The history of penmaking around Britain

Colin Waters explores Britain’s penmaking industry, particularly associate with Birmingham. Vast fortunes were once made from manufacturing the humble pen nib. For example, Josiah Mason and Joseph Gilliot, from Sheffield, came from poor uneducated backgrounds but went on to make their fortunes in the trade. Mason used his fortune for philanthropic purposes, including founding Birmingham … Read more

King’s 300-year-old bedspread to go on show

A rare surviving 300 year old bedspread given by James II to some of his loyal supporters, is being conserved by the National Trust and has been put back on display for the first time in a generation at Sizergh Castle in Cumbria. The magnificent satin bedspread, believed to be from Goa, features mythical creatures … Read more

Dark tourism, darker history: exploring museums of crime

If you want to know more about your criminal ancestors, there are an increasing number of museums catering to your needs, as Nell Darby explores. Dark tourism is the act of travelling to sites that are associated with death, tragedy or crime. As such, dark tourism has been increasingly analysed by academics, drawing parallels between … Read more

The Liverpool to Manchester Railway

By Nell Darby. It was on 15 September 1830 that the first locomotive-hauled railway to connect two cities opened. The Prime Minister, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, rode on the first of eight inaugural trains from Liverpool, travelling 35 miles to Manchester. The Duke’s train ran on one track, while the seven others made the … Read more

A visit to Liverpool’s past

Liverpool’s fortunes have been shaped by its port and associated industries – and, as Nicola Lisle explores, your ancestors could have been involved. Originally known as Liuerpul, meaning ‘muddy creek’ or ‘pool’, Liverpool was once little more than a small agricultural settlement within the historic county of Lancashire, clustered on the banks of the River … Read more

The Battle of Preston, 1715

The last battle on English soil saw a Jacobite uprising fall apart, as Kev Lochun explains. November 2015 marked the 300th anniversary of what is widely held to be the last battle on English soil – the showdown between Jacobite rebels and an army loyal to George I at Preston in 1715. It was both … Read more

A visit to the People’s History Museum

This museum focuses on the lives of the ordinary – yet extraordinary – people who fought for democracy, writes Nell Darby. The People’s History Museum is one of our all-time favourite museums. It focuses on the lives of ordinary people in the past, looking at their political involvement and how they marched or fought for … Read more

Windermere Jetty Museum opens

The Lake District’s new Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories opened its doors on 23 March following a £20 million development by Lakeland Arts. Principally funded by the National Lottery, and located within the Lake District National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the museum will display the internationally important collection of boats … Read more

Launch of Peterloo anniversary website

A new website,, has been launched today (18 March) that will interactively explore the events and legacy of the Peterloo Massacre 200 years after this watershed moment in Britain’s democracy.  Using detailed 3D imagery the user is placed in St Peter’s Field so that they can see how events unfolded when 60,000 people gathered … Read more