Plot’s Natural History of Staffordshire – digital facsimile available

Interested in reading a copy of Plot’s Natural History of Staffordshire (1686)? There doesn’t appear to be a online PDF of this public domain work, but there’s a digital CD fascimile available for a reasonable £12, from Midlands Historical Data. It’s not just about birds and beasts and plants, it also has good deal on folklore and customs. Original copies of the book seem to fetch over £1,500 at auction.

“Star Stones [seen above] were much discussed by the Oxford academic Robert Plot. Plot dutifully, and rather disdainfully, related how the commonfolk thought Star Stones came to be on Earth: “…the Stones [are] some way related to the Celestial Bodies, [and] descend next to such as (by the vulgar at least) are thought to be sent to us from the inferior Heaven, to be generated in the Clouds, and discharged thence in the times of Thunder and violent Showers…”.

Those who have read The Spyders of Burslem, and remember the “aetherstorm” and its curious hail may recognise a similarity. Also a link with one of the themes in the novel.

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Family tree ebook now online

I’m pleased to say that an illustrated version of my family-tree book is now online. It might interest those working on family histories or novels set in the far reaches of South Staffordshire (specifically glass making in Kinver, Wordsley, Kingswinford, Oldswinford areas) during the 19th century, and also in north Birmingham (bicycle and motorcycle manufacturing in Hockley, Aston, Boldmere) during the late 19th and early 20th century. The online ebook omits about 20,000 words of microscopically detailed narrative family tree, and evidence footnotes. The basic tree is…

William Haydon? b. 1754?
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Richard Haden (b. 1797 – d. 1843)
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William Hamlet Haden (b. 1821 – d. 1866)
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George Joseph Haden (b. 1851 – d. 1903)
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Alfred Hamlet Haden (b. 1875 – d. 1940)
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Sidney Francis Haden (b. 1901 – d. early 1970s)

Shropshire jibes

A few of the lighthearted jibes that Staffordshire folk used to make of their neighbors living over in Shropshire…

“The idea of going to live in Shropshire! Why, the Shropshire man threw down corn to [en]tice the weather-cock off the [church] steeple!” (Wednesfield, about 1890.)

“The Shropshire people put a frog in a cage, and thought it was a canary.” (F.T., gunner R.H.A., Whitsuntide, 1896.)

“That’s a Shropshire present, giving away what you don’t want yourself.” (M.N., Norbury, 1888.)

From Folklore: a quarterly review (The Transactions of the Folk-Lore Society), Vol. XX, 1909.

Majid Esmaeili

Majid Esmaeili’s virtual 3D sculpt of a faun, that gets close to how I imagined the character of Maddock in my new novel The Spyders of Burslem. Although with smaller horns.

It’s a pity that Stoke-on-Trent could not have transitioned a tranche of the city’s talented ceramics model makers into virtual computer-based 3D sculpting and model-making, when we had the chance in the 2000s. We could have turned our city into a world-centre for virtual character and model creation/painting, building on centuries of tradition in the ceramics industry. Which, with new developments in 3D printing and bespoke vinyl toys, would by now have come full circle back to the creation of physical products. Sadly the public-sector farce that was ‘Worldgate’ seemed to make the city’s officials averse to production schemes that are ‘digital’ and ‘creative’ and that required significant public money. And the highly insular nature of the city seemed to create a blind-spot, about the potential of global sales of virtual goods over the Internet.