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Partlets - or the art of making a little go a long way

February 13, 2022

         Sixteenth century women were a thrifty lot, and who could blame them.  Fabric and clothing were incredibly expensive.  According to The Tudor Tailor,


        “a day’s wage for a labourer would buy a yard of the cheapest cloth (canvas at 4d a yard) while his wages for six months would barely buy a yard of the dearest cloth …… and a fine cloak, at £20 would require more than three years labour.”




Neither Linen, used mainly for shifts …

Dartington Hall

December 22, 2021

Dartington Hall, with its mellow grey stone walls, glorious gardens full of birdsong and ancient trees, is a favourite Devon gem I return to again and again.  Now a centre for progressive learning in arts, ecology and social justice,  as well as a vibrant, lively arts and culture venue, Dartington and its gardens still retain a strong sense of times past, an air of peace and tranquility. What we see today has been shaped by many hands, a legacy of many owners, some forgotten, some stellar figures on the stage of history.

A sixteenth century Christmas

December 22, 2021


A sixteenth century Christmas

We know quite a lot about how the wealthy spent Christmas in the sixteenth century.  Surviving account books from Royal, noble and gentry households paint a picture of lavish feasts and costly entertainment.  For the less well off Christmas must have come as a welcome holiday, relief from the drudgery of life in the long, cold winter season.

On Christmas Eve men, women and children went out into the woodlands to cut greenery such as holly, ivy and mistletoe to decorate …

Farthingale Sleeves

November 09, 2021

I’ve always wondered how those huge sleeves worn by Queen Elizabeth 1 in all those fabulous paintings were created. Those sleeves were part of an elaborate ensemble designed to display the Queen’s magnificence, as seen here in the Armada portrait.





 In the later years of Elizabeth’s reign similar voluminous sleeves were an important part of court fashion. Ladies like Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife, Bess Throckmorton — pictured here in 1595 — wore these rather uncomfortable looking sleeves, which must surely …

Who was Kat Ashley? Kat and Katherine.........................

September 26, 2021

Who was Kat Ashley?  Kat and Katherine…..

It’s well known that a woman called Kat (Katherine)  Champernowne, later the wife of John Ashley (Astley) was Queen Elizabeth 1’s governess

But surprisingly little is known of Kat’s early life.   Her relationship to the “other” Katherine Champernowne, heroine of my novel A Woman of Noble Wit, was previously thought to be that of aunt and niece.  In this post I’ll explain why I have reached the conclusion, shared by recent scholars, that Kat and Katherine were sisters.