Category: Historical Tidbit

Locations in Toil Under the Sun

It’s all about location.  In the first book, I have married my characters (William and Mary) at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Prestwich, UK.  This church is of great importance to me because my second great uncle was married there and is buried in the graveyard, along with his daughter Annie and his wife, Caroline.

Below are pictures that I took on one of my visits to the location. The church is stunning. It was founded in 1200 and parts of the building date back to 1500. The graveyard is fascinating and beautiful, and I wish I could go back again to visit.

In the meantime, I hope these photographs will help the imagination of readers as they picture the Leighton characters at this location (click to enlarge).  As a sideline tidbit, I just discovered that Coronation Street, which is a British soap opera series on ITV, films at this location for church scenes.

I also have scenes at St. George’s in Manchester. My third great grandfather is supposedly buried there, but the church closed in 1984 and was converted into apartments in 2000.  To read the history on Wikipedia CLICK HERE.  For more fascinating information and modern pictures visit Manchester History CLICK HERE. Below is an old print of St. George’s Church from 1831.

St. George

Courtesy AncestryImages.com

The Bullies of 1860’s Victorian England

It’s not often that I write a book in four weeks. Of course, it’s only the first draft and editing begins, i.e. rewrites, embellishments, additions, deletions, etc. After that comes the other kind of editing–grammar, sentence structure, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and further reviews with the help of ProWriting and Grammarly. Then off to Victory Editing to be poked at again.

Some of what you’ll read in Toil Under the Sun may shock you and lead you to believe that I have an evil imagination. The incidents you’ll read about are actual occurrences I discovered while researching and reading the proceedings of the Manchester Assize Courts in 1867. These acts make Boucher throwing a rock in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South appear like child’s play.

Here is a short, but shocking list, of terrorist-like activities, perpetrated by union members against those who defied their rules. You’ll read about those rules in the book, which were put in place to supposedly protect the trade. The newspapers and courts called them “outrages.”

  • “Bottling” – throwing bottles full of combustible substances into rooms where brickmakers, their wives, and children slept.
  • Use of pistols to intimate watchmen and shoot watchdogs during their nightly raids.
  • Hamstringing of horses or slitting their throats. Setting stables on fire and burning horses alive.
  • The stabbing of cattle and other livestock owned by brickmakers.
  • Brutal beatings of employees, including young boys who worked for brickmakers, often resulting in permanent physical damage.
  • Destroying bricks sometimes as many as 60,000 or more at a brickmaker’s business.
  • Destroying buildings under construction that used machine-made bricks or bricks not made by union men.
  • Blowing up brickmaking machines with gunpowder.
  • Other atrocities that earned them this comment in the newspapers that their acts were the “despotism of their own class.”

As you can see, brickyard bullies were the hooligans of the day who would do anything to protect their trade, including murder those who stood in their way. A policeman was killed at one of their outrages.

Keep checking back for updates!  While editing, I’m going to dive into book two, Slave to None, and continue to the next era of 1870’s and how the trade changed and businesses grew. These are the years of prosperity and growth, and the foundation for family riches.

 

Time Served

I’m scrolling through England and Wales Criminal Registers on Ancestry.com.  I need one of my characters to serve time and wondered what the penalty would be.  Boy, interesting read!  Here’s a few examples:

  • Larceny – Ranges from 3-6 months.
  • Attempting to commit suicide – 2 months
  • Attempting sexual relations with an underage child – 1 year
  • Embezzlement as a servant – 6 months
  • Maliciously killing a horse – 1 year
  • (No laughing at this one) Adjudged as an incorrigible rogue – 9 months.
  • Attempting to commit buggery (that’s an old term for homosexual acts) – 10 years
  • Obtaining goods by false pretenses – 3 months
  • Keeping a disorderly house (conduct of inhabitants are a public nuisance) – 1 year
  • Keeping a house of ill fame (brothel/prostitution) – 18 months
  • Assaulting a police officer – 3 to 6 months

Well, it’s an interesting read for sure. I can’t imagine the horrors of serving time in a Victorian-era prison.

Vicki

Progress Update

I’ve worked extremely hard this past four days to push the book forward into the last stage of draft one.  Writing is a daunting task.  The first draft can be a breeze because a writer’s brain is buzzing with characters, dialogue, and a storyline that needs to get down on paper before we forget it.  However, that’s only the start.

Afterward, at least for me, comes the pain.  The process of revisions and self-editing that can take time and tears.  Then it’s off to the professional editor, to take the last pass before release, finding your goofs and stupid errors your eyes didn’t see the first time.

As I’m staring at the end of book one, I’m overwhelmed by the hours I’ve spent reading union news and testimony regarding the hooligans of the nineteenth century involved in the trade. I’ve found absolutely fantastic resources online through the British Newspaper Archives and Google Books, which contain the scanned text of trade reports and investigations dating back to the mid-1860’s. 

Of greater concern, is the name of my second great grandfather that repeatedly came up in testimony as one of the regulars who went about enforcing the union rules, as they were, sometimes violently.  He died in his early forties, which makes me wonder if his lifestyle contributed to his early demise.

Nevertheless, next post as I near the end, I’ll give you a short glimpse into the world of trade unions. Some of what you’ll read in Toil Under the Sun may surprise and sicken you, but the occurrences were taken from actual events. The names were changed to spare those involved and their ancestors. However, I felt it important to make this saga historically correct, including actual events, for my own sake and that of my readers.

Stay tuned as I look at the end of my first draft.  Thankfully, no one will wallop me over the head with a brick after I’m finished.  Apparently, a few watchmen of brickyards suffered that fate.

All my best, Vicki

Patented Brickmaking Machines  

The fear of men losing their jobs because of automation has continued since the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Even in our lifetime, robotic counterparts are replacing human workers and jobs are being lost.

Can you imagine the fear this must have instilled in the man of 1860 who made his life hand-molding bricks?  An inventor comes along and makes this huge monster machine that threatens his usefulness and income as a laborer in Victorian England.  No wonder he hates it — no wonder he wants it destroyed.

Progress, however, continues whether humans like it or not, and such was the case during these turbulent years when the union fought against industrialization in brickmaking.  Attacks were regularly made on master brickmakers who purchased these devices.  Owning one meant it took jobs away from other able-bodied men who once worked in the clay fields and hand-molded bricks like craftsmen. There were various patented machines from different inventors introduced throughout the years as early as 1859 and many newer versions introduced in the subsequent decades.

Owning one of these contraptions is a point of contention in Toil Under the Sun.   In 1865, the Manchester Bricklayer’s Union would not allow machine-made bricks to be used in the district.  It wasn’t until many years later that they changed the ruling, but even afterward there were instances where union members would attack businesses and attempt to destroy the machines out of anger.

How many more jobs will be lost in the decades ahead from machines being invented to take our place?  I dare say many more, which will have the same effect on the human counterpart–loss of income and a sense of uselessness.  Like the brickmakers of the past, workers learn to adapt or starve.  Sometimes it’s a hard lesson.


From: The Mechanics’ Magazine: Journal of  Engineering, Agricultural Machinery, Manufactures, and Shipbuilding, Vol. 2, No. 50, Dec. 9, 1859.  Source: Clayton’s Patent Brickmaking Machine (Thanks to the Brickfrog Blog for posting this article information. https://brickfrog.wordpress.com/)  Excerpt below:

The Production of solid bricks has of late received much of the attention of engineers and architects, with a view of their being produced more economically, of a better quality, and with greater facility, than by the time-honored means known as “hand-moulding;” and although many mechanical contrivances for making bricks have been introduced, not one has realised the requirement practically, or been considered worthy of adoption, until Mr. Henry Clayton, of the Atlas Works, London, produced and patented his brickmaking machine. On an average 20,000 to 25,000 good bricks are made daily by each of Clayton’s large machines with the attention of two men and four boys.

Your latest historical tidbit!
Vicki

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