Update on No:5 Salisbury Road

The University of Leicester has confirmed that the sale of properties on Salisbury Road has been postponed during the current pandemic crisis and this includes Marc Fitch House the current home of the Centre for English Local History. The relocation of the Centre to the main campus during the summer has also been postponed. The Friends welcome this pragmatic decision and look forward to working with the University and the Centre to develop a viable and long term solution for the Centre and its valuable collections. We will provide more information as it becomes available. Hoping that all Friends as well as the staff and students at the Centre are keeping safe and well during these difficult times.

Dr Michael Gilbert
15 April 2020

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hoskins’ Day 2020 – CANCELLED

The Friends of the Centre for English Local History normally hold the Hoskins’ Day lecture to celebrate the work of Professor W G Hoskins in June. Given the current pandemic emergency it has been decided to cancel this year’s event and to rearrange it in 2021. We apologise for any disappointment this may cause but as always the safety of our members must always come first. Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Restless Souls Pilgrim Roots

New book explores the turbulent history of the Christian
faith in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire

Miracles * Tragedy * Heroism * Betrayal * Revelation * Corruption

In a story running from the early 7th Century until 1660, Adrian Gray places great and intriguing figures in the context of their times and in an unfolding story of spiritual change, rebellion and sometimes death. You will meet again some well-known figures such as Saint Hugh of Lincoln, Thomas Cranmer the architect of the Church of England, and the mercurial George Fox from Mansfield who formed the Quakers; you will learn more about the first leaders of the Baptist Church and those who became the ‘Mayflower’ Pilgrims, but the text also restores to our attention many more fascinating and often radical figures who have been forgotten over time.

The range of characters stretches from Guthlac, whose supernatural experiences in the Fens became the first English biography, to Elizabeth Hooton, the Nottinghamshire Quaker who travelled the world and escaped death many times. Often, these people were motivated by a quest for a better Faith and Church, leading them from the ‘heresy’ of Lollardism to be champions of the Reformation and ultimately leaders of the Civil War against King Charles I. Many died for their beliefs.

The story also has its fair share of ‘villains’ including corrupt and venal bishops, despotic leaders who sent those who disagreed with them to the stake or the gallows, on both sides of the Atlantic, and one of Elizabethan England’s most sinister torturers.

Hardback, 405pps. RRP £28.00, discounts may apply.

ADRIAN GRAY has an MA in History from Cambridge University and is the author of over twenty books. He is well-known as the historical adviser to Pilgrims & Prophets Christian Heritage Tours and Bassetlaw Christian Heritage, which promote interest in the Christian history of the two counties.

Order from bookshops or usual suppliers, or direct from the publisher: https://bookwormretford.co.uk/product/restless-souls-pilgrim-roots-by-adrian-gray/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Closure of Marc Fitch House

Centre for English Local HistoryMarc Fitch House

In my first update to the Friends I have sadly to give some bad news. Marc Fitch House at 5 Salisbury Road, Leicester has long been the home of the Centre and many of us will know it well having studied there as well as attending lectures and seminars over the years. Unfortunately, the university has decided to sell the building and to relocate the Centre to the Attenborough Tower on the main campus. The Centre is scheduled to leave Marc Fitch House by the start of July 2020.

This has come as a shock to staff and students as well as the Friends and there was no consultation or discussion prior to the announcement on 5th February. Inevitably this sudden move will be very disruptive to teaching and to the research carried out in the building. We have asked to see the rationale behind the decision and the analysis to show how any benefits from the move will outweigh the potential damage to the academic reputation of the university.

In his reply to our letter the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, has made several important commitments to the Centre and to providing appropriate facilities on the main campus.

First, I would like to reassure you that the sale of Marc Fitch House should not be seen as a threat to the future of the Centre for English Local History. It is our intention to create a coherent new space for the Centre within the Attenborough Building, which will include a resource centre to house the Marc Fitch Collection and maps. The activities that currently take place on Salisbury Road will be able to continue – and staff and students will also be able to benefit from being on our central campus and being part of the wider academic community.

We look forward to seeing how these can be delivered by the university and the future of the Centre assured. Please share your thoughts, feelings and any ideas with us on our new social media sites.

Meanwhile, the work of the Centre and the Friends continues – on Saturday 21st March 2020 we will be holding the Spotlight Conference in the Museum Studies building on University Road. It is an opportunity to see some of the research carried out by academics and graduates from the Centre as well as hear our guest speaker, Dr Ian West. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the event. Hopefully, you will have received an email with booking details otherwise they are available on the website and on social media.

Dr Michael Gilbert  (Chair of the Friends of the Centre for English Local History)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Norwich Study Weekend 26 – 28 April 2019

The study weekend was held in the Maids Head Hotel in the heart of the medieval quarter of Norwich and directly opposite the cathedral. The event covered a number of themes including Kett’s Rebellion, Norwich in the Civil War, Protestantism and the medieval architecture of the city.

On the Friday evening we had a talk by Professor Andy Wood of Durham University on Kett’s Rebellion. Andy is an expert on early modern social history and has studied extensively the causes, course and consequences of the Rebellion in the reign of Edward VI. His talk emphasised the political, social and religious tensions that underpinned the Rebellion. Andy returned to the study weekend on Saturday afternoon and gave a guided tour of the main sites in Kett’s Rebellion, starting with the centre of Royalist resistance in the Castle. We then returned to the hotel by way of the medieval quarter and Tombland, scene of bitter fighting during the uprising.

On Saturday morning we visited the Old Meeting House Congregational Church that was built in 1643 in the middle of the Civil War. The pastor, Dr John Clements (in the full costume of a seventeenth century preacher), gave a talk on the origins of the church and the early history of the independent movement in the city. The Separatist Free Church opposed the rule of bishops and naturally sided with the Parliamentarians during the course of the Civil War. William Bridge, from Norwich, took part in the 1643 Westminster Assembly that advised on the Puritan reform of the Church. We then had a tour of the chapel which was one of the first such purpose-built independent churches still functioning as a place of worship today.

In the afternoon we had a talk by Dr Joel Halcomb from the University of East Anglia on St George Tombland, a radical parish in the English Revolution. He explored how the church prospered during the Civil War despite being without a parish priest for much of the period. This was followed by a talk in the evening by our own Professor Andy Hopper on ‘The Great Blow’, when, following riots, a store of gunpowder exploded in the city causing extensive damage and loss of life. This event was used as background for exploring the shifting politics of the city during the Revolution and the conflicting tensions within this important Parliamentarian centre.

Finally, on Sunday morning Professor Sandy Heslop of Cambridge University give a talk on the medieval architecture of Norwich. Sandy is an expert on the art and architecture of the medieval period and has studied in detail the surviving churches of the city. He highlighted the changing architectural styles reflecting the different periods and the masons involved in their design and construction. This was followed by a tour of the churches in the medieval quarter surrounding the Maids Head Hotel, contrasting smaller churches such as St James the Less (now the home of the Norwich Puppet Theatre) and St Edmund’s on Fishergate with grander churches such as St George Tombland.

It was a full weekend that guided the attendees through a particularly interesting period in the evolution of Norwich. The hundred years from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century was a period of great political, social, economic and religious change, reflected in the history and fabric of the city.

Skippon – Ismini Pell’s dog
Guided walk
Outside the Maid’s Head – our base
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MA Local History

ABOUT THE COURSE: Studying our MA History (Local History) Pathway will allow you to explore a variety of topics including regional identities, society and landscape, historical ecology, family and community history, and cultural regions. You will combine study of these themes with training in historical research methods to prepare you for pursuing a dissertation on an area of interest to you. This course is run by our internationally acclaimed Centre for English Local History. Our research centre is unique, specialising in pioneering the study of local history across England and Wales. You will study in-depth the interaction between society, families and landscape and use comparative methods to test hypotheses and interpretations, which might include comparisons with places outside of the British Isles.

TEACHING AND ASSESSMENT: You will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practicals, tutorials and field visits. Our diverse range of teaching methods will help you to develop your observational skills and gain an appreciation of the role of landscape and the structures of community in historical enquiry. The core module ‘Historical Research, Historical Writing’ offers training in early modern English Palaeography, oral history, GIS and data and landscape analysis. You will be assessed in each module by coursework that takes a variety of forms. You will also complete a dissertation of 15,000 words, developing your research expertise as you work closely with your research supervisor on an area of particular interest to you.

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND FURTHER STUDY: Our course is specially designed so that you can develop a wide range of transferable skills to enhance your employability and gain a strong competitive advantage in the job market. Recent graduates of this course have gone on to work in a variety of fields including the Civil Service and local government; planning and housing administration; teaching; project management; the heritage industry; media; social research; and business and management. Our course also provides an excellent grounding and will equip you with the skills required to undertake historical research at doctoral level, and a significant number of our graduates go on to become doctoral researchers each year.

Dissertation (60 credits)
Historical Research, Historical Writing (30 credits)
Landscapes and Identities in Medieval and Early Modern England (30 credits)
Families and Communities in
England and Wales, c.1600- 1900 (30 credits)
One option from MA History or MA History
(Urban History) Pathway (30 credits)
Modules shown represent choices available to current students. The range of modules available and the content of any individual module may change in future years.

LENGTH OF COURSE: One year full-time or two years part-time.

MODE OF STUDY: On campus.

INTAKE DATE: September each year.

ENTRY REQUIREMENT: 2:1 degree or above in History or a related area. We also welcome applicants who do not have a degree but who can show enthusiasm and competence by having attended relevant certificated courses, by submitting published work or by writing qualifying essays to a first degree standard.

FEES: Please visit our website for up to date fee information.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


A conference organised by the Friends of the Centre for English Local history

Saturday 21st March 2020, 9:30am – 4:00pm, at the School of Museum Studies, 19 University Road Leicester

Given the current situation with regard to the coronavirus threat and concerns expressed by members of the Friends it is with great regret that we have decided that it is appropriate to postpone the Spotlight Conference planned for 21st March 2020. It has not been an easy decision but we have decided to err on the side of caution and it is our intention to rearrange the event for later in the year when we have better guidance on managing the potential medical risks and can ensure the safety of everybody attending. We will contact you again when we have a new date.
Posted in Events | Leave a comment


The 4th of August 2020 will mark 175 years since the barque Cataraqui was wrecked on the jagged rocks on King Island’s west coast, an event which remains Australia’s worst maritime civil disaster.

King Island Council is planning a commemoration to honour the memory of those who perished and were buried in unmarked mass graves, and the few who survived.

Some of the passengers originated in our region at Woodborough; James Baxter, 24, labourer and his wife Sarah Baxter, 23.

British accounts of the wreck usually refer to the ship as Cataraque which is more consistent with the pronunciation of the original Canadian name. However, Australian references such as the point on King Island named after the ship spell the name Cataraqui, which is also consistent with Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.

Cataraqui was an 802-ton barque (a sailing ship, typically with three masts, in which the foremast and mainmast are square-rigged, and the mizzenmast is rigged fore and aft) built in Quebec in 1840 by the shipwrights Williams Lampson. The name Cataraqui comes from the French transliteration of “Katerokwi”, the original Mississaugas First Nation name for the area now known as Kingston, Ontario.

Cataraqui was purchased and registered in Liverpool, England by Smith & Sons, for the purpose of transporting assisted emigrants to Port Phillip (Melbourne) in the colony of Victoria, Australia.

On 20 April 1845, the ship sailed from Liverpool under the command of Captain Christopher Finlay. The ship’s manifest on departure included 369 emigrants and 41 crew (410 total) including the captain. The voyage was uneventful apart from the loss of a crew member overboard. By the time the vessel neared Australia, five babies had been born and six others had died.

As Cataraqui entered Bass Strait in the early morning of 4 August, she encountered a severe storm and at about 04.30am, the ship was cast suddenly onto jagged rocks just off Fitzmaurice Bay on King Island off the north-western coast of Tasmania. Attempts to evacuate the ship were hindered by the large waves and heavy weather which washed many of the ship’s occupants overboard. Eight crewmen managed to reach the shore by clinging to floating wreckage, where they encountered the only emigrant survivor, Solomon Brown. The nine castaways were stranded on King Island for five weeks until they were rescued by the cutter Midge and taken to Melbourne.

The commemorative plaque on King island reads:


Built Quebec 1840, 802 T. 138 x 30 x 22 ft.

Left Liverpool, England 20.4.1845 for

Melbourne – Capt. C.Finlay, 43 crew

367 assisted emigrants (173 under 15).

Enroute 5 babies born, 6 babies died,

1 seaman drowned thus 409 aboard when

wrecked 4.8.1845 off W. coast King Is.

1 emigrant, 8 crew survived, 400 lost.

Tasmania’s worst shipwreck

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment