Introduction – What it’s all about …

The title is that of a guidebook, published in 1804 by a local author, Susanna Watts (b. 1768); although born into the local gentry, she was forced by circumstance to earn a living, which she did by writing.  She was well educated, active in local society, a dedicated anti-slavery campaigner, a correspondent with William Wilberforce (who she took to task for his views on female abolitionists) and a near contemporary of Jane Austen (b. 1775).

Her book is a vital and living snapshot of a large provincial town, on the verge of a complete transformation by the industrial revolution; the population was about to explode, doubling in the next twenty years.

The text is much more than a simple description; it is curious, digressive, engaging and critical of legend and myth; her demolition of nostalgia for cheap prices in the good old days should be in every economics textbook.  Her excitement and enthusiasm for her present is now situated deep in our past.

The Project is set out as a portfolio work, an accessible web resource, which looks at the author, her context, and her text; recreates her guided walk through the town (now, since 1919, a City); looks at the same sights she saw, and walks along the same streets; hopefully engages the audience and encourages them to place themselves as detectives of the past, looking for clues and traces in a predominantly C19th and C20th cityscape.  It should introduce the audience to parts of the cityscape with which they are unfamiliar; and, briefly, provide an opportunity to step outside the synchronic present and into an evidently diachronic past.

The City is compact and well served by public transport; the route can easily be broken down into sections, is fully accessible by foot or bike, or by manual or electric wheelchair.  The urban environment is a palimpsest, and better still, freely open to curious people of all abilities.  Outside in the fresh air, getting some gentle exercise, looking at and engaging with real history; what could be better?