Steve Williams has an Honours degree from London University in Biochemistry, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Theology from the University of Cambridge. He has been a Parish Priest for approaching 40 years, plus Hospital Chaplain, Sixth Form Chaplain, Honorary Judge’s Chaplain.
For relaxation he has worked on several history projects, speaking regularly (again this year, sharing the billing with Quentin Letts) at the Three Choirs Festival – the earliest documented date for which, Steve has been able to push back from 1715 to 1662/3.
He and Jean Yates are writing a book on the First Grand National Steeplechase, which, again, Steve has been able to show by original research began not at Aintree but at Harlington, Bedfordshire in 1830.
Jean Yates has spent most of her working life in retail security management. In 1998 she moved as Town Centre Manager of Dunstable, Bedfordshire. This offered the chance to indulge her love of history.
Jean secured Lottery funding for a WWII ‘Peoples War’ project. Her personal research proved that the Chiltern area was at the heart of the Secret War, with governments in exile, black propaganda, and secret radio stations and she published, ‘Dunstable and District at War’ ISBN 1-903747-79-1. After retiring Jean project managed ‘Medieval Dunstable’. Recruiting other historians to help, Jean secured Heritage Lottery funding, and published in 2013, ‘Medieval Dunstable, its Monasteries, Manors, Markets and Melees.’ ISBN 978-0-9555239-3-9
Jean regularly speaks to history and community groups and is a member of BBC 3Counties Radio business panel.
The Three Blue Beans Partnership
During the Medieval project, Steve Williams, vicar of one of the Dunstable Priory churches, whom Jean had known for many years through promoting Dunstable with the Tourist Board, (his church being where John Bunyan was arrested), asked for help with a book on early Steeplechasing. Working together on this project, one day she received an email of the first page of The Governour, with a ‘Can you read this?’ She could, and having transcribed it, stupidly asked in the return email, ‘Are there any more pages?’ 96 pages followed. It has been a challenge to transcribe and make sense of words that the OED does not recognise, or says were not known until much later. Perhaps a love of cryptic crosswords and dogged determination, and the belief that it deserves a wider audience has kept us focussed.
Having worked together for many years, we both are fortunate that we can tease out academic and historical riddles from medieval manuscripts written by Augustinian canons, through to Georgian legal documents and Great Exhibition Patents. It helps that we love both literature and drama.