Sunday, 24 June 2012

Hoydens News and Updates

It's proving to be a big year for the girls at Hoydens and Firebrands and we are very excited to share our news with our readers.

Mary Sharratt reports

My news is that I'll be speaking at Capturing Witches, an interdisciplinary academic conference commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials, at Lancaster University, August 17-19. There will be distinguished speakers from all over the world addressing topics as diverse as historical witchcraft, gothic fiction, Neopagan practice, and the horrifying persecution of so called "child witches" in modern day Nigeria.

My forthcoming book ILLUMINATIONS: A NOVEL OF HILDEGARD VON BINGENwill be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 9 and will explore the life of the 12th century visionary abbess, composer, polymath, and powerfrau. 

On October 7, Saint Hildegard will be elevated to Doctor of the Church. Currently there are only thirty-three Doctors of the Church and only three are women. This is a solemn title given to theologians who have made a significant impact. 
My book tour will also be launched on October 9 at Common Good Books in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

From Sandra Gulland:

My own news is in the "soon to come" category!

I am releasing e-book editions of all my novels in all territories outside North America (where they are already published). This will be under my own imprint—Sandra Gulland Ink—so I'm quite excited about it. For information see

Also, my next novel, a second one set in the Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, is in final draft, and will be published in May of next year.

And, I've contracted with Penguin to write two Young Adult novels, at least one of which will be the story of Hortense, Josephine Bonaparte's daughter. 

Our newest Hoyden Dee Swift writes:

My next book The Gilded Lily, set in Restoration London in the little ice age finally has its covers.Two very different views of the same book, but both reflect it very well I think. It tells the story of two sisters - one pretty and one plain, on the run and looking to re-invent themselves and find their fortune in fashionable society. How will they fare? And when one begins to rise and the other to fall, and their relationship crumbles,will they help each other when danger strikes?

It's publication date is 13th September (UK) and 26th November (US)

Meanwhile, I've  Just finished my third novel, working title "A Divided Inheritance", which is set in England and Spain and will be published by Macmillan in 2013.

Alison Stuart reports:

My next book, GATHER THE BONES comes out in September 2012 from Lyrical Press.  Sadly, it is not a seventeenth century story. I am traversing Downton Abbey territory (if you can imagine Downton Abbey with ghosts).

Set in 1923 against a background of the Great War, grieving war widow, Helen Morrow and her husband’s cousin, the wounded and reclusive Paul are haunted not only by the horrors of the Great War but ghosts from another time and another conflict. A coded diary provides the clues to the mysterious disappearance of Paul’s great grandmother in 1812. As the desperate voice of the young woman reaches out to them from the pages, Paul and Helen are bound together in their search for answers, not only to the old mystery but also the circumstances surrounding the death of Helen’s husband at Passchandaele in  1917. As the two stories become entwined, Paul and Helen will not find peace until the mysteries are solved.

And in late breaking news:  Alison has sold a "time slip" novella (with its feet in the seventeenth century) to Lyrical Press.


Coming in early 2013 from Pen and Sword Press, ROYALIST REBEL, a Novel Based on the early life of Elizabeth Murray, Lady Tollemache, Countess Dysart, Duchess of Lauderdale.

Last but by no means least KIM MURPHY:

Kim reports that she has been working hard on her non fiction foray into the American Civil War.  In the meantime her book  THE DREAMING: WALKS THROUGH MIST received an Honorary Mention in ForeWord magazine's Book of the Year Awards. Congratulations, Kim!

That's it from the Hoydens for out for all these exciting new releases in the next 6 months!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Portrait of a 17th century English Village House

Following on from Sandra's post about domestic interiors in Holland, I am lucky enough to live in an English village which has many houses still in existence dating from the 17th century. The evidence for this is written above the doorways in “datestones”, the initials of the original occupier and his wife, thoughtfully carved in stone along with the date. 

In North Lancashire most houses were built of cruck (oak arch) frames with wattle and daub infill, and thatched with straw, or even bracken if you were poor. The average house consisted of four bays (the space between the cruck arches), but some as few as one. Chimneys slowly appeared in the 17th century, at first as a mere projection from the gable end to keep smoke and fire from the thatch. 

Cruck buildings survived until the Victorian Era -
The Blacksmith's 
The Mourholme Local History Society has done much work to uncover the history of the village and has trawled through Wills and probate inventories, and in my research for The Gilded Lily I referred often to their book “How it was – A North Lancashire Parish in the 17th Century” which gives details of these bequests.

In the first half of the century the position of rooms in a house was defined by their relationship to the main room, known as the firehouse or the bodystead. In the second half of the century side-rooms are defined by name as buttery (a place for keeping, not making, butter) kitchen, bed-chamber, wash-house. The main room was later described as the parlour or bower. The increase in this standard of living had come earlier in the south but was much slower to spread northwards.

Most village houses were furnished simply. Items mentioned in inventories include

Bedstocks or beadsteads with chaff or feather mattresses.These were mostly 'tester' beds with curtains that could be drawn to provide warmth and privacy.

Tables – surprisingly these feature only in 21% of inventories in the first half of the century, rising to 60% in the second. There were however “trests” – a trestle with a board that could be erected and removed to save space. (The idea of the board survives in the English language as the expression "Bed and Board" or 'boarding house' and even 'boarding school.')

Tableware – from pewter or wood, with wood or horn spoons.

Chairs, stools and ‘formes’ – simple wooden furniture. When I say simple, the construction was simple, but often decoration was added afterwards by the householder resulting in quite elaborately carved items.
An Ark storage box
A man's chair, women's chairs had no arms
so they could knit and sew

Arks – mentioned in half of the inventories were bins made of split wood and pegged together.They were used for storing flour or meal, and could be taken apart for cleaning.

Almeryes – a type of cupboard with a pierced door. Thomas Greenwood who lived in the village had what he called a ‘Cat Mallison’ to keep meat and cheese in. As a maleson meant a curse, we assume it was to keep the cat from the meat!

Brandreth and cauldron – a brandreth was an iron trivet to set over the fire. The cauldron could be set on this, or on rackencrooks (an adjustable hanger from the ceiling).The fires burned peat turves cut from the local marshes, most inventories include stocks of peat for burning.

Quishons (cushions) and other soft furnishings are mentioned frequently; beds were usually draped four posters with bolsters and pillows, though very few inventories mention curtains – I can only assume shutters were employed against the weather.

From these simple rural surroundings in rural Westmorland Ella and Sadie Appleby, the two sisters in The Gilded Lily, are on the run. They set off for London, with only vague ideas that it might be some sort of promised land of milk and honey, that there would be glamour and fortune awaiting them there. For Charles II had returned to the throne and London was at its most glittering and fashionable. What better way to see 17th century London than through their amazed eyes. As a writer I wanted to know how they would cope, and even more intriguingly, how London would change them.

The Lady’s Slipper is out now. The Gilded Lily will be released in the UK Sept 13th and the US Nov 26th

furniture pictures from and

Monday, 11 June 2012

A treasure trove of links on 17th century daily life

I'm a day late posting to this blog. The reason: the final draft of my Work In Progress is due on June 15, the same day our daughter is due to give birth! This will also explain my current fascination with all-things-maternity in the 17th Century.

In researching 17th century maternity wear recently, I came upon a treasure-trove of information on 17th century daily life in Holland, compiled by art historian Kees Kaldenbach. The facts of daily life are deducted in part from the detailed inventories of the Vermeer household, as well as paintings.

The history geeks among us will know well the feeling of coming upon such a resource. I call it "Falling into the Black Hold of Research" when I emerge to see that hours have passed.

Consider yourself warned!

On courtship and making love

Childbirths, midwives, obstetricians

Maternity dress and trousseau

Children's chair, potty chair

Baby child presented in a crisom

Feeding brest milk/mother's milk

Vaginal syringe

Fire basket, fire holder

Mattress, bed, blanket. A bed was made of three layers:
  1. a flat mattress filled with bedstraw, horse hair or sea grass. 
  2. a soft cover filled with feathers, down or "kapok" from silk-cotton trees. This is the layer a person would sleep on. 
  3. sheets and blankets
Every day the sheets and blankets were folded so that the head-end and the foot-end did not touch. The pillows had to be shaken and aired for one hour, to dry the feathers, which tended to lump.
pillows (pillows, ear cushion, sit cushion, tapestry cushion — there were no chairs for the children. They were to use pillows when the adults used the chairs.); blanket,
bed cover: fascinating! The Vermeer household of 3 or 4 adults and 11 children had few blankets. People slept sitting up, two to a bedstead, propped up by pillows. The children slept in wheeled drawers which slid under the bed. 
bedsheets, pillow cases, bed linen: 8 pairs of sheets were valued at 48 gilders — the equivalent of a workman's wage for 24 to 48 days.

In the cooking kitchen

In the basement, or cellar

In the inner kitchen

Delft markets

Market bucket

Tables: fold-out table, pull-out table, round table, octagonal table, sideboard: This includes instructions on table manners. ("Do not propose to sing at the table oneself ; wait until one is invited repeatedly to do so and keep it short.")
Trestle table

Foot stove: "One placed an earthenware container within the foot stove and filled it with glowing coals or charcoal. One then placed the feet on it. If a large dress was then lowered over it, or a chamber coat, it warmed both feet and legs."

Pots, vats and barrels in the basement

Chimney hanging; pelmet, valance, rabat; large chimney covering cloth; gold tooled leather (wall covering);

Hall stand or hat stand;

Cloth drying sticks: long, round sticks that rested on attic ceiling beams. The sticks were pushed through sleeves of wet clothes and thus would allow for drying.

Wood chairs, covered with red Spanish leather.

Tapestry table rug: "Only the most wealthy of Dutch households put Turkish rugs on the floor."

So, you see? I hope you enjoyed this little trip back into the 17th century.

Sandra Gulland

Author of The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Witch Trials of Connecticut

Part Four

Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three

 In my final installment of the witch trials of Connecticut, I begin with Katharine Harrison. In 1669, she was indicted for not having the fear of God as well as a familiarity with Satan. Neighbors testified about her herding cattle "with greate violence," bees swarming, a sick child that later died, "an ugly shaped thing like a dog" that had the head of Katharine, and telling fortunes. The jury found Katharine guilty, but the magistrates had doubts. They called upon ministers for counsel.

 The court refused to sentence her to death or imprison her. Instead, she was banished from Connecticut and moved to New York. Because she had been accused of witchcraft, she wasn't welcomed in her new community, but due to good behavior, she was allowed to remain.

Witch trials reached their peak in 1692, the same year as the infamous Salem trials. Fortunately, for the inhabitants of Fairfield, the craze of executions had passed in Connecticut. Mercy Disborough was accused of bewitching a canoe and numerous livestock. Allegedly, she made a child sick. She was searched for witch marks by a group of women.

A young girl, subject to epilepsy and hysterics, was carried into the meeting house. Upon seeing Mercy, she "fel[l] down into a fit again." Elizabeth Clawson was on trial at the same time. Both women were bound hand and foot and put into the water (witch ducking). Both swam, rather than sinking. Mercy was found guilty but later reprieved.

Elizabeth Clawson had been indicted for "not having the fear of God" in her eyes and a "familiarity" with Satan. A maid had seizures, and a black cat came to her in a hen house. She claimed the devil had come to her in the shape of three women, Mercy, Elizabeth, and Goody Miller. Many neighbors testified on the bewitching events. Goody Miller was merely accused, and Elizabeth was found not guilty.

In 1693, Hugh Crotia was indicted for the familiar charge of not having the fear of God in his eyes. Apparently, he afflicted a girl on the road near Fairfield and was "rendered" under suspicion of Satan. He admitted to having a contract with the devil. Hugh was ordered to pay the "Master of the Gaol" some fees.

In 1697, a mother and daughter by the same names of Winifred Benham were indicted. Both were acquitted but excommunicated. A couple of cases were tried in the 18th century with one being as late as 1768, but for the most part the witch trials had concluded by the end of the 17th century in Connecticut.

Kim Murphy