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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The rise of the surname in Medieval England.

Surnames fall into four main categories: occupational, patronymic and matronymic; bynames; locative.
Almost all surnames were established by the year 1400, and in general were being passed from generation to generation regardless of whether the occupation recorded in the name was held by the owner of the surname, or whether their mother or father was named according to the name they bore, or whether they had any resemblance to the nickname which had singled out an ancestor.
One exception to the rule of names being established by 1400  is the surname ‘Pargetter’ and its other spellings, which did not really enter common use until pargetting in its modern sense, the decorative moulding of plaster on a wall, was invented in the first half of the 16th century.  Before that Dauber or Dealbator would have been the names of someone who applied daub to the wattle of a house wall, though rarely the term pargetting was used in earlier times for the application of a smooth layer of plaster over the rough daub. 
A note should be made about the excrescent ‘s’ at the end of some names.  This is generally as a result of the genitive form of Old English, the ‘of’ form, which tended to end in –es, -is, -ys or –s.  This leads to Jones, Parsons, Roberts etc, the offspring OR servant of John, the parson, Robert etc.  It also leads to Birks or Nokes, the place of the birches or at the place of the oaks [which surnames see below].  Further excrescent ‘s’ may be found in the English interpretation of French names for places; Danvers from d’Anvers, where the ‘s’ became part of the pronunciation under the English tongue.

Occupational names

These originally derive from the job done by the bearer of the name, many of which ran initially in families, recorded by clerks in Latin as, for example, Iohnus le faber, who would be known by his neighbours as John Wright, or later, John Carpenter, and in general it is the vernacular version that stuck. 
Note: if a female is the one whose occupation is taken as a surname, the name will end –ster, not –er, eg, Webster, Spinster, Baxter, Huckster/Huxter [a special case since the male version of an itinerant peddler of goods was a chapman] etc.

In England the most common were, in approximate order:

  • Smith
  • Clark[e]
  • Taylor/Tailyor [Also associated,  Sewer, Seamer/Simester
  • Miller/Milner/Milne/Mill/Mills/Millward/Millard
  • Baker/Bakester/ Baxter/Backhouse/Bacchus [who baked the bread made by each housewife]
  • Webb[e]/Webber/Webster/Weaver [if all names associated with cloth finishing were added together, the whole group would be close in number to the smiths; such names as Fuller,[see also Walker] Shearer/Thunder, T[h]rower, Tassellar/Tesler, Taycell, Flaxman, Woolman/Wolman, Dyer, Wooller, Woolhouse/Wollas[s]/Wholehouse [NOT Wooll/Woll etc which is a placement name, or Wolward which derives from wolf-guard or Wolsey which derives from the personal name Wulfsige, wolf-victory] Silk, Sendall, Mercer
  • Wright [established before the name carpenter was in use, being a manufacturer]
  • Turner
  • Cooper/Coope/Coupe/Copper/Cowper/Cupper/Couper
  • Walker [either a fuller, or an unpleasant job involving walking on wet flax to break up the fibres]
  • Cook[e]/Cookes/Coke [also other servants like Butler, Spencer, Page, Chamberlain/Chambers, Porter, Footman, Sewer[ a sewer was a server though the name may also derive from Sawyer; Souer, a shoemaker;  or from one who sews] Seneschal, Sellars/Cellier/Zeller, Ostler/Hostler/Horseler/Hustler[which may also be from one who keeps a hostelry].
  • Hunt[e]/Hunter/Huntlow/Huntman [and other hunt/hawking associated names like Forster/Forrester, Parker, Vener/Fenner, Varder/Verdier, Veutrey/Vewtrey Falconer/Falkner/Fawkes/Fauconer, Ostringer/Oslar.Astringer, Muskett/Mushet, Falke, Fowler/Fuler/Vowler, Muer/Mewer/Muer –note, Mew[s] can also come from a personal name, or from being from Meaux
  • Bailey/Baillie/Baylis[s]/Bailess/Bailiff[e]
  • Ward [and the derivatives of a name meaning ‘guard’ or’watchman’ such as Hayward, Wolward, Gatward etc]

Other associated occupations:

 to do with leather working like Tanner, Tawyer/Tower, Glover, Souter/Souer/Sewer, Cordwainer, Cobbler, Furel[l]/Sheather, Furr

to do with building: Mason, Slater, Tyler, Carpenter, Stonehewer/Stanier/Stonier, Stoneman. [no early brickmakers!  Brick was not used until later in the 15th century and any name like Brick will have derived from the personal name ‘Bric’ or ‘Brihtric’]

to do with labouring: Shepherd, Hayward, Cotman, Coultas/Coultish/Cowtas, Coward/Cowherd, Avner, Fosser, Carter, Gooseman, Goater/Gater, Ploughman/Plowman/Plewman, Reaper/Reper, Readman/Redman, Hoggard


These names are derived from parental names.  If derived from a mother’s name, this might mean that the original bearer of the name was illegitimate; or that the mother was socially superior to her husband; or that the mother was in some wise more memorable than her husband. 

The most common patronymics derive from those names which were most commonly in use.  These are probably the most common:
  • Johns/Johnson/Jones/Jenkins/Jenks/Jenkinson/Jennings
  • Williams/Williamson/Wilson/Wilkinson/Wilkes/Wilcock/ Fitzwilliam/Gillam
  • Roberts/Robertson/Dobbs/Dobson/ Hobb/Hobson/Dobbin/Dobing etc
  • Thomas/Thompson/Tomlinson/Tomlin/Tamblyn/Thom[s]
  • Rogers/Hodges/Hodgeson/Hogg/Hotchkiss/Hodgkin etc
  • Jamison/Jackson/Jacobi/Jacobs/Jakes/Jeakins

There are also those patronymics which are less obvious, and which originate from names no longer in current use, like Aston, deriving from OE Athelstan,  or Haskins, from ON Asketill

The most common matronymics with the originating name:

  • Julian[Gillian]:  Jowett/Jewitt/Jouett/Gillot/Gillian/Jellings/ Jillings/Gillions/Jelyon
  • Isabel: Ibbot/Hibbit/Ibbs/Hibbs/Ibberson/Ibbotson/Hipperson/Ibell/ Hibble/Ibson/ Isabel/Isbill
  • Emma Emblem/Embling/Emeline/ Emlyn/Amblin/ Emblott/Emm[s]/ Emmett/Hemmett/ Amelot
  • Ismenia Emmony/ Emmans/ Emmence/ Immink
  • Alice: Alin/Alis/Allies/Allish/ Alais/Hallis /Alison/Hallison/ Ellison [which might also be from the male name Ellis/Eliot/Elias]


Also called nicknames, these were names given to a man – or sometimes a woman – by way of a descriptive, whether of their appearance or their manner.   Prior to what is commonly called the Medieval period [apologies to any archaeologist out there muttering that Saxon is classified as Early Medieval] such nicknames were the rule and tended to be person specific, not passed on down the family.  Eric Hairybreeches was a singular sort of person, and did not leave a tribe of little Hairybreeches. 
Below I give a fairly random list or possible nicknames:

  • Blase/Blaze/Bleys/Blaise – a firebrand [from either temper or hair]
  • Blank/Blanch/Blaunch – white, fair, probably hair or complexion
  • Bellamy   good friend
  • Carl[e]/Karl – man,  by the 13th century with distinct overtones of ‘churl’ a lowborn, brutish man.
  • Chin[n] – one with a peculiarity of the chin, maybe a prognathic jaw, or unusual beard
  • Dere – from OE and could be beloved, bold or swift depending on the root.
  • Fairfax/Fayrfex – fair hair
  • Garnishe/Garnis – moustache
  • Gimmer – a ewe lamb, precious [ironic]
  • Hareberd – greybeard
  • Jolif[fe]/Jolly/Joly/Jolyman – gay, lively.
  • Lytel/Little/Littell – little; may be added to other word eg Littlefot, Liteljohn.  May very well be used literally or ironically, but with the Medieval mentality probably more often ironically.
  • Midsumer – probably referring to time of birth.
  • Nogood – what is says on the packet.
  • Old/Olds/Ould[e] – not necessarily implying old age but to distinguish an elder of the same name from the younger.
  • Payn[e]/Payen/Pagan/Pagenel etc – from Latin paganus originally meaning rustic but later heathen.  Often given as a name to one whose baptism had been delayed, also bestowed as a byname on someone dilatory at worship.  Found as a given name, especially Payn, without apparent reference to its meaning.
  • Queen – from cwene, OE, meaning woman, but as its derivative ‘quean’ was also used widely in the middle ages as a synonym for prostitute, there is some further inference to draw.  Quena/Cwena and its variants was occasionally used as a female given name before 1300 [when possibly it fell out of fashion because of other overtones even as Pernel lost currency in the 16th Century because of its implications as the mistress of a priest]
  • Redbeard etc –  Red beard, Redeknappe, red head
  • Sowden, Sodan, Soltan – from soudan OFr for sultan, may be a rebuke nickname for being top-lofty but more likely a nickname for the part of the Sultan of the Saracens in a pageant play.
  • Thin/Thynne etc – lean or slender
  • Unready – unwise, poorly advised, without rede
  • Vaisey/Veasy/Voizey/Facey/Phasey etc – from OFr enveisé, possessed, in old documents also often with the addition of ‘lascivus’, wanton. 
  • Wasp[e] – from OE Waeps, a wasp. 
  • Yellow – from hair or complexion colour

Locative Names

The obvious locative names are those deriving from the place where someone came from if they moved, or the name of the village by which they were known in the nearest town if they did business, eg Gilbert de Shimpling, as Gilbert from the village of Shimpling might be known if he came to market in the big town of Lavenham.  For choosing such names, a map is probably the best friend of any author or re-enactor, bearing in mind that it was rare for anyone to travel more than a dozen or so miles from where they were born until after the Industrial Revolution.  It should also be born in mind that place names change!  For example, Brighton was Brighthelmstone before the long Regency, and Erwarton [Suffolk] was known as often as not as Arwerton, has been called Arwenton in some documents and was Eurewardestuna and Alwartuna in the Domesday book.  The Domesday book [available online and in local libraries] will give examples that may be of use for early locative surnames; Edwin of Alwartun  might have later had descendants who changed their names to meet the change of the village name, or for other reasons; there are no Alwartons at all today that I can discover. 

Also bear in mind the effect of local pronunciation on names – Norridge derives from Norwich, being the local pronunciation; equally Stopford from Stockport.  Stuckey and Stukey bear no apparent resemblance to the town of Stiff Key in Norfolk until one is aware that  Stukey was the pronunciation of the village until incomers for modern day holidays started pronouncing the town the way it was spelled.  Notably an early version of the name as a surname was Stivekey.
It should also not be forgotten that surnames extant today may derive from abandoned villages, who lost population due to plague or other factors, such as the extinct village of Lashbrook though that was already lost by the Domesday book.  The name, however, survives. Originally it was Lachebroc.

County names are also used but tend to arise either in the well-travelled or on the borders of counties.  Note: the use of the preposition de- before a placename largely disappears by about 1300, and some placenames appear without the preposition as early as Domesday.

There are of course plenty of post-conquest locative names deriving from French place names,  including Normandy itself, but should not be confused with the names of French origin brought by the Hugenots.   Examples of Norman-brought surnames include Bull[e]y, from Bouillé, Ravel[l] from Ravel, a common place name in France, Mew from Meaux etc.  A special note should be made regarding the name Bridges which was the English pronunciation of the port of Bruges.  One cannot help comparison with the much later mangling of Ypres into ‘Wipers’ by the troops in World War 1. 

The more localised locative names are those like ‘Attwood’ or ‘Byfield’ or ‘Underhill’ which are self explanatory.  Less obvious are where the very old names that began with a preposition, that developed from OE  ‘æt þæm ace’ [at the oak] to ME Atten Ake to Atten Oke to Atte Noke – to Noke or Nokes.  Similarly Atter Oke becomes Roke or Rook, so that Rookwood may be seen to be as likely to be ‘at the oak wood’ as to be ‘at the wood where rooks dwell’.   Where there is an ash not an oak, the names Nash and Rash are formed.  Nolder from Alder is formed in the same way. 
To continue on the subject of trees – and distinctive trees were important in order to describe and navigate the landscape – Holly gives rise to Hollens, Hollings, Hollay, Hollis etc. Withy, Withey are dwellers by the willow and early may include names like Widege, being the interpretation of the letters ‘eth’ or ‘thorn’ and ‘yoch’ from ‘wiðig’.  Birks and Burks are from birches, with Birkett, Birkhead and Brickett from ‘dweller on a birch-covered headland’.  Beecher, Becher and Beechey come from the beech tree, but Beeching may equally derive from either ‘dweller by the beck’ or ‘son of the man named Becca’, and indeed Beech, Beach and Bech may also refer to a beck not a beech.  But just to be confusing, not usually a beach at the seaside.  Hazel gives Hazel, Hessel, Hesselden[e], Hazelgrove, Haselhurst, Hazlett and many others.  Also Hawthorn[e], Blackthorn[e], Elm/Elmes/Nelmes,  
It is worth noting that the trees whose names survive in surnames are often those generally considered important or sacred from pagan times, though I have been unable to find a version of Yew, the most magical of all.  I would postulate that this was because churches tended to be founded on previous places of worship, and yews are mostly found in churchyards, which would lead to surnames of Attcherch, Bychurch, Churchill or Churchley.
Other tree names are Bygraves, by the grove, and Imp[e]y, ‘dweller near an enclosure of saplings’

Other names are less obvious.
 Chessil may indicate someone from Chesil Beach in Dorset but may also be a Dorset man who dwelt near or on a gravel bank, which is the dialect meaning of Chesil.  Ness[e] is a man from a headland. 
Statheman is the dweller by a staithe, or landing place, and will only be found where Viking influence was sufficient to leave behind Old Norse words – such as the East Coast. 
Holter is ‘dweller by the wood’. 
Hook/Huck/Hooker/Hookes/Huke etc were ‘dwellers by a hill spur or bend’
Avann/Fann/Fenne ‘dweller by the fen’.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

New Regency Romance on its way!

So I've been dithering with 'None so Blind' because something wasn't right, and I really knew all along what it was; it was the cover.  It was insipid.  Also Guy was too small. 
Here's the original:
Here's the new version:
So, first I took some windows by Ackermann:
Made a chequerboard and filled the squares with marble that I had saved as patterns:
.... and then used the computer's ability to make perspective to work magic on it:
Or as the meerkats might say, simples.

So, what's the book about?

Lovely but blind Penelope Eltringham’s surprise meeting with the shocking Lord Shawthorpe leads to a misunderstanding that angers both of them.
Despite this poor beginning, Penelope finds herself inexplicably drawn to him.
Under the aegis of her grandmother, heiress Penelope finds her blindness no drawback during her season in London, thanks in great part to the help of the dashing, if maybe dangerous, Lord Shawthorpe.  Guy, Lord Shawthorpe,  must overcome Penelope’s grandmother’s suspicions of his intentions if he hopes to win the hand of the girl who has so surprisingly captivated his heart.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A glimpse of Regency Brighton

A lot of people have written much about the Pavilion at Brighton, so I shan't add too much in words, other than mentioning that it had hot and cold running water and seawater on tap, which is pretty impressive plumbing in anyone's book for the time  But then everyone who knows me knows my obsession with plumbing and drainage, made a trifle more acute right now as I managed to break the toilet.  [Our plumber has it in hand and has done me a temporary fix until he can get me the parts... bless him, and bless Joseph Bramah and Thomas Crapper and others of their ilk for the flush toilet, which Prinny was one of a few to enjoy]. 

Anyway, after that divergence from the relevant, I just wanted to post some period prints of Brighton as well as my own photograph above and a few of my snaps of the town's buildings. 

The Pavilion and Steyne[sic] 1806

Brighthelmstone was primarily a watering place; and this 1803 print shows the baths
1814 view of the beach
I shouldn't mind the royal stables as a conservatory myself
last but not least a view from 1820
And now some of my own photos of buildings on and near the seafront; many of which are 1820's but which give the idea of the Georgian building in general. The cars are not very period of course but doubtless there would be heavy traffic with carriages and horses and delivery carts.

these buildings are facing the sea

Looking along the houses fronting towards the sea.  The ironwork surrounding the areas is more apparent in this shot.
the epitome of Regency poshness, one of the prestigious squares.  This one was built in 1828 but the style is identical to earlier ones
the houses are less posh as they run up the hill away from the sea...
I mention the area in 'Death of a Fop'.  This is a town house much like Jane's in London with an area, you can see the gate to the steps that lead down into the area, the windows opening onto it and the top of the door under the steps to the main front door
and this is looking down into the area

Friday, 6 December 2013

Guest Blog: Paintings on the Wall

find it HERE 
or at Amazon HERE

I did another cover for Giselle Marks, working from a sketch of hers, and, forgetting that the painting the hero was looking at was viewed in splendid isolation when it arrived, so I did a painting in the Regency style of cramming a heap of paintings together on a wall, and each of the others being an allegory of part of his life.  The wall is painted fine dark green which the discerning will realise means that the Marquis is loaded as it cost 3 times more than any other paint.  
Anyway, over to Giselle...

Paintings on the Wall

So if you’re looking at my cover for my new Regency Romance “The Marquis’s Mistake,” You are looking at my hero observing a wall of paintings.  The artist’s brief was for the hero to be shown gazing up at a fairly provocative picture of himself as young Hercules, clad only in strategic drapery. I expected such a picture from my publisher’s house artist, but somehow wires got crossed and nothing was done to the very last minute. When they asked my friend Sarah J. Waldock who had produced the cover for my first book, “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” to step in and produce a cover last minute.
My friend who had been itching to do a cover went to town. I explained about the picture and the hero and despite the fact that no other pictures are mentioned in the book, she was determined to set it amongst a wall of other paintings. So I am sorry readers you will have to assume that the picture of our hero looking at the portrait is a few months after the end of the book.  The wall is somewhere is Langsdown Castle, his father’s Ducal seat and Sebastian, Marquis of Farndon is there to give away the bride, “the Incomparable Miranda” to be married to his father.
And I rather liked the wall of pictures, so I let it stand. I was considering what would actually be on the wall for the period, assuming they were all English pictures and had not been purchased while The Duke or his ancestors did the Grand tour of Europe. As we are set 1814, the horse picture could either have been painted George Stubbs who died in 1806, arguably the greatest horse painter of all time, or John Fernley senior.  His dates are 1782 to 1860 and he studied under the Benjamin Marshall in London, who was a follower of Stubbs and a painter of sporting and animal pictures.
Stubbs was fascinated by anatomy, but despite his reputation as a horse painter also painted other animals and humans. His animals and people are more believable because of his study of how muscles work under the skin of a creature. Fernley’s works are excellent polished pieces of workmanship but do not have the underlying understanding of horse’s bodies that Stubbs works illustrate.
So let us move on across the wall. There is a tree showing in what is obviously some kind of a landscape.  Here we have a wider choice or artists, but premier amongst them must be John Constable, 1776-1837 who is so famous for painting the Haywain in 1821 which is now in the National Gallery and other bucolic picturesque representations of the English countryside. For all Constable’s seemingly natural paintings, they are deceptive. If you go looking for the views he painted, you may find that they were substantially incorrect. This is because John Constable happily combined several drawings of different scenic locations to produce an aesthetically pleasing picture which must be considered artistic licence.
The earlier Venetian painter known as Canaletto, 1697 -1768 was also guilty of this particular artistic pastiche. But there is no scene of canals visible on the wall. Although the Marquis obscures a blue paining which might be the Venetian lagoon or then again it might be a seascape, possibly by the leading artist of dramatic weather and stormy seas. Joseph Mallord William Turner, RA, 1775-1851. He also painted a large number of landscapes, so he could also be held responsible for that partially shown landscape.
For the nude study of a lady, posed like an odalisque on a couch, there is only one English artist of the period good enough, William Etty 1787-1849, arguably the best ever English painter of female flesh, but he had one failing as a draftsman, he was not particularly good at hands.  So he got round this by drawing as few as possible, positioning hands out of sight if possible. His lush nudes have frequently been mistaken for the French painter Jean August Dominque Ingres, 1780–1867 who specialised in exotic female nudes, usually in imaginary Turkish harem settings.
The picture I am having greatest difficulty identifying an artist for is the young Hercules. Both the society portraitists Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-92 and Joshua Reynolds, 1723-92, were too early to have painted our Marquis, except in a family picture as a child, possibly with his older brother Peter. It is possible the leading portrait painter of the period, Thomas Lawrence, 1769-1830 painted the picture, but despite a prodigious output of exquisite images of the wealthy and influential of the time, I’ve found not a single nude or classical composition amongst them.
I considered the Scottish painter David Wilkie, 1785-1841 as a possible candidate as painter but although he had a more varied repertoire producing mostly pictures of historical scenes which included some female nudes, I found no classical mythology in his scenes and no male nudes. I moved onto John (Mad) Martin, 1789-1854 who actually died in the Isle of Man and is buried in Old Kirk Braddan churchyard. His scenes of dramatic and apocalyptic landscapes somehow do not fit the concept of painting a lush portrait of an affluent courtesan’s favourite lover. John Martin was certainly a good enough painter to have produced a recognisable portrait of Sebastian Vernon, but somehow his character makes it unlikely that he undertook the commission.
I considered the possibility that it could have been painted by Johann Zoffany, 1733-1810, a German working in London but although there is a least one male semi-nude in his catalogue, I consider his style too dour to have co-operated what is effectively a male pin-up. John Singleton Copley, 1737-1815 also had several nudes of both sexes among his works and certainly was capable of producing a fine portrait and rendering of a classical scene but I have found another possible artist.
So I hope no one will be offended by my suggestion that the best artist resident in London during the period when the picture was supposedly painted to have painted a classical scene with an attractive almost naked male would have been the American Artist, Benjamin West. West produced some beautiful lush paintings of both female classical subjects and luscious male beef cake. So I think “the Incomparable Miranda” would have chosen him to produce the portrait of the young Sebastian Vernon.

Artist’s note: the house and grounds was a Gainsborough and what you can’t see on the right of the picture off the cover is Sebastian’s father as a young man with his dogs and gun! I confess I was thinking a lot of the Ackermann prints of big houses when I did it with a vague thought of the Gainsborough Andrews couple as well.  The Odalisque is indeed Etty.  The blue painting is a castle in the English School and was more visible until Giselle wished to have the figure of Sebastian enlarged. Fair enough! I did that in the computer... The horse was by James Ward because I’m not good enough to do Stubbs. I didn’t really have an artist in mind for young Hercules, I have to say I thought maybe it might have been the masterpiece of an unknown…
 I apologise for the anachronistic frame on the top right.  I ended up painting it in a hurry and letting it happen as it wanted to instead of keeping it firmly in order. 
this is what I had in mind for the house in landscape - Mr and Mrs Andrews by Gainsborough

Horse, by Ward.  Stubbs he ain't but it's competent
This is what Giselle found as an exemplar for Benjamin West

Monday, 2 December 2013

Mary Rose post published on Knowledge Quest!

My article on the Mary Rose is to be found this month on the online educational magazine Knowledge Quest though I haven't a clue where to find it. I think this is the link
The kindly gave me something called an app but I don't think it works.  I'm not even sure what an app is. Anyway, do look at the magazine!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A nice little Austenesque Christmas Mystery - perfect stocking filler!

So, here we have it... find it Here and at, also as Kindle. 

Jane and the Christmas Masquerades is a book consisting of two novellas in which Jane and Caleb are guests of Araminta's uncle, Major George Coate. This is the fourth volume in the Jane, Bow Street Consultant series, following the detective capabilities of Jane Fairfax, now Jane Armitage, aiding her Bow Street Runner husband.

Before giving the blurb for the novellas I'd like to talk a bit about why I write murder mysteries. 
I like to write  books about characters who happen to be linked by murder; I  rely on people to hold them together, not the sensation of the crime. I want to write about my detectives using legwork and brainwork, in an era where there are no magical CSI framinstans.   The crime is almost an incidental to permit the peeling off of layers of personalities without dragging in significant psychological events in their childhood and dwelling on the angst of the detective, nor throwing in gore and horror to shock the audience.
A story reliant on shock value is not, in my opinion, a good murder mystery, but should be classed horror or thriller. I find so-called ‘psychological thrillers’ anything but thrilling.
I write books of the kind that I want to read, about people. 
My target audience is, I suppose, the older woman, over 40’s; though I was seeking out gentle, amusing and entertaining murder mysteries since my teens so maybe the target audience is just me and my immediate family – husband of 30 years aged 55, and mother, aged 82.  My son doesn’t read murder mysteries.  Oh, and I’m 48. 

Jane and the Vanishing Valet
On arriving at Major Coate's country house, Jane and Caleb discover a servant crisis as the Major’s son has just given the congé to his valet; but the new valet, when he arrives, is really very odd in his behaviour!  

The Major’s disparate relatives are meeting Araminta for the first time, and there are some tensions within the household as personalities clash when confined to the house in inclement weather, with heavy snow blanketing the countryside.

When the Major is struck down in his study, with a cruel blow, and the valet goes missing, it appears that he may have been the culprit.  If indeed the valet had murderous intent, and is not himself a victim, it appears that he may have had more reasons than mere theft for doing so. Finding the vanishing valet becomes a priority for Jane and Caleb; and they must also prevent anyone from finishing the Major off, since a lack of footprints suggest that the valet is still in the house…alive or dead.

Jane and the Unladylike Wife
Invited with Major Coate's other house guests to a dinner party, it is a shock for Jane and Caleb to discover next day that their hostess, Mrs Steggall, was murdered overnight.
A mysterious and outrageously vulgar woman, claiming to be married to one of the Steggall boys, called after Jane and Caleb’s party had left.  It appears that she may have been responsible for shooting Mrs Steggall, but finding her, and who she actually is, proves a challenge.
The victim's well-known meanness apparently leaves no shortage of possible accomplices or indeed killers if the unladylike female caller is more – or less –  than she seems. 
Caleb demonstrates his knowledge of advances Bow Street has made, in matching bullets and wads, to be able to have a very good idea which gun was used to shoot Mrs Steggall, and he and Jane are able to bring the murderer to book, despite the destruction of evidence!
Meanwhile, Miss Bates has a chance to overcome her disappointment over Mr Redmayne and find happiness.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

What the well-equipped milord of Jane Austen's time needs

A big estate like Pemberley had a large number of dependents and estate workers who needed housing, and who managed the various duties that kept the estate prosperous.  As well as the home farm with its various workers there may have been tenant farmers holding land to farm and whose rents took the place of produce grown; there would have been coverts for birds to shoot for sport and for the table, managed woodland perhaps, and gardens both for the enjoyment of the owner and his family, and for the kitchen garden.

The construction of attractive and decorative and cleanly cottages for the estate workers, called cottages orné, according to the principles of William Atkinson, have been thoroughly blogged by Kathryn Kane   here  and here and here.  Worth a read, so do go take a look if you have not already done so.  The idea of nice cottages was so popular that Ackermann's repository published several ideas of such cottages.  And I have to say some of them were rather larger than what I would call a cottage; though as Kat points out, the conceit of having a large 'cottage in the country' was sometimes one that attracted wealthy men too, whose sensibility to aesthetic pleasure probably exceeded their common sense.  I do not apologise for showing a fairly wide selection before moving on to specialist buildings.

This one at least was a moderately sensible idea, having four cottages together to keep each other warm in winter.  I remark upon this in passing in an as yet to be published romance called 'None so Blind'. 

... and this one is a rich man's beach hut.  As the blurb about it says, Splendour and magnificence are made subordinate to the calmer enjoyments of domestic felicity... 
I doubt the tween maid felt much domestic felicity about looking after the master in his rustic conceit.

However, enough about cottages ornés;and on to the specialist buildings Ackermann's considered essential to illustrate.
First, on entering the estate, the estate gatehouse or lodge  is required both to show status and to indicate where the entrance is [having driven around the wilder countryside frantically looking for places, believe me this IS necessary; you do not want to get stuck in the muddy ruts of any old farm track and spoil your muslins with muddy splashes when you have an invitation to a house party with Mr and Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy!]. The gatehouse needs a gatekeeper and possibly his wife to turn away the unwanted callers and direct those who are going in the right direction.

The house itself will have various necessary adjuncts like a chapel: 

And as cleanliness is next to Godliness, one must have the ornamental bath in the garden, since once the difficulties engendered by difficult to remove dress and powder in the hair were no longer in force this impediment being removed, it is probable that baths will be employed by us as common and frequent sources of innocent pleasure as well as for medicinal relief. And a relief to the noses of all around them too... The writer pontificates about Roman baths for a while and suggests warm as well as cold baths.  I bet the servants loved trekking across to the bath house to stoke the means of heating the warm bath.

What else does the man of leisure need?  ah yes, the fishing lodge.  No home should be without one.  Note: first make sure you have at least a good sized stream for your fish. 

It looks like another cottage orné to me...

For the comfort of the family and all those ice creams and sorbets, the ice house of course on which I have already written here

Oh but to make those ice creams, the cream is needed - so of course a dairy, served no doubt by a buxom dairy maid and no cows in sight, or perhaps in a field to look attractive and far enough away not to smell at the house guests, or look menacingly large at the ladies.
And of course for the vegetables, a gardener must have a gardener's cottage:
compact and bijou, the way posh vegetables should also be.

And of course all those tenants and estate workers in their cottages ornés will need a bailiff to make sure they pay their rent, don't damage the nice new cottages, nor moon at the master's company.
So, gentle reader, what plot bunnies have you in mind?  will your heroine, like my heroine Penelope, hasten to shout at the bold bad land owner who is pulling down the tenants' cottages only for her to find out that he is replacing them with ideal cottages instead, but showing him her spirit?  Will a house party with an ornamental bath turn up one member too few, because he or she turns out to have been drowned - and was it an accident or was it foul play?  Is the ornamental chapel the scene for impious young bloods emulating the Hell Fire Club, and is the heroine abducted for their debaucheries?  Will your fishing party at the fishing lodge catch something unexpected that has drifted downstream?   Will the gatekeeper alert Mr Veryrich to tell him that a man has driven neatly in through the narrow gates as though he was a top sawyer but being missing his head is hardly likely to be driving them nags, sir?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Woolly words: names deriving from the wool trade

Wool Names

Anyone who knows me knows that two of my pet obsessions are the wool trade; and names.
This essay will endeavour to cover both my interests, since no trade has influenced the surnames of England like the cloth trade.

I will also show that the names derived from this trade are also to some extent regionally determined, by the specific terms generic to each region of cloth production.  I will concentrate on the woollen trade but will also mention the native linen production, which added its own names to the general stock.

Wool has many processes in its production.  First of all it must be grown on sheep, tended by a shepherd; then sheared.  However though someone surnamed Shepherd or Sheep had doubtless that task in his background, someone surnamed ‘Shearer’ did not shear the sheep, but was a person who sheared the nap.  But I get ahead of myself.   
Once the fleece was ready it was spun; which might be done in the grease, or from a washed fleece.  This was usually done by the women.  A women worker has a surname suffixed –ster not –er, and so we get the word ‘spinster’ as well for an unwed woman who eked out the family economy by spinning.  Male spinners gave the name Spinner; but might equally have spun linen thread, another miserable job as it had to be done in the dark and damp.

Spun wool might go next to weaving or be ‘dyed in the wool’.  Certain colours like blue, from woad, were always traditionally dyed in the wool  Hence one has the Dyers and Listers.  Lister is the more recent name being derivative of a Middle English word. Dyer has old English roots.  There exist as names Dyers, Dyerson, Dyster though in this case not necessarily from a female dyer.  [English isn’t always consistent, is it?]

Next, the weaving.  A Weaver might also be a Webber, a Webb[e] or a Webster   who might well have been a woman in the trade.  This was a highly skilled trade, and determined a lot about the use of the cloth afterwards.  Not all wool woven would go on to become woollen cloth; some would have the hard wearing worsted weave.  However, wool that WAS to go on to be woollen cloth, the most expensive and prestigious export of the late Middle Ages,  would then be fulled by a Fuller or Walker or Tucker
Walker may be an ambiguous name as it also refers to the job of walking the wet flax to turn it into linen fibres, and though a fulling Walker had a skilled job, walking the flax made it to Tony Robinson’s ‘Worst Jobs in History’. Tucker derives from folding and torturing the cloth; the act of fulling is to wash and shrink the cloth to bring the fibres closer together and make it more weather resistant as well as thicker.  After being fulled it would be re-stretched in the tenter’s yard, giving us the phrase ‘to be on tenter-hooks’.  I have been unable to track down Tenter as a surname however; I suspect it was assumed in the fuller’s art.  Fulling has also given us the name for a type of kaolin clay, fuller’s earth, which was used to rub into the wool to absorb and remove the lanolin and greases from both the fleece and from the earlier processes.  Fuller’s Weed is also the country name for soapwort which was used in the washing process. 

Next, the cloth must be napped and sheared, often many times.  This meant raising a nap with teasels – no man-made substitute for this plant has ever improved on nature.  The slight hook on the end of the spines lifted the nap very successfully.  This gives us the names Tesler, Tazelaar, Teasel, Taycell.  The name Napper does not, however exist.  The very skilled job of cutting the raised nap to a level surface was a Shearer and was also derivative of  Sharman, Shearman and Sherman especially in the East.  ‘Shere’ and its variants however derive from shearsmith, one who kept shears sharp, and though a related industry in some respects is not directly derived from the woollen industry. 

Some slightly related names are Flaxman, a man involved in the growing or handling of flax for linen, Sower and some Sewers, those who sewed, Souster for a woman; Mercer,  a seller of luxury fabrics.  Also Fleming since the statutes of Edward III that wool might not be exported unwoven meant that there were insufficient weavers in England, and certain foreign experts were invited to settle.  Nowhere did this make more impact than in Norfolk, whose cloth was justly famed long after the woollen industry was on the decline elsewhere in Britain, surviving to produce the magnificent Norfolk Shawls in imitation of the costly  imported Cashmere shawls indispensable fashion wear to the Regency miss. 

So down to the business of location.

Widespread, largely midlands and north
South-west, as far east as Hants and Wilts
East and South East, mostly in Sussex, Kent and Anglia but as far west as Bucks and Oxfordshire.
Mostly south-west, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, but also Suffolk [owing to the Suffolk woads and saffron and other dye weeds]
Mostly Cambs and West Riding of Yorkshire, also Lincs and Norfolk
Largely Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset
Largely Somerset and Devonshire
South of a line from the Wash to the Dee except in those places where Webber or Weaver are more common
North of the line from Wash to Dee where the name was taken by men, and where women wove.
General, wherever woollen cloth was produced
Sharman etc
Largely East and south, as far north as Lincs and as far west as Bucks

Some counties have a high proportion of names related to one form of the woollen trade or another which I include for interest.

Cambridgeshire: Lister
Devon: Tucker, Webber, Dyer
Derby: Walkers, Webster
Durham: Walker
Lancashire: Webster
Norfolk: Fuller
Notts: Walker
Somerset: Tucker, Webb, Webber, Weaver, Dyer
Stafford: Walker
Suffolk: Webb, Dyer
Sussex: Fuller
Wilts: Tucker, Webb
Worcester: Weaver
Yorkshire: Walker, Webster, Lister


Guppy, Henry Brougham; homes of family names in Great Britain, [1890],  Bibliolife

Reaney, P.H, & Wilson, R. M; A dictionary of English Surnames, 1997, Oford University Press

Robinson, Tony, The Worst Jobs In History, 2004, Pan