Review of ‘Pauper's Gold’, by Margaret Dickinson

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 8th May 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Margaret Dickinson
Published Locally (2006)

Pauper's Gold is a romantic saga set in the Peak, the 21st novel from Margaret Dickinson. The title hides a bitter-sweet meaning and is set in the days when King Cotton kept thousands of hands busy in the spinning mills, specifically during the scandalous era of the workhouse apprentice system. The author has undertaken detailed historical research into the textile industry of Cheshire and Derbyshire in the 1800s and brings her story to life through the use of many Peak District place names and surnames.

Her fictional Wyedale mill is based on the real-life Cressbrook mill, sharing the same beautiful setting at the bottom of a steep hill. This is where our heroine, Hannah Francis, is sent to work in a cotton mill on the river Wye. Illegitimate and newly separated from her mother in a Macclesfield workhouse, the girl is only 12 years old but with a keen intelligence that defies her lack of education.

Hannah is never to see her mother again. She has to grow up quickly, witnessing the tragic end of some of her young fellow workers, including her first sweetheart, through the cruelty of the cotton magnate who holds their lives in his hands by virtue of their apprenticeship indentures. This man nurses a different kind of danger to Hannah as she blossoms into a beautiful teenager.

Punished for attempting to run away to look for her mother, Hannah finally makes her escape from Wyedale mill, biding her time to return and avenge her childhood friends. Her intentions give rise to unexpected conflict between revenge and romance, yet her basic honesty is never compromised and readers will enjoy a satisfying outcome at the culmination of a 500-page read that rather begs a sequel.

Review by Julie Bunting

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