Wednesday 29 November 2023

Your sister, brother, mother and grandmother have confessed to witchcraft - and you must give evidence against them! That's what happened to nine-year-old Jennet Device in 1612.

Jennet was the star witness in one of three cases being tried known collectively as the Lancashire Witch Trials - that took place at the summer assize at Lancaster Castle. 

Lancaster Castle (photo by Susan Brownrigg)

Those accused of witchcraft included a group of twelve people who lived around Pendle Hill, three women from Samlesbury, near Preston, a woman from Padiham. near Burnley and another from Windle, near St Helens.

The accused were kept together in a pitch black dungeon in horrendous conditions without access to lawyers. Coercion and torture were used to extract confessions that could be used as evidence against them - and neighbours and family members were made to testify against them.


Jennet's sister, was 19-year-old Alizon Device - she was walking across a field when she came across a peddlar (someone who sells items for a living) called John Law. She asked him for some metal pins - it's unclear if she was begging or wanted to buy them - but he refused her. She was so cross that she cursed him, and soon after he had an attack that caused some kind of paralysis - probably a stroke.

Things quickly snowballed - when Roger Nowell the justice was brought in to investigate, Alizon not only confessed but incriminated other members of her own family and the rival Chattox family.

Nowell quizzed more members of both families.

Alizon's grandmother - known as Old Demdike - admitted she had a familiar or devil spirit called Tib. She also confessed to killing a man and a child - saying that making clay figures was the speediest way to take a man's life away.

Depiction of Old Demdike with familiars
on display at Pendle Heritage Centre

The head of the other family - Anne Whittle, known as Old Chattox also confessed to having a familiar or devil spirit - this one called Fancie. She also said she had killed men and children, making clay images for hurting life and limb - and to bewitching milk and ale and bewitching and killing two cows.

Anne Whittle's daughter Ann Redfearn denied being a witch - but she was sent to face trial alongside the other three women.

Not a week later, on Good Friday,  20 or more supporters of the women gathered for a special meeting at Malkin Tower. It is said they fed on stolen mutton. Nowell heard about it and resumed his investigation - believing it was an example of a witches' sabbath - a Midnight meeting for witchcraft.

Nowell questioned the Device family and Jennet and her brother James incriminated their mother, who confessed to being a witch, having a familiar, making clay figures and killing two men.
James himself confessed to crumbling a clay image of a woman and causing her 'lingering' death after she had accused him of stealing peat for his fire. He also said he had a familiar - Dandie who appeared as a brown dog or hare.

He also said the meeting had been arranged to discuss blowing up Lancaster Castle, murdering the gaoler and freeing the four women imprisoned there.

Statue of Alice Nutter in Roughlee
 (photo by Susan Brownrigg)

Jennet named a number of people at the meeting including Alice Nutter, a gentlewoman (and a Catholic) from nearby Roughlee.

Now Jennet's brother, James, her mother, Elizabeth, Alice Nutter and four others from the meeting were sent to the dungeons at Lancaster Castle to face trial for witchcraft too.

Old Demdike died in the dungeon and her grandson, James was so traumatised that it was said he could neither speak, hear no stand at his trial.

The court proceedings were recorded by the court clerk, Thomas Potts, who later published his account as The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster. 

The accused had no defence lawyer. Jennet was called as a witness - even though she was too young to normally be admissable.

She again incriminated her sister, brother and mother - and identified Alice Nutter as a witch by taking her hand. She described witches mounting ponies and flying into the air.

Jennet's mother was dragged out of court screaming at her daughter and shouting curses at Nowell.

Why did Jennet condemn her family? Historians think having no family to care for her, she was trained so that she would give evidence against those accused.

Some of those accused likely considered themselves witches, the two families may have competed for business. Claiming to have magical powers was a way of bringing in extra money.

King James I, who was on the throne at the time, definitely believed in witches. He was convinced that a coven of Scottish witches had tried to murder him and his wife by causing terrible storms as they travelled by ship from Denmark. He was so convinced by the power of witchcraft that he wrote a book on the subject called Daemonologie.


The judge found all but one of the group guilty. They were sentenced to hang by the neck until they died. The execution took place on Gallows Hill.

No-one knows what became of Jennet Device. 20 years later a Jennet Device was found guilty of witchcraft. Could it have been the same person?

Susan Brownrigg is a Lancashire lass. She is the author of Kintana and the Captain's Curse, and the Gracie Fairshaw mystery series. (Uclan Publishing)

Find out more at

Wednesday 22 November 2023

St Andrew's Day and the Declaration of Arbroath

There is a national saint for Scotland! 

It’s a thing: Other UK nations have patron saints too (St George for England, St David for Wales and St Patrick for Ireland) – but the Scottish St Andrew’s Saint’s Day is celebrated at the end of November - and as I am based in Scotland myself, I thought we’d spend a little while thinking about St Andrew’s Day, and the history surrounding it. 30th of November is not primarily marked as a religious festival nowadays – it is a day to celebrate all things Scottish, around the world. In Scotland, it is a national holiday, although it is left up to employers to decide whether their workers should have a day off. 

Most young people still have to go to school. Of course, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and has been for hundreds of years, but it is a country with its own traditions (like Wales, or Ireland etc) and its own history. St Andrew’s Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate all of that. 

In keeping with its national patron saint, the Scottish flag is known as the St Andrew’s Cross, or the Saltire – and it is said to be the oldest flag in Europe.
St Andrew was a disciple of Jesus and one of the twelve apostles. He was definitely not Scottish – he never even set foot in Scotland, but following his death, it is claimed that some of his relics were taken to St Andrews.

In the Middle Ages St Andrews became a popular pilgrimage destination because its church, soon replaced by a great cathedral, housed one of the saint’s teeth, a kneecap, arm and finger bones, or so the story went. Despite earlier references to him in Pictish and Scottish culture, he was only oficially claimed as the national saint of Scotland following the medieval Wars of Scottish Independence.
The trouble kicked off with Edward I's attempt to conquer Scotland in 1296. When the deaths of Alexander III (the previous Scottish king) and his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, left Scotland without a monarch, Edward used the invitation to help choose a successor as an excuse to claim the overlordship for England and himself. 

When the Scots resisted, he invaded. This resulted in a period of upheaval and violence as Edward and then his son tried to bring the rebellious Scots to heel – ultimately not successfully, thanks to Scottish leaders like William Wallace and, after Wallace’s execution, Robert the Bruce.
After Bruce’s army finally defeated the English army of Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn, the Scots nobles drafted the Declaration of Arbroath in the year 1320. 

Written in Latin, this amazing document survives to this day and can be seen at the National Records of Scotland. In it, the Scottish nobles claimed that Scotland was under St Andrew’s protection (‘the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron for ever.’)
Choosing Saint Andrew as Scotland's patron saint was clever: it gave the country a crucial advantage: Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter, founder of the Church – this meant that the Scots were able to appeal directly to the Pope for protection against the attempts of English kings to conquer the Scots.

In essence, the declaration is a letter from the barons and whole community of the kingdom of Scotland to the Pope, asking him to recognise Scotland's independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country's lawful king. 

The power of words, right? Just check out the best-known passage in the Declaration of Arbroath: ‘As long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.’

Writing challenge: What do you feel strongly about? What issue bothers you? And who could help? How would you persuade them? Write your own declaration, making sure that it is passionate and heartfelt (you could even invent a patron saint and claim that you have their protection. 

Best of all, you could write your declaration in ink and decorate the first letter beautifully, just like the monks did at the time of the Arbroath declaration.
Barbara Henderson is a children’s writer and author of eight adventure stories for children. Her novel The Siege of Caerlaverock is set during the Scottish Wars of Independence, twenty years before the Declaration of Arbroath.
Fun fact: St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, and Russia (among others).

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Finding Treasure Island - Robin Scott Elliot on Scotland, Stevenson and Seeking a Story

“Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a question I get asked all the time – and I’m sure all authors do. And every time I get asked my mind goes blank. But it’s a good question… if only I knew the answer, everybody’s answer. 

Where do you get your ideas from? I want to ask it of every author or movie maker. In fact, anyone who has created something that interests me. The scientist in their lab discovering, say, the Covid jag, the engineer who invented the jet engine. Where did you get your idea from Frank Whittle? What was the Eureka moment?

It was Archimedes, the ancient Greek scholar, who is supposed to have had the original Eureka moment – it’s a Greek word meaning ‘I’ve got it’. Legend has it he leapt from his bath and ran naked into the street shouting ‘Eureka’. 

Legend is not always right. I’ve made up a legend to tell the story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Eureka moment; the moment that was to change his life forever, the moment that set him on the course to become one of the best known writers in the world, a fame that lasts to this day more than a century after he died aged only 44 in Samoa. 

My ideas tend to begin as a muddle of thoughts. There is rarely a Eureka moment, although I did have one for my second book, Acrobats of Agra. They happen – and it feels fantastic when they do. There was a great deal of chance involved too. I was in a bookshop with my daughter, she was taking ages to make her choice (she loves books), I wandered downstairs, saw the history section (I love history), saw an old book on the Indian Mutiny that interested me, bought it and while reading came across a single line about a French travelling circus being trapped in the siege of Agra. Eureka! 

There’s a large serving of serendipidity in there too – several ‘What-ifs’. And that applies to Stevenson and his idea for Treasure Island.
Come back to 1881. Queen Victoria is on the throne, and staying near where my story is set. She’s on holiday at Balmoral, her Highland home (and makes a fleeting appearance in the book). 

The presence of the Queen is why Braemar, the nearby village, became such a popular destination. Stevenson arrived at Old Mrs McGregor’s Cottage in Braemar with his mother and father, his American wife Fanny and Sam, her teenage son, his old nanny, known as Cummy, Maggie, his parents’ maid, and a dog.
Stevenson was 30. He’d wanted to be a writer for as long as he could remember. And he was not a well man, had been sickly since childhood. Stevenson never thought he’d live a long life – so he really did worry time was running out. 

He’d written well-received travel books but had never managed to finish a novel. He contemplated turning his back on fiction. Perhaps history was the way to go, perhaps a biography of the Duke of Wellington… He needed something, anything, a spark… And then it started to rain – of course it did, this was a Scottish summer holiday – and Stevenson had to stop worrying about himself and turn attention to his new stepson.
Sam Osbourne was 13 and something of a lost soul. He’d been dragged from place to place through his short life. 

His father was an adventurer, a man always one break from making it big. And family seems to have come a poor second to his dreams of riches. The family shuffled around the wild west of the US and when his parents split, Sam, his younger brother and older sister, were taken off to Europe by Fanny, who fancied herself as an artist. 

It was in France that Stevenson first leapt into their lives, jumping through a doorway into a hotel in Grez-sur-Long, a small town south of Paris that had become an artists’ colony. By then Sam’s younger brother, Hervey, had died. His sister, Bel, was 10 years older. Sam felt alone. 

From Paris, they went to London, returned to California then back across the Atlantic to Scotland. In this strange new land – how different to California – Sam clung to his new stepfather. 

They developed a bond (much of the suggestion for this comes from Sam himself, but they do seem to have been close) and so one rainy afternoon in Braemar – imagine the rain smattering against the small windows of the cottage, the fire spitting and crackling – Stevenson reached for a piece of paper and drew a sketch to amuse a bored Sam. It was a map. A map of an island that over the course of the afternoon grew ever more detailed until finally Stevenson wrote two words on the bottom and handed it to Sam. ‘Treasure Island,’ Stevenson had written and here was the spark. Eureka! 

Treasure Island, a story that has sold millions of copies, been made into a movie time and time again and in a host of different languages. It’s a story that has defined the image of a pirate, a treasure hunt; it is the adventure story. Stevenson later wrote an essay on how he came up with the story. But, rather like some of his characters, Stevenson is an unreliable narrator. His later account of how he came up with the idea for Jekyll and Hyde – in a dream – is barely believable, and differed to other versions he told friends and family.

It makes for a good story though – and that is what Stevenson is all about. Perhaps it was freeing his mind of his worries just for one afternoon that helped Stevenson come up with Treasure Island; thinking about Sam rather than himself (what would have happened if it hadn’t rained?).

It wasn’t an original idea. Pirates had featured in plenty of other stories but then most ideas borrow something from other books, paintings, movies.

What Stevenson did was take his idea and make it into something unforgettable. In Finding Treasure Island I have tried to play with Stevenson’s idea and where it came from. Could it have come from Sam? Could Sam’s own adventures in the magical, mysterious glens, forests and hills around Braemar have foreshadowed Jim Hawkins’ trials and tribulations on Treasure Island?

It's Sam who tells us the story in Finding Treasure Island; this is his version of history. But is it true? Perhaps. But what is undoubtedly true is that it all started with a map; a map and an ‘Eureka!’ moment.
Writing challenge – draw a map. It can be an island, a treasure island, a forest, a town, your own street and house – anywhere – but it must include an X because as every treasure seeker knows, X marks the spot. Once you’ve drawn your map, which can include dragons or castles or swamps or multi-storey car parks and shopping centres, write a short story about it.

Robin Scott-Elliot has been a sports journalist for 25 years with the BBC, ITV, the Sunday Times, the Independent and the ‘i’, covering every sport you can think of and a few you probably can’t. He threw that all away to move home to Scotland and chase his dream of writing books instead of football reports. Once there his daughters persuaded him to write a story for them and that is how his career as a children's author began. Finding Treasure Island is his latest book and is published by Cranachan.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Giving History a Twist –by Marie Basting


The idea for My Family and Other Romans came to me in a dream. Red caped legionaries, glowing amber as they boarded a gleaming silver bullet train. It seemed obvious to me that these soldiers must have belonged to Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. And I just had to tell their story.

But that meant writing a historical novel, right? Legionaries equalled Rome, even if these soldiers were made of lava. And I didn’t write historical fiction. I write fantasy, funny books that help us escape the present rather than delve into our past. I couldn’t write a book set in Ancient Rome…?

But I couldn’t not. Fortuna had gifted me too good a story seed not to plant. And, so, I did three things. I swallowed back the imposter syndrome, set to work on the research and I gave the story a twist.

That twist was LARP.

Live Action Role Play -  LARP -  is a  type of role play game where players choose and develop a character, dress up like that character and, guided by a loose script and series of rules, meet up with other players to bring the game to life.  It is sometimes described as a form of interactive storytelling, with the player fully immersed in the story world. As Silvia, our protagonist, says in the book, ‘it’s part acting, part dressing up and one hundred percent awesome!’

Impressions from the LARP "ConQuest of Mythodea" 
2018 in Brokeloh, Credit Frank fotografiert

There are lots of types of LARP including fantasy, horror, sci-fi and, yes, even historical. Many LARPs are pretty simple, relying mostly on the imagination, but others have elaborate sets inhabited by people in spectacular costumes. It’s perhaps the only place where you can be a centurion, cyclops or sorceress for the day and still go the chippy on the way home for your tea.

As a writer who likes to mix things up, I thought it would be interesting to ask the question, what if a keen LARPer thought they were on the set of a major LARP event but had actually stumbled through a portal back to Ancient Rome?

This is what happens to Silvia. A resident of Once Brewed, a tiny village off Hadrian’s Wall, she’s no stranger to history. But nothing could prepare her for what she uncovers as she journeys back to Ancient Rome. 

My dog looking for Silvia’s portal at Housesteads
 Roman Fort, Hadrian’s Wall.

Or rather an alternative version of Ancient Rome, for the world Silvia finds herself in has all the quirks you’d expect from the Romans – like having to wipe your bum with a communal sponge and rich people eating flamingo tongues and stuffed dormice – but there are also elements that take Silvia by surprise. Not least the fact she has a baby cyclops for a sister.

The Research  

Even though My Family and Other Romans is very much a fantasy, I worked really hard to get the historical setting right; to make the world as vivid as possible and immerse the reader in the sights, sounds and tastes of Rome. You want me to tell you how I did this? Oh, OK, then.

Well, first off, I read lots of Roman books and articles. And when I say lots, I mean LOTS! In fact, my brain is now so full of Roman facts every time I blow my nose one appears on the tissue.

I also watched lots of documentaries and films set in the era which meant I got to eat lots of ice cream – you can’t watch a film without ice cream right?

Finally, I had fun visiting lots of historic sites and I even did a course in both Classical Mythology and Roman Architecture. 

Bye Bye Imposter Syndrome…Sort Of

Impressed? Well, I have to be honest, eating up Roman facts like Pac-Man eating up dots was driven partly by the imposter syndrome – by the fact I still wasn’t sure if I could pull this off. Sure, I’d done shed loads of research and been interested in the Romans ever since my collage of Pompei was hung in the head teacher’s office at primary school but there are lots of people far more knowledgeable about the classics than me.

But I’d learnt the hard way we can’t let self-doubt stop us doing things and so I decided I’d just do my best and see what happened. And look where that led to – a published book that people seem to like and which has a dog on the front just like my dog Polly.

So maybe next time you’re worried you can’t do something, you’ll remember this blog and think, hey if that Marie woman with the cute dog could put away her imposter syndrome and be good at history and writing maybe I can too. Maybe I too can look at things in a new way and give them a twist? Maybe my difference is my strength.

Writing Challenge

And so that’s my challenge to you. I want you to take a story or myth and give it your own modern twist. Because after all that’s what many of the great Roman story tellers did – they took myths that were centuries old and gave them a new flavour to better suit the times.

So how might you approach this? How about dropping a Roman god in your local shopping centre and seeing how they get along in the food court? Or imagine your favourite mythological character reborn as a child? A child attending your school, maybe, who can’t control their powers? What kind of trouble would that bring? Or maybe you want to invent a totally new mythological character – Ducklius Ceaser here suggests a cross between Jupiter and a duck. 

So, off you go. Fire up your imaginations and rewrite the myths. Have fun and may the gods be with you!

Marie Basting

Marie Basting writes funny fiction for middle-graders. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Princess BMX, was listed by the Guardian and BookTrust in their ‘best new books’ category and has been praised by Gender Collect as one of the best books out there for smashing stereotypes. Her latest book, My Family and Other Romans, is a laugh-out-loud funny family caper full of excitement and heart and has been equally well received by critics.

Told by a career adviser, that girls like her don’t become writers, Marie loves nothing more than inspiring others to believe in themselves and achieve their dreams whatever the limits put on them. Her school and festival events have inspired thousands of children to smash stereotypes and to read and write for pleasure.

Find out more at:


Twitter - @riewriting

Instagram  - @marie_basting_author

Facebook -

Order My Family and Other Romans from your local bookshop or via one of the links below:





Wednesday 1 November 2023

Taking a Tour of a Tudor Hall with Matthew Wainwright

This week is a very special one for me, because my new book, ‘Through Water and Fire’, was released on 31st October. It’s always exciting to have a new book out, and to watch it find its way into the hands of readers.

The reason I’m telling you this is because I want to talk a bit about the setting for the story. It takes place in the Tudor period – during the reign of King Henry VIII – and it’s mostly set in a grand manor house or hall, which I’ve called Lockwood Hall.

Lockwood Hall is fictional – I made it up – but it’s based on a very real place called Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. It’s quite a famous Tudor manor house, and brilliantly preserved. If you go there today you’ll find parts of it looking much as they would have 500 years ago - and I definitely recommend you visit if you can!

Haddon Hall, near Bakewell, Derbyshire (Image: Rene Cortin, Wikimedia Commons)

When I was researching the book I looked at a lot of photographs of Haddon Hall, and planned out where various parts of the story would happen (in my version, Lockwood Hall). My main character, Grace, is a visitor to the hall, so there was plenty of opportunity for her to find her way around and explore the various nooks and crannies along with the reader.

Here’s how I describe Lockwood Hall the first time Grace sees it:

“The Hall was vast; hardly a house at all, but more like a small village, with a dozen halls and buildings sprawled over half an acre and a high wall running all the way around. Tall roofs bristled with chimneys, red brick shone ruddy in the sunlight, and rows of glazed windows flashed and gleamed.”

You’ll notice I’ve picked out three distinctive features of these great Tudor houses:

1. Brick walls. Go to any Tudor palace from the time of Henry VIII (such as Hampton Court Palace) and you’ll see they were beginning to be made of bricks rather than stone. Haddon Hall is a mixture of the two, as it was built in the late medieval period, just before the Tudor period.

Hampton Court Palace (Image: DiscoA340, Wikimedia Commons)

2. Chimneys. Tudor palaces were famous for the number of fireplaces, each one served by a chimney. Fireplaces replaced the open hearth, and were more efficient and safer. Again, look at Hampton Court palace and you’ll see just how it ‘bristles’ with chimneys!

3. Glazed windows. Glass windows were still very much for the rich, and tended to be ‘mullioned’ – this means the panes of glass were very small, and joined together with strips of lead, often in a diamond shape. Poorer people still had open windows without any glass in them, and would have shutters that could be closed for warmth and privacy. Lockwood Hall also has stained glass windows in its main hall, which you would usually find in churches.

I think I’ve also made Lockwood Hall much larger than the real-life Haddon Hall – but I like to think that this is how it appears to Grace rather than it being the reality! We all know how big and confusing large buildings can seem on our first visit.

Here are some of the places that Grace comes across in the story, and the kinds of things that would have happened there.


Haddon Hall lower courtyard and front door. (Image: Rob Bendall, Wikimedia Commons)

In Lockwood Hall, the courtyard is the hub of all outdoor activity. It’s where visitors are received and groups of people prepare to ride out to hunt or visit local towns. Only the wealthiest Tudor families had enclosed courtyards – many manor houses were built in an E or H shape, with open spaces to the front or back.

Houses would have been self-sufficient, with everything the family needed provided on-site. This meant not just cooks and kitchens, but a blacksmith, a carpenter (or two), farriers (who took care of the horses’ feet specifically), dairy workers, launderers and more, all amounting to a small army of servants who kept the house and the family going.

In Lockwood Hall I’ve placed these trades around what is called the Lower Courtyard. This is probably a bit unrealistic, as the family wouldn’t want important visitors to be confronted by the sight of chickens being plucked! But it gives the house a real sense of life, so I’ve used some artistic licence.

Great Hall

Christmas revels in Haddon Hall (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Through the huge front door is a small antechamber (literally a ‘before-room’) where guests might wait to see the lord of the manor. Just off the antechamber is the Great Hall.

Coming out of the medieval period, the hall was still the absolute heart of any great Tudor home. This was where most of the life of the house took place: servants ate and even slept here, visitors were received and entertained, and the enormous room was filled with people and activity from dawn until dusk.

Haddon Hall Great Hall today (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

In smaller houses floors were of packed earth; in the case of Lockwood Hall it is stone. Rush mats were laid down for warmth and cleanliness, like a huge, stiff carpet laid down in sections. Trestle tables could be put out and cleared away quickly, along with benches and stools for guests to sit on and eat. Tapestries hung from the walls provided insulation and a riot of colour. An enormous fireplace would have provided warmth (along with a considerable fire hazard!)

Haddon Hall Great Hall fireplace (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Much of the action in the book takes place in the Great Hall – there are feasts, celebrations, homecomings, and even some hostage-holding!


Haddon Hall parlour (Image: Elliott Brown, Wikimedia Commons)

Just off the Great Hall is a smaller room called the parlour. This is where the family would have received visitors more privately, and sometimes have eaten their meals together away from the noise and bustle of the hall.

The parlour in Lockwood Hall (as in Haddon Hall) is wood-panelled, with a generous fireplace. It would have been a warm and comfortable place to sit in the long winter evenings!

Haddon Hall, two carved figures in the parlour (Image: Michael Garlick, Wikimedia Commons)

It’s in this parlour that Grace first meets the Lockwood family – her aunt and cousins. She returns later in the book for two more important confrontations, where she is faced with a choice each time: betray someone else to save her skin, or stay loyal and end up in trouble or worse!


Haddon Hall chapel (Image: John Salmon, Wikimedia Commons)

Back out the front door and across the courtyard is the chapel. Religion was the lifeblood of Tudor existence – everyone believed in God (to a greater or lesser extent) and everyone went to church. Rich families would have their own chapel for private worship, and for their staff and servants to use to take the mass – bread and wine that represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ (and which most people believed became the actual flesh and blood of Jesus by a miracle called ‘transubstantiation’ – try saying that seven times fast!)

At the time my book is set – 1527 — religion was undergoing enormous upheavals all across Europe. A movement that became known as the Reformation was underway, in which people were beginning to question the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic church, and instead turning to their own reading of the Bible to understand how God wanted them to lead their lives.

Martin Luther protesting against Catholic teaching, 1517 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

This was a monumental change, and it was enabled by the translation of the Bible into the common languages that people read at the time: German, French, English and others. Until that time, in England, people had only ever had access to the Bible in Latin, and had relied on the priests and other church officials to explain it to them. Some people had translated the Bible into English around a hundred years before, but the practice had been outlawed and many of those Bibles burned.

Bibles being burned, from 'Foxe's Book of Martyrs' (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1527, owning an English Bible – or even just reading one – was still illegal, and people who did were at risk of being arrested and executed for heresy and treason. The Lockwood family in my book are Reformation supporters, and so (to the surprise of Grace) they hold their worship services in English rather than Latin – that is, until a certain guest turns up …

Those are just some of the locations that feature in ‘Through Water and Fire’. There’s also a tense confrontation in a garden, a shocking slap in a bedroom, and a secret tunnel leading to a very mysterious location – but I don’t have time to go into that now. You’ll just have to read the book!

Writing challenge

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about some of the places in a Tudor house. I really enjoyed travelling through the hall in my mind and deciding what would happen where.

For your writing challenge this week I want you to do the same! You have two choices:

1. Download the map of Lockwood Hall, and plan out your own story of someone arriving at the house and discovering a thrilling secret. Maybe someone has got their hands on an illegal English Bible and is on the run from the law! Think what the purpose of each of the locations was, and plan your story around that.

Lockwood Hall. Right-click on the image to download and print it. (Image: Noami Berry, Wakeman Trust)

2. Draw a map of a building you know well. It could be your home, or your school. Plan out a story that takes place in every room. Think about what is in each room that you could use as part of the story. Maybe even add a secret passage of your own …!

Enjoy your writing challenge, and happy Time Tunnelling!

About the author

Matthew Wainwright is an author of children's historical fiction, and a member of the Time Tunnellers. His first book, 'Out of the Smoke' is set in Victorian London and was inspired by the work of Lord Shaftesbury with chimney sweeps and street gangs. His second book, 'Through Water and Fire', is set in Tudor England and features Anne Boleyn and the English Reformation.

For more information on Matthew and his books, visit his website:

You can buy 'Through Water and Fire' online, or from your local bookshop. Buy here.

Your sister, brother, mother and grandmother have confessed to witchcraft - and you must give evidence against them! That's what happene...