Footsteps Into History: A Guide On Writing About Hampshire Local History for Children

Main front cover


Author: Marilyn Wilton-Smith

Bio: Born and educated in Portsmouth, Marilyn worked for the Navy initially and later continued her career in a managerial role within a large Property Auction House; eventually retiring as an administrator for the Portsmouth City Council.  Portsmouth was a great place for Marilyn to start researching local history. Being brought up in a time just after the war, and being a keen photographer, she took interest in the ever changing skyline of the City, photographing areas before they were regenerated, and delving into its past.


Moving on in life, and living in properties of various ages, I have always been fascinated by their history, both architecturally and socially, together with the surrounding areas. Moving to Titchfield in 2010, I became a member of the History Society and almost immediately fulfilled roles as Secretary, Treasurer and for the past 7 years as the Chairman.

Together with my husband Colin and of course our Springer Spaniel ‘Misty’ we live in one of Titchfield’s Historic Properties, with its Tudor walled garden, and within walking distance of Place House the home of the Earl’s of Southampton, of which I am the keyholder. Over the years, we have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge about Place House, so much so, that we have involved the school and other children’s clubs within Titchfield who now take a great interest in their local history. We give tours to Societies and others, and over the Jubilee had fun with themed tours, involving ‘Thomas Wriothesley’ the 1st Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare, Henry VI, and Queen Elizabeth I, not forgetting the Canons of the original Abbey.

Being so involved with the Abbey/Place House and the History Society, I was asked to become a Trustee of the Shakespeare Southampton Legacy Trust, a Charity organisation set up by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (who is a descendent of the family and also the patron of the Titchfield History Society). This was formed to advance research education and heritage of the Wriothesley family ‘The Earls of Southampton’, and to preserve their monument located in the Southampton Chapel within St Peter’s Church Titchfield.

Working on new History Books of the village, I realised than none of these would be suitable for children, so the idea was formed and the start of my venture into writing a children’s history book began.

Ideas grew, mostly in the middle of the night, which I find is the best time for good ideas!!

Luckily for me, I was introduced to a young lady who had written a children’s historic tour of a Cornish village. She agreed to have a look at my ideas and draft copy, coming back with good constructive thoughts on where I should take it.  I also showed a copy to a former headmistress who said that she thought I had mixed the age groups in the book, some parts for younger children and other parts too forward for them, which didn’t work well.  She was right! So back to the drawing board, literally, as I thought I had someone lined up for my illustrations but they unfortunately were unable to help in the end, so onwards and upwards, I completed them myself.

My copy finally drawn and the dialogue completed it was time to scan it. This process took ages and when I had finally completed this task, I found that the colour had been taken out in the process (These things are sent to try us!). Would you believe that an old office scanner, took a fraction of the time of this modern version and the results being perfect!

The main part of the book now ready to be sent for print, I turned my attention to the front page! Mmmm what to call it?  Luckily a creative friend called to say she had the idea of calling it ‘Footsteps through History’, this could take me onto other books bringing in the village and other parts of this historic area. She went on to suggest that badges could be given for the children to join the ‘Footsteps’ club. This was a great idea, especially for the Junior History Group. With the interest shown by the children and the school in studying local history, I thought that the next step could perhaps take the form of an after school club that had activities and fun ways for the children to take in all that this village has to offer from its interesting past.

In her enthusiasm, she went on to say that we could have board games etc. Whoa! One thing at a time!!!


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