,think captain birds eye ,,or you could just wear a Breton style cap and say your one of the seamen who manned the small crafts for Dunkirk.
It should be noted that wearing a none allied forces uniform may mean that your movements are limited,Pickering doesn’t allowed Gemrans on trains and you have to stay in Le vishem which is levishem but for the war weekend acts as enemy occupied France .
German uniforms are not accurate for homefront 1940s weekends and are often unwelcome .In many places “enemy forces ” are not allowed on trains or other transport and genuine vintage German uniforms can have extremely unpleasant provenances .Herr flick might seem a fun choice and fairly easy if you already have a long leather coat but SS officers were never the nice guys and were never seen on mainland Britain in uniform.
see below

Posted in Hathaways of Haworth, Haworth and Oxenhope, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , | 6 Comments

1480 to 1600 ,When women ruled the world, part one

margret of Austria

While  it is common to bemoan the fate of women in the late medieval /early renaissance period I would suggest that it was in fact a time when women shaped Europe’s history and made changes that are still felt in our modern world.In this first of a series of posts I will give a very  brief introduction to the Queens ,duchesses ,ladies and princesses who helped shape our modern world.Many were not particularly likable but all played a role in shaping Europe.

The  period between 1480 and 1600 was a time when either officially or unofficially women ruled much of Europe for most of the time ,either in their own names or by controlling husbands  or sons who ruled .It is true that many of these women were in some respects  powerless victims,Margret Beaufort was married as a child and had her first and last child Henry Tudor  at the age of  13 ,Katherine of Aragon was  discarded by her husband and died in poverty ,Anne Boleyn was executed once Henry VIII tired of her ,Mary Tudor was wife to a younger husband who though she was devoted to him  had little love for her ,Mary Stuart through unwise marriages ended her days as a prisoner of Elizabeth I (who perhaps learning from the mistakes of both Marys remained unmarried).Yet despite the overwhelming odds stacked against women in  the 15th and 16th centuries these women overcame the odds and made a huge impact on their world and ours for either good or ill

In upcoming posts I will cover ,,


Isabella of Castile

Isabella drove the “Moors” from Spain ,she spent much of her adult life on military campaigns . By her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon she helped  to create  modern Spain. Despite being married  her husband Ferdinand did not control her lands she remained ruler  of them herself.If Isabella and Ferdinand had not removed the moors from spain its possible Spain would have remained Muslim up until the present day .Had Isabella not acted as sponsor to Christopher Columbus Spain would not have had any input to the  USA nor would the conquistadors have troubled the latin American countries for better or worse the Aztecs reign would have continued .She also expelled the Jews from Spain and sadly increased persecution of non Christians but she thus facilitated  the advance of science in other countries as Jewish doctors and scholars feld .She was succeeded by her daughter Juana ,,though only briefly as Juana became increasingly mentally unbalanced  .

Margret Beaufort


Mother of Henry Tudor later to be Henry VII .She began her life tragically ,married  very young (she was probably  between 11 and 12 ).Her husband who was twice her age .She gave birth at 13 to her only child Henry by which time she was already a widow .Yet Margret overcame all the odds to become the mother of the first Tudor King.Without Margret it is extremely unlikely Henry Tudor would have become Henry VII  as it was primarily by her plotting and support Henry managed to invade England and win at  Bosworth .Without Margaret there would be no Tudor dynasty.

Katherine of Aragon

white band-Catherine_aragon

While often seen as Henry VIII boring first wife ,it was Katherine who shaped much of Henry’s early policy and it was under Katherine’s command that England won the battle of  Flodden against the  Scots ,the battle saw the death of not just the king but also much of the nobility of Scotland.By refusing to comply to Henrys demand for an end to their marriage she created a situation were the reformists gained power and England became  more isolated from Europe.

Anne Boleyn


The determination of Henry VIII to cast off  Katherine for Anne and the way both women dealt with the situation shaped Tudor society and culture and a widespread and lasting effect on our lives It is unlikely that the protestant reformers would have had the success in England which they did without Anns protection .Anne was a determined supporter of the reformers and her copy of Tyndale’s New testament still survives.

Queen Mary 1

mary tudor

Always in the shadow of her half-sister Elizabeth Mary Tudor is yet an interesting figure in her own right ,sadly responsible for the creating of an anti catholic bias in the English mind which lasted for many centuries  ,she was also the first woman ever to rule England in her own right and by popular consent.

Elizabeth 1


The influence of Elizabeth’s reign impacted on almost every aspect of modern life in the UK ,our culture ,our trade ,our prejudices and our belief in what it is to be English .

Catherine de Medici

Catharina Medici

Not an independent  monarch in her own right,she ruled through her sons  and played a key role in the politics  of Europe,The years during which her sons reigned is often called the age of Catherine de Medici .She made real changed in Frances policy while unfortunate events such as the St Bartholomew’s day massacre created such a powerful full memory that it had lasting repercussions for Roman Catholics .The Massacre is now largely forgotten but at the time it stunned Europe ,Its effect can probably best be summed up as correlating to the effect of 9/11.

Mary Stuart the Queen of Scots

black dress mary

While Mary was rather a tragic and ineffective ruler ,she ruled as queen in Scotland briefly and provided a son James who was to unite mainland Britain under one monarch.The rule of Mary and Elizabeth made  mainland Britain for a while at least a place entirely under the governance of queens.

whether directly as queens Regnant or regents  or indirectly as queens consort for much of the 16 th Century much of Europe’s history  was being shaped by women.

Margaret of Austria

margret of Austria

Governor of the Netherlands

Navarrese  Queens

Navarre is interesting as it had several queens throughout its history and five between the mid 15th and late 16thc century .Navarre had two  queens during the 16th c who played roles in European politics Catherine and Joan III it was also home to the  the influential  queen consort  Marguerite.

While these are likely to be the only  queens covered in depth there are many other interesting ladies worthy of note

In Russia

Between 1533  and 1538 Elena Glinskaya  ruled as regent .

Eleanore of Toledo

 eleanorElizabeth Woodville

eliz woodvil

Elizabeth  of York


Elizabeth Bathory


Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, history | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Princes in the Tower, the murder mystery that never was

As  Richard III is currently in the news  I thought it a good time to finish my post on the Princes.The alleged “murder of the princes in the tower” is a frequent reason for suggesting that Richard III was both a bad person and a usurper .Richard cannot escape the slur of child murder and comments about placing his actions in a historical context don’t really wash.Yet there is absolutely nothing about Richards character and behavior prior to becoming King which suggests he is capable of murdering not just  children but his brothers  children .It is certain Richard took power from these children  with planned and somewhat ruthless efficiency and placed them under increasingly close keeping  in the Tower of London.They then disappear from  the tower and from history presumably murdered.


I know it is popular to “defend “Richard by suggesting other potential suspects but I don’t think it is actually necessary to assume foul play .The princes could  quite easily have died of natural causes, or perhaps  the  older prince  or more precisely the young king  Edward V died and the younger prince was sent away,(I can’t personally  imagine it likely that one prince was sent into exile overseas but there is considerable academic support to favour it and  unless this occurred or was at least suspected  I cannot otherwise explain the  behavior of  key players later in case of Perkin Warbeck).

True Richard placed first Edward V and then is Brother Richard in the Tower of London but  the moving of the Princes to the Tower was not as ominous as it seems to us now, the Tower was the key royal lodging in London and  had a large and comfortable set of Royal apartments and monarchs stayed there prior to their coronation.It is only later under the Tudors and Stuarts it acquires a reputation that is entirely unpleasant  .Even had the boys not been kept in Royal apartments its not necessarily the case that because they were placed in the towers other rooms their death needed to follow.The Tower had a number of long-term prisoners and several kings and queens spent years imprisoned in the Tower before being released or moved elsewhere.Over the centuries Kings of France ,England and Scotland spent years in imprisonment .Richard may have planned a similar fate for his nephews,he certainly had nothing to gain from having them murdered as they had been declared illegitimate ,their power base curtailed and  he had been crowned king.

Keeping the children in his custody made much more sense than murdering them as while they were in his close keeping they were in effect hostages for the good behavior of their mother and her supporters and many of those supporters were the unpopular Woodville’s or Woodville allies.Though plots could be instigated to free them, as long as they were kept safe and perhaps in secret locations it was far safer to leave them alive. The next claimants  to Richards throne were all adults who were out of Richards control and capable of acting for themselves .

It is not therefore fanciful or illogical  to assume Richard did not murder the Princes and there is no evidence against him .Though there were random rumors in 1483 and 1484 and the odd vague remark by later chroniclers  there is no evidence that he murdered the children except that they disappeared and their disappearance may equally have been because as other rumors claimed that they had been sent overseas.Likewise despite it being in his obvious best interests Henry VII could not find reputable accounts  of any murder or produce the princes bodies and was never able to clearly accuse Richard of their murder.Further more  HenryVIIs behavior in the Perkin Warbeck case tends to suggest he did not know for an absolute fact that the princes had been murdered .

There is also the behavior of  their mother and their sisters Despite a few rumours that the princes had been murdered in late 1483 In March 1884 their mother Elizabeth Woodville and their sisters came out of sanctuary in Westminster Abbey and Richard gave sworn assurances of their safety and good treatment and he made good his promises.To allow the sisters of the Princes liberty was fairly safe while their brothers were still alive if however Richard had killed them ,it meant he was allowing freedom to potential heirs of Edward IV and  also placing in positions of power women whose brothers he had murdered .This doesn’t seem the wisest of moves.If however we assume the princes were moved and hidden away there is no reason not to treat their sisters well . If as I suggest may be the case that the princes  or at least the  elder  King Edward died of natural causes and this was known to be a fact by their mother then there would be no danger from allowing the women liberty as long as they would be persuaded to see their best interests lay with Richard and it made political sense to  marry them into the families of his supporters or perhaps  as his wife was sickening he planned  to marry  one of them himself to strengthen his claim to the throne,,just as Henry VII does later when he marries Elizabeth of York.eli yorkThe case for natural death grows if  evidence from the bones long believed to be the Princes in the tower is considered.(though I am not utterly convinced these are in fact the princes bones  ,the arguments for illness could equaly apply )The bones of the largest /eldest child showed evidence of extensive  osteomyelitis, a chronic and in medieval times, incurable bone  disease ,it causes not just severe pain and sores but also bone necrosis and even today dead bone often needs to be removed and treatment with antibiotics is essential .None of these options were available at the time .If the skeleton is that of  Edward V he was doomed even without being murdered The pain from this infection  would be more than enough to account for Edward Vs apparent depression and  its severity accounts for his reported belief  that he would soon die .If this was the prince the disease was of long standing so  it is also clear he had been  alive for longer than reports of his death in 1483 suggested.

The progress of this or any similare disease would also explain why the princes began to be seen less frequently and may also  explain the death or disappearance  of the second prince .Perhaps when it became clear how ill Edward was Richard was moved to keep him healthy or more likely he contracted a related disease and died .Osteomyelitis can be a complication of other diseases  caused by a number of bacteria all of which would easily be passed from child to child by direct contact ,by sharing the same environment,,same bed ,same increasingly confined space.Two of the bacteria Staphylococcus and salmonella are environmental and the princes probably shared the same spaces  infected by the bacteria and may  have been independently infected .Its also possible it was a complication of Tuberculosis ,which may have been the actual cause of death and would have very easily been transmitted from prince to prince ..Though the second skeleton does not appear to have any disease  evident it was incomplete and already damaged when examined and in addition death from for example Typhus  would leave no marks nor would flu type diseases  ,it was only months after Bosworth that the “sweating Sickness” officially appears in England perhaps the princes were among the earliest victims.
Death by natural causes would explain the burial of the bodies either those found under the stair or those found elsewhere earlier,,if your going to murder two children then why not just throw them in the river but if they die of natural causes after being cared for then it’s entirely logical they may have been secretly and hurriedly  buried in a makeshift coffin to prevent the spread of disease from their corpses but perhaps also with the hope they could be reburied with  more dignity later.

If they had died in 1483 it  doesn’t of course explain why Richard didn’t make the deaths public and produce bodies,Edwards disease would be so visible that it would be impossible to attribute his death to murder .I would suggest that it’s possible that at the time the first rumors  of their murder were circulating  the princes were extremely ill and couldn’t be produced but Richard was biding his time and intended to produce them once they recovered or produce their corpses once they succumbed and died.Perhaps Elizabeth emerged from the closely watched sanctuary of the Abby in 1484 so she could visit one or both sons before their deaths it would explain what otherwise seems to be a strange about turn.

There were regular outbreaks of disease in London and especially during the hotter months ,infant mortality in medieval England was high and  the Woodville children of Edward IV seem to have been particularly susceptible to ravages of  infant mortality .In addition precautions against spreading disease where for the  most part ineffective .In the light of the lack of evidence it would seem far more likely that the Princes died while kept in less than ideal conditions rather than that they were murdered by persons unknown in a manner unknown and disposed of in a place unknown.

The possibility that the younger child survived in exile will be dealt with at some point in the future as the case of Perkin Warbeck is of enough interest to merit its own post


Richards religious beliefs

As it’s a subjective opinion I have not included the following in the main article however I think it a valid and very important  argument and it is therefore included below.

As a christian I do not feel that Richard who shows obvious signs of  being  genuinely devout would have committed murder .While Richard was obviously used to killing ,he had fought in many battles ,this does not make him capable of child murder .Premeditated  Murder is a mortal sin.Had Richard committed such a sin he would have shown signs of a troubled conscience and an excessive  worry about the state of his soul after death ,this isn’t the case .True he arranged  the execution of enemies but those were adults who were  his enemies not defenseless children ,Richard seems to have had an empathy for the under dog and a passion for justice for the voiceless its I think impossible that such a man could kill children in his care.

Posted in history, Tudors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

What the Bible says about Women part two. Ezer Kenegdo .


As mentioned in my first post on what the Bibles says about Women ,this is a response to the number of sites promoting the submissive wife and  Titus 2 woman.Titus is a New testament letter and gives instructions on  conduct appropriate to various groups.The relevant section states

Titus 2

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

I will choose here to be the older woman of Titus two and offer good counsel to younger women .There is an increasing number of sites promoting  the  erroneous doctrine of  Women as inferiors to men or wives as servants to husbands .Young Christian women are encouraged to be  “stay at home” women,both wives and mums and even daughters .While it is  certainly ideal for young Children to have a “stay at home” parent ,I find it worrying that women are encouraged to be “stay at home ” daughters to the exclusion of acquiring an education and stay at home wives to the exclusion of any  education or ambitions other than those focused on being the helpmate of a man .

titus woman

I am in no way denigrating stay at home mums or wives at various times I have been both ,neither is my argument based on undermining the Bible or the Christian faith ,I hold a high conservative view of scripture and I am a Christian.(I have provided a fuller  outline of my spiritual, personal and educational background in the previous post here)


I will  now explore and consider the premises for believing the bible  teaches the inferiority of women and  condones or even encourages “stay at home women”I have started  this series of posts by considering the account of  creation and the fall ,as it is the foundation on which every other belief rests. I have also argued more or less entirely from within the text as it is the Bible which is used to justify these heresies.

Genesis not only tells us about the past acts of our  creator God but  explains our present  world and its tells us of  events that  are still being enacted ,it lays down fundamental  concepts about ourselves and our world  and about what is means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.Its also the foundation of the only God-given covenant between humans Marriage.Misreading and mistranslation have created an entirely false idea of the roles of women.


Below are listed some Commonly held views which are assumed to have irrefutable foundations in the Word of God ,most are out-and-out untrue some are only half-true

1/ The bible says women  are inferior to men ,they mens helpers and God ordained different roles in life for men and woman

2/that Man as “the priest of the house” is effectively responsible for being almost an intermediary between his wife and God .

3/ The bible says women are inherently more likely to sin than men and were responsible for the “fall”

4/The bible says wives must  be the submissive servants of their husbands

To begin with premise one

The bible says  women are inherently inferior to men ,the weaker vessel.

It is fairly obvious without any reference to scripture that women are in general physically frailer than men ,we lack the same muscle strength ,we have finer more delicate bones and finer skin  ,we are for the most part are less resilient to harsh environments or excessive hard labour .Being physically weaker however does not mean we are weak in every respect.Many male biblical characters are not physically remarkable and indeed several  handsome or  physically  strong male figures are poor spiritual  role models eg ,Absalom,Samson,

The bible  therefore clearly does not teach that the  body is  in any way a mirror to the mind or soul nor is it of any eternal  importance .Womens bodies are weaker but their  intellect and women’s immortal souls are equal to mens because god created us that way and Genesis tells us so.


The Bible tells is  man was most certainly created first and woman second.To use this to support an argument that Man is therefore a better, higher or prefered being to woman  is erroneous . Before man was created God created the plants and animals,,does that therefore mean they are superior to Mankind ? Creation of living things in the Genesis account is shown as a progression from the simple plants to more complex animals then to man .Man is not greater than woman because he was created first ,if you carry any form of  precedence by creation time argument forward it would maintain Woman not man was the peak of Gods creation .Which is obviously not an acceptable premise .What is clear  is Woman is not an afterthought to stop Adam being lonely ,Woman  completes Gods  creation ,without woman the work of creation is incomplete and Adams life would be forever lonely.


Secondly the frequent argument of mans superiority because he is in effect Gods first-born .This is also flawed as throughout the bible the first-born are often superseded by later children,,Jacob was born second,,David was the youngest son.The term  first-born  cannot be used of  the Adam /God  relationship God did not give birth to Adam he created him.

Point one continued

Woman is created  according to our English bibles to be mans ” help mate ” in his tasks ,however  the word has lost some of its meaning over time ,,the original was help meet,, ie helper fit for man ,,and even in its original form the phrase  loses a great deal in translation.


.The english versions leads us  to assume that woman being a helper for man  is therefore inferior.This is not is a concept borne out by later biblical events and teaching or by actual reading of the Hebrew phrase, Ezer  cenegdo/kenegdo

The english translation  of the phrase as Helper suggests a position of inferiority,taking commands and helping out ,however the actual Hebrew has a wider fuller  meaning .

Ezer  the first part of the phrase  is exclusively  used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to God or to a king or ruler or someone powerful providing indispensable help ,its always used to describe someone with power ,it ,means not a servant helper but someone who comes to your aid with their ,power  or strength and or as a military allies.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

The base root of Ezer is  Azar  which means to succor ,to surround,to encourage .

Hence  woman is mans  helper in power and strength as well as emotionally and spiritually.If we seek her model in art or literature she isn’t the long-suffering,downtrodden and  submissive yet ever faithful Griselda ,


she is more like the gentle but brave and powerful Arwyn


There are plenty of Hebrew words which do mean servant or someone able but under authority but these are not used.

The second part of the phrase Cenegdo or  kenegdo means facing ,like or corresponding to  or opposite to and implies being face to face ,equal  but different.It can also mean an opposer but thats not its usual context.That this is how woman is seen is again obvious by close reading of the text .

Adam acknowledges Eves likeness to himself my calling Eve ,wo-man ,not because she is from him and therefore inferior to him but because unlike the animals etc she is like him ,flesh of his flesh bone of his bone ,,another being like himself.

Significantly and symbolically Eve is created from Adams side and from close to his heart.The bible re enforces this by adding that Man will leave his father and mother to be with his wife.The revolutionary nature of that verse is perhaps lost on the modern mind  ,at the time of Gensis conception is elsewhere in the world it was  always the case that women are taken from their homes  to the mans household and become part of his family’s household as almost a posession.

Kenegdos other meaning as opposite  also suggests that  Eve is different to Adam which is clearly the case the Bible ,experience and science all show us that men and women are not just the same creatures in different bodies but have clear differences in outlook and in their strengths and weaknesses.

Hence  God says I will create for Adam a partner to be his aid ,Woman is not created as a meek helpmate but a powerful ,strong partner for Adam to add her strength to his and with him to rule the earth.

Ferdinand-and-Isabelle-1469-51246288a(Ferdinand and Isabella ,the Catholic monarchs of spain

The Biblical texts examined more closely

Gen 2 v8

 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 Now a river [g]flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four [h]rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it [i]flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it [j]flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is [k]Tigris; it [l]flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the [m]Euphrates.

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not [n]eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [o]suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the [p]sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the [q]sky, and to every beast of the field, but for [r]Adam there was not found a helper [s]suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God [t]fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
[u]She shall be called [v]Woman,
Because [w]she was taken out of [x]Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife

This is the most often quoted account of the creation of mankind and is of course the reason we know man was created first .However what is rarely asked is why did God create man first  and allow man to look for companions elsewhere before he created woman?A close reading of the text shows this is not as it is usually suggested merely because man is thus shown to Gods first choice and worker alongside God in naming the animals .Nor is it  that Man is  Gods true image or even because it shows man can exist without woman while women are entirely dependent on men for their existence ,rather the opposite.Man cannot live without Woman ,she is essential to him ,this creation account is surely given to us by God so that men will understand they need women,that women are essential to them and bring to creation something unique and special .Its also clear that Man is given a close relationship with his wife so much so they are one


This first longer version of  mankind’s creation is also usually stressed to the exclusion of the much shorter earlier version

Gen 1 .27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” .

Man /the husband is the spiritual intermediary between Woman and God .his wife and God

In this shorter  creation account  we see the  introductory comments on the hebrew phrase translated helpmate as an equal partner are accurate .Man is not the only true image of God and woman an echo made only to be mans servant ,in this earlier verse we see Women and Man on equal  spiritual footing both rulers of the earth. God blessed THEM  ie both Adam and Eve  and told Them ie ,Adam and Eve, man and woman that they should subdue and role over creation  .Later verses support this  readings I will use two NT texts one from Peter and one from   Pauls teachings on men and women as  Peter and Paul are the only real source for christian views of women as mens servants

First Peter

Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way live with your wives with understanding, showing respect as to a weaker vessel, the female, as also to a fellow-heir of the grace of life, so your prayers may not be hindered.

Secondly Paul

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (NIV, Galatians 3:26-29)

(I will answer Peter and Pauls other teaching on Women in later posts)

Women responsible for the Fall

If it is accepted Women and Men were initially spiritual equals ,its claimed Women or at least Eve sinned first  causing the Fall and the advent of sin and death.

It is very certain that the first woman,Eve was the first human to disobey God ,the Bible tells us so and we see many echos of the Fall narrative in other cultures Myths such as that of Pandora  and her box or Jar  ( Pandora is the created first woman in Greek Mythology)

It is true that had Adam not also disobeyed Evas plight and that of Women would be like Pandora the source of all the worlds woes ,However Adam did sin.


Genesis three the Fall

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The Story ends with Adam and Eves expulsion from Eden.

The Expulsion from Eden

It is sometimes claimed Adam was always the intermediary between Eve and God ,,hence Man should remain so in the modern world (,this is however not borne out by a close reading of the Bible, true God and Adam are close and it is Adam not Eve who God calls for in the garden but nowhere does it say that God only spoke to Eve via Adam,God does in fact  speak to her in a second creation account and in this account later during the curses  ,you have to rely on the argument from silence  to imply G0d didn’t speak to Eve)

But if we assume for the time being that Adam was Gods intermediary  with Eve ,then if was the case  Eves sin was to disobey Adam her husband thus causing all the woes of the world.However what is ignored in this scenario is that if this is indeed the case Eves sin is surely more understandable than Adams.Eve disobeyed her fellow-creature who she spent her time helping because a spiritual being, the serpent told her something different.Adam on the other hand disobeyed God ,a God who he had been close to and who he knew from personal experience was the creator of  all the living things and who had given him everything he had .At this point its is proper to highlight that any disobedience is Sin and all sin is equal Eves is not a lesser sinner for just disobeying Adam , but likewise Eve is no greater sinner for sinning first ,her sin is no greater than Adams.Likewise the actual act of committing the first sin is committed by both Eve and Adam individually and independently and both must equally take the responsibility for their sin and its consequences.

If we now read the account more closely we see that though the text is unclear  its likely only Eve held a conversation with the serpent .It is however utterly illogical to argue that this is a prelude to sin. Eve was not told not to talk to the serpent just not to eat from the tree .Its also suggested Eve should not have  had the conversation where she explains the prohibition to the serpent as that implies Eves willingness to be tempted  but ignores the obvious alternative that Eve was explaining to the serpent that it was wrong in what it believed and was trying to helpfully correct it ,she has after all been given joint  stewardship of the animals by God .While it is occasionally suggested both Adam and Eve were involved in the serpents conversation this seems unlikely ,The serpent is cursed for deceiving Eve not both Adam and Eve so it’s fairly likely the serpent /Eve conversation isn’t witnessed by Adam .It can be argued that Eve is seen as an easy target by the serpent  or that she intends to sin because she goes close to the tree but that isn’t explicitly stated and can’t be supported by the Genesis narrative .God doesn’t say ,don’t go near the tree ,don’t talk to the serpent so there can be no implied disobedience from Eves actions.

What is important is that Eve does not sin then wander to another part of Eden to tempt Adam , Adam is present at the point at which Eve eats ,he sees her eat then eats himself ,she doesn’t tempt Adam she is just the one who passes the fruit to Adam and who eats .Adam doesn’t say Eve told me to eat it ,Eve  persuaded me or Eve deceived me just that she gave it to him  the fruit .God doesn’t curse Eve for deceiving Adam in the way he curses the serpent for deceiving Eve ,nor does he curse  Eve as a temptress ,he curses her for her disobedience in eating the fruit

The consequences of  Adams sin is also much more wide-ranging than Eves ,Eves sin merely effects women

Gen 3 cont

I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;

rIn pain you shall bring forth children;

sYour desire shall be 5for your husband,

And he shall trule over you.”

whereas Adams affects all creation and the lot of humankind.

Gen 3

Then to Adam He said, u“Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree vof which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

w“Cursed is the ground for your sake;

xIn toil you shall eat of it

All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall 6bring forth for you,

And yyou shall eat the herb of the field.

19 zIn the sweat of your face you shall eat bread

Till you return to the ground,

For out of it you were taken;

aFor dust you are,

And bto dust you shall return.”


Lastly here is the earliest source of the belief that  God ordained women should be submissive in all respects to their husbands ,its is the phrase that Eves husband will “Rule over her, yet the context here is always forgotten ,,it’s a curse .God is not giving out instructions for a godly marriage but rather explaining the sad results of sin.Likewise it would be impossible for the ruling over of Eve to have been an original part of the Adam /Eve ,husband wife ideal relationship  then be included in a curse for sin .The unregenerate Husband wife may still be included in this curse but there is certainly no scope for a Christian husband and wife to use this text for marriage guidance.

It should  also be noticed that the trend to “pass the buck to women for mans sin first appears here but Adams defence by blaming Eve is not condoned by God  and he shows clearly that every being is accountable for their sins and can’t use excuses to pass the blame to anyone or anything else.Blaming Eve for initiating the Fall and using it to denigrate women is not acceptable to God.

Men and women are equal but different .


I have here listed  several texts using Ezer Kenegd

 Exodus 18:4, And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.  –

 Deuteronomy 33:26, There is none like unto God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the heaven in thy help, and his excellency on the sky. 

Deuteronomy 33:29, Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!.. 

5) Psalm 20:1-2, The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion.

6) Psalm 33:20, Our soul waiteth for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

7) Psalm 70:5, But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.

8) Psalm 89:19, Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

9) Psalm 115:9, O Israel, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

10) Psalm 115:10, O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

11) Psalm 115:11, Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

12) Psalm 121:1, I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

13) Psalm 121:2, My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

14) Psalm 124:8, Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

15) Psalm 146:5, Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help

 If we apply Ezer to imply a position of submission and servant like service these texts become nonsense.

Exodus 18:4, And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine servant  and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.  –

Deuteronomy 33:26, There is none like unto God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy service  and his excellency on the sky.

Psalm 121:2, My service  cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Lord, the voice of Judah be thou a servant to him from his enemies.

Psalm 115:11, Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their servant .

Psalm 146:5, Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his servant.

I thought it would be enlightening to substitute  the word woman for  helper in one of the  texts.

Psalm 146 ,v 5 Happy is the man who has woman for his helper

,,, Woman is considered in much this way in  Proverbs

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

Proverbs 19:14 House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.

(The proverb backs up and builds on the narrative of Genesis were Adam is given Eve.)

Proverbs 31:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil

christians are therefore equals but different ,they compliment each other and by being partners help make up for each others weaknesses.


me john work

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Blake Morrison ,Three sisters a review

I was asked to review Blake Morrisons” we are three sisters”  .I went to the play with mixed feelings, while normally eager to see new Bronte inspired work, I had avoided “We are three sisters” as I hate Chekhov, I find him needlessly depressing and I sympathise entirely with the view of one long dead reviewer of Chekhov’s three sisters who pointed out “that if someone had just bought three tickets to Moscow the play would have ended”,, and probably it would have been for the best.That said I should not have felt so gloomy, if anything could make me love Chekhov ,it would be “We are three sisters” though in truth I struggled to find anything much of Chekhov’s three sisters in Blake Morrison’s (vastly improved) three sisters. While I could not watch more than a few minutes of Chekhov’s  play  without wishing the sisters would just buck up their ideas and get on with life ,aided by solid performances from Barry Rutters Northern Broadside  theatre company  Blake Morrison’s ”we are three  sisters” could not be more  different ,lively intelligent and determined, they are victims of their circumstances, intelligent enough to realise this yet refusing to lie down and give up ,throwing off their victim status with a power and determination one could imagine the Bronte’s themselves possesing.Morrison  has created several of those  rarities, intelligent well written and witty characters who are also Northerners. Though Lydia did at times descend to an ecky thump, flat cap and whippet level of Northernhood   the other characters deftly avoided the trap and made me proud of this innovative and native company.Broadside is the child of and run by among others Barry Rutter, based in Halifax and composed of primarily northern cast and crew, it is fiercely loyal to its northern roots and determined to highlight the talent and creativity of  the area propelled  by the vision  and drive of  its founder  Barry Rutter.wearethreesisters_1998069b
I was delighted to discover on entering the theatre that the parsonage dining room had been recreated in its main elements. The table ,chairs etc where set on a red carpet, the chairs being identical to the parsonages far from common style of chair and on table  sat the sisters writing slopes even the sofa (though on set translated in a chaise long) was the correct colour and set in roughly the same spot. The dining room is so central to Bronte myth and to their actual lives that its only fitting most of the plays action takes place in this space and while I am aware Black Morrison did not want to photographically recreate the Brontes spaces yet even the tiny kitchen set, almost off stage and set lower reminded one instantly of the warm and welcoming parsonage kitchen.I was intrigued by the presence of a gravestone propped almost unnoticed on the “chimney breast which separated the Main dining space from the kitchen and I had assumed it was designed to indict Charlotte’s conviction that the parsonage was itself, built on graves, an idea seized on by some Bronte biographers to imply the Brontes felt surrounded by death, a feeling that grew in my mind when Emily recites in the first scene the stanzas as she paces the main set.
see around me tombstones grey,
I see around me Tombstones grey
stretching their shadows far away
beneath the turf my footsteps tread
Lie low and lone the silent dead
I was later told the gravestone was a mere accident  which seemed unlikely but if so it was lucky accident and if the gravestone  was  intentional it was a nice and thoughtful idea it was, like the equally thoughtfully added chip, chip, chip of the stone mason as he unseen, carves out new gravestones for those silent dead ,another  great idea. It was also a delight to see the sisters dressed accurately and with obvious thought and attention to detail, Ann in a grey 1840s gown ,charlotte  in a drab 1840s gown, both in multiple  petticoats which though invisible yet made the gowns move right despite being much more high maintenance than adding the usual inaccurate hoops  and even more impressive  Emily was dressed in a 1830s gown with straight skirts, that seemed inspired by the Gun Group, it was a nice touch that probably went unnoticed by most theatre goers and therefore all the more impressive.Moving to the performances of the actors themselvesI may perhaps start with my most negative comments and get them out of the way as I feel somehow a traitor to the cause to mention them. It was the performance of Barry Rutter as the school teacher, I entered the theatre eager to love Mr Rutter, I really did, the man is a talented Northerner proud of his roots and has helped create an excellent company in Northern  Broadside. Unfortunately he had not long been on stage before enthusiasm gave way to despair.Mr Rutters performance reminded me of fireworks, bright and dazzling, it exploded onto the stage with bangs and bright lights only to almost instantly fizzle out and plummet to earth, leaving only a lump of cardboard  that gets in everyone’s way .He was the weak link in an otherwise strong chain. He walks around in one scene in a cardboard mask and one couldn’t help but feel that his performance might have been improved had he left it on throughout the play, as compared to the restraint and sensitivity shown by the other actors, his forever mobile eyebrows and very mobile features created the impression of a great plastic chrysanthemum stuck inside a bouquet of snowdrops. I have heard and also read in other reviews that Mr Rutter has been excellent in past performances and perhaps this was just a bad day for him. I am only sure that Mr Rutter couldn’t enter a scene without leaving you wishing you where elsewhere and left you sympathizing with a talented cast trying to act round the manic elephant in the room.The cast was otherwise truly exceptional and on a Saturday afternoon with another long and emotionally demanding performance ahead of them, to what would no doubt be a bigger audience they gave their all to the performance. They made the two thirds full theatre resound with clear and passionately spoken yet restrained performances.The play opens with the sisters, Mr Bronte and Branwell singing one of Ann’s hymns to her melody that has been thoughtfully reset, I am no musician  so unfortunately cannot do justice to its sensitivity  to the characters later roles  but the actress playing Ann  later explained in our interview that it was a five-part harmony. To my uneducated ears the hymn was simply, perfectly sung. The male voices kept subtle enough  not to drown the ladies yet clear  and strong while  the actresses sounded very sweet .

From the very first  the script show that the playwright is very familiar with the Bronte’s letters and other primary sources, It harks back briefly to Chekhov ,it is Anns birthday (name day) and she mentions the contents of her diary paper, a nice deft way to set the scene. I suspect that Blake Morrison read widely and perhaps made notes of the biographical elements of several of Charlotte’s novels such as Shirley and has taken inspiration for some parts of Charlotte’s early dialogue about curates from it. Throughout the play he shows an intimate acquaintance with facts and wide-ranging exploration of primary and secondary sources as well as Bronte novels and poetry so that when he later bends the facts you are absolutely certain it is an artistic and creative decision not ignorance. The research lies gently within the script and often hidden but I believe it helps breath life into the characters. Perhaps  also ought to  mention  here another  major difference between the Blake Morrison and Chekhov plays, especially as it was yet another reason I had avoided the play ,while Chekhov’s sisters seem to me at least to constantly long for  civilisation and culture of Moscow ,thinking very little of their present backwater existence among what they perhaps consider red necks ,In the Blake Morrison play there is none of this denigration of the Brontes surroundings and  while this unavoidably means the play drifts  further from its Chekhovian roots, good for him !

To review each character in more detail I will start with the sisters and with Emily  who was perfectly played  by Sophia di Martino and  while I personally felt the character  as written was at times  too morose she was most people’s perception of Emily  and aside from the odd gloomy comments which are, as parts of the script outside her control the actress absolutely perfectly portrays Emily’s force of character (the actress called her” a force of nature “in our interview ) She recited Emily’s poetry when the script provided her with the opportunity not as mere lines but as something that spoke to her own soul.
There is interwoven into all  her actions and delivery the impression of Emily as something  at once both ordinary yet elemental, yet thrillingly this wasn’t the clichéd Emily but a living breathing funny and sometimes fragile Emily, rooted in her love of the moors yet not enslaved  by the script into a stereotypical hybrid of Kathy and Heathcliff ( the Kathy- like moor wandering cliché was something the actress later mentioned they had been very keen to avoid). I was delighted to see the domestic homemaker and witty Emily brought to life here .I often felt “yes! this is how Emily looked and  moved and spoke” It was almost as if I were  a fly on the wall at the parsonage back in the 1840s. It was a delight
Charlotte was equally well-played, I didn’t get chance to talk to the actress about her  intentions and inspirations as she wasn’t with us later so I will have to go with my own impressions, I felt she was possibly the most Chekhovian of the characters, also I got a very deep impression that this was Juliette Barker’s Charlotte ,rather than Mrs Gaskells  and Juliette Barker doesn’t seem to be much of a Charlotte fan .Its seemed the actress had done her research and she was extremely good in her scenes with Branwell and Tabby. She made  Charlotte a warmer, brighter being .Blake Morrison has obviously thought long and in-depth about Charlotte and it shows .He takes Barker’s solid scholarship but, Pygmalion like breathes life into her chilly marble .
Tabby was brilliant, a character pivotal to the Brontes yet usually ignored it was a real joy to see her brought to life. It may have been merely to provide a  nod to Chekhov and a victim to Lydia as it’s a small part with few lines and  she could have been an almost non entity ,the butt of Lydia’s insults and object of  the girls sympathy but it is a great tribute to the actress that she’s one of my favourite characters from the play ,Her Tabby is blunt, vivacious, funny, yet occasionally heartbreakingly frail. Blake Morrison yet again has breathed the spirit of the real person into the old familiar mould.
Branwell was perfectly portrayed physically .


When he walks on he reminds me of the Leyland bust and his own sketches. I am not sure what I thought of his emotional  portrayal ,I didn’t like this Branwell and not because of his actions. In another play, Bronte Boy, Branwell was just as badly behaved yet still lovable and worthy of sympathy. Blake Morrisons  Branwell seems unsympathetic and I am not sure if that’s due to the original Chekhov play or the choice of the playwright, The scenes where he bully’s and denigrates  his sisters vividly brought to life how life must have actually been in those dark days final days  but as this is unsoftened by earlier scenes of affection you are left with a distinctly unflattering portrait, I am no fan of Branwell yet he was a loving brother and a talented and witty man but I felt little of this in Blake Morrison’s Branwell .
I also found Lydia two-dimensional but that was how she was written and the actress playing her seemed to do her best with, in parts not very good material, though she has some excellent one liners, among my favourites was

“I thought Haworth would be more like Harrogate”

I would imagine she’s supposed to be a monster, but I remember one reviewer described her as one step away from Hyacinth Bucket and that was the idea that stuck in my mind.
To return to the sisters, Ann played by Rebecca Hutchinson  is perfect, she’s often left in the shadows in Bronte biographies and plays so  it was utterly delightful to see another  play that centres so much of the action on her and an actress that brings her so fully to life, the actress playing her was indignant  that a recent poll mentioned Charlotte and Emily but completely  missed Ann off  the famous Yorkshire authors list. That passion for her character and her right to a voice seemed to me to inform and impassion the performance. Ann was the gentle quiet Ann of myth but not the lifeless cardboard cut out of so many portrayals.
Of the male characters  The father  Patrick was also excellent, touching  and intelligent but  funny and  kind and though he obviously has his eccentricities and  has a somewhat fiery nature  he  is not dominated by either  but they merely add another endearing layer to the character.
The minor  characters are a curate “William ” who is so well written and played I believe he has every woman in the audience half in love with him before he finishes his first scene and kicking herself by the end of his second .William is, I assume based on Willy Weightman and has much of what seems to have been Weightmans charisma and sex appeal ,yet also his  compassionate sweet nature  and dedication to improving the lot of his parishioners, all be it intermixed in the Curate character with a superficiality on other  levels and what amounts to an addiction to insincere flirtation.
The doctor is also a revelation, initially a frequently superficial and occasionally brutish character he is also tender ,sad and intelligent, his final scene as he prepares to leave Haworth  reminded me somehow of the legend of a mute swan singing before its death, his lines where simple but moving and perfectly  delivered, the audience was hushed .
It’s strange that though the men seem to dominate the first acts yet they seem somehow disposable, the sisters silent and often unremarked on seemed to me to dominate the play even when  silent or in the shadows

I left feeling that you didn’t need to know the original Three sisters to enjoy Blake Morrison’s  version, Though it’s obviously hung onto a rough three sisters outline,, it had gloom enough to go around but was also bright and witty  ( though I know initially Chekhov wrote “the three sisters “as a comedy. I don’t think you can actually say you wrote a comedy when you have to explain to people it’s a comedy, which apparently Chekhov had to do ).This play however was genuinely laugh out loud funny, in the places intended to be funny and the lines were expertly delivered with perfect comic timing.

Later  we were joined by two cast members the young actresses who had played Ann and the equally talented Emily The interviews were a joy. I asked the actress playing Ann if she had read Agnes Grey as it seemed to show in her character and she said yes she had read all Annes work and esp. her poetry which she loved and that she had read a great deal of Juliette barkers biography which she is still studying. I asked her  if she liked Ann ,she said yes she loved Ann for “her optimism ,for daring to be an unashamed romantic ,for always searching for the good in people and despite adversity daring to dream big and see beauty in everyday, which is a real gift.”
I then asked “Emily if having so little of Emilys own words outside of her novel and poetry was liberating or restrictive. She said it was both “it was a challenge getting to know Emily as she didn’t want to be known” which I thought was an excellent and intuitive summary .Of the character of Emily in the play as elsewhere she felt “a lot is imaginary and other people’s ideas “. She has also read widely and is very familiar with Juliette Barker’s work and Emily poetry .She named reciting the poetry as one of the highlights of the play for herself. Both of the actresses where charming and very happy to talk.

I should like to thank the young ladies for their patience and time which no doubt left them, little time for leisure and food between their interview with us and the later performance. All in all I was glad we had seen the play and sorry I had left it so late, perhaps the play should have focused less on its Chekhovian origins and been keener to stress its strengths which to me seemed to be non Chekhovian elements which to me at least seemed to be the larger part of the play. Blake Morrison seems to have made the wise choice of ignoring what was a perhaps ill-advised brief and imposed a better brighter vision onto it.

Abigail Bell is the pseudonym of  Lyn Marie Cunliffe

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Lucy Locket lost her Pocket,,A short look at a forgotton treasure

pocket boston(http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/pocket-112116)

The almost forgotten rhyme

“Lucy locket lost her pocket ,Kitty fisher found it ,not a penny was there in it but the binding round it ”

Is the only remaining record in popular culture of a little known yet long treasured item of women’s clothing and its meaning is like pockets themselves becoming lost to history.

met pocket


Pockets  were an essential item of dress for many centuries and were once the most emotionally valuable  item a woman could posses as can be seen by amount of work often put in to making and decorating these  never seen items.

pair of pockets

In our modern homes ,we can probably never appreciate the value of these items to women in past centuries.Until the early years of the 20th c it was not unusual for  adults to share beds with siblings and certainly most would have shared rooms .If you were a servant or governess of lived away from home in a boarding school  as either a pupil or teacher , your personal possessions could be searched  if a theft had occurred,or examined to ensure you were” forming habits of orderliness ” or merely by the curious (there is an incident recorded in Charlotte Brontes Villette of the  owner of a school rifling through her new teachers clothing and possessions while the teacher is assumed to be asleep)even your underwear was not private ,,there are many records of laundry fees being charged to governess ,pupils etc,I have seen many items of Victorian clothing with names written or embroidered into them and though I can find no confirmation of it I suspect this is because the items would be washed in common with other clothing in big houses ,schools etc as there is no other logical reason for it,,why write your name on underwear you will be either wearing ,storing in your chest of drawers or washing yourself..There was therefore very little privacy, richer women may have had writing boxes or work boxes but even these were not entirely secure,  they were often left open or could be easily picked or forced  openThe pocket was for many years a womans only secure place for items she wanted to keep private or secure.

Pockets could be single or a matching pair.

yellow pockets 1785

they were usually lined and fastened with tape ties,though size varies Most are  a similar shape to those above and around 10 to 12 ins deep and are accessed by front openings.Some are larger ,very few are smaller ,I personally find pockets around 12 ins deep by 6 wide at their base the best size as they are large enough for bulky items but not too cumbersome

Pockets were also a common gift from women to other women perhaps on birthdays ,weddings etc .Pockets could also be bought ready-made but this is less common than making your own.(simple  un embroidered Pockets are fairly quick to make,I can make a pair in a day and if I use embroidered fabrics or damask they can still look surprisingly effective )

perhaps letters from loved ones, mementoes ,keys to her writing box or trunk.Alongside its value as a private space ,it was invaluable on a practical level ,it acted very much like the modern workmans tool belt,containing things needed regularly such as watches,scissors, pins ,handkerchiefs ). They  also acted much like our modern handbags containing mirrors,combs ,money ,perhaps perfume ,smelling salts , a frequent item is a long pin ,,used for securing hats or neck kerchiefs,etc ,this must have been not just useful for securing clothing but seems to have been seen as a defensive item from time to time,we have one story from Samuel Pepys diary were a lady he is flirting with  in church threatens him with a long hat pin . Larger pockets seemed to have also been used to tuck away snacks .I have complied a list of possible pocket contents through the ages( my source is primarily the V and A excellent article http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/history-of-pockets/ but includes some extra items from newspapers ,inquests etc and some items mentioned as ladies possessions in the 16thc)

Almost always mentioned are




Items of jewellery such as brooches



pins of assorted kinds


small knives (needed  for an assortment of things  ,to sharpen pencils ,pen nibs,to open letters, cut open the pages of books as these often came uncut par fruit)

Very frequently mentioned and most often recommended by ladies advice columns ,magazines or letters

small Pins/pin cushion

needles /needle case


(I also assume in instances where these are being carried outside the home the contents included small amounts of thread,,or the thimble and needles are somewhat useless but as most external pocket contents are based on instances of theft which only require  records of items of value thread would go unrecorded)



note book.

Smelling salts

pocket watch ( perhaps rarely in earlier centuries pocket sundials which were carried by the rich)

spectacles (if worn)



snuff box

personal medicines/pills

objects of sentimental value ,lockets, locks of hair,miniature portraits ,love letters,

Less frequently and probably for outside use

Gloves (though mittens seem to have been stashed in pockets when at home)


letters,passports, tickets etc

The words pocket  knife,pocket watch ,pocket handkerchief  ,pocket-book all show the original home of such items .

The word Pocket  is I am told an old English word (12th to 15th c ) however .I feel it likely they were then a visible external items as they could not have been worn under the fitted Kirtles of the early middle ages.These Kirtles did have openings as can be seen here in a painting from the late 14thc but its hard to imagine enough space for pockets large enough to store anything but a few pennies without spoiling the line of the gown and the cord ties of a pocket  around the waist would possible cause an unslightly wrinkle at the waist a little bit like our  underwear VPL  which spoils the look of fitted skirts and trousers in the present day

tommassio medieval painter pockets 1330

I cant find any reference to pockets discovered in medieval graves, eg the Smithfeild plague pits (though later pockets are fabrics which are unlikely to survive some  early 16th examples have wirework decorations  or use fabric with metalic thread work and this  could have survived.Unfortunately  I have been unable to gain access to original excavation reports so its possible there are fragments which may have been pockets .)

It is still hard to imagine gowns with the fitted shape of that below could conceal a typical pocket


There are many examples of extant pouches which are top openings and look a little like bags  ,these seem to be outer wear as  it would be hard to access that kind of opening under a gown and the style suggests a hand bag style object or at least a bag to go on a belt


Certainly in  the 13th c Pouches were outerwear as seen on this tomb from 1283


If we assume pockets became under gown items with the rise of the houppelande around the 1380s/90s


That still leaves at least 450 years of  widespread use and another 50 years when they became rarer but were still worn though they seem to die out in widespread under gown use around 1840 .There are many 184os pockets surviving though they tend to be plainer than earlier examples ,,these come from the Kay Shuttleworth collection



The use of pockets dies out later for children and they continue in use amongst the  elderly and the lower classes.

There is a mention of them in a few novels such as  David Copperfield, 1850,:

‘Releasing one of her arms, she put it down in her pocket to the elbow, and brought out some paper bags of cakes which she crammed into my pockets, and a purse which she put in my hand, but not one word did she say.’

.I suspect in the 1850s  the pockets demise among younger women  as a common item of  underwear was influenced by  the degree to which a woman could afford the fashionable cage crinolines as,though crinolines have a gap at the front it would be very difficult to access pockets via it and I have never seen an 1850s gown which had either pocket slits or was fastened in a way that would allow easy access to pockets.I personally find it easy and very useful to wear pockets under gowns from the Tudor era up until the late 1830s after which it becomes harder to accommodate a pocket.(ironically the most common use for pockets amongst re enactors is for mobile phones ! as while professional re enactments require absolute authenticity down to the lack of undergarments,,pockets are a great place to stash “forbidden modern comforts)

There are miscellaneous later references in stories but ,,the last official records I can find of tie on pockets is in the inquest notes of  the Rippers victims  from the late 1880s  one  is described as having had” A large pocket worn under the skirt and tied about the waist with strings (empty when found) another was wearing a pair of pockets and another single pocket also tie on (footnote 1)Another ripper victim Elizabeth stride  (d 1888) has a petticoat with a large pocket,,I own a mid-Victorian petticoat with such a pocket and in shape and size it mirrors the original tie on pockets  .One ripper victims (Elizabeth strides)had  contained or at least still had in it at the time she was found..

  • A key (as of a padlock)
  • A small piece of lead pencil
  • Six large and one small button
  • A comb
  • A broken piece of comb
  • A metal spoon
  • A hook (as from a dress)
  • A piece of muslin
  • One or two small pieces of paper
  • (Manchester’s  Platt hall has several lower middle class /upper lower class basic pockets which were probably of the kind worn by the  rippers victims)

cotton pocket

(This image and several more of pockets can be found in this excellent online resource for the visual arts VAD  http://www.vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=94098&sos=12)m


I personally suspect pockets did not go out of use but merely changed use and were transferred to petticoats .I am not sure how long they survive in petticoats .

There is no other item of  hidden clothing for which we have such an enduring record and which changes so little in design over so long a period.

The majority of surviving pockets  up to the 1800s are almost without exception beautifully made often  they are embroidered or  use expensive fabrics gleaned from scraps of expensive gowns ,later in the 1800 to 1820 when straight regency gowns become fashionable pockets become less ornate and often white,,so as not to show under the gowns ,,a further proof I feel that pockets continued in very general use throughout the regency era of straight often light coloured gowns , The pockets seem to have continued to be less ornate up until their eventual demise but even simple pockets are still beautifully stitched .The obvious time lavished on them and the use of decoration on unseen items  is enough to tell us something of their importance to women ,pocket decoration is purely for the woman herself ,not to show off her husband’s status or her own accomplishments .

If you would like to make your own pocket the V and A Museum has a guide here



Hidden or on display?

Pockets for most of their history and in most countries were very rarely worn outside of clothing or designed to be objects of display.The pockets of the lower classes in the 16th to early 19th c might peep from beneath aprons or hitched over skirts but no lady wishing to appear genteel would usually wish hers to be on display  .Interestingly for a  while  in 16thc Italy it was briefly  fashionable for ladies to wear a lavishly made pocket at their waist , one was found tied to the body of Eleanor of Toledo beneath her satin  gown and they can be seen on numerous Italian paintings.

birth of the virgin alleri http://aneafiles.webs.com/saccoccia.html, footnote 2)

I can find no record of the fashion spreading to the UK though its possible it was a feature of fashionable”undress” wear .

pocket 16thc

footnote 1

http://www.casebook.org/victims/chapman.html  ,The ripper victims provide a tragic but invaluable source of costume information ,unlike fashion magazines or novels these poor lower class ladies are shown in their everyday clothing The pockets found on the victims were the kind now completely lost to us ,made from rough fabrics and  purely functional those of a kind used by the poorest and lowest classes eg  Catherine Eddows owned a pair made of unbleached calico and a further single one made of bed ticking .I use this website as it is the most accurate and “user friendly”online source.

Footnote 2

The source given for detailed treatment of pockets is excellent and the website is recommended for study of 16th Italian clothing ,I do however disagree with Anea who considers the Duchess Eleanor of Toledo was buried in a gown with an integral pocket,I feel the pocket description as being tied on was accurate ,its likely she was buried with a few private possessions which may have perished .The items which survived best in Eleanor’s grave were those in very close contact with the body such as stays or stockings or those under the body ,this is because fluids escaping during putrification preserved them.

Pocket contents list has  been taken largely from information here


Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, 18thc, 19thc, brontes, costume research, Georgians, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tudor and Elizabethan clothing research sources

I have been planning my new years wardrobes ,I always like to have some central theme or historical figure in mind as  it then makes it easier to focus detailed research on the gowns ,head dresses  etc.My usual choice is assorted queens from the Tudor era as the portraits of artists such as Holbein.


or master John.


All provide excellent sources for both an overall look and more importantly for visual detailing.

princess mary tudor neckline

jane-seymour-portraitHowever when using portraits for such details its a good idea to hunt around for other versions of  them and with Holbein to see if its possible to find his preliminary sketches.


For instance the famous and contemporary  portrait of Jane Seymour by Holbein  has two different versions largely identical  in pose, clothing and style though they  differ in several details eg   in one Jane wears more elaborate sleeves than in the other and there is less embroidery on the blackwork cuffs


The portrait earlier in the post if Holbein’s own “official” portrait while the other version while roughly contemporary is from the studio of Holbein and while obviously based on his original sketches differs slightly.It’s handy to play spot the difference on various portraits.

I find it helpful to examine each portrait  however famous or universally accepted as carefully as lawyer  would some important legal contract they was required to sign.

The portraits will be the foundation of any costume  and on their accuracy and reliability the authenticity of  your finished outfit and your reputation depends.However carefuly made or recreated an outfit based on a flawed source is effectively useless .I use the outfits as visual aids ,I consider them as  I would a thesis or academic paper .While it’s obviously outside my pocket to make 16thc gowns  of cloth of gold ,venetian silk damask etc  or trim hood with genuine gemstones I can do everything possible to recreate the shape ,look and layers as accurately as  possible . I always strive to have them as near to historically perfect as possible and always point out any aspects of costumes which I have been forced to compromise on

purple tudor gown

After choosing a portrait or painting I usually do the following checks


Is it actually a confirmed portrait of the person it claims to be .I do use disputed portraits but never use them for any outfit that forms the core of a teaching wardrobe ,if you’re replicating a  Tudor or Elizabethan costume for historical purposes ,knowing its function when being worn is essential and unknown sitters are useless for this .

2/ Is the portrait completely contemporary? ,later portraits ,copies etc while useful are flawed ,its unlikely later painters saw the clothing worn with their own eyes  or saw the fashions being worn .Even if the painter is copying an original lost portrait the new version will have been created with a different purpose in mind to the original ,For example consider this famous portrait of Anne Boleyn.

457px-Anne_boleynIt’s in the National portrait gallery labeled as Anne Boleyn and always used in biographies of her .It’s widely believed by the public that this is Anne’s contemporary portrait however that is not the case it is a much  later copy and only one of several versions of the same image.The one below is from Hever castle the Boleyn’s home


In all later portraits there is a hidden agenda , items may have been added to  highlight the prestige of the sitter  or details showing links to them by the person commissioning the portrait.

For example

I always have misgivings about the famous B necklace worn by Anne  in her most famous portraits .The portraits in which she is wearing it are later copies ,there is never any record of her wearing a necklace like it in verbal accounts  and it doesn’t show up on other contemporary portraits of her . There seems no reason for her to have chosen to habitually wear such a necklace.While loyal to and proud of her family ,Once in the public eye she was always very keen to stress her royal and aristocratic ties rather than her less exalted family ties .Perhaps she had a B necklace when she first went to court but wearing a B necklace for an official portrait rather than  one showing symbol of rank or some necklace with her and Henry’s arms or initial intertwined seems odd .It’s doubly suspicious to me because the source of the portraits in which she is wearing the necklace seem to be  the Hever castle painting ,Hever was the Boleyn’s seat and her family home.It seems much more likely that in later years the opportunist Boleyn family commissioned portraits of the now  famous rather than infamous Anne ,mother of the reigning queen and were keen to highlight unequivocably her origins in their family .The image bears no relation  to  most other possible images of Anne which all seem like each other but unlike the portrait.


anne  b

.I personally feel it likely the Holbein sketches are Anne and are preliminary to the lost full length portrait and the  more formally posed sketch is the basis for the medal below.


Which is our only contemporary image and  was stuck in her brief reign.To enter a detailed assessment of these portraits is beyond the scope of this post but the Anne Boleyn files contains and excellent and as always very well researched treatment of the subject here


The second  point follows on and is an extension of the above comments, do some parts  of the painting look less reliable than others ? as its possible details have been added later or mistakes made in restoring the painting.An excellent  example is the Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine


The lady is wearing a unsual hair style which is more or less impossible to recreate and a strange double heandband.The painting was heavily retouched and the veil which ran under the lady’s chin painted the same colour as her hair to match it ,Thus not only can the painting provide a misleading hairstyle but also give the impression the lady’s head is uncovered.The actual hair should look something like this ,another Leonardo portrait ,usually called La Belle Ferronnierre


It’s also handy to do a “character check” on the painting to make sure it has a satisfactory provenance.

3 /Try to always use a second and preferably  written source. For the Tudor court  the accounts of the great wardrobe  provide much detailed information on fabrics trims etc and accounts from ambassadors ,courtiers etc give details on when and where the gowns were worn ,how suitable they seemed ,the impression they created etc.I think the Medici version is called  the gardrobbe but Medici letters and documents are availible online here


4  Moving on from portraiture try to find  extant similar items  For later Elizabethan outfits we have the items and information gained from the Elizabeth 1 funeral  effigy .

effigy-corset on

The clothing removed from the original are the usual source for detailed information on the stays worn under late Elizabethan gowns.


and  are backed up not just by Elizabeth’s wardrobe accounts but also  the famous  portrait of Elizabeth Veron in a state of less than formal dress showing how they were worn .though there are minor difference in the stays in essential details they are the same



Getting the under layers correct is the basic foundation needed to have the costume look perfect and is the main problem for this era ,very few extant undergarments exist and are mostly  either from overseas and often from funeral effigy or clothing taken from re interred bodies.

For extant over gowns we have no actual  complete early  UK Tudor gowns ,we some shifts or shirts such as those below now in the museum of costume in Bath

Drea bath smocks

It is only for the later period we have extant clothing.This is largely from tombs ,effigies or religious statues .The most reliable gown we have has been restored from fragments taken from the body of Eleanor of Toledo and is not entire ,though the surving fragments allow it to be compelty recreated…the orginal gown fragments are dark the added fabric used to recreate the gown is white

extant elenaore

elenaro extant

whatever may be the moral implications of disturbing a body and removing its clothing ,the information gained from clothing taken from the Medic tombs is invaluable.The Eleanor  gown provided details of lacing ,under layers ,fabrics and trims ,a pair of stays worn with the gown were also recovered and restored


and also stockings

HOSEExEleanoraMCM2The wealth of information gained from clothing from the Medici tombs was my main reason for choosing Eleanor of Toledo as my choice for late 16th outfits this year,it would be possible to recreate an entire outfit at actual size if desired ,Sources used here include an excellent but expensive book on the  subject  Moda alla Corte dei Medici.

16thc gown

.The tomb clothes are backed up by portraits  of both Eleanore and other ladies.I will be using the gown for my Elizabethan talks and though italian it is a useful source as we have written evidence Elizabeth 1 dressed in italian style gowns and we also have contemporary portraits of Elizabeth shown directly below and other ladies  such as Mary queen of Scotts seen under the Elizabeth portrait in similar gowns.


black dress mary

The Eleanore funeral gown is backed up by other extant items such as the Pisa gown ,cut in exactly the same way as the Eleanor gown and with similar decoration .

pisa gown

The uk is represented by some very late Elizabethan /early  Stuart overgowns and jackets most of which are in the V and A museum and can be viewed online

vam overgownThe most useful  Uk item for teaching purposes is this jacket dated by the portrait in which it appears to 1620s but in basic design  the same  that is seen in earlier late Elizabethan portraits such as the Elizabeth Veron one


Once I have a firm idea of the underlying look and shape of accurate gowns I usually turn to costume dramas which have gained a respected reputation for accuracy for example Elizabeth R which created details  replica gowns from many of Elizabeth’s portraits including this excellent  incredibly detailed replica

elizabth r gown

Created using the little known phoenix portrait.

Elizabeth20 phoennix

Or this equally impressive replica of a much more famous outfit based on the Ditchley portrait

mitchley side

385px-Queen_Elizabeth_I_('The_Ditchley_portrait')_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_YoungerThis outfit perfectly illustrates the advantage of using reputable costume dramas is it recreates the back of the gown which is barely glimpsed on portrait.

ditchley back

It also highlight a problem in creating costumes for use in public ,Most people assumed that the series had taken liberties with the back of the gown however a close look at the portrait shows that the back is indeed made from a more or less identical  fabric.Its occasionaly better if creating gowns for  non academic events to alter them slightly ,for instance make the back of this gown white as is assumed is the case as opposed to them more accurate version above.

The final use of costume drama is to see how comfortable or uncomfortable a gown is likely to be and how it moves, how much it limits movement and how much space it takes up .

Having used Elizabeth R as an example of good costume dramas which used respected costumers,original extant sources and sound research I would like to add a cautionary word about popular and well known though much less reliable costume dramas,some were nominated or won costume Oscars or awards which can give the impression of reliability however awards are judged by many criteria and visual impact is much more important than accuracy

The other Boleyn  girl is infamous in costuming circles for the liberties taken with Tudor costumes ,from the slightly less noticeable flaws such as the weird  far too short french hoods ,with coloured rather than black veils in Marys case and none at all in Annes ..

The Other Boleyn Girl

The hoods are  also shown with gowns of a much later style but most infamous are the “dressing gowns /Overgowns which seem based on mens 18thc dressing gowns


Yes even badly costumed films do occasionally provide helpful inspiration for instance the Other Boleyn girls contains two excellent and surprisingly accurate versions of the rarely used English intermediate hood ,,all be it worn far to back on the head in Marys case


Another popular misconception gained from movies and series such as ,La rein Margot,The other Boleyn girl and the Tudors is that 16th women habitually wore gowns slipping off their shoulders

la_reine_margot_1993_diaporama_portraitOr without the prerequisite  under layers


Though I love this red gown ,none of the ladies have on chemises or the correct petticoats.The drastic effects of poor layering can be seen in the two contrasting images of a stunning Elizabeth R gown .(images from costume movies and screen stills can be seen here ( http://periodmoviecaps.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/elizabeths-green-surcoat-gown.html)

eliz green gown

which can been seen 1 hour 4 mins into the episode the marriage game

and again worn in a much less impressive manner and with poor attention to detail and without the correct layers in The acclaimed saga of England’s virgin queen here

tudorelizabethan055.2Other examples of reused gowns can be seen here,the results often show the necessity for correct underlayers and accessories,though in some instances they are useful for seeing  how a gown can be changed to look different once its been used.


I hope this has been a helpful post both in providing sources of extant items and in giving general tips for costume research

There is an extreemly exhaustive list of historical costume sources to be found


Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, costume research, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Artifacts,privacy and Morality ponderings on King Richard III ,the Brontes and Eva Peron

I  always feel that historians ,anthropologists and archeologists can have a slightly schizophrenic attitude to the dead ,wanting to study their lives in detail yet mindful these were real people.They are also  forced to make decisions of what is and isn’t morally acceptable to share with the online community or display in museum.Posting images online of human bones such as the ancient  child below is essential so that other researchers can use the images to compare with similar finds,but on the other hand this was once a loved child of some long dead mother who must have grieved its loss.It doesnt therefore seem right to put it on display in a public space.Should it be buried ? if it was a modern child there would be no debate it would of course get a “decent burial” but its possible if it was buried we would lose the chance to learn more of the age it lived in and for this era in particular there are religious and historical debates ,technology constantly advances and just as we now feel exasperated at lost chances to examine bones such as those of the possible lost princes or Anne Boleyn other future historians might well curse us.

(The skull of “Lucys Child” an ancient skull of a child from the same era as the early hominid skeleton fragments named by its finders Lucy.The skeleton and that of the child is the subject of a massive debate about evolution )

I have been considering for some time what is and isn’t appropriate for historians and archaeologists to study and display and how far researchers can legitimately pry into the private lives of the dead ,Partly because of the Bronte clothing I examined  and past work on Digs or work submitted on the ancient past but mostly because  of my research on Eva Peron and the recent controversy on where King Richard III should be buried.(I will include images so that readers of this post can come to their own opinions so I would like to warn readers they will be images that they may find upsetting .)

I came to a few conclusions I thought I would share for feedback.

I am always thrilled to know that human remains such as “Lucy”and “Lucys child”have been found on a dig ,,they can tell us so much about the past ,,the  life lived ,the diet  and diseases of a population .The interest and excitement felt by archaeologists and anthropologists when remains are found is not ghoulish but because they realise the wealth of information now available before them .While documents and artifacts are extremely useful especially grave goods they have limitations too .Writings have usually been written with a function in mind rather than for historical accuracy and can lie.Grave goods are more informative but their usefulness limited to the quantity found ,,whereas ,bones can’t lie and even tiny fragments can tell us of a long lost past .The dead can talk and tell us movingly of the times they lived through ,their lives ,their hardships and often their deaths.For example it’s almost certain the individual below was considered to be a possible “revenant” or vampire and buried with the stone to prevent their return from the grave .The posting online of such photos helps other people who may stumble across such deviant burials to understand what they may have discovered and how widespread such beliefs where across time and countries (A case of a supposed “vampire” occurred in modern-day Romania a few years back )

I should not care too much what happened to my own body and considered donating it to be used by medical students but I know this can be traumatic for relatives.While I am fine with being dissected I am not sure how happy I am while living to think of bits of me stashed in freezers and jars for months or years and passed around in classes and  I shouldnt like to think of such a fate awaiting my husband or loved one.

I feel very strongly  that human remains for the documented past should be treated with the respect that would have been expected of the people when alive and treated as people and any remains however distant in time and however tiny should be kept off public display.I have never had problems with graves and gravesites as they are just stone memorials and anyone who wants to is welcome to sit lie ,have a picnic or drink on mine ,though I know for many in Whitby or who attend the goth weekend this has become a big issue recently.However I think we owe the actual bones of the dead more sensitivty.I was somewhat disgusted to find Leicester was given permission to bury the bones of Richard III in their cathedral ,I can see logically he has  been there for this long and they  (in theory ) ran the dig that found him .However the decision seems to be based mostly on profit and the interests of the city .York was barely even given space to put its case  and  yet the north and especially the area of Yorkshire surrounding  York  has always been fiercely loyal to the memory of Good King Richard,it has campaigned  to promote respect for his memory and to defend his character ,when it discovered Richard had lost at Bosworth and the Tudor Henry was now king it still defended Richards reputation  .Richard lived around here ,was raised here and governed here for many ,many years.

It seems likely he planned to be buried here so he should  lie here in peace  ,there’s been talk of him “coming home to York ” to give him a “Kings burial “and to” honour his memory” ,,not so we can create visitor attractions.

The choice of the Anglican cathedral in Leicester also highlight another issue with regard to human bones ,the method of interment. Richard was a Roman Catholic and even today Roman Catholics do not take communion with Anglicans or vice versa so burying a Catholic in an Anglican Church with Anglican rites is plainly wrong ,we would not consider it appropriate to  bury a muslim in a church with an Anglican  funeral service

While I think examining the bones of the dead when they have been exhumed for legitimate  reasons or discovered on digs is valid and extremely useful tool for understanding the past and warrants extensive study and publication of findings.I also feel it should be done quickly and the remains then be stored carefully and out of sight if they are not reburied.Exhuming disputed bones such as the children said to be the “princes in the Tower is another moral problem

In such cases exhumation  seems valid as it bears directly on historical reputations and also on whether we still need to find bodies or whether the search can be ended .I do however find it disturbing that the Medici graves have been excavated purely to gain information on the Individuals and while on one level I find the information gained invaluable ,the striping of the Medici bodies of their clothing  and the extensive invasive tests seem very wrong .

I personally  cant find any valid reason for publicly displaying any human remains however old but most especially when the identity of the person is known  .I am always slightly puzzled that Egypt with its passion for the honour of its Pharaohs should display their bodies in glass cases for the masses to gawk at rather than keeping them somewhere safe but out of sight .

I also find it ghoulish the amount of attention devoted to the  relics of saints or on a secular level the mummy of Eva Peron and extremely sad how much the body suffered .Though the need to violate the corpse shows in itself that for many the bodies of the dead are deeply important.

I have been posting on Eva perons life and legacy and having reached the end I am  unsure how much of the bodies travels to cover and what images to post ,I think it’s historically valid to cover her death and show the glass coffin as that was public and she had agreed to it prior to her death .Likewise though I admit with some typically modern reservations.  I feel it legitimate to show the lying in state or the photographs taken at Perons request of Evas body.It’s difficult as someone living in any particular place to know what images of the dead are appropriate to people living in other places and how much they should be public,I lived for a while in a remote area of Scotland where older residents would expect visitors to visit to view the dead and pay their respects and in many countries “open coffin” funerals are common.

Likewise it’s not uncommon  in many part of the world today for post-mortem photographs of the recent dead to be taken and certainly these were a common feature of  Victorian life and designed to be publically seen


This is usualy from affection and a wish to have some way to remember a dead loved one,Posting images of the dead for news or for profit seems to me essentaily much less acceptable.

I also think it valid to cover findings discovered by study of the body thats been found or disinterred .In the case of Eva Peron that means the notes made when it was rediscovered as it bears directly on her legacy and emotions evoked by her even so many years after her death  .The body was displayed publicly  when rediscovered which I think was probably necessary to show it was actually Eva about to be buried .(I am not entirely sure it was wise of the USA not to show photos if the dead Osama Bin Laden for this reason) but I cant find any  real justification for showing later close up images of her corpse  being repaired or of the damage done to it by anti Peronists

I lastly  I considered our attitude to those relatives of the famous dead,I always feel sorry that Princess Diana’s death can still be turned over in the news without any consideration for the feelings of her ex husband and more especially her children.I also can never understand the fury directed at relatives of the dead for destroying their letters. In many cases it blackens their names to future biographers ,consider the negative coverage of Mr Arthur Bell Nichols, Charlotte Bronte’s husband or Cassandra Austen Jane Austen’s sister and closest friend.

It is surely entirely within their rights to want to keep private ,their loved ones private lives.Its nice for historians when they dont of course.I also find it very odd that it’s often those who are most indiscrete about their past friends or loved ones past lives who we most approve of and like and who gain the best reputations,I again think of the Brontes and the contrasting “press” given to people such as Ellen Nussey and Arthur Bell Nicholls.It seems to be an appalling lack of fidelity to a friend’s memory to hand over their private correspondence.

.Its  almost understandable if you were only a close acquaintance such as Charlotte publishers or her later famous friends as she was probably more guarded in what information or views she expressed but it is entirely different when you have known someone since their youth and know that their views and the information relayed would not have been publically shared and often contains information about still living people who can be hurt or at the very least have their own private lives raked over (I know Ellen Nusey removed some names and some lines but there was still adequate  information to recognise individuals and a lot of very private details ,,such as Charlotte’s marriage proposals) It’s doubly unpleasant to think Ellen Nussey knew that Mr Nicholls had been worried enough about the letters becoming public to discuss it with Charlotte and also that she only had them because she broke her promise to Charlotte  burn them .I can entirely sympathise with Mr Nichols decision to destroy some items especially to ask the wedding dress be destroyed ,it shows again an insight into the likely fate of private items that survived.Many very personal items exist in the Parsonage collection ,stockings, night caps,dresses ,corsets while tastefully displayed at the Parsonage ,lovingly preserved  and an invaluable resource for Bronte students ,it cannot have been something he would have liked.

His decision to save other items such as the portrait,the tiny diary papers etc shows he was sensitive to the Bronte legacy but equally sensitive to his wife and her family’s right to privacy.

Which is the more intrusive?to examine and display clothes which will mostly likely have been waving on washing lines or sent to the laundry maid in the big houses or schools  where the Brontes worked as students Governesses and teachers or publically display private correspondence .Does it matter so long after someones death and that of everyone concerned.I personaly  wouldn’t care if my undies were in a glass case but I would care about any private correspondence that might hurt others being public.

However I can never feel it’s morally right for loved ones to destroy the work of the deceased if it was written for publication or public performance.I think mostly of the fate of Emily Brontes lost second novel which was most likely burned by Charlotte ,probably because she felt it inappropriate and likely to be misunderstood.But there are numerous other cases, the many lost MSS of composers or poets ,it seems to me wrong to destroy the outpourings of the human soul and also to deny history work that had been prepared for it.

(previously;y lost Mss of Beethoven

I am curious on the views of others on this issues.

Posted in 15thc, 16thc/17thc, 19thc, brontes, Eva Peron, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Eva Peron Becoming Evita

As I covered the time before she met Peron in my last post ,I thought I would  pick up a little further along and start from Perons time as President .I realise there are  incidents during the time before they marry that many consider pivotal but  most of the events don’t have reliable historical records and often Evas own words contradict the suppositions of historians and biographers even where it would be in her best interest to let them seem correct .

For these reasons I feel its best to pick up the story once Evas life becomes easy to document.This post is a brief introduction to Evas life as first lady and an examination of her relationship with Peron ,more detailed posts on her work in politics ,charitable work and “rainbow tour “will follow

When Eva left the civil marriage ceremony and later official church ceremony (seen below)

she had  now managed the almost impossible ,she had made the huge leap from acknowledged mistress to wife.Whatever the political benefits the photographs of the couple suggest that they were also very fond of each other ,,non posed photos often show them looking at each other with genuine affection and full eye smiles.

Peron is almost always looking at eva in informal shots and they always seem genuinly happy ,there are none of the slightly stiff smiles often seen in PR shots of presidents and their wives

Even towards the end of Evas life photos of Eva during her last appearacnes show the couple seemingly very close

It was during their early years of married life they  also acquired the first of their  pets

Eva seems to have been especillay fond of her dogs

There are few informal photographs of the couple either at this time or in the years that follow  where they don’t have their pets close by

this is taken on their farm ,though Eva looks slightly nervouse of the horse

Theres even photos Eva having her make up done with her pet dog on her lap

Tragically Eva had also probably signed her death warrant alongside the marriage certificate,Perons first wife had died from cervical cancer ,the cancer that would finally cost Eva her own life and its known that HPV or the male  gentile warts virus is a main cause of cervical cancer,Peron probably infected both his first wife and Eva.Later gossip would claim the cause of Evas  cancer was promiscuity but in reality the only bearing promiscuity has on the risk of cervical cancer is that the more partners you have the more likely you are to have  slept with one with the virus .As Perons first wife died from the same form of cancer it seems likely he was the carrier who infected Eva.Peron may have been the only man Eva slept with and is certainly the only one we can be certain she slept with despite rumours there has never been any one willing to speak out and say clearly she was their lover.It seems that in the early months of their marriage they enjoyed a happy almost normal if somewhat busy married life.

To marry your mistress and that mistress a lower class ex actress was unprecedented ,in the uk today its unlikely that any member of the royal family would have married  an actress let alone some one with Eva’s past of who had also featured in photographs in their swimwear so there must have been something remarkable in Eva’s character that made Peron take the gamble .Its true Eva had used her popularity and media access to promote Perons cause and been very prominent by his side in his campaigning .

however Peron must have allowed this because he had already decided to marry Eva and did so despite the possibility of it damaging his chances to win the battle for the presidency.He was extremely careful about his career and seems to have been planning his path to power for years,he wouldn’t have gambled it all on Eva if she hadn’t been remarkable.

Evas future life as first lady would be different to all past first lady’s,,that much was clear when Peron  encouraged her to represent him at events and invited her not just onto the Balcony of the Casa Rosada

but encouraged her to speak to the crowds both at the Casa Rosada  and elsewhere even today this would be unusual ,,its unlikely any modern UK prime minister or US president  would ask his wife to speak at events while he stood back and listened.The people and the crowds  may have been at events just for Peron at this time but in the not too distant future they would be there to see Eva and shouts of Peron would become shouts for Evita (little Eva),Evas face  usually looks cheerful and her eyes happy and smiling ,she hasn’t yet acquired the  earnest slightly drawn look of her later years as first lady or the weary determined look of her final year.

Evas early life as first lady  seems to have been a happy though busy time,she had not yet acquired the habit of extreme long hours .She moved into an office in the Central post and telecommunications office and began  her first work (Which I will deal with in a later post)She  also bought clothes in large quantities, which has since been criticised but was essential as many first lady’s or newly made princess ,have  discovered,, however smart a womans clothing  its unlikely they will be sufficient.Eva did have attractive clothes but not in the style required

Eva was criticised for appearing on her first official function in a one shoulder gown ,which once she was seated at table meant she had a clergyman next to her bare shoulder ,,today it would be less than ideal but at that time it was something of a scandal,,most people considered it deliberate but its much more likely it was a mistake,,one shoulder  or completely  strapless gowns were extremely fashionable so as an actress they would be am must for Eva and she may have not had a wide range of  evening clothes to wear that were modest enough yet glamorous and eva at this point does seem to have loved exuberant outfits and jewels

She also seems to have had a fondness for very high heels ,,probably to gain a little height as she wasnt particularly tall .Though after the European tours these also seem to get lower .

,few people will have a wardrobe extensive enough to cope with  at least  three changes a day ,private casual wardrobe , work /public visits wardrobe ,,including clothing suitable for meeting religious leaders ,visiting places of worship  and both would be needed in larger quantity than anyone is likely to have as there is a daily need.

.Finaliy there is the need for numerous evening gowns ,from the smart for dinner parties to the extremely smart for balls ,opera visits, official banquets etc.

In addition its very likely that Eva and Peron were beginning to consider how to forge links with allies in Europe and may have been planning her tour .Eva a seems to have loved clothes and loved picking the initaly very glamorous wrap style  or gathered  figure hugging dresses and suits

and elaborate ball gowns ,jewels

bags ,shoes and furs and hats which are usually quite large and worn far back on her head .

,In these early years she appears in a wide range of spectacular outfits in public .

though apparently still preferring trousers and casual shirts for private wear.

At this point she still wore her long thick  hair

the elaborate high styles  she had worn in her days as an actress

Later as she begins to become more and more involved in politics and her charitable work and more especially after she returns from Europe her hair changes from its bright blond to a more subtle blond .

the style gradually evolved  to the classic pulled back styles that is now her trademark.

Eva seems to have decided very early on not to be just the pretty face next to the president that did some charitable work in some of her free hours.Eva wanted to be different.

She wrote in her autobiography

This is a foundational circumstance and is related directly to my decision to be a President’s wife who does not follow the old model. I could have followed those models. I want to make this clear because sometimes people have tried to explain my “incomprehensible sacrifice” by arguing that the salons of the oligarchy would have been closed to me in any case. Nothing is further from the truth nor from common sense. I could have been a President’s wife in the same way that others were. It is a simple and agreeable role: appear on holidays, receive honors, “dress up” and follow protocol which is almost what I did before, and I believe more or less well, in the theater and the cinema. As far as the hostility of the oligarchs goes, I can’t help but smile. And I ask: why would the oligarchs reject me? Because of my humble origins? Because of my career as an actress? But has that class of persons ever taken those reasons into account, here or in any part of the world, when it is the case of the wife of the President? The oligarchy was never hostile to anyone who could be useful. Power and money are never bad advantages for a genuine oligarch… . But I was not just the spouse of the President of the Republic, I was also the wife of the leader of the Argentine people.

“Peron had a double personality and I would need to have one also: I am Eva Peron, the wife of the President, whose work is simple and agreeable … and I am also Evita, the wife of the leader of a people who have deposited in him all

“A few days of the year I represent Eva Perón … “

“Most of the time, however, I am Evita … “

We do not need to speak of Eva Perón. What she does appears profusely in newspapers and magazines everywhere.

their faith and love

Eva as Eva Peron still had strong family bonds and often had family member close to her ,no doubt partially because they could be trusted but also from genuine bonds of affection

It has been suggested Evas work was the result of being “snubbed ” by the “establishment” however its a simplification as Eva says ,she was the wife of the president ,some form of social acceptance would have to be forthcoming and she had Perons backing and support.

Eva had shown even as an actress that she had a “social conscience” and now seems to have seen an opportunity to do something to help the poor.It also seems that Peron had been training Eva to be his second in command ,In his biography he claims he choose and educated her to be his second in command ,someone he could trust absolutely to act in his best interest and make decisions that would help him and forward his agenda.Eva seems to have been utterly devoted to Peron and have gladly taken on the alloted role as unofficial “vice president” a role she never achieved officially and which at this time was probably not even suspected by Perons other advisors but which was slowly but surely being claimed for her.Eva immediatly began showing herself  working.

and tried to combat her lightweight “actress”  image

and throughout her heavy involvement in politics she made a point of showing herself as still a “traditional “wife.

She was mocked at first  for trying to appear  in a more serious light but eventually time would show she was a consummate professional at moulding her image.

I am indebted to the following  sites for several rare images




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Charlotte Brontes wardrobe unlocked The going away Gown

This was a dress I had been hoping to examine closely as its one of the gowns which can be assigned to Charlotte with absolute certainty and one I had tried to replicate (unsuccessfully) from memory .It was the first gown that I caught sight of on my arrival at the library ,the hem just peeking out from its layers of careful wraping.The dress is made from good quality very crisp silk and the hem further stiffened with corded fabric edging so the skirt of the gown  stood out in stiff but graceful folds that for some reason brought to mind those statutes of ladies that recline on Tudor and Elizabethan graves their petticoats and gowns all falling in stiffly folded curves around their feet.

With so much to see I was unsure which of the gowns to examine first but as the mysterious Brown gown lay closest to me I decided to start there and leave the Iconic and well-known  going away /Honeymoon gown for later.

It’s a strange and moving item ,the stiffness of the fabric  and the gowns construction  almost creates an impression of an occupant and  its strange to imagine what is now laid out with such care  on a table was once hung neatly upstairs with similar care waiting Charlotte’s arrival from her wedding at the nearby church and just a few hours later would have been clothing Charlotte as she walked happily out of the Parsonage door to start her Honeymoon tour .I suspect it arrived at its destination hours later rather less crisp and pristine than it now looks but  such is the case with all natural fabrics  and the gown was an eminently sensible choice for traveling .

It’s beautifuly tailored with a  comfortably cut double bodice giving an extra layer of warmth  .The loose sleeves and front fastening bodice making it comfortable in heat  of the day or cold  of the evening and easy for tired travel weary figners to remove.The dark but elegant colours are  less likely to show mud spatters or spills.Smart and very fashionable but not overly showy,The collar shows signs  of the same (now)  gold silk fringing as the waistline and when new this probably shone attractively in the sunlight making  the gown look less dark than it seems laid out flat .

I  know some gowns can change colour over time and I am not sure how  or if this fabric has changed colour with age,I know is widely considered to have been mauve ,,though mauve was an exepnsive colour to buy in the first half of the victorian age,, ,it’s always been carefully stored so there’s no sunlight fading  or fading from washing ,discolouration from coal or woodsmoke fires etc and its doesnt look markedly different inside so  the colour change must have been within the fabric itself and I dont know enough about fabric conservation to know how early victorian dyes age,certainly later analine dyes can fade but this would have been pre analine .There does seem to be possible signs of shattering at the neck ,which is  no reflection on its conseravtion ,its tragicaly an unavoidable result of reactions within some silks to  metals used in the dying process so may be thats also caused discolouration. I think as its trimmed with the gold look fringing and the mid brown corded velvet fabric  it was probably always fairly dark ,though perhaps with more colour evident.

Sadly the dress shows very little sign of use ,the lining along the hemlines is pristine,There is areas of damage at the neckline but they may be fabric aging or from a brooch or caused by its outing on a model in the early days or the 20th c.Theres also some odd pin marks along the hemline which look like a previouse hem line but that seems odd as theres less than an inch difference .Despite these I dont think the gown saw major ,its impossible to remove hemline staining from mud or general pavement dust and debris (as anyone trying to resell a modern wedding or prom gown knows) and this gown has none of those which I am pretty certain it would have had it been worn around Haworth,for country walks or in a victorian town.

It’s possible it only saw one outing on the day Charlotte left for her honeymoon.

I did not however examine this as closely as the other items as while I was extremely careful will all the clothing I confess to being so nervous of damaging this gown that I had to will myself to move any part of it and the fabric does seem to be rather fragile in some places on the bodice .I am used to examining artifacts and usually  focus on the item before me to the exclusion  of other thoughts but in the case of this gown I  felt an almost unbearable sadness that this tiny  gown had seen such high hopes and happiness yet months later was probably hidden away in a trunk  it’s very sight a source of pain and sorrow .

The gown is  very full skirted like most of Charlotte’s later gowns  but is not in fact an actual gown but a two-part outfit ,as was becoming fashionable at the time ,this allowed for an extra bodice to be made to convert gowns to a secondary use without requiring a complete change of clothing ,,perhaps this gown also had a second bodice now lost,It is beautifully and I would guess professionayl made and much more detailed on a closer inspection that it seems when viewed in the small postcard images.

It has a very complex construction compared to the other gowns ,the pleated bodice being built on a more tailored underbodice.The bodice had a  detailed  waist trimmed with silk fringe.It is trimmed at the hem ,cuff and neck with mid brown corded possible velvet fabric .Its fastens  with hooks and eyes .It’s a telling contrast to the earlier Brown gown laid next to it which  while it was carefully and neatly cut and sewn  was almost certainly homemade with several signs of wear,the brown  gown seemed to me at  to shout governess or at least teacher as do some of the other earlier gowns in the parsonage online collection  .This outfit was that of a  reasonable wealthy fashionable middle class lady .

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Bronte clothing ,The pink Wrapper gown/dressing gown

This is  an unusual  garment far from  typical  of the Bronte clothing being a rather bright pink and very frilly .The dress,rather faded at the front but still fairly bright at the back though as can be seen there are far worse and more widespread faded segments on the  cape

It is a delightful outfit consisting of a pink full flowing open front  slip on dress and a little cape or bed cape.Its a pretty,very feminine and quite bright pink! .It’s quite long 52 ins and very full,I am not certain it can have been Charlotte’s as if you add an average head length of around 8 ins or even reduce that to a small head of 7 then add  3 ins or even 2 for the neck you still get a height of over 4.11 which was Charlotte’s and that’s  assuming  the dress skimmed the floor which seems unlikely in a wrapper or dressing gown,its possible its been let down in some way there did seem to be a few possible indications  I will need to have a close look at the photos on a much larger screen than my little laptop provides ,, It is extreeemly unlikely to be Annes as governess would have no occasion to wear wrappers but maybe it was Emilys ?

The gown  was  a house gown or wrapper dress, these  not the same as our dressing gowns but were an informal dress and were worn after rising but before getting properly dressed  ,,,a bit like throwing on some leggings and baggy t shirt.The gowns were designed to be easy to move around in and were worn without corsets and complicated  layers or petticoats.The gowns were worn to eat breakfast,do housework or just to wear for comfort or during pregnancy but had to be changed for proper day gowns before any company was expected.  Most of the extant gowns are very similar to the example at the parsonage ,though the parsonage gown seems unique in having its own separate little shoulder cape..This is  a similare dress and shows how  the gown would look when worn

There also a dark brown slightly more tailored version

The wrapper dresses typically go over your head then can be pulled to shape with some inner drawstring ,the front fastens usually with buttons at the neck.

The parsonage gown has in addition a nicely stitched belt to further pull the dress to shape and keep the front closed more neatly.The gown is very neatly sewn but probably home made.The fabric is not as good quality as the fabric of the other gowns which would be expected as the dresses main purpose was for wearing during the morning chores so it had to be hard-wearing and over and above using pretty fabrics there was little point in major expenditure as it was NEVER expected to be seen by anyone other than the family and servants  .Its quite pleasant to imagine the sisters wandering around doing the sweeping and cleaning or perhaps doing  a spot of writing in these pretty frilly gowns while locals moving around in the village yards  away thought of them as seriouse and plain and frumpy

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Anne of Cleves ,not as bad as shes painted

The Lady seems to have had a bad press ,Henry’s wives tend to be used to embody almost every female stereotype that exists ,The faithful ,longsuffering wife,, Catherine of Aragon ,,the adventuress and other woman ,,Ann Bolyne, the  chaste ,gentle and quiet loved and tragically  lost young mother ,Jane Seymour ,the ugly ,stupid frumpy ,Ann ,the young silly strumpet,Catherine Howard ,the good  wise  older woman /stepmother Katherine Parr. The labels are usually wrong based on Victorian writers or hearsay and when  occasionally accurate tell nothing like the whole story ,,For example Henry VIII is supposed to have loved  the  virtuouos  and shy  Jane Seymour , yet Jane was quite old by Tudor standards,, well over 25  and a woman that’s very probably jane is caught sat on Henry’s  knee while hes still married to Ann ,which doesnt seem very maiden like behavior. Likewise Henry is supposed to have  been devoted to Jane ,yet when  he saw Janes newly arrived Ladies in waiting he was heard to say that had he seen them before he would never have married Jane ,within months of their marriage he had taken a mistress and though he was certainly extremely upset by her death  and actually wore mourning for several months ,the letters sent out to inform ambassadors of Jane’s death also mentioned he was inline for another wife .

In this light we should therefore reassess Ann.The first portrait we always see of Ann is the longer version of a miniature painted by Hans Holbein

The smaller miniature in its pretty ivory box seen here was part of a number of mail order bride portraits Henry commissioned so asses the merits of potential brides.

The miniature was enough to persuade Henry to send Holbein off to paint an expensive full length portrait of Ann and the full length version sold Henry on Ann as his next bride.Interestingly no one even Henry complained the portrait was inaccurate and Holbein remained Henry VIII and the courts painter of choice.The mystery may be partly solved by a side view image of Ann.

The features that look regular and attractive front on do seem rather sharp and angular side on and its been suggested Anns nose was much longer and the painting may have been retouched.Even so to me at least she still doesn’t seem that bad,She seems to be prettier than her predessor Jane Seymour.

and not unlike her successor the pretty Katherine Howard as far as facial features go.

In fact to me this portrait above seems more likely to be Anne than Catherine ,the attribution of the portrait as one of Catherine is based mostly on the fact the lady is wearing royal jewels and yet this portrait is nothing like almost every other portrait thats linked to Catherine or has in the past been said to be her.Other potential portraits of Catherine are always in the same basic style and shes always wearing the same style of clothing

I think it not impossible therefore that the minture portrait of the lady with a rich jewelled hood and the queens jewels  is  one of Ann .We think of Anne as always dressed in the highwaisted Flemish style but she quickly adjusted to English court life and did not continue to wear Flemish clothing long after her arrival but soon adopted English fashions.The lady in the miniature portrait is quite curvey as is Ann and has a similar stance and facial features ,she also seems older than the very young Catherine Howard who was almost certainly a teenager when Henry met her and may have been in her late teens as queen .

Its uncertain why Henry found Ann unattractive , when Henry remarried there were a number of occasions when both Ann and hes new wife Catherine were together at events,sometimes dancing together and Several ambassadors remarked that Catherine was not as pretty as Ann who Henry thought ugly.(when she took to wearing English dress for the first time after the wedding, one contemporary remarked that the fashion ‘set forth her beauty and good visage that every creature rejoyced to behold her’)( quote compliments of Ms sunydale)The problem Henry had with Ann appears to be less black and white than the Flanders Mare comments suggests.

Its likely that one thing Henry really disliked was her figure ,he singles it out for complaint in his comments to courtiers and she is far more buxom than his other wives ,Henry seems to have liked small breasted petite built ladies and Ann is always shown as curvy.Likewise her succesor Katherine was extreemly petite

It’s also  likely it was her lack of English ,social skills and “elegant accomplishments” that most soured the relationship.They certainly got off to a bad start as Henry who liked to play games of courtly love appeared to Ann on her arrival “in disguise “,Ann didn’t recognise him ,treated him rather coldly and when he tried to kiss her ,its possible she may have slapped him ,,not what Henry would have expected.Ann was probably never likely to make up ground from this first meeting .

Unknown woman at the court of Henry VIII suggested as either Ann or her sister Amelia

Despite being discarded I can’t help feeling of all Henrys wives Anne was the most fortunate ,,She spent very little time living with him,He was so nice to her while they were together she thought everything was fine more or less up to the point where she was “dumped”She got along ok with Henry but doesnt seem to have been in love with him unlike his unforunate first wives and she got a very handsome settlement during Henry life, a high position when at court and enjoyed a great deal of liberty not given to most women at that time and certainly more than she would have had in cleves.She also seems to have avoided Henrys amorous attentions which considering his vast build ,stinking leg ulcer and bad breadth was probably not a bad thing .While her fortunes were less good under his successors ,she survived both Henry and his other wives and apart from a slight run in with Henrys secret service was usualy left in peace .

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The red queen a review and Richard III a re assessment

I have just finished the Red Queen, I have read several Phillipa Gregory books and as always I am torn between enjoyment and irritation.

Phillipa Gregory’s books are well written and the plots interwoven into the bare bones of historical fact are clever and imaginative. The books backgrounds are obviously impeccably researched and their page turning brilliance often hides what is an impressive amount of background detail. Her novels are well grounded in detailed and wide-ranging research of what I assume is Primary as well as secondary sources. The background details are so carefully interwoven with the narrative they do not, as often happens in historical fiction  scream out “look, look I did my homework I know all this stuff about how they lived and I am sticking it in here because I really, really need to show off”

Her books are, en mass a wonderful exploration of the many varied ways that women could influence history and those around them. It explores their limited choices and how they react to them, without ever imposing modern views on her heroines. It’s often forgotten that the Tudor age was the Age of Queens rather than Kings .Women are the key characters behind most of the pivotal events of Tudor history.

Unfortunately what always spoils her books for me is the sneaking suspicion that her impeccable research is used by books publicists and her fans and made to create a d Vinci code confusion about exactly how factual her books are.

This is most obvious in her most famous book the Other Boleyn girl made famous by a movie whose costumes were as inaccurate as the interpretation of the story  itself, of all the Phillipa Gregory books I have read this was the one which most frequently ignored the facts to create a good read. It has sadly spawned a completely  false view of Ann Boleyn a woman who Gregory could have been more sympathetic to  as she is one of the very few women to radically alter English history by sheer force of personality

The factual accuracy of the Red Queen with regard to the time period I have to confess I cannot comment on in any detail as the Wars of the Roses are not a period I studied in any great detail. What I found very interesting was the sympathetic treatment of Margret Beaufort, a lady I have tried hard to like but find I mostly loathe. Margret Beaufort is  usually seen  as a  Saint ,she was devote and clever ,she never strayed from a life of strict piety, she was charitable and also sponsored learning .However  she was also fiercely  ambitious and  I suspect arrogant and cold Her darker side is seen most clearly by her treatment of other royal women once her Son is crowned king .She is most aptly described as “the mother in law from hell” .She  lords it over both his wife and  the ladies of his court ,insisting on walking barely  one pace behind his wife and taking precedence over his mother in law Elizabeth Woodville who had ,once been queen of England .She  had a high profile role at court and styled herself Margret R which seems to have been universally seen as being Margret Regina ,though she could claim it merely stood for Margret Richmond. Phillipa Gregory perfectly recreates the inner life of Margret and while presenting characters through the biased eyes of Margret still manages to convey that she is not entirely correct in her opinions of them. The reactions of Margret to events are perfectly at ease with the mindset of a late medieval lady. The book is well written and certainly a page turner, I read it through the night until I saw dawn and picked it up again early the next day. Phillipa Gregory puts forward the interesting idea that Margret is partly responsible for the death of the Princes in the tower through influencing Buckingham to arrange the murders and I find this an interesting and plausible idea.

Possible portrait of a young Margret Beaufort.

The supposed murder of the Princes in the Tower by Richard the third is often seen a proven fact .The truth is not quite so clear cut. There is no real proof the Princes, the uncrowned King Edward and his brother Richard were in fact murdered in the Tower of London and even less evidence to suggest Richard III was the one responsible. Even assuming the unlikely scenario that his character was as black as Shakespeare paints it there was no good reason for him to have killed the princes, He had declared them bastards, he was in reasonable control of much of the country and most  men preferred a strong adult king to a boy king controlled by his very unpopular mother however well-loved the children may have been by the populace.

In addition nothing in Richards character suggests him capable of such a crime ,he seems to have been devoted to his brother their father ,He was pious and  he was highly intelligent and would have realised having the two children in his control was much more useful than having two children  murdered a fact which would be sure to become public and cause an outcry and would move his  other adult rivals especially  Henry Tudor closer to the line of succession .The other convincing proof of Richards innocence is that Elizabeth Woodville the boy’s mother long after rumours of the princes  death are circulating comes to Richards court and seems to be on good terms  with him even to the extent that there is gossip that   he considers marrying her Daughter ,Elizabeth of York .It seems unlikely that she would have been so complaisant if she suspected he was capable of  the secret murder of her children

It’s just possible that one or both princes died of the plague or sweating sickness  or similar disease rampant in the city and were buried inside the tower as so many other prisoners have been in the past. Richard may have been worried about rumours of his murdering  them and  would be unlikely to be able to convince people of his innocence, however perhaps their mother was informed ,saw the bodies or heard the report from a trusted friend,  so this may be the simplest explanation for their disappearance and their mothers later actions. It is also very possible that the Princes were murdered by other claimants during Richards’s absence on Progress which is the time at which rumours start. It has always seemed much more likely to me that it was Tudor supporters who killed the Princes either in the tower or elsewhere. Killing the princes would remove the two major obstacles to Henry Tudor’s succession and also blacken the name of Richard III; their supporters would flock to Henry.

It’s been suggested that the princes escaped ,perhaps there was an attempt to rescue them which partially succeeded one prince escaping while the other was killed or perhaps both escaped .To me it does seem  plausible  that  the children are dead or have escaped at the point the rumours of their death are circulating or Richard would just have produced the children to disprove the rumours .It also seems unlikely that Elizabeth Woodville would have promised her daughter in Marriage to the princes rival Henry Tudor unless she had believed her sons dead. Likewise Henry Tudor passes an act which delegitimizes the children of Elizabeth Woodville in order to reinforce his future wife Elizabeth of York’s royal credentials and its effects would also mean the princes if living would be the rightful monarchs not himself so it’s unlikely he would have done that unless he was certain they were dead and not likely to be able to claim his crown. On the other hand it does appear that Henry VII was not personally responsible for the children’s fate, he did not know where the Princes were buried nor is he even certain that both are in fact dead, He seems ambivalent during the long years of the Perkin Warbeck threat and the widespread royal support afforded Warbeck suggests that those “in the know “did believe one child at least had escaped.

Henry Tudor when he recounted Richard the thirds crimes never mentioned the murder of the two princes and it was not universally belived at the time.

Richard the Third has always had a loyal following the North and even at the time of his death when to voice support for him was dangerous the citizens of York recorded

… king Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was through great treason of the duc of Northfolk [sic] and many other that turned ayenst hyme, with many other lordes and nobilles of this north parties was piteously slane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie

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A scary story of vintage clothing and its hidden horrors

I am sorry for some reason all the images from this post have disapeared I will try to find the orginal files but in the meantime I have left it up incase the text  and links are useful

I thought it would be interesting to examine the hidden issues connected to buying vintage items ,while furs tend to attract the most negative attention there are other issues less obvious in buying many vintage items.

victorian 1860s gown

The most worrying  are those connected to health hazards and especially substances such as arsenic and mercury used in vintage items production,though not common there were cases of poisoning connected to Victorian gowns even during the 19thc ,several dye works were closed because unsafe amounts of arsenic were found in clothing .Pre  1890s  green clothing may well have had arsenic used in the creation of the dye .

1880s green dress

(painting seen here http://fannycornforth.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/passion-for-paxton.html)

Tales of clothing used to poison ladies was not limited to myths of the Medici court

http://www.dressaday.com/2010/01/dont-wear-green-tarletan-dresses.html(masachutists board of health 1883)

Attention has very frequently been called to the presence of large amounts of arsenic in green tarlatan, which has given rise so many times to dangerous symptoms of poisoning when made into dresses and worn, so that it is very rare now to see a green tarlatan dress. This fabric is still used, however, to a very dangerous extent, chiefly for the purposes of ornamentation, and may often be seen embellishing the walls and tables at church and society fairs, and in confectionery, toy and dry-goods stores. The writer has repeatedly seen this poisonous fabric used at church fairs and picnics as a covering for confectionery and food, to protect the latter from flies. As is well known, the arsenical pigment is so loosely applied to the cloth that a portion of it easily separates upon the slightest motion. Prof. Hoffmann after examining 11 large number of specimens estimated that twenty or thirty grains of the pigment would separate from a dress per hour, when worn in a ball-room….


But green tarlatan is not the only fabric which contains arsenic. We find arsenic sometimes in other substances used in making articles of wearing apparel, usually in the form of arsenical pigments. The writer detected a large amount of arsenic in a specimen of cloth known as “Foulard cambric,” which had been made into a dress; after wearing the dress a short time severe conjunctivitis was produced, together with nasal catarrh, pharyngitis, and symptoms of gastric irritation. The pattern of the dress consisted of alternate stripes of light-blue and navy-blue, and contained 0.291 grm. per square meter. Conjunctivitis has also been recorded from wearing of “tulle” dresses. A pustular eruption upon the neck and arms was caused by “a splendid dark-green dress, trimmed with light-green leaves,” obtained “from a well-known Parisian atelier;” the dress was found to contain “a large percentage of arsenic.”

Excessive irritation of the skin has frequently been caused by wearing stockings colored with an arsenical pigment. The writer has detected arsenic most frequently in light-red, magenta-colored and brown stockings;…..

There is what appears to be an excellent study of the subject here


While it seems unlikely to me that any vintage gown would be worn frequently enough for any modern poisoning to be severe ,the use of chemicals in the dye process should be an issue anyone wearing Victorian items is aware of .While most of us are unlikely to wear Victorian gowns ,I have worn Victorian stockings on one occasion when absolute accuracy was required and use Victorian lace and despite concerns about damage I always throughly soak and then wash under running water vintage items ,,Stockings ,gloves ,bonnets shawls may all have traces of arsenic .

report from Victorian newspaper

‘The evil effects of socks are well-known,’ said one newspaper, reporting that an MP was among many who had found themselves disabled after wearing arsenical stockings.

It’s should not be assumed this was a health scare that like many modern ones is based on hype and odd incidents of susceptible individuals,the amounts of arsenic found were extremely high and well recorded

1848 lancet,,,,

Examining the ball gown worn by one London society hostess, a doctor found 60 grains of Scheele’s Green per square yard – enough to kill 12 people. More alarmingly still, it was so loosely bound into the fabric that even the gentlest waltz could send it billowing out in a cloud of poisonous dust.

While not many people may buy or wear vintage Victorian clothing Lovers of vintage Victorian or pre Victorian  decorative items should also be aware it was used in curtains table runners ,paint on toys and other domestic items ,stuffed animals and wallpapers.Its considered a possibility that Napoleon was poisoned not by his captors but by the green wallpaper in his rooms .The ubiquity of arsenic in victorian wall coverings should not be underestimated and care taken when removing old paper from walls,,

extract ,,,

a revealing letter of 1885 from Morris to his dyer Thomas Wardle suggested that he might have used arsenic greens in his famous and desirable designs. The letter piqued my interest, and early samples of Morris &Co. wallpapers were tracked down to the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, in the UK, once the childhood home of Morris. The Gallery had a scrap,10 cm by 10 cm, of Trellis, Morris’ first wallpaper design, and the third to be printed. It came from the home of Morris’ general foreman George Campfield, and for this reason was thought to be of early origin. The scrap I received was a red rose on a green branch. The Museum allowed me to remove tiny flakes of pigments from Trellis for microanalysis. The results were immediate and impressive. The green branch was an arsenic-copper salt, the red rose vermilion. A highly toxic piece of art! This research was published in Nature..


modern cases


scarlett O haras green  curtain dress was probably a major health hazard!

scarlett o hara ,velvet curtian dress

Moving on from the well documented use of arsenic ,there is the issue of Mercury


What makes this dangerous is mercury’s extreme neurotoxicity. That is, its devastating effects on the brain and nervous system. The “mad hatters” of Victorian times suffered from mercury poisoning when they rubbed the metal into felt cloth to preserve it. Mental confusion, trembling and eventually death can result from inhaling the vapors of this liquid metal, Anyone buying a Victorian or earlier  hat should be aware of the human cost which was involved in its creation and be aware that its possible enough mercury remain it the fibres to make wearing it hazardous and it is wise to be aware that mercury was used in the process of gilding mirrors ,furniture and jewelry. I have come out in unpleasant welts when I wore a moleskin cape and was told it may well have been a reaction to  vestiges  of mercury used to cure the moleskin.

there are other less well known problems such as lead ,this is likely to be present in old paint /varnish on vintage furniture or woodwork ,while hair ornaments may contain it  in quantities unlikely to harm adults it would be wise to keep vintage hair ornaments ,jewelry ,vanity sets etc away from toddlers who might be tempted to put them in their mouths..

It is also unwise to use Victorian cages for keeping pet birds  .

Its is easy to identify old lead painted items as the paint forms a distinctive “alligator ” effect  often mimicked (minus the lead) in distressed furniture .


There is also  the ethical issue of the hidden  human cost associated with the creation of vintage clothing ,the factory conditions which may mean that a child was maimed or killed producing the very cloth your  victorian gown is made from  or the curtains your hanging,Most certainly any hat wil have been produced at the expense of the hat makers health and of course Victorian and Edwardian hats frequently contain preserved birds ,,or beetles a trend that contributed to the destruction of many species of colourful birds and beetles and the destruction of eco systems .I personally do not have problems with vintage clothing on moral grounds for the same reason I dont have issues with vintage furs any harm was done in the past and not to use items  already created is wasteful though buying and funding any modern industrys run on Victorian lines is obviously morally untenable.

It should be remembered that there are however restrictions on the buying and selling of certain items

image source http://barbaraanneshaircombblog.com/2009/10/11/some-lovely-things-on-ebay-15/

The sale of   ivory is of course strictly controlled,its possible to sell vintage ivory items such as combs or fans but its essential to be able to prove the item was made prior to the ban and purchased legally .

Finaly when considering wearing period costume it is wise to consider the health risks ,if you will be wearing corsets regularly for  long term work as a re enactor etc I would suggest it is unwise to buy steel boned ones and that more flexible plastic boned ones would be more sensible as these are less restrictive but will still give the basic shape needed, all be it without the perfectly accurate rigidity.It is also wise to buy the best quality hoops possible at least cotton and if possible have thicker fabric ones made ,I know  that the USA has  reports of experiments to establish the safety of hoops and news reports of cases  where a hoop  petticoat  caught fire causing serious burns.I have perosnaly heard of one case in the past few months of a re enactors being bruned from a hoop that caught light.

I hope this post will not have deterred buyers and re enactors  but proved interesting and useful.

Extended treatment of victorian experiments and cases can be found here


This post is based on resreach done for my talk

Arsenic and Old Lace ,or fashion to die for ,the story of victorian costume

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Katherine Howard ,a Tudor mystery

.I  have more or less finished a Catherine Howard outfit so I thought it would be nice to explore both Catherine’s life and character as well as the controversy surrounding alleged portraits of her .I also discovered  a portrait that I had never seen before and which I dont think has entered the possible portraits list before and would love feedback on the image  (I mention it halfway done the page )

First the portraits

I have had problems with a “look “for  Katherine Howard as there’s no reliable image of her that all historians agree on.I opted for a hybrid of two possible  images.

This miniature which I am not entirely convinced by ,as though it’s definitely a queen that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be Catherine


and this sketch


The dress in the sketch seems to have straight sleeves but there’s a very similar portrait which has recently emerged and is claimed to be Catherine /Katherine Howard.

kath howard

There are so many similar portraits to both this and the sketch  that I feel the dismissal of this  longer full size portrait of a woman as that of  Catherine may be premature

NPG 1119; Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard after Hans Holbein the Younger

This gown shows a similar dress with an identical hood even to the chin strap which is very rare in french hood representations .It also shows a woman of similar looks to all the other portraits and the sketch.

There is in addition a  19thc miniature in the royal collections  labelled as Mary Tudor (Henry’s sister ) that looks very like these paintings right down to the hood and jewellery while the lady seems to look much younger and more Catherine’s age which was either late  or mid teens .This miniature doesn’t show sleeves but does have a similar  outfit to the Holbein sketch ,Its supposed to be copied from the Ohio portrait yet doesn’t have the same face .I wondered if it had used a lost sketch of Katherine as its original image source

mary kat miniture

To me it seems unlikely that so many discredited portraits  of  supposedly different women should all look similar ,most have been considered to be Catherine at one time or another.It seems to me more likely that they show a woman who  at the very least looked and dressed like Catherine and where therefore rightly or  wrongly  claimed as portraits of her.The only exception is the miniature above which I don’t think anyone else has mentioned.

The main objection to the images being Catherine is that the lady looks too old,looks ugly  and is dressed as a widow.We do know however Catherine owned at least one black velvet gown which must have been a favourite as she wore it to travel from Sion house during her imprisonment which had been rapid enough for her ladies not to have been able to take any great pains over choosing her wardrobe .As to the looking old ,I don’t think that we can firmly judge  age from Renaissance potraits.No one knows exactly how old Catherine was as she was not important enough to have her birth recorded though she was certainly very young  but  Tudor portraits tend to age sitters consider the teenage Duchess of Milan.


In addition if you are painting the queen it makes sense to instil the image with dignity and a more formal older looking queen may well be the result.Catherine was also described as imperious and wilful by one ambassador so the haughtiness in the portraits may show that side of Catherine

As to looking ugly ,I don’t think the lady in question looks ugly and if she does seem ugly to us she may not have seemed so to Henry ,Some described her beauty as moderate or middling  then she was also considered attractive ,graceful and  delightful so it would appear that she was attractive from temperament rather than purely beautiful.Her  demeanour and face  were described as gentle and earnest  ,which to me seems to fit the little miniature perfectly,In addition Henry seems to have had unorthodox tastes in female beauty Jane Seymour was not exactly beautiful


.It should also be remembered that the portraits show women unsmiling and full face,the passport photo look and most people don’t look that good on passport photos!

The only portrait I am not convinced  of  is the little  Tudor miniature  now considered the only painted portrait of Katherine .Its different to every other possible  portrait of Katherine ,In fact the person in the portrait  looks so similar to the Ann of cleaves portrait that captivated Henry that I would suggest they were the same person .The attribution of the portrait as Catherine Howard is based on the woman wearing the royal jewels as seen in other portraits of Henry’s wives yet not looking like any of them.If however you discard the idea that Ann of cleaves permanently wore the clothes seen below (which is incorrect  she adopted English fashions a few months  after her arrival)Then I think it very possible its Ann.She seems to have a similar build and bearing

anne c


As Annes reign was even briefer than Katherines it would make sense there was only this miniature ,which may have been considered to forerunner of a more regal full length portrait .I think a full length portrait of Anne must have been expected by those  who assumed she was their long term Queen  and those not “in the know”vastly outnumber the few who knew Henry was planning on her removal .

Katherine s Personality

Finally a quick did you know section on Katherine Howard .She is always seen as the thick “Tudor bimbo,”a   air headed trophy wife  for an old rich man .Shes also seen as something of a loose woman,she certainly had premarital “affairs but these where when she was extremely young ,,maybe as young at 12/13 when her music teacher seems to have persuaded her to let him  take  sexual liberties ,,in this modern age she would probably have been considered a victim in this particular relationship .The second when she was certainly no older than 15/16,was one  she felt at the time had involved a form of marriage,Derehem and Catherine called themselves husband and wife when with each other and in front of close friends ,she was given his money to look after and they had slept together .Catherine could have produced witnesses to their vows to marry and  for the consummation for the marriage  ,this in the days before church marriages where the norm this would have been enough in law to make them husband and wife in any unbiased church court .Despite accusations she never tried to keep this relationship secret until she became queen and may well have thought Henry  knew of it when he initially showed interest in her.

She certainly did have some kind of  affair  after she married Henry unfortunately she choose the disreputable Thomas Culpepper as the object of her affections

Shes often considered to have been something of a spoilt brat and no doubt this was a side of her character ,Henry showered her with gifts of silks ,furs jewels and even estates,For someone who grew up having to share a room  with half a dozen other girls and who had very few personal possessions to suddenly have jewel chests full of pearls and gold and gemstones and dozens up on dozens of gowns must have been like a teenagers dream come true ,added to which instead of being bossed around by everyone and looked down on as a poor relation now everyone ran around for her and had to do as she told them.This would be more than enough to make a teenager a bit stroppy .

She was  certainly described by an ambassador as imperious  and wilful ,of modest beauty ,but delightful

There is also a hidden side to Catherine ,she does not appear ,like Henry’s  other wives to have tried to bribe Henry  into marriage by withholding her sexual favours as there were rumours she was pregnant well before their actual marriage so its possible she would have been happy to remain a mistress,She had at this time met Thomas Culpepper who she seems to have been genuinely fond of having fallen out with Dereham to begin a serious relationship with Culpepper .If the king had not suddenly noticed Katherine she would probably have married Culpepper .As it was she married Henry but later resumed  her relationship with Culpepper.During her time as Henry’s wife she does seem to have taken a great deal of time in trying to amuse Henry and keep him cheerful and looked after him with affection.The rekindling of her (possibly  adulterous )affair with Culpepper  dated from the  time when she was exiled from Henry’s presence for several weeks because Henry was ill with a presumed infectious disease.Bored she obviously make bad mistakes .Cupepper may well have been using Catherine to gain power and possibly even greater power as a joint regent as Henry’s health was declining and there were regular rumours that  Catherine  was pregnant.Only Prince Edward would stand between Culpepper and the regency and children died with depressing regularity in Tudor England  ,,being the lover of a possible future queen regent  who was also young ,pretty and infatuated with him was  no doubt a pleasant prospect.Despite the assumed evidence against Katherine confirming her physical adultery ,theres is a chance that this was assumption based on indiscreet exchange of affections,,getting Katherine pregnant with a bastard child wouldn’t serve Culpeppers purposes and  Katherine with the spectre of her cousin Ann before her might have thought twice about actual adultery .

(Culpeper was not a pleasant character,he had raped a peasant woman  getting friends to hold her down ,he had murdered some one else who tried to help her ,.The king knew and pardoned him so he may well have felt above the law.)


Its true she couldn’t read or write particularly well but she could do both which considering that no great pains were taken over her education does show some intelligence .Dereham  her first actual lover trusted her with his savings  of one hundred pounds a huge amount by Tudor standards when he went on a journey when she was still a young teenager so she must have been fairly competent and trustworthy.She was also extremely kind to both Henry’s  daughters  especially Elizabeth who was something of an outcast as both bastard and daughter of a disgraced and hated past wife ,Catherine called her kinswoman ,which was brave  as they were indeed kin ,,Ann Boleyn and Catherine where cousins.

She also seems to have been quite free of  resentment , there is an amusing incident after Catherine becomes queen ,the past discarded Queen Ann of Cleves visited court where Catherine received her so pleasantly the two women spent the night dancing together while Henry went to bed early .

Catherine was instrumental in having several prisoners pardoned and when she  learned an old lady ,the countess of Salisbury had been imprisoned in the  tower for many years she sent warm clothing and a warm hat  . She  had never met the old lady and she could have been in a great deal of trouble if Henry had been informed when he was in one of his less pleasant moods as The countess was imprison ostensibly as a traitor but by far the more likely reason was to punish her absent Son Cardinal Pole and to remove one of the very few remaining Plantagents  .Catherine loved expensive cloths ,furs and jewels but she was generous to her ladies in waiting and a fairly easy going mistress .She was vivacious and loved dancing but she does not appear to have been entirely vacant headed.Sadly we have almost nothing of Catherine ,she did not have any children who might have wished to preserve  her memory ,she does nor seem to have had tutors or governesses , she had no close relations ,no  rich influential friends  who cared enough about her to keep her possessions or writings or portrait.Its probable she never had her portrait painted until she caught the kings eye .

her only remaining legacy is an openly affectionate  letter to her lover Thomas Culpeper

Letter to Thomas Culpepper

Master Culpeper, I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. The which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart to die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company. …you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore pray send me one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you. Yours as long as life endures,

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Hedges ,time saving wildlife havens,a non gardeners guide

Creating a garden hedge is one of those rare things ,something  simple,time saving and economical for humans yet invaluable to wildlife, insects,butterfly’s ,bees ,birds mammals and amphibians can all benefit yet  its something which needs no specialist knowledge or skills.

This is a very long post so its broken up into sections if one part isn’t applicable just skim over it.

butterlfy 1

More remarkable still its the perfect  “fence ” for gardeners or house owners providing privacy and security .

Hedges are time saving, cheap, low maintenance and attractive,many are burglar and livestock proof . A hedge unlike a fence wont need a regular coat of paint or creosote,it wont need replacing every few years and it wont blow down in high winds but it will shield your garden from them.Depending on what plants you choose it may need a yearly or twice yearly trim ,but if your planting it some distance from houses and want something traditional then after the first  two or three years even this isn’t essential.Creating a hedge doesn’t need any special skills ,knowledge or tools ,nor do you need the expensive services of a joiner or gardener .While its beneficial to add nutrients ,perhaps compost ,dig trenches etc (there’s a how to plant link further on in the post),you can also just dig a hole stick your tree or shrub in and water it.If the weather is dry its best to water it  for a few days or weeks until its established but in many areas the weather is wet enough for this to be unnecessary .I have never made any huge effort to dig large trenches etc .

Hedges don’t need to be a problem to keep under control there are numerous shrubs which have  maximum heights of five to ten feet and  wont spread out too widely.Many after their  first years wont need any attention while others which grow taller can be used and cut back easily to keep them smaller.

This post is designed to be useful to the garden novice ,first time garden owners or the non gardening home owner looking for an alternative to their old deteriorating fence.It will hopefully also help new home owners who have inherited a hedge such a privet.

Hedges as a wildlife haven,help prevent extinctions 

There is no easier and cheaper way to help prevent the decline of dozens of endangered species than to plant a hedge.All parts of the hedge ,its base its branches and even just its actual existence are invaluable resources for endangered species .130 of  the UKs most endangered species are reliant on hedges and any size of hedge in any location can benefit species.

You can  even  with very little effort and expense make your garden an actual officially certified wildlife habitat.In its importance to endangered species your garden could be as important as the bigger  famous ones ,your own mini  equivalent of a rainforest or  the Serengeti ,its very likely you have as many endangered species in your area which you can help save as many wildlife reserves.Its easy to have at least 100 that can benefit from your efforts


Many of our once common species are now more endangered than high profile animals such big cats ,elephants or whales .However unlike these exotic species you can actually help prevent extinctions directly in your own back or front garden.

More British birds are endangered than are doing well once common birds such as the house sparrow,song thrush,swallows ,sky lark,nightingale ,cuckoo,starling ,turtle dove ,willow and march tits, are now in serious trouble. There are 52 British bird species on a conservation red list ,126 species on the amber list and only 62 species on the green list .This means that more of our bird species are in trouble than are safe The system of listing is explained here.


While some of these species need specialised areas many such as the house and tree sparrow can be helped by creating a wildlife friendly garden and especially a hedge.Its also much pleasanter to sit in your garden and listen to bird song in pretty scented shrubs than see only a plain fence and hear traffic noise.

Further endangered species helped by a hedge are  most of the species of endangered British mammals.

red squirrel

Of these easiest to help is the Hedgehog.It is now a major conservation concern and if gardeners do not help the hedgehog its likely to suffer further declines  and its not impossible that it could become extinct on mainland Britain .Gardeners can both harm and help the hedgehog,slug pellets kill hedgehogs and bird species that feed on the poisoned slugs,adding fences that go to ground level denies the hedgehog its route to its territory ,Hedgehogs travel up to a kilometre a night finding food ,if they cant get into parts of that territory they may stray into roads or may simply become malnourished and  fail to breed or simply slowly starve .It only needs a very small hole or gap in fencing to let hedgehogs through and the hole wont be big enough to let in cats.If you provide a hedge with a suitable niche a hedgehog may very well build a nest and breed in your hedge or hibernate there.Hedgehogs do no harm to gardens and are quite often happy to feed very close to doors and windows where you can watch them .



Other mammals of conservation concern are Dormice ,red squirrels and some voles.Dormice are not the common or garden mice but specialist mostly hedge dwelling little mammals.



while your unlikely to live in a area where dormice are common they are being reintroduced so planting hazel and honeysucle may be helping create a ready made niche for these animals who may even hibernate in your hedge

Hibernating Dormouse

Red squirrels are a less likely visitor to your garden but in areas where there are major conservation efforts being taken you may be able to play your part in providing extra corridors for them to  use between scattered woodland .

Also endangered are the British hares and several bat species.

Even were species are not currently in danger increasing their numbers can help animals further up the food chain make up for loss of other animals in their diet by providing more of their prey that is still available.Most small mammals dont invade homes as they have specific niches ,The field and bank voles may look like mice but wont become problems



Endangered butterflies and insects.

Some of our once common insects and butterflies are now endangered species ,many in very serious trouble.The once common little tortoise shell butterfly is on the red list and  overall one third are in serious decline


More species are  yearly being added to the watch list of conservation concern over all 55 per cent of British butterfly species are threatened and in decline.

butterlfy 1


Butterflies are one of the easiest species to accommodate with flowering plants and easily grown and cheap shrubs such as the butterfly bush buddleia.While even one shrub  can make a significant difference and a well planned hedge makes a valuable resource  for a wide range of beautiful butterflies that may otherwise have no feeding grounds,no where to hibernate or lay eggs.Butterflies and caterpillars tend to have very specific food sources so the caterpillars in your hedge are unlikely to become pests in your vegetable plot  .All the photos of butterflies and bees in this post are taken from my window  during an afternoon and show butterflies and bees on a small buddliea bush

butterly one

Bees are also in decline both worldwide and in the UK



Two British bumble bee species are now extinct and many more have become locally extinct which means they no longer exist in places where they have lived for centuries .All bees and especially  bumble bees can be helped easily in gardens by planting flowering shrubs or even small plants on patios


Its also worth noting that not all bees can sting ,many dont have stings at all and most wont sting unless provoked .Nesting bees can be a danger but  we had some bees nesting in our last garden and despite having four cats and two dogs and using the garden regularly ourselves ,we were never stung ,my sole bee sting was during getting into a car when I batted at something I thought was a fly  on my neck and got stung.

Not all bees look like the bumble bee ,some can look like wasps and so end up being swatted or sprayed.

heres a bee identification guide


in general wasps are longer thinner and a much brighter yellow .

You can buy little bee bricks to add to walls or place in niches under your hedge.



but you can also easily use the old house bricks that come with holes ,cut lengths  of old cane,drill holes in logs or use an assortment of other waste you will probably have lying around in the garden .


Bees are not the only species in decline ,some well loved species such as dragon flies and other lesser know species are also in serious trouble.


One is the magnificent globally endangered stag beetle which despite its large size and scary looking features is harmless to humans and pets



Ladybirds may seem identical but there are different species some of which are also in trouble.


Not all insect species are of course harmless or desirable and there’s an good list of those to avoid here,though some will happily visit gardens and stay undisturbed


In addition some species are invasive newcomers and less desirable as they often out compete and sometimes even prey on native species





The last group of animals to benefit are our British reptiles and amphibians,many of these are also endangered and can be helped by gardeners almost all are harmless and beneficial to gardens.Probably the easiest to accommodate are toads.They just need slightly damp place that are in quite parts of the garden



You  may not be a fan of toads ,frogs newts etc but if you place habitats in your hedge its very likely that you will help them survive but unless you go looking you wont spot them They will benefit your garden by eating pests and you can make a huge difference to their survival,gardens can create passage ways or “wildlife corridors”  for species to spread ,perhaps a piece of land nearby  to you is being built on ,the wildlife that lived there will be homeless and may not be able to get to new ground ,,by using gardens these animals will survive and may spread to nearby spaces that lacked them previously helping to repopulate areas


Frogs need slightly more than toads to take up residence but even a very small pound can be extremely beneficial .Theres are other species such as slow worms and newts.



Newts can sometimes be confused with lizards .There is a guide here that identifies newts and lizards.


As all the newts and many reptiles need specific habitats  I have not covered them  widely here but many  can  and do use hedges as pathways to other habitats.


Most British snakes and lizards are in trouble and most wont like the garden environment unless you live in an area where they are common and you specifically tailor it to their needs but  almost all are safe visitors we only have one species of poisonous snake in the UK the Adder which is easily identified ,quite rare to find in any gardens and its bite while unpleasant is not fatal ,unless you stand on one or handle one your very unlikely  to be bitten ,Pets may be bitten and bites can be fatal,Its illegal to harm adders.



All of the above animals can be helped with very little effort and often with no expense by creating a hedge.Not all the wildlife friendly measures need to look rustic or wildlife .Native trees like the hawthorn are good choices but are also very pretty but showy shrubs like budlias or lavarteras are also as good for butterflies and bees .Not all habitates you make need much effort or need to look “conversation like “,a water feature ,rockery ,statue etc can all create niches for animals.a few logs thrown at the back of your hedge wont be visible ,nor would a pile of stones.

Lastly endangered plants ,many of our endangered plant species can also thrive nr or in your hedge ,British bluebells are under threat from the introduced Spanish bluebell and from hybrids .These are being grown specially now and can be bought from reputable buyers for very little (around £10 per hundred) .Its illegal to dig them up or collect seed from the wild .Primroses and cowslips will also grown below your hedge and all of these will self seed and spread  so you can make a difference in helping save these and many other  species.

seed for most wild flowers can be bought here


or for quicker easier results you can buy plants online .If you have a suitable niche that’s very shady and damp you could also grown some ferns,there are a number of endangered species and these can often be encouraged in damp parts of hedges.


or encourage fungi,algae and lichens


Part Two  

Hedges for security .

A hedge can be a great security feature that’s burglar and vandal proof  especially if a good mix of thorn bearing plants is used so its an ideal choice for areas with high burglary rates or problems with trespassers or livestock.There are a lot of prickly or thorny shrubs and climbers and you can have almost year round colour.and an impenetrable barrier.If you need something tidy looking and evergreen try hollies ,or a mix of hollies and firethorns also called Pyracantha (which is just latin for fire thorn).


pyracantha-hedge (1)

For more informal hedge thats completely burglar and animal proof  my own personal choice would be a mix of hawthorns and sloes with brambles, dog roses and sweet briar (a kind of wild rose with scented leaves) and quinces perhaps under planted with gooseberry ,maybe gorse.You could also maybe invest in a climbing rose in your favourite colour for cut flowers Thevery easy to find Golden showers is very prickly but its flowers can be cut and will last a few days,Iceberg is a white similar rose both flower more than once over summer .This mix is cheap ,quick growing low maintenance and will give flowers from early spring to autumn,the dog roses wont last when picked but smell lovely and most of the shrubs provide berries through from early autumn and into late winter you can cook the gooseberries and make sloe gin with the sloes.  Thorny hedges can be  doubly effective if your hedge is somewhere where it can be allowed to develop a under planting of wildlife friendly but people deterring nettles at one or both sides.Advice on plants for security can be found here,this site also gives a list of trees suitable for gardens where security may be a issue .


However before planting prickly or thorny trees or shrubs its wise to consider potential injuries to you and others .Its very unwise to plant plant thorny shrubs where they will grow over footpaths or into neighbours space Lots of minor and some very serious injuries occur  each  year from accidents with thorny shrubs.


The main culprits are Berbris species ,many of which have particularly vicious spiny thorns.


(photo credit Phil Bendle page http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/weeds/barberry.html which is an exploration of the damage done from garden shrubs which self seed into the wild )

Quickthorn also know as Hawthorn and May.Though these tend to cause mainly superficial scratches but  if  they are grown next to pavements they can be a problem for unwary passers by who might walk into branches .Hawthorn is probably a good low risk thorny shrub for gardens where livestock are causing problems, as long as there are only older children  (I used to climb into  the crook of Hawthorn tree as a teenager to read and despite spending hours up there often in summery clothing I never got scratched)


(photo compliments of the woodland trust site ,an invaluable guide for anyone wanting to plant trees and hedges http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/hawthorn/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwi-moBRDL4Omf9d_LndMBEiQAQtFf8xAZoT1u-tSMJhVDHDrpYldEfRIxaa4wXWtm7ZjvtQEaAmbr8P8HAQ

Sloes also known as blackthorn these also have very  long  very sharp thorns that are quite densely packed together



Sloes are a great wildlife friendly choice providing early flowers and sloe berries ,they grown very fast and form a stock and burglar proof hedge that’s very low maintenance ,but the thorns do cause quite nasty scratches that go much deeper than Hawthorns and the thorns can come off and go into skin so again a bad choice next to footpaths or for gardens with very young children.

Brambles or Blackberries

These are very prickly and in my experience at least thorns seem to come off  fairly easily into flesh on contact ,,though they are usually also fairly easy to remove ,being springy brambles  can easily  flick back and catch your face .Our own blackberries always manage to get me when I prune them  causing  long scratches from their thorns and larger thorns  often end up in my fingers.Though they need to be kept under control and need something to climb over  Brambles mixed with wild rose would make an impressive and productive security feature grown over a wall and provide human and wildlife with food .

Lastly that perennial favourite for garden injuries ,,, roses. The thorns on roses vary from sturdy sharp ones typical of most garden roses to the tiny thorns that completely cover the stems of wild roses and wild  type roses.If you cant risk thorns injuring children or passers by or want something to go over a gateway arch there are a  few thorn less roses the most vigorous and beautiful being Zéphirine Drouhin which is  beautifully scented long flowering and  more or less completely thorn less.I had one for well over ten years and cut flowers from it during the whole of summer and never found one branch with thorns



The Zephirine Drouhin  rose can be bought from David Austen  following the link below but is sometimes  available from garden centres   http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/showrose.asp?showr=619

Hedges for Privacy

A hedge is  a perfect privacy provider .While all hedges will form a thick visual barrier deciduous shrubs (ones that loose all their leaves in autumn and winter ) only provide summer privacy so if your wanting to shield your house from passers by they may not be a good choice  but evergreen  (green and occasionally other coloured shrubs) provide year round or almost year round privacy .If your house is detached or in a quite area or if you have to come and go very late at night I would personally avoid having hedges that are too high or too deep, too close to doors or gates for security reasons ,tall thick hedges next to a side gate or front door provide potential attackers with the ideal cover to hide privacy can be a double edged sword.

The easiest evergreen hedges are hollys and privet and while hollys have more ecological benefits the one that your most likely to inherit is privet. Though you may not know its name you will definitely have seen privet hedges .

privet hedge

These were  very common in Victorian times and still being planted up to the 1960s. Though  they do have their limitations and are normally clipped to neat dense slabs of green( as above )privet does not  have to be a wall of boring green .It has quite  pretty  white flowers (though some  people dont like the smell I find it innocuous)which are useful for bees and some butterflies  and though for its first years it needs trimming to create a dense base once you have the desired height and shape it can then be cut after its flowers have died .(if your hedge overhangs a pavement you should probably clip back the pavement side to stop it causing problems for people who use the path .

Down sides

Privet is not a particularly  interesting plant and  its wildlife benefits are not as good as many other shrubs but it is infinitely  better than a fence .If you can start from scratch there are better choices of shrubs but if you already own a hedge you are lucky to have some mature shrubs and its probably already  playing home to numerous insects and possible some birds and can be made more wildlife friendly  .On the downside it is poisonous to some livestock esp horses so its not suitable where this may be a problem.Theres also some evidence that privet harbours the disease that is causing our Ash trees to die so if your planting a new hedge in a rural area you might want to use something else instead


If you have privet and want some variety you can grow another shrub such as  low growing versions of pyracantha with them or grow tall flowers in front such as delphiniums ,hollyhocks , yellow loose strife or climbing annuals such as sweet peas and nasturtiums or annual bulbs such a gladioli.There are not really many shrubs or climbers than you can grow into privet hedges as the clipping needed to keep privets tidy will ruin the benefits of other shrubs .Planting things under it works better even though the soil below the hedge is  going to get dry and the privet will take a lot of the nutrients  some plants dont seem to mind this, we have a peony in front of  ours which grows really well produces lots of flowers and needs nothing doing to it.If you want to treat the privet and the plants below you can improve the soil by scattering the compost  from planters and hanging baskets over the base of the hedge when the planters flowers die at the end of summer .

Plus side

Privet hedges are  fairly easy to grow , low maintenance and  can be cut to any height and width so they are suitable for the smallest gardens and all styles of garden.They absorb pollution and some street noise, even left untended most privets wont grow taller than 10 feet ( though  they can officially reach 15 feet we have inherited a few neglected gardens with very old shrubs  I haven’t seen a privet taller than 10ft in any of them .If you can let the privet hedge grow high they will also provide nesting places for birds but privets dont really provide any winter food  or colour.They can easily be used to create toad habitats  by placing some rocks under them ,maybe over an upturned lid or shallow tub filled up with soil to help keep a little bit damp,as a child I saw lots of toads in stony nooks and crannies under the privet hedges

There are privets that have patterned ( variegated) leaves.These create just as good a hedge but wont grow  at the same pace as plain privets so its probably not a good idea to include them  with the standard green ones if you need a uniform height or use them if you need a very fast growing hedge as they grow less quickly .


photo credit Brent Wilson

My front garden currently looks a little bleak as no shrubs or plants are flowering but we do at least have the green privet hedge.In summer I can sit here literally two feet from the pavement and road which goes past our house unseen and with much of the noise blocked out by the hedge and the song of birds in the trees and shrubs

(I will be planting bulbs and tall flowering plants here over summer and give an update on how that has worked )

front garden spring

 Part Three

Other hedging options and their benefits


A mix of Flowering and fruiting  shrubs create the best hedges,these provide free house flowers saving  money and  free fruits .They provide scent and they look much nicer than bare blocks of fencing.If you are careful in your choice you can have some flowers all year around.

Medium height and depth  traditional hedge

Plant  a backbone  of thorny trees /shrubs such as a hawthorn ,sloe and quince ,then fill in with shrubs that flower during different seasons ,the not very dense but  easy going and winter flowering winter Jasmine,winter honeysuckle and,cornelian cherry ,sloe hawthorn ,red current ,raspberry hazel and normal honeysuckle with a thorn less rose and possibly true jasmine.

However hedges don’t have to have the traditional country look of hawthorns and hazels It possible to have a very bright and colourful hedge.The photo below is of a Lavatera  hedge ,some Lavatera shrubs are also evergreen  with soft silvery green foliage  and almost all come with a  long flowering time.The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies and  its very fast growing so they are perfect for a quick fix hedge ,but they are short lived (our last shrub lived approx 5 years ).They dont grow particularly densely so probably wont keep animals in or out unless you add some hidden chicken wire



photo credit Waitrose garden centre

For wildlife, hedges are a God send as they provide food shelter and a place to nest but if you are a garden bird  and wildlife feeder you can make huge savings by growing a hedge. A years bought feed for garden birds will probably cost  at least £75 assuming  you dont feed many birds or many  different types of feeds or have feeder thieves such as squirrels

hanging and pole feeders/

If you  have a lot of birds visiting  or buy a range of foods it can  easily be as much as £250 or more.After two or three years a hedge can reduce this to less than £50 and its unlikely to attract problem birds such a pigeons or vermin such as rats.Other savings include buying feeders ,buying nesting boxes ,buying special habitats such as hedgehog homes or amphibian  and bee habitats .To buy shrubs for a new hedge will cost around £3 per metre.

Suitable shrubs Price guide 

While almost anything can be used to create a hedge some choices are better than others ,the ideal plants can vary from situation to situation .Hornbeam makes a wonderful hedge but needs to be trimmed regularly as the hornbeam tree grows to over 90 ft .

Here is a  hedging guide


from Buckingham Nurseries, a nursery I use and which supplies excellent shrubs and trees.A cross section of prices shows how cheap it can be to create a hedge

The table below shows blackthorn ,sloe prices

d  16-24ins
40-60 cm
£0.89 £0.39 £0.34 £0.30
 Sd  2-3ft
60-90 cm
£0.95 £0.45 £0.38 £0.34
 Tr  2-3ft
60-90 cm
£1.19 £0.69 £0.60 £0.51
 Tr  3-4ft
90-120 cm
£1.39 £0.89 £0.78 £0.6


d  16-24ins
40-60 cm
£0.99 £0.49 £0.42 £0.36
 Tr  2-3ft
60-90 cm
£1.29 £0.79 £0.70 £0.60
 Tr  3-4ft
90-120 cm
£1.69 £1.19 £1.08 £0.93


Price per plant for
1+ 5+ 50+ 250+
 Tr  3-4ft
90-120 cm
£1.99 £1.55 £1.44 £1.2

Hedging shrubs are not the bushy big plants bought in nurseries ,they come in assorted sizes from 1 ft to 5ft and have been grown to be easily trained into shape.They come bare rooted which means without a pot but with all the soil shaken off their roots,bare rooted plants are only available during the late autumn and  in the winter months when the plants go “dormant” this is when they have lost their leaves for winter ,you can buy bare rooted evergreens but I find these less easy to settle as they need more attention. These bare rooted  plants need planting quickly but grow well and can form a thick hedge in only three years.

If you want a less hedge looking hedge with a varied height To this you would need to add the cost of some special looking or feature trees or shrubs ,these can pay for themselves if you  use them as “posts” to tie chicken wire or trellis to (use ties you can change yearly so they don’t grow into the tree and damage it .These feature trees or shrubs can range from £10 each to £30 depending on the tree.

some trees and shrubs can benefit endangered species that have very specific needs butwhich can be met in small areas  eg the Hazel doormouse ,lives in hazel coppices and used honeysuckle for nesting materials .If anendangered species is being reintroduced to your area you can make a huge difference by creating a habitat for it.

“Dormice are successional feeders and require a range of foods to allow them to feed  while they are active. In spring they will feed on the flowers of oak, hawthorn, sycamore and willow and as the season progresses move onto later flowering shrubs such as honeysuckle and bramble. During the summer they take advantage of caterpillars, aphids and wasp galls and then they fatten up for hibernation on fruits and berries such as blackberries and hazelnuts.”


other trees benefit specific endangered species such as hollys ,which provides food for the holly blue butterfly .While many are beneficial to a wide range of wildlife

cherry (Prunus avium)
crab apple (Malus)
goat willow (Salix caprea)
hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
hazel (Corylus avellana)
holly (Ilex aquifolium)
mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
silver birch (Betula pendula)
spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
wild roses (Rosa)


To create a hedge.

If your starting from scratch your lucky to be able to plan and create your ideal hedge ,on the downside it will take longer to create a barrier ,though this may not need to be much longer.If you want to plant a hedge that includes slightly slow growing shrubs you can plant some short lived but fast growing shrubs such a lavatera (see above) as temporary space fillers ..In the meantime to keep animals in (or out) buy a wide roll of  plastic coated green chicken wire will provide a cheap and effective barrier.Plain uncoated chicken wire is cheaper but less sturdy and more importantly less long lasting and once it starts to rust and the links break it can give nasty scratches to humans and wildlife alike.

Do not run this chicken wire layer to ground level as this will prevent hedgehogs from getting into your garden I leave at least 10 inches above soil level as have some very large hedgehogs.



Make sure its at least 12  inches above ground level if you have cats so they can also squeeze through  if you want to prevent cats entering you can try doing this by keeping the wire lower but its unlikely to be an effective barrier against a determined cat .If like us you like us have a small dog who likes to escape you will need to put canes at intervals to stop it also getting under the fence .Not everyone may be as fond of  your pet or be happy having a muddy little dog in their garden or house

tilly dirty

Around the hedge base  if you want a better barrier you can plant some low growing shrubby plants such as heathers or slow growing  hebes at intervals .For a quick easy and cheap fix you could buy the small little roses used for bedding or as pot plants ,these will usually overwinter fine and spread to create a pretty low barrier that  you can leave gaps for the hedgehogs to get through by just cutting bits of the rose back  .Its best not to be tempted to run the chicken wire to ground level then cut holes as many hedgehogs die or are badly injured because they become entangled in garden wire.


A hedge by its very nature is a two sided  feature.If your planting at the end of your garden and it backs onto wasteland fields or other non inhabited space then the choice of trees and shrubs depends entirely on you,though if there is livestock in the fields then be careful to plant non toxic shrubs and plants as horses especially will snack on your plants.(Buckingham nurseries has a livestock friendly hedging guide and another guide can be found here   http://www.ashridgetrees.co.uk/hedging/hedging-packs/hedging-plants-stock-friendly)

little wooded corner iona

However most hedges are likely to be dividing you from your neighbours either as a stand alone feature or in conjunction with pre existing fencing.Its only fair to discuss your planting plan with them .All trees and shrubs will be tall enough to create some shade while some shrubs only reach five feet in a small garden this can cast a wide shadow,Your neighbour  may lose some of their sunlight and you may affect plants they are growing  on their side of the hedge.Most importantly some shrubs have unpleasant or even dangerous side effects .Many can irritate skin ,some can produce toxic berries poisonous to pets and children ,others have be less serious problems ,many shrubs produce more plants from their roots  ,these  smaller plants that grow up to three or more feet away from the tree itself ,willow is the most serious offender but even the beautiful lilac can be a problem.Some plants are also notorious for spreading or self seeding.Loose strife ,teasels and ornamental thistles are notorious offenders.If your planning on planting anything described as “vigorous ” or has “self seeds freely” in its description its probably a good idea to check your neighbours a fan of it as its almost certainly likely to end up in their garden .

Hedges have been the cause of many disputes especially with regard to the infamous leylanddi trees and there are several laws concerning hedges


Decide on the kind of hedge you want.

The easiest hedge to create is an evergreen hedge made from traditional hedging shrubs such as privet or yew  as discussed earlier in this post .These are trimmed to the traditional rectangular hedge shape  These should be planted quite close together the planting distance will vary depending on what shrubs you choose but most nurseries have a planting guide on their site.If you need a wide hedge you could plant a double row and space the second row so that each plant is sited in the gap  between the shrubs on the first row.The most popular  easy to grow deciduous hedge is copper beech as it has interesting clour is dense and keeps some leaves through winter.The traditional hedge will need trimming at least once a year and some more .This should be done after any nests have been abandoned if you have nesting birds ,its illegal to disturb a nest or birds who are building nests .

A  traditional style evergreen hedge should be cut so it narrows slightly towards the top so that snow is less likely to lie heavily on it .Hedges such as this are more wildlife friendly than fences but provide few benefits compared to a wildlife hedge

The “fence postsand the illusion of space 

If you want a natural looking hedge rather than a traditional straight  line and straight top and sides hedge you will need to spend ,much less time cutting and tending it .It will also provide more colour and scent . For an interesting hedge its best to vary the size of the shrubs and add some trees if you have space and they wont cause too much shade to either you or your neighbours garden. This will give a varied height of planting  and make the hedge look less like a boundary. A few narrow trees  and shrubs are  a useful way to avoid adding fencing posts.To give an impression of space try adding some shrubs further forward than others to give a meandering rather than straight line or if you have to grow the hedge against an existing fence or wall  sink some garden mirrors far back into the hedge attached to the wall or fence to give the impression of a gateway


,,this “gate really is just a mirror  with wood front  it can be bought here http://www.garden-mirrors.co.uk/decorative-mirrors/Garden-Mirror-Illusion-Open-Garden-Gate.html.

smaller mirrors will give the impression of a further garden beyond



You can place a statue in front as below


or hide statues inside the hedge,


Less traditional uses for statutes can include half emerging ones



Alternatively use feature plants and trees Plant some mature shrubs or trees four to five feet apart ,trees are best and small versions of most trees can be bought if you want to include fruit trees such as apples.Flag pole cherries are an excellent choice if your planting in a medium sized garden as they give height but dont grow wide.

flag pole cherry


.Slow growing or short growing  small semi dwarf  Conifers are perfect for most gardens they are upright narrow and  easy to work around with other plants.They wont loose their leaves in winter so they give privacy  all year around .Some have aromatic foliage.Junipers are a good choice and come in all shapes and sizes.



If you plant two of these slightly further out from the rest of the hedge you can create a small hidden space for an arbour ,bench or tables.Arbours are useful for providing height and an anchoring point for chicken wire ,climbers etc,the arbour below is mine it cost only £50 pounds off ebay and  I assembled it  in approx one hour .It will eventual form part of the hedge and possibly eventualy have a mirror behind it and a climbing rose over it

garden top progress 1

You could also semi hide a fountain in your hedge,though this may take more skill as unless its self contained and solar powered  it may need to be wired in .



If you don’t want or don’t have space for mirrors ,fountains etc an excellent choice  to add interest  is to buy some “ballerina” fruit trees these are trees which have been developed to grow only straight upwards and will do so without  needing to be trimmed to shape.The maximum height for most of these trees is 6 ft  to 8ft with a spread of around 3ft.(Make sure you are not buying dwarf versions .)


You can have a whole range of these ballerina  fruit trees in a very short hedge ,plums ,apples ,cherries Its also possible to buy Espalier trees  (though they are expensive)which are pruned in assorted shapes these are perfect for hedges but to keep this shape need pruning carefully ,though you could of course just let the tree revert to a more natural shape as the hedge grows.



Ant trees will be your “feature” shrubs but they can also be  used  like an arbour to secure your chicken wire.These will cost around the same price as hedging poles  which would to have installed and maintained  ,they look much pleasanter and can if you buy ballerina trees pay for themselves within a few years  by supplying fruit .Unlike posts the amount of skills needed is zero ,dig a hole and put them in then use cable ties to secure your chicken wire to them ,these cable ties will need cutting off each year and for the first year or two replacing with new ones so they dont grow into the trees but after the second year other shrubs should be growing through the wire and it wont require any more support or the trees will be large enough for you to nail a couple of tacks into the trunks.You should treat these newly planted trees to watering when you have planted them and ideally water them if the weather is dry for the first few weeks .Its not essential but they  will settle faster and grow better if they have a helping hand.

Wire fencing

Plastic coated Wide mesh chicken wire is a good choice as its likely to be invisible after the first spring ,wide mesh wire will also allow the widest range of  birds to move around freely in the hedge .As the hedge matures a further wide mesh layer of green fencing wire  added in spring and placed across the top of the hedge pushed slightly down into foliage will provide a cat proof barrier from the ground and a magpie and crow proof layer from above protecting nesting birds ,this will look messy until the new growth starts in spring but will eventually be absorbed into the hedge. This upper layer barrier can also be used on existing hedges .The width you buy will depend on how high you need your initial barrier to be ,I bought 1.5 metre wide wire as I find it easiest to work with ,wider is harder to handle ,two runs of this width will give a high fence one width is high enough to keep most pets in ,or out

If starting from scratch or if you have existing hedges with huge gaps at ground level  such as this.

arbour Iona

You can easily add a fast growing tree such as a buddleia or lavatera .If you want to add more habitats for wildlife however  you may wish to dig out a small trench and line it with  pond liner with one or two tiny holes,,refill with a layer of soil and put a mound of  stones set well back this will give a dark damp patch for amphibians ,it may not be enough for frogs but should be ample for toads.Small or  large water features can also be partly set into Hedges.The ones below are self contained so don’t need holes digging etc but they do need a power source,while solar fountains are available these probably wont work too well in the shade of a hedge


if your keen on DIY you can try more complicated options



If you dont want a fountain you could add more wildlife habitats more easily by adding a small stone trough or barrel even an old sink ,


If doesn’t need to be the traditional Belfast sink some modern ones can also look good as they will be almost hidden by the hedge but ,make sure one side slopes slightly so anything that cant swim can get out if it falls in .

Theres a good blog here on wildlife and water features


To plant your boggy bit or to make a hedge in slightly boggy soil you can use a few assorted trees shrubs and plants .Some shrubs and trees will tolerate  slightly damp (but not boggy )soil. Alder ,willow and some species of birch all are trees that grow in damper soil but they also grow quite fast and will grow tall unless trimmed back regularly .Willows also produce suckers which means new plants will pop up feet from the original plant which may make you unpopular with neighbours.You can prevent this by covering the soil around the willow with plastic sheeting then covering it over with more soil . Smaller shrubs  that are slightly damp tolerant are Hydrangeas,Kerria and Weiglas. A small  damp area will also add to the variety of plants you can use ,wild plants such as cowslips prefer slightly damp soil.



Garden plants such as astilbe also like moist soil.



If you want to ensure this remains damp use a small piece of black pipe set into the soil .When you water the plants you can pour some water down this tube to channel water into the soil .You could also or instead  dig a similar hole  ideally with a slight incline upwards add a bottom layer of small stones ,slightly refill with soil then place a flag stone over it ,,this will give a possible hedgehog nest or hibernicula at least until roots start to impinging  on the space when it will still be useful for small mammals.

The remaining choices of planting I will discuss further on in this post

when is a hedge not a hedge ?

Hedges do not just need to  be wide and tall  dividing “fences” between gardens.In a tiny  long garden or as part of a larger garden you can create a two part hedge.Treat the garden itself as the hedging space and make two small narrow lines of shrubs either side of a narrow lawn then add taller shrubs at each end this gives all the habitats of a traditional wide hedge and the narrow strip of lawn isn’t a problem for wildlife,If you use gravel then only use small pea gravel as stone shards ,bigger chunks of gravel or slate pieces can be too sharp for hedgehogs to walk over .

All the shrubs below  short and tall are left to grow their natural height and shape with just a few branches trimmed where they are growing over the lawn.Under the shrubs there are assorted low growing dwarf shrubs and easy to care for flowering plants

middle lawn path

This effectively creating a “garden room”. If you are planting this close to a house then rather than a further side of shrubs it can be  three sided with the last side being a  deep flower bed of high perennials .This “garden room” can be seen as an interrupted hedge,with the exception of the narrow strip of lawn all the components  of a true hedge are present ,there are mature assorted flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs in a continuous run and wide range of flowering plants .In addition what cant be seen here is the flower bed is actually a rockery which contains a lot of large stones which create a haven for toads ,this is a delightful place for humans and wildlife alike

middlev lawn path towards flower bed iona

If you have a tiny garden consider it as  space to create an interrupted hedge and create a wildlife haven while also creating a delightful space that seems much larger than it is .By adding a mirror at one end you can give the illusion of further space. Ideally if your planning this type of “hedge” try to choose at least some scented plants and some evergreens ,,I would personally avoid flowering current which has a distinctive smell that not everyone finds pleasant and any thorny shrub such as pyracantha or Berberis

An espalier “hedge”

This a a project for a skilled gardener or someone keen to start gardening and willing to put in some time and effort,though compared to the time outlay on maintaining fences the time is still minimal .Its possible to plant overlapping Espaliered trees then plant climbers in between growing them around the espalier trees branches,this will not make a wide deep hedge and wont be dense but if your creating an internal hedge  or perhaps need to work around and existing wall or solid fence then this would be a good choice.I have maintained but never created espalier trees so I  will leave instructions on their creation to those gardeners more skilled than myself.



,it would also be an imaginative alternative to fixing trellis to walls.


or as a garden divider .



While creating a trellis from trees would be difficult you could achieve a similar effect by using very wide wire fencing and wrapping climbers around it.

If you want to be even more adventurous  then you could provide some shelter with a garden structure made from a tree or shrub.



Improving an existing hedge

If you are lucky enough to move into a house where there is a mature hedge full length which has only narrow gaps at ground level ,gaps  were conifers have been cut back leaving dead tall trunks.

table and seat garden

or  where the hedge is quite shallow then you have the very best of both worlds.You have mature shrubs to give height and depth but also the space to create a more low flowering and more fruitful ,wildlife friendly hedge by adding fruiting shrubs such as raspberry’s or redcurrants,you can add compact thorny shrubs such as gooseberry’s or Berberis  to make the ground level secure  from dogs and foxes (these will also be an unpleasant shock for young children so its best to plant other less thorny dwarf shrubs such as hebe or heathers in front of these if you have toddlers living with or visiting you  or the shrub is likely to spread into neighbours gardens.) Again to act as a temporary barrier use wide mesh chicken wire,,this can be attached to the shrubs using cable ties so avoiding any joinery .If you moved in late summer or in winter if you can possibly bare to  do so it best to have a summer in the house before making major planting choices rather than  planting shrubs that will clash with your colour scheme especially if you have distinctive coloured shrubs such as this pierris.

Garden  the pierris spring

Waiting will also give you an idea of times when the hedge has flowering gaps and you can choose shrubs accordingly .If like us you are lucky to live next to good neighbours this wait can be avoided as you can ask them what is in the hedge and when it flowers .As with a new or mature hedge with a gap you can add specific habitats.Though it will be easier to do this by adding height to the soil level rather than digging ,digging under mature shrubs will be hard and cause root damage.Most older hedges in houses are likely to have soil which would benefit for some compost or new soil.I usually empty old planters onto the bottoms of hedges ,this soil is usually fairly empty of most of its nutrients so it wont upset the plants who prefer poorer soil but does add texture and provide a mulch over tender perennials as winter sets in.

Planting ,choosing your shrubs.

I am not an expert in shrubs or trees so I have posted links to sites ,mostly the RHS which provide more detailed information of the shrubs below,I merely provide as full as possible guide to the choices available.

garden blush rose


All year around flowers or colour.

wildlife friendly


All year around berries

Bee and butterfly food plants

provides flowers ,seed heads or foliage for cutting to put in vases in the house.

Provides human food .

Non toxic .

There are a great many plants which will fulfil several criteria and a few which will only provide one .

I have been replanting our current garden with shrubs I made my first priority winter colour and interest ,either flowers ,berries interesting stems  or unusual shapes .I also wanted any flowering shrubs to be scented.Winter flowering shrubs are  often scented so its not as difficult as it might sound .However several of the most scented and attractive shrubs have highly poisonous berries to avoid tragedy they are best avoided if either you or your neighbour has young children or pets.Daphne Mezereum is the worst offender while also being the most beautiful and most pleasantly scented.



Holly also produces toxic berries but will only produce berries if make and female plants are grown or exist close by .Holly berries are not fatal and a large number need to be consumed to cause serious harm.


Many plants toxic to humans can be checked on the site above.

Plants toxic to pets can be checked here

for dogs




for cats here

molly 1



I have inherited gardens which contained many of these plants and my pets have never had any problems ,however I now own a spaniel which eats the most unbelievable things so I am much more careful now in my planting choices.How careful you decide to be will depend on how many pets or children visit or live with you and how likely they are to eat berries ,roots etc.


winter flowering shrubs.

Winter shrubs are  the hardest to plan and source ,Winter flowering shrubs mainly benefit humans and insects but they will often produce berries in spring which is a time when birds are raising young and most winter berries are gone.

Winter jasmine ,is a perfect addition to a hedge as its very early flowering,it has narrow thin branches and is not either invasive or space consuming.It grows fairly slowly and does not reach a very great height ,My friends 10 year old winter jasmine is 5 ft high and approx 3 feet wide but is not dense enough to block our other plants.Its fairly unexciting for most of the year so in a hedge it can merge into the background during summer and autumn .Though some are described as scented I have never noticed any particular scent

winter jasmin

Another good choice is witch hazel,these are scented ,slow growing and variety’s  can be bought which are  fairly compact.It should be noted however that it is a tree and some versions can reach upto 15 ft

witch hazle


Also winter flowering ,

sweet box  which is both evergreen and scented ,these can be cropped to stay small but most variety’s if left unchecked will still only grow up to a maximum of  6 ft .



Winter  scented  evergreen or deciduous shrubs




These are always evergreen often but not always scented ,this is a larger growing plant with quite big leaves which are slightly prickly but not as bad as holly .Its very good addition to an informal tall and wide  evergreen hedge (a losely arching high evergreen hedge can be created with laurels and mahonia .Mahonia   provides winter flowers and if you choose a scented variety very pleasant scent .Both Mahonia and Laurels need pruning rather than clipping or trimming so take longer to maintain if you plan on keeping them to a certain shape



Winter honeysuckle

winter honeysuckle

Sweet scented climber not as fast growing as the spring and summer honeysuckles.


Winter flowering dog wood ,cornus mas also called cornelian cherry.

cornus mas

and the winter flowering cherry.



Many  viburnums flower through winter and many are evergreen ,some flowers are scented.Viburnums come is assorted sizes

viburnum tinus



winter flowering evergreen and most are scented ,Daphnes are slightly harder to grow than the other shrubs ,heavy frosts can damage young shrubs .They will not thrive and may die in damp or very dry soils

Daphne bholua 'Limpsfield'

Also winter flowering are many camellias but these are often not winter hardy in some parts of the country and are not by nature hedging plants .

If your hedge is too small for winter shrubs or you want something to climb through it then there are several winter flowering clementis



Suggested planting for an easy care  short hedge,  the winter honeysuckle ,winter clementis and ,winter jasmine and one other shrub from the flowering group perhaps an evergreen such as a viburnum or if you prefer something that flowers on bare stems the cornus mas or winter sweet ,A pyracantha for winter berries .under planted with  both species of Iris ,grape hyacinths and primulas ..If you have enough space and want some interesting shrubs to provide shape and interest in winter there are several options such as the red ,black  or yellow stemmed dog woods

red yellow dogwood


These are probably not ideal for a hedge plant unless the hedge is long enough to plant at least two and has other more interesting plants such as evergreens and summer flowering shrubs as the dogwoods are fairly are unremarkable for most of the year .These would also work as mid way or end of hedge plants .

Cork screw hazels, these are again unsuitable hedging plants but a perfect shrub to create interest part way along planted well out from the main hedge or at one end of the hedge also planted far out from the main hedge,giving a focus to the end.Or plant one in front of a mirror to double the effect of the twisting branches .If you are planting an “interrupted hedge”then this would be a good plant for the end or even for in the flower bed as its slow growing.It can theoretically reach 20 ft however it takes 50 years to do so and after 25 years will only be around ten feet  and may never reach larger than 15 feet .There was a corkscrew hazel in our Pennine village which never reached more than  6ft  by approx 4 ft for the 17 years we lived there.Its a very useful plant to cut for floral arrangements  so this is a simple way to keep it under control.It is  early to mid spring flowering .

corkscrew hazel



While these are not winter flowering their buds form over winter




These grow best with support so are ideal to grown into hedges,they have quite long and sharp spines ,their name is fire thorn .they will add security as well as winter interest and food for birds.



These are a mixed blessing ,they grow quickly form a dense hedge and produce witner food for birds,they are easy to propagate from cuttings I have cut cottoneaster twigs and stuck then in the ground and a least 90 per cent take.However also spent two weeks sawing back a cottoneaster that had  gone feral and taken over an entire side of the garden it had engulfed two lilacs an elderberry and a weigla  .Cottoneaster spread quickly and easily,They  may self seed but also sucker .They are now an invasive species spread by birds to areas were they cause problems in the wild



Other invasive shrubs and plants are listed here


To complete the winter flowering phase of the hedge it would be handy to plant winter flowering primulas and perhaps pansys. Other.Other flowering plants for height are the evergreen green  winter Iris,Iris Unguicularis which grows to around 1 foot ,30 cms

iris 1


Winter Iris ,Iris  danfordiae

A dwarf iris which flowers in late winter,Iris  histrioides which flowers in January

Also worth a try are hardy cyclamen

These will  all quickly spread and create winter colour and food for bees and other insects.Spring bulbs are also best planted before the hedge becomes established.The easiest of these are daffodils both spring flowering and the miniature daffodils which often flower late winter. Daffodils  multiply quite quickly and for less than ten pounds investment you can have drifts of daffodils with enough depth to pick bunches for the house.Another great plant for hedges is the grape hyacinth which again multiplies and spreads  quickly .This can become invasive.Winter iris are also a beautiful fairly easy to grown bulb which is also scented.Snowdrops will multiply fairly quickly once established but can be harder to grow as they may not grown well or at all from bulbs ,its better to buy them “in the green” which means as plants before they die back after flowering.Though they are spring not winter flowering now would also be a good time to plant English bluebells and anemone blanda.

I hope this post has given  people some ideas on how to create a hedge or  how hedges can be adapted to different locations.

here are more helpful links

heres a guide on using rubbish such as pellets,while the example below is quite large you could use one pellet chopped up and hide it behind shrubs and it will still be invaluable.





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Eye candy for Easter ,a gallery of 18th costume

To mark Easter  a gift of eye candy from that most delightful of eras the 18th century.

18thc blue white

I have no added individual attributions but all the images and more like them can be found by clicking on the links at the base of the post.

18thc blue gown

18thc red gown

18thc pink gown


blue mat fornt

mantua blue






mantuia back

matnua full

matnua back

mantua gold back

mantiua kens


court matnai kensignton


wedding matnia



18th red back





18thc cuf




Canon 20D Digital Capture













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All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing…save lives this Good Friday

As today is Good Friday I wanted to mark it on my blog with something that will help our current suffering church.


This is a report on current Christian persecutions and contains  graphic and upsetting images ,its unsuitable for children or those who would prefer not to see images of death.

For those who are offended by these images I say ,then please do something to stop the persecutions they document ,because I find it offensive that we allow this and do nothing ,yet campaign to have the news suppressed .This is a new holocaust ,dont be like those we condemn in the past by turning your back and preferring not to see



Good Friday  is a day that focuses on Jesus Sacrifice ,Christians believe Jesus died on Good Friday to bring peace and reconciliation to the world ,to make possible mankinds reconciliation with God and to make possible peace on the earth ,both by bringing peace to the troubled hearts of men and women everywhere and paving  the way for them to truly know God and in knowing God and in knowing his peace they too will be willing to lay down their lives in his service and in the cause of right.


The image above showing Christians about to be beheaded  is fairly well known the next frames of the film are not.To us it may seem that at least beheading is a quick death but it is not it is brutal.To those who have claimed the video is staged ,many of those executed are known personally to their Coptic brethren and I include interviews with relatives here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/18/isis-christians-killed-_n_6703278.html

The unseen later  frames of the photo show the actual beheading .





Jesus died that  we the church should  be willing to lay down our lives to bring peace to our troubled world to replace with justice ,peace and equality the horrors of war ,To fight for a world where women are not raped or oppressed.


or subjected to barbaric punishments to crush their spirits and remove their rights.





For those who feel the burkha and Niqab are an expression of freedom of speech ,they are not ,they are in most countries forced upon women by men to subjugate them ,isolate  them and remove their individuality and right to self expression.The women below are Isis women prisoners.They will be sold as sex slaves or raped and murdered,They are not wearing the burka to protect their modesty or because their husbands cherish them .They are wearing it to become nothing ,like the striped uniforms of concentration camp victims



In a world where children murdered, people are starving while others throw food away for no reason than we dont want it . Christians are called  to speak and act against the injustice of  people dying of thirst ,while we in the west leave sprinklers running  so our public parks  look green  or fill swimming pools while farmers loose water to their wells ,where we find it acceptable to imprison chickens without ever seeing sky or  sunlight just so we can have eggs for a few pence less,,to replace this unequal ,war torn  pain riven world  with a world of justice ,equality ,freedom ,safety and plenty for all by fairly distributing the more than adequate resources God has given to us all equally.To stand with those who suffer.

jesus_cross_dies  isis-crucify-youth

source image one The Passion of the christ, source image two http://www.maghrebchristians.com/2014/12/18/iraqs-quiet-christian-genocide/

To lay down your life for your fellow  man to be willing to die rather than deny what you believe true.

cricifed christian

source http://www.catholic.org/news/international/middle_east/story.php?id=56477

and live to serve the cause of peace and justice, these are the timeless values and core meaning of Good Friday .Values for which two thousand years ago  a man was crucified and for which today men are still willing to face crucifixion for


(sources this article http://thedeadchurch.com/blog/2014/7/4/celebrate-freedom-in-syria-8-crucified-for-christianity)


These are not just theology to be argued but life aims and core values ,for these many thousands of Christians have given their life these past months .Men ,Women and Children .


Yet just as most today will ignore the sacrifice of Jesus two  thousand years ago ,they will also with less justification ignore the  ongoing sacrifice of Christians around the world .

The media has for the most part ignored the  daily atrocities despite many many reports in the Christian press and photos showing the death and misery brought by ISIS  to Christians.With great moral strength many Christians when faced with the choice of denying Christ and living or being butchered  have chosen Christ ,,and  bravely died for it.

See Video: ISIS executes 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya

How keen would the tabloid press be to use images like the one below splashed acorss its fronmt pages  if the person shown was a journalist.(this is a Yemeni child )Yemen despite its movie début is a major persecutor of Christians




Further warning images below are extremely graphic

How quick  and loud would  be the outcry  caused by photos like these if it was a western children,Many of these children were  first raped then murdered in front of their parents,in some cases there was no opportunity to renounce Christ ,homes were raided and the family’s dragged out to be executed


Some children were murdered for refusing to deny their belief in Christ,,not at the instigation of parents or religious leaders many of these children were taken away from their parents ,taken from homes or schools or churches and each asked at sword point

little girl


It is a shame we all share, Christians more than others as we are the  body of Christ ,when one of us suffers all should feel their pain  .Yet each child s death robs us of our joint future ,each mans unreported death makes the next mans more likely ,each woman or child raped but denied justice makes more atrocities likely .We can all make a huge difference ,we can change governments attitudes ,at the very least we can show the sacrifice and mourn the loss of our fellow mans deaths.We can protect children to have fully and happy lives ,not brutal premature deaths.

Just days before I wrote this post there was yet another atrocity against Christians this time in Africa in Kenya .147 young people were shot .The gunmen first separated Christians and Muslims released the  Muslims and killed the Christians.

chrsitian students


Photos of these  and other atrocities echo those of the liberation of the death camps



This was the result last time we decided to ignore the pleas of a religious minority

Holocaust Add 8 SS Guards forced to bury victims at Belsen Concentration camp mass grave liberation

And this is what is happening now as we ignore the calls of Christian leaders ,the Christian press and the Christian Church

christian dead

While the main focus of the current massacres is the middle and far east,In Africa especially Nigeria  ,in Pakistan ,in Afghanistan,in North Korea,China and  elsewhere Christians are daily persecuted and increasingly targeted in terror attacks as in those at the school.


A lucky few of these Christians  have fled and seek refuge .


Some in the UK when your tempted to vote for the BNP ,for UKIP or to sign petitions against immigration ,remember these images ,remember these slaughtered men women and children and perhaps consider that not all those seeking asylum are liars and money grabbing slobs looking for an easy life in the UK


Here is a list of petitions that are currently running to help Christians around the globe.Before you celebrate your Easter, please  take a minute to save a life and make a difference







and lastly shame on Franklin Graham


Compared to this

From pope Francis


And this open letter to ISIS by Islamic scholars


finally from Revelation

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

– Revelation 7:14-17

Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.


As is always the case some would choose to deny these atrocities are happening ,months or  years from now these people will stand judged by history ,decades from now they will be seen in the same light as holocaust deniers .But for now suffice it to say they are wrong UN reports ,international agencies reports ,red cross reports, news reports, eye witness reports from towns ,Christians reports on fellow believers and most frequently of all ISIS own propaganda images and videos .



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Many a true word spoken in jest ?an overview of Richard III related April fools posts


“The University of Leicester is planning to change its name to capitalise on its discovery of the bones of Richard III.

The proposal will be debated by the university’s senate next month. It is expected to agree to the institution formally being rechristened as King Richard University from September 2016.

Officials behind the plans also hope to rename some of the university buildings in tribute to the dead monarch to exploit the huge international interest in the discovery and attract lucrative overseas students.”,,,,,,,,

A university source revealed: “Our research shows that up to 10 per cent of people in some countries aren’t aware that it was the University of Leicester which found the skeleton of Richard III. Changing the name of the university is the natural next step.”

The students’ union has also been approached about co-operating in the new publicity drive, and has proposed staging a monthly club night called “Flogging A Dead Horse”, in honour of Richard III’s “My kingdom for a horse!” speech in Shakespeare’s play.,,,,

It is understood that university officials considered a number of alternative names for the institution, before settling on King Richard University. These included “Plantagenet Midlands”; “The University of Leicester, We Found Richard III”; and “The PR University”, after “Plantagenet Richard”.,,,,

And from History Extra

“I can think of no better tribute to this fascinating historical figure and wonderful family man than the erection of a theme park in his honour.”


Visitors will be able to learn about the discovery of Richard III’s remains at the theme park’s learning centre, and sample the types of foods eaten by the king himself, including swan, crane and heron.

Plans had previously been put forward by York to build a theme park near Middleham Castle, where Richard III spent much of his youth. These were, however, unsuccessful.


Also one I am not sure about ,,it may actually be true because there had been comments about it way back in Oct so I would love feedback on that,,many a true word maybe ?


A Swedish rock opera about King Richard III is to get its world premiere in London this October.

RichardRocks is inspired by both Shakespeare’s Richard III and Al Pacino’s 1996 film Looking for Richard, according to its producers.

Swedish musical theatre star Fred Johanson will play Richard III, with the rest of the roles cast in London.

A service to mark the reburial of King Richard III took place at Leicester Cathedral last week.

“Don’t expect this Richard to be a hunchback with a bad haircut,” said writer Maria Robsahm. “Our Richard is a manipulative Machiavellian prince – a modern psychopath.


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Feed the birds ,two pounds a bag

finch 1

As spring is here I thought a very quick post on feeding the birds might be useful.As I have only been feeding birds for a few years and most people who feed birds and bird organisations and charities have their own  hints  on how best to do it I have also posted links to sites offering advice .

To start heres some things that everyone agrees on –

woodpecker back

1/It can be expensive

.It doesn’t have to be but if your wanting to use primarily bought bird foods and use a mixture of different kinds it will be expensive.This can be avoided by feeding more “natural ” foods ,throwing out chunks or whole apples ,pears ,berries ,many  of us occasionally buy more fruit than we eat.Slightly overripe fruit can also be bought at supermarket bargain corners or in fruit shops very cheaply.

bird bath top feeding space squirrel and blackbirds

Throwing this out for the birds is a food they  would usually eat ,will enjoy  ,is unlikey to attract vermin or carry diseases and that costs nothing.I also throw out apple cores etc leaving a little more than usual of the flesh on them ,more free food ,Squirrels eat both but bury neither avoiding lawn damage.These will also attract insects that are then eaten by hedgehogs .


In summer however they may attract wasps so its best in the warmer months to throw them in areas away from where you spend time

Feeding leftovers isn’t usually and option ,Fat from roasting tins is usually full of salt and also can foul birds feathers if its liquid .Its unwise to regularly feed birds bread ,especially white bread as this is the junk  food of the bird world ,birds who regularly eat mainly bread will become as out of condition as humans who live off mac Donalds take out .Its ok as a temporary snack if your out of bird foods but its likely to attract mice and problem birds such as pigeons .I do every few so often  feed birds the loaf ends of our wholemeal seeded bread which has cranberrys and seeds in it but it always attracts more pigeons than other birds.Porridge oats or basic unsweetened musili is a better food ,oats in particular are cheaper than bird feed mixes .Pinhead oatmeal is  supposed to be a slug killer as the slugs enjoy the oatmeal so much they eat too much and explode,I am not sure if this is true but intend to try it this summer.These both need to be fed dry or they will stick to birds beak and can foul their feathers causing diseases.There are some leftovers that are fine,theres some excellent bird feeding advice here




Sultanas are my own personal favourite ,with dried catfood for the meat eaters,I throw these out at night so they soften  and early rising birds beat the pigeons to them,Hedgehogs also love these and become regular visitors ,in winter these can be a lifesaver for small hedgehogs trying to make a hibernation weight t which they can survive or for hedgehogs that wake up to feed in deep winter when there’s no other food around ,these will then usually go back into hibernation and wake successfully whereas otherwise they may search for non existent  food  .

Attracting  and helping birds without using food.

A very cheap way to attract birds and provide a priceless essential and life saving resource for almost  no effort is to put out water ,this doesn’t need to be a special bird bath as long as its shallow ,I used a terracotta shallow casserole dish big enough to also be used as a bird bath.You could also use a shallow plastic tub or plant pot saucer ,even an ordinary saucer is enough for small birds ,all love splashing about in the water

garden bird bath back

Though its not essential I also put out two small shallow bowls of water .Living in Yorkshire these are almost always self replenishing but in winter I add a bit of warm water to thaw them and in summer they may need topping up.


In spring ,help building their house

Another excellent way to help birds if you have a pet is to throw the fur from grooming them into your garden ,this is used to line nests .I saw a nest at our last house that was lined in the fur from our Belgium Shepard dog and often heard the nestling’s in spring.

For others materials of use check out the following link


Feeding in more detail

Bought food

The Seed mixes you can buy  very cheaply from £1 for a huge bag ,should be thought of much like bread ,ok as a fill in but essentially junk food .The cheap mixes are mostly cheap seeds which either only attract birds like pigeons or are very low in nutritional value so again birds may fill up on stuff that’s not as good for them as other foods but better than going hungry on an icy day.

As a guide for seed mixes if its cheap ,its not good and you get a lot of seed or even fillers such as dried split peas which are  probably not that good.The best overall seed is sunflower hearts ,I dont know one bird which doesn’t eat these including Finches ,tits ,the black caps even the woodpecker and nut hatch locationally snack on them .These are common in stores such as Wilko and pound stretcher were they can be bought in fairly decent sized bags for around £2.00.One bag will last at least a week and usually two  unless your having problems with pigeons or squirrels when you may use double that,These are a perfect high energy nutritious food with no real downside ,its mess free and easy to store. If you  can only put up one feeder then a cage or plastic seed feeder of sunflower hearts is the best one,I would use mesh as it attracts a wider range of birds.Plastic ones however keep seed dry

hedge feeders

.If you can afford two feeders one mesh and one plastic is perfect ,mesh feeders to feed larger birds and the plastic one for smaller birds .There are a lot of bird feeders on the market but I mostly use just the cheap £1 ones ,these last months and are easy to fill and clean.I have one squirrel proof  feeder which is a metal cage around a plastic tubed one,this works pretty well though one or two squirrels tip it up and spill some from time to time starlings and pigeons find it impossible to use.It cost £5 ,theres also a mesh version but the squirrels and starlings have no problem using this.The plastic tubed feeder is useful for ground feeding for the same reason its hard for large birds to use.

The next cheap feed is peanuts ,Kibbled chopped nuts can often also be bought and these are better than whole nuts in spring so that small birds dont feed chicks big nuts which can choke them or just use mesh feeders so this isn’t a problem. Peanut mesh feeders are around £1 .Dont feed peanuts out of the nets they are sometimes sold in these frequently trap birds claws and cause wounds or death ,even birds freed from them are likely to get the wounds infected and die .Peanuts do sometimes go mouldy which is a health risk for birds so I have replaced them with plain monkey nuts and I throw these out a few a day for squirrels or if I have time stick them in trees and shrubs,Monkey nuts also attracted Jays,one of our most exotic looking birds

jay 1

Jays may prey on smaller birds in spring but I have not found this a problem as the jays rarely visit for longer than it takes to grab some nuts and mostly appear in winter.Magpies and crows also prey on nestlings so if you have nest boxes protect them with mesh

black caps

Fat blocks are another brilliant cheap low maintenance and feed all  food ,or fat filled coconut halves ,these are very cheap ,high in energy and very easy to feed ,I rarely replace these more than once a week sometimes only every ten days or longer ,one average they cost around £1 to £1.50 and again all the birds that visit eat them ,it was these which originally  attracted the nuthatch ,woodpeckers and black caps. If you can only use one feeder and dont want to bother daily replacing food or checking it then these are the feeder for you .One or two can be invaluable to birds and can be checked or refilled only at weekends so no outside trips in dark winter weather.Some advise not feeding fat based food in summer I do continue to use them but replace them if the weather hot ,placing them in shade is also a good idea.

Different foods in principle can attract different rarer birds and these lots of feeding tips here.

My main specialist feeds are freeze dried meal worms which are fairly  cheap 1.70 for a weeks worth ,,which do look a bit unpleasant but are a high protein bird food which robs and blackbirds love and will be certain to attract any hedgehog in the area.

Nyger seed ,I put this out to attract finches ,it didn’t work  but the finches appeared very quickly once I started to put out sunflower hearts ,some birds use it but all of these  also use the sunflower feeder ,if I didn’t already own a  rather expensive nyger feeder I probably wouldn’t buy nyger seed .

If you have space and time its a great idea to put feeders at different levels and in different areas so all birds have an equal chance to eat in their ideal environment,but this isnt really essential

hanging and pole feeders


2/Time and effort

It takes time,again how much time depends on what and how your feed.Throwing out apple cores  or slightly over ripe fruit can be done on your way out of the door to work or on arriving home.Suet and fat feeders will need checking every couple of days  to make sure they haven’t fallen down and maybe filling once a week but maybe only once every ten days or coconut half need almost no time ,when they are empty throw out the old put up the new .

If your seed feeding it will take a minute or two each day to check feeders and fill them,this might seem nothing and in spring ,autumn or summer its something you will barely notice but in winter with short cold days it can seem more of a chore especially if you work and have to do it in the dark and ice cold weather  .It will also take a little time each week to clean seed  and peanut feeders.This is not a messy or long job as birds rarely get mucky but it is essential.Bird feeders are the restaurants and take outs of the bird world, but unlike human restaurants the plates ,cups and tables are not cleaned after each guest has eaten.Fat block feeders are the easiest just bring them in pour boiling water over a few times then refill.

blue tit and nuthatch

Responsible feeding

If your going to regularly feed birds it is likely many or possibly most of those birds that visit have made your garden part of the route they take to gather food .Its not easy to change these routes if the birds visiting are territorial as in other areas the resident birds will chase them off.Such birds include Robins and blackbirds.In winter there may be a large number of blackbirds but most of these are winter visitors and so the residents tolerate them as they know they will fly off before breeding season.

blackbrids top feeding area arbour winter

Other birds such as small birds like blue tits can loose up to ten percent of their body mass overnight in cold weather ,these often spend  winter in small flocks to huddle together for warmth and roost near food sources ,these birds need to top up their energy levels each day if you suddenly stop feeding these will need to fly further and spend longer finding alternative foods using valuable energy reserves . In winter especially if for any reason you will not be feeding the birds for more than one or two days either tail off feeding gradually so the birds start to look elsewhere  or put up extra suet block type feeders  which will empty gradually again allowing birds some time to look elsewhere or ask a neighbour to top up feeders .If you don’t have a neighbour but are paying a house or pet sitter most will also fill up feeders for you free of extra charges.charges.do not be tempted to feed extra for the days before you go to make up for days without food,most birds don’t store food ,it will just possibly attract more birds who then also don’t have food or use up the food in feeders even more quickly.Likewise if your moving house began to trail off feeding for as soon as possible in advance.

Some suggest only feeding in winter and stopping in spring,however birds are just as at need of food in spring ,shrubs and trees which didnt have berries in winter still dont have berries in spring and by spring winter berries and winter stores are often at an all time low ,this is at just the point birds need more food as they are raising chicks,The quality of new generations og birds will also be dependent on the quality of food the chicks receive .its also the time when species can be most affected ,garden feeders can provide the food that’s essential for new generations of  endangered  species to survive.If your not going to feed in summer tail off gradually.By not summer feeding you may well miss the chance to see birds which only spend summer here ,British Black caps ,most warblers,Nightingales and many more .You will also probably  loose the regular visitors many of which may not return.

magpies feeding shed


Bird feeders do stop birds from starving in bad weather ,save lives of chicks by supplying food in spring and generally make life easier for birds.However it is an unnaturally well attended food source,In the wild birds of different species will rarely feed side by side or food sources be visited by dozens of birds regularly every day.In the wild diseases are therefore unlikely to cross species or affect dozens of birds or sometimes even a whole areas birds.Many birds but especially,birds from the corvids  family which include magpies carry diseases  that are causing concern as they are spreading to other species ,so to do pigeons  .Feeders left un cleaned for weeks or months harbour disease ,this spreads to birds ,you may not see birds sickening or dying but it may well be happening.The increase of disease in finches is seen as linked to the increasing numbers of finches at feeders ,if you cant clean feeders regularly it may be better not to feed or to feed only ground food or at the very least changing where you put food out

Likewise Bird baths are the public swimming pools of the bird world and some birds like some people can have bad habits in the shared pool.However seeing the delight of birds using these is more than worth the minute or two spent Changing the water and giving them a wipe.I usually do this in situe outside just tip up the bowl to empty it ,wipe around with kitchen role pour a kettle of water over it and then top it up with more water.

garden back garden bird bath



It is a regular commitment ,how big a commitment depends on how your intend to feed and for how much of the year.If your just throwing out apples this is next to nothing ,Suet blocks maybe five minutes a week or less .Seed feeding by contrast is a bigger commitment a few minutes  a day  every day for the period you have decided  to feed.Maybe every day or every other day  either all winter or all year.You need to ensure you plan ahead and buy food when you shop .It needs storing suitably we store ours in the same cupboard as out pets food .

brown blackbrid


4/It can in rare cases be upsetting  or annoying ,but its always a delight .You may get the odd bully bird such as pigeons or magpies which guzzle all the food meant for the ones which really need it .

pigeons roof

These are fairly easy to deter Pigeons by avoiding ground feeding . (I have a post on this here https://hathawaysofhaworth.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/garden-birds-the-problem-with-pigeons/

Magpies by placing shiny ornaments around the garden where they like to land.I used an old silver glazed tea service and some bought stainless steel balls but theres also those hanging swirly things  so it doesnt have to look unsightly .These will deter other birds if they are near feeders but on shed roofs or other high places they will mostly just deter magpies .but can be annoying and messy until they move on .What is probably more upsetting is that on rare occasions predator birds attracted by what is in effect an all you can eat buffet .


These may swoop on small birds or young birds and swoop off with them,many birds of prey  that eat small mammals and birds are endangered species so this is an essential food source.Not all birds of prey eat live food ,many scavenge and may just fancy a snack from your feeder if your putting out cat or dog food .I have been feeding birds for several years and never seen this but other feeders have seen it once or twice ,usually in spring when these birds do themselves have young to feed. Its also the case than some feeders can attract mice.I find this has never been a problem as we both own cats and are happy to have cats in our garden.

izzy and pigeons

If you have  even one cat regularly  passing through your garden this is also unlikely to ever be a problem. some cats may take fledglings or ground feeding birds but this is much rarer than the outrage expressed by garden feeders suggests ,we have had ten cats over 50 years only one  managed to catch birds and not regularly.One or tow garden visiting cats chase them not none has ever caught one.Place feeders in spaces that cats cant sneak up on birds in and if your going to encourage nesting birds protect both the nest box and the ground below.All the birds caught by cats are from gardens ,in the wild feral and wild species of cats rarely prey on birds .Man creates a killing space for cats so needs to be conscious of this ,as with Foxes who kill family rabbits or birds,it is our fault if animals which are following instincts over which they have no control kill animals we have placed in harms way.

Its very easy  to prevent  all these problems if you avoid ground feeding seed as this is the primary source of all problems ,bully birds,cat kills and vermin.

Other pests

If you live in an area where they are common you will almost certainly attract squirrels .They dont really do any major damage if you have a standard garden and a lawn that’s for use not show ,but they do tend to eat more food than birds alone.If you do have a prize lawn the squirrels may try to hide nuts in it leaving bits of loose turf ,on a normal lawn you may not even notice.Our lawn below has a number of busy squirrels regularly excavating yet I rarely notice it from the house.

garden back tree part spring

.I utilised this habit by making the holes bigger and putting spring bulbs in it ,,saving me the time and effort of digging holes myself. Squirrels can also damage shrubs though I have never seen this in our garden which is full of saplings and shrubs grown from cuttings.Its claimed squirrels are responsible for song bird deaths but our local woods are full of both squirrels and song birds of all sizes so I suspect man rather than squirrels are the main threat.They do carry a disease “Squirrell pox which infects red squirrels so in areas were you have red squirrles you may want to discourage greys.Our area does not ,nor ever has had reds  so I find the delight of watching the squirrels worth the slight lawn damage .

squirrel sat

and later their young running about the garden and their utter joy at burying nuts one of my great delights from  garden feeding ,they are also great at cleaning up fallen seed that would otherwise attract vermin .Despite the wide number of  assorted marketed feeders its unlikely you will find one that entirely  excludes them as they are ingenious stealing feed from feeders in numerous acrobatic ways.

squirrel on feeder


squirrel close up

Its also very funny watching them run about carefully hiding their nuts only to watch the magpies follow them around stealing them out of the holes or the squirrels find ways to carry food far too big for them.

squirel fat ball

The Benefits.

Bird feeding is a brilliant way to see wildlife in action ,for adults and children ,Its unlikely I would ever have got this close to a woodpecker ,nuthatch or goldfinch if I didn’t feed birds.

woodpecker back

You will with a doubt positively affect the birds chances of surviving hard times especially the smaller birds such as blue tits ,finches and sparrows.You can do this for only a few pence a day and a minute or two a day.



Literally protecting dangered species from extinction

You can and probably will have a positive effect on helping birds which are in danger of becoming rare or even extinct .some of these birds were once common such as the sparrows  above.Many species of birds have been brought back from being endangered species almost certainly entirely by the efforts of people feeding birds in their garden.Some other birds are still endangered ,these are common ones easy to attract to feeders such as ,Starlings and house sparrows .Hedgehogs which are often attracted by the scraps that fall from feeders are more endangered than many famous species such as Tigers.Its rare if at all you can directly prevent a species  becoming extinct by spending just a few pence a day and a few minutes a weel ,in the time taken to watch a WWF advert you can help save a species .

Bird song

Another great delight that will enhance the pleasure you get from your garden ,even on those days when you are not outside but have windows open is the song of the birds ,many common birds and those with the most beautiful song such as robins who will also often follow you around the garden and who always brighten up wintry days.At dusk its song can be mistaken for that of a nightingale ,yet unlike the nightingale its a common all year around visitor



The blackbirds is probably the next most delightful songster ,though they do have an early start,the song “morning  has broken  like the first morning ,blackbird has spoken like the first bird” is a pretty accurate observation of the first bird to start the “dawn chorus”Yet it song isn’t merely confined to dawn ,is quite and varied .

Of course other Thrushes and the larks ,warblers and many other birds also have beautiful songs but these may not always be regular visitors to all gardens.

The visual pleasure of seeing birds.

blue tits

Many birds will not only be visible through your window then fly away shyly as you come into the garden ,several will become confident enough to come to feeders or hop around quite close while your outside,these include the robin ,chaffinches ,blue tits ,blackbirds .Some people have managed to get birds such as robins and rare visitors such as siskins to feed from their hands,though this seems unwise in a world were sadly not everyone is kind to the over trusting bird.


You can actually have a major effect on evolution and birds habits ,its very rare that humans can have a rapid and positive effect on evolution but this occurs not infrequently in feeding garden birds.A recent example is the black cap .UK native black caps fly to warmer climes for winter ,but now thanks to garden feeders European Black caps are becoming common as winter visitors to garden feeders,these blackbirds from areas were winters are colder and longer would normally take much longer more hazardous journeys,but have quickly learned what would normally be just a stopping off point here in the UK is actually a great place to overwinter .  These birds have already had slight changes in their physic and now have established this change in migration habits.These UK overwintering birds arrive back at their homes sooner and less tired than those still making longer journeys so are more successful at breeding and raising young .

black cap


If you participate in the RSPB big garden bird watch once a year you can for an hours work give invaluable information on which species are in trouble and which are common ,You will also leave behind a lasting legacy of information on bird species, its not often from our living room we can provide essential scientific information and be a part of a national event

If you are feeding birds and want to identify them this is invaluable


The images are not always clear but if you use the name of the bird you think is the right one to do a google image search its usually possible to identify every bird you have visit


For the great garden bird watch information see the link below


By far the best ways to help birds in every way is to plant a hedge and make a small pond or add a water feature which is accessible to birds.I will shortly have a post on creating hedges completed but as regards ponds I dont currently have any practical experience on creating a large pond  though I do know at least one side must slope to avoid drowing hedgehogs and many each year die from drowning ,its also needed so birds and frogs can get to the water.For birds  a pebble fountain or self contained wall fountain is all that’s needed as a water source,Never put chemicals of any kind in these especially anti freeze which poisonous  to children, wildlife and pets ,many  children have been poisoned some fatally and yearly many ,many cats and some dogs die yearly from drinking antifreeze  or water from ponds which had had it added as antifreeze is that deadly mix of something harmful which is sweet tasting.

The following links may be useful






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Garden birds ,the problem with Pigeons

I thought a short post on the problem of Pigeons might be useful as I noticed there’s a lot of people who feed garden birds that have problems with Pigeons.

pigeons in sonw

In defence of the Pigeon

First however let me say I actually like Pigeons ,they are smart ,mate for life and are quite attractive.There are still people living who owe their lives to the work of pigeons in the war years and they have provided long and fearless service to their country’s.




Those countries now having forgotten past service spend their time trying to eradicate the offspring of these pigeons.

This is because unfortunately Pigeons  like that other clever and much hated garden visitor the grey squirrel are too successful at adapting to living alongside man.They also eat a LOT of bird food and seem to get at any and every feeder.Like the Grey Squirrel

squirrel close up

If Pigeons  like the grey squirrel were rare visitors to our gardens  ,came in ones or pairs and were hard to attract then I think they would be seen as desirable visitors .Unfortunately  pigeons are far too easy to attract to our gardens and often appear in quantities that are far too large.

The problem 

My problems began when I sowed lawn seed to repair  scorch damage done by our dogs which are both bitches occasionally  urinating on the lawn  ,I had done this in the past and always expected some losses to the odd bird ,however this time it attracted pigeons in huge quantities,instead of the usual handful of resident pigeons there was at least  twenty pigeons that took up residence on the roof and in the trees and of these there was often all or at least ten or more in the garden on the lawn and more in the front garden. They  of course ate more  or less all the lawn seed ,which was slightly annoying but worse still chased off small birds and did a considerable amount of damage in a very short time,tearing chunks out of a tree stump used to support a bird feeder.

pigeon damage

,they landed in such large numbers on things that they caused the bird feeder post to come loose and loosened a washing line support .They fouled every path and all the feeders ,I had to throw all the food out of several feeders due to its being fouled by pigeons and spent inordinate amounts of time trying to keep them clean.

The pigeon as typhoid Mary

Pigeons and crow family birds suffer from and seem to carry a disease posing a huge threat to our native birds


  1. Trichomonosis. Trichomonosis is the name given to a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae. It has been recorded in a number of garden bird species and is widely acknowledged to be the causal factor in the rapid decline of the British Greenfinch population that was first noted in late summer 2006 … definition courtesy of the British trust for Ornithology 

sick finch

Image source is this RSPB  post


The pigeon fouling and visits  to the hanging feeders  was a concern  as we attracted finches to the feeders fairly regularly and finches in the UK have been suffering from outbreaks of disease .This also seems to be spreading to house Sparrows which we also have in large numbers and there’s been suggestions it may spread to birds such as blue tits.


While Pigeons are not the sole carriers and cant be proven as a threat  they are one of the original carriers of the disease .They  also cause of lot of fouling to bird baths and feeders which can carry other threats to both humans and birds,Including Salmonella.

The photos below show the build up of pigeon fouling in less than 24 hours on just two areas a cage feeder and the seat at the top of the garden

pigeon poop

pigeon poop arbour

A list of other diseases and how to protect yourself when cleaning feeders is here ,Its suggests that unlike me you do not bring feeders inside ,I try to off set any hazard by numerous applications of boiling hot water and always disinfect the sink ,door handles etc after the feeders are back outside ,I disinfect my hands before and after disinfecting the sink etc




Pigeons and other birds.

I like a number of those posting on bird forums dont mind feeding a few random pigeons,I   had previously enjoyed seeing the variety of resident pigeons visit the garden , for many months a handful of quite pretty pigeons came to the garden .They happily co existed with other birds though they did eat quite a bit of seeds .Pigeons had been the first birds to visit the garden when we moved in . I also noticed  when I put food out Pigeons and magpies seemed to be the birds that other birds waited to see coming to get food before they came to feed .Once they  unknowingly gave the all clear other smaller birds came to the feeders.This became a problem later when the pigeon numbers increased as smaller birds got crowded out and were left nothing to eat.

pigeon eyc

I had originally  provided resident  pigeons with some cheap seed mix which they supplemented by eating the scraps that fell from feeders and by eating from the suet block I had a ground level for ground feeding birds.

ground and nyger feeder

Damage ,Vandals and bullies

Unfortunately after several pigeon strikes on our windows I had felt it was not worth the risk of having a broken window and stopped ground feeding seed and made sure the ground under feeders close to the house was  inaccessible by placing the feeders in shrubs . The  resident birds still made occasional daily visits to the suet feeder and to eat up fallen scraps , in bad weather I threw seed over the fence into a small wooded patch at the back of the house.

Once the pigeon numbers increased the strikes to the windows also began again.I am aware its possible to prevent these by putting up net curtains or blinds or by putting up stickers etc but the great joy of the current house is its long side windows that look out on the garden and let in light.I also do quite detailed work so putting up blinds then spending the day with the lights on to give light good enough to work by  didn’t appeal either aesthetically economically or environmentally.

Once the pigeons original numbers were supplemented by visitors the welcome  few became an almost ever present plague.

pigeons now

They  mercilessly bullied the small birds  who tried to feed at the  feeders in the tree  and on on the pole ,they made constant forays to try to get to feeders out of their reach and perched nearby  scaring off the woodpecker who I watched  fly over several times to try to find somewhere to perch to make his usual visits to the feeder . Almost all the other birds stopped visiting feeders ,the garden became a wildlife desert.They even scared off the grey squirrels from the small bird table near the house were I usually placed peanuts and sunflower seeds for them.Unlike many gardeners I dont mind the holes dug by greys and  I encourage and enjoy the visits of the grey squirrels .We dont live in an area were there was red squirrels or where they would be likely to be introduced so the greys pose no threat of transmitting disease or out competing reds.  I missed seeing them hop across the lawn or wander around buying nuts,,which the magpies would occasionally go and dig up as they would watch the greys then go and pinch their stashes.

squirel nut

The solution

The depressing spectacle of an garden empty of everything but pigeons or were the occasional blackbird was chased across the lawn or swooped on became the daily view.I could see the pigeons on the roof waiting to find food and they would swoop and chase off other birds.

pigeons roof

I decided to stop feeding any ground food whatsoever and removed the suet blocks ,I also moved all the hanging feeders as considering the amount of soiling  to the feeders and the numbers of pigeons what were constantly swooping on them it seemed better to have no birds than spread disease.

After two or three days the  number of pigeons remained high but the amount of time the pigeons spent in the garden decreased  slightly but it was pitiful to watch the returning little birds looking for food that no longer existed.Luckily our neighbours also  feed the birds so they did have other sources.

Finding the impossible,

I then began a few days of reintroducing foods to see what the pigeons would and wouldn’t eat  and found that holy grail of garden bird feeding.A diet for all the birds except pigeons.

First I tried sunflower seeds in their husks,this didnt work the pigeons swooped down in minutes and ate the lot .

Then I fed monkey nuts exclusively in open spaces  and on the table  feeders ,the pigeons originally made attempts to eat these but gave up ,they either couldn’t work out how to get into them or assumed the outer shell was all that was on offer.The grey squirrels love these so they started coming back to the table feeder near the house.The monkey nuts were the original attraction for the jay which I hope will return and can be stuck into nooks and crannies in shrubs for the blue tits etc.

For the Blackbirds and other ground feeders

brown blackbrid

I tried fruit ,the pigeons seemed over fond of soft fruit but didn’t bother with apples so I now chop up an apple each morning.Keep one half whole and the blackbirds love pecking on this and the smaller bits other birds and the squirrels eat.  Theres always now apple pieces in varying degrees of decay which also provides insect food.I thought the best solution is probably to try to create using whole foods  a perpetual autumn in the garden as its a time of plenty for most birds

I have noticed pigeons show no interest in the sleet nyger seed feeder so I leave that unprotected by chicken wire and plan to site one under as low growing shrub for the chaffinch

Cat food a deal with the devil

While the new foods were not popular with the pigeons once I put back the hanging feeders  wioth sunflowers and suet blocks there was still a constant presence around the garden of the bully birds..The feeders were mostly now in hedges with chicken wire under them but  this didn’t seem to deter the pigeons .As pigeons are year round breeders I was worried the numbers would increase even further and as we also have trees I didnt want them to become settlers.

So I did what many would consider a deal with the devil ,or devils.

I had originally put up shiny ornaments on our shed to discourage the magpies which used to dive bomb our cat Izzy .They eventually took possession of the garden  lawn and Izzy took to glaring at them from bushes or seats

izzy magpie

I removed these  shiny babbles and started putting wet cat food in a bowl on the shed ,the magpies were delighted and and again took up their role  are regular visitors .Magpies seemed to co exist fairly easily with the  other birds but due to their feud with Izzy I had discouraged them but they  were the only other bird sufficiently bold and large and off sufficient numbers to intimidate the pigeons .Pigeons began to have serious competition and I hoped the potential threat to eggs and chicks from the magpies would discourage the pigeons from getting too settled.Though we have bird nesting boxes in the garden they are protected my wide mesh chicken wire and any hedge or tree dense enough for nests is also protected from magpie raids.I also hope that regular diets of cat food for themselves and to feed their chick might deter predation of other birds nests .So far though Izzy tends to avoid the cat food bowl when they are around they haven’t restarted their diving bombing ,however should they become a pest I will merely replace the silvery shiny things and they will stop settling on the shed  and go back to being passing visitors.


I originally supplemented the wet food with a cheap dried food mix thrown on the ground and in a bowl on the shed roof ,this was a mistake the cheap mix had vegetable chunks which the pigeons loved .I now use high quality dried food ,,meat only no fish flavours.This provides hedgehog food at night and leftovers for the magpies.

I also noticed on several days the red kites flew lower when there was wet cat food on the shed roof ,while I would rather not make them visitors ,they do have an excellent deterrent effect on the pigeons and its wonderful to get close views of these magnificent birds.

Cats ,better the devil you know.

molly 1

I realise the cat is one of the most hated of garden visitors for many who feed birds or who are keen gardeners,however I feel like the pigeon their bad reputation is partly undeserved.

I have  had cats my entire life with the exception of a few weeks when I was first married I cant remember a time when we didnt own a cat or  cats .We have owned around a dozen over the years .Of those cats only one a rescued feral cat ever caught birds .This cat did so with enough regularity for us to try to prevent it .A collar with a bell was quickly bought ,most of these he managed to remove and loose until we put on on tighter than advised ,a few days later we heard a horrifying noise and found him dangling in a tree by the collar slowly being strangled as he couldn’t escape,luckily we saved him but we never again tried to put a collar on him.Cats do choke on collars so the cat owners reluctance to bell as cat may not actually be a callous disregard for wildlife ,they may like us have tried only to have their cat loose the collars or be genuinely concerned about their cats welfare.I should also say we have had cats who wore collars but the determined  bird hunting cat is probably the one most likely to suffer a tragedy as its the one most likely to be in trees.

Of our remaining cats two would probably have quite liked to catch birds  so while we owned those we never used bird feeders.We originally kept a close eye on the cats  but it soon became clear  both completely lacked the speed and skill required.Hours of stalking produced absolutely no results and birds used to sit  happily in the trees day in day out, ,,it almost seemed as though they were taunting the cats. The rest of our cats never showed the slightest interest in birds either ground feeders or tree dwelling.I would be entirely sympathetic with those who blame cats for the decline in small mammals as ours regularly brought back mice ,moles and the occasional rat ,They also unfortunately regularly caught shrews  Our current cats have no interest in birds ,Izzy sits under the feeders watching them and watches them on the ground but has never tried to catch one however close they get .Other visiting cats stalk ground feeding birds but the birds ignore them until they get close then fly into a shrub until they have gone.I do not believe pet cats are a chief reason for the decline of many  birds species.I remember as a child most of our neighbours had cats but there was always lots of bird life .Man has made the normal habitats of many species unwelcoming ,thus making birds more reliant on gardens and increasing the potential for not just predation by cats but also the spread of disease from bird species to species,Farming and gardening has made increasing use of  chemicals that either harm birds or reduce their food sources  .

I have  no illusions about cats ,they can be ruthless and prolific hunters and I have  doubt that a cat would probably take a helpless baby bird that falls from a nest but then so would most other predators ,other birds ,rats ,small predatory mammals.Cats dont hunt for fun ,they hunt because its part of their nature ,they are hunters genetically programmed to pursue and kill small animals .I just doubt their primary negative environmental effect in on bird life  

I was also able to witness first hand the effect of a cat cull on an area.A famr in one of the areas we lived suddenly decided it no longer wanted its cats as they were a pest.One day spent by the farmer and his sons with shotguns reduced the cat population to nil,no cat or kitten was spared.Within weeks the farm was over run with rats who caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the stored crops and got everywhere.I suspect there was a similar problem in the houses .We occasionally have the odd mouse but as we have always had cats none are  now resident long enough to cause damage and mice do cause damage chewing clothing and electrical wiring. Without cats gardens would have many more unwelcome disease spreading rodent visitors as bird feeders leave scraps on the floor that is certain to attract mice ,while rats can usually scale most feeders .Yes cats dig the occasional hole and leave unpleasant calling cards but they wont eat your seeds ,leave trails of urine or chew through your wiring .

To return to topic ,the shed top feeding ensured our own rather portly cat spent long hours sat on the shed like a living scarecrow  or scare pigeon.

izzy and pigeons

Ground feeding of cat nip goodies also encouraged other cats to linger longer than usual ,these not only deterred the pigeons but most seem to make it their mission in life to catch a squirrel ,so if your not a grey squirrel fan this is an win ,win situation for you ! I am slightly concerned for the baby squirrels when they surface in the next few weeks as a couple of cats have almost caught the squirrels (fur has been flying )  but I planning a large clump of catnip ,so maybe the visiting hunters will be too chilled out on cat nip to catch anything.

I also let our Cavalier King Charles have unlimited garden access and she spent many happy hours chasing pigeons

tilly on lawn

tilly dirty

These measures have now seen the pigeon numbers decrease rapidly .

The other birds are protected by feeders placed in hedges with chicken wire corridors under them ,

feeder in trees

Cats can get through these  in certain places by doing a bit of wriggling and criss crossing but cant access the trees or have enough space to lie in wait or stalk .These are also out of reach of birds of prey.I put the suet feeders back on the pole and currently theres chicken wire over the top to stop the pigeons getting settled,it doesn’t deter all but does mean they cant get a good grip and dont take up residence ,I also moved the suet blocks down a little lower so they cant be reached.I replaced some tree feeders siting them directly under very large over hanging branches and use the small mesh or plastic seed feeders which dont give the pigeons any footholds.The squirrel proof ones were too sturdy and pigeons  would get a grip and hang from them).

The squirrel proof one will soon be going  nr the floor under a shrub surrounded by green garden canes sited inches apart making it accessible to dunnocks and chaffinches but totally inaccessible to pigeons.Its also not visible unless your very close as I found pigeons dont always search the ground the way other resident birds do .I bring most of the feeders in when I top them up to avoid spillage that attracts pigeons though this is a nuisance its also a way to remind me to given them a clean regularly.

I am not sure of success but I also intend to try slate topped bird nesting boxes next year and hope to buy a metal roofed bird  pointed  top “table” which hangs from a tree and has a surround as I think it will be hard for pigeons to get a good grip on metal or slate roofs.Its quite expensive but I estimated at their height the pigeons could get through a £2 bag of sunflower hearts in two days )I will use this to screw onto the post in place of the current wooden roofed feeder

bird table

,this is to feed the squirrels as I think it will be hard to keep it clean if I fed birds seed or meal worms on it

The scraps from their masters tables

I still have a problem in the small front garden as pigeons eat the scraps that fall from the feeder there but I plan top buy a ground cover rose to deter them from eating the scraps from it I will probably plant a few of these in the back so I can gradually reintroduce some of  the feeders into the middle of the garden .The problem of falling food is the last problem and hardest to solve.Feeders with trays only adsorb a certain amount of scraps before they overflow and personally I feel they probably harbour disease. Though there’s no proof of this I cant imagine walking in food scraps or eating food scraps others have walked in can be good and in the case of fat balls or suet  tiny pieces of this  food will be carried on the birds feet into nests etc .By placing some feeders in the hedge and adding mesh it solves the problem for small birds and gives them a haven but the larger birds such as the woodpecker cant access these so I hope to solve the problem of falling scraps by under planting ,,you could also just put a planter under the bird feeder or an upturned hanging basket ,,I noticed the hedgehogs visit the base of bird feeders in summer for the fallen scraps so I would rather create ground cover .


I feel that the problem of most garden pests ,bully birds such as pigeons ,starlings,magpies and other pests such as cats and squirrels can best be solved by  a long term plan of substituting as far as possible food from bird feeders with  food from the correct shrubs and plants,unlike the supply from feeders which is entirely dependent on the presence of a willing human  and which appeals to a wide range of birds not all of which are desirable shrubs and plants will be a regular natural supply of food appropriate to specific species ,they also provide cover so birds can eat in peace rather than risk the trip to a feeder in the open and shrubs will be less likely to contribute to the spread of diseases as the feeders and baths are clearly a source of much infection.This ideal is not something possible for me or the average gardener but something to consider for those who may have larger gardens ,in my own garden I  cant achieve this ideal so I am focusing on providing  berry bearing and winter flowering shrubs to give winter and early spring food and on providing plants such as ornamental thistles and teasels to provide finch food .I have planted Rowen and hazel for berries and nuts and  some cranberries ,raspberries and  red and blackcurrants .I also jointly with  the help ad support of a kind neighbour planted a crab apple and other fruiting trees in our shared hedge .Planting a hedgerow rather than erecting a fence is win and win for everyone ,you dont have to maintain ,paint ,repair a fence ,,which the wind may well damage .By planting a hedge you provide an environment for a host of wildlife  ,insects ,butterfly’s ,bees  bird life and small mammals ,you will be able to allow hedgehogs both transit across your garden and also provide possible hibernation or nesting sites .You can have almost constant colour and  scent, an array of  cut flowers and fresh grown berries such as the expensive raspberry,cranberry and redcurrants.

garden blush rose

,this requires very little expenditure of either cash  or time and much less maintenance than a fence.Hedges are much more effective noise barriers and can be either more or less of a barrier between you and your neighbours depending on how you grown them ,we are lucky enough to have wonderful neighbours so its nice to be able to chat to them over lower parts of the hedge but if you are not lucky enough to have pleasant neighbours then planting an evergreen or dense hedge will give an all year around barrier .(A post on hedges will follow shortly)

This is a rather long post but hopefully it addresses the issues of pigeons fully ,both the arguments of those who have often judged those posting on birds sites ,claiming they should like all birds equally,those who claim pigeons should be entirely eradicated and those who only have a small space and budget and want to feed those birds most threatened by the changes to their environment.

A final thought

Its worth noting that of all the birds attracted to garden feeders pigeons are by far those most in need of our care ,we used to breed them for food ,we still breed them for racing and show and these escapees are unable to find their own food in the way that blackbirds ,magpies ,blue tits etc can do.Other birds welcome our food and feeders almost certainly have made huge impacts on helping birds survive lean times  and have influenced the migration habits of birds such as the Black cap  but all the other birds can be provided for by natural means.Pigeons are entirely dependent on man a species which as a whole despises them and spends large amounts of time and money trying to make them unwelcome and eradicate them. Perhaps if you have  just  the odd one or two which visit your garden or  have access to a wild space,the next bout of bad weather you could spare a few suet pellets or a handful of seed for your local pigeons.


I have  solved the lawn damage problem ,though I have given up on sowing lawn seed as I dont want to  re attract the pigeons or use potentially dangerous netting  to protect  seed when we have other wildlife  such as hedgehogs and squirrels which could become ensnared in it.I decided instead to plant winter and spring flowering plants in the damaged sections and hope they protect what seed remains .Its not a great option if you have  or want a pristine lawn but ours has a lot of weeds and moss so a few extra plants most of which will die back after flowering isnt a major problem.These plants give bees and insects an early source of food and look much prettier than just green grass during a dreary time of year before most shrubs and plants flower

anemone blanda

Anemones I just planted at the normal level ,likewise crocus and daffodils.


but I planted Violas slightly sunken in so they had an half inch or so growth  height below the lawns level ,


when I mow hopefully this will give them enough foliage growth to survive in small clumps but help limit their spread as extra plants will shoot up at grass level  and get mown flat ,,not sure this is going to work but I thought it was worth a try

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Victorian Bodices ,choosing the right waistline for your cheats guide corset or bodice

I thought a post on bodice lengths and waistline styles might be useful to go with my “cheats Guide to making a Victorian gown”.This is a very quick run through the Victorian era and gives a quick rather than extensive guide to styles for those wanting to make gowns and trying to match bodice or corset tops they have bought to gowns they can recreate.

Its not always possible if your making a cheats gown at short notice to find the ideal bodice for a “typical” Victorian gown .Sometimes you may have to settle for a higher waisted one than you might want or  more rarely one which is perhaps lower .However its also possible that your corset might seem unsuitable when it is in fact the ideal length .Many Victorian bodices were quite high waisted by modern standards ending just a few inches below the bottom   ribs but having very low points at the front .

Here then is a quick gallery of Victorian waistlines.

Firstly the very early Victorian /Romantic era Gowns.

Approx 1830 to 1839

These are the highest waistlines of the Victorian era as they have gradually evolved from the high waisted regency gowns.


checked 1830s dress

Almost any modern clubbing /Evening/prom  corset top will be long enough to make one of these.

The gowns below were made using this style of  wit and wisdom boned bodice


wit and wisdom bodice

1830s dress



st ives bluebells 1830s gown

Me carissa and A sumners

The bodice works fine without any modification and the waistline of the recovered Wit and wisdom corset  looks very like the gown below which is from the Victoria and Albert Museums collection

1838 v and a

The same wit and wisdom bodice can also be used for slightly later 1840s gowns if you add a point v shaped piece of fabric to the centre front.White the 1840s gowns look like they have longer waisted bodices many actually only have lower front waists while the sides and back are still quite high

Below are several views of Queen Victoria’s Wedding gown .It has a very low centre front but if you look carefully at the lower photos mirror views and the photo of the bodice and skirt laid flat its clear much of the waist is actually quite high.This high waisted back allows the gowns to billow out and will later accommodate the wide swept back skirts of the 1860s

queen victorians wedding gown on


queen victorians weddding dress


qv weedding bodice

By the mid to late 1840s and during the early 1850s ,the Victorian waistline has got slightly lower and is about the position of modern high waisted skirts ,for these gowns you will need to buy a slightly longer bodice to recover,ideally this shape ,these are just marginally  longer ,the front  of the bodice will need to be cut to a point

wit and wisdom denim bodice

This bodice can used to used for later 1840s gowns an all of the cage Crinoline gowns

The age of Hooped skirts all the gowns below used some version of the same shaped bodice as that above

Mrs rochester3

purple victorian gown

red tartan dress

green dres


The late 1850s bodice is quite long  as can be seen in the  Gowns from the V and A shown above  and its hard to find long enough commercial bodices to use but it begins to creep higher until by the mid 1860s is it again almost at the just below rib level it began the 1840s .The gown below is a wedding gown in the V and A  collection dated 1865

1865 wedding gown

1869 gown

The gown above is from the end of the 1860s and  shows the elliptical hoop at the point it begins to change into what will become the typical  first era bustle shape.

1870s gown

These bodices  are fairly easy to make with most corset tops however there is a brief period of very long line tailored bodices which are more or less impossible to recreate using  the cheats guide process of recovering bodices .It may be possible to create a gown in this style using a bought steel boned corset recovered but I have never yet managed to personally  create a satisfactory version

bustle dress long

The closest I came to creating this style was achieved by using a longer than average evening bodice that came to navel level and adding long lengths of fabric to give the impression of a longer bodice as seen in the green gown in the photo below ,unfortunately I dont have a front image of the gown.

haworth scrog

The second bustle era of the 1880s is the style of bustle gown most often reproduced and these are thankfully very easy to recreate using recovered bodices .

red bustle dress

bustle red

While the gowns seem to have long bodices the standard bodice /corset top used for hooped skirted gowns will easily adjust to use from bustle gowns,again this style of bodice is the style used from the bustle gowns I made.The backs of bustle gowns need to be quite high waisted but the front should be lower than these bodices are so you will need to sew a panel of fabric to the centre front it isn’t necessary to make major changes as the skirts drapery will create the impression of a much lower waist.

wit and wisdom denim bodice

green fit bustle gown

back claudia gown

For the black gown below I created the impression of a longer bodice by adding to long flaps of fabric to the back of the gown at either side of the lacing panel

becks dress back

I also added side lengths of fabric to create the impression of a longer fitted style bodice ,It was based on the Gown from the Met Museum here

1880 wedding day dress satin applied beading chenille tassels needle lace whalebone V&A


Often the focus of bustle gowns is the bustling rather than the bodice shape so there is quite a bit of leeway in the shape of bodice you use.

The red gown bodice was actually a short bodice I restyled to make a georgian gown then reused to make a bustle gown  incorporating the skirts into a draped polonaise style bustle ,many bustle gowns were made from recycled earlier gowns so it seemed fitting to do the same thing with my own costumes

back heb


I repeated the process with the pink Laura Ashley fabric polonaise gown

kathy gown

me and john full length

Other gowns used the standard shaped prom bodice


green cotton bustle dress

The green gown probably most clearly shows the shape of the bodice which was clearly one of a similar shape to the blue wit and wisdom one shown


hunter green bustle dress

baskc wgw

The final years of the Victorian era and into the very early Edwardian era create a slightly more complicated bodice but one which can be loosely recreated using the same basic bodice recovered I was in a rush to make the red gown below and used a standard evening bodice without changing or modifying its shape .I added panels of lace to cover the rather low neckline but many late Victorian ball gowns were extremely low necked


french met

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The Tudor legacy ,the advent of deadly fashion

40s and elizabethan 032

I love Tudor era clothing ,much of what makes costuming interesting has its origins in the 16thc Tudor court ,the corset , structural under layers, the freeing of women’s hair from under headdresses and veils and the increasing use of make up  .Unfortunately  its also those very same things which signal the beginnings  of women’s clothing as a health risk.I do not think there has been anything more detrimental to the health of women over the following Centuries than the corset .While the advent of wide skirts over hoops then later panniers and bustles meant restrictions on the movements of women and further dangers from fire .

The change from medieval loose fitting gowns .

black damask houppelande

To the late Elizabethan shape


Shows radical changes in fashion which are unprecedented in previous centuries,It also heralds the start of moulding womens bodies into a “fashionable” shape rather than using fashion to highlight certain features.The gown above restricts movement and adds structural layers to almost every part of the body ,the long corset ,the wide panniers ,the sleeves would also almost certainly have boning of some kind .Ruffs even the small neck ones can be restrictive ,while the large standing ruffs really restrict your vision.In England at least the late Tudor early Elizabethan era was when shoes with heels became fashionable,the beginning of a trend that resulted in the modern high heeled shoes the delight of shoe fans who may like myself be less than our ideal height  but the long term effects of which have been likened to Chinese foot binding.(The link below isnt the most academic of posts but has the huge advantage of numerous shots showing celebrity feet which have been deformed


So everything we love and hate about modern fashion begins here .

The corset.

At this point usually known as a pair of bodies or stays ,documents or costume books tend to use the terms interchangeably .Below is an example of very late Elizabethan stays , the “effigy corset”taken from the funeral effigy of Elizabeth 1

effigy-corset on

The corset  is a slow introduction to Tudor clothing ,They don’t feature in wardrobe accounts until very late in the century most early Tudor portraits seem to show either a fairly natural shaped bodice or one which is slightly stiffened and pins across the front over an under gown rather than a corset.

tudor  sperate gowns CleveJoosPortraitAngietevavndenRijne

The  stiffened pair of bodies or stays also seem to have remained court or aristocratic fashion until the very late Elizabethan era when we finally begin to see them enter the wardrobes of middle class women .The original corsets were probably very similar to the Dorethea stays ,with no boning over the bust and with a reasonably  natural waist  level.

dorethea stays

The widespread wearing of corsets was probably due not to women’s vanity but to the necessity of wearing some kind of rigid supporting layer under the developing structural under layers.Its impossible to keep a French Farthingale in position without a stiffened under layer  to hold it in place,its also extremely uncomfortable to wear any structural layer ,hoop skirt or even a bum roll without something to distribute the weight. The adding of layers also requires something to prevent wrinkling of under layers  .Its unlikely that anything as uncomfortable and restrictive as this European metal corset was ever worn regularly  in England and there is some debate as to whether these were ever a “normal” item of clothing. Though so many survive its hard to imagine they were only used medicinally.

Tudor stays didn’t immediately become the restrictive items seen in the effigy corset they gradually evolve .At the beginning of the era the snug fitting  kirtle or under gown along side the  over gown bodice were  probably the layers  which created the flat front typical of Tudor costume. The sketch of Sir Thomas Moore’s family shows the ladies of the house with various style of bodice front.Most of which do not seem to be boned or have significant stiffening .A  double layer of fairly thick  normal fabrics such as calico and damask or calico and wool would give a fairly supportive effect when pulled together.


The open laced open fronted style was probably casual wear for most higher class women and acceptable wear for those who were pregnant as we do hear of queens who wear their bodices this way during the last months of their pregnancies. When we see illustrations of gowns which are open laced its clear there’s no corset


YoungEnglishWomanHolbein white band

The  lack of a stiff hooped petticoat made it unnecessary to wear any extra layers


Its also worth noting that the men’s clothing here is still for the most part loose and comfortable .Later the tight fitting bodices required men to wear corsets and padding

thomas moor

By the 1530s bodices are becoming more unnaturally shaped probably stiffened with a specially stiffened fabric such as buckram .There is still no hooped skirt


This could still be achieved without a fully boned corset .I would wear a tightly fitting bodice such as those  taken  grave from the Eleanor of Toledo which are un boned .Over which I wear a dress with a fairly crisp fabric top later and slightly stiffened but not rigid under layer


As the reign of Henry VIII progresses we see the still fairly natural silhouette  of women’s clothing change to the typical Tudor triangle on top of a triangle shape .

eliz red dress

This look clearly requires some form of  rigid shape changing upper body garment under the gown .The fact that there is still a faint curve at the breasts suggests a corset like the previously mentioned Dorethea corset found in Germany was worn .These have a boned chest and back but the boning does not extend to the bust.They also have panel for a removable busk  of wood or bone which ran down the centre front .I would suggest being removable it may not always have been worn if the woman  was at home.

dorethea stays

Thus  far the stays don’t actually cause much discomfort or limit movement even if your quite curvy ,I  am a 36d and I usually choose this kind of stays for under my 16thc gowns and they are not the objects of torture that late Victorian corsets are .The stays do not drastically affect your lung capacity ,though they however restrict breathing slightly if you need to run or go up a large number of stairs.They make wearing skirts more comfortable as the waistbands rest on the bones of the corset instead of digging  . However they are very hot and they restrict movement to a phenomenal degree compared to lose fronted early Tudor gowns ,its not possible to comfortably bend forward  as a stiff busk is placed down the front ,this is a narrow piece of bone or wood .With a busk its uncomfortable to eat too much food in one sitting ,you have to sit extremely upright and something I had not realised until I wore them ,Corsets with straps restrict arm movements as once you have the close fitting wide necked Tudor gowns over them your range of movement above shoulder height  is very restricted as is your ability to reach back ,something not helped by the wearing of very wide ornate under sleeves

mary gown and silver sleeves

The final stages of the Tudor stays are the long very rigid late Elizabethan style stays which we see an existing example of it the effigy corset taken from the funeral effigy of Elizabeth and  shown in  use the painting below


These I don’t have any personal experience of wearing as I could never afford the major investment of having a pair made but having worn a boned long Elizabethan gown and a  late Victorian long bodied corset I imagine they are extremely uncomfortable and very bad for the health .

With just a brief respite during the Regency era women will spend the next five centuries wearing some form of corset.Most of these are at the very least hot ,uncomfortable and restrictive .These are an extant pair from The V and A and date to the  17th

pink stays


Within a century we see women buried in graves with drastically altered rib cages from wearing heavy boned restrictive corsets ,Womens health suffers in varying degrees ,until we gradually have the killer that was the Victorian corset


The second  detrimental development  in fashion in the Tudor era was the introduction of structural undergarments ,hooped skirts, and wide bum rolls while these didn’t have  major health repercussions and do in fact make wearing heavy full skirted gowns more comfortable they are extremely restrictive and space consuming. Wide skirts are a major fire hazard as they increase the speed at which fire can take hold of a costume .Women will also now need separate styles clothing for any strenuous activity .

The Farthingales

spanmish farthingale


image copyright Tudor Tailor

The Spanish farthingale seen above was originally brought to England by Catherine of Aragon ,though she quickly abandoned the fashion for the more natural line of English ladies gowns. It slowly begins to creep into Henrician fashion in the 1540s and is more or less an essential item by the  1550s


The Farthingale is supplemented later by an every widening bum roll to give the bell shape.




There is some debate as to whether early bum rolls went under or over the hooped skirts ,I personally found a very narrow bum roll worn under a hooped skirt made the hoop till back slightly and made trained gowns hang better.


but anything beyond the narrowest roll if worn under a hoop made it tilt oddly and bulge and certainly for later bell shaped styles it needs a wide roll worn over the hooped skirt .

This is probably the most annoying style of Tudor skirt as there’s  two things to keep in place to make the gown sit nicely ,I only managed this successfully by pinning the roll to my corset ,I felt the style very unflattering and awkward to sit in.If your sat for any length of time it makes your back ache in most chairs

40s and elizabethan 032

As Catherine of Aragon dumped the restrictive farthingale and it doesn’t become fashionable again until after the reign of Jane Seymour or later  I cant help but feel part of the reason for the change in women’s fashion in the later half of the reign of Henry VIII is due to the waning power and  influence of his queens .Though she abandoned her hooped skirt both  Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had influenced fashion in other ways as had Mary Tudor Henrys sister ,once the Queen is seen as a disposable item it seems less  likely she will influence fashion,theres no noticeable affect on fashion caused by Henrys  marriage to Anne of Cleeves and this despite her radically different shape of gown and head dress.


Instead Anne adopted English clothing

The final development was the French Farthingale

french farthingale

I have never actually  worn one of these so I cant comment on how comfortable or uncomfortable they are ,I suspect they are are easier to wear than the combination of bumroll and hoop but must be a real pain to sit and move around in .I also suspect that it takes a lot of care to stop the gown bunching up or forming uneven folds.

Supportase , the last of the structural layers and one which has not really had any lasting influence on fashion but often neglected so worth a mention ,this was a steel framed support for the very elaborate ruffs and was worn under them probably laced onto gowns or corsets to make them stand up


These and ruffs  are without doubt the most annoying item of costume I have every worn as they limit your vision and in my case kept snagging on my hair  earings and jewels.The one below is a linen covered extant item from the v and A

suportasse v and a


Above is a replica version created by the Very Merry Seamstress

They limit your vision so you have to constantly move your whole body around to see behind you and do an asortment of twisting and turning to see your waist or even in the wide closed ruffs ,your toes

gold damask elizabeth outfit

Metal version was worn under very fine collars,This is the kind of supportase I wear which I think is likely to be the more comfortable as its lighter less hot and less restrictive ,I also used to just pin mine on at the back and sides with loops and brooches so I usually removed it to travel and after the talks



Mary Queen sct WI

The final layer I suspect not often worn by most women even upper class women was the stiffened long veil which is a pain to pin on and keep on .

The second o these posts will cover the positive aspects of Tudor fashion ,the gradual uncovering of women’s hair allowing them  freedom from hot and restrictive  headdresses and the vast increase in fabrics and designs .

The third post will cover the development of makeup

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