Writer, history researcher, biographer

March 2019

Happy 250th anniversary Elizabeth!

On April 4th 2019 it will be 250 years since Elizabeth first advertised her cookbook which contained her innovative recipe for Bride cake, a speciality she had made popular since arriving in Manchester in 1763. Yes, ladies, we have a huge debt to Elizabeth for saving us from the custom of having a pie broken over the bride's head while dressed in our fabulous gowns! Elizabeth popularised the notion of a rich fruit cake, decorated with two types of icing, almond and royal icing. I find it hard to believe Elizabeth is not more celebrates for this innovation alone. It was a small step but a significant one for progress.

In order to commemorate this important anniversary I am excited to report that several key supporters of Elizabeth Raffald have come together to create a fantastic celebration. First came the cake designer, Suzanne Thorp, of the Frostery, Oldham. She is a regular participant in a Channel 4 TV program, Extreme Cake Makers, and she felt it was an opportunity to create a cake to honour Elizabeth and her achievements. (Elizabeth didn't just do cookery, she doesn't d so much more. See here for the full story.) Suzanne contacted me, as founder of the Elizabeth Raffald society and researcher, and asked if we could do something special. I then contacted Sarah Flannery, organiser of a program of events and workshops in 2018 culminating in a play about two famous Cheshire women from different centuries. The play was performed on a train between Chester and Manchester, and I took part as Elizabeth Raffald, handing out another of her recipes, Eccles cakes, to bemused Manchester commuters. I had great fun but would never have expected to have difficulty giving away free cakes to doubtful Mancunians! For 2019 Sarah has another ambitious program of events  and workshops featuring solely Elizabeth Raffald, starting with our event to unveil Suzanne's cake design. To put the icing on the cake, so to speak, the event will be hosted at Arley Hall, where Elizabeth learnt her skills. Steve Hamilton, estate manager, was enthusiastic about our project and promised whatever help he could give us. The upshot of all this collaboration should be a brilliant event on April 18th where I can reprise my role as Elizabeth, in full 18th century dress,(an actual reconstruction of the dress she wears in her picture), and receive the cake from Suzanne. It will be a complete surprise to me, the design is all Suzanne's creation, and Channel 4 will be there to film the event with a group of invited dignitaries and interested parties. I can't wait! It is so exciting for me to reach more people with Elizabeth's fame and hopefully impressing them with details of this fabulous 18th century domestic goddess. (Although I suspect the lady herself would have had no truck with the fancy title! She was very much a woman who rolled up her sleeves and got to work.)

More details, and pictures, after the 18th April.

2019 UPDATE

This is turning into an annual event! I am still slogging away at the book of fiction on Elizabeth Raffald, it's taking a lot longer than I anticipated. Reading all the articles in the newspaper of the time is too fascinating.  I'm up to late 1775 so slowly, slowly the first draft is taking shape. The newspapers of the time are full of the American rebellion  from the British perspective and it is interesting to see the differing perspective. I'm just up to the part where George Washington has accepted the position of Generalissimo of the Provincials. He sounds a very measured and calm person.

He promises 'every Exertion will be extended to the re-establishment of Peace and Harmony between the Mother country and the Colonies', and that ‘when we assumed the Soldier we did not lay aside the Citizen’,  adding his determination to achieve ‘American Liberty on the most firm and solid foundations, and enable them to return to their private stations in the Bosom of a free, peaceful and happy country’.

Fascinating.


2018 update

April 5, 2018
Wow! How quickly time goes. For the last year at least I've had my nose stuck in 18th century newspapers, reading tiny, densely packed print. Even enlarged  on a screen it was difficult to read. I've been researching the background of Manchester events in the 17760s and 1770s for my novel of Elizabeth Raffald's life, An Unknown Woman. The newspaper of the period, The Manchester Mercury, carries all the minutiae of the time; what the population was interested in, the countries we had disputes with and the scandals of the nobility. It was the time of inventions for cotton processing, the American War of Independence, and adverts for all kinds of quack remedies, carrying endorsements from many unknown but illustrious persons. It also carried notices for works of civic improvements such as this one.




There are so many interesting little snippets that I am making very slow progress with my book, getting sidetracked into reading the news as avidly as if it was current today.

Here's an example of some local news included in Elizabeth's narrative.
There was such a wailing and a screaming Saturday last when one of the women sentenced for whipping at the Market Cross was shouting her innocence all afternoon. She was with two men who took their punishment manfully, as they should, no doubt grateful that they were not subject to transportation as was Robert Shepherd of Rochdale and James Hilton both for Seven Years each for stealing Goods, one out of the shop of Mr Jeremiah Kay and the other from Mr Henry Grundy. On the stocks were William Lord for being found in the Shop of Mr. Hall on Long Miln-gate, with false keys and picklocks; Robert Wolfenden for stealing a Silver Cup, the Property of Mr. Pilling of Bury, and Mary Thorp for stealing Handkerchiefs out of the Shop of Messrs. Phillips and Greenway. Oh, she screamed so loud, I nearly dropped the cake I was getting out of the oven. Thank goodness they are not all like her or I would be forced to move from my shop and I do not yet want to do that. I am certain I can squeeze more money from it before I see what my next venture may be to make more money than I do now.

Of course this is just the first draft, I'm sure the format will change by the finished product. Back to reading the newspaper now. More soon, I hope.
 

2016 update

May 24, 2016
Things are moving on. I am still giving talks on Elizabeth Raffald, bringing her name to the notice of as many people as I can. This week I have delivered copies of my short booklet about her to several retail outlets. First Arley Hall have a stock of both the booklet and the cookbook on sale in their gift shop, just as they reopen their catering section, renamed as The Gardener's Kitchen with a menu to honour the memory of Elizabeth and John.
And now Stockport has the booklet on sale in two l...
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What a busy July!

October 13, 2015

Well, it's been quite a while since I updated this blog, it's not that there's been nothing happening, quite the opposite.

After my talk for the Heatons Arts Trail I was asked to provide details of Elizabeth for a display in the Heritage Library and in July I went with my good friend Olga who was loaning them some of her books for their display, to meet with Sophie who was arranging it. In August I got a call from Olga to say the display was up so there with Connie we arranged to go and view...


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More June 2015

June 28, 2015

What a busy month June has been! I've had lots going on with my WI and the last weekend saw me giving a talk about Elizabeth Raffald at my local library as part of The Heatons Arts Trail. It was great to have the chance to spread her fame around Stockport, an important location in her story. Not only is it where her body still lies, or where her husband's family came from, it's also the home of her direct descendant and of a lady whose husband gathered a treasure trove of knowledge about her....


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I'm in the library!

June 17, 2015
He he he! I've just found out that my book is in Manchester Central Library! Along with all the illustrious authors my little booklet about Elizabeth Raffald is in the library! And not just one copy, but 4! Woo hoo! Okay, I'll stop with the exclamation marks but I just can't tell you how tickled I am that I have made it into the catalogue of books at Manchester. I grew up in Manchester and have used the library extensively for so many years, and the pleasure I get from thinking that I could n...
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#ElizabethRaffald for the Womanchester statue

June 5, 2015

Well things are getting exciting in the hunt for the forgotten Elizabeth.

First, thanks to my mum telling me about a campaign being run in the Manchester Evening News, I managed to get her accepted as a nominee for Manchester's first female statue since Queen Victoria. I put her name forward among the likes of Elizabeth Gaskell, the Pankhursts, Marie Stopes and many other tremendous women who have created progress in Manchester. Once the long list of 20 names was compiled there was a launch ...


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Spreading Elizabeth's fame

March 8, 2015
Well, I'm pleased to say that I've told a few more people about Elizabeth and this time it was to a group who had come to hear a talk about women of Manchester. I had gone because it had promised to include Elizabeth in the list but when I heard some incorrect information being given it was torture not to interrupt the speaker. I decided it was such a small part of her talk that I would tell her after the talk.However, fate intervened and when the speaker's powerpoint refused to continue I as...
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Progress!

February 13, 2015
Yay! I finally produced a first instalment to the Elizabeth Raffald story. A booklet of the talk that I give is now available on Amazon! It is still only the barest outline of this incredible character but it is a start. There is so much research needed to do her story justice that I think it will take me some time. In the meantime I'm still working on my other stories, the Caribbean farce, a sci fi adventure and I haven't forgotten my mystery story, it's just got pushed to the bottom of the ...
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Distractions

December 16, 2014
Poor Elizabeth Raffald has been temporarily pushed aside as a new interest took my attention. Not forgotten but saved for a time when I can do more background research into the kitchens and lifestyle of Manchester in the latter 18th century. I have started her story and I have a fully formed talk about her which I will be taking to local groups. I am not rushing this project, I want to do her justice.

Another NaNoWriMo rolled around and I needed some inspiration for a novel to fabricate under ...
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My first talk

October 7, 2014
Elizabeth Raffald - The Experienced English Housekeeper Of Manchester

The adventures with Elizabeth continue! I have given my first talk about her, although, typically I tripped myself up before it started. I had got on the tram to Manchester, where I was giving the talk, and it was only after I had got off at Central Library and walked a block or two that I remembered I had set out that morning with a carrier bag containing my folder of handouts and visual aids. Calamity! panic! What a start...
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Elizabeth Raffald

September 8, 2014
This subject just keeps getting bigger and bigger!

I think I've finalised my talk about Elizabeth, there was so much to go through it was hard to decide what to include and what to leave out. I'm so grateful to my focus groups who gave me great feedback to knock it into shape. I'm certainly looking forward to writing the novel about her, I think she makes a fantastic subject. What a character. Dignified, ladylike with high bearing but determined, remarkable and enterprising. I wonder how she w...
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A New Direction

August 2, 2014
Unusual as it is to be torn away from writing about the Caribbean, I have been totally gripped by the story of a woman who lived in Manchester over 200 years ago. A series of synchronicities has led me along a trail to find out more about a woman who was a powerhouse of ingenuity and hard work. She was an entrepreneur with style at a time when women had no legal rights, so despite being in business all her married life, when she died they had so much debt that her name isn't even engraved on ...
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Time flies when you're busy

July 21, 2014
I can't believe how fast this year is running away, I suppose it's a sign of age but I haven't been letting the grass grow, far from it. I am currently editing a whodunnit that I wrote last year, writing a Caribbean set farce inspired by friends I visited early this year,and researching a real character from Manchester's history who deserves to have her name in lights. I'm not sure I can do that but I'll give it a good shot and I'm planning on branching out to give talks about her to groups i...
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Chaos unleashed

April 13, 2014

Well, the book of Call Centre Chaos has finally been unleashed on Amazon as an ebook! Yes, I finally finished the editing and formatting and the book is now available to buy and download, still for less than the price of a coffee. Get it here.


 Matt can finally spring into action and everyone can now read his adventures with Mina, the would-be girlfriend, and the troublesome Krystal, who manages to get them all into a terrible mess. No-one expects the Vikings to come to their rescue but with h...


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New book coming soon!

March 23, 2014

OMG! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I updated my website! I’ve been so busy working on my next couple of novels that I’ve just gone to ground. One book is due out imminently, in fact, I should be working on that rather than this but ‘that’ means editing, and ‘this’ is a chat with a friend so it’s no contest really, is it?

So, have you missed me? It seems like ages since I put anything out but I suppose that’s ‘cos I’ve been working on two novels at once. And...


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