Friday 28 October 2016

Announcing Release of Proper People as eBook

Following numerous requests from the public I am pleased to announce that digital versions of Proper People. Early Asylum Life in the Words of Those Who Were There are now available to pre-order on Amazon, iTunes Store and Kobo priced at £9.99.  They will be delivered from 1st November 2016.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Speaking Engagements in 2017

Some years ago I realised that mental asylum records have the potential to enable we family historians to explore an almost untapped source of first hand information about our ancestors. Registers of asylum patients are slowly becoming available through the subscription websites and if the genealogist is lucky enough to find a match, they must then examine any surviving archives for more information. That is where they might just find that "gold nugget"........ as I did!

It is always a pleasure to take that message to other family historians so I am particularly delighted to announce five new Family History Society (FHS) speaking engagements that have recently been confirmed for next year. Huddersfield and District FHS, Chesterfield and District FHS, Rotherham FHS, Harrogate and District FHS and the Oldham branch of Manchester and Lancashire FHS have all booked dates when I will be delivering my illustrated presentation "Early Asylum Life". My aim is to take the audience back in time to experience what life was really like for inmates of an early 19th century county asylum by using material gleaned from the fascinating archives of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Wakefield. In doing so I am also demonstrating just what might be found in an ancestor's case notes.

All Family History Societies welcome visitors who usually pay a small entrance fee so if you fancy coming along to one of those events I'm sure that we'd all be very pleased to see you.

My calendar for next year is now as follows:

Wakefield Local and Family History Network
The Learning Zone,
Library Main Floor,
Wakefield One,
Burton St,
1.30pm, Monday 23rd January
Morley Family History Society
St Mary's in the Wood,
Commercial Street,
LS27 8HY
7.30pm, Wednesday 1st February
Huddersfield and District Family History Society
Town Hall,
Ramsden Street,
7.30pm, Tuesday 7th February
East Yorkshire Family History Society
Carnegie Heritage Centre,
342 Anlaby Rd,
7pm, Tuesday 21st March
Ossett Historical Society
Trinity Centre,
Church Street,
7.30pm, Monday 27th March
Chesterfield and District Family History Society
St Hugh’s RC Church,
S41 8QP
7.30pm, Tuesday 4th April
Garforth Probus Club
Garforth Working Men’s Club,
Barley Hill Rd,
LS25 1AU
10.30am, Wednesday 5th July
Bradford Family History Society
Glyde House,
Little Horton Lane,
10am, Thursday 6thJuly
Rotherham Family History Society
The Liberty Church,
Station Road,
S60 1JH
7pm, Thursday 6th July
Mexborough and District Probus Club
Swinton House Club,
20 Fitzwilliam St,
S64 8RG
10.30am, Tuesday 15th August
Harrogate and District Family History Society
St Paul’s UR Church Hall,
Belford Road,
7.30pm, Tuesday 19th September
Upper Dales Family History Group
Harmby Village Hall,
Brook Terrace,
North Yorkshire,
2pm, Wednesday 27th September 
Oldham Branch, Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society

Gallery Oldham,
Oldham Cultural Quarter,
Greaves Street,
2pm, Saturday 14th October

If you would like to discuss engaging me as a speaker for your club or society please contact me on

Monday 10 October 2016

Patient's "Drone" View of West Riding Lunatic Asylum

We now almost take for granted the ability to capture aerial photographs from a remotely controlled drone buzzing its way above our streets and buildings. Back in 1861, one talented inmate from Leeds was able to visualise what the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum would look like from a point several hundred feet in the air above and like the drone pilot today, his feet never even left the ground. With no digital photographs to work from he then captured his vision in a drawing which would be certified for its accuracy by the County Surveyor of the West Riding himself.

I first saw a print of that drawing in the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield some years ago. As someone who cannot draw to save himself, I was particularly impressed with the skill displayed to produce such an accurate view.

The artist, James WALKER, does appear in Proper People but I have today posted an article on my Early Asylum Life blog which explores his amazing drawing in considerably more detail. You'll perhaps imagine yourself flying through the Wakefield sky 155 years ago.