julie ann godson

HISTORIAN•WRITER

 Cover painting by Stephen Godson

AT DUSK on a snowy evening in 1766 a tired young couple – hardly more than children at 21 and 20 – made out the welcoming lights burning in the windows of the creaky old Berkshire manor house that was to be their home. He was William Flower, 2nd Viscount Ashbrook, 3rd Baron Castle Durrow in the county of Kilkenny, she was Betty Ridge, daughter of a lowly Thames fisherman. Earlier that day they had been married against the wishes of the groom’s family in a small country church in the little Oxfordshire village of Northmoor, and now Betty was embarking on a new life in the alien world of the aristocracy.

Read the full, intriguing story in The Water Gypsy: how a Thames fishergirl became a viscountess by Julie Ann Godson, ISBN 9781784075545. Available through bookshops, FeedARead.com, and Amazon. Also available on Kindle.


All the greatest hits of the period are here: clandestine marriage, duelling aristocrats, glittering Court balls and revolting peasants…

Based on the author’s original research, The Water Gypsy: how a Thames fishergirl became a viscountess traces the previously untold story of Betty’s astonishing rise to the top of society, and her struggle as a young widow to protect her children’s interests in the hostile climate of 18th-century Ireland. It was a project which culminated in the most glittering marriage in the entire history of the Ashbrook family when Betty’s granddaughter became Duchess of Marlborough and chatelaine of Blenheim Palace.

Lavishly illustrated with over 100 photographs and engravings, The Water Gypsy: how a Thames fishergirl became a viscountess brings the two contrasting worlds of the 18th-century river community and the aristocracy alive. At a time when social boundaries were rigid, one humble family deployed their talents and good looks to take control of an Anglo-Irish estate of breathtaking proportions, and to triumph in the most unexpected way.