Isle of Man: The Great Laxey Wheel

The Great Laxey Wheel, opened in 1854 – named ‘Lady Isabella’ after the wife of the mid-19th century Governor, the Hon. Charles Hope, – is probably the Isle of Man’s most recognized landmark and its most important piece of industrial archaeology.

The Great Laxey Wheel ‘Lady Isabella’

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Get Stuffed: ‘Animal Furniture’, 1896

Last October, I looked at some articles from the monthly illustrated Strand Magazine which was launched in 1896: Child Acrobats and Stage Dancers; Educating the Blind; and The Battersea Dogs’ Home, 1891, and wrote posts about them.

A couple of days ago, I discovered a further copy of the Strand Magazine. It’s not in a good state; it lacks the back and spine covers and the last few pages have come unstuck – but it is complete. And it contains an extraordinary article: ‘Animal Furniture’

Albatross beak paper clip

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Launch of ‘Tempting Fortune’ in e-books

I am delighted to announce that my fifth e-book, Tempting Fortune, will come out on Monday 12th April on Amazon.

The cover for Elizabeth Hawksley’s Tempting Fortune in e-books by John Hocking based on the original by Michael Thomas

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A Visit to the Battersea Dogs’ Home, 1891

The Strand Magazine of June 1891 took its readers to The Home for Lost Dogs which had been started some 30 years before in Miss Mary Tealby’s scullery in Holloway.  Miss Tealby’s charity soon outgrew its humble beginnings and, by 1891, the Battersea Dogs’ Home was established and popular enough for Mr George Newnes, The Strand’s editor, to send one of his reporters to write about it, and the artist Mabel D. Hardy accompanied him as illustrator.

‘To the Home for Lost Dogs’ by Mabel Hardy (1868-1937)

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The Strand Magazine: Educating the Blind

2020 is the 25th anniversary of the passing of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, an act set up to create a level playing field to enable all, no matter what their disability, to live a full life with the same opportunities as everyone else. The fight has been a long one, and it’s not over yet.

Dr Francis Campbell top left, the Royal Normal College for the Blind on the right Continue reading The Strand Magazine: Educating the Blind

The Strand Magazine: child acrobats and stage dancers

The Strand Magazine (1891-1950) was one of the most popular magazines of the late Victorian Age; it came out monthly and I have my Great-Grandfather’s copy of the first hardback edition of The Strand Magazine, Jan-June, 1891. It contained short stories, some translated from foreign languages; e.g. Russian (A. Pushkin); and French (Victor Hugo), together with articles of general interest. It was fully illustrated and targeted a middle-brow, middle-class readership; with something for everyone. The list of authors who wrote for The Strand Magazine was impressive and included Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, and P. G Wodehouse. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were serialized in The Strand Magazine, where Sidney Paget’s illustrations defined what Holmes looked like so perfectly that it’s now impossible to visualize him any other way. The magazine was phenomenally successful and, until the Second World War, it regularly sold 500,000 copies a month.

Strand Magazine bound copy January-June 1891

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Mid-Victorian artists’ fascination with ‘Oriental Ladies in Harems’

A few days ago, I went to see The Enchanted Interior at the Guildhall Art Gallery, curated and developed by the Laing Art Gallery and Madeleine Kennedy, and adapted by the Guildford Art Gallery. It examined the fascination Oriental art and life in the Middle East held for Mid-Victorian to early 20th century British artists. What appears to have attracted them most was the allure of beautiful women hidden away in harems, living in a ‘gilded cage’. The exhibition is full of pictures of exotic Oriental interiors – usually in Constantinople (Istanbul) or Cairo, or somewhere similar. There are elaborately ornamental wooden grilles to keep the women safe from prying eyes; exotic, colourful Oriental carpets; maids bringing in food and drink; and – probably most the important – the women lounging on the carpets or ottomans all seem perfectly contented.

John Frederick, Life in the Harem, Cairo. 1858. The lady lounges on an ottoman, she has flowers in her lap. A female servant enters with refreshments. A eunuch follows her.

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My e-book Launch of ‘Highland Summer’

This is the week of my e-book launch of Highland Summer and I’d like to tell you a bit about the book.

I try to set myself a technical challenge with all my books and those of you who have been following my e-books story so far, will know that Highland Summer is where I intersperse the third person narrative with extracts from the heroine, Robina’s, journal, as I explained in my blog last week. It was fascinating to see how Robina’s character gradually changed as I allowed her to have her say in what was going on.


e-book cover for ‘Highland Summer’. I’m so thrilled it’s coming out tomorrow! Continue reading My e-book Launch of ‘Highland Summer’

Dame Trot and her Comical Cats

About ten years ago, I bought a tattered old copy of a 19th century children’s book, 13 by 17 cms, called Dame Trot and her Comical Cats published in 1850 by Dean & Co of Threadneedle Street, London. It was a best seller and I thought it might be interesting to look into its history. Its story is a complicated – and convoluted – one.

The front cover picture shows an artist cat painting the portrait of the famous Dame Trot which stands on the easel

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John Killer’s Cabinet Dolls’ House

This week I’m going to look at how dolls’ houses reflect society and their home owners’ social aspirations.

According to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, dolls’ houses weren’t originally made for children but for the education of young ladies. They were both instructional – the servants you will have and this is what they should be doing – and aspirational – your duty is to help your husband go up in the world and, for that, you need the right sort of home with the right sort of things in it.


Killer Cabinet House: photo courtesy of the V & A’s Museum of Childhood

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