History and Memoirs

Stairwell Books has recently introduced a new series of memoirs, letters
and Historical accounts.

Cover The Martyrdoms at Clifford's Tower 1190 and 1537

In 1190, Crusading King Richard had been on the throne for two years. His father Henry II had pursued a benign policy toward Jewish residents as they gave him access to capital. By 1190 anti-Semitic feeling was rife throughout the country with rioting in Norwich, Stamford, and Lincoln.

In March, rioting spread to York. Jews were protected by the crown and York’s Jewish residents sought sanctuary in the royal castle.

John Rayne-Davies, a York historian describes how this riot led to the eventual deaths on March 16th 1190 of the entire Jewish community in York, approximately 150 souls.

In 1537, there was another less well known martyrdom of Robert Aske, a leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, under the aegis of Henry VIII.  He was hanged in chains on 12th of July 1537, one of 216 Catholics executed at this time.

This account brings together the martyrdoms of both the Jewish and Catholic minorities.

Cover A Shadow in My Life

In 1953, at the age of fifteen, Rita Jerram was diagnosed with tuberculosis and admitted to a sanatorium.

This account is a rare insight into the lives of the staff and patients isolated in a post WW2 TB ward.
For many years, until the availability of Streptomycin, the only known 'cure' for TB was fresh air and bed rest. Rita was one of the last patients to be treated in a sanatorium, with wards open to the fresh air and in virtual isolation from the rest of the world. She describes this time as her 'finishing school' where a young fifteen-year old learned about life from her fellow inmates. Having only the occasional weekly visitor she built strong relationships with her companions and the dedicated nursing staff: they became her family.

Yet A Shadow in My Life is in no way morbid. It is often very funny. Rita writes with affectionate memory about the closeness that developed between the twelve women in an isolated ward, not even communicating with other wards. She tells their stories movingly with humour and compassion, recalling with the sharp observation of a teenager their successes and failures as patients. Sanatorium hospitals have vanished all over the country. Rita's memoir is an important historical document, describing from personal experience the end of an era.

Cover Thinking of You Always

Lewis Hill was mustered into the RAF in 1941. From the very beginning he wrote home to his wife, Doris, describing his life as an enlisted serviceman. This incredible record follows ‘Lew’ through his training, life with a balloon squadron in England, his journey to the Middle East on the troopship Queen Mary, service at Eldoret in Kenya, and his career in Egypt.  He returned to England by way of Malta and France, fully expecting to be demobbed at Wythall near Lichfield but spent a further 8 months at RAF Cardington , another demob centre, near Bedford.

This memoir, edited by Pauline Kirk, gives readers a remarkable insight into life in the services during the Second World War; day to day life on and off the base; an alternative view of wartime. It is a valuable record of the places Lew visited, places whose names  feature so much in present day news. He  demonstrate the remarkable freedom of movement available to members of the armed services, compared with the off duty limitations experienced by military personnel in today’s conflicts.

This is also the testament of a man and his love for a woman whose hand in marriage he had to fight for. Mail home was censored so his letters were written with restraint, both to prevent the enWaterstonesemy discerning valuable details, and to keep the privacy of his relationships.  Lew’s letters are a remarkable testament to the endurance of his love through five years of separation.

Prairie Cover

Edith Jerram, Rita's grandmother, left her rural Derbyshire village in 1884 to join her fiancÚ in Canada. Edith kept extensive journals graphically describing her life on the Canadian prairies, documenting the hardships and heartbreak of rural living.

Rita has transformed the journal entries which reflect the joys and hardships of nineteenth century life, and also reveal the growing maturity of a young woman becoming a mother and widow, marrying three times and living in a harsh landscape. Throughout her life she endured great tragedy, yet also found a lasting love. Despite her many setbacks, she never lost her deep appreciation for the opportunities that Canada offered to young women of her era and never tired of the beauty and splendour of her adopted country.

The Tales are not a transcription of the journals, but are a drawing out of the stories told in Edith's voice as if recounting her experiences to younger relatives or visitors.
Readers can imagine themselves sitting in front of the parlour fire on a chilly evening, wrapped in a blanket and equally rapt listening to Edith reminisce about her past. These stories are a brilliant glimpse into the daily realities of the rural frontier half a world away from the turbulence in Europe which marked the turn of the centuryWaterstones.