“Ballantynes are genuine ladies’ tailors”, 1902

The history of Ballantynes is explored on their website:

Ballantynes was established in 1854 and was originally named Dunstable House by its founders David Clarkson, his wife Esther, and sister Elizabeth Clarkson. They lived in a cottage in Cashel Street. Esther came from Dunstable in Bedfordshire, England and had been trained as a milliner. She imported 2 cases of straw hats which she sold, with sundry other items of clothing, from the front room. Seeing how well she was doing, David built a small gabled shop for her, which extended out to the Street frontage. In 1854, a partnership with David’s cousin, Thomas Atkinson, was established and the “New Drapery Establishment” in Cashel Street was first advertised in the Lyttelton Times on 23rd September 1854.

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We have digitised a rather splendid 1902 publication Tourists’ guide to Canterbury.

I will share some of the interesting ads and pictures from it in a series of posts – there’s lots of information about local businesses and places in 1902.

Things that go burp in the night

Ah, Halloween: the celebration I love to hate. When I’ve finished locking the doors and closing all the curtains so the wee kiddies can’t peer in the windows and make unreasonable demands, I love to sit down with a great book. A scary book, filled with tension, drama, heart-stopping horror and dismembered body parts. Also Vom the Hungering, who lives in Diana’s closet, a small dachshund called Boswell, and the Bride of Frankenstein, currently running a B&B in Whitby.

I’ve written before about horror – good horror – and how truly wonderful it can be.  I could also go on for days about just how bad horror can be when written badly. This week’s collection of titles, however, is all about the burps.  There’s a small but fab group of writers who make me laugh. Out loud. In public. And interestingly many of these clever people choose to write in a genre that is more often linked to pants-wetting terror.

A Lee Martinez consistently produces clever, funny, heart-warming stories about monsters, zombies, robot detectives, and the end of the world – Chasing the Moon was one of my top reads last year, and even now I’m sitting here thinking I might go find it and read it again.  Who wouldn’t want a collection of odd monsters living in their apartment, devouring everything they can find, and bickering with each other?

When he’s not writing Doctor Who books, Paul Magrs takes familiar stories and characters and turns them upside down, adding extra crunchy bits on the way. 666 Charing Cross Road is (obviously) about two people living on different continents who swap letters and books back and forth.  The difference with this version is that one of the books turns out to be a manual to bring back the greatest vampire spirits of the world, who then set out to invade New York and London, in an impeccably dressed, tres chic sort of way. Magrs is also well-known for his series featuring Brenda, the Bride of Frankenstein, and her best friend Effie.

In Tom Holt’s Barking, the scariest creatures in existence turn out to be … lawyers. Opposing firms of lawyers who are either werewolves or vampires. Poor old Duncan is caught up in their rivalries when he is asked to join the law firm founded by an old school friend, and finds himself running around London under a full moon, being chased by a snow-white unicorn who seems to have less-than-good intentions.

And finally, one of my favourite grown-up writers has recently turned his hand to writing for teens, and is in the middle of producing a delicious wee series about Samuel Johnson, whose neighbour Mrs Abernathy seems to be doing very odd things in her basement, and who smells suspiciously like sulphur. Samuel and his faithful companion Boswell the dachshund must overcome all manner of evils in order to save the world and stop the gates of Hell from opening next door.  Chock-full of REAL science, the Hadron Collider, and stuff about QUANTUM, this is an absolutely adorable series, and makes me love John Connolly even more (although be warned – his grown-up books are written in a much darker vein).