Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Studio & the Travelling Sieve Maker

My last blog post was about ‘Do Not Forget Australia’ – the superb and inspiring new book by Sally Murphy and Sonia Kretschmar. It’s set in WW1, but with a theme of friendship between individuals and between nations. Sally and Sonia continue to tour blogs this week and I’m looking forward to following them. Congratulations, Coralie – you win the copy Walker Books sent me to give away!

This book has stirred me to delve further into my own family history. Research has become easier over the last few years, and having my Grandmother’s brother’s service medal with his K.R.Rif. (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) Service Number engraved on the edge has made collecting some facts easier. Through stories told to me, I knew he died in France in WW1, so this weekend I typed his name into and found his burial place at Ancre British Cemetry, Beaumont-Hamel, on the Somme, and the day of his death – Sept 3rd 1916. He fought with the 17th Middlesex Battalion – so I now want to know which battle he would have died in. I’m sure I’ll soon find the answer. Until this weekend I didn’t know anything about the 17th Middlesex. Apparently it was also known as the ‘1st Football’ – joined by many professional and amateur soccer players and their supporters after a considerable number of people in the country felt that soccer should not be played professionally at home whilst others were fighting abroad. So, I’ll be interested to read the full story of he Batallion through Andrew Riddoch and John Kemp’s book ‘When The Whistle Blows’ From all the reviews, it should be an interesting and informative read.

While I was searching for my relative’s details, I thought I’d check the census records for information on the family of the main character of my YA in progress. When you’re writing something based on fact, it’s best if you get the facts right! As expected, the 1851 census shows James Lucas in his house named ‘Elm Wood’ – not Elmwood, as it sometimes appears, and his farm manager and family. It will be good to now refer to members of the farm family by name. Then, in the next line down, there’s a family living ‘Near Village in tent’ – a ‘Travelling Sieve Maker’ and his family; the man, his wife and their five sons aged 1, 3, 5, 8 and 11. Do you think they should be included in my story, too? What a hard life they must have had.

The two factual accounts of the Lucas family that have previously been written say that they moved to Elm Wood in 1838. So why don’t they appear there in the 1845 census? The answer is they were somewhere entirely different! The first records I have of them say they lived close to Regent’s Park in 29 Nottingham Place. When I put Sarah Lucas (James’s mother’s name) in the form for 1845, however, I discovered that they were actually living even closer to Regent’s Park, at 7 Cambridge Terrace, right on its perimeter. No one’s ever mentioned this house before, but searching for information prior to the internet was much harder! I wonder when they bought it? It was a step up from their previous one - Cambridge Terrace was designed by Nash and built in 1825. You wouldn’t get a one bed-roomed flat in the converted mews stables behind the house for much under a million pounds these days; well over a million for a small flat in the house itself – and to think they owned the whole thing! Check it out in a Google Image search!

Here's 29 Nottingham Place:

It's a nice house, so why did they move? Is the house that’s there today the one they lived in in the 1820's/30's? It looks as though it could have been. But perhaps I should check that too. How does one find the date when a London house was erected? Any clues will be much appreciated.

There’s a possibility that the house that was originally on the site was demolished and the family had to move. Alternatively, maybe they chose to move from place to place in attempts to hide James’s mental illness...

Here's half a wall of my studio. All the books inside the central open area and next to the small drawers are books and papers associated with this YA. There's still a lot of research and reading to do!

Peter Taylor

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