Friday 24 January 1840 Tomorrow William Hickling, Walter Tunmore and Robert Harrod will leave the prison. Miss Martin meets them for their final exhortation before departure. “How are you to conduct yourselves so that when you meet me I may not feel ashamed to speak to you”, she asks. It’s a telling question. Shaming is […]
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We need to talk about Walter

23 January 1840 We need to talk about Walter Tunmore because Sarah Martin needs to talk about him. Yesterday was no exception. ‘The boy Tunmore is so quick in movements and manner of speaking and impetuous in temper that it might seem he would be quick in learning to read’, she wrote in her journal, […]
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‘And have you brought the combs?’

21 and 22 January 1840 The five young prisoners are listening out for their teacher. They run towards Miss Martin to be the first to carry her Paper Case. “Ma’am, we have been waiting for you!” Endeavouring to keep her face stern, the prison visitor drills them: “Are your lessons then perfectly learned, and have […]
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Grey Cotton Shirts

20 January 1840 The five boys in the House of Correction are approaching the end of their month-long sentence but, despite the prison visitor’s efforts, their behaviour is still volatile. Sarah Martin can only spend an hour or so with them each day and hope the books and sewing she brings them will keep her […]
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Making and Mending

The boys have served more than half their sentences. Less than a fortnight to go. Today they work doggedly on their reading and spelling for over two and a half hours. The teacher is delighted. Since they are keeping to her Rules, she will stay true to her promise and let each boy begin making […]
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16 January 1840 Walter Tunmore, who has been alone and tearful  in his cell, is back with the boys and the prison visitor finds them bright and cheerful.  ‘They conducted themselves today, quite as I wished’, she writes later. ‘The difference for the better is truly astonishing.’ Before they settle down to spelling, the teacher gathers […]
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The Prisoner’s Tears

15 January 1840 Yesterday, when the boys’ lesson was over, Walter Tunmore was sent to bed so the surgeon could treat a puss on his side. Passing by his cell, Sarah Martin heard the boy sobbing and went to speak with him. He pleaded with his teacher to make sure to come and see him […]
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‘Thus were the Rules again broken’

Tuesday 14 January 1840 The Gaoler stops the prison visitor on her way to teach the boys in the House of Correction, informing Miss Martin that, once more, her young scholars have been in trouble. Only yesterday, the boys signed up to a set of rules drawn by their teacher, pledging to give up ‘quarrelling […]
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Making their Mark

Monday 13 January 1840 Today the prison visitor must chide ‘the little boys’ again: ‘it made me very unhappy every day I came to find either one or other had been put into the cell or behaving ill this way or that’.  ‘[I]f they wished me to teach them’, Miss Martin tells the sheepish boys, […]
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‘They always ask to have the little books’

Sunday 12 January 1840 Sarah Martin gathers her strength to deliver her Sunday morning sermon in the prison chapel. Rarely does she miss a visit to the gaol but yesterday she regretted, ‘I am compelled by a bad cold to remain at home.’ In her absence, she now learns, the boys returned to their riotous […]
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Dickens and the Secret City

Exploring the Relationship Between Charles Dickens and the City of Liverpool

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Calum W. White

I am an historian reading for a DPhil in History at Balliol College, University of Oxford. My research is most concerned with housing in Britain during and after the First World War. I've been called a political historian, a social historian, and a cultural historian. I don't see any reason to be one and not the other.

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Literature, Science, Art and Culture in the long Nineteenth-Century.


Cold War history and other musings


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Commentary. Reflection. Judgment.

Defining Mass Observation

An ESRC funded research collaboration between the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham and Surrey and the Mass Observation Archive