I have been researching family history now for over 20 years. I have done my own tree and four others, as well as assisting many individuals to develop their trees or get over brick walls - particularly through the Todmorden Family History Group which I set up and ran for about five years.

Most often it is the same story of births, marriages, deaths, where people live, their occupations, etc., but every now and then you come across an interesting character or branch rather like Who Do You Think You Are? For example, in one particular tree I discovered that the person's five times great grandfather was a famous French chef who cooked for the aristocracy in London and produced one of the first cook books: The Compleat Cook, Market Woman and Dairy Maid, Jassintour Rozea .

I decided to set up this blog so that I can share some of the more interesting stories with you and any other projects I am involved with.

In my own tree I discovered the Sutton family on my patriarchal side. I found they lived in Dent, Cumbria (it was West Yorkshire at the time) so contacted Sedbergh History Society to see if they knew anything. To my surprise I was informed my four times great grandfather, one Richard Sutton, was a local legend and, some would argue, a role model for Emily Brontë's Heathcliff. Thus began a fascinating journey.

I then researched his son, William, who emigrated to Canada in 1850, followed by his son, William John Sutton whose story was even more fascinating. I acquired that much information I wrote a book about it: Will Sutton, the Forgotten Trail Breaker of Vancouver Island. You can access the book (for the time being) under Publications. I have had some wonderful endorsements.

Here are some of my other projects.


9th February 2023

Rather later than I expected, we are launching the booklet I have written this Saturday. It is 140 pages long and costs ten pounds with the proceeds going to the Society. local media.


2nd December 2022

We have had a hugely successful year in both promoting and researching the inctedible history of this area and celebrated this at our annual AGM last week and in our Annual Report.


3rd July 2022

I have finished the draft of Millom and District: Prehistory. Now waiting for comments by two archaeologists then amendments and hope to get it to printers in August to launch on September 3rd. Watch this space.


27th April 2022

I am currently researching and writing a booklet: Millom and District: Prehistoric Past. It is much harder than I thought it would be as, like any academic subject, you have to learn lots of new words, in this case, archaeological terms. My background is in Classical Studies (Greece and Rome) so this really is outside of my comfort zone. But I am thoroughly enjoying it and hope to have the booklet ready for publication (the History Society are publishing it) by mid of August so we can launch it at our meeting on 3rd September which will be about the Prehistory of this area with two excellent speakers, Alison Burns of Manchester University who is an expert on Prehistoric footprints, Claire Bradshaw who is also an archaeologist and Claire's period is also Prehistory and local historian Duane Farren will be talking about the footprints he found and monitors on Duddon foreshore and, hopefully, the Society will be launching my booklet. I am very excited about this, especially as two experts have agreed to read the draft before publication to ensure I have not made any huge errors!! Watch this space.


27th April 2022

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Millom and District Local History Society we organised an afternoon event on March 5th; Jonathan Powell looked briefly at the history of the society followed by local metal detectorist Josh Carr taking us through the ages with his different finds ranging from a Roman coin and several other coins from Henry III right up to Queen Victoria; there were some amazing samples from Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth 1st. Local historian Duane Farren followed sharing many of his finds ranging from Mesolithic footprints he monitors on the Dudden foreshore to Medieval quern stones, and cannon balls (two battles were fought at Millom Castle: one during the Wars of the Roses, the other during the English Civil war. I then looked towards the future at what events we had planned. We had excellent feedback and about 68 people attended the event.


2nd February 2022

Leading on from the successful Roman Millom events I have been involved in the resurrection of Millom and District Local History Society and was elected Chair at our AGM last November. I have become heavily involved in this, using my community and youth work skills as well as my experiencee in research and acquiring funding bids. We have recently been successful in obtaining two small grants so that the Society can pursue a comprehensive survey of the outside walls of Holy Trinity Church. There are more details about our projects and events on our website.


18th September 2021

What a fantastic turnout, over 100 people attended the event at Holy Trinity Church, Millom. Here is a video I made after the event: Roman Millom II.

A second event, attended by over 60 people, took place at Holy Trinity on Saturday, 16th October 2021.


31st August 2021

Was there a Roman presence in Millom? At one time antiquarians were convinced there was a Roman road which went from Lancaster, crossed the sands at Morecambe Bay, across the Cartmel and Furness Peninsulas, crossing Duddon Sands and landing in Millom then along the coast up to Ravenglass.

This theory then fell out of favour but recent metal detectorists have made quite a few discoveries of Roman coins and other Roman artefacts both in Millom and in near-by areas (Silecroft and Dalton) which reopens the question.

In order to discuss this, other possibilities and see how we can move forward an afternoon event has been organised. We plan to begin proceedings with a short video to set the afternoon in the context of Roman Britain; this will be followed by Steve Welsh, Roman enthusiast, who will talk about Roman Legionnaires in the North and Roman weaponry (Steve has walked Hadrian's Wall in full legionnaire uniform). Jan Bridget will then place the event into a Millom context by looking at evidence she discovered whilst recently researching the subject; she found an amazing reference to two great urns full of silver Roman coins being unearthed at Millom Castle in the mid-18th Century. Josh Carr will talk about his enthusiasm for metal detectoring and share his two Roman finds: a silver coin and a Roman brooch then Duane Farren, local historian, will share his significant knowledge on this subject along with both his, and other, Roman finds from the area. Our final presenter is archaeologist Daniel Elsworth* who will look at more technical evidence and how we can further progress research. Finally, there will be a Q&A session with all of the presenters followed by refreshments.

The event, supported by Millom and District Local History Society, will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Millom, LA18 5EY, on Saturday 18th September, 2-4.30. Tickets are five pounds which includes refreshments by Tea at Trinity (sandwiches, tea/coffee and cake). Tickets are available from the Discovery Centre, Millom, presenters and on the door.

*Daniel Elsworth is a local archaeologist who has researched the subject. He has a practise in Ulverston: Greenlane Archaeology.


27th March 2021
I recently met a young metal detectorist who told me about some Roman finds in Millom. He also said that other detectorists had found Roman artefacts. I set up a Facebook private group which now includes local metal detectorists, local historians, an archaeologist and various other people interested in the Romans. I searched the internet and found quite a bit of material suggesting there was a Roman presence in Millom (19th and early 20th centuries) but then came a lot more historians who rejected these suggestions. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I found quite a bit on the internet, added information provided by local detecctorist/historian Duanne Farren and wrote the attached paper Roman Millom. This has been distributed to members of Duddon Valley Local History Group and a 15 minute video made which has been put up on You Tube: Roman Millom.

SAMUEL GATES (1765-1821)

In another tree I discovered my partner's five times great grandfather was a travelling methodist preacher who had been converted by John Wesley when he was sixteen years old - that led to a fascinating journey around England to places where his children were born where he was 'stationed' as a preacher. He was actually stationed in Todmorden for a while and preached not only at St Mary's but also at the octagonal church in Heptonstall. I gave a talk about Samuel at Heptonstall Methodist church. Here is a paper I wrote Rev. Samuel Gates..