When I began, this history of the Square seemed like a fascinating little project I could throw myself into, learning more about local history that had captivated me, and spreading my joy and wonder to a wider audience. To put myself into context, the idea didn’t intimidate me at all; I’ve written a number of book length outputs, have published here and there before, have completed a PhD, and have project management qualifications just to prove I’m able to organise myself and deliver. I had no external deadline to work to, no format I was tied to, and the choice of material was mine. It was a joyous idea.
The early days were exciting and fancy free, researching wildly, uncovering new avenues to follow, creating my blog, making contacts and visiting records offices and graveyards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still loving this subject and the research but to make a rather odd analogy, I’ve stayed in the friendship zone too long to easily put this project to bed.
It’s my own fault, but I should have known from previous experience that the key to getting a book finished is to plan. Not every nuance and detail, but my lack of restrictions have lead me to a place where I could happily continue researching for the next thirty years without writing a word, and could just as easily fill a book just concentrating on one house alone in a single year.
Let me give you an example. I genuinely just picked this at random and in 1861, Julia Ripley and at least five other people lived or were staying at 21 Abercromby Square. Two are from major shipping families of the times, I have newspaper reports about the family, legal precedents created and still on the books today, links to current institutions in Lancaster and missionary work in New Zealand, and I could go on. And this is one of the smaller houses in just one year. I have 34 houses over the course of around eighty years to cover, and this is just in the nineteenth century, and discounts the fact that some of the occupants are hugely influential at home and internationally, unlike Julia who is a wonderful example of how even the names of ‘unknown’ occupants can have rich histories and a long reaches of influence. Add to this that for every fact or link I find, ten more routes for exploration pop up. And the fact that numerous children who grew up in the Square later went on to have amazing biographies too. It’s an over-abundance of riches.
My point, dear reader, is that even though this was never intended to be an exhaustive history, it is an exhausting one. And some hard choices are on me at the moment as I badly want to keep researching and finding out more, but know I should write what I have first. I may be forced to change my name to Squiggle ( the project manager formerly known as Prince2) in penance and apology for forgetting the basic principles of planning.
Here endeth the rant.