Duxford Red Lion Inn 343

Richard Relhan Revealed: a guest post by Alexandra Saunders, John Pickles and Alison Taylor

Richard Relhan’s topographical drawings, with a date range of 1797-1838, are an expressive record of buildings and the countryside in a period immediately preceding immense change. They are generally accurate in detail and atmosphere and are therefore invaluable for the modern historian, and they also have an appealing charm. The drawings can be seen in Cambridge Digital Library, alongside photographs of the locations taken (largely) in 2020. This blog post provides additional background information on Richard Relhan and the recent history of his drawings plus acknowledgements and an extensive bibliography. A huge debt of gratitude must be paid to the Cambridgeshire Antiquarian Society for providing the funds for the digitization of the drawings and to Alison Taylor and her colleagues for their work in describing the sites and taking the modern photographs, a monumental undertaking. The original views are bound into three large volumes and are kept in the Map Department of Cambridge University Library at classmark Views.Relhan.1-3

Richard Relhan, Cambridge Apothecary and Artist

Alexandra Saunders

Richard Anthony Relhan (1782-1844) was a Cambridge apothecary and gifted amateur artist of Cambridgeshire houses, churches, antiquities, village landscapes and local heraldry, but there are few known details of his life, and his father and grandfather are much better documented. Of his artistic endeavours we have only the internal evidence from this Collection.

Relhan was baptised 15 May 1782 at Holy Sepulchre church Cambridge, second child and first son of Revd Richard and Maria Relhan. The Revd Richard Relhan (1754-1823) was born in Dublin, the only son of Anthony Relhan MD (1715-1776) and Sarah Breholt. Anthony moved to England and had a profitable practice in Brighton and London, and his only son Richard was a Scholar at Westminster School and Pensioner of Trinity College Cambridge, who graduated 1776, the year his father died leaving him £200, books, clothes and linen. He was curate in New Romney, Kent before returning to Cambridge to marry Maria Day, daughter of leading Cambridge attorney James Day, who held various town offices including coroner and Clerk of the Peace for Cambridgeshire. Ordained priest 1779, he was Chaplain of King’s College 1781-1796, supplementing his income by teaching. He became a noted botanist and published Flora Cantabrigiensis in 1785. Supplements and two revised editions followed, the last in 1820. From 1791 he was Rector of St Margaret’s, Hemingby, Lincs, a King’s College living, but was living in Downing Terrace Cambridge around 1822. His first child, Maria,1781, died young and was followed by at least ten more children, six of whom survived into adulthood: Richard the artist, John Henry (c.1789-1838), Mary Elizabeth (c.1790-1869, who married Revd William Pulling of Sidney Sussex College), Sarah Breholt (1792-1861), Charlotte (1794-1852) and Charles (1796-1857). Sarah and Charlotte remained single and lived their long lives in Cambridge. Charles was baptised at St Mary’s, Horncastle, Lincs, when the family were at the Rectory at Hemingby. Another son (Anthony or William) went to sea as a youth, but died in a tragedy at Pilau (Baltiysk) in Prussia. We do not know if the children went to school in Cambridge or further afield, or were taught at home. None went to university or had scholarly careers, but had skills in music and drawing, and Richard the artist’s Latin seems good. The family suffered poverty at times and Revd Relhan had financial difficulties (possibly he invested too much in publishing a 3rd edition of the Flora), receiving multiple payments from the Literary Fund and the Spencer chest of Corpus Christi College. The problems culminated in the sale ‘under an execution’ of the contents of the house in Downing Terrace in 1822, obviously a comfortable home, for goods sold included ‘modern furniture, books, harpsichord and effects’. He died 1823 and was buried at Trumpington. Maria lived until 1834, and was buried with him. Richard Relhan the artist was probably apprenticed to a Cambridge apothecary. In the medical hierarchy these were not highly regarded, but were the first resort in medical need for most people.

The first record of Relhan’s business is in Pigot’s Directory of Cambridgeshire 1830-31, and was in St Sepulchre’s Passage, Cambridge, one of three apothecaries who served a population of just over 14,000. By 1839 he had moved to St John’s Street and was among 12 chemists and druggists in the town. Clearly, he spent much time in summers drawing in Cambridgeshire villages.

The 1841 census shows Richard, his brother Charles and his wife Elizabeth all living in St John’s Street, probably above the shop. Charles was a violin teacher and Richard as an apothecary near large colleges could attract a numerous clientele. Other trades linked to the University flourished in this area, eg the successful topographical draughtsmen and printmakers Harraden and Son of 6 Kings Parade. In 1841-2 Relhan had building alterations carried out, either at St John’s or King Street, where he was living by 1843. He had difficulty paying his bill for this work and was summoned to appear at the Cambridge Borough Court of Pleas in February 1842, when James Thomas Parker claimed he was owed £19. This was eventually settled out of court, for £8. 9s. 4d. By 1843 Relhan was living in King Street, where he died 10 January 1844 from ‘debility’, aged 62, and was buried at Holy Trinity church on 17 January. His obituary in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal was particularly fulsome: ‘to the very deep and lasting regret of his relatives and friends, to whom he was most justly dear for his amiability of heart, and professional skill.’ The notice made much of his being the son of the late Rector of Hemingby and author of the Flora. Nowhere has a single mention been found of his being a talented amateur artist.

The approach to Bartlow Hills, showing 3 Roman tumuli (Views.Relhan.22). This drawing shows a cart with 2 people on board, one a man in a blue coat who appears in several other drawings. This is likely to be Relhan’s father, Richard Relhan FRS, who was a botanist, author of Flora Cantabrigiensis 1785, and it seems they often travelled to villages together. This would usually be on foot but Bartlow, a significant botanical site, was about 14 miles from Cambridge and it looks as if they were able to travel here in a carrier cart

The Recent History of the Relhan Collection

John Pickles

Richard Relhan died in King Street Cambridge in 1844 and his drawings came into the possession of the Revd John James Smith (died 1883), antiquary and Fellow of Caius College, who gave them to Cambridge Antiquarian Society (CAS) of which he had been a founder member in 1839. In 1883 the Society gave all its collections, including books and artefacts, to the University of Cambridge to found a new ‘Museum of General and Local Archaeology’ in Little St Mary’s Lane (now the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Downing Street). In 1909 Gerald Montagu Benton, a Cambridge undergraduate, re-discovered the drawings and, much impressed by them, wrote a short note in The East Anglian magazine in an attempt to raise interest (below). By 1915 he had compiled, identified and catalogued the items in the manner we now have. He gave a lecture to CAS and exhibited the Collection in 1920 but it was not until 1934 that typed copies were made, with copies presented to Cambridge University Library and Cambridge Public Library.

The following year JH Bullock of Trinity College, a long-serving member of CAS Council, reported that TA Hawkins, member of CAS 1934-1940, had presented a small collection of coloured drawings to be added to those already in the Society’s Library. Hawkins’ brother, George Plume Hawkins, was a well-known Cambridge mayor, businessman and dignitary, who ‘next loves the collection of Cambridge prints (sic) of which he possesses a collection that, apart from those owned by colleges, is believed to be the finest in existence’ (Cambridge Independent Press 3/4/1931). It was presumably part of this collection that, following his brother’s death in 1934, TA Hawkins gave to CAS. Its items, now described as ‘inserted after 1935’ include some published drawings of antiquarian interest and a set of drawings that mostly appear to be by Richard Relhan but in a more relaxed style, perhaps reflecting his increasing age or changing fashion in the art world.

Following advice from CAS Librarian, JD Pickles, and its President, AP Baggs, it was decided in 1977 to transfer parts of the Society’s collections on deposit to other institutions where they could be kept in more appropriate conditions. The Relhan albums were transferred originally to the Fitzwilliam Museum but it was later felt that that they would be more accessible in Cambridge University Library. With permission of the University Librarian they were moved to the Map Room in the Library in 1988, and have remained there, where they have occasionally been consulted by architects and archaeologists and a few images have been published. In 2017 CAS received a generous bequest from our past President, Professor Mary Hesse, who died in 2016, and the Council of the Society agreed that that it would be appropriate to use the funds to digitise the Relhan drawings so that they could appear free to view on the website of Cambridge University Library. A meeting with the Digital Content Unit was arranged in the Map Room in February 2018 and fieldwork by Beth (EM) Davis and Alison Taylor began. Covid meant that travel and access were very restricted but, thanks to helpful owners, churchwardens and clergy Alison was able to safely visit churches and houses during the summer months and, with help from knowledgeable colleagues and the internet continued writing the texts and prepared it for online publication.

Montagu Benton wrote a short piece for The East Anglian (1909) to promote interest in the drawings ending ‘the attention of the Secretary of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society has been called to these drawings, and it is hoped an index of them will be printed in PCAS, thus making it available to the student. The Editor of The East Anglian followed Benton’s piece with ‘We are very glad to have our attention drawn to this valuable collection of drawings, so long out of sight and mind. Those who have of late years taken it upon themselves to describe those of the antiquities of the county as they existed well nigh a century ago, included in the three volumes (Churches, Monuments, Houses etc , etc) have omitted much that is of extreme interest through not having consulted this treasury of local art and archaeology. Haslingfield, Horseheath and several other parishes are particularly well illustrated.’

Alison Taylor adds: When I came to work in Cambridge as County Archaeologist in 1974 John Pickles showed me the treasures of the CAS Room, including drawers that contained the Relhan Collection. I was so impressed I was sure they should be published. Thanks to Mary Hesse’s bequest and the online capabilities of Cambridge University Library this has been achieved. We hope it is worth the wait.  

Barton. View of village from Comberton Hill (Views.Relhan.29) This view from the open fields to N of the village is a remarkable record of this quiet scene before the Enclosure Award of 1840


Alison Taylor

Grateful thanks are due to all those who gave information and guidance, and corrected mistakes, and I have tried to include them as personal comments (pers comm) in the texts, although there must be more I have missed. Deep thanks also go to collaborators, who contributed way beyond the pieces that appear under their name. These include Beth Davis (who was unable to continue travelling from Easton in Covid times but whose expertise in historic buildings was invaluable); John Pickles (who answered queries about obscure students and arcane aspects of CAS, as well as tracking the history of the Collection); Alexandra Saunders (who uncovered the family history of our unassuming artist and contributed many ideas about the drawings along the way); and Philip Saunders (for heraldic information, much local knowledge, spotting some terrible errors and, with John Pickles, for sorting out the Bibliography). The staff of Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record were also very helpful.

Grateful thanks too go to kind and helpful churchwardens and clergy who opened their churches by appointment when that was permitted, and to owners of houses who welcomed me at a suitable distance outside their homes throughout the summer of 2020. I was able to visit and photograph many sites that way, and it was an added pleasure and very informative to meet and discuss the buildings with those who knew them best. Victoria County History, Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, many journals (including Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society), Venn, very old books, and other resources which are digitised and freely available online enabled me to do so much from home.

This project would not have been possible without the bequest from Professor Mary Hesse and the kind offices of Cambridge University Library (especially Huw Jones, Anne Taylor and Maciej Pawlikowski), who have made the whole collection available for all.

However, many visits to libraries and churches to check or re-photograph sites and answer questions that arose were not possible under current restrictions, so there will be more omissions I have not noticed. If you spot these please notify your observations in the Comments box, as Cambridge University Library has kindly agreed that we can make changes.

Gratitude also goes to those who gave me photographs, often taking them on my behalf. These are:

9 Abington Hall. TWI Ltd, Granta Park

13 Barnwell Abbey, carving of Archangel Michael. Jenny Oxley, Saffron Walden Museum

44 Bourn village; 54, 56 Bourn Hall ; 252 Longstowe Hall. Stephen Owen

55 Bourn staircase. Nicola Graver

90 Cambridge hearse cover. ©The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Reproduced with the kind permission of the University of Cambridge

146 Fen Ditton Manor. Michael Middleton

200 Haslingfield Hall. Lee Hughes

280 Rampton Manor House. Alison Dickens

336 Wisbech brass. Wisbech St Peter and St Paul church, thanks to Bridget Holmes


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Beddow R in Hicks 1997 Medieval stained glass

Bell CL (1854-1941) in The Antiquities of Cambridgeshire vol I and vol II, transcribed by Cowham M and V 2013

Benton G M1909 Drawings relating to Cambridgeshire, by R Relhan etc, East Anglian, New series XIII

Bingley  FJ and Cockerill TJ 2006 Cambridgeshire church heraldry (unpub) (Cambridgeshire Collection)

Blomefield F 1751 Collectanea Cantabrigiensa, or collections relating to Cambridge, University, Town, and County, containing the monumental inscriptions in all the chapels of the several colleges, and parish churches

Boissier GR 1827 Notes on the Cambridgeshire Churches

Bradley S and Pevsner N 2014 The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire

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Burn L 2016 The Fitzwilliam Museum: a history

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Butler L 2007 Church of St Peter, off Castle Street, Cambridge (Church Guidebook)

Cambridge Camden Society 1845 Churches of Cambridgeshire

Clark W 1985 Once around Wandlebury

Clay WK 1859 A history of the parish of Waterbeach in the county of Cambridge 

Clay WK 1865 A history of the parish of Horningsey Cambridge Antiquarian Society Octavo Series 7

Clay WK 1869 A history of the parish of Milton in the county of Cambridge  

Coad JG 1989 Denny Abbey

C[ockayne] GE Baronetage1900-06 The Complete Baronetage 1611-1800   

Consistory of Ely Probate Records 1994-6, Index of the Probate Records of the ed. C and D Thurley,    ES Leedham-Green and R Rodd

Cooper CH 1908 Annals of Cambridge. 4 vols by CH Cooper and vol. 5 [with additions and corrections and index to the whole set] by CH Cooper & JW Cooper. Dates of originals; vol. I (1842) to 1547; vol. II (1843), 1547-1602; vol. III (1845), 1603-1688; vol. IV (1852), 1688-1849; vol. V (1908), 1850-1856

Cotman JS 1819 Antiquities of St Mary’s Chapel at Stourbridge near Cambridge, etc etc

Cotton S in Hicks 1997 Perpendicular churches

Davis EM et al 2000Stretham: the millennium history

Davis GE 1968 A history of Haslingfield   

Davis M 2020 Mary Marchioness of Downshire and Baroness Sandys, 1764-1836 

Duffy E 2005 The stripping of the altars 

Evans N and Rose S 2000 Cambridgeshire Hearth Tax Returns Michaelmas 1664

Evelyn-White CH 1911 The churches of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely

Evelyn J 1641-1706 The Diary of John Evelyn  reprinted 1907 Ed ES de Beer

Everson P and Stocker D forthcoming The Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture Volume XIV. Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire 

Fedden R Anglesey Abbey 1968

Fisher DR 2009 The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1830-1832

Fox C 1922Anglo-Saxon monumental sculpture in the Cambridge district’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 17

Fuller T 1665 ‘Bird’s eye view of Cambridge town entitled ‘Cantabrigia qualis extitit Anno Dni 1634’.in History of the University of Cambridge 1655, (CUL Maps.bb.53.63.1)

Gage J 1833 ‘…an account of Roman sepulchral relics….’. Archaeologia 25

Gage J 1842 ‘…an account of final excavations made at Bartlow Hills’, Archaeologia 28

Gage J 1850 ‘…further discoveries of Roman sepulchral relics at the Bartlow Hills….’. Archaeologia 29

Gray A and Brittain F 1960 A history of Jesus College Cambridge

Grose F 1809 The Antiquities of England and Wales  

Gittos B and M 2019 Interpreting medieval effigies

Haigh D 1988 The religious houses of Cambridgeshire

Hasler PW 1981 ed The history of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603

Hicks C (ed) 1997 Cambridgeshire churches

Hill AG 1880 Churches of Cambridgeshire

Hone W 1827 The every-day book, or, The guide to the year, Vol 1  

Humpherey- Smith C et al 1985 The Cambridge Armorial 

James N in Hicks 1997 The archaeology of churches

Kerrich T 1815 (article in the Gentleman’s Magazine)

Lack W, Stuchfield HM and Whittemore P 1995 The monumental brasses of Cambridgeshire

Lankester PJ and Blair J 2020 ‘The medieval Purbeck marble industry at London and Corfe’, The Monuments Man: Essays in Honour of Jerome Bertram, ed. C Steer

Le Keux J and Wright T 1847 Memorials of Cambridge: A series of views of the Colleges, Halls, and public buildings

Lewis CP 2000 A history of Kirtling and Upend

Littlechild WP 1921 A short account of King’s College Chapel, 2nd Edition

Lysons D and S 1808 Magna Britannia: Cambridgeshire Vol 2

Munby LM 1988 The Hardings at Madingley 1905-42

Neville RC 1852 ‘Investigations of Roman remains in the county of Essex’, Archaeological Journal 10

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004: ‘William Coke’ by JH Baker(online revised version  2008);   ‘Sir Charles Cotton’ by PC Krajewski (online revised version  2008); ’Michael Dalton’ by DA Orr;  ‘Sir John  Finch’ by Sarah Hutton (online revised version  2009); ‘Andrew Downes’ by ES Leedham-Green and NG Wilson; ‘Richard Harraden’ by JW Clark rev. L Peltz; ’William North 6th Hanham;  North’ by LB Smith (online revised edition 2008);  ‘Andrew Perne’ by Patrick Collinson; ‘Samuel Sandys’ by AA Hanham , ‘Mark Steward’ by Felicity Heal; ’Sir Thomas Wendy’ by AF Pollard rev. S Bakewell

Palmer WM 1928 Cambridge Castle 

Palmer WM 1932 Monumental inscriptions and coats of arms from Cambridgeshire, chiefly as recorded by John Layer about 1632 and William Cole between 1742 and 1782

Palmer WM 1935 John Layer (1586-1640) of Shepreth, Cambridgeshire

Palmer WM 1935 William Cole of Milton

Palmer WM 1939 Monumental brasses with special reference to the Cambridge Antiquarian Society’s Collection in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 38

Palmer WM 1939 15th century visitation records of the deanery of Wisbech’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 39

Palmer  WM 1939 ‘Landwade and the Cotton family’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 38  

Parsons CE 1911 Horseheath church

Pearce B 2003 Stourbridge Leper Chapel Barnwell, Cambridge; a brief history

Pemberton S 2020 The Diaries of Lady Philadelphia Cotton’ Cambs Association for Local History

Ravensdale JR 1984 ‘Swavesey, Cambs: a fortified medieval planned market town’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 72

RCHME Cambridge (parts 1 and 2)1959

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Ruck GAE 1939 ‘Monumental brasses: with special reference to the Cambridge Antiquarian Society’s collection in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 38

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Saul N 2019 ‘Serjeant-in-law at Flamstead (Hertfordshire): a further sequel’, Church Monuments: Journal of the Church Monuments Society 34

Sekulla M 1981 Excavations at Dry Drayton, Cambs’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 70

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Stokes HP 1926: The history of the Wilbrahams

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VCH A history of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely Vol1 1938; Vol 2 1948; Vol 3 1959; Vol 4; 1953; Vol 5 1973; Vol 6 1978; vol 8 1982; vol 9 1989; Vol 10 2002

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Waring M forthcoming An investigation into the location and origin of the processional canopy used for Elizabeth 1’s visit to Cambridge in 1564, sketched by the Reverend Richard Relhan in the early 19th century

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  • It is worth remembering that all VCH (Victoria County History) and RCHME (Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England) volumes, ODNB (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography), Venn, Proceedings of Cambridge Antiquarian Society, and many other publications, especially the oldest books, are available online
  • William Cole’s manuscript history is held in the British Library and as microfiche in the Cambridgeshire Archives. A good selection from it has been published in Palmer WM 1932.
  • Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society is normally referred to as PCAS
  • ‘Lysons 1808’ throughout refers to the work of brothers Daniel and Samuel Lysons. Daniel, as a curate at Mortlake, was befriended by Horace Walpole of Strawberry Hill and thereafter spent most of his time on antiquarian interests. Samuel was called to the bar but was befriended by Joseph Banks and went down the same route. In 1800 the brothers made plans to visit, record and publish antiquities of every county in England and, with private wealth and excellent connections, made a good start. Working alphabetically, Cambridgeshire was published in Vol 2, but after Devonshire in 1822 Samuel, responsible for most of the drawing, died and Daniel gave up. Relhan knew their work well and was drawing at the same time, so it is possible that he was preparing original drawings to be finalised  by Samuel or the engraver. However, this is mentioned nowhere, even though specific credits are given on each engraving published. Of the small brasses drawn by Relhan but not published by Lysons, Barton (31) looks accurate, ready for engraving, and two at Girton (160, 161) are unfinished. None have the finesse of the engravings.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bartlow.-View-showing-the-3-tumuli-with-the-base-of-a-4th-tumulus-23.png
Bartlow. View showing the 3 tumuli with the base of a 4th tumulus (Views.Relhan.23) The man in the blue coat who appears in several other drawings is likely to be Relhan’s father, Richard Relhan FRS, who was a botanist and author of Flora Cantabrigiensis, 1785. It seems they often travelled to villages together


See also the Drawing Cambridgeshire story written by Cambridge University Library Communications Office.


  • What a shame he did not visit Thriplow. Luckily Cole did and much later Charles Lingard Bell. I think Cole’s drawings must be the earliest we have.

  • Delighted to find this blog and the images of Relhan’s work. We live at Histon Manor (previously Histon Hall when Relhan painted it) – this painting plus sone other earlier oil painted we located in Wales is the only artwork we know about depicting the house when it was 3 levels high before being ‘improved’ in the Victorian era.
    Many thanks Katherine

  • Hi,

    Thank you – this has been a wonderful collection to browse. I have on contribution. You have labelled “353: Old house at Whittlesford” as Whittlesford’s Guildhall. I believe (due to the greater resemblance, and how the guildhall seems to not show the scares of alteration required for the transformation from Relhan’s drawing to old photos or today) that it is another building in Whittlesford, Rayners Farmhouse, which I cycle past frequently.

    If you wish to have a further browse, then feel free.
    Rayners Farmhouse (Grade II*)
    Listed Building Number: 1128023
    Listed on: 22 November 1967
    https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1128023 (I have included this link as my website)

    • Thank you for your interest – it is a wonderful collection – and for the added information which I will pass on

  • Thank you for this terrifically useful post. I am hoping to use Relhan’s apothecary shop in the historical crime novel that I am currently writing (nothing sinister – it’s just a place to buy opium!). But where oh where was St Sepulchre’s Passage? I cannot find it on any maps of the period, or on Capturing Cambridge. I assume it ran down the side of the Holy Sepulchre, but making assumptions is dangerous! Many thanks for any clarification you can offer.

    • Dear Susan. An interesting question! Apparently, St. Sepulchre’s Passage was the passage that before the construction of Round Church Street went around the churchyard. The ‘Cambridge in 1800’ map at https://www.historictownstrust.uk/towns/cambridge shows this (I think) though does not name it. Hope this helps. Look forward to reading the book!

      • Hello Anne, this is really useful – thank you. I thought that might be the case, but I wanted to get your opinion as I am keen to make sure that my Cambridge historical detail is as accurate as I can make it! I live in dread of historians catching me out, as I am a mere English graduate with nary even a History O-level to my name (which dates me…). The book – “Ostler” – should be out in September – I do hope you enjoy it. Best wishes from Susan

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