The Trickster Prince

Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.

Oh fuck / #badhistory

This afternoon I spent a couple of hours talking to our second years about their plans for the independent research project that will turn into the 12000 word dissertation they submit this time next year. So we talked about originality and organization and the importance of defining a project that was interesting and manageable at the same time and I finished off with some words of wisdom about the best way of getting in touch with archivists. And then—having banged on and on about the need to be organized and prepared and precise—got back to my desk to find this email:


Dear Dr Houlbrook, 

Thank you for your email of 2 May. 

I think that it might have been the East Surrey Coroner who held the inquest on Robert Tracey, 23 Jun 1940. Firstly, because there was no coroner for East Sussex at that time (the county was divided into the Eastern (Rye) District and Western (Lewes) District), and second, because I cannot see why an East Sussex coroner would hold an inquest for a death at Leatherhead, Surrey.

If I am correct, then you will need to contact the Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking GU21 1ND ( If, however, it was an East Sussex coroner (the death certificate should confirm the identity) then please let me know and I will check our records.

Yours sincerely,


I seem to be out of practice. 


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