Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Two Engagements in Bath

It’s my pleasure to tell you that I'll be visiting the  Jane Austen Festival in Bath not once, but twice, this September. First, I'll be giving a talk on a  scandalous lady and all matters militia. Later in the Festival I'll be joined by the fabulous Adrian Lukis to discuss theatre, Austen and no doubt one or two other things as well. The salon is closing for summer, but I shall be back once autumn comes!

Mr Wickham and Mrs Clarke: 17th September 2018, 12:15 pm-1:15 pm
This talk will delve into the militia in Jane Austen’s era and lift the lid on the scandal of Mary Anne Clarke, the mistress of the Duke of York and a woman who sold commissions at mate’s rates to her favourite gentlemen. Mary Anne ruined a reputation  and left the royal family reeling. It’s a story that any budding Mr Wickhams would do well to learn from. 
Book tickets here.

In Conversation with Adrian Lukis: 21st September, 12.30pm-1.30pm
Join Adrian Lukis, perhaps better known as Pride and Prejudice’s dashing Mr Wickham, in conversation with author, Catherine Curzon. Familiar to viewers from Pemberley to Downton and beyond, Adrian will recall his experience filming the iconic BBC adaptation, as well his long and varied career on stage and screen.
Book tickets here.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Captain and the Cricketer

The Captain and the Cricketer, book 2 in the Captivating Captains series, is released today across the world; you can read an extract of this comedy of cricket and criminality below!

When an uptight countryside vet and a sexy TV star meet on the cricket pitch, they’re both knocked for six!

Henry Fitzwalter is a solid sort of chap. A respectable rural vet and no stranger to tweed, he is the lonely inhabitant of crumbling Longley Parva Manor.

Captain George Standish-Brookes is everyone’s favorite shirtless TV historian. Heroic, handsome and well-traveled, he is coming home to the village where he grew up.

Henry and George’s teenage friendship was shattered by the theft of a cup, the prize in a hard-fought, very British game of cricket. When they resolve their differences thanks to an abandoned foal, it’s only a matter of time before idyllic Longley Parva witnesses one of its wildest romances, between a most unlikely couple of fellows.

Yet with a golf-loving American billionaire and a money-hungry banker threatening this terribly traditional little corner of Sussex, there’s more than love at stake. A comedy of cricket, coupling and criminality, with a splash of scandal!

Buy the Book


What on earth are they feeding these babies?

Another ruddy-cheeked mother passed her enormous child to Henry. He balanced it on his hip, smiling politely as he jiggled it up and down.

“What a lovely boy!”

Puppies, kittens, foals, lambs, calves and piglets were more Henry Fitzwalter’s style, the daily business of a countryside vet. He was at ease around them. But not human babies—they were strange and alien beasts indeed. The infant reached out its pudgy hand and tugged Henry on the nose, yanked Henry’s neatly trimmed sideburn then grabbed a length of his hair and pulled.

Henry winced. “Certainly a strong ’un!”

“Daniel, you bad boy!” His mother at least had the grace to be contrite regarding her infant’s outrageous thuggery, and wrestled the unfeasibly large child from Longley Parva’s vet.

Nestled in the South Downs, Longley Parva had been the home of Henry’s family for generations. And today, on this sunny Sunday afternoon, Longley Parva was closed for a street party to raise funds for the roof of the village hall.

Daniel was swapped for another child, who came accompanied by the odor of milk. Henry bounced the baby and it cooed at him. It appeared to be a little girl, judging by how frilly its outfit was, and although it was almost entirely bald, it was wearing a sequined Alice band.

A car tooted, an engine revved. A nearby shout of, “The road’s closed for the party—what’s the bloody matter with people?”

Women’s Institute stalwart Mrs. Fortescue tutted. “Mind your language in front of the babies!”

Henry, ignoring the baby’s grip on his knitted tie, stared from his vantage point at the top of the village’s High Street toward the other end, where barriers and stalls were being shifted as a car approached.

A classic car in British racing green nosed its way toward him. He knew it, because it had been tootling around the village for Henry’s whole life and for decades before that too. Everyone in England knew it, because this was the soft-top Jaguar of Captain George Standish-Brookes. This was the soft-top Jaguar that had transported its driver and his popular histories straight into the nation’s hearts.

Henry clenched his jaw. That bloody man.

Cries of “It’s Captain George!” filled the street, the Longley Parvans nudging one another and grinning, some even waving as the car wound its way along the crowded road. The final of the Bonny Baby Competition was forgotten.

George drove into the center of the village like the returning hero he was, classic Wayfarers hiding his eyes, the car horn blaring merrily and a crowd following as though the Red Sea had just parted.

George—Henry’s childhood friend through thick and thin, until the day the Longley Parva Cup disappeared. George—the television historian with the knowing wink and dazzling smile. George, who sailed through life without a care in the world, waving now at the locals as he drove toward the podium with one hand on the steering wheel.

The handsome bastard.

Of course the road closure didn’t apply to George, even though the vicar on his bicycle had been turned away and told to come back on foot. Rules never applied to Captain George Standish-Brookes. Not at school, not in his Bohemian home, and now, not at the village fête.

George made his own rules.

Unable to raise a hand in polite though grudging welcome without dropping the baby, Henry gave George a terse nod.

“Fitz!” George turned off the ignition and the car, somehow, came to rest at just the right angle for a classic car shoot. He pushed open the door and hopped out onto the green, a vision of easy, casual confidence in cricket sweater and chinos, his dark hair tousled just so, the sun glinting from the face of his watch.

Who still wears a watch these days, anyway?

Captain George did, because then he could wear a regimental watch strap too.

“What a welcome.” George laughed, pushing the Wayfarers up into his hair. He looked around at the bunting and sausage rolls, the orange squash and bonny babies. “Have I crashed a party?”

Henry clenched his jaw. “I suppose those sunglasses prevented you from being able to read the sign at the top of the road, Captain George? ‘Street party—strictly no entrance’. You nearly mowed down half the village, you fool!”

He had forgotten that he was standing in front of a microphone. After a blast of feedback, his sarcastic reprimand echoed down the bustling street.

“Shut up, vet’n’ry!” someone shouted from the crowd.

“Yeah, you shut up! It’s Captain George!” someone else chimed in. Within moments, the street was full of jeers aimed at Henry. Even the baby joined in, yanking Henry’s tie so hard he nearly headbutted the microphone. George stepped up, his hands held in front of him in a call for calm. Naturally, he knew how to use a microphone, there was no wail of aggressive feedback to deafen him.

“Hello, Longley Parvans!” A chorus of greeting went up. “Sorry for nearly mowing you down—blame my enthusiasm to see this marvelous village once more. Some things, I notice”—he cast a long, comical look at Henry—“never change!”

Henry glared at the car and glared at George. “No, they don’t, do they?”

The baby started to grizzle, its face turning tomato red. Henry bounced it more energetically on his hip, just as a hiccupping noise started up in its throat. He looked over his shoulder, wondering where its mother had got to. A reporter from the local paper had slipped in between the locals and had clambered onto the podium. “Give us a smile, Captain George! Can we get a few words for The Bugle?”

“I’ve just been around the world for my Secret History of Magellan, which you can watch this Christmas on the Beeb!” He winked, a twinkle in his eye that made at least one of the girls from the riding school fan her face. “And I still haven’t found anywhere as beautiful as good old Longley Parva!”

Applause rippled through the crowd, along with enthusiastic nods. And—for heaven’s sake, was it really necessary?—a cheer began.

“Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray for Captain George!”

Mrs. Fortescue’s shoes banged loudly across the podium as she approached their returning hero. “Captain, could I possibly ask you to assist with the Bonny Baby Competition?”

“The divine Mrs. F.!” George kissed her on both cheeks. “It would be a pleasure!”

Henry knew better than to cross Mrs. Fortescue. She took the frilly child from his arms and deposited it in George’s embrace. Laughter echoed through the crowd, and the child’s mother now appeared, beaming up at George. Henry could do nothing more than stand there as George bounced the baby more and more, the hiccupping noise now a rumble.

The baby opened its little mouth and ejected a vast stream of curdled milk.

All over the shoulder of Henry’s tweed jacket.

“Brilliant!” The photographer tipped his head back, laughing. “What a great photo!”

“You can’t print that!” Henry stared in horror from the mess on his shoulder into the hungry lens of the camera. He dug in his pocket to retrieve a handkerchief and began to mop at the sour-smelling deposit. If it wasn’t enough that Longley Parva’s animal population voided their bodily fluids over him on a near-daily basis, now the human residents had joined in as well.

“You’re a poppet, aren’t you?” George bounced the now empty baby, who gurgled happily at him. Then the mother, who was even more thrilled by the celebrity in their midst, slipped her arm through George’s and grinned for the photographer.

“Would you mind just sort of utching up a bit?” The photographer gestured Henry to step to his right. “I need you out of frame, mate!”

Henry closed his lips in a tight line and nodded. “Of course. The local vet isn’t as exciting as a bona fide TV historian, after all.”

“And war hero,” the photographer reminded him saucily.

Henry manfully resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Still dabbing at his jacket, he walked past Mrs. Fortescue, only delivering a tight smile of acknowledgment, and hopped down from the podium. Henry was supposed to be judging the jam-making competition in fifteen minutes, but he wondered if he would be ousted from that gig too.

At least jam couldn’t vomit on your shoulder, though, there was that.

“God,” the stable girl told her equally flushed friend as Henry passed, “he’s even more gorgeous in the flesh than on the telly!”

Then she glanced at the sick-stained vet and touched her hair self-consciously. With a grimace, she murmured, “You missed some puke, Mr. Fitzwalter.”

Henry indicated over his shoulder with a jab of his thumb. “Will you tell Miss Watson on the jam stall that I’m going home? I can’t judge jam like this.” Once more, he pressed his lips into a thin, disapproving line. “But I’m certain that our resident celebrity will relish doing the honors.”

Somewhat proud of his pun, Henry went on his way. Longley Parva Manor was but a short walk from the main road and Henry would go home, sit in the bath with a whiskey and hope George left again soon.

“Fitz!” George’s voice again, full of laughter and carefree bonhomie, smooth and easy as hot chocolate, as one of his adoring Sunday newspaper critics once said. “I say, Fitz!”

Henry skidded to a halt on the gravel at the bottom of his driveway and turned to watch George approach. Behind him trailed a long line of smiling faces, the ladies who adored him and children who wanted to be him and men who wanted to buy him a pint. George the handsome, tan Pied Piper leading his faithful.

“What do you, of all people, want with me?”

“Mrs. F. tells me you’re on jam duty.” He slapped his hand down against Henry’s clean shoulder. “When I was stung by a ray, did I let it put me off finishing my secret shipwrecks filming? No. When I broke my wrist wielding a war hammer, did I give up my location work for Secrets of the Vikings? I did not! Come on, Fitz, are you going to let a bit of baby sick defeat you?”

“Defeat me? I smell of vomit, Captain bloody George. I can’t taste the jam with the tang of baby sick in my nostrils!”

“It’s a jacket, Fitz.” George laughed, a long, loud bray. “Take it off, man!”

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Sunderland Tall Ships Georgian Festival

I'm delighted to be visiting the Sunderland Tall Ships Festival for the first ever Georgian Festival not once, but twice this year. You can catch me on 11th July for tales of George IV's love life (at 3pm) and Peter the Wild Boy (at 5.30pm)!

The Festival runs from 10th to 14th July and as well as the breathtaking tall ship races, visitors can enjoy some traditional Georgian entertainment, try some authentic 18th century food and experience four days of fun!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Hucknall Byron Festival

The Hucknall Byron Festival
Friday 6 - Sunday 15 July 2018

Every year the International Byron Festival takes place in Hucknall and Newstead Abbey to celebrate the life of poet Lord Byron.

This ever-popular annual festival features a variety of activities to suit all ages and interests in and around Hucknall. You can find out more here, or by clicking on the event leaflet!

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Vauxhall Attractions

It's a pleasure to welcome Nicole Clarkston, who is our guide to a jaunt around Vauxhall Gardens!


I cannot think of a more fitting way to close out the London Holiday blog tour than by visiting Madame Gilflurt to chat about the attractions available to the Regency reveler at Vauxhall Gardens. Although my lovely hostess has likely forgotten more about London History than I will ever learn, I shall endeavour to bring you some of the most exciting tidbits turned up by my research.
An evening at Vauxhall really got underway at about seven o’clock. However, advertisements from the era indicate that the gates were open well before that for those who wanted to claim early seats, or just to enjoy the scenery. By the early nineteenth century, visitors could now arrive by road via the Westminster Bridge and the Kennington Lane entrance, but those desiring the full experience (and willing to pay for it) would charter a boat to take them across the river. The Vauxhall Bridge, which provided the most direct access to the Gardens, was not opened until 1816.

The first thing that Darcy and Elizabeth would have experienced, stepping off the boat, would have been the Vauxhall Stairs leading up from the river. At the top, they would have seen rows of houses nearest the river, and then a lane leading them to the grand entrance, guarded by a colonnade. 

Beyond the entrance, visitors would have taken one of the covered walks around the main Grove, which housed the Orchestra building. The Orchestra itself, as well as the surrounding trees, would have been decorated with colourful glass lanterns which lit up the evening. Paintings and sketches of this structure abound, indicating what a popular image this was in the public consciousness of the day. The Orchestra was tiered and octagonal in shape, permitting as many people as possible to gather around to see and hear the musicians and singers within.

With the Orchestra on their right, visitors would have also seen the Rotunda Theatre immediately to their left. This was a grand music room where visitors could enjoy indoor performances or dances. Just beyond this, still on the visitors’ left, would have been one of the clusters of supper boxes. The other cluster was on the opposite side of the Grove. 

The design of the supper boxes was perfectly ingenious. They were dished in shape, providing more space for more boxes, yet also creating a courtyard of sorts where visitors could gather and look toward the Orchestra’s entertainment. Here, too, we get a little glimpse of the character of the man behind the design, Jonathan Tyers.
If you were thinking that Vauxhall was a success simply because it was an exciting gathering place you would only be partly correct. There was depth to it, too, and the atmosphere was carefully crafted to lend its visitors a sense they could experience nowhere else. Tyers believed that people from all classes could gather in an egalitarian, genteel manner, regardless of their background. He wished for his guests to behave in a moral way, but, as you can imagine, crowds not accustomed to his ideas might not have cherished them at first. So, it was with his décor that Tyers attempted to sway the masses. 

One example of this balance he struck was the statues at the opposite supper boxes. One side hosted an homage to Comus, the Greek god of revelry, debauchery, and chaos. On the other side could be seen a statue of Handel, whose musical career was inextricably bound to Vauxhall Gardens. Much as we moderns could see a picture of Audrey Hepburn in a restaurant and understand the intrinsic reference to screen idol’s vintage grace and class, Vauxhall’s visitors would have associated Handel’s pastoral statue with restraint, morals, and civility. 

Another example of Tyers’ efforts to “civilise” his visitors was the row of arches along the Italian Walk, which culminated in a classic painting of the ancient ruins at Palmyra. They were so well done, apparently, that guests would claim they looked realistic. Vauxhall, in its best years, was known as a place where true family friendly entertainment could be found, apart from the crueler sports and rougher entertainments offered elsewhere in London. This was a terrific draw for women, who often swayed their men to choose Vauxhall over another locale. 

Of course, the venue also offered pure, lighthearted revelry. Aside from the music, dancing, balloons, and fireworks (which would have been sufficient to draw the crowds), Vauxhall offered acrobats, tight-rope walkers, equestrian stunts, and a “Hermit” who supposedly told fortunes. These kept guests from growing bored (read: unruly) between their meal and the next song, and they proved stiff competition for other venues, such as Astley’s Amphitheatre.
The sights were also unique to Vauxhall; unique Rococo architecture, cleverly situated art, and even a taste of the Orient in some places lent Vauxhall an air all its own. Visitors could wander round to the fountains, relax in the supper boxes, dance, drink themselves silly, and check up on the latest fashions in music and attire. Indeed, some garments were designed specifically so they would look dazzling under the nocturnal lanterns at Vauxhall’s Grove.
 On popular feature that is somewhat baffling to the modern researcher was the Cascades, a man-made waterfall of sorts that was kept behind curtains during the daylight hours. No known images of this contraption exist, but we have written descriptions:

Erasmus Darwin wrote in 1756: 
“The artificial Water-fall at Vaux Hall I apprehend is done by pieces of Tin, loosely fix’d on the Circumferences of two Wheels. It was the Motion not being perform’d at Bottom in a parabolic Curve that first made me discover it’s not being natural.”

The Microcosm of London (1808-10) described the Cascade:
 “At the end of the first act of the grand concert, which is usually about ten o’clock, a bell is rung by way of signal for the exhibition of a beautifully illuminated scene, called the cascade. A dark curtain is then drawn up, which discloses a very natural view of a bridge, a water-mill, and a cascade; a noise similar to the roaring of water is also well imitated; while coaches, waggons, soldiers and other figures, are exhibited crossing the bridge with the greatest regularity. This agreeable piece of scenery continues about ten minutes.’

The Cascades were decorated by artwork and artificial scenery to make them look more realistic. At the time of Elizabeth and Darcy’s visit in 1811, they would have been designed to look like a mill race. This was, arguably, the most popular attraction at Vauxhall for many years, simply because of its aura of mystique and the fact that there was nothing else like it anywhere.
As magnificent as all these attractions were, they were not the primary reason that some of Vauxhall’s guests kept coming back. Bordering the Gardens were the infamous Dark Walks, which were, by Darcy and Elizabeth’s time, lit, but apparently not well. The abundance of nature provided plenty of privacy for those wishing to explore a different sort of delight altogether, and Vauxhall became as well known for its prostitutes as for its fireworks.
Even “respectable” folk could be lured to ruin in the far reaches of the Gardens. Thomas Brown, writing in a most tongue-in-cheek manner in 1760, records: 
“The ladies that have an inclination to be private, take delight in the close walks of Spring-Gardens, where both sexes meet, and mutually serve one another as guides to lose their way; and the windings and turnings in the little wildernesses are so intricate, that the most experienced mothers have often lost themselves in looking for their daughters.”

The egalitarian atmosphere permitted venturesome guests to meet people they could never meet anywhere else. The proper rules of introductions were somewhat ignored, and a nobleman could speak to a tradesman without censure. The relaxing of social mores in regards to class and gender meant that a young lady could easily make the acquaintance of a gent her parents might not approve of. Additionally, the crowds, the dark serpentine walks, and the abundance of noise and distractions, meant that almost anything could happen. And it did.
Regardless of whatever shady doings might be going on in the dark, Vauxhall remained a popular destination for tourists and families, the extravagant and the simple, for over two hundred years. It was so much more even than I have room to describe here. It truly was a unique place, and one that can never be recreated, for even if we rebuilt Vauxhall to its original glory, the culture and times would lose something in the translation. The best we can do is to lose ourselves in a fictional account, and hope it is close.

Although it is certainly not an exhaustive list, feel free to browse my Pinterest Board for further reading about this remarkable place: 


Knowles, Rachel. “The Cascade at Vauxhall Gardens.” Regency History, 13 Oct. 2015,
“Vauxhall Gardens.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 June 2018,
“Vauxhall Bridge.” Vauxhall History, 24 Feb. 2016,
Grant, Tony. “A Visit to Vauxhall Gardens by Tony Grant.” Jane Austen's World, 18 Feb. 2012,
Kristen Koster. “A Regency Primer on Vauxhall Gardens.” Kristen Koster, 25 Apr. 2017,
“Vauxhall Gardens.” Vauxhall Gardens,

About the Book

When the truth is harder to believe than disguise.

Drugged and betrayed in his own household, Fitzwilliam Darcy makes his escape from a forged compromise that would see him unhappily wed. Dressed as a footman, he is welcomed into one of London’s unknown neighbourhoods by a young lady who is running out of time and running for her life.
Deciding to hide in plain sight, Miss Elizabeth Bennet dodges the expectation to marry the man of her mother’s dreams. When the insolent footman she “found” refuses to leave her side until they can uncover a solution to their respective dilemmas, the two new acquaintances treat themselves to a holiday, experiencing the best of what Regency England has to offer.
Based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudicecan two hard-headed characters with kind hearts discover the truth behind the disguise? Enjoy the banter, humour, and growing affection as Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth have the best day of their lives, and discover that they just might find love and romance while on a London Holiday. This book is appropriate for all ages.

About the Author 

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write four other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
Nicole contributes to, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at @N_Clarkston, her blog, or her personal blog and website,

 Contact Info

Buy Links eBook  

Buy Links for Nicole’s other books

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Unfortunate Wretches

It's a pleasure to welcome Naomi Clifford, whose latest book, Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches, looks at the stories of women who were executed in England and Wales. 

Eliza Fenning in the condemned cell at Newgate. On 26 July 1815 she went to her death on the gallows outside Newgate in front of a near-silent crowd, and wore white to symbolise her innocence. (Portrait after George Cruikshank.)

What inspired you to choose executed women to write about?
It started when I became interested in Eliza Fenning, a kitchen maid who was executed in London in 1815 for attempting to poison her employer and his family – and who was most probably innocent. She was hanged at a time of great civil unrest and disruption, probably as a warning to the servant class not to challenge the social order. The circumstantial evidence against her was poor and the judge was warned there were serious doubts about her guilt, but he subjected her to a highly biased trial full of irregularities. Generally I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘down and dirty’ end of Georgian history and found that not much had been published recently specifically about the capital punishment of women.

What made women different to men who were executed in the same period? 
Because women were less criminal than men fewer of them were executed. Overall, the ratio of capital crimes committed was about 1 woman to every 10 men, and it was the same radio for executions. The majority felons were respited. That is, they were not executed but punished in other ways, most of them were transported and a few were imprisoned. In England and Wales in the 41-year period I cover, 131 women were executed, 91 of them for murder or attempted murder, a third of whom were infanticides; 23 women were hanged for deception (forging documents, counterfeiting currency or passing off fake bank notes), ten for stealing, five for arson and two for sheep killing or rustling. A handful were convicted of rare crimes, for women anyway, such as highway robbery. 

The crimes themselves were gendered. Men were hanged more often than women for manufacturing counterfeit notes because they had been trained in the skills required to produce them whereas women were more often charged with uttering (passing off forged banknotes in shops and so on) because they were household consumers and therefore more likely to be exchanging paper money in shops and markets. In crimes such as the murder of a spouse there was a definite bias against women. In fact, until 1828 women guilty of petty treason (essentially, the murder of a husband or employer) were subject to special punishment – they were dragged on a hurdle behind a horse to the place of execution. It almost goes without saying that there was no equivalent punishment for men who killed their wives.

In infanticide cases, courts were often very reluctant to convict women. In the transcripts and reports there is evidence that judges asked medical witnesses questions that might lead a jury to acquit or convict on a lesser crime. Even so, there were awful cases, such as Mary Morgan, a teenager who had killed her newborn baby after a secret pregnancy, and was hanged as a lesson to other young women.  

Prisoners under sentence of death were obliged to attend a Condemned Sermon during which they sat in a special box around an empty coffin. Thomas Rowlandson’s print shows the chapel at Newgate. (From The Microcosm of London, 1809.)

While we’re on the subject of dates, why did you choose to cover the period 1797 to 1837?
I chose 1797 because that was the year of the Bank Restriction Act. That sounds like something quite dull but it was immensely important because it led to so many deaths on the gallows, both men and women. The Act allowed banks to issue low denomination notes for the first time. Before that, they were obliged to ‘pay the bearer’ of a banknote the appropriate value in gold, that is, in gold and silver coins. But in 1795, when gold bullion stocks at the Bank of England were running low, Prime Minister William Pitt persuaded George III to announce the temporary suspension of these payments with immediate effect. The Bank was now allowed to issue one and two pound notes. The notes were ludicrously easy to copy and for many that temptation was too great to resist. When counterfeiting skyrocketed the Bank became ruthlessly determined in its pursuit of forgers and utterers, and this led to a huge increase in execution.

I chose 1837 because it was the beginning of Victoria’s reign, a new era, and it allowed me to cover the end of the so-called Bloody Code, when the death penalty was removed from numerous crimes, most of them involving property.

Were you emotionally affected by the stories of the women?
I tried not to be! However, there are many that were extremely sad and awful. Sometimes I was moved to tears while writing. The infanticide stories were very difficult, both in terms of the terrible loss of the babies and of the awful fate of the mothers, many of whom were very young, destitute or otherwise desperate and some of whom were clearly suffering some form of post-natal mental illness. 

Despite the efforts of the authorities to instill order and solemnity at executions they were often rowdy events. Over 30 people were crushed to death at the execution of Elizabeth Godfrey, shown on the right hand side of the gallows, and two men. (Print reproduced in The Graphic, 5 March 1910.)
What are you working on next? What should we look forward to?
My third book, The Murder of Mary Ashford was published by Pen & Sword on 30 May. Mary, who lived in a village near Birmingham, was raped and killed in 1817 on her way home after a party. The research was fascinating to do and I made a breakthrough in what was previously an officially unsolved case. After that, I have something from a completely different era up my sleeve…

About the Author

Naomi Clifford’s Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches tells the stories of the 131 women who ended life on the gallows in England and Wales. Her first book, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn: A True Life Regency Mystery, looks at the rollercoaster fortunes of a teenager who was removed from her home to be forcibly married. Her latest, The Murder of Mary Ashford, in which she solves a notorious 200-year-old murder, was published last month. She blogs at and tweets as @naomiclifford.

Women and the Gallows

The Disappearance of Maria Glenn

The Murder of Mary Ashford