The Winged Devils of Faversham

Gargoyle carved by William Warren webAs I ambled along Preston Street in Faversham, feeling rather relieved the family trip to the dentist had been a relatively calm experience, I happened to look up and see these two gorgeous gargoyles. I’ve admired them many times but have never stopped to look at them properly. Of course, I didn’t have my work camera with me and the sun was shining in my eyes but hopefully I’ve blown the images up enough for you to see their detailing too.

Gargoyle carved byt William Warren 2

According to the Faversham town website, The Stationery Shoppe’s beautiful Tudor frontage is actually a replica installed in the 1920’s. The gargoyles, however, were carved by William Warren, a renowned wood-carver, who also undertook commissions at the Houses of Parliament.

Clutched tightly in the gargoyles claws are the coats of arms for  Faversham and Faversham Abbey.

The Stationery Shoppe Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie) 2014

A Love Token for Molly Stone at Maidstone Museum

Love Token image ©Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Trust

Love Token image ©Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Trust

‘Dear Molly Stone is all my own’.  The message is simple, the declaration clear and how cherished it must have been.

During the 17th and 18th centuries engraved coins were a popular love token.  This one is a favourite of Giles Guthrie, the Collections Manager at Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery, who explained that love tokens ‘are coins that have been engraved or altered and then given as a keepsake to a sweetheart. A popular decoration was a ship or soldier, often signifying a parting.  Some were beautifully crafted and some not so but all were made with the same intent and with the same message – love- that is why I like them.’

Love Token image ©Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Trust

Love Token image ©Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Trust


Sadly we have no idea who R.Y was or if he was reunited with this sweetheart but the romantic in me would like to think so.

Maidstone Museum has a fantastic collection of coins and gambling tokens amongst its 660,000 object collection and you can find further visitor information here.




Angela Buckley visits Rochester to talk about ‘Mad, Bad & Dangerous’ Criminals

Fancy hearing about some deadly plots and criminal crackpots? Then head over to the Dot Cafe, Rochester at 6.30pm on Monday 29 September to hear Angela Buckley talking about ‘Mad, Bad & Dangerous’ criminals. I’ve already got my ticket, don’t forget to grab yours!

Originally posted on Victorian Supersleuth:


I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the Rochester Literature Festival, especially as the theme of ‘Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know’ is perfect for sharing stories from Detective Caminada’s casebook. In his tireless fight against crime in the seedy underworld of 19th century Manchester, Jerome Caminada encountered many criminals, many of whom were seriously mad, bad and downright dangerous.

Rev SilvertonEarly in his career, Caminada tackled the insidious and cunningly deceptive quack doctors who preyed on innocent people’s fears for their health within the fragile environment of diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, and a staggeringly short life expectancy of just 18 years. The worst of these charlatans was the Rev Edward Silverton, an expert conman who duped countless victims into buying his miraculous ‘Food of Foods’ in a desperate effort to improve their chances of survival.

Other bad and highly dangerous adversaries of the determined detective included the notorious ‘scuttlers’ (street fighters), who were completely ruthless and defended their ‘territory’ with a fierce loyalty that often descended into madness, as they clashed in terrifying battles with rival gangs. Caminada also faced bands of anarchists, many of whom became embroiled in violent clashes as they resisted arrest, and certainly not least of all, the Fenians, who threatened national security and put the population at serious risk.

At the height of his career and in his signature case, the Manchester Cab Mystery, Detective Caminada brought Charlie Parton to justice. Aged just 18 years old, he drugged his victims in an attempt to rob them and when he poisoned businessman, John Fletcher, Caminada tracked him down using all the brilliant powers of deduction of Sherlock Holmes.

Image 7aHowever, in the 30 years of Jerome Caminada’s long career as a detective, one man stands out as the most dangerous of all: his lifelong rival and violent thief, Bob Horridge. He would stop at nothing to keep one step ahead of the police, which proved almost fatal, on many occasions, for Caminada and his colleagues. The arch enemies faced each other in a final confrontation, from which only one man could emerge alive.


I will be talking about the ‘mad, bad & dangerous’ criminals faced by Detective Caminada, at the Rochester Literature Festival at 6.30 pm on Monday 29 September 2014 at the Dot Café, Rochester. Please do come along!


History Snap: Carriages waiting for the ball?


A queue of carriages waiting to deliver their bejewelled occupants to the ball or the inside of the Tyrwhitt-Drake Carriage Museum? Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie) 2014

Inside of the Tyrwhitt-Drake Carriage Museum in Maidstone, Kent.             Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie) 2014



The 12th Earl of Moray and his 19thC Carriage of Heartbreak

The 12th Earl of Moray's 19th Century Coach. Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)

The 12th Earl of Moray’s 19th Century Coach at Maidstone’s Carriage Museum. Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)

Every woman wishes to travel in style on her honeymoon and the 12th Earl of Moray was determined that his new wife would enjoy every comfort. Described as ‘six feet in stature, dark complexioned and handsome’ the honourable John Stewart had organised a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe for his honeymoon and commissioned a stylish, black travelling coach for the trip.



Coat of arms displayed on the 12th Earl of Moray's Coach. Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)

Coat of arms displayed on the 12th Earl of Moray’s Coach. Image ©Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)

As a solider and politician he was engaged to the daughter of the Earl of Elgin during the 1830’s and six magnificent white horses had been bought to pull their coach. But, for some reason, the longed for marriage didn’t take place and the heartbroken Earl is said to have had the horses shot. He ordered the coach to be withdrawn from sight and it was taken to the coach house where it sat, unused, for the next 120 years.In 1951, the coach was finally moved to the Tyrwhitt Drake Carriage Museum in Maidstone where it now sits is stately but subdued grandeur. Even its window shutters are drawn against enquiring eyes and, as I stood looking at it, the romantic in me couldn’t help but feel sad for the Earl who largely withdrew from public life while he was still in his thirties.

Even in earlier life is seems the Earl wasn’t a fan of the limelight and despite acting as an MP for Newport on the Isle of Wight between 1825 and 1826 he was a lax attender at Parliament. In 1859, at the age of 62, he succeeded his elder brother, who was apparently insane from childhood, to the peerage and took control of his family extensive estates in north-east Scotland.

Remaining unmarried, the honourable John Stewart died in November 1867, having ‘for many years taken no part whatsoever in public affairs.’ I just hope he wasn’t alone.


DSC_0580-001PS. Despite its low key appearance, the Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages (which is also known as the Maidstone Carriage Museum) is well worth a visit. It covers two large floors and is said to be one of the finest in Europe. The museum’s attendant is very friendly and keen to point out features that a visitor may otherwise overlook.

It’s also a bargain at £5 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) and there’s plenty for the children to see including a Mayor’s carriage decorated with the only crest featuring a dinosaur, lots of carved animals – including dragons and snakes – an original ice cream cart and Queen Victoria’s pony cart which was pulled by her beloved donkey, Zora.

The museum is located in Mill Street, Maidstone, Kent (opposite the Archbishops Palace and next to a public car park) and you can find full visitor information here.

I hope you enjoy it too.

The History Magpie’s Top 10 Blog Posts

Capture Twitterversary 2The image of a piece of cake topped with a sparkling candle has just dropped into my inbox. Apparently I’ve been on twitter for two years – yikes that has gone fast – and I have to say it’s been great.  Some people may love Facebook but I’m definitely a twitter fan. During that time, I’ve learnt a lot and procrastinated quite a bit (yes, I’ve seen your funny pictures) but, most importantly, chatted with some very friendly people.

Being a homeworker can sometimes be a little lonely, so having a virtual hang out is fantastic and I get to ‘meet’ people I never would spoken to have in the real world.  There are far too many of you to mention by name but I’m thankful to everyone who takes the time to say hello and, if your reading this post, it’s more than likely that you are one of them so that includes you.

And to celebrate, I’m putting the virtual kettle on and sharing my top ten blog posts with you.  I’d love to hear which one is your favourite.


PS Don’t forget you can chat to me at @rachaelhale1

Image © Tunbridge Wells Museum, Kent

Image © Tunbridge Wells Museum, Kent



A 19th Century Dolls’ House Designed to Dazzle, Tunbridge Wells Museum, Kent






Image © Maidstone Museum, Kent

Image © Maidstone Museum, Kent



A Rare 17th Century Beaded Christening Basket, Maidstone Museum, Kent




Image ©Penshurst Place, Kent

Image ©Penshurst Place, Kent



A 17thC Gem Encrusted Pietra Dura Cabinet, Penshurst Place, Kent






Image © English Heritage - Down House, Kent.

Image © English Heritage – Down House, Kent.



The Darwins arrive at Down House, Kent.




Image © Matt Ball

Image © Matt Ball



Behind the Scenes of ‘The Sevenoaks Memorial Project’, Kent




Image © Tunbridge Wells Museum

Image © Tunbridge Wells Museum



Bringing Back The Glory to Grosvenor and Hilbert Park – Writer Carolyn Gray reveals all



Image ©Sevenoaks Museum, Kent

Image ©Sevenoaks Museum, Kent




A WWII Egg Box, Sevenoaks, Kent






Image supplied by Angela Buckley

Image of Jerome Caminada supplied by Angela Buckley



Who was ‘The Real Sherlock Holmes’? Author Angela Buckley reveals all.







©Rachael Hale (aka The History Magpie)

©Rachael Hale (aka The History Magpie)



Why is the porcupine part of the Sidney family crest? Penshurst, Kent







©Rachael Hale (aka The History Magpie)

©Rachael Hale (aka The History Magpie)



The Secrets of Queen Victoria’s Armchair, Walmer Castle, Kent





Which one did you like most? I’d love to know so do please drop a quick line in my comment box.

See you soon.


Sarah Salway talks about Kent’s gardens and ‘Digging Up Paradise’


Sarah speaking at her book launch Image ©Sarah Salway

Sarah speaking at her book launch Image ©Sarah Salway

Sarah Salway didn’t intend to write a book about Kent’s public gardens, or become the Canterbury Laureate,  but when the special opportunity arose she grabbed it.

As part of her role Sarah carried out a literary tour of Kent’s public gardens, which has now been turned into a unique book featuring history, plants and poetry, and she has kindly dropped by to share some of the personal stories behind it.

Hello Sarah,

You’re well known as a journalist, novelist and poet so how did you end up writing a book about gardening?

I have always been interested in gardens – as opposed to gardening! I didn’t really have much choice as a child as my mother was a garden historian and the herb gardens at home were open to the public. When I was studying at the London College of Fashion, I went to evening classes on garden history, and kept up the interest ever since. For a writer, they are such a rich source of stories – from the plants to the gardeners to the space itself. Just think how many plots pivet on secrets told in gardens!

Peony border at Penshurst Place - Image ©Sarah Salway

Peony border at Penshurst Place – Image ©Sarah Salway

How did you decide which gardens to include?

It was so hard. They had to be open to public (even for a few days of the year) as I wanted the public engagement element. I wanted 26 so I had to lose some of the gardens I had visited and really loved, but I tried to get a selection of different gardens. I really could have made this book ten times as long for Kent alone, and I love that people are now contacting me to tell me of a lovely garden I have missed out. I hope that they will write their own poems for that garden! But seriously, it does hurt that I couldn’t include all the gardens.

Are you a lover of useful herbs and plants like your mother, the garden historian and writer Elizabeth Peplow, or are you more fond of the ornamental?

Useful, I would say. We have an allotment at Hawkenbury and some of the herbs and vegetables are just so beautiful. The colour of beetroot leaves is just stunning and some herbs like fennel are just magic. When I put flowers in a pot I will always put herbs in too BUT having watched the Big Allotment Show on television recently, I’m trying to grow more flowers to cut. And edible flowers too, of course. I love all the stories too.

So, when you look at plants do you primarily see their colour and shape or do you think of their stories, their folklore and medicinal use?

I do tend to, I read quite a lot but I’m not an expert really and so that has been one of the joys of visiting the gardens and learning so much first-hand. I visited St Johns Jerusalem and Will Gould the gardener was walking me around with me and he showed me Queen Anne’s Lace. Of course I’ve seen it lots of times but what I didn’t know was that right in the middle is a spot of red and it’s called Queen Anne’s Lace because apparently that was a drop of blood from her finger when she was making lace. I keep looking at the booklet of 18th century recipes I picked up at Quebec House and wondering if I’m brave enough to try some of them. I love the idea of making my own wines – is that medicinal?

Chartwell view - Image ©Sarah Salway

Chartwell view – Image ©Sarah Salway

You visited many public gardens and parks whilst doing your research, when you first arrived what did you do?

I always did advance reading but when I got there, I tried to rely on my own intuition as to what particularly caught my interest about the garden. With some of the gardens I went round with the gardener or owner but I always tried to walk around by myself too. At first I just walked around and tried to see what was catching my eye. It may be there were connections between them so if I particularly noticed one red plant, I might then see a tree with red bark and then I would start to look for other red things. Sometimes it would be a puzzle. Why was this tree planted here? Or if I had read about a particularly interesting personality connected with the garden, I might try to imagine the garden from their point of view.

Did you write when you were there?

Always, always. I’m a big believer in my writer’s journal so I would write as many notes as I could and I always tried to find a place to sit down that spoke to me. I remember my garden history tutor saying that if you see a bench in a garden, you should sit on it because it has been put there for a particular reason, that’s the view someone wants you to see. It’s a good tip because you are getting an idea of how the garden can be viewed. Other times I’d lie out on the grass, or sit by a wall. I also took lots of photos.

elephant topiaryOn your blog, you say that you discovered stories that surprised you and made you laugh and cry – do you have a favourite?

For another project I’ve been doing a lot of research on WW1 soldiers, so I was particularly moved by the Belgian soldiers who ended up at Quex House and Gardens. I could really understand how working in the garden must have helped their recovery, it must have felt like a green tranquil paradise after the battlefields and also perhaps a useful gap between their experiences in the war and returning home. The story of one soldier stayed with me. He didn’t say a word during the two years he was at Quex (although he seemed happy there) but started talking again the minute he set foot back on Belgian soil. But there were so many. I think my favourite discovery was the crocus circle at Canterbury Cathedral that was the exact spot where the rose window would be if the tower fell. My favourite mystery has to be whether there were elephants at lovely Chilham Castle!

The labyrinth at Tudeley - Image ©Sarah Salway

The labyrinth at Tudeley – Image ©Sarah Salway

You also said that the garden at Chilham Castle gave you goosebumps, why is that?

Garden design is normally thought to be mostly about plants, but the more I learn the more I realise it is about how it can shape our emotional responses. At Chilham, there’s an eastern avenue of sweet chestnut trees tthat were planted in alignment with the rising sun, and apparently two yew trees have been found miles away that follow this line completely. They follow the prehistoric tracks now called the Pilgrim’s Way. There’s something so satisfying about that. We try to control so much of our environment nowadays almost by fighting it, and it’s humbling to sit in a garden and realise how we have always needed nature for our spiritual needs.

Of all the gardens you visited, which one would you like to own and why?

Good question. I think it has to be St John’s Jerusalem, which – perhaps not surprisingly – is one of the smallest gardens I visited. It has a lovely wild quality that feels so serene. The moat helps, I had daydreams of having a small wooden rowing boat and going for picnics, rather like Ratty and Mole!
But most of all, I came away with such enormous respect for the hard work and generosity of all the people who owned and ran these gardens in real life. I am sure they have little time for floating around on a boat. Or indeed daydreaming. It’s a wonderful thing they are doing for all of us.

Digging Up Paradise by Sarah Salway - Image ©Sarah Salway

Digging Up Paradise by Sarah Salway – Image ©Sarah Salway

‘Digging up Paradise’ reveals your own creative responses to the gardens. Did you find other writers’ literary responses to gardens influenced you in any way?

Yes, I think so. There is some brilliant pure garden writing but it was the nature garden writers and poets that made me look much closer than I had been doing. I also think that some of the nature writing is some of the bravest writing now. We can become quite cynical and worried about talking about the spiritual side of things and when they talk about the spirit of a place , it made me realise that’s what I was interested in – what does this place, this garden, mean and, wider still, where is our place in the world. It’s a search for what matters to us.

And finally, Digging up Paradise is unique mix of history, plants and poetry – where can people find it?

You can buy it from the publisher’s website – Or of course, order it from any good bookshop.

Writers Blog Tour: Confessions of a Lurker

©Rachael Hale (History Magpie) 2014

©Rachael Hale (History Magpie) 2014

I haven’t taken part in a blog tour before and, to be completely honest, I’m far happier lurking in the background clicking other peoples ‘like’ buttons than being in the spotlight. It’s one of the reasons I love blogging so much and over the years I’ve discovered some incredible people in the virtual world. My favourites are the ones that let their personality shine through their words and give a glimpse behind the scenes.

So, thanks to Angela Buckley, aka the Victorian Supersleuth and author of The Real Sherlock Holmes, for inviting me to join this writing blog tour, I’m now revealing a little bit about my writing by answering the following four questions. Angela has also linked up with the talented author of Shellshocked Britain, Susie Grogan, who blogs over at nowrigglingoutofwriting and the questions were originally posed by Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair in Perthshire, Scotland. The best bit about the tour for me though is that, at the end, I get to introduce you to four of my favourite bloggers.

Here goes:

What am I working on?

Kent Life Magazine

Kent Life Magazine

Well in true magpie style I can honestly say a bit of everything. I regularly write for two magazines – Kent Life and Kent Homes & Interiors who, despite first appearances, are totally unrelated to one another. So, one minute I’m snooping around someone’s lovely house asking lots of nosy questions for a ‘through the keyhole style feature’ and the next I’m happily lost in an archive or museum researching a historical event or person for my ‘history scrapbook’ series.

I’m also a volunteer writer for the Kent History Centre, hence their archives frequent appearance on my blog, and, when I can grab an extra moment, I’m either writing blog posts or working on my museum related non-fiction book.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the greatest difference is that I’m not led by any particular historical era or theme. I love history in general and I’m usually inspired by unusual fact – the type that gets randomly dropped into a conversation when you are least expecting it -or an object, whether that be an entire home or a small personal belonging.

Shoes found in the Hopper Hospital chimney

Shoes found in the Hopper Hospital chimney

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love the quirky stuff.

How does my writing process work?

I would love to say that I’m a super organised writer who has a regular writing slot and sticks to it no matter what, but I’m not. I’m usually a writer in a rush. I have a list of feature deadlines stuck to my wall and a ‘to do’ book filled with notes, exclamation marks and ‘must do this now’ scrawled across it. As soon as I get a new commission, I set up a file for it, write a list of what I need to do for it on designated page in my ‘to do’ book and start my research. Then, as family and work life evolves, I gradually accumulate everything I need until a week before deadline when it suddenly becomes – URGENT!

DSC_0752-001As much as I dread them, deadlines are my personal red hot poker, a date not to be exceeded and I actually work better when I have them. So much so that I frequently give myself false dates in order to try and keep on top of things. I think it all goes back to my last job when I had to account for every six minute block of my working time!

As for the actual writing, I always dread starting something new. I love the editing bit but the thought of getting that painful first paragraph down on paper can have me searching for something, anything, more pressing to do and I know I have a particularly bad case of the ‘blank page blues’ when I find myself doing the housework. If this happens I have to bribe myself back into the chair and will gather everything up and head for a local café that doesn’t have internet access. I then force myself to write an outline and at least 500 words before I leave. And by the time I’ve done that I might as well crack on and finish it. The odd hot chocolate awarded at certain stages also helps.

Right, that’s me done with. Now for the interesting bit.

I’ve been asked to introduce you to some of my favourite bloggers and, being in a greedy mood, I’ve invited four of them to join in as I think you might like reading their words too.

So here they are:

If smelly vision had been invented, Midihideaways by Andreas would be perfect and I love virtually touring France through his blog. Just a quick warning though – his images and descriptions frequently leave me feeling hungry! This is what he has to say about himself:

Andreas lives in a small village in the South of France, which he found purely by chance, some 20-odd years ago. A little while ago a friend suggested that he should write a blog to show the many attractive facets of the Languedoc region to holidaymakers, and that was the start of the Midihideaways blog. New posts appear once a week, and topics are wide ranging, including food, restaurant reviews, places to visit, activities, nature and more.

Edward Mooney on the other hand has taught me the power of a good photograph and I frequently look at how he has ‘framed’ the main object in his pictures in the vague hope that his expertise will magically pass itself to me over the internet.

Edward is a Kildare based Photographer and married father of three great kids. In his rare moments of spare time, he can be found exploring ancient ruins and castles travelling around the Irish countryside in search of his next Adventure, which he fondly refers to as ‘Ruin-hunting‘. Edward concentrates on combining his passion for photography with his deep interest in History, Old Ruins, folklore & mythology. You can see more of his work at


Both Nicola Young and I juggle full time family care with a professional writing career and I’m frequently inspired by the variety of topics that Nicola covers. We also have young sons on a diary free diet so her personal experiences and family tried recipes, particularly the cakes, are much appreciated.

Nicola is a freelance copywriter and regular contributor to She Knows UK, an on-line women’s lifestyle magazine. Her blog, Nikki Young Writes, is dedicated to everything Nicola is passionate about: her family, healthy food (including making gluten and dairy free creations for her intolerant son) and her weekly fiction writing link-up. Nicola also writes stories for children and is currently working on her first novel for teens.

And finally, Hannah Griffin at Ditto. Hannah’s enthusiasm and happiness is infectious and her personality pours off her blog’s pages along with common sense advice on the business side of marketing your business. She frequently posts blogs bursting with colour and I’ve learnt a lot from her. Hannah and her team also designed the gorgeous logo sitting at the top of my blog, which gives me yet another reason to be a fan.

Hannah Griffin is a brand stylist, blogger and Creative Director of family-run branding studio, Ditto. She lives in Kent with her fiancé Dan, a graphic designer, and their two house rabbits. Hannah writes about branding, design and business at

Happy reading!