Julie Smalley

Location: Middlewich, Cheshire
About me...

Cheshire-born, Australian-bred – you could say I‘m on an extended working holiday, albeit a highly productive one. Interests in travels, history, art & language have resulted in a fresh fusion of outlooks which I bring to my talks and writing. On one hand I’m a qualified teacher of English for any-age students from overseas. On the other, my passion project is ‘discovery learning’ in the Historic Environment. I hold an MA (Landscape, Heritage & Society) from the University of Liverpool, PGCE (Post-compulsory education & training)from Manchester Metropolitan University, and Advanced Diploma (Local History) from the University of Oxford. Modern settings, historical insights is the game; serious fun is the aim.Presentations are geared to suit both level and size of audience.

About my talks...

My presentations are ‘stand-alone’ and I don’t need any special equipment apart from a large table or two to display resources. My fee is negotiable depending upon the size of the audience. Starting figure is £50 plus modest travelling expenses if more than ten miles from my base in Middlewich.


Starting figure is £75 plus modest travelling expenses if more than ten miles from my base in Middlewich.

My Contact Details:

01606 833132

“Surnames: Origins, Occupations, Oddities”

Unherited names are something we all possess but how did surnames come about? Whether medieval jobs and skills, or surprising nicknames, these precious words are filled with backstories and hint at our past cultural interactions. The Talk is an excellent companion piece to ‘Place-names in the Landscape’. Surprises and humour guaranteed. So, bring along some family names and let’s explore.


1. “Place-names in Landscapes: Pleasures, Pitfalls & Puzzles”

Perhaps you live in a ‘-ton’, ‘-wick’ or ‘-ham’. Maybe a Roman-sounding ‘-chester’ or ‘strat-‘ , a Danish ‘-by’ or even a once-rural woodland ‘-shaw’? The linguistic imprint on the landscape is everywhere, and we use these labels every single day. But what exactly are the many place-name elements and what do they suggest? Which languages did they come from and how do we know? This interactive talk can be geared towards specific localities to explore local meanings and what they reveal about early settlers and settlement. An unusual aspect to this is the inclusion of native Australian words and descriptions. Did Aboriginals have anything in common with their European counterparts? How they viewed and named their surroundings gives us astonishing insights – and often proves quite amusing!

2. ”Practical History on the Ground – Reading the Landscape”

A mix of building styles, an unusually curved street, a lonely church in a field, a hidden mystery of some sort? Not too many people realise the landscape itself, urban or rural, can be read a little like a book – if you know how. This talk treads fresh territory. By means of a useful set of steps it shows how to make a start on doing your own landscape detection. By methods such as locating precious source documents , hopefully discovering wonderful varieties of old maps and of course very importantly walking the walk, we explore how to tackle interpreting our many kinds of historic environment. Learn to turn the pages! Whether it is your own locality, somewhere you know, or even a totally new place, striving to understand both modern and historic surroundings gives so much more depth, interest and fun.

3. “A Man, a Plan, a Canal: Panama”

A famous palindrome, meaning of course that it can be read both forwards and backwards. This talk, exploring the world of inland waterways, does much the same. Cheshire, salt and canals are all firmly linked – but how they came together and continue to twist and weave is quite extraordinary. Along the way there is evidence of much competition, dispute, rivalry – and grand plans that never happened. Not just Cheshire nor Panama exactly – yet over the centuries plenty of people had a stake in ‘reorganising nature’. What did the Romans have to do with it all – and for that matter the Russians? We trace historical origins but also social and environmental effects in present-day canal cities and zones around the world.

4: The Language of Flowers: Potted Social Histories


Floral colour and beauty evoke endless appeal. But actually across cultures and times plants held meanings – and ‘floriography’ was a form of covert communication. Mythology, art, literature and even etiquette contained coded messages, some logical and others just plain quirky! In light-hearted mood we explore these and other intriguing insights into the symbolism of blooms, gardens, and designed landscapes. After all, the original paradise simply meant a walled enclosure. We can even lay claim locally to a famed Tudor Herbal, or botanical text, and of course the vivid ’roses and castles’ adorning canal boats today are easily recognised. With so much to gather and arrange, this is a talk for all seasons. No two are ever the same.

Julie Smalley Contact Details:

01606 833132

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