Oh My Poor Nerves! Health and Hypochondria in Jane Austen’s England

My poor nerves

Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Chapter 1.

The set

The Set for Oh My Poor Nerves in the Barn at Red House

What fun I had at The RedHouse this afternoon! And not just fun – I learnt a lot too. A few weeks ago I noticed a flyer for a History Wardrobe performance this Saturday, checked their website and knew that I had to book a ticket to see what it was all about.


Lucy and her costumes. Left – original Georgian gown. Right – copy of Georgian maternity support corset

Here is Lucy’s witty introduction to the presentation :

This talk focuses on an often overlooked period in the history of healthcare, giving an overview of living conditions in late Georgian England that hardly squares with our usual picturesque view of Regency life. Details of home cures, quack remedies and crude surgery highlight the battle between science and superstition, putting the later medical advances into context. For those who feel faint after viewing a pregnancy corset or the leech jar, I do have plenty of ‘infallible’ Regency advice for good health and long life. And sal volatile.

Interspersed with quotations from Austen’s books (Jane Austen loves hypochondriacs) Lucy entertained us for nearly two hours with details and examples of all kinds of diseases and dangers prevalent in Georgian England and how they were treated by dubious doctors and questionable quacks.

Reece's medical guide

Dr Richard Reece’s Medical Guide

She read to us the list of diseases from which one could die in the late 18th and early 19th centuries – the list extracted from Doctor Richard Reece’s “The Medical Guide” of 1811 which, along with all Lucy’s other original and reproduction props, we were able to inspect for ourselves after the performance.


Reproduction and original props

I am now highly enlightened on subjects as diverse as the dangers of red stockings (the dyes); that wallpaper killed Napoleon (arsenic); the extent of cholera epidemics and the locations of cholera burial grounds; body snatching (for medical dissection purposes); the benefits of a porringer of gruel (as recommended by Mr Woodhouse in “Emma“); the greatest danger for the Georgian militia and navy (disease); the biggest killer of women (childbirth); shifts and chemises; detoxing Georgian style; drugs and leeches; lancets and forceps; operating theatres and quack medicine.

Georgian dress

The prize item in Lucy’s collection of historic costumes must be the original Georgian gown.

Lucy’s entertaining presentation this afternoon went to prove that history, science and medicine can all be fun.

Lucy's new book

She even made reference throughout to her new book in which, although titled “Great War Fashion“, she demonstrates that even by the early decades of the 20th century some clothes, medical treatments and aspects of hygiene had never changed.

Before I left the Red House I bought a ticket for another presentation next year – Titanic!

Marshall Howman (1887 – 1915)

War Memorial

A Dead Statesman

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling

After last year’s “Remembrance” post about the life and death of and memorials to Norfolk heroine Nurse Edith Cavell I decided to carry out some research of my own. I chose to follow the life to death of a young man born in Norfolk who died on the battlefield far away on the Turkish Gallipoli Peninsula. I managed to visit several of his Memorials in England and maybe one day will visit Gallipoli itself. 2015 will be a big year for visitors to the area to pay their respects. The significance of the Gallipoli Campaign is felt strongly in both New Zealand and Australia.  ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day (25 April) is commemorated annually by both countries.

Marshal Letter

Private Howman in a letter home :

[… we get a lot of prisoners & rioting sometimes there are hundreds of Australians & New Zealanders wounded here from The Dardanelles. its  a terrible sight to see them maimed for life you would not think it possible how some of them could live …]

Marshall Howman was born in June 1887 in Whitlingham, just south of Norwich. He was the eldest child of Mark and Celia. Mark was a herdsman and Celia was in service at ‘the big house’ wherever they moved to and the family did move around the country. By 1901 Marshall and his parents were living at Stenigot in Lincolnshire with additional sisters and brother : Lena (born in 1891), Hilda (in 1894), Maxwell (in 1895) and Kathleen (Kit or Kitty) who was born in Cheadle [Staffs] in January 1900. Later, in a letter home Marshall tells his family that he ‘came across an old pal I went to Cheadle School with he is in the 6th Manchesters back from the Dardenelles.’

By 1911 when Marshall was 24 he had three further siblings, born  at Strensham in Worcestershire where his family had been living for several years : Ruth (born in 1903), Mabel (in 1906) and Norman (in 1910). By this time, although Marshall was still living at home (and adored certainly by his little sister Kit then aged 11), Lena (aged 20) was already making her own way and living in London as a domestic servant in the Mumford Family home in Westbourne Park Crescent, Paddington.


Strensham and its War Memorial

 © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Next year will see the Centenary of The First World War; the, so-called, “war to end all wars”. When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 Marshall (then 27) and his parents and most of the rest of his siblings were living in Corner Cottage, Strensham in Worcestershire. At some point very soon after; Marshall volunteered to join the Worcestershire Yeomanry The Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars. He was assigned to No. 2 Troop, D Squadron.

The 1st Worcestershire Yeomanry was mobilised in Worcester on August 4, 1914 as part of the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade. On August 11 the regiment moved to Warwick, with the rest of the brigade and on August 14 the brigade proceeded to Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. The brigade moved to Newbury, Berkshire, on August 30, where it joined the 2nd Mounted Division. On November 17 the regiment and the rest of the division moved to Barningham, Norfolk, then on to Kings Lynn. Mention here of King’s Lynn and Norfolk reminds me of :

The 1999 BBC film “All the King’s Men” tells the story of the men of the Sandringham Estate who signed up in 1914 and fought in the Gallipoli Campaign

On the reverse of a picture postcard of Bristol dated 9 April 1915 Marshall tells his family that he’s due to sail at midnight from Avonmouth :

Reverse of card

In fact the records state that it was on April 11, 1915 that the regiment sailed for Egypt from Avonmouth, Gloucestershire, on H.M. Transport Saturnia, arriving in Alexandria on April 24.

ALEXANDRIA EGYPT Fort Kom-El-Dik c1910 Postcard

After disembarking the regiment went into camp at Chatby, near Alexandria. Here is a letter dated 6 June from Kom el Dik Fort and another dated 13 June (his birthday was in June) from Chatby Camp, Alexandria. In civilian life Marshall had been an assistant herdsman and he seems happy to have charge of horses at the Camp.

Marshall letter from Egypt

His letters home show that he had neat, clear handwriting  and a very nice turn of phrase reflecting a reasonably good standard of education for an assistant herdsman a century ago. He was a loving and caring brother and son.

Marshall letter

However, when the regiment was notified that it would be going on active service on August 10 its horses would be left behind. This must have been a blow for Marshall. On August 14 the regiment – 366 men strong – embarked for Gallipoli on H.M. Transport Ascania.  On August 17 the transport arrived at the Greek island of Lemnos, and there the men transferred to the H.M.S. Doris. The following day (August 18), the regiment landed at “A” Beach, Suvla, under shellfire.

Suvla Book

Here is what happened on 21st August 1915 :

The 29th Division assaults 112 Metre Hill and Scimitar Hill, and 11th (Northern) Division assaults Green Hill and the “W” Hills in the Suvla sector, with the 2nd Mounted Division and the 10th (Irish) Division in reserve, out of sight of the Turks. The intention is to capture Scimitar Hill and to proceed on, if possible, and ultimately is to capture these positions, and thus protect the units scattered across the Suvla Plain from Turkish shellfire. At 3:30 p.m., after the failure of the 29th and 11th Divisions to take their objectives (due to strong Turkish defences, lack of adequate artillery support, lack of proper orders and lack of rest) the Worcestershire Yeomanry, along with the rest of the 2nd Mounted Division and the 10th (Irish) Division, is detailed to proceed against the original objectives. The assault is organized in five waves, each wave consisting of one of the five mounted brigades and spaced 200 yards apart. The Worcestershire Yeomanry, along with the rest of the division, moves off across the Salt Lake, under fire from Turkish artillery (the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars advancing behind the Worcestershire Yeomanry). Halfway across the Lake orders are given to advance at the double. Due both to Turkish resistance and confusion, the regiment is able to advance only as far as the line held by the 29th Division. The regiment digs in on Green Hill, but at 2 a.m. on August 22, it is ordered to retire to Lala Baba. No ground is gained in the assault.” [Information from The Gallipoli Association]

The regiment reported 26 men killed and wounded in the assault, though only two fatalities were known to have occurred. One of these was Private Marshall HOWMAN, No.2613, aged 28.  He was killed in action in the assault on Chocolate Hill, Suvla, on August 21, 1915. His name is commemorated on Panel 19 of the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula.

Helles Panel 20f

Marshall listed on the Helles Memorial [Photo kindly supplied by Keith Edmonds of The Gallipoli Association]

Helles Memorial

The Helles Memorial 2013 [Photo kindly supplied by Keith Edmonds of The Gallipoli Association]

Back home Marshall’s family were devastated. Marshall’s name was eventually listed on the wall-mounted Honours Board in St George’s Chapel at Worcester Cathedral and was inscribed in the Roll of Honour there.

St George's Chapel 4

St George’s Chapel, Worcester Cathedral. The Honours Board hangs below the flags.

M on Honours Bd

Marshall’s name on the Honours Board

Marshall in Roll of Honour

Marshall listed in the Worcestershire Regimental Roll of Honour Book described below

Roll of honour

He is also listed on the Honours Board in St John’s Church, Strensham :

Honours Board Strensham Church

Close up M Howman

Strensham war memorial original

Original War Memorial in Strensham

More recently his name, and those of the others who fell in both World Wars, has been inscribed on the War Memorial  in the village of Strensham itself.

Strensham War Memorial close up

Names recently added to the Strensham Memorial including  Pt M. Howman

Marshall’s parents soon returned to Norfolk. There had been mention of their going in the letters between Marshall and his mother. Towards the end of the decade they paid for this memorial to him in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Trowse-by-Norwich.

Marsahll's Memorial Trowse after

Trowse churchyard memorial now overgrown, weather-beaten and almost forgotten

[In Loving Memory of MARSHALL the dearly loved son of Celia and Mark Howman. There was more but sadly the rest of the text has disintegrated]

MARSHALL HOWMAN was my Great Uncle and KIT (KATHLEEN) was my Grandmother.

I have memories of Gran telling me about her beloved brother Marshall and her pride in the memorials to him in both Norfolk and Worcestershire. I have a number of Marshall’s original letters but sadly no photograph has materialised.


I’m extremely grateful to the following for information and inspiration. My sister Kathy for her research into the broader Howman family. My friend Ann and her husband who have been to Gallipoli and lent me books and sent me links on researching military records and helped in many other ways. My three contacts at The Gallipoli Association who provided me with material about the Worcestershire Yeomanry’s movements and Marshall’s final days; thank you Stephen, Keith and Mal.

“We have done that which was our duty to do”
[St. Luke XVII.10]

My Life in Books : Series 4 : Day 2 : Milady’s Day!

One of the annual features of my friend Simon’s blog is the week where he invites other bloggers to more or less take over and re-enacts a BBC TV series My Life in Books. A couple of months ago I was flattered to be invited to participate in this year’s pairing. If you are interested you can read the result here :


Simon and I are both members of the same online book discussion group and meet up occasionally often with many other members during December or in the summer when fewer members are prepared to leave the safety of the big city!

At Great Malvern

Simon and I (left and right) at Great Malvern, summer 2013

Rylstone Edge Walk

Last Sunday was the day to do a practice walk in preparation for the ‘real thing’ on Thursday this week (17th October) when it is my turn to lead the Thursday Walk for the Weekday Wanderers. In August I’d done a walk from Fountains Abbey but this proved rather uninteresting so I was inspired to try a different one to present to the group. Twice this year we have walked from Hetton around Winterburn Reservoir, with slight variations each time. Memories of the wonderful views across to Cracoe Pinnacle inspired my choice last week.

Cracoe Fell from Moor Lane Hetton

A friend, and fellow Wanderer, agreed to accompany me. In the past both of us had had difficulty finding one of the paths down to Cracoe but we felt that with both of us working on the challenge, and our previous experiences, we would find a suitable descent. And we did.


There are several versions of this walk but the one we finally decided on was from the Yorkshire Post – Rylstone Edge in the Saturday ‘Walk this way” series, 24 July 2010. [NB This walk is not listed on the link]

Early in walk

We parked by the picturesque duck pond in Rylstone (yes, yes, home of the Calendar Girls, remember them?) crossed the B6265 (Skipton to Grassington road) took the track past the Manor House to St Peter’s Church and from there headed across fields and along another decent track to the Access Point to Barden Moor and Barden Fell Access Area.

Access Map

Map of the Access Area [property of the Bolton Abbey (Devonshire’s) Estate]

Looking back to St Peter's and Rylstone

Looking back to St Peter’s and Rylstone

Near entrance to Access Area

View near gate to Access Area

Through the gate we took the track which rose steadily until we were almost on a level with our first monument – The Rylstone Cross. A left turn took us gently up to the cross itself. This 1995 cross replaced the original 1815 cross that commemorated the Treaty of Paris near the end of the Napoleonic era.

The Cross

Rylstone Cross

War Memorial in middle distance

Between the War Memorial and the Cross [Memorial in middle distance]

From the cross, along the ridge, we kept to the eastern side of the dry stone wall until we reached the second memorial The Cracoe Obelisk War Memorial which records the names of those Cracoe men who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Cracoe War Memorial

Cracoe War Memorial

It is the path down to Cracoe that has proved elusive in the past and you run the risk of ending up in very marshy ground which is impossible to pass through. This time we managed to find a good clear route and emerged from the least marshy area at some old sheepfolds on the edge of Cracoe village at the top end of Fell Lane.

Sheep pens

The old sheep pens and war memorial

The lane leads down to the village which is where you leave the Access Area. And here the big disappointment was revealed – the whole area is closed to the public on a list of 14 days between the end of September and the end of October and one of these is Thursday 17th October!! So, having negotiated a perfect route for a day out with superb views across the Yorkshire Dales the walk will have to be shelved until next year at the earliest.

Access Board

Access Area Information Board – Study Carefully!

The final walk back to the car was along a quiet track (Chapel Lane) behind the village and parallel with the main road past St Peter’s Church, Rylstone again and so back to the car. Looks like I’ll turn back to the uninspiring walk from Fountains Abbey for next Thursday 😦 .

Closure Dates


Day Tripper – To Liverpool Library

Central Library

On Thursday I spent the day with a friend in Liverpool. We met at Lime Street Station and spent the morning over coffee in the cafe and admiring the ‘new’ Liverpool Public Library re-opened in May after a massive renovation project. It’s a job well done! I wanted to visit ever since I saw this blog post and the super pictures. I don’t really have much to add text-wise. We travelled up to the top and the very windy roof terrace and then inspected the building and departments as we descended. The Hornby and Oak Rooms reminded me of my own dear Leeds Library. Going into the major reference space – The Picton Library – was just like entering the old British Museum Reading Room. And the glass dome on the roof reminded me of The Reichstag in Berlin.

View towards River Mersey

View eastward

Views from the Roof Terrace

Glass Dome

The Glass Dome Exterior

Liverpool Record Office

The Open Plan Liverpool Record Office has Beatles memorabilia and other documents on display

Picton Room

The Picton Reading Room

Picton Reading Room

Detail of the Reading Room – quality fixtures and fittings

This magnificent building and reading room was built in 1875 -79. Sir James Allanson Picton was the Chairman of the Libraries Committee, architect and author of the famous “Memorials of Liverpool”.

Based on the rotunda of the British Museum in London, the Picton reading room is 100′ in diameter and 56′ high, and was designed by Cornelius Sherlock, Corporation Surveyor, at a cost of £20,000 with seating for 200 readers.

The circular structure was nicknamed “Picton’s Gasometer” although ironically it was the first public building in Liverpool to be lit by electric lighting when opened in 1879.


Hornby Room

The Oak Room with Audubon Display

The Oak Room was the last addition to the Picton and was opened in 1914 as a special library for the rarest books in the building. 

It houses some 4000 books but pride of place must be the Birds of America by John James Audubon, purchased with a donation from William Brown’s partner in America, Joseph Shipley.


Hornby Library

Detail of The Hornby Room

The Hornby Library was the donation of a wealthy Liverpool merchant, Hugh Frederick Hornby.

He bequeathed his collection of books, prints and autographs to the City in 1899 together with £10,000 for a building to house it.

The building is full of Edwardian opulence with ten alcoves to display the many rare bindings and a gallery above. It was designed by the Corporation Architect Thomas Shelmerdine and was opened in 1906.



The Liverpolitan Magazine, 1932

But it’s not all restored Victorian – there’s an exciting modern children’s library in the former Picton Hall below The Reading Room.

Children's library

The Children’s Department

Library Dome

View of the Dome from the Ground Floor

Read more about the library and its services here. Well done, Liverpool, you have a public library worthy of your UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

The Pinecone : a Visit to St Mary’s Church, Wreay in Cumbria

Earlier this year I read Jenny Uglow’s latest book “The Pinecone : the story of Sarah Losh, forgotten Romantic heroine – antiquarian, architect and visionary”. I had heard Jenny speaking about the book at the 2012 Ilkley Literature Festival. Sarah Losh’s life and her work are almost totally unknown.

Pinecone book

The village of Wreay lies five miles south of Carlisle. Four country roads meet at the village green, shaded by trees, and across the way is the church. It looks like a small Romanesque chapel from northern Italy. What is it doing in this northern village, with the mountains of the Lake District to the west and the Pennines to the east?”

St Mary's Wreay

This is the premise for the book [on the back cover] and it’s a fascinating tale.  Jenny Uglow first sets the scene by telling the story of Sarah Losh’s antecedents who made money in Newcastle from alkali works and later from iron works and the railways. Sarah was born in 1786 and her sister Katharine, with whom she was especially close, in 1788. Their parents died in 1799 [their mother] and 1814 [their father]. The sisters were brought up in the countryside south of Carlisle but as adults they made several tours on the Continent including to Italy. This must be where Sarah received her inspiration. For women at the time they were very highly educated.

Mortuary Chapel

The Mortuary Chapel Across the Field from the Church

Following the death of their father and their travels on the Continent the Losh sisters returned home and began to make improvements to their home and estate and to the village of Wreay itself including the building of a school. But Katherine fell ill and died in 1835 and Sarah was inconsolable. She then directed her efforts to building a Mortuary Chapel modelled on one she had seen at St Piran in Cornwall.

Peep inside the church

Then Sarah began work on the new church 1835. It was completed in 1845. She declared that it was to be “Not in the Gothick style” but based on a Romanesque design and it is a masterpiece and very obviously the work of one person – the untrained architect and designer – Sarah Losh.

Sarah Losh portrait

Sarah Losh

I can’t go into all the details of both the interior and exterior decoration of the building. It’s a perfect gem – earning four stars in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches “This is one of the most eccentric small churches in England … unlike almost all the works in this book, Wreay appears to have been the creation of a single original mind … The Arts and Crafts Movement took half a century to catch up with her.”


The Mausoleum


Dedicated to Katherine Losh

There is a Mausoleum dedicated to her sister and an exact replica of the Bewcastle Cross (the original of which stands by Hadrian’s Wall) alongside the church. The Loshes, including Sarah and Katherine, are buried in a grave enclosure nearby.

Bewcastle Cross

The Bewcastle Cross

Mausoleum and cross and school

The Mausoleum and Cross with the School across the road

Losh sisters' grave

“IN VITA DIVISAE, IN MORTE CONJUNCTAE” – Parted in life, in death united”

I’m lucky to have a friend who lives not far from Wreay. I visited her in Carlisle last year. So last Thursday I took to the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle Line again to visit Wreay Church with June and her husband, David. We were lucky to arrive whilst a group were being shown round and had the good fortune to have access along with them to the small Mausoleum dedicated to Katherine.

Church door

The Ornate Church Door

East end with apse

The East End, with Apse


The Altar

Alabaster font

The Alabaster Font – Carved by Sarah

A pinecone

One of Many Pinecones

So, why the Pinecone? Because it is an ancient symbol of regeneration, fertility and inner enlightenment. It is a promise of rebirth.

Lancaster II : The Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park and The Judges’ Lodging

A couple of weeks ago I paid my second visit to Lancaster. The main purpose of my visit last March was meet a friend and visit the newly refurbished Landmark property The Music Room. From the Music Room roof we could see across the city Williamson Park and the very prominent Ashton Memorial. We promised each other that later this year we’d meet again and visit the Memorial.

Ashton M Ashton M from MR

The Ashton Memorial from Music Room Window and Roof

So that is what we did. Again we met at the Railway Station and headed for coffee and catch-up. Then we took the bus out of the city and up Wyresdale Road to the entrance to the park. In September the weather proved to be drier and sunnier than in March.

Gate Williamson Park

Williamson Park Gates

The Ashton Memorial was commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife. It was designed by John Belcher and completed in 1909, the restored interior hosts exhibitions and concerts and can be hired for private functions, including wedding ceremonies.

Externally, the dome is of copper. The main stone used in the building is Portland stone although the steps are of granite from Cornwall. Externally around the dome are sculptures representing “Commerce”, “Science”, “Industry” and “Art” by Herbert Hampton. The interior of the dome has allegorical paintings of “Commerce”, “Art” and “History” by George Murray. The ceiling is presently undergoing restorative works and has been covered with drapes.

Ground Floor Wedding Venue

The Ground Floor Wedding Venue

At around 150 feet tall it dominates the Lancaster skyline. The first floor outdoor viewing gallery provides superb views of the surrounding countryside and across Morecambe Bay.

[From The City Council website]

Ashton Memorial

The Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park

Hazy view to coast and Morecambe

Hazy View from the Gallery to Coast at Morecambe

It’s a lovely park with lakes and follies, woodland paths and a Butterfly House in the original Edwardian Palm House. We ate our lunch from the very nice Pavilion Cafe out on the sunny terrace.

Butterfly House

Butterfly House

We decided to walk back to the city centre and had a peep at the Lancaster Grammar School Hall and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter on our way.

The Judges’ Lodging is so called because it was where until the 1970s the circuit judge would be accommodated during his visit to the Assize Court in the Castle.

Judges' Lodging

Discover the treasures of Lancaster’s oldest town house

Built in the centre of Lancaster against the backdrop of Lancaster Castle and Lancaster Priory this elegant, Grade I listed building is Lancaster’s oldest town house. The house was originally home to Thomas Covell, Keeper of Lancaster Castle and notorious witch hunter. Between 1776 and 1975 the house became an impressive residence for judges visiting the Assize Court at nearby Lancaster Castle.

The museum is now home to a renowned collection of Gillow furniture which is displayed in fabulous Regency period room settings, fine art and also the enchanting Museum of Childhood which explores toys and games from the 18th century to the present.”

[From the Judges’ Lodging website]

Gillow Lancaster

Gillow Plaque

The former Gillow and Co. workshop and offices is next door to The Judges’ Lodging.  After our visit (No Photography Allowed) there was just time for a cup of tea outside the cafe below the Music Room in what is now called Lancaster’s “Coffee Quarter”.

Music Room Cafe

It was warm and sunny on our last visit!

Stony Lake History Tour by Boat

History Tour by Boat

Stony Lake is just inland from Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America. The Stony Lake Property Owners Association cares deeply (47 feet deep at its maximum, I’m told) about the state of the lake itself, its flora and fauna, about possible sources of pollution and about the immediate banks where many individuals and some organisations have property.

Boat Tour Ticket

Last year the SLPOA introduced a new activity to their summer calendar – The Stony Lake History Tour By Boat. This event is scheduled to take place annually in August visiting a different property each year. Although my visit was in September I had the good luck to stay with a member of the Association’s Committee and my own private, individual, tailor-made tour was arranged by my hosts. We didn’t actually visit a lakeside home. But that was no problem as I was lucky enough to be staying in one myself – and a very special one it is too!

Aerial view of Stony L

Aerial View of Stony Lake with the Shore of Lake Michigan Along the Top (the view looks approximately west)


Our Stony Lake Retreat

Some of this commentary is taken or adapted from the notes from which the docents read during the Tour.

Stony Lake has a lot of tradition. Much of the land, and in many cases the cottages, have been lovingly passed down for generations, shared or sold to friends or family members or even neighbours. 

But things change over the years, and the way of life many long time cottagers grew up with is changing too. More people come for short visits … They have less time to participate in community activities. One reason for doing the Tours is to help getting to know each other a little better.”

A Stony Lake History

“In the 1980s The Property Owners Association organized a project to publish A Stony Lake History, which was published in 1986. We hope it can be updated and republished.”

Huey House

The first house we ‘visit’ is The Huey House built by  John and Myra Huey in 1902.

Public beach

The Public Swimming Beach – I enjoyed a few swims here

Beach from Boat

The Beach from the Boat

Stony Lake Store

Just across the road from the beach is The Stony Lake Store – once it housed the local Post Office, alas no longer.

As we moved around the Lake I was able to view the several Youth Camp Sites including Camp Miniwanca owned by The American Youth Foundation and in existence since 1924.

Miniwanca dock

Here is the Miniwanca Camp Dock

I’m afraid that whenever I see these camps I can’t help singing this to myself :

Remember Allan Sherman?

Another camp on Stony Lake is the Lutheran Camp with a sandy beach and its own swimming area and on the opposite bank and near to ‘our’ cottage is Camp Ao-Wa-Kiya. “Everyone who has a property on Stony Lake should appreciate the special atmosphere that the three camps on the lake provide. These large  chunks of land remain mostly undeveloped, and because of that there is less traffic on the lake. And most nights when the camps are in session the air rings with sounds of happy campers singing and cheering.” 

Shore line cottages

South Shore

Single storey cottage

Some Stony Lake Properties that caught my eye

Boat House

A Stony Lake Boat House

My thanks to John and Julie for being magnificent and generous hosts and for taking me on my own private History Tour Boat.

Quiet area

A Quiet Area of Stony Lake (that’s a heron over to the left there)

Along The West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to U.S.31

We spent the first fortnight in September this year at our friends’ cottage in Michigan. We’ve visited several times before but it’s always a pleasure to stay there with them and make new discoveries in the area as well re-visiting old haunts.

The Book

On the bookshelves at the Cottage my attention was drawn to a book by friends of our hosts called ‘Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike‘. Christine Byron and Thomas Wilson have collected memorabilia and old photos and postcards and assembled them together to produce an illustrated history of the road that wends (or wended) its way along the eastern side of Lake Michigan from the Indiana State Line to the Mackinac Bridge that links the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula.


The West Michigan Pike has been more or less swallowed up by the highway U.S.31 which actually starts way south of Michigan in Alabama.

WMP author talk

I’ve picked out a few  pages of places that I’m more familiar with and included some of my own photos of places along the route.

WMP map


WMP Accommodations SH

South Haven Accommodations in yesteryear

Sun 'n' Sand

Our 1950s Sun ‘n’ Sand Resort Accommodation 2013

WMP S Haven

WMP South Haven

South Haven was our overnight stop between Chicago O’Hare Airport and Stony Lake where the Cottage is located.


Saugatuck is always a favourite stopping off point just off the 31 on journeys between Stony Lake and Chicago.


The S.S.Keewatin, moored on the south bank of the Kalamazoo Lake near Saugatuck is one of the few remaining of dozens of passenger ships that criss-crossed Lake Michigan. The Scottish-built ship is now a museum and is the biggest vessel to ever enter Saugatuck’s Harbour. I haven’t yet managed to visit as the museum is closed after Labor day and our trips are normally in September.

Moving on north up the US31 you come to Holland with its very Dutch buildings and atmosphere. We visited Downtown Holland for the first time this trip but it’s not easy to take picturesque pictures these days, with cars parked everywhere. Better to view it from the old time postcards and pictures.

Welcome to Holland

Welcome to Holland

Holland Tulip Town

Holland – Tulip Town


Holland Postcard – I love this style but no longer available these days!

Grand Haven

Next along the route is Grand Haven. We’ve visited a few times and love this wide  streeted town with its individual shops like Hostetter’s Newsagent and Bookshop and old style deli Fortino’s.


Hostetter’s, Grand Haven, MI

Another favourite town of ours is Pentwater. Dubbed “A Norman Rockwell Kind of Town” it is, like the many of the others, just one wide main street with good eateries and shops. Sailing is also very popular here and the yachts big and small bob up and down in the harbour/marina as you approach the centre of town.


Main Street Pentwater 2007

North of Pentwater has usually been outside our holiday ‘comfort zone’ but we made a day-long excursion this year via Manistee and Benzonia to the delightful small city of Traverse City. It’s one of those places listed in Top 10 Small Town America lists such as this and we thought it deserved its placing.



Benzonia sign

Welcome to Benzonia!


Description of Benzonia

A Motoring town

Traverse City ‘A Motoring Town’ – Still Full of Parked Cars Today!

Traverse City

Traverse City – Also, ‘The Heart of Nature’s Playground’!

Cinema Traverse City

The Cinema that Local Film Maker Michael Moore helped to Save

And here’s Lake Michigan itself – By Day

Lake Michigan

… And At Sunset

L Michigan sunset

Oak Park : Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds

The Chicago suburb of Oak Park is probably best known for its connections with Frank Lloyd Wright. I mentioned his Home and Studio are here in a previous post and also a large number of fine examples of his work. Twentieth century novelist Ernest Hemingway was born on Oak Park Avenue in 1899 so I decided to visit his home and museum to find out more about ‘Papa’. He left Oak Park as a teenager for a world of adventure and I’m not sure he ever came back.  My Michelin Chicago Guide says “He later derided the conservative suburb for its ‘wide lawns and narrow minds'”.

North Oak Park Ave

North Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park

Hemingway Museum

The Hemingway Museum

To get to Oak Park I took the bus down Michigan Avenue to the Loop business district and then the Green Line El Train to Oak Park Avenue. Straight up from the station, on Oak Park Avenue itself, and just a few minutes walk from it, is the Hemingway Museum. This is the place to find out all about the novelist and his life but for the tour of his birthplace you need to book a ticket in advance. Luckily I was able to join the next tour.

Hemingway Birthplace

Ernest Hemingway Birthplace, 339 North Oak Park Avenue

The birthplace is just another 5 minutes walk along the same avenue of gracious homes and low-rise apartment buildings. The tour was as interesting to me for the guide (whose home it now is) as for what I found out about Hemingway. Still, he (the guide/owner) had managed to furnish the house with some original artefacts and furnishings and all the rest seemed very much in keeping with the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Breakfast Table

Breakfast with the Hemingways


The Room where ‘Papa’ was born

We learned that Ernest and some of his siblings were born in this house but that his family actually lived diagonally across the street and that this house was the home of his maternal grandparents.

Photographs around  the House and the Museum show Ernest and his elder sister looking remarkably alike.

Hemingway family photo

Ernest (left) and Marcelline (right) with their Grandfather

“The two were a year apart in age, and their mother early on decided to raise them as twins, even to having them photographed in matching gowns and bonnets in the style of the day. Whatever injury Ernest felt he had suffered from such embarrassments, it may have been Marcelline who made the greater sacrifice: she was kept out of school for a year so they would be in the same class, and, despite her own considerable talents, she seems to have willingly stood in his shadow a good deal of her early life.”

[Idaho Librarian book review]

I can’t say I’m very familiar with Hemingway’s work. I’ve read his “A Moveable Feast” and didn’t really warm to him. Recently I read “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain a novelised version of his life with Hadley Richardson, his first wife. Oh, and I saw him in the Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris

After the House Tour I made my way back to the Museum. There was lots to read and look at and time was getting on so I had skip through much of the Museum. Here are some pictures of the displays and film posters.

Nick Adams display

Ernest Hemingway’s early trips to Michigan made a big impression on him and he relates lots of his own adventures in The Nick Adams Stories. Nature had a huge influence on many of his works.

Family picture

Hemingway with his family

Film posters

In Love and War

Hemingway-related Cinema Posters

On my return to the train back to Chicago I diverted briefly to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple on Lake Street. It was already closed to visitors that day. Read about the Temple and the current restoration programme here.

Unity Temple

Unity Temple