On The House

By Helen Maskew

A tale of murder, suicide and the treatment of inmates in a small Suffolk workhouse in 1838

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

'On the House' the story so far...

This novel came out of research into my family history which I completed three years ago. Through his death certificate I discovered one of my ancestors hung himself in Wandsworth Workhouse in 1863 at the age of 73. I asked myself what could have made him do it and then thought this had the beginnings of an interesting story which could be woven into a novel. In the book (s) I have used all the old family names for my various characters. For example, the two main protagonists who investigate - in their owns ways - the management of the workhouse and the terrible things which happen there are Edgar Lawes and Ambrose Hudson. The victim is my ancestor Richard Alfrey. As well as having the book published I'm also interested in contacting anyone who might be connected to the Alfreys of Wandsworth, the Lawes of East Sussex and the Hudsons of Norfolk, all of whom were around those areas before and during the nineteenth century.

On the House is the first of a trilogy and set in Norfolk. Using the same two main protagonists the second encompasses West Yorkshire; in the third the action moves to Suffolk and Wandsworth.

Sponsorship of On the House is at the beginning of its third week and we are 10% there. There have been some very generous donations from people who have clearly been struck by the content of the story. I think the book will appeal to all readers of historical fiction; it has a real elements of truth in it because, as an historian I'm concerned that as much of the facts of workhouse life go into the book as I am to write an exciting tale which will engross the reader on all levels.

You may be following your own family ancestry, so, if any of those names resonate with you, please get in touch. 

9th March

We have reached 24% after 36 days so things are moving along. I was hoping I might have heard from some Alfreys since it's an uncommon name - Hudson and Lawes are less so. If anyone knows of that name please ask them to contact me via Facebook or this site.

All those who have donated so far a huge THANK YOU and those who have promised - you still have some weeks left...!

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Christine Davies
 Christine Davies says:

Carry on the good work, Helen.


posted 29th February 2016

Helen Maskew
 Helen Maskew says:

6th April
Over 50% there and under a month left. Thanks once again to all the supporters and those who have promised but just not got around to it - thank you in advance! As you know, the novel is complete and good to go. The second and third of the trilogy are also ready. I put out a request on Facebook for anyone with the family name of Alfrey to get in touch. One of the main protagonists follows the story of an ancestor. Richard Alfrey from Wandsworth did hang himself in the workhouse there. I wonder how many of his descendants are still around. I'd be interested to know what happened to that branch of the family - also the Hudsons of Norfolk and the Lewis of Wandsworth.

posted 6th April 2016

Helen Maskew
 Helen Maskew says:

I am nearly there and want to say a huge 'thank you' to everyone who has supported the project. I have tried to write to everyone personally - those whose email address I have. The book is finished and waiting to go. As soon as the final total is reached - next week
I hope, I will contact everyone to let you know. I hope when the book is finally out there you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. There are, of course, two more completed in the trilogy - so watch this space.

posted 21st April 2016

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