Archive book wins national award
A book centred on a famous Lancashire diarist from the 18th century and her fascinating life has won the 2017 Alan Ball Award.
‘Miss Weeton, Governess and Traveller’ is based on journal entries and other writings by Nelly ‘Ellen’ Weeton, a governess who was also an energetic traveller. She grew up in the Wigan area and overcame many challenges, including domestic abuse.
The book was published last year by Wigan Archives and Local Studies service, and edited by Alan Roby, a local historian. This is the first time a publication involving the borough archives team has won the prestigious award.
Terry Bracher, convener of the Alan Ball Award judging panel, which encourages local history publishing by public libraries and local authorities, said: “There were several high quality entries this year but we felt that ‘Miss Weeton, Governess and Traveller’ is an outstanding publication in every sense, with engaging content that is accessible to a wide range of audiences.
“Alan’s skilful editing and research for this new edition has enhanced the reader’s enjoyment and is a story that can be appreciated by audiences across the country and beyond.
“The book is also physically impressive and the reproduced images are brilliant in quality. Wigan Archives and Local Studies have been very active in local history publishing, so we are especially pleased that this book has been recognised.”
Although books, in two volumes, about Miss Weeton have been published in the past, Alan’s version is a cut above the rest as he brings her story to a close in a single volume.
Alan said: “I first discovered the writings of Miss Weeton in the 1970s, and was immediately fascinated by her largely self-taught ability to write from an early age. Edward Hall, the editor of earlier editions was unable to complete her story; the place and date of Nelly’s death were only discovered in recent years, as also was the demise of her estranged husband, Aaron Stock.
“My book is very different because it has a conclusion. Miss Weeton’s life post-1844, when she left Wigan, to where and when she died, was an important part of my research.
“It took three years full-time work to write and edit the material, with the assistance of the archives. It never occurred to me when I began that I would be the person responsible for bringing previously unknown knowledge of Miss Weeton’s fascinating life to the public.”
Nelly Weeton was born in Lancaster in 1776; after her father was mortally wounded during the American War of Independence in 1782, Mrs Weeton and her two children, Nelly and Thomas, relocated to Upholland and later Nelly lived in Wigan. After her mother’s early death in 1797, Nelly took over the running of her village school at a young age, and denied a marriage proposal to support her brother and herself.
When she was persuaded into marriage in 1814, she suffered extreme domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, and eventually secured a ‘Deed of Separation’ at the price of losing access to her daughter.
Councillor Carl Sweeney, portfolio holder for resources and reform said: “Nelly’s story is very powerful and I’m really proud of the service and of Alan, who have worked extremely hard on the book to share her story with future generations.”
The book is available to buy from the Museum of Wigan Life, Wigan Archives, Leigh town Hall, Amazon and Waterstones.
Posted on Tuesday 6th March 2018
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