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Cumbrian-educated author tells story of the Jamestown Brides

Jennifer Potter, author of The Jamestown Brides. (Credit: Sam Churchill)

An author with strong connections to Carlisle, the Lake District and Northumberland has just published her tenth book – The Jamestown Brides.

Jennifer Potter’s latest book tells the fascinating story of 56 young English women who were taken across the Atlantic to Virginia as brides and sold for tobacco nearly 400 years ago.  And she is hoping that someone in the North might be able to shed light on a certain Ann Holmes, one of the women who chose to make that journey and is recorded as being born in Newcastle.

Jennifer grew up in the Lake District attending St Anne’s High School, now Windermere School.    Her father J B ‘Joe’ Potter played rugby for Cumberland & Westmorland Rugby Union.  Her grandfather Edmund Lund was treasurer of Carlisle City Council, President of the then Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants and the city’s Lund Crescent bears his name.

Although she now lives in London, her family connections have brought her on regular visits to Cumbria, Newcastle and Hexham for many years with several of the book’s later chapters written whilst house-sitting for her brother and sister-in-law in Hexham.

The Jamestown Brides is Jennifer’s tenth book following novels, a biography and books about gardens and botanical history.

It tells how, in 1621, these courageous women answered the Virginia Company of London’s call for ‘young and uncorrupt’ maids to cross the Atlantic and become wives for the planters of its new colony in Virginia.   The English had settled there just 14 years previously and the company was looking to settle its unruly menfolk with the ties of family and children.

The women chose to re-settle but they were, in effect, sold for a bride price of 150 lbs of tobacco each with the rewards going to the investors in the near-bankrupt company.

Jennifer’s book examines why the women agreed to make a risky crossing to a wild and dangerous land where six out of seven settlers died within a few years and what happened to them in the end.

Having researched records and sources in the UK and on two visits to Virginia, she is hoping someone in the North might be able to shed light on Ann Holmes.

“I was in Virginia researching another book when I first heard about these forgotten women who were an important part of America’s early history. Ever since I have really wanted to give them a voice.  Newcastle-born Ann Holmes was 20 and working as a well-respected servant in London when she sailed from Gravesend in September 1621 and I would love to hear from anyone who has more information about her.”

Jennifer has just been appointed as one of the first Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellows at the British Library. She has also held writing and teaching fellowships at a number of universities and is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement.

The Jamestown Brides by Jennifer Potter is published by Atlantic Books and available from Amazon  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Potter/e/B001JO5IIU and all good booksellers.

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