Should I write or research?

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The first commercial wet dock in the world was opened in Liverpool in 1715. It was known originally by the engineer’s name Thomas Steer’s Dock, but later, as other docks were built it became known as the Old Dock. This Old Dock was infilled in 1826.

When Liverpool One was being created they found the Old Dock during excavations in 2001. The Old Dock has been preserved as much as possible and is now part of Liverpool Maritime Museum and you can take tours of this Old Dock and see where the original stream flowed in to the Pool.

As Rome was built by the local people who lived on seven hills, Liverpool, nearly 2000 years later, planned its layout in 1207, based on seven streets.

High Street, (1207), which used to have a weekly market and annual fairs and was originally called Jugglers Street

Chapel Street, (1257), named after the Chapel of St Mary, which no longer exists, having been demolished in 1814.

Water Street (1207), used to be called Bonk (Bank) St, the street to the river bank of the River Mersey.

Castle Street (1235), the street that lead to the castle.

Dale Street (1207), used to be called Dell St., through which the stream ran to the pool (Liver Pool).

Tithebarn Street, used to be called Moor St, which I think was connected to the Salthouse Moor district, or perhaps the Moor family. It ran from Castle Street to the river. Later in 1523 Sir William Molyneux bought the tithe rights from the monks of Shrewsbury Abbey and erected a tithe barn to collect produce as a tithe. The street then became known as Tithebarn St

Old Hall Street (1207), (used to be called Milne or Mill St) and changed to Old Hall Street after the Moore family moved from this hall to another on the outskirts of the city. The Moore’s ‘old hall’ remained, so the street’s name changed over time to Old Hall Street.

Making sure that the background of Liverpool was correct for my novel Ice King, which is set between 1804 to 1807 was very time consuming , but for me, very interesting. I had to make sure that I didn’t refer to any location in Liverpool that didn’t exist in 1804.

So the research was to find out what did exist in 1804.

imgp2403r I was safe in using St Nicholas Church – the sailors’ church, because it was used as a guide by sailors to bring their ship in to port in 1804. It had been a place of worship since 1257, so I felt safe if I had to refer to the church building. The above photograph taken a few years ago.

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The above photograph of St Nicholas’ church taken a few years after William King’s, my main character, adventures.

So what else can I use from 1804? After a great deal of searching I found just what I wanted, an old map of Liverpool which was produce by John Britton (1771 – 1857) and as far as I can make out he produced the map in 1807!

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From the above map I was able to expand the area that was of my particular interest – the area around George’s Dock. As sailors did in the early days they used the tower of St Nichols’ church to navigate in to the ‘Bason’ and then in to George’s Dock.

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George’s dock was opened in 1771, and named after King George III.

In 1874 the Bason was filled in, and in 1899 the dock itself was filled in to create what we know today as the Pier Head.
Later (1914) Cunard Shipping Line commissioned a new headquarters,which was opened in 1917. The Cunard Building, which is to the right of the Liver Building, can be seen in the picture below. A section of the George’s dock wall can still be seen in the basement of the  Cunard Building.

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What was the river like in 1804 (sand banks, wrecks etc), so I need a chart.

chart  Chart of the Mersey Bar area dated 1801; produced by William Morris, (the link will take you to the National Library of Wales) a fascinating man who also charted the seas around the island of Angelsey.

When researching for an appropriate gentleman’s club, one where a prosperous ship owner and trader would frequent in 1804, I came across the Athenaeum Club. I wanted to develop the background and life style of the main character’s father.

This club was opened in 1797 and the location of the club as in Ice King is correct for 1804, but not for today, because the club moved from Church St to  Church Alley in 1928. The club is still active in Liverpool.
There is an Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, London, which was founded in 1824.

One of the founder members of the Liverpool Atheneum Club was William Roscoe who was a very strong anti- slavery advocate. Other founder members were some of the most prosperous slave traders in Liverpool. I found it odd that the needs of the members for a club, such as the Athenaeum, over came their like or dislike of the African slave trade. Perhaps William Roscoe thought that he might be able to influence the slave traders, to reject the trade, in a social situation.
Roscoe was a strong Christian and fought in Parliament, as the member for Liverpool, for the rights of Catholics and other denominations to hold high office. In 1807 he voted with William Wilberforce to stop the slave trade, which successfully passed in to law, but caused William Roscoe trouble back home in Liverpool. He lost his seat at the next election.

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William Roscoe

In the novel I referred to a character who had won £20,000 in a lottery in 1776 – this is true.
His name was Thomas Leyland and he was the Mayor of Liverpool three times. When he died in 1827 he was one of the richest men in the Britain. His wealth was due to him investing a large amount of his winnings in to the slave trade. In 1807 when Britain made it illegal to trade in slaves he switched to banking.

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Thomas Leyland

The bank stayed in the Leyland family until 1901, at which time it merged with the North & South Wales Bank.
Later, in 1908, they were taken over by the the London City and Midland Bank. Eventually this bank became just ‘Midland Bank’, before being taken over itself by the HSBC Bank. I wonder if they realise that part of their foundation is based on slavery?

The hours of research helped produced less than a chapter, but hopefully a reader would enjoy the story that much more because of the research, but I am still not sure if Maureen is correct when she said that I  prefer the research to the writing. . . .

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Fact or fiction for historical stories.

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Writing historical fiction is time consuming to say the least. Each scene that surrounds a character must be true for the reader, and the easiest way to make this scene true, is research and more research. You cannot afford to be wrong, unless of course you do it deliberately, because you are writing an ‘alternate history’ novel.

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A few years ago I wrote an historical novel, which took me at least two years to research. I’d write a scene and then study it to make sure that a character could do what I wanted. For example, I had the main character board a coach in London to travel to Liverpool in 1804. The first thing that comes to mind, was from where in London would he leave – research.

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How big was the coach, how many horses, how many passengers, did they all sit inside or did some sit on top and if so was it cheaper to travel ‘up top’ than inside? Research, research and more research.

My wife considers that I more interested in the research side of writing than I am in producing the finished novel. There may be some truth in her comment . . .
Small details can pop up that you consider and then either use or discard. Too many details will slow the story and you are trying to entertain, not educate, but you do inadvertently educate, so accuracy matters.
One small detail that I didn’t use was that the cost for sitting inside was 5d (five pence) per mile and if you sat up top it was 2 1/2d (twopence h’penny). If I play trivia pursuit on NYE I wonder if I’ll get this question?
How fast did the coach travel, – the average speed being about eight to ten miles an hour until the roads were improved by Mr. McAdam allowing the speed average to increase to fourteen miles an hour.

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How long was it before the horses were changed?
The route was cut in to ‘stages ‘ hence the coach was a ‘stagecoach’- and they would change the horses every ten to fifteen miles.
Some stage stops would allow the passengers to have a meal, but if a coach carried mail many stage stops would be to just change horses, and the post office would only allow five minutes for this procedure, but a crack team could do it in three minutes. To warn the inn and to save time the guard at the rear of the coach would sound his horn in a way to warn the coaching inn that they were approaching, and to have the horses ready for the change.The tone of the sound informed the inn keeper that the coach only wanted fresh horses or that it was a meal stop.

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Was there anything special about the coach; – a Royal Mail coach would have the origin city’s name and the destination city’s name blazoned on the side along with the Royal coat of arms. Royal Mail coaches used numbers whereas commercial coaches gave their service names ‘The Flyer’, ‘The Union’, ‘The Courier, and ’Umpire’ was a Liverpool bound coach and so on.
One would think that a novelist could make up the answers to many of the questions, but if he was wrong then this would taint the overall story and if a reader thought that the author had ‘cheated’ then the reader might not finish the book or the they might post a negative review, which would be worse.
In my novel I had the London to Liverpool coach stop at an inn at Stony Stratford, which was well known as a stopping place for stagecoaches on their way north to Liverpool, Manchester etc, Stony Straford being a day’s ride from London.

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The picture illustrates the inside of a coaching inn (not Cock Inn).
The inn I used was the Cock Inn, which is just up the road from the Bull Inn, which was also a coaching inn. It is known the both inns would exaggerate their services and after a time a story teller would be told that his story was a load of Cock and Bull.
Jon Cok was the original landlord in 1480, which is how the inn got its name not from the bird. Although the pub sign shows the bird.

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Stony Stratford has been around since 1194, and the word ‘Stratford’ in Anglo-Saxon means a ford on a Roman road – the ford being across the River Ouse. The ‘stony’ bit is referring to the stones on the bed of the river.
A friend of mine from my Conway days, who lives near Stony Stratford and had read my book, sent me photographs of the same street today.

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The Cock Inn is now a hotel.

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As is the Bull Inn, which is to the right of the Cock Inn.

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The Bull Inn can be seen on the right of the picture with its Bull Inn sign and further along the road, near the flower baskets close to the lady in red, is the Cock Inn.

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Cock Inn late 1800’s – I doubt that this coach & four was on its way to Liverpool.

All this research for a small part of one chapter – if nothing else I learned a lot.

If you wish to know the connection between the slave picture and my book, read the blurb on the book’s cover. If it is unclear or too small, try this link

https://www.amazon.com/Ice-King-Geoff-Woodland-ebook/dp/B0042P52VG/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483139337&sr=1-15&keywords=ice+king