About Four Shires History

map of Four Shires History area

Four Shires History tells stories from a Midlands past which connect with life today. It develops interest in people and places within an area of about four hundred square miles. It’s about how people interact with each other and their environment.

Some ancestors acted in ways which seem strange but, like us, they lived complex lives and impacted their world. Many issues we face resonate with their experience of life. Thus, history has relevance to us. It offers varying perspectives on being human and trying to thrive within communities.

Whether we reflect on Medieval Europe or research a family or village, different kinds of history all have value. At the small community end of the spectrum, records are limited. So, looking at the history of a wider area helps join some dots. For example, we may know nothing about an ancestor other than name, date of birth and occupation in a particular village. By looking wider, we can build a picture of life as they probably experienced it.

From Research to Publishing

One advantage of considering an area larger than a parish is the opportunity to compare places and organisations. No settlement is an island. For example, early nineteenth fairs at Market Bosworth attracted a thousand farm servants from miles around. The town had a rural hinterland. Yet its population scarcely grew in Victorian times while Ashby-de-la-Zouch experienced modest growth. So, what caused these differences? Any comparison between two or more places throws light on them individually as well as on the area they occupy. Four Shires History encourages individual and comparative studies.

Learning more about an area fascinates many. Four Shires History can put interested persons in touch with an existing local group, help them start a group, or suggest a path for individual research. If anyone isn’t sure where to begin or feels stuck, we’re willing to offer pointers to an enjoyable and fruitful way forward.

Publishing results of research is as important as gathering new information. Anyone can print part of an Edwardian newspaper or a series of passages from Victorian sources. However, historical facts and opinions need interpretation, and archaic styles can seem verbose or opaque to modern readers. Anything we produce needs to appeal to a contemporary audience. So, Four Shires History offers help with skills in explaining and writing. It also provides opportunities to publish stories and pictures, whether on this website, a Facebook page, or an online magazine.

Other Key Purposes of Four Shires History

Four Shires History encourages interest and participation in what local history and heritage offer. It fulfils this in part by arranging days out within an hour’s journey of most homes in its area. Some villages and historic sites have excellent amenities yet remain unexplored. Beyond this, past generations left evidence of their activity in fields and streets. So, trips offer opportunities for discovery and conversation, food and enjoyment.

Any group which organises events, workshops, talks and outings can foster individual well-being and social inclusion. This is a vital aspect of Four Shires History. Through culture and heritage, people get to know others, discover topics for conversation, and enjoy being outdoors. Moreover, history can open debate about current issues within society and the landscape. Certainly, its educational, and Four Shires History aims to encourage learning among people of all ages. Yet learning goes beyond the academic. It includes becoming more confident in group situations, seeing life from other perspectives and developing a sense of belonging, whether in relation to an area or community.

Four Shires History People

image of William Bates of Four Shires History

William Bates

Now retired, I’ve recently founded Four Shires History. I write articles about the area between 1750 and 1930. For example, I’ve discovered a baronet who wanted his mother declared insane, a vicar whose parish loathed him, and a poor woman who claimed to live without food. There’s a funny side to some stories but I try to write with compassion. I have an MA in English Local History from Leicester and have backgrounds in biology, religion and managing small organisations. I enjoy giving talks and working with people to find good ways forward with any historical interest.

Alan Brady

Alan Brady

Retired Headteacher and Trustee at Four Shires History. I studied Modern History with Economics at Manchester University and went on to teach history all the way from Year 7 to A level. Local history was always part of the curriculum and I find stories of local people and how they lived so fascinating. Having a great interest in current affairs, I also taught politics. I have backgrounds in religion and singing, and am attempting to learn the piano. I enjoy travel, leading groups all over Europe, and I like to give talks and introduce people to new places and stories.

Mark Knight

Mark Knight

Historian, musician, community activist, environmentalist and trustee at Four Shires History. My job as the Senior Cultural Heritage Officer for the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust brings me into contact with a variety of different communities. Here, I enjoy bringing history to light, and encouraging communities to engage with and feel a sense of ownership of their own past. I hold a first-class honours degree and a PhD in history from the University of Derby. I’m also a recent convert to allotmenting.

Helen Lee

Helen Lee

Four Shires History Web Developer. I graduated from Southampton with a BA Hons in Graphic Design and have over two decades of experience in web design and development, both locally and internationally. In my spare time, I enjoy photography, sewing, crafting, and home decorating. I also enjoy badminton, aerobics, walking and watching Formula One. I have one daughter Amber and a Cocker Spaniel called Freddie.