Reviews

Lucia Marchini, Minerva Magazine

As part of Amberley’s In Bed with… series exploring sex and related erotic issues through time, Paul Chrystal (also author of In Bed with the Romans) presents us with a racy account of the intimate lives of the Greeks – a culture usually deemed less bawdy than that of the Romans, but one that produced enduring philosophical discussions on love and sex, such as Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus.

Covering gender, sex, marriage, medicine, pederasty, prostitution, homoeroticism, religion, mythology, literature, art and more, the book’s chapters are fairly comprehensive in scope. A couple of them offer insight into sex in particular Greek societies. Firstly, the Minoan civilisation is characterised as one in which women were relatively free and active members of society; they could be officials, administrators, priestesses, entrepreneurs and artisans and they could take part in athletics. It has been argued that Minoan women did not have to take the main responsibility for raising the children, that their society was matrilineal and not strongly patriarchal.

Later on in the book, Chrystal offers a comparison of sexuality in Sparta and Macedon, concluding that these tribes both had some similarities with the Minoans in that women were less oppressed. Aristotle wrote that a general absence of homosexuality in Sparta had meant that women were in control, which was apparently the root of all the problems of the polis. In Macedon, where the upper echelons were polygamous, women of the elite could exercise considerable power, as useful instruments in the forging of alliances and strengthening of dynasties and, particularly in the cases of Cynane (daughter of Philip II) and her daughter Eurydice II, as military figures.

As well as historical snapshots of societies, Chrystal presents a concise overview of sex in mythology, including the unsavoury topics of rape, incest and bestiality. Handily broken down according to key figures, this is a gossipy gander at who slept with whom on Mt Olympus – Zeus and Aphrodite feature more than most. The Amazons, Hyacinth and Ixion are among other mythological figures who make an appearance.

There are also fascinating but unsettling discussions of both female and male sexual medicines. Hippocrates, for example, wrote ‘Of the so-called women’s diseases, the womb is the cause of them all’ – leading to many centuries of diagnoses of hysteria (hystera means womb). Chrystal paints a graphic and quite disturbing picture of surgical abortion. Several Hippocratic texts mention the embruosphaktes (which Chystal rather grimly translates as ’embryo-slayer’). On the male side, circumcision, abhorred by the Greeks, is a key topic covered. Herodotus is the earliest Greek voice on the subject and writes regretfully of the Egyptians who practise circumcision ‘they value cleanliness more than comeliness’.

An interesting blend of science, society, philosophy and mythology, this book comes with an outline of Greek sexual vocabulary, making it a useful overview of all things intimate in ancient Greece that is easily accessible and easy to read.

Stephanie, ZeroEqualsTwo.net

In History Extra, Emma Mason tells us that a new book will explore the “sexual habits of people in Ancient Greece – from prostitution to pillow talk.” She elaborates, “In Bed with the Ancient Greeks examines homosexuality, pederasty, mythological sex and sex in Greek philosophy and religion.”

The author, Paul Chrystal, expands, “…Zeus, the top god, wasted no time in asserting his dominance over the other gods (both male and female). His cavalier attitude towards female sexuality, as manifested in serial rape and seduction (Zeus raped Leda, daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius, in the guise of a swan; raped Danae, a princess of Argos, disguised as the rain, and raped Ganymede, a male mortal) set a precedent for centuries of mortal male domination and female subservience. The depiction of Hera [wife of Zeus and queen of the ancient Greek gods] as a distracting, duplicitous and deceptive woman opened the door for centuries of male insecurity about women, and misogyny.”

Emma McFarnon – History Extra – December 2015

Drawing conclusions from literature, ancient graffiti, inscriptions and the visual arts, Chrystal’s latest work, In Bed with the Romans, explores the Roman relationship with sex. The book describes love and marriage; the role of the wife in the family and in religion (as well as in bed); plus sexual medicine, homosexuality, pornography and pederasty.

Here, writing for History Extra, Chrystal briefly explores the history of sex in Ancient Rome…

According to Philip Larkin’s best-known poem, Annus Mirabilis, 1963 is the year in which sex was invented in Britain. For the Romans it would have been 750 BC. Of course, like us, Romans and Latins had been having sex forever but, according to Roman historian Titus Livius Patavinus (aka ‘Livy’), soon after the founding of Rome (in 753 BC), sex attained indelible and inextricable political and historical importance in the annals of Rome.

Right from the start, sex was linked to momentous constitutional development for the Roman state. The first instance was the 750 BC rape of the Sabine women – a carefully executed example of nation building in which the Romans replenished their dwindling supply of fertile women by carrying off the wives and daughters of the neighbouring Sabines.

Soon after, sex was implicated first in the overthrow of the tyrannical monarchy and the establishment of the republic, and then in the restoration of that republic so pivotal to Roman democracy. During the former, virtuous Lucretia [a legendary Roman matron whose fate played a key role in the transition from a Roman Kingdom into a Roman Republic] took her own life in 510 BC after being raped by Sextus Tarquinius, son of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, last king of Rome

‘Lucretia and Tarquinius’, c1560s. A print from Titian Paintings and Drawings, introduction by Hans Tietze, Phaidon Press, Vienna, 1937. Found in the collection of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, Austria. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

In the latter, virginal Verginia was stabbed to death in 449 BC by her own father to avoid the shame of violation (stuprum) by Appius Claudius, one of the decemviri [an official commission of 10 men].

Preservation of sexual virtue – pudicitia – cost Lucretia and Verginia their lives; so important was pudicitia to Roman values, history and society. Later, Roman historians like Livy embellished the legendary women of the past with the sexual mores they insisted their contemporary women should enshrine.

A sense of duty

Sex for most Romans was undoubtedly gratifying, but it was also a duty: largely speaking, it was probably more gratifying for the men and more a duty for their women. Men delighted in displaying their vir – manhood and sexual prowess – while women obliged by submitting to serial childbirth – a production line of babies, ideally boys, to maintain the family line and keep the battlefield and farm-land stocked with recruits. Baby girls, on the other hand, were costly and contributed little or nothing to the family income; moreover, they would require an expensive dowry one day.

Indeed, marriage itself was a lopsided affair. According to the men, women who married should not expect any pleasure or enjoyment – they tied the knot simply to procreate. Moreover, the silent, compliant and subservient wife was expected to turn a blind eye to her husband’s sexual infelicities, while the man could philander as much as he liked so long as the mistress was unmarried, or, if with a boy, he was over a certain age. Brothels, prostitutes and dancing girls were considered ‘fair game’, as were older males – with the one crucial proviso that it was you who did the penetrating. Being passive and being penetrated was considered women’s work: men who submitted were considered deficient in vir and in virtus(virtue): they were denounced and reviled as effeminate.

So same-sex in Ancient Rome was thought to be fine for a man (albeit with conditions), but same-sex between women was unconditionally execrated. ‘Lesbian’ sex often assumed penetration, which was considered man’s work, so a woman adopting this role (and her submissive recipient) were castigated in equal measure. The Latin for ‘Lesbian’ women was tribades or fricatores – “those (women) that rubbed”.

Changing views

By the end the Republic, however, illicit and extra-marital sex was seen to be damaging and rampant. Augustus, as first emperor, noticed this and, although he himself was not averse to whisking off other men’s wives at the odd dinner party for a spot of hors d’oeuvre, he tried to restore some good old-fashioned family values with (largely unsuccessful) legislation relating to marriage, divorce and birth rate boosting.

Augustus’s sexual activity was, however, easily eclipsed by his wayward daughter Julia, who is said to have fornicated on the very podium from which her father had delivered his moralistic legislation. To Julia, life was a beach – her analogy that she never took a lover on board unless her boat was full (that is, she was pregnant) rebounded badly: her father eventually exiled her to the remote (and man-free) island of Pandataria, off the coast of Campania.

Cross-dressing

In some ways, Julia set the sexual benchmark for the early decades of the empire. Years earlier, Julius Caesar had popularised the rage for celebrity cross-dressing when, aged 20, he lived the life of a girl in the court of King Nicomedes IV, and was later referred to as ‘Queen of Bithynia’, “every woman’s man and every man’s woman”.

Tiberius, meanwhile, dressed as a woman for his debaucheries on Capri, and Caligula sometimes showed up at banquets dressed as Venus. Nero, full of remorse after kicking to death his pregnant wife, Poppaea Sabina, sought out a surrogate who resembled her – and found Sporus: not a woman, but a young man. Nero’s people castrated the ex-slave, and the couple married. Sporus joined Nero in bed with Pythagoras (another freedman Nero had married), who nightly played the role of husband in their troilism. Sporus routinely accompanied Nero decked out as his empress.

Nero, who is said to have enjoyed incest with his mother, Agrippina the Younger, starred in the notorious banquets of Tigellinus: draped in the skins of wild animals, he would be released from a cage to ‘mutilate’ orally the genitals of men and women bound to stakes.

Brothels

Let us turn now to Messalina, empress to Claudius: queen of the imperial whores, she is said to have regularly snuck out of bed while Claudius slept to visit a fetid brothel, using the working name ‘Lycisca’ (‘Wolf Bitch’). Roman author Pliny the Elder tells the distasteful story of Messalina’s epic orgy, in which she challenged a veteran prostitute to a 24-hour sex marathon. The empress won with 25 partners – one client per hour.

On a more mundane level, the poet Ovid insisted that some elite women were partial to ‘a bit of rough’ – a sentiment echoed by Petronius in hisSatyricon [a novel about Roman society], which describes how some upper-class women burn with desire for men of the lower orders – dancers, bin-men and gladiators.

Sex also features prominently throughout the short “unspeakably disgusting life” of emperor Elagabalus (AD c203–22), a notorious transgressor and deviant, beset by gender confusion and depravity. However, he could not be accused of lacking a sense of humour; according to the sensationalist Historia Augusta [a collection of biographies of Roman emperors, heirs, and claimants from Hadrian to Numerianus]:

“he took lust in every orifice of his body, sending out agents in search of men with large penises to satisfy his passions… The size of a man’s organ often determined the post he was given. He habitually locked his friends up when they were drunk and suddenly, in the night, let into the room lions, leopards and bears – surreptitiously rendered harmless – so that when they woke up these friends would find at dawn, or worse, during the night, [wild animals] in the same bedroom as themselves. Several of them died [of shock] as a result of this”.

Things went further still when Elagabalus offered huge fortunes to any physician who could give him permanent female genitalia or, in the words of Roman historian Cassius Dio, “to contrive a woman’s vagina in his body by means of an incision”.

Fast-forward to AD 525 and sex was still a major aspect of Roman life. Theodora, who was empress to Justinian I, worked in a Constantinople brothel performing mime and obscene burlesque. One of her star roles was as Leda in Leda and the Swan; this involved lying on her back while other actors scattered barley on her groin. The barley was then pecked-up by geese masquerading as Zeus. Inviting fellow actors to copulate with her on stage was another of Theodora’s party pieces.

But Theodora was later transformed into virtual sainthood with her raft of social reforms protecting women from physical and sexual abuse and discrimination, enacted when she assumed the position of empress.

Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, Winter 2015

This book explores that familiar elite world as well as the role sex played in broader Roman society from the late Republic to the 3rd century AD – from sex in Roman marriage to homosexuality, from sexual graffiti and prostitution to sexual medicine and aphrodisiacs. 

This provides a balanced account of sex and sexuality in ancient Rome over 300 pivotal years, while at the same time providing a lively and explicit account of the sexual exploits of a number of key protagonists at the end of the Republic and early Empire, men and women who have come down to us as alleged or actual adulterers, sexual predators or deviants.

Jessica Titheringnton – Ancient History Encylopedia

If you’ve seen any on-screen adaptation of life in the Roman Empire, you’ve seen some depiction of gossip worthy or taboo sex. Cleopatra seduced Caesar; Caligula held infamous orgies; Nero raped senators’ wives during dinner parties and critiqued their proficiency in bed afterward as dinner conversation. A reader catching the title and cover art for In Bed with the Romans would likely assume it’s filled with salacious tales of sex slaves, affairs between Roman women and gladiators, or emperors punishing their own family members for moral failings.

Instead, Paul Chrystal has written a holistic account of what the sex lives of Romans was really like throughout the empire: an unedited version of where and how sexual behavior and sexual morals influenced ancient Rome, both directly and indirectly. In Bed with the Romans describes not only the acceptable and taboo sex acts of the ancient world, but also how sex fit in the daily life of Romans, how social role affected a Roman’s sexual expectations, and how Rome as an empire used sex both as a propaganda tool and social constraint.

The book is split into two distinct sections. The first, In Bed with a Roman, covers how love and sex were treated by Rome itself and by the “average” Roman. Chrystal covers every possible area of everyday sexual life in these chapters, from marriage traditions to gynecologic medicine (a chapter which made me wholeheartedly grateful for modern medicine) to sex and spirituality.

Gender roles for both sexes are covered here in depth, including the individual’s options in life. For women, the three real options were mother (matrona), which included an expectation to immediately and prolifically provide children for her husband and (by extension) Rome, vestal virginity (a rarer option with its own expectation that could and would result in death if broken), and prostitution. Men had more options professionally, but Rome still expected men to marry and provide children to the empire.

Laws and morals in general are handled in multiple chapters, as Chrystal describes the concept of virtus, the role of sex in religion, and the changing landscape of society’s restrictions on sex. Homosexuality, rape, sexual slavery, and the Empire’s view on Roman male virility are all included, with excellent examples and source quotes. Interestingly, the Roman views on appropriate maleness did not exclude homosexuality, as long as the Roman was dominating (not dominated). Rome’s conquests over other cities/nations are celebrated as a sexual conquest. The example provided is Vespasian’s coins, which showed Judea in a female role submitting to the Emperor’s soldier profile.

The second section, In Bed with the Emperors, and an Empress or Two, is where many of the more risqué and shocking tales are found. Chrystal covers all the big incidents, beginning with Augustus and ending with Theodora. Included in the sordid tales is the interesting way men and women in that level of society interacted and influenced each other, depending on the emperor. The chapter on Augustus includes an excellent description of his wife Livia’s political and personal influence on the empire. Augustus’s own marital circumstances began with somewhat less virtue, and his change of tune about marriage and the family eventually drove Augustus to banish his own daughter from Rome for her sexual behavior.

The family tree for Augustus, Claudius, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero is a fascinating web of sexual mess, and Chrystal’s treatment of them is wonderfully entertaining. Chapter 15: “‘The Whore Augusta’, Incest with Caligula and Claudius, and Nero’s Necrophilia” really says it all. I appreciate that Chrystal does not shy away from any topic, including Tiberius’ depravity with children or the tales from Caligula and Nero’s reign that seem too absurdly awful to be true: “Nero obviously missed the sex with Agrippina. His reaction was to find another woman who looked exactly like his mother.” (Chrystal, 206)

Of course, debauchery and scandal crossed dynasty lines in Roman history. Chapters on Hadrian, Commodus, Elagabalus, and Theodora cover different taboos (Hadrian’s public lover Antoninus, Theodora’s past as a dancer, Elagabalus’ desire to be a woman) and the effects of royalty’s behaviors on their household and the empire. Section two really is the stuff of legend; stories too astounding to make it past Hollywood censors and only hinted at in the movies.

In Bed with the Romans includes photographs of beautiful full-color mosaics, which give a visual glimpse into the ways sex fits in Roman daily life. The pictures depict a range of images: a prostitute’s advertisement of acts for sale, a scene from the Roman baths, a fascinating picture of what appears to be a drinking/sex game from a Pompeii brothel common room, and various mythological and religious scenes. The pictures truly emphasize that while Romans had their own taboos and restrictions on sex, sex and sexual behavior was an openly accepted part of the culture.

Chrystal’s writing style is an interesting mix of scholarly and casual tone. Some of the subject matter is hard to read due to the horrifying topics, and it is easier to get through a section about selling children on the slave market for brothels or disgusting medical procedures when it is clear the author is just as disturbed. He goes a little overboard in the first section’s chapters with external source quotes, jumping from topic to topic using citations without any commentary so the writing appears to be a list of quotes with little context to bring the point together. By section two, quoted source material is integrated well into the flow of the topic, and the scandalous tales about ruling family are told in a more conversational tone.

Overall, I highly recommend In Bed with the Romans to anyone interested in Rome’s views on sex and morality, and to anyone interested in the horrifying behavior of the Empire’s most infamous royalty.

Carolyn Wheel

I’m delighted with York In The 1970’s – having read the first two chapters already. I’m especially interested in the Theatre Royal details you’re including this time, as I’ve had major connections with people there since 1971. (I have most of the Theatre programmes for the 1971 shows you’ve listed).

Also nice to read about the actor David Bradley who I’ve known since he was with Laurence Olivier’s National Company when they were at the Old Vic!! He’s lived in Stratford-upon-Avon now for many years, so I still like to see the work he does with the RSC.

Neil Hudson - Yorkshire Evening Post

A New book chronicling the history of Leeds and looking in detail at its city centre, contains a number of hitherto unseen pictures.

Central Leeds Through Time is a picture-led journey down the ages, from the earliest mention of the town of ‘Loidis’, in AD731, when the region was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Leodis is also mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086, although it was still a small town at that time, the name possibly meaning ‘people of the flowing river’.

However, when the town gained its first charter in 1207, a new street was created by then Lord of the Manor Mauricede Gant. The street was called Brigg Gata, the word ‘brigg’ coming from the Old English ‘brycg’, for bridge, while ‘gata’ was derived from the Old Norse for ‘way’ or ‘street’. Over the years, the two words became ‘Briggate’.

Up to the 17th century, the town had a population of under 10,000, however, this grew rapidly – expanding threefold in less than a century – thanks to the Industrial

Revolution and burgeoning still further thanks to infrastructure projects like The Leeds Liverpool Canal, so that by 1841, its population had soared to 88,000. Indeed, by that time, some commentators were describing the city as a ‘miniature London’.

The book is split into sections, with headings such as ‘people’, ‘work’, ‘streets’ and ‘transport’. One of the pictures (below) was taken in 1907 and shows the old home of the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’, looking toward the south side of Kirkgate from Old Crown Yard to Wharf Street. There was also a medical botanist adjacent and a noted tripe shop, all of which were demolished in 1935.

The Ancient Order of Foresters, meanwhile, dates back to 1790 and was one of a number of mutual societies formed at that time with the aim of helping people in need. In 1837, almost 300 people were members in Leeds – for many, it was a form of insurance, in case they lost their jobs or otherwise fell on hard times.

Another of the pictures (above), shows bomb damage to a Leeds house during the Second World War. Remarkably, the semidetached house was practically chopped in two by the blast, which occurred on September 22, 1941 in a cul-de-sac of Cliff Road.

Other pictures also allow a fascinating insight into the city’s past, such as the image of the old four and five-storey timbered Georgian buildings which once lined New Briggate but which were torn town in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for the inner ring road, and which today would no doubt be considered a great asset to the city.

One of the more amusing pictures is the famous ‘Bread Arch’ of 1894, which was built to mark a visit by the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George and Queen Mary). The arch weighed five tons and was made entirely from bread, which was fine for a while, until it rained and the whole thing became a great big soppy mess, which ended up attracting rats.

There are also pictures of the construction and destruction of Quarry Hill flats, built in 1938 to accommodate 3,000 people,and pulled down in 1978.

On Yorkshire Magazine

Paul Chrystal’s book ‘Central Leeds Through Time ‘(Amberley Publishing, 2016, £14.99) charts Leeds’s evolution through a collection of captivating photographs. In this excerpt, the author documents the rich and varied history of some historic Leeds pubs.

Originally the Red Bear at No. 138 Briggate, between Duncan Street and Kirkgate, it is one of Leeds’s oldest hostelries. It was once a depot for heavy baggage wagons and became a coaching inn in 1800. Soon one of the busiest inns in Leeds, it had standing room for thirty horses in the cellar stables. The Loyal Duncan was the first coach to run from here and the True Briton left from here every morning at 10am for Manchester, arriving at 6:30pm. In 1903, it was renamed the Grand Central Hotel; in 1921 the name was changed again to the Victory Hotel – it closed in 1939.

The original name, as with the coaching house in London’s Aldersgate Street, derives from ‘Boulogne Mouth’, a reference to the town and harbour of Boulogne, as besieged by Henry VIII. The modern image shows the dramatic masks of tragedy and comedy on the sign for the Scarbrough Hotel in Bishopgate Street. The masks were first seen when Henry Scarbrough took over the property in 1826 as the Kings Arms. In the late 1890s, Fred Wood established The Scarbrough Hotel pub, organising talent nights, and any act showing promise was put on at his City Varieties.

Binks’s Hotel Or the Rose & Crown Hotel, a coaching inn in Rose and Crown Yard off Briggate, looking towards Lands Lane in 1887. From 1783 the Defiance coach ran from here to Hull. It was demolished to make way for the Queens Arcade in 1889.

Lighted signs advertise for Binks’s Bars No. 1 and No. 2 and billiard rooms. Binks’s Hotel is named after the landlady, Maria Binks. Opposite is the Morley Dining Room which offers ladies rooms, good beds, tobacco and cigars. The modern photograph below shows The Ship, next to Pack Horse Yard.

The Albion was built in 1824 and rebuilt (as here) in 1874 on the east side of Briggate at No. 142. The archway leads onto Albion Yard where there were stables and coach houses. It was all demolished to make way for F. W. Woolworth Co. which opened on 1 December 1928 – Leeds’s second Woolworths.

The magnificent façade of The Horse & Trumpet in The Headrow is the subject of the new photo below. Dating from 1825, the pub has long been associated with the Yorkshire Hussars Cavalry Regiment (originally the 1794 Yorkshire West Riding Yeomanry), hence all of the cavalry paraphernalia on the façade.

A popular haunt of clothiers from Farsely. Daniel Defoe describes the importance of pubs to the clothing industry in Leeds; he observed that the cloth market was a swift, early-morning affair starting at 7 a.m. and was all over by 9 a.m. when it was time for a good breakfast, taken at public houses near the bridge.

These meals were called brig-end-shots, which, according to Ralph Thoresby, ‘the clothier may, together with his Pot of Ale, have a Noggin o’ Pottage, and a Trencher of either Boil’d or Roast Beef for two Pence’. A very different creature features in the City Museum where a resplendent Roman mosaic resides, depicting the legendary she-wolf Lupa suckling Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. It dates from c. 250 and was discovered at Aldborough.

Over the road from each other in Lower Headrow – or Lowerhead Row as it was called then. On the left at No. 26 is the Malt Shovel; at No. 31 is the Three Legs inn and further down, The Vine. Youngman’s fish shop is visible on the right; the Osborne Commercial Hotel is even further down on the left.

The lower image is the Crown & Anchor in North Street in 1901. The landlord William Francis Allanson served Tetley’s Fine Ales and offered good stabling and accommodation for cyclists.

To the left is the Victoria Inn, serving Bentley’s Beer; the landlord was N. Hutchinson. To the right are dining rooms, run by Mrs Charlotte Ann Dawson, and a barber’s shop, run by William Williams.

Formerly a coaching inn, this was an eighteenth-century coaching inn on the junction of Upperhead Row (No. 18) and Guildford Street. It was always popular with the casts and crews at the Hippodrome behind it. In 1938, it was sold to Snowden Schofield and was part of his store until it was demolished in 1961. The Market Tavern (see gallery), known as The Madhouse in 1914, near the Kirkgate Markets, on the corner of Harewood Street and George Street, won its nickname from the civil unrest which was a frequent occurrence in the pub.

The photo is looking from Ludgate Hill. Apparently, there was a one-armed bar steward working there called Eli who had a lot of girlfriends. It was not a place for the faint-hearted and a comment on the Leodis website states that there was ‘a regular who had what looked like a thimble stuck on his nose, turned out someone bit the end of his hooter off in a scrap, it was recovered and sewn back on at the nearby Public Dispensary. I don’t think the surgeon would have earned much in the tailoring trade!’ George Day, brass founder and finishers, can be seen on the left with premises at the back of George Street.

Grade II-listed Whitelock’s Ale House first opened its doors in 1715 as the Turk’s Head Inn, fittingly enough, on Turk’s Head Yard. It is Leeds’s oldest surviving pub. In 1867, John Lupton Whitelock, a flautist with the Hallé and Leeds Symphony Orchestra, was granted the licence of the Turk’s Head. The Whitelock family bought the pub and in 1886 completed a refurbishment which has left the decor we can see today, including the long marble bar, etched mirrors and glass.

In the mid-1890s, the pub was rebadged as Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar and in 1897 John Lupton Whitelock installed electricity, including an exciting new revolving searchlight, at the Briggate entrance to the yard. Trick beer glasses in which a sovereign was placed ensured the punter got, not the money, but an electric shock. John Betjeman described Whitelocks as ‘the Leeds equivalent of Fleet Street’s Old Cheshire Cheese’ and ‘the very heart of Leeds’. One of the Great Bars of the World, the pub rubs shoulders with the Long Bar in Shanghai’s Peace Hotel and Harry’s in Venice.

Located on the east side of Lower Briggate, the Old George Commercial Hotel closed in 1919. There is a Templar cross on the façade indicating that it was originally owned by the Knights Templar in the thirteenth century. In the seventeenth century, it opened as Ye Bush. The name was changed in 1714 to The George; the ‘Old’ was supplemented around 1815 when the George & Dragon opened nearby. It was known as Simpsons Commercial Hotel after the Simpson family who ran it at the turn of the century.

Celia Fiennes stayed here on her horseback journey around Britain; Charlotte Bronte once visited and drew on this in her illuminating description of the pub in Jane Eyre. It closed down around 1919 when the licence was not renewed and was demolished shortly after. The owner was William J. Cudworth, a York Quaker who had inherited the pub and with it a dilemma – he was obviously opposed to alcohol. He determined, however, that he would keep it open until the existing landlady, Mrs Simpson, died. Headrow House in The Headrow is in the new picture, converted from a nineteenth-century textile mill in Bramley’s Yard.

The pub is on the site of the earlier Griffin Hotel, a coaching inn from at least the seventeenth century. The building was restructured as a railway hotel for the new station which opened in 1869 and was owned by the joint London and North West and North East Railway. The Gothic Revival building boasted a unique Potts clock at its corner with the hours ingeniously replaced by the words ‘Griffin Hotel’. For many though, the Griffin will be cherished as the place where Leeds United was born.
The Templar cross can be seen at the front of this ancient pub in Pack Horse Yard off Briggate. The cross tells us that it was originally part of the manor of Whitkirk and it was owned by the Order of St John of Jerusalem, successors to the Knights Templar.

It opened in 1615 although there may have been a drinking house on the site in the sixteenth century; some say it goes back to the 1130s. In 1615, it was the Nag’s Head and then the Slip Inn from 1770. It was renovated in 1982 when fifteenth-century elements were discovered.

The Harrison Arms in Harrison Street and the Old George Commercial Hotel also bear a Templar cross.

The Good Book Guide

‘Chrystal combs through ancient literature, and archaeological evidence, to throw light on the lives of ordinary women.’

Dr Stanley Ireland, University of Warwick

‘This is an impressive piece of work, not least because of the wealth of evidence and the number of references to ancient sources.’

Peter Jones BBC History Magazine

Such is the nature of our sources on the topic that a book entitled Women in Ancient Rome should really be entitled What Roman Men Thought About Women in Ancient Rome. It would certainly make it much easier to write.

Paul Chrystal is well aware of this and does his level best to make up for it. But the pickings are inevitably thin, and if they lead him to worry about male ‘dominance’ over the woman, it may be that male assertions hide quite the reverse.

Sexually, for example, it is never obvious who is dominating whom, whatever men say or fantasise about it. After all, they would, wouldn’t they?

That said, for clear, well organised and thorough information on the subject, it would be hard to find a book that covers so much ground so economically- from family, marriage and education to religion, health and sexuality. Thoroughly recommended.

Clear, well organised and thorough. Thoroughly recommended.

Rebecca Richards, All About History

Women in Ancient Rome does a fine job of filling the historical gap highlighted by the author: the absence of informative texts for the casual student on the subject of women and their place in Roman society With a firm objectivity and& pleasantly factual address, Chrystal breaks down the complexities of everyday life for Roman women in an accessible manner.

Considering the imbalance that still exists in the field of history in covering those who were not the kings, conquerors, and law-makers. it’s refreshing to read something so engagingly written that looks clearly at their roles and the expectations that were demanded at the time. Despite the breadth of topics relating both directly and indirectly to women in Ancient Roman society that Chrystal dives into, the pace doesn’t feel rushed; instead, the reader is guided through a fascinating overview of several subjects, presented with evidence and facts, and left to draw their own collected image of the realities of life for women at this time.

Though the chapters are somewhat brief, they also serve as a potential springboard for those curious to find out more on any given subject; Women In Ancient Rome sports a thorough and extensive bibliography and footnotes that make it incredibly easy to pursue individually any of the subjects covered.

The topics range from the more obvious familiar roles of women. marriage and motherhood to their education, public perception, religious roles and health. The chapter on women’s medicine at the time is a subject still not frequently discussed and is particularly fascinating.

Women In Ancient Rome takes an objective yet engaging tone, with only a handful of questionable descriptions of female sexuality cropping up occasionally that feel a little out of place. But perhaps the most refreshing angle of this book is the attitude of Chrystal in acknowledging the shortcomings of not only studies thus far in the subject, but also in the source material, in itself revealing much about the attitudes at the time. And yet Women in Ancient Rome is a worthwhile text. drawing conclusions from fascinating sources like obituaries, attempting to decode the attitude toward women and deconstruct not only their everyday lives rut their place in society as a whole. There is plenty here to interest anyone interested in Ancient Rome. It’s certainly not an exhausting text on the subject, but Women In Ancient Rome is an excellent read for those that wish to have a more complete understanding of the Roman era. and Chrystal is an informative and engaging guide.

Terry Edwards – Classics for All Reviews – June 2015

‘Fascinating and exhilarating’

In his Preface, C. aims to satisfy not only the academic researcher but also the increasing number of ‘lay’ readers. He hopes to have provided an ‘intriguing and informative account’ for the general reader. In many respects he has achieved both. He has certainly gathered a great number of detailed examples and sources in the volume, which will benefit the reader. Equally, there are fascinating details of women, both in general and in particular examples. C. bases much of his discussion on specific women from well known examples such as Clodia, Cornelia, Fulvia, Lucretia and Pliny’s wife Calpurnia to those whose names appear only on inscriptions. In the chapter on health, C. gives us the names of women doctors from the Late Empire, along with a detailed discussion, not just of women’s health and mortality, but of general medical knowledge. On religion, C. gives us more than simply a description of women’s role. He sets the status and lives of women in the context of the Republic or Empire in a way that makes the subject both ‘fascinating and exhilarating’.

In his Epilogue, C. admits that he has covered only part of the subject, and there are aspects not covered such as slavery, fashion, death, powerful women and their treatment in myth and literature. However, C. has achieved much in outlining the status and lives of women despite the difficulties mentioned in the Introduction, that they themselves are largely silent and marginalized.

The Roman Society – Summer 2014

Paul Chrystal examines aspects of the Roman woman’s lifestyle: her evolving role in the family; the assertive, brave, pernicious and outrageous women in the public arena; we learn about women’s education and of artistic, cultured women; we meet women soothsayers, witches and ghosts; we examine the role of women in religion and in the mystery cults; women as health professionals; women’s medicine; women’s sexuality; women as mistress, prostitute and pimp.

Mark Merrony – Minerva – December 2015

Much has been written about Rome’s tumultuous rise to power through the Republican period, and so the subject is often treated as a routine historical narrative. It is, of course, requisite to present a coherent chronological picture of events as they unfolded from the mythological foundation of Rome in 753 BC to the birth of Julius Caesar in 100 BC. This book not only does that but adds considerably more colour by addressing many interesting aspects that may be associated with the consistent stream of warfare. The author places each campaign in its military, social and political context, making the important point that no war was ever fought in isolation, there always being a casus belli (cause of war) and a set of consequences.
Some of the more gory details of conflict are chronicled, such as the Battle of Mons Algius (431 BC) with the Volscians and Acqui. Livy records how the dictator Aulus Postumius Tubertus left the battle when his skull was fractured by a stone; Marcus Fabius, in charge of the cavalry, had his thigh pinned to his horse by a spear; Gnaeus Julius Mento, a consul, had his arm torn off. The casus belli in 282 BC was sparked by the mere arrival of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Tarentum. When the admiral Lucius Valerius dropped anchor, he assumed that the Tarentines would be friendly. However, this opinion was not shared, since his prospective hosts promptly sank his flotilla. (When did the Romans ever drop in for a friendly visit?) This led to the famous defeat by Pyrrhus (with his elephants), who lost an estimated 13,000 men to the Romans’ 15,000; although the author calculates that the ratios were more likely to have been 4,000 to 7,000. This hefty loss on the part of the victors gave us the term ‘Pyrrhic victory’. Pyrrhus is reputed to have said: ‘Another victory like that and I’ll be going back to Epirus without a single soldier.’ As well as the novel appearance of elephants on the battlefield, the Romans encountered the deployment of another technology – incendiaries – this time at the Battle of Fidenae (426 BC). Here, the legions of the Republic were challenged by women armed only with flaming torches. Paul Chrystal goes on to examine the decisive three Punic Wars in detail, each culminating in Roman victory, despite the tactical humiliation inflicted by Hannibal at the famous set-piece battle of Cannae (216 BC). Ultimately, Rome fulfilled the objective of Marcus Porcius Cato: ‘Ceterum censeo Carthago delenda est’ (‘I am of the belief that Carthage must be destroyed.’)
The author rounds off his highly engaging book with an informative list of battles and wars, a glossary of terms and three interesting appendices of the Cursus Honorum (Roman official career path), the various Roman assemblies, and the seven kings of Rome. Wars and Battles of the Roman Republic is refreshingly illustrated by obscure images taken from trade cards, advertisements, and books published in the 19th and 20th centuries, although the resolution is at times a little challenging. This is a good stocking-filler for all lovers of Rome.

Huffington Post, November 2014

‘A fascinating read’

This is a lovely little full teacup of a book; light and refreshing yet full of body, a fresh new blend of narrative and anecdote. Paul Chrystal’s new book “Tea: A Very British Beverage” offers a satisfying look at the history and cultural impact of tea, ranging from the legends of its discovery, to its origins in China, to its arrival in England. We might consider tea to have long been out national drink, a national treasure, but Chrystal makes it clear that the reception of our favourite drink was by no means a smooth process. He explores the many concerns that were expressed, from doctors to leaders of the Temperance movement, that tea was, in fact, more dangerous to drink than alcohol, and the terrifying effects it could have upon genteel insides.

Chrystal also puts tea into a political context, examining the spread of the trade and development of the East India and other companies importing the substance to England. He follows it through the four corners of the British Isles and beyond, witnessing the famous Boston tea party, an often misunderstood incident, and clarifying that the American protesters were arguing against taxation without representation. I enjoyed the way that his writing is elegant and precise, delineating this historical moment, then moving on to the delicious detail that for months afterwards, the fish caught in the harbour tasted of tea! It was also very interesting to see tea in the context of the women’s movement; as a focal point, a fortifier and rallying point, with many leading Suffragettes and their proponents meeting at tea shops before and after protesting.

This slim but full book also explores the social history of tea, and as a gendered concept; from the slow infiltration of the seventeenth century coffee houses to the arrival of tea rooms, which finally allowed women a social space where they could entertain and dine in public without chaperone. I found it fascinating that such places could be considered degenerate; that department stores, those other bastions of Edwardian ladies’ freedom, initially had their requests to open refreshment rooms refused, in case they facilitated improper liaisons. Chrystal gives an interesting account of the rise of the tea house, from Lyons Corner Houses and the ABC tearooms, to smaller, specific famous establishments like Betty’s in York. I had no idea that some of them were so large, ranging over four or five floors, or that some were staffed entirely by women, or they some of the “Nippies” had to work until almost midnight!

For a tea lover, this book is a real treat. Engaging and easy to read, it provides a wealth of detail and interesting facts while remaining entertaining. The images are also lovely, covering topics such as tea plantations to early twentieth century brands. If you enjoy a cup of tea, and have wondered about its history, this is the book to dip into; I can also see it making a lovely gift under the Christmas tree this year. Savour Chrystal’s pleasurable trip through the story of our national beverage.

Graham J Crossley – November 2014

A superb book and visual treatment of a richly interesting subject, rooted in history, geography, travel, trade and culture. Hugely enjoyable!

Justine Halifax, Birmingham Mail – Oct 2015

Bournville hailed as a shining example of a model industrial village.

The creation of Bournville village by brothers George and Richard Cadbury, with the help of Bournville architect George Gadd, was a marked departure from the norm of the time.

Bournville has been hailed throughout the world as a shining example of a model industrial village.

It had grown out of a desire to replace the shocking conditions in which most workers during the Industrial Revolution were left to sweat just to put bread on their table.

The creation of Bournville village by brothers George and Richard Cadbury, with the help of Bournville architect George Gadd , was a marked departure from the norm of the time.

A new book, Old Bournville, written by Paul Chrystal, features a host of fabulous pictures that shed more light on the inner workings of the factory, which welcomed royalty among its visitors, including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and George V and Queen Mary.

It illustrates just how pioneering Bournville was for its time. Mr Chrystal states that deeds handed over to the Bournville Village Trust in 1900 “leave no doubt about George Cadbury’s intentions and objectives ”.

They state: “The Founder is desirous of alleviating the evils which arise from the insanitary and insufficient accommodation supplied to the large numbers of the working classes, and to securing to workers in the factories some of the advantages of outdoor village life, with opportunities for the natural and healthful occupation of cultivating the soil by the provision of improved dwellings , with gardens and open spaces to be enjoyed therewith.”
Chrystal adds: “Bournville, in effect, was a full-scale community planning project.

“Bournville was pioneering in many ways: socially, environmentally and architecturally in particular, and it also had a great influence throughout Europe in such areas as housing, urban planning, health and local education.”
As well as being one of the first companies in the UK to introduce half-day holidays for its workers, on top of a good salary, employees also benefited from a pioneering pension scheme, sick club, work outings, in-service education, staff committees, regular Thursday evening dances, an indoor swimming pool and a host of social clubs they could join.

There were even free medical services and treatments too. Other facilities included on-site dentists and workers were even given free sun ray treatment sessions as part of a cold prevention scheme, as the pictures here illustrate.

Cleveland VINE VOICE – October 2015

The authors have published a similar books on the Teesside region and this is one of their latest offerings. Whilst the title is “Secret Middlesbrough” the book also covers Stockton-on-Tees, Yarm and Redcar although the bulk of the book is about the greater Middlesbrough area. After an introduction where a brief history of the town is given the book has chapters on Iron & Steel, Steel River & Iron Bridges, People & Places before briefly covering Stockton, Yarm and Redcar. Each chapter contains a series of short articles / items /trivia largely covering the theme of the chapter. For example the chapter “Steel River & Iron Bridges” contains items on Steel River, Bridging the Tees, Dorman Long, Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co Ltd, Newport Bridge, The East Anglian Riots, Smith’s Dock and the Cruel Sea, Chemical Teesside and Cargo Fleet – Mediaeval Port, so you get the picture. The book is well written in an engaging style and the text is interspersed with abundant photographs printed on good quality paper. It is not an intensive read, I finished it in a few hours, but it is very enjoyable and manages to get across the uniqueness of the town and surrounding areas.

Sarah Stoner - Hartlepool Mail, NOV/DEC 2015

Hartlepool: The Postcard Collection – reviewed by Sarah Stoner Hartlepool Mail – November 2015

A first-class look at Hartlepool in times gone by is on offer in a new book, by Stan Laundon and Paul Chrystal, features 200 vintage views, as well as historic facts and figures.Hartlepool’s history is steeped in shipbuilding, steel-making and fishing the sea,” said Stan, a former BBC local radio presenter.

West Hartlepool and ‘old’ Hartlepool are the two towns which grew up to foster these industries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Our book describes and depicts the intriguing story of the two towns and the people who worked the fish quays, shipyards and steel mills.

Step back in time and “shop till you drop” at Hartlepool’s bygone stores – reviewed by Sarah Stoner – Hartlepool mail – December 2015.

Today we take a final peek at a new book about old Hartlepool.
Hartlepool: The Postcard Collection, by Stan Laundon and Paul Chrystal, features 200 vintage snaps – including several bygone stores.

Staff from Boots the Chemist pose outside the Lynn Street shop in 1924. The store had another entrance in Lambton Street.

“One of those we’ve included is Sages, of 6 Lynn Street, which was a stationer, printer and bookseller,” said Stan.

“Our photo shows the staff promoting a concert with a marvellously decorated car in around 1910.” Also featured are photos of general dealers Gallons, of Northgate, as well as Boots the Chemist – which had entrances in Lynn Street and Lambton Street.

Perhaps one of the most interesting, however, is A. Wood – a “spectacle specialist” who operated from 27 Church Street.

Maxine Gordon, York Press – August 2015

SCARBOROUGH has been a mecca for visitors for centuries – some more welcome than others.

Today, its beaches, hotels, amusement arcades and attractions pull in holiday makers looking for some seaside fun.

Turn back in time, though, and the tourists were of a more hostile variety.
The Romans established a signal station in the North Yorkshire coastal town in AD 370 – a square tower in a square courtyard. The aim was to give protection against Anglo-Saxon pirates from south Jutland.
This is where Paul Chrystal’s pictorial history of Scarborough begins, with an etching of Romans at their signal station and paintings of Vikings, who sacked Scarborough (or Skarthborg or Skarthabork) in AD 966.
Chrystal, who lives near York, is the author of more than 25 books. In his latest, Changing Scarborough (Fonthill, £14.99), he reveals how the town’s history has been shaped through a selection of photographs covering its swaying fortunes in the civil war, through to its emergence as a spa spot and tourist destination.

Scarborough’s darkest hours are also vividly documented. An entire chapter is given over to “Scarborough’s Disasters”, from the destruction of the North Promenade Pier by a storm in 1905 to its bombardment by the German fleet on December 16, 1914, which killed 18 people.

Chrystal also manages to shine his torch into the some of Scarborough’s less known historical corners.
Did you know that Ann Bronte is buried in the graveyard at St Mary’s Church? Or that the folk song Scarborough Fair refers to the 45-day-long trade festival that attracted merchants from across Europe and the Byzantine empire which was first given a royal charter in 1253?
Chrystal also has something for art lovers, particularly of the Pre-Raphaelite era. William Morris’ company was commissioned to do most of the stained glass and decoration in the St Martin-on-the-Hill church, which was built in 1862.

There are some evocative images of fishing folk at work – in the past and today. A highlight is a shot of a giant tuna raised high by its tail, guarded by men proudly showing off their trophy.
Chrystal completes the 96-page book with a chapter on entertainment, documenting the changing face of leisure life in the town. Colourful posters are reproduced on fairs and pageants as well as the Open Air Theatre, which was the largest in Europe and had a football-pitch-sized stage on an island in the middle of a lake with seating for almost 6,000 people. It opened in 1932 and closed in 1986.

Matt Clark, York Press – July 2015

A new picture essay celebrates all that is great about Tadcaster

BEER and Tadcaster have been as synonymous as fish and chips since 1341 and with good reason, the springs around the Wharfe yield some of the best brewing water in the country. But there is more to this town than ale, as Paul Chrystal and Mark Sunderland’s picture essay: Tadcaster Through Time explains.

We learn that during the stage coach heyday this was an important watering hole on the London to Edinburgh road, and that probably explains the town’s plethora of inns and taverns.

Paul and Mark also remind us the Romans recognised Tadcaster’s importance as a natural resource for quarrying, naming it Calcaria from the Latin word for lime. Indeed many notable buildings have been hewn from this stone, the most famous being York Minster.

But for impressive properties look no further than Tadcaster itself. None are finer than the Ark, a15th century half-timbered Wealden building that looks rather out of place in North Yorkshire.

The two carved heads are thought to be Noah and his wife, hence the name. During its long life, the Ark has been a meeting place, post office, inn, butcher’s shop, private house and a museum. Currently it’s the Town Council offices.

Then there is St Mary’s Church, famous for its William Morris stained glass window. Although only 140 years old, the church has a much longer history. Originally built around 1150 and destroyed by the Scots in 1318, St Mary’s was first rebuilt between about 1380 and 1480. But the 19th century reconstruction had nothing to do with marauders and everything to do with nature.

Because while the river may be Tadcaster’s raison d’être, it’s also the town’s bête noire and constant problems with flooding led to the structure finally being taken down stone by stone and put back together between 1875 and 1877.

Paul and Mark’s book illustrates the town’s long battle with the Wharfe perfectly with a photograph showing improvised sailing along Bridge Street in 1950.

Another way of dealing with the river was the eleven arch railway viaduct. But the book tells us it was never put to the use it was intended for. Built as part of the proposed line from Leeds to York, construction was authorised in 1846 and much had been completed when the collapse of railway investment in 1849 led to the line being abandoned.

For all this grandeur, though, half of Tadcaster’s charm lies in the everyday and ordinary. Take the institution that is Allen’s ironmongers. The book shows two pictures separated by a century and a half, but the fireworks advert aside, hardly anything seems to have changed.

Indeed, so interesting are the shops here, that Paul and Mark have devoted a whole chapter to them. But, of course, another complete chapter is given over to what made Tadcaster famous in the first place: beer, breweries and pubs – lots of pubs. Apparently in 1837 there were 35 inns and beer houses; that’s one for every 20 male inhabitants.

The final picture is of a curry house sign and there can’t be many local histories that conclude with one of those. Then again in a town so heavily associated with beer, maybe that’s a actually a fitting way to end.

Sarah Stoner - Hartlepool Mail.

What the butler saw in Hartlepool back in the 1950s

All the fun of the fair at Seaton Carew during the 1950s is the focus of today’s Memory Lane.Photos taken from the book Hartlepool Through the Ages, by Paul Chrystal and Stan Laundon, give a glimpse of Hartlepool’s fun-filled past.

“The book is a warm and colourful celebration of a warm and colourful town – past and present,” said Paul.
Most of the shots feature businesses owned by Ken Tyzack, including the Dove-Cote Diploma ice cream van, amusement arcade and fairground rides.

But there is also a rare scene of Seaton taken from North Gare, showing the pleasure beach, bathing huts and fair.

“It was Britain’s answer to Coney Island in the 1950s – but sadly it is no more,” said Paul.
As is often the case with Paul’s books, it is largely the photographs that do the talking. There are almost 100 pages of photographs all told, showing everything from an army camp at Strensall in the early 1900s to land army girls working a binder on farms near Haxby in the second world war and a horse and cart trotting past the Ship Inn and Creaser’s Stores in Strensall at the turn of the last century.

Many have lengthy, informative captions to help readers interpret them. There are also a good number of modern photographs showing the same scenes today, to give a sense of the way the communities have changed down the years.

We only have room for a handful of photographs today, but we hope they give at least a flavour of what the book is about – and that they prompt a few memories…

Monkey Hanger - January 2015

I was delighted to find that yet another publication on the town became available. The book is filled with good quality photographs of a then and now variety and brings back many memories of places/buildings that have long since been demolished and not all for the betterment of the town.

Amazon Customer - March 2015

It’s done the rounds of our family with lots of… I can remember when it looked like that!

Reviewed - March 2015

Great stuff, brought back a lot of memories to an old ex-pat.

A Neilsen – April 2015

Great addition to our Shire Book library. Great illustrations.

Reviewed - March 2015

‘A fascinating insight into many lesser known aspects of the history of the city of York’

Some fascinating insights into aspects of York, a city that I thought that I knew well. A book that I will certainly be referring to again and again, and which is a fascinating read!

Reviewed - July 2012

This book looks at the role of business, tourism and industry throughout the history of the city, and is split in seven sections. These sections cover (i) The Guilds, (ii) Streets, Rivers and Markets, (iii) Industry, (iv) Retail and Shops, (v) Cafes and Hotels, (vi) Tourism and (vii) Other Businesses, such as insurance. The book is comprised of photographs, with accompanying text.

There are some fascinating photos in the book, such as the old railway photos, showing the signalling control room in 1951 and the old varnishing shop at Holgate. The book though covers a wide time period, and there is a photograph from 1989 of the old Evening Press Offices in Coney Street, notable for a lack of technology and some very over-burdened shelves!

Although the book looks at some of the large businesses which have been an integral part of York’s history such as Rowntree’s, Terry’s and Craven’s, there are also photographs of some smaller businesses which traded for many decades in the city. Examples include Barnitts home and garden store, which is still trading on Colliergate after over 100 years, and others such as Bowman Removals on Monkgate, which was established in the 1840s and lasted until the 1970s.

Overall, this is an interesting book with many photos to browse through, representing a light read but which reminds the reader of some elements of the history of the city, and some new sites to look for.

Reviewed - July 2012

‘A fascinating record of an industry that I worked in for over 30 years’
I couldn’t wait to read this when it was delivered, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although I worked in the confectionery industry for over 30 years, and thought I knew something about it, I discovered much more in this book, and it helped to put some of the products that I was involved with into a broader perspective. A wonderful read!

Flavia Musoni – October 2013

‘A fascinating read’

Paul Chrystal’s The Rowntree Family of York provides a clear, comprehensive and frequently inspiring account of the Rowntree family, from their humble beginnings in the late 16th century to their immeasurable influence throughout the 19th century and beyond. Chrystal’s historical account of the Rowntree family is at once accessible and yet richly detailed, placing special emphasis upon the somewhat discordant juxtaposition of conventional business practice and the more welfare-driven values of the Quaker faith.

In particular, Joseph Rowntree’s singular commitment – to understanding the root causes of social problems and developing ways of overcoming them – is traced from the halcyon days of the British chocolate industry to his establishment of four Trusts that continue to preserve the Rowntree legacy today. Most notable of these are the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Social Service Trust (now known as the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust). The former is a Quaker trust which seeks to transform the world by supporting People who address the root causes of conflict and injustice.

The aim of the latter “was, and is, to embrace change; it is most eloquently described by the Trust itself: ‘set up a hundred years ago not in remembrance of the past, but to provide a legacy for reform in the future. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd has been working for change ever since… its legacy of reform quietly reverberated throughout the twentieth century’”.

The Rowntree Family of York is a fascinating read, providing a political and socio-economic background to both the creation of the Rowntree enterprise, and the propagation of social welfare reform. As someone who is currently on a work experience placement at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, I was particularly interested to learn about the historical and political climate in which the Trusts were established. The book has given me great insight into the ways in which the Trusts have continuously adapted to change, whilst remaining true to the Quaker principles upon which they were founded.