Monday, 31 October 2011


I wrote a little history of Littlehampton in Sussex. Like most seaside resorts it only really grew in the 19th century  once it became fashionable for the well off to spend time at the seaside. I do remember going there as a child and it is still flourishing.  

Friday, 28 October 2011

Greek Myths

I wrote a dictionary of Greek mythology. Its a fascinating subject full of bizarre stories. I remember many of them from school.  

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Sydney was named after Thomas Townshend - Lord Sydney (1733-1800). He became British Secretary of State in 1783 and recommended the British establish a colony in Australia.   

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Sugar cane first grew in Polynesia. It spread to India then to Persia. The Arabs grew sugar cane and at the end of the 11th century the Crusaders brought sugar to Europe. (Although in the Middle Ages sugar was a rare luxury and honey was far more commonly used to sweeten food). At the end of the 15th century sugar cane was taken to the New World. Sugar was first made from sugar beet in the 18th century. A German chemist called Andreas Marggraf was the first person to make sugar from beet in 1747. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sydney Opera House

On 21 October 1973 Queen Elizabeth officially opened Sydney Opera House. The opera house is, of course an icon of Sydney and indeed of Australia.  

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Saxon and Vikings wore simple leather boots and shoes but in the 12th century rich people began to wear shoes with long pointed toes. (However only the upper class wore them. Ordinary people had shoes with round toes). However at the end of the 15th century long toes went out of fashion and the wealthy began to wear shoes with square or round toes.

In the Middle Ages peasants wore wooden clogs for working in muddy conditions. In the towns people wore wooden platforms called pattens under their shoes. (They had straps to hold them on). Some pattens were several inches thick.
In the Middle Ages shoe makers were called cordwainers. The word is derived from cordovan the name for leather from Cordova in Spain.

In the 16th century some people had deliberate cuts in their shoes called slashes. Sometimes they were slip on shoes but sometimes they were tied with latches. Early Tudor shoes did not have heel. However at the end of the 16th century women began to wear shoes with heels. 

Friday, 7 October 2011


At first chocolate was a drink. However by 1674 people in England were eating chocolate lozenges. The first chocolate factory in America opened in 1765. In 1795 steam engines were used to grind cocoa beans for the first time. That made the mass production of chocolate possible. The first chocolate bars were made in 1847 but milk chocolate was not invented until 1875. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Cleaning Carpets

In the 19th century housework became easier although it was still hard work. Carpets were mass-produced in Britain from the mid-19th century and they became much cheaper. However cleaning carpets was no easy task in the 19th century. You had to hang up the carpet and beat it with a carpet beater (a handle and large flat paddle, usually made of cane). The carpet sweeper was invented in 1876. Which made it far easier to clean rugs and carpets. Also to clean carpets people sprinkled them with dry tea leaves then brushed them up.

Meanwhile in 1860 Fredrick Walton invented linoleum, which was a cheap and easy to clean floor covering. People cleaned their houses with salt and vinegar. Meanwhile in 1876 Susan Hibbard patented the feather duster. Then in 1893 Thomas Stewart invented a mop with a replaceable head that clamped onto the handle. That made it easier to have a clean mop.  

Monday, 3 October 2011

19th century poverty

At the end of the 19th century more than 25% of the population was living at or below subsistence level. Surveys indicated that around 10% were very poor and could not afford even basic necessities such as enough nourishing food. Between 15% and 20% had just enough money to live on (provided they did not lose their job or have to take time off work through illness).

If you had no income at all you had to enter the workhouse. The workhouses were feared and hated by the poor. They were meant to be as unpleasant as possible to deter poor people from asking the state for help. In workhouses you could not wear your own clothes. You had to wear a uniform. Husbands and wives were separated and children were separated from their parents. Inmates had to do hard, unpleasant work such as breaking stones or pulling apart old rope. There were also many strict rules. However in the late 19th century workhouses gradually became a little bit more humane. See  

Sunday, 2 October 2011

King John

I wrote a little biography of King John at He was not a successful king although he did found Liverpool. John also founded a dockyard at Portsmouth although it proved to be only a temporary one. Incidentally John did not sign the Magna Carta, he sealed it.