Freda Raphael

Freda Raphael after bike ride ornate letter F

reda Raphael's first home was in leafy Clapham, south London, but most of her childhood was spent on Tyneside in the 1950s and swinging sixties, where her father taught electronics and telecommunications at Rutherford College (later Newcastle Polytechnic). She spent many childhood summers with her father's family in Kent and so, from an early age, was struck by the diversity of England.

In Kent, her grandmother took her for walks along the chalk Downs above Chatham, pointing out where the fleet had assembled during World War II, and where her grandfather, a career naval officer, had been stationed. She watched the lorries full of cheery people driving to the Kent hop-fields from London's east-end, for their annual 'holiday' hop-picking. She contrasted the gentle Kent landscape and its oast houses, with the Durham coal mining 'pit heads'.

Back home in the north, her family took long walks on the heather-covered hills of Northumberland and Durham in search of remnants of the ancient Roman occupation of Britain: Hadrians Wall, Housesteads Fort, Vindolanda. Her childhood home looked across the wide River Tyne with its history of coalmining, ship-building, and heavy engineering.

'You were born on All Saints' Day, my dear', her devout grandmother would tell her, when they visited Canterbury Cathedral and she heard the story of Thomas Becket, saint and martyr. Nearer home, Durham Cathedral was a favourite place, strategically built in the deep, sheltering valley of the River Wear. After more than one thousand years, the bones of St Cuthbert still lay within the massive, soaring gloom of the Cathedral's interior.

Freda left Tyneside in 1968 to read Biological Science at the new University of East Anglia, in Norwich. Following a year in the Netherlands, she and her husband settled down in the East Midlands of England. She has lived there ever since, in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and, now, Derbyshire, still fascinated by landscape and the people who, over centuries, have lived, worked and died there.

Freda climbing at Stanage

In 1994, her continuing interest in local history encouraged Freda to return to University, in Nottingham, where she studied for the Advanced Certificate in Regional and Local History with Dr David Markham, gaining a Distinction.

Freda Raphael was born in 1948, has two children and one grandchild, and is divorced. When she is not engrossed in a research project she works in her garden, or at her handloom. She has been hill-walking since childhood, and rock-climbing since her late teens.