Monthly Archives: June 2014

Jane Austen in Paperback

Our latest book was published in paperback in the UK on Mayday 2014, with the title Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, and this is the jacket design of that edition, based on the specially commissioned embroidery sampler done for the US edition:

UK Paperback

The paperback is published by Abacus, price £9.99, ISBN 978-0-349-13860-2. It is categorised as ‘popular history’ if you are looking for it in bookshops – but of course it is only being sold by good bookshops! You can also borrow it from public libraries or purchase it through various online retailers. The book is still available as a hardback and it is also sold in all e-book formats. Please note that in the US Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England is called Jane Austen’s England, and the paperback there will be published at the end of July 2014. For more information, take a look at

Subversive Hymns of World War I

At the moment there is a great deal of interest in the First World War, because the summer of 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. We were recently given a folded sheet of paper dating from that time, and on it an unknown serviceman had copied down a wry version of a soldier’s daily routine.

Soldier's Life

Part of the ‘soldier’s daily routine’

The original author of this humorous piece is unknown, Continue reading

The Golden Stone of Somerset


Close to the southern border of the county of Somerset stands the largest hillfort in Britain, called Ham Hill or Hamdon Hill, covering an area of 85 hectares. Its earth ramparts and defensive ditches are thought to be largely of the Iron Age, over 2,000 years ago, although there is evidence of fortifications dating to the Late Bronze Age. There are also indications of activity on the hilltop as far back as the Mesolithic period, with Neolithic, Roman and medieval finds as well. In short, the hill has been used throughout prehistory and into the historic era. An annual fair took place here from soon after the Norman conquest in 1066 until well into the 17th century, and there is still a flourishing pub called The Prince of Wales. Indeed, it is the only hillfort in the country to have a pub within the ramparts! Nowadays, much of the hill forms part of a country park, providing pleasant walks and stunning views of the Somerset landscape.

Stukely Print

An early 18th-century print showing the sprawling mass of Ham Hill, with St Michael’s Hill (a) at Montacute on the extreme left


Such a large hill dominated the surrounding countryside, but its influence spread far wider through its main natural resource – the beautiful, honey-gold coloured ‘hamstone’, which has been quarried from the hill and used in buildings throughout the region. The stone was used from at least Roman times, such as for stone coffins at Roman Dorchester in the neighbouring county of Dorset. In more recent times it has been used in buildings right across southern England. Hamstone is a Jurassic limestone, and being easily worked and with such an attractive colour, it has often been used Continue reading

Jay’s Grave on Dartmoor


Dartmoor, the great expanse of granite moorland that lies at the heart of Devon in south-west England, has long been a favourite place for tourists and holidaymakers. Alongside the areas of natural beauty and the historic and prehistoric sites, one of the minor tourist attractions lies just to the north-west of Hound Tor and a few miles north of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Like many such places on the moor, it seems to lie on a road that goes from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular. The site is on the road that runs past the west side of Cripdon Down, at a point where a trackway branches off. It is marked as ‘Jay’s Grave’ on large-scale Ordnance Survey maps, at National Grid Reference SX732798.
Jay's Grave

Jay’s Grave

There are several graves on Dartmoor, and many stone markers and crosses, some of which are thought to mark graves, but the essence of Jay’s Grave is its anonymity. It is quite easy to drive past without even noticing it. The actual site is a small, very low mound on the roadside, with a kerb of small granite blocks. The most distinguishing feature are the flowers in a jam jar.

The legend about this site, which can be found in any number of recent books, is that Continue reading