About Mark

I currently work in an outstanding school with my role spent between Year 5 Teaching Assistant and ICT Technician. I am married with two beautiful daughters.

An interesting read

https_cdn.evbuc.comimages37917558778825813511originalEithne Cullen’s story The Ogress of Reading is part fact, part fiction, and tells of the chilling case of Amelia Dyer, who admitted 400 murders of young children in the 1890s.

Despite the shocking nature of her crimes, Amelia Dyer is still relatively unheard of, something that Eithne, 60, is keen to change.

“Jack the Ripper killed five people, and everyone has heard 
of him. Dyer killed hundreds,” she said.

The horrifying tale centres on the then widespread practice of baby farming, where people were paid to adopt children born out of wedlock, a terrible shame in Victorian times.

However, Amelia did not 
raise the children as promised. Instead she started to drown them in a river.

A police investigation ensued, leading to Amelia admitting her crimes and being executed in Holloway prison, which is where Eithne, of High View Road, picked up on the story.

She said: “I was doing some research on dangerous women 
in Holloway prison when I 
came upon the story which fascinated me.”

Although the retired English teacher has always written 
poetry and taken part in creative writing classes, this is her first published book.

Her efforts were greatly helped by Barking and Dagenham Council, and in particular its Pen to Print scheme.

Run by the council’s library service, the scheme is aimed at anyone interested in poetry, short stories, play writing or novels.

Eithne was given a mentor to help with her work, and credits the scheme as being a big 
help to her efforts.

She is now writing her second book, about obsessive love, entitled Never Not in my Thoughts.

Her advice to anyone interested in writing is, if they have the time, to “go for it”.

Eithne will be launching her book at Barking Library on Thursday, January 18. Free tickets can be obtained from eventbrite.co.uk

The Ogress of Reading is published by New Generation Publishing and is available from Amazon, priced £6.99 in paperback or £4.99 for an ebook version.

Anyone interested in the Pen to Print project can find out more at lbbd.gov.uk.


Gaslight and Ingrid Bergman

I have recently found a bit of a passion for Victorian Era black and white movies and have set about acquiring some to watch.


This is such a great film. It stars the very lovely Ingrid Bergman and

Made in 1944. the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Screenplay; it also won the Academy Award for Best Actress and Best Production Design.

It is a beautiful looking film and the monochrome just adds to the depth of it.

The plot revolves around a  newly married couple, Paula and Gregory. Paula moved to Italy as a youngster after her Aunt was murdered in London, Gregory wants to move back to London to live in the house left in Auntie’s will.

Is the suave Gregory everything he claims to be?

Or is there an ulterior motive for wanting to gain access to the house?

Is Paula going insane…?

A great film and well worth a watch.

Dickens series coming

Press Release from the BBC
From the author of Peaky Blinders and Taboo, comes Steven Knight’s vision of Charles Dickens in a series of adaptations of his classic novels for BBC One.
  • A Christmas Carol announced as the first in a series of adaptations
  • Produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free London in association with Tom Hardy’s Hardy Son and Baker

624Commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, and produced by Scott Free London in association with Hardy Son and Baker, Knight will use his trademark style to create a boxset of Dickens’ most iconic novels in the next few years.

A Christmas Carol will be the first adaptation in this planned series. As Ebenzer Scrooge, the miserly cold-hearted boss, is visited by four ghosts from the past, present and the future, on a freezing Christmas Eve, he must face up to how his self-interested, penny pinching behaviour has impacted his own life and those around him, leaving him in a paranoid bubble of fear. Is it too late for him to save the spirit of Christmas, and himself?

Knight says: “Any question about narrative storytelling is answered by Dickens. To have the chance to revisit the text and interpret in a new way is the greatest privilege. We need luck and wisdom to do this justice.”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “Steven’s unique ability to reimagine the past and to turn it in to must see drama make him the perfect writer to reimagine Dickens’ most famous works for a new generation. And in A Christmas Carol, that most familiar of Dickens’ stories, he has found the perfect place to start.”

Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content says: “It’s incredibly exciting to have a genius like Steven Knight embark on a series of Dickens adaptations. What can I say? Be prepared to be blown away by his wholly original and visionary take on some of Britain’s best loved classics.”

Ridley Scott says: “It’s terrific to be continuing the creative partnership of Scott Free London with Tom and Steve that started with Taboo and continues with this exciting and ambitious anthology of British classics.”

Kate Crowe, Head of TV, Scott Free London, says: “A Christmas Carol explores miserliness, isolation and selfishness against generosity, charity and open-heartedness; a clash of ideologies that is as significant today as it ever has been.”

Tom Hardy, Hardy Son and Baker, says: “It’s extremely exciting to have the opportunity to team up with Ridley Scott, Steven Knight and our partners at the BBC with this rare and wonderful opportunity to revisit and interpret Dickens’ classic works. A Christmas Carol is a fabulous magical piece of theatre and an embarrassment of riches for our creative team – from character all the way through to design. Here’s to having a lot of intricate and wonderful fun. We feel very lucky.”

A Christmas Carol is a 3×60’ drama for Christmas 2019. It will be produced by Scott Free London in association with Hardy Son and Baker for BBC One. It will be executive produced by Steven Knight, Ridley Scott, Tom Hardy, Kate Crowe and Dean Baker, alongside Piers Wenger for the BBC.

Further details will be announced in due course.

A Victorian Christmas at Harewood House

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This would be great to go to…just fantastic.

More than 200 volunteers spent the last three days creating a Victorian Christmas at Harewood House. It is the first time in five years that the house has been opened to the public at Christmas. The volunteers were working under the guidance of award-winning film creative director Michael Howells – who produced the set design for the ITV drama Victoria some of which was shot at Harewood.

“Harewood was incredible place to work filming Victoria for the last two years and has provided us with fantastic inspiration. It’s special place, filled with history and wonderful stories to tell,” said Mr Howells.


A Victorious Century

From The Guardian

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote in 1859, imagining France on the eve of revolution. He may as well have been describing Britain during his own century. It was an era when industry energised and enriched, but polluted and proletarianised; when men enjoyed expanding political rights but women’s freedoms were curtailed; when some rejoiced as the British empire flung pink arms across the world, but others resisted. It was a “Victorious Century”, as David Cannadine entitles this sparklingly intelligent survey, for a United Kingdom whose hegemony rivalled that of the US and China today – but a century of contradictions for the people who lived in it.

Victorious Century opens in 1800, with the passage of the Act of Union with Ireland, and with Britain struggling to prevail against France in what Lord Cornwallis, who had presided over the loss of the American colonies, called a “bloody and hopeless war”. Nobody in 1800 could have reasonably anticipated British victory over France, let alone its global hegemony. But the industrial, financial and demographic momentum was in Britain’s favour. Production of iron and textiles surged, the population boomed, and an increasingly efficient state apparatus of borrowing and tax-collection funded an ultimately successful war effort. If Napoleon said his army marched on its stomach, Wellington’s marched to Waterloo on the public debt.

Triumph, when it came, granted Britain dominance in international affairs, but it didn’t feed people or give them jobs. Popular protests challenged high prices, high taxes and the “Old Corruption” of a government that made them so. Authoritarian crackdowns – vividly at the Peterloo massacre of 1819, and furtively, via informers and secret agents – ended up amplifying radicalism as much as repressing it.

The postwar popular agitations and political showdowns culminated in the 1832 Reform Act. In the whig interpretation of history, the great reform anchored a “victorious century” in terms of expanding democracy – especially because, unlike other countries in the western world, Britain marched toward universal manhood suffrage through a peaceful series of parliamentary acts. But the much-vaunted whig liberty came with restrictions attached. The great reform deliberately didn’t enfranchise workers, a deficiency the Chartists sought and largely failed to redress; rather, Cannadine argues, its most significant effect was to consolidate a modern two-party system pegged to elite and bourgeois interests. The 1867 Reform Act enfranchised “respectable” working men but simultaneously and explicitly excluded women. By the end of the 19th century, Britain had one of the most limited franchises in western Europe. All told, the political story of the 19th century, as Cannadine tells it, was less about the rise of the working class than the fall of the nobility (beautifully chronicled in his 1990 book The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy).

51H5Ti20NPL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The “victorious century” was, pre-eminently, Victoria’s century. Born a few years after Waterloo, she was named after her mother, though might as well have been named for the moment. Ascending to the throne in 1837 (without the hereditary electorship of Hanover, from which she was disqualified as a woman), the “headstrong and wilful” young Queen exercised a degree of influence over the political process and choice of governments that would alarm any British subject today. As she matured into the bulbous, black-clad matron of popular iconography, she presided with enthusiasm over the expansion of a global empire. She died in 1901 as empress of India and sovereign of one in five people in the world. The princely state of Hanover had long since ceased to exist

One of the pleasures of this immensely readable volume is its unapologetic emphasis on high politics, a historical fashion so old it’s new again. The great 19th-century statesmen – Pitt, Peel, Palmerston, Gladstone, Disraeli and the now largely forgotten Earl of Derby – strut through these pages as bracing reminders, in today’s age of identity politics, that you can’t fully understand power without looking at the individuals who hold it. Cannadine’s attention to parliamentary politics also lets him unspool the wranglings over Irish home rule, easily the most divisive issue in later 19th-century politics, and replete with legacies and lessons for the age of Brexit.

Another satisfaction lies in Cannadine’s polymathic command of the cultural life of the period. That “Victorian” has come to mean uptight says at least as much about the Victorians’ heirs as it does about them. There was the sentimentalism of penny novelettes,, the melodrama of the tabloid press, the tawdry aesthetics of chocolate boxes, and the overstuffed domesticity of button-backed furniture, festoon blinds and flock wallpaper. But Victorian Britain also gave rise to the penetrating realism of George Eliot, celebrated the bold impressionism of JMW Turner, inspired the linear elegance of William Morris, and the clairvoyant fantasies of HG Wells. An age of starched collars and corsets, of the moral condemnation of poverty and the criminalisation of male “gross indecency”, was an era of free love, socialism, atheism, Darwinism, vegetarianism and spiritualism.

It was, finally, an age of capitalism – a mid-19th-century coinage – when new conceptions of the role of production in shaping society would give rise to new ways of thinking about the relationship between the people and the state. Cannadine concludes with the Liberal landslide of 1906, a moment rich with contradictions: a government espousing progressive social policy yet beholden to aristocratic interests; an economy of remarkable strength yet flagging against new rivals; a UK split by the Irish question; an empire bigger yet more contested than ever.

As epigraphs to Victorious Century, Cannadine pairs Dickens’s “best of times, worst of times” with Marx’s dictum that men and women “make their own history, but they do not do so … under conditions of their own choosing”. Though there is an unavoidable tinge of the textbook to this volume (a history written under the condition of having to say at least a little about an awful lot), Cannadine has pulled off the hat-trick of commanding erudition, original interpretation and graceful writing. One leaves it grateful to have left the worst times behind, yet with the uneasy recognition that many of their toughest contradictions remain embedded in our own.

Victorious Century is published by Allen Lane. To order a copy for £25.50 (RRP £30) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.


Forgotten London Mansion Was Empty Since 1895…

This is well worth looking at.

The city of London is full of history, though it’s easy to forget that when you see what is now a thriving, modern city. As generations pass and more of the city becomes modernized, it becomes harder and harder to learn about previous inhabitants’ lives.

mansion.jpgBut every once in a while, a piece of history remains that practically acts as a time capsule. That’s the case with one building in London that’s been so well-preserved that it allows us to take a one-of-a-kind look at the way the world used to be.

When you see inside of this stunning building, it’s like you’re transported back in time. What an incredible reminder of what the city used to be like, and what history we live among every day!


Victoria – fact or fiction?

Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes are back on our screens as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, which means it’s time for a return to that fine old British tradition of historical nit-picking. This is our week-by-week guide to the true history behind the ITV drama.

Was Dr Brydon really the only survivor of the retreat from Kabul?

In the Victorian era, it became a well-established myth that only one man survived the disastrous retreat from Kabul: William Brydon, an assistant surgeon in General Elphinstone’s army.


William Brydon

The late Victorian artist Elizabeth Butler’s famous painting ‘Remains of an Army’ shows Brydon alone in a desolate landscape, and ITV’s Victoria paints a similar version of events.

But the reality of the First Anglo-Afghan War was slightly complicated. Brydon was the only British soldier to make it back to Jalalabad from Kabul without being captured, but there were also several Indian soldiers (then called sepoys) from his army who achieved the same feat.

Nor were they the only survivors of the Khyber Pass massacre; more than 100 officers, women and children were taken captive, only to be later released.

But the most extraordinary part of Brydon’s story to feature in ITV’s Victoria was completely true: Brydon’s life was saved by a frozen copy of Blackwood’s Magazine which he had tucked inside his hat. In fact, the TV retelling didn’t do justice to quite how close Brydon’s scrape was; the sword-blow that cut through the magazine also shaved off a fragment of his skull.

All joking aside, what’s up with Prince Albert’s helmet?

The first episode told us (a little unnecessarily, one might add) that Prince Albert dressed “on the left” – but we don’t mean that kind of helmet.

The helmet in question is the Albert Shako, which Tom Hughes’s prince brought up almost every time he opened his mouth, throughout episode one.

Introduced in 1844 as a more practical alternative to existing military headgear, we can’t be certain that it really was designed by Albert himself. What is certain, however, is that people hated it. Regardless of who really came up with the design, the idea that Prince Albert spent his spare time faffing about with hats was just as funny to Victorians as it is to today’s ITV viewers. In 1843, the satirical magazine Punch published a cartoon of “Prince Albert’s Studio”, in which the would-be hatter is shown proudly displaying his handiwork to a bemused Victoria.

Who on earth would eat that soup?

Lots of people. The departure of Victoria’s preferred chef, Charles Elmé Francatelli, meant guests at the royal table were forced to pick over a vile dinner of soup, made from leeks, prunes and (best of all) a whole boiled chicken’s head. Don’t pull that face – it’s actually rather popular.

TV chef James Martin would like you to know that cock-a-leekie soup is making a comeback, prunes and all. You can read his recipe for a modern take on the traditional Scottish dish at the BBC Good Food website. The Duchess of Bucchleuch certainly enjoys it.

How old was the Duchess of Bucchleuch really?

Much younger than she is on TV. Last night, viewers were introduced to Victoria’s new Mistress of the Robes, a fearsome Caledonian duchess played with aplomb by Diana Rigg. The real Charlotte, Duchess of Bucchleuch, was born in 1811. In 1844, when the show is set, she would have been 33 – just eight years older than Victoria.

Yes, that’s almost half a century younger than Rigg (79), but why not bend the truth if it allows for such a great bit of casting? It’s a certified historical fact that every TV show with Diana Rigg in it has been 35% better than the Rigg-less alternatives. So there.

Why did Francatelli really leave?

In the show, heartbroken Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) left because he couldn’t bear to be near the newly promoted Mrs Skerrett (Nell Hudson), after she refused his offer of marriage back in series one.

In real life, however, the given reason for Francatelli’s abrupt departure from the palace was a fracas with another member of the household staff, Mr Norton the Clerk Comptroller. At the time, it was reported that Francatelli “took the opportunity of insulting Mr Norton in the presence of all the Pages and about 40 others”. After “high words ensued”, they called for a policeman to arrest him, but the hot-headed chef had done a runner by the time the police arrived.