Best Book Publishers UK | Austin Macauley Publishers

By: David Brown

Beneath the Shelter of an Ancient Tree

Pages: 190 Ratings: 5.0
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A voyage of family discovery reveals poverty and imprisonment in the West Country; the development of new trades in the industrial revolution; a Rabbi who doubles up as a pawnbroker; and middle-class prosperity and tragedy in the Birmingham jewellery trade. Starting with only minimal knowledge of widely dispersed ancestors this journey tracks down ancient relatives from Wales, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Somerset, Dorset, Poland and Russia. Two mayors make fleeting appearances (one in Gloucester, the other in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne). One great uncle is found to have designed the iconic gantries in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast where the Titanic was built. A great, great, great grandfather has questions to answer about the treatment of child labour in his Calderdale spinning mill.

Starting in the late 18th century Beneath the Shelter of an Ancient Tree catalogues how and where these diverse characters lived, how they made their living, and the ups and downs of family fortunes. It comments on some of the pivotal moments that affected their progress, and draws on contemporary sources, some family memoirs, and genealogical records to build a picture of how working people and artisans gradually – throughout the Victorian era – improved their lot in life.

David Brown’s varied career as a bus driver, shellfish salesman, civil servant and management consultant (among many other jobs) first led to an interest in knowing what his ancestors had done for a living. And then, as his own grandchildren grew up, he began to wonder where his relatives had come from, and how they had fared in life. Starting from a relatively unremarkable upbringing in the Midlands he discovered a family with roots throughout England – in Poland and Russia – and a diaspora stretching across three continents.

Customer Reviews
1 reviews
1 reviews
  • Anne Chilton

    Reading about other people's families can sometimes be a bit flat. Howver, what David Brown has done in this book has bought his family to life by not only exploring their lives, but also setting them firmly and squarely in the world they lived in. He draws on the political and social milieu of the times and brings to life the very real struggles those people grappled with. Be that the rapid industrialisation sweeping the country and the need to change and develop new skills, through to the opportunities presented by those changes, which meant people had to move to follow the work. It also showed how the early development of adult education through evening classes started to change people's aspirations.

    It's a fascinating book, well written and engaging, which brings alive those people and the lives they lived and links it though to the present day. It's a real family with real history that helps to illuminate today.

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