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Community Talks on Family History

Personal family history has always been a fascination for Janet, but it was enriched in the early 2000s by what she described as the 'holy grail in ancestry' when the remains of her great uncle from WW1 were identified, giving the family a chance to attend the significant military burial in France during 2013. There was a great deal of media interest and Janet spoke on news channels for both TV and radio. Watching in the wings was Jeremy Paxman who then interviewed Janet for his BBC series 'Britain's Great War.'

Talk at the Riverhouse Barn in Walton

Since then, Janet has appeared on 'The People Remember' and BBC radio 4 programme 'Soul Music.' She has written and published about some of her heritage and created a series of presentations, highlighting the stories that have wider appeal, particularly in relation to her musical ancestry.

Tracing back over 300 years, Janet relates the stories to the facts, re-creating the lives of relatives, correcting those family anecdotes and finding some astonishing legacies, long forgotten.

These talks can all be given in person or using online platforms.


The Sunlight Girl

A charming and amusing social history of Port Sunlight between 1912—1970.

Having grown up in this iconic village, Janet realised she was the 4th generation of her family to do so. Her great grandfather and family arrived in the village in 1912 and he was chosen as one of the pall bearers for the funeral of Lord Leverhulme in 1925. Through family photographs, and documents, Janet reveals the social history of the village and amusingly recounts what it was like growing up in the village during the 1960s.

Janet’s book The Sunlight Girl is available from this site and through online retailers.


The People remember

Talking on BBC2

One man whose story hit the headlines 96 years after his death.

Janet’s great uncle, John Harold Pritchard, who is now buried in Northern France, started life as a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral with his two younger brothers and his name resides on the memorial plaque there. His story is typical of many who became officers during the Great War. His life and death were the same as many until the amazing discovery and identification of his remains in 2009. The story of how Janet stumbled across this and the subsequent burial are related in this fascinating talk from Janet. This talk has fascinating inside knowledge and insights.

In 2017, a hundred years following his death, Janet helped instigate a memorial service for all choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral. She brings all these stories to life.


The Sunlight Girl

The first mention of Thomas as a child singer

In this fascinating presentation, Janet shares her discoveries around her 4 x great grandfather THOMAS SHELL who was a singer, instrumentalist and composer in Bath during the 18th century.

At that time Bath was second only to London in terms of importance and every year visitors flocked to the city to take the waters and be part of the social scene.

Thomas Shell was right at the heart of that, working alongside many of the top musicians of the day and as a child singer was rated so highly he was chosen to sing in the annual Messiah put on in the Assembly Rooms by Rauzzini, the world renowned castrato singer of his day.

The Sunlight Girl

Viewing Jane Austen's music books

Janet's research unearths a career from child star to adult soloist, orchestral player and composer, substantiated by newspaper reports and other documentation.

In the December of 2019 she was contacted by a researcher who had found a composition by Thomas in one of the music books belonging to Jane Austen which has added a whole new dimension and unsolved mystery to his life story.

Join Janet as she reveals the social context to her personal family history and learn what life was like in Georgian Bath from a very personal perspective.


Walter Sugg

Walter Sugg 1873

A Victorian schoolmaster keeps notes.

Janet’s background as a music teacher means she was delighted to discover a Victorian schoolmaster in her family. Walter Sugg, her 2 x great uncle was that most moral character in the small Wiltshire village of Cricklade during the 1860s and on, to the turn of the century.

Each headmaster was required to keep a log book and the four books of Walter’s writing reside in the archives revealing a dry humour and a wonderful glimpse into the hardships and trials of schooling during that era. From parents who will find any excuse for their child to play truant to the child who cannot come to school for ‘want of shoes’ to mothers who castigate the Head, it is all there, given Walter’s wry treatment.

Janet has selected the ‘highlights’ (so far) and woven them together to paint a picture of rural community in Victorian England. Truly a step back in time.

Ineterview by Jeremy Paxman

Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman for "Britain's Great War" about her Great Uncle, John Harold Pritchard.

Comments and feedback:

“Everyone really enjoyed it. I most certainly did!”

“Janet’s talk was a gorgeous hour for our WI - we so enjoyed the mix of history and her story as she took us through her life and experience of life at Port Sunlight. Organising events over Zoom can be a challenge and it’s always such a delight when someone comes along with good visuals, friendly manner and wonderful story to tell. I would hugely recommend to other groups."

“What a fantastic talk! The photos brought back so many memories of my own childhood”

“I’ve always wondered what it was like to live in Port Sunlight, Janet brought the place to life!”

“My only criticism - I’d have liked to hear Janet sing!”

That was brilliant Janet, really enjoyed the talk and the images were all incredible.

Everyone I have spoken to has said how much they enjoyed the evening and especial the talk. I'd just like to thank you for all your effort in making the evening a success. I think we were very fortunate in our choice of speaker.

Ineterview by Jeremy Paxman

At the burial of John Harold Pritchard.