I’m back!

Sorry the site has been down for some weeks.  There was a problem with the domain which I was unable to sort out before my wife and I went on holiday to Tanzania.   Have some great pictures to show you..  More on that later.

Authors organise a one-day workshop

Meet the authors  is a new event organised by Agnes Sam, a fellow member of Authors North.  The event is for a whole day on the 18th August 2012 at The Parvin, 169, York Road, Haxby neare York, North Yorkshire, YO32 3HB.  This is a unique event.  The first in which a group of authors will engage with local people, wriers and lovers of books, to talk about what inspires them to write; the value of well written words; how reading and writing motivates them and many other topicxs.  There will be workshops, readings, discussions, activities and the opprtunity for a 1;1 with any of the authors taking part: Agnes Sam, Mitzi Blennerhassett, Jack Everett, Julian Cole, Nick David and myself Peter Cooke.

Why not come along, for all or part of the day.  Admission and parking are free and you can find all the details HERE.

Please leave a comment if you will try to attend for all or part of the day.

The Elizabethan Era – An A to Z – C is for Cecil

Peter Cooke – Author

C is for


During the Elizabethan era, William Cecil, became the most important courtier of his age. He was born at Bourne in Lincolnshire, his grandfather’s house, on September 18th 1520. His family background gave no indication of the heights to which William would attain. His grandfather had been of yeomen stock and his father, Richard, only reached the low position of Yeoman of the wardrobe in Henry VIII’s household after twenty years. During the turbulent years of Henry’s reign, Richard Cecil avoided all of the many pitfalls and moved steadily upwards. He contrived to line his pockets as he went and, like his father before him, became custodian of many of the royal manors around Stamford. In 1539, he became a justice of the peace for Stamford and in the same year, Sheriff of Rutland. Thus when William was born, he had the means to give him a good education.

William was a precocious scholar, entering Cambridge at fifteen and studied until he was twenty-one. For reasons that were never discovered, he left Cambridge, without taking his degree, to enter Gray’s Inn to study law. A chance encounter with the king, led him to enter the service of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who shortly after Henry VIII’s death, became Lord Protector of the young King Edward. It was when he was employed by the Duke of Northumberland to administer the lands of Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield, that

he became Elizabeth’s adviser and helped to steer her through the fraught years of Mary Tudor’s reign, when it seemed impossible she could survive.

When Elizabeth became Queen, Cecil was appointed Secretary of State. Elizabeth, who had a penchant for giving nicknames to her advisers and members of the court, called Burghley, ‘my Spirit’ and relied on his wise council in all matters. He was a devout Protestant, but not a zealot. His tight control over the nations finances, his leadership of the Privy Council, his backing for the reform of the Navy by Admiral Sir John Hawkins and his creation of a highly effective intelligence service under Sir Francis Walsingham, marked him out as the most important minister throughout the majority of the Elizabethan era. A most astute and honest councillor, he was never afraid to make the hard decisions that Elizabeth shrank from taking, even at the risk of his own position. When Elizabeth hesitated to send the signed warrant ordering the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, Cecil organised the Privy Council to ensure the warrant was delivered and the execution went ahead without the Queen’s knowledge. This nearly cost his head, but in the end, Elizabeth realised that he was acting in the best interests of the state.

After his death, in 1598, his son, Robert Cecil, succeeded him as Secretary of State and went on to serve Elizabeth’s successor James I with great distinction, building Burghley House.


The Elizabethan Era – An A to Z

Peter Cooke – Author

K is for:


The Elizabethans had a more robust approach to kissing as a greeting. Perhaps the best viewpoint on kissing comes from the recorded observations of various foreign(alien) visitors. On visiting a citizen’s house for a social visit, or even on business, any man would be welcomed by the master’s lady or daughter and it was the custom of the country to ‘take them by the arm to kiss them, with a hearty kiss on the lips.’ Not to do this was considered as ill-breeding. Most of the observers felt that to do this on first acquaintance was very strange. Rather like the general situation today where an air-kiss near the cheek is more often then not the rule, even with family.

Dancing too was another opportunity for the Elizabethans to kiss the ladies. During a dance, when the players struck up a lively galliard or the even faster version, a lavolta (the Volt).  This was a particular favourite of Queen Elizabeth, especially when dancing with the Earl of Leicester, a celebrated dancer.  The young men took off their rapiers and cloaks and danced in their doublets, leaping, running and lifting their partners in the air. One reformer described it as ‘the horrible vice of pestiferous dancing … what kissing and bussing (more kissing)’.

Amongst the working class, things were very much less formal than in a merchant, or an aristocratic household. Leisure time was very restricted, since working hours were long, thus, every opportunity must be utilised to the full. One startled young Venetian visitor observed the following … ‘many of the young women gather outside Moorgate and play with the young lads, even though they do not know them. Often, during these games, the women are thrown to the ground by the young men, who only allow them to get up after they have kissed them.’

As they all remarked … ‘they kiss each other a lot!’

Glass in the 18th century, a time of great innovation.

Peter Cooke – Author

Glass in the 18th century

The discovery of lead crystal galvanised the glass industry into a flurry of creativity as never before. This century, possibly more than any other, saw a bewildering proliferation of new styles, new techniques and above all decorative design of the highest order. 



The brilliance of lead crystal is due to a higher refractive indexPeter Cooke Author caused by the lead content. Ordinary glass has a refractive index of n = 1.5, addition of lead produces a range up to 1.7. The heightened refractive index results in increased dispersion (the degree to which a medium separates light into its component spectra), as in a prism. Crystal cutting techniques create a brilliant, sparkling effect as each cut facet reflects and transmits light through the object.


 These enhance properties, necessitated changes in style. The boss or knob of glass on the stem of a glass, is known as a KNOP. If the knop has a curved form, slender above and bulging out below, it is known as a ‘true baluster’. When used upside down, it’s designated as an ‘inverted baluster’. For for the next 35 years, the BALUSTER STEMS dominated the market, using designs cut into the bowl to enhance the brilliance.


The desire to cheapen the glass to please the less wealthy led to a decline in the quality of the metal used and the flamboyant styles gave way to glasses with smaller bowls and longer stems. This period of the BALUSTROID STEMS AND LIGHT BALUSTERS was to last from 1725-1765. The light balusters, better known as ‘Newcastle’ glasses, with their tall, slender, knopped stems had a far greater appeal than the earlier Balustroid stems. This style was pre-eminent from 1735-1765, when beautifully engraved glasses by Frans Greenwood, Jacob Snag and later David Wolff were in favour. The leading enamelers were William and Mary Beilby of Newcastle and last December a new world auction record was set for glass produced by an 18th-Century Tyneside craftsman. London auctioneers Bonhams sold a Prince William V of Orange goblet made by William Beilby for £117,000.


The largest group of remaining 18th century drinking glasses are the PLAIN STRAIGHT STEMS(1740-1770). The style was easy and cheap to turn out and was made in a variety of bowl shapes. During this period, AIR-TWIST STEMS were also produced for the quality market. There were also COMPOSITE STEMS.


 Overlapping this period from 1750 – 1780 were the OPAQUE WHITE TWIST STEMS often with engraved bowls and from 1755 – 1775 the MIXED AND COLOURED TWIST STEMS.


JACOBITE AND WILLIAMITE GLASS was produced in profusion during the mid-18th century to support the causes. Jacobite emblems were usually the rose with usually six petals and one or two buds. One very special type was the so-called AMEN glasses


 In 1777 and again in 1780 changes in the Excise Act resulted in the doubling of duty in England, but Ireland was granted free trade. Although there was already a large industry in Ireland, many English firms set up there and prospered. This period of grace lasted until 1845 when the Excise acts were repealed.



1760-1800 FACETED STEMS – diamond or hexagonal-shaped facets were the favourites, but vertical fluting and scale cutting were also used.


 Inevitably there was some run over in styles from different manufacturers and faceted stems were still produced into the new century.

Peter Cooke Author

Glass – Everthing you need to know about it. by Peter Cooke

Peter Cooke- Author


What is it?

The Principal ingredient  is SILICA, which- occurs naturally in great abundance.  The main varieties of silica are SAND, FLINT AND QUARTZ. When heated to a high enough temperature, they melt to form glass.   When the first atomic bomb was exploded in the desert at the White Sands proving ground, New Mexico, the heat wave from the bomb turned the surface of the desert to glass.  In the crater, the desert sand, which is largely made of silica melted and became a mildly, radioactive, light green glass, which was named Trinitite.The crater was filled in soon after the test.  Also, a dark natural substance known as OBSIDIAN, is often formed by volcanic eruptions, when silica is present.

Early glassmaking.

The temperature required to melt silica (about 1800°C) is higher than could be obtained in the primitive wood-burning furnaces used by the earl glassmakers. Man-made glass only became possible when it was discovered that the addition of soda ash or potash (obtained from burnt vegetable material) caused the silica to melt at 900-1100 °C. There is a story that this was discovered accidentally, by nomads lighting fires on sand.  The ash from the burned vegetation, combined with the sand to make glass.

The Mediterranean area favoured soda ash and Europe potash. Natural tints were removed by the addition of nitre, manganese or arsenic. This was not a precise thing because the additions produced tints of their own, explaining why there was a wide range of colours in early samples. Modern pure additives mean that a consistently clear and colourless product can be produced.

The molten silica is usually referred to as the METAL. Additions of COPPER, COBALT, IRON, TIN and other materials produce BLUE, RED, GREEN, AMBER, WHITE OR PURPLE colours.

Methods of manufacture.

Early glassmakers used MOULDING techniques. This lasted from about the 15th Century BC – 1St Century BC. Blowing was discovered during the 1st Century BC and by the 1st Century AD virtually every technique of manipulating and decorating glass had been discovered – moulding, free blowing, blowing into a mould, cutting, engraving, enameling, gilding, overlaying with coloured layers, enclosing the decoration between layers, millefiori and glass made to look like natural stone. All these were practiced 2000 years ago and have reappeared at various times down to the present day.


The tools used in glassmaking have remained unchanged for many centuries, mainly because they are so simple that they allow for little improvement.

The main tools are as follows:

BLOWPIPE – a long hollow tube made of steel on which molten blob is gathered on the end and by blowing down the pipe a shape is produced.

PONTIL IRON – a solid metal rod. The end is heated and applied to the base of the vessel being blown, to support it when the blowing pipe is cut away.(when the pontil is removed, it produces a characteristic mark known as the PONTIL MARK on the base)

MARVER – a flat iron plate on which the vessel is rolled during the blowing process to smooth and shape it.

PUCELLAS – metal tongs with a curved surface on the outside and a cutting edge on the inside.-, used to shape anf trim the molten glass bowl of a drinking glass. 

CLAPPERS – a pair of wooden paddles used to shape the foot of a drinking glass.

CHAIR – the glass-blowers workplace – a bench with flat arms along which the blowpipe can be rolled to shape the vessel. Confusingly, in a glass-works making hand-blown glass, it also refers to a team of three or four men. Thus the size of the factory is reckoned by the number of chairs working in it.

If you have found this interesting, look out for the next part of the series, looking at the history of glassmaking.