A to Z of the Elizabethan era

Peter Cooke – Author

J is for:




Pearls were Queen Elizabeth’s favourite and she literally dripped with pearls. She had six or more long ropes of pearls and one containing twenty-five nutmeg sized ones, as well as many other smaller ropes that were attached to her elaborate gowns and head-ware. None of her subjects could compete with her although that other formidable woman of the time, Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury( Bess of Hardwick), did her best with four large, matched pearl ropes, coming to below her waist. The Duchess of Somerset also had a rope of more than a thousand seed pearls and two, more than two metres in length.

Many of the courtiers, ladies in waiting, noblemen and their wives, spent vast sums of money on clothes and jewellery.  The gulf between the rich and the p[poor, was even greater than today.  In an era when the average wage was five pounds per year, keeping up with the Joneses of the court could run in to thousands of pounds.

While diamonds were worn and prized, they were not the cut and faceted jewels of today. It was not until 1590 that diamond cutters developed the skills to turn the dull medieval gleam into the brilliant coruscating gems we know today. Other gems to be found at court were rubies, sapphires, emeralds, garnets and Jacinthe (red zircon). There were also a few Murano glass bead necklaces, Elizabeth herself had one, but only the wealthy owned them. Elizabeth’s necklace is featured in Blood-Red Goblet and there are details of how the necklaces are made.



A to Z of Elizabethan times

I is for:


In the 16th century, Inns were often sited conveniently close to the markets in London. A visitor might want to leave his horse or coach at the Inn, before he made his way through the narrow streets on foot. These Inns were perhaps the equivalent of modern hotels, being substantial establishments with stabling to accommodate a considerable number of horses. To quote a statement of the time, ‘Every man may use his Inn as his own home … our Inns are very well furnished with napery( household linen), bedding and tapestry. Table linen is washed daily and each comer is sure to lie in clean sheets and if his chamber be once appointed(booked in), he may carry the key with him. The host of the Inn was responsible for any loss sustained by the guest whilst on his premises. Unfortunately for the guest, a number of Inn employees colluded with highwaymen and cutpurses and if a robbery took place after he left the Inn, the landlord was not liable.

Rember, remember the fifth of November.

Since I was a small boy, this rhyme has always been with me.  However, in these enlightened? days it seems strange that so many bonfires and firework displays are taking place on days other than the 5th.  It seems to me that like Christmas, yes, Christmas, not winter holiday! – commercial interests are now paramount and tradition goes out of the window in the chase for money.  I know that fireworks can be dangerous in family situations and that organised bonfires are favourite, but surely, especially when the fifth is a Saturday, it is not too much to ask that it should be on the fifth!  Or am I a lone voice crying for a bygone age?

Amber Mills Revolution – The Shaw Years

Here is an idea of what Amber Mills is all about. It’s a family saga set in the Regency and Victorian eras

From humble beginnings, the Shaw family become caught up in the exciting free-for-all of their own Revolution as the steadfast Obadiah and Mary his wife, lay the foundations of the Shaw dynasty. At the forefront of innovation and change, both in working practices and family life, they build up Amber Mills into a thriving community, despite many problems, including the Luddite bullies who threatened the machines and their lives.

The Industrial Revolution in the cotton spinning industry was in its infancy. Entrepreneurs like Obadiah Shaw and Jedediah Strutt followed the example of Richard Arkwright building mills and houses for the workers. The East Midlands became the cradle of the new factories. It was a time when mechanically minded individuals turned their inventive minds on the task of designing machines that could knit hosiery, weave cloth and spin the ever increasing amounts of cotton yarn needed by the ravenous maws of the new factories. Their vision of a new age changed the face of Britain forever.

When holidays don’t set you up for the winter!

Hi everyone, sorry I haven’t posted for a while.  The above title may give you a clue, but if not let me explain.  It wasn’t the weather that was a problem.  For the two weeks we were in Menorca, the weather was superb.  Except for the middle Sunday that is.  We were trapped for almost three hours by a violent thunderstorm, torrential rain,  You know the sort, it is so heavy you start thinking about building an ark!

However, fortunately we were trapped in a lovely restaurant, with good food and lot’s of booze, so hey ho it could have been a lot worse.  In fact, although I got bitten on the face by some mosquitoes, the trouble didn’t start until a few days after we returned to UK.  On that morning I woke to the sound of my wife saying what have you done to your face?  I had a series of very large itchy lumps where each of the bites had been and one near my right eye that had almost closed it.

Happily, I can report that I am recovered now, but it took a weeks course of anti-histamines and another of antibiotics to sort it out.  The real surprise was that I had any trouble at all.  We were at the same villa last year and I didn’t get a single bite.   Has anyone had a similar experience?

Result from the Readers Survey

First of all I would like to thank all of those readers who took part in the survey both in social media and by personal contact.  Whilst the numbers were somewhat smaller than I’d hoped, there was a clear trend in the returns.  By almost 3 to 1, the vote was in favour of starting the new family saga, Amber Mills instead of the fourth book of the Glassmaker series.  It is not my intention to abandon this book altogether, but to write it at a later date.

I am planning two books at the moment in the new series.  The first is provisionally titled, Amber Mills Revolution, the story of the founding family, the Shaws.  The second book, has the provisional title of Amber Mills Evolution, telling the story of the interlinked family the Hursts, the Shaws successors.

The books are set in the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire borders at the start of the industrial revolution in the cotton spinning and hosiery industries in the latter part of the 18th century.  This was an era of huge change and turmoil as the entrepreneurs set up the factories with the Luddites striving to prevent them, destroying lives and the machines as they fought to preserve the status quo.  More later