When it all gets too much with your wife and you can’t take any more, in the 18th century it was easy to get rid of her. So, how much was she worth? Well, read on to find out. Oh, sorry, you couldn’t sell your husband though!
Just to help you work out how much a woman was worth, 1 shilling was equal to about £3.00 in today’s money, 6 pence, about £2.00 and a guinea was worth around £70.00! Reading through these you realize that if you could get your wife to Smithfield Market and sell her there you would walk away far wealthier than trying to sell her locally.
World, Saturday, June 21, 1788
Not many days since a man publicly sold his wife for 12 shillings. In the payment he had insisted in having new shillings as he had never had had anything but what was bad in exchange for her and therefore must take more care.
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Friday, September 4, 1789
On Thursday last at Yarlington fair, in this county, Ann Atwell wife of William Atwell was sold for five shillings to Thomas Wadman. The woman was delivered, as is customary with a large cord. He had promised her good keeping and six pence was paid in earnest.
World, Tuesday, September 22, 1789
A man of the name John Petts lately sold his wife and three children for two shillings and six pence. He shewed her by leading her up and down the road in a halter in which she was delivered up to her new purchaser. She was thought to be no bargain.
World , Friday, November 12, 1790
A man at Nimfield stocks in Sussex last week sold his wife to another man of the same place for half a pint of gin; the purchaser being in liquor at the time the bargain was concluded, the seller in order that he should not complain of any unfair advantage having been taken of him took his dear spouse to bed and board until the next morning when the buyer attended and claimed his lady who was delivered by the husband in due form, having a halter round her neck, and two witnesses being present. The woman appeared overjoyed at the change, nor did the man seem less happy at their lots.
Oracle and Public Advertiser, Thursday, March 31, 1796
On Saturday evening last John Lees, steel burner, sold his wife for the sum of 6 shillings to Samuel Hall, fellmonger, both of Sheffield. Lees gave Hall one guinea immediately to have her taken off to Manchester the day following by coach. She was delivered up with a halter round her neck and the clerk of the market received 4 pence for the toll.
Oracle and Public Advertiser, Tuesday, July 18, 1797
Smithfield Market. Another anti-matrimonial bargain has taken place in this mart of living stock. But whatever may be the cause, the fact is that the price of ladies has risen here; a man sold his wife yesterday for three guineas and a half.
Oracle and Public Advertiser, Saturday, September 23, 1797
The price of wives is no longer regulated by what the article brings to Smithfield. It has advanced considerably more than it was some months ago; for last week a wife sold for twenty five pounds at Towcester.
Bell’s Weekly Messenger, Sunday, January 25, 1801
Lawrence Stephen of West Luton in the East Riding of York sold his wife Jane to William Servant of Hovingham for five shillings, who returned two shilling and six pence to the purchaser in open market at New Malton on Saturday night and delivered in a halter on Monday at the Market Cross there.
This is a little bit different for us today as we have some wonderful news that we wanted to share. We are delighted to let you know that we have signed a contract with Pen and Sword and in January 2016 they will be publishing our book:
An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott.
Although we now have a deadline we’re working towards rest assured we still intend to keep up our blog articles about the Georgian era in the meantime.
We have so much new information about Grace and her family to share in our book and we will keep you updated with our progress. She’s a truly fascinating woman and we can promise you that it will be a very different biography of her than anything that has gone before. For those who have never heard of Grace we thought it might be of interest to give you a little background about her.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s name was well known in her lifetime; an ‘infamous mistress’ indeed, she became a fixture in the gossip columns, lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ due to her height. She was also beautiful and, after a scandalous divorce from the portly little doctor she had married when barely out of childhood, she became the amour of titled and influential men, amongst them Prinny, the Prince of Wales and the future King George IV (reputed father of her child) and the unfortunate Phillipe, Duc d’Orléans who lost his head during the French Revolution.
Grace penned a journal, outlining her own experiences as a prisoner during the French Revolution, living in the shadow of the dreaded guillotine and this, whilst containing many inaccuracies, is one of the few surviving first-hand accounts left of this time by a woman. After this, and once the years had started to catch up with Grace, her glamorous heyday had passed and she had to survive as best she could, reliant on her wits, family and the charity of friends including her close friend, who also suffered the scandal of divorce, Lady Worsley. But survive she did because one of Grace’s most admirable traits was her strength; at a time when women were expected to be meek and subservient she broke the rules, lived on her own terms and did so with an admirable degree of aplomb.
If you want to be kept up to date with news on the progress of our book then please do subscribe to our blog.
We had no plans to write about Elizabeth, wife of Richard Brinsley Sheridan as much has already been written about her and we have always aimed to add something new to already published information. However, having watched historian, Hallie Rubenhold on BBC 2’s Newsnight programme relatively recently, talking about women who were famous in their own right at the time but who have been overshadowed by their more successful spouses we decided to look again at Elizabeth’s life.
The first thing that jumped out was that no-one was quite sure when she was born, apart from September 1754, so, although we have not found her birth we can now confirm her baptism as it appears in the parish records, 25th September 1754 at St Michael’s church, Bath, Somerset. Elizabeth was one of 12 children born to Thomas and Mary Linley, Thomas, being a renowned composer. Elizabeth began her singing career in 17661 when she was put forward as a public singer in the rooms at Bath aged only 12. She went on to make her debut at London’s Covent Garden in 1767 alongside her brother Thomas.
Three years later when Elizabeth was a mere 16 years of age she was betrothed by her father to an elderly but extremely wealthy gentleman, Walter Long. Not long after this Elizabeth made it clear that she would never be happy in this marriage – why would she be, she was around 16, he 60 and apart from the age gap she had already fallen for Richard Brinsley Sheridan. With this, the marriage was cancelled and Walter paid Elizabeth’s father a settlement figure of £3,000 (approx. £270,000 in today’s money) and Elizabeth was allowed to keep the jewels and gifts that he had already given her.
The Public Advertiser Friday 6th July 1770 described Elizabeth in the following glowing terms:
A young lady from Bath whose general excellence in every accomplishment which can adorn and render amiable the female character and whose particular talents as a singer justify the most extravagant description. The inimitable sweetness of her voice dispelled the gloom of disciplinarian austerity, nor could the sober, morose Fellows of Colleges refrain from joining many an enamoured academic in bearing testimony by repeated bursts of applause to her great merit and graceful deportment.
However, the episode with Walter Long returned to haunt her when the whole episode which she would undoubtedly have wished to remain private became very public courtesy of Samuel Foote, who chose to write a play about it – ‘The Maid of Bath’ which opened in 1771 at the Haymarket theatre. The play only lasted for a few performances and ridiculed Elizabeth. Following that, Elizabeth and Sheridan eloped to France with the assistance of his close friend, Mr Ewart (senior), a brandy merchant, who not only helped them to obtain safe passage but also provided them with letters of recommendation. According to Sheridan’s memoirs, the couple married at the end of March 1772 in a small village near Calais by a priest well known for his services of this kind. Eloping in such a fashion caused an outcry and Sheridan was branded a scoundrel and liar.
However, when the couple returned to England and no proof could be found of their marriage they were eventually officially married on the 13th April 1773 in the presence of her father as she was still as a minor.
After their marriage Sheridan’s fame began to spread and at the same time Sheridan decided that he would no longer permit his new bride to perform on the stage as it apparently reflected badly upon his professional reputation, a fact that appears to be confirmed in his memoirs, dated 1773:
The celebrity of Mrs Sheridan as a singer was, it is true, a ready source of wealth; and offers of the most advantageous kind were pressed upon them by managers of concerts in both town and country. But with a pride and delicacy, which receive the tribute of Dr Johnson’s praise, he rejected at once all thoughts of allowing her to reappear in public; and instead of profiting by the display of his wife’s talents, adopted the manlier resolution of seeking a reputation of his own. An engagement had been made for her some months before by her father, to perform at the music meeting that was to take place at Worcester this summer. But Sheridan, who considered that his claims upon her had superseded all others, would not suffer her to keep this engagement.
Lloyd’s Evening Post of the 16th July 1773 provides an interesting article!
at the late Installation at Oxford, immediately after the honorary Degrees had been conferred in the Latin Proscenium, to which the words Caufa Honoris always are made use of, Lord north, filled with admiration at Mrs Sheridan’s excellent vocal performance, said to Charles Fox, who sat by him “I think we should give her husband a Degree Caufa Uxoris”, “I think so too, my Lord,” (replied the young commoner), and I should be very glad to be admitted on this ground ad Eundem!
In the mid-January of 1774, The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser reported that Elizabeth was ‘dangerously indisposed’ and that there was virtually no chance of her singing anywhere during the season. This opinion was followed up by Adam’s Weekly Courant a few weeks later which indicated that her health was still showing no sign of improvement
Mrs Sheridan is dangerously ill. The Queen has offered her 200l a year for life for private concerts.
Whether Elizabeth took up this offer we have no idea, but in today’s money that would have been worth about £12,000, but given newspaper references later, it seems highly likely that she complied. The next reference to Elizabeth’s health does not appear until December 1774, so whatever her illness at the time it clearly lasted some considerable time, but she appeared to be fully recovered. There were few mentions of Elizabeth in the press over the next few months.
Sheridan’s play The Rivals was first performed at Covent Garden on the 17th of January 1775 and despite no longer being in the public eye The Middlesex Journal of the 26th January 1775 provides us with a glimpse as to how Elizabeth had been spending her time and more importantly her involvement in what is arguably one of her husbands most famous works:
We hear that the admired Epilogue to the Rivals is the composition of Mrs. Sheridan. There is a delicacy in the thoughts and in the expressions of this poem, that claim the warmest approbation, and leave us in doubt which we shall most applaud, Mrs. Sheridan’s excellence in music, or in poetry.
Sheridan was now enjoying the trapping of city life was in stark contrast to that of Elizabeth who preferred to remain in the country and apparently, as a result, their marriage became somewhat tempestuous. However, despite their differences on the 16th November 1775 Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Thomas/Tom at the couple’s home in Portman Square according to the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser. The couple’s address was, at the time, regarded as one of the most fashionable addresses in London and they appear to have enjoyed socializing with the rich and famous, but of course entertaining such people by giving twice weekly concerts came at a price and not one that the couple could really afford. They were reputed to be permanently in debt.
January 19th, 1776 the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser reported that David Garrick had sold his share in Drury Lane theatre to a Dr Forde, Mr Ewart and two very familiar names – Mr Linley (father in law of Sheridan) and Richard Sheridan – the purchase price being 35,000l. Although not mentioned in this report we do know that the ‘villain’ in one of our other planned books was also involved in the purchase of the theatre and was a close friend of Sheridan’s which is another reason that Elizabeth’s story is of interest to us as our heroine would more than likely have been well acquainted with her. We can only presume that both Elizabeth’s father and Sheridan used some of the money provided by Walter Long to help fund this project.
The next mention of Elizabeth in the press was in June 1776 when she gave a private performance for the Queen where she sang several songs for their Majesties. These private concerts continued, with reference in the press being made regularly. Sheridan may have wanted his wife to quietly retire but the press were not going to let her slip into obscurity quite so readily, with her name being mentioned frequently with her setting the ‘gold standard’ for other singers to aspire to – no-one quite bettered her though for some considerable time.
Wednesday 7th May 1777 tragedy struck the couple as Elizabeth was delivered of a still born child. Clearly, this loss took its toll on Elizabeth as physicians were called to see her just a couple of days later. The Public Advertiser 12th May carried the same report about the still birth and directly below it reported the birth of a female, likely to live forever– daughter of Sheridan’s Muse!
A little over a year later on the 5th August 1778, Elizabeth’s brother tragically drowned in a boating accident and the press described Elizabeth as being inconsolable. There appear very to be few references in the press after this date pertaining to Elizabeth, perhaps she had become the dutiful wife; the press only reported the couple appearing in public at concerts and the like.
Although women were unable to vote it did not appear to preclude them from taking an active interest in the politics of the day as The Public Advertiser of 4th April 1782 confirmed Elizabeth’s presence at the hustings:
The Duchess of Devonshire, Mrs Bouverie, Lady Milner, Mrs Sheridan and some other ladies were on the hustings. The ladies joined in the shouts and applauses of the people and The Duchess of Devonshire and Mrs Bouverie who wore blue and buff riding habits and Lady Milner who was likewise in a riding habit took off their hats and joined the huzzahs of the people.
We move then on a few years to the 17th February 1784 when once again Elizabeth had been taken gravely ill at the seat of the Honourable Mr Bouverie in Northamptonshire. Sheridan immediately left London to be by his wife’s side, her life being described as in ‘immediate danger’.
After this event the press remained exceptionally quiet again for the next few years apart from a few mentions about her social diary, until 13th October 1791 when, yet again there appear grave doubts about her surviving her present illness, but as if by magic she made a full recovery some two weeks later, but then disappeared to Southampton a few weeks later to assist with her recovery, Sheridan going to collect her on the 8th of March 1792 once she was fully recovered. We know from Lord Fitzgerald’s letters to the Duchess of Leinster that he was having a relationship with Elizabeth and was fully aware of Elizabeth’s trip to Southampton; the couple had a child, Mary, born 30th March 1792.
By the 17th April 1792, Elizabeth was expected to die within 6 months according to her physicians and the media. Reports stated that as soon as she was well enough to undertake the journey she should be moved from London to Bath. A few weeks later this account was rectified and an apology printed stating that now her health was much improved, although less than one month later, initial worries were proved correct and Elizabeth was in fact dying.
Elizabeth, who was never physically strong, succumbed to tuberculosis which proved fatal and she died on the 28th of June 1792, aged just 38. The press reported her death as happening at 5 o’clock in the evening at Bristol Hot Wells with her husband present. She was buried in the same vault as her sister Mary, at Wells Cathedral on the 7th July 1792 and was followed to the grave by her legitimate daughter Mary shortly after.
The Chester Chronicle, 30th August 1799 described Elizabeth as ‘A lady of unrivalled beauty and the rarest talents’. So despite not having performed publicly for almost 30 years her reputation as a talented and beautiful singer remained.
The politician John Wilkes described Elizabeth as ‘the most modest, delicate flower he had ever seen’ when referring to Sheridan’s loss.
The Gentleman’s Magazine 138, dated 1825 includes a letter purported to have been written by Elizabeth to her close friend Miss Saunders which makes for fascinating reading.
So, Elizabeth clearly was unrivalled in her talent and beauty, but it does appear that she remained in the shadow of her husband, whether this was largely due to his ego or whether her health was the main reason, it seems hard to determine. The impression created is that he was overwhelmingly anxious about his wife’s state of health throughout their marriage and clearly, rightly so as she was incredibly fragile. Certainly, whatever the reason, Elizabeth supported her husband in not only his writing but also in his political career and she was much involved in the politics of the day, being present at the hustings with the Duchess of Devonshire.
1 Thomas Linley, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Thomas Mathews, their connections with Bath (1903)
Mrs DUBOIS’s Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, useful on Journies or at Sea, and not disagreeable to chew when Hunting, and a Chace proves long; or for the ready making Gravy Sauce; made in Cakes of a proper Size to make one Mess each, in Quantity three or four Gills. This Soup is made after the receipt of her late Uncle, Paul Monlong, Cook to the late Duke of Argyll, and with his Grace in Flanders during Queen Anne’s Wars. The Conveniency of which is late well known to several Gentlemen of the Navy, from whom she has Letter with great Commendations. This useful Commodity will never spoil, if kept dry, and is dissolv’d in a few minutes in boiling Water. She has also succeeded (a Thing never attempted by any) in making some of Veal and Fowls, some of Fowls only, and some of Mutton entirely, in which the Herbs are as fresh as when first made. All the above Soups or Broths are 6d each, or 5s. a Dozen, in a Tin Box, for Conveniency of Carriage, and to keep them dry at Sea, are sold at the Golden Head in Prujean-Court, in the Great Old Baily.
General Advertiser, 2nd January, 1748
Mrs Elizabeth Dubois had been advertising the sale of her portable soup in the British newspapers since at least November 1746 when they appear to have first been available in this country. Previously she had sold them in the Netherlands through Mr Arnoldus Brunel Toyman in the Spuy Straat at The Hague (Den Haag). When they first appeared for sale her plan, as stated in the newspaper, was to sell them under the following names: Gravy Soup, Mutton Broth, Chicken Broth, Veal and Fowls. In later years, for Lent, she produced a soup using fish and shellfish, which was also suitable to be stored for many months. To prevent mistakes her cakes of Portable Soups were stamped with her name, Dubois. Whilst she didn’t invent Portable Soup, she is the first person to market it with any degree of success and seems to have been something of an 18th century entrepreneur.
The idea had been about for half a century or so already; something similar was known in France as bouillons en tablettes from at least 1690 and obviously Mrs Dubois’ uncle Paul Monlong (actually her uncle by marriage) had been producing portable soup whilst on campaign with John Campbell, British Army Officer and the 2nd Duke of Argyll and 1st Duke of Greenwich (1680-1743), in the early 1700’s during the War of the Spanish Succession. It is mentioned in a play of 1738 by Robert Dodsley, Sir John Cockle at Court: Being the Sequel of the King and the miller of Mansfield when Sir John Cockle’s French Cook offers to make him ‘portable soup to put in your Pocket’, described as a dish ‘de Englis know not[h]ing of.’
We give a recipe for Portable Soup at the end but, in brief, to make it ‘portable,’ soup was made as normal but then reduced until it was gelatinous and dried. It could then be reconstituted with boiling water and used as soup or gravy and alternatively could be treated more as a biscuit and eaten as it was. Most commonly it was made from the ‘offal’ of a cow; in the 18th century this referred to legs and shins of beef, not what we would term offal today and this misconception has given rise to the notion it was used to prevent scurvy. However it was of particular interest to naval officers as an easily transported and stored provision on board ship and for a nourishing food for the sick and wounded.
I beg leave to remind my former Customers, as well as such Gentlemen as at this Season are setting out on their Travels, but particularly those who are going long Voyages by Sea, of that useful Commodity, viz. Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, sold at the Golden Head, a Print-Shop, the Corner of Burleigh-street, near Exeter Exchange in the strand, by their very humble Servant, Elizabeth Dubois.
General Advertiser, 24th April, 1750
Although some naval men were using it from as early as 1743 it was not until 1756 that Mrs Dubois obtained a contract to supply the navy together with the aptly named William Cookworthy, a Plymouth apothecary. She was certainly advertising herself as Portable Soup Maker to His Majesty’s Navy from October, 1757. Captain Cook extolled its virtues and used it on his South Sea journeys, and it was still in use in the early 1800’s when Lewis and Clarke took Portable Soup as one of the provisions on their expedition.
We hear that Orders are issued by the Commissioners of the Victualling Office, to appropriate for the future all the useful Offal of Oxen, &c. to be prepared into portable Broth or Soup, for the better Accommodation of the Seamen employed on board his Majesty’s Fleet, which it is expected at this dear Time will prove of great Service to the Navy.
Oxford Journal, 6th May, 1758
A couple of adverts in 1750, giving Mrs Dubois’ address as a print shop at the Golden Head on the corner of Burleigh Street, near Exeter Exchange in the Strand, reveal the identity of her husband, Isaac Du Bois, who carried on the trade of a chaser (engraver) and printseller at this address. Isaac had been born in 1704, the eldest child of Isaac and Jane Elizabeth Dubois, née Monlong. He traded under the sign of the Golden Head at various addresses and is probably the same Isaac Du Bois who was declared bankrupt in 1748 (giving his wife a reason to market her Portable Soups to provide for herself) but he seems to have picked up his trade again afterwards.
On the 2nd May, 1750, he placed an advert in the Daily Advertiser informing his customers he was leaving town on account of his health and selling his stock. Later in the year Elizabeth was living at East Ham in Essex although she was still selling her Portable Soup through her shop on the corner of Burleigh Street and by 1752 was at the Golden Head in Brownlow Street near Long Acre.
By November 1756 he had died and the widowed Elizabeth Dubois had married again and was running the business with her new husband, Edward Bennet, a Sheffield man. The couple were living at her former marital home, the Golden Head in Brownlow Street before moving to Fleet Street. The cakes of Portable Soup were henceforth marked with the Elizabeth’s new surname, BENNET.
Edward Bennet and spouse, (late Du Bois) the original portable soup-maker to his Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden-Head, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths, in cakes of a proper size to make one mess each. (1760)
Bennet’s parents had been amongst the first people in Sheffield to welcome the Reverend John Wesley into their house. Edward moved to London, married Elizabeth Dubois, and made a success of running their joint business from Fleet Street. Edward died in December 1788 and a lengthy obituary of him appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine shortly after, including the following information:
His father was a grinder at Sheffield, and he was brought up to the same employment; but he was endowed with too large a share of abilities and emulation to walk long in so narrow a sphere. He came up to London, in quest of a better occupation; and was for some time engaged at the Tower, in repairing and polishing the armour. Here he became acquainted with Mrs. Dubois, a person of good character and circumstances, whom he married, and with whom he lived in Fleet-Street, and entered into a profitable branch of business, that of making portable soup for exportation. This he followed with great diligence and success, till, by repeated experiments of his own, he had so far made himself master of sugar-refining as to enable him to set up a small house in his native town, which he enlarged as his capital increased and his business extended, till it came to be one of the most considerable in the country.
Edward Bennet’s sugar house was at the bottom of Coalpit Lane in Sheffield and the Methodist minister George Whitefield sometimes preached from its doors. Around 1780 Bennet built an independent chapel near his refinery and officiated there himself as a pastor until his death.
Whilst Edward Bennet concentrated on his sugar refinery in Sheffield, he sold on the portable soup enterprise in London (his wife seems to have ceased advertising in 1771 and it is possible that this marks her death) and by 1780 Benjamin Piper had taken over Mrs Dubois’ business and premises, for the following adverts appeared.
Benjamin Piper, successor to Messieurs Bennet and Dubois, the original portable soup-makers to His Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden Head in Three-King-Court, adjoining to No. 149, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths. (1780)
RICH FOREIGN CORDIALS, PERFUMERY, &c. AT the PERFUMERY WAREHOUSE, No. 14, Conduit-street, Hanover-square (removed from No. 3 Mill-street) all sorts of rich Foreign Cordials, (liqueurs) warranted genuine and neat as imported, sold wholesale and retail. Where also may be had every article of Perfumery, both English and Foreign, of the best quality: Great choice of Pocket Books, Silk Purses, and all the most approved Family Medicines. Piper’s (late Dubois’) Portable Soup, wholesale and retail, very serviceable at sea and in private families, as an expeditious method of making gravy.
The upper part of a large House to lett, ready furnished. Enquire as above.
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 9th February, 1780.
Benjamin Piper lasted a mere six years at the most, for Thomas Vigor was at the helm by 1786, still supplying the navy and listed in the Sun Fire Insurance registers at Three King Court, Fleet Street as a Portable Soup Maker.
Whilst we can’t be sure that the following recipe matches that of Elizabeth Dubois, passed down to her by her uncle, it is a contemporary one.
Recipe for Portable Soup from The Complete Housewife; Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, E. Smith, 1773
Take two legs of beef, about fifty pounds weight, take off all the skin and fat as well as you can, then take all the meat and sinews clean from the bones, which meat put into a large pot, and put to it eight or nine gallons of soft water; first make it boil, then put in twelve anchovies, an ounce of mace, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of whole pepper black and white together, six large onions peeled and cut in two, a little bundle of thyme, sweet-marjoram, and winter-savoury, the dry hard crust of a two-penny loaf, stir it all together and cover it close, lay a weight on the cover to keep it close down, and let it boil softly for eight or nine hours, then uncover it, and stir it together; cover it close again, and let it boil till it is a very rich good jelly, which you will know by taking a little out now and then, and letting it cool. When you think it is a thick jelly, take it off, strain it through a coarse hair bag, and press it hard; then strain it through a hair sieve into a large earthen pan; when it is quite cold, take off the skum and fat, and take the fine jelly clear from the settlings at bottom, and then put the jelly into a large deep well tinned stew-pan. Set it over a stove with a slow fire, keep stirring it often, and take great care it neither sticks to the pan or burns. When you find the jelly very stiff and thick, as it will be in lumps about the pan, take it out, and put it into large deep china-cups, or well-glazed earthen-ware. Fill the pan two-thirds full of water, and when the water boils, set in your cups. Be sure no water gets into the cups, and keep the water boiling softly all the time till you find the jelly is like a stiff glue; take out the cups, and when they are cool, turn out the glue into a coarse new flannel. Let it lie eight or nine hours, keeping it in a dry warm place, and turn it on fresh flannel till it is quite dry, and the glue will be quite hard; put it into clean new stone pots, keep it close covered from dust and dirt, in a dry place, and where no damp can come to it.
When you use it, pour boiling water on it, and stir it all the time till it is melted. Season it with salt to your palate. A piece as big as a large walnut will make a pint of water very rich; but as to that you are to make it as good as you please; if for soup, fry a French roll and lay it in the middle of the dish, and when the glue is dissolved in the water, given it a boil and pour it into the dish. If you chuse it for a change, you may boil either rice or barley, vermicelli, celery cut small, or truffles or morels; but let them be very tenderly boiled in the water before you stir in the glue, and then give it a boil altogether. You may, when you would have it very fine, add forcemeat balls, cocks-combs, or a palate boiled very tender, and cut into little bits; but it will be very rich and good without any of these ingredients.
If for gravy, pour the boiling water on to what quantity you think proper; and when it is dissolved, add what ingredients you please, as in other sauces. This is only in the room of a rich, good gravy. You may make your sauce either weak or strong, by adding more or less.
Sources used not already mentioned: General Advertiser, 10th November, 1746, 23rd April, 1747 and 30th June, 1752; Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 17th November, 1756 and 15th September, 1764; Read’s Weekly Journal, 8th October, 1757; London Evening Post, 8th December, 1750; The Country Journal, Or, the Craftsman, 1750; Feeding Nelson’s Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era, Jane Macdonald, 2004; Reminiscences of Sheffield, R.E. Leader
Well, we thought we had heard it all, but seemingly not! We have come across a book from 1745 ‘The Accomplish’d Housewife; or the Gentlewoman’s Companion’ containing the most astounding cures for all illnesses. Please, please, please do not try these at home; we really will not accept any responsibility for the consequences!
For a Sore Throat
Make a plaister four inches broad, and so long as to reach from ear to ear, apply it warm to the throat, then bruise houseleek and press out the juice; add an equal quantity of honey, and a little burnt Allum; mix all together, and let the party soften take some on a liquorice stick.
For the Piles
Take Pompilion, flour of Brimstone and Oil of Elder, of each a sufficient quantity, and Mutton suet something more than any of the former, melt them together and anoint the part. If they are inward, cut a piece and put it up.
An Excellent Vomit
Take a quarter of a pound of clear Allum, beat it and sift it a fine as flour; divide it into three parts. Put a quarter of a pint of water into a saucepan and put the biggest paper of Allum in, and let it simmer over the fire, but not boil. Take it off and let it stand till it is blood-warm, drink it off, but take nothing after it, till it has worked once. You may walk about after it has work’d once. Take it three mornings together, or more if occasion requires, till the stomach is clear. This is a very good vomit in all cases.
To know if a child has worms
Take a piece of white lather, and prick it full of holes with a knife, rub it with wormwood and spread honest on it, shrew the Powder of Aloes on it, lay it on the child’s navel when he goes to bed; if he has worms, the plaister will stick, if he has not, it will fall.
To Cure the Cholick
Take the Powder of Yarrow, in a glass of warm wine, and it will give you ease immediately.
An Opening Drink
Take Red-Sage, Liverwort, Horehound, Penny Royal, Hyssop, Maiden- hair, two handfuls of each, one pound of figs, one pound of raisins stoned, half a pound of blue currants, coriander seeds, aniseeds, liquorice, of each two ounces. Put all these in two gallons of Spring water, let it boil away two or three quarts, then strain it and when ‘tis cold put it in bottles. Drink half a pint in a morning and as much in the afternoon, keep warm and eat little.
To Stop Looseness
Take the conserve of marigold flowers about the bigness of a nutmeg for three nights; if it does not stop take it in the morning. Take a pound of marigold flowers to a pound and an half of sugar to make the conserve.
For a Looseness
Boil a handful of bramble-leaves in milk, sweeten it with Loaf sugar and drink it night and morning.
For the thrush in children’s mouths
Take a hot sea coal, and quench it in as much spring water as will cover the coal; wash it with this five or six times a day.
For fits of the mother
Take green walnuts and of rue one pound, one pound and a half of figs; bruise the rue and the walnuts, slice the figs into thin slices and lay them between the rue and the walnuts. Distill it off, bottle and keep it for your use. Take a spoonful or two when there is any appearance of a fit.
For the stone in the kidneys
Take oil of olives, two spoonfuls; Daffy’s Elixir four spoonfuls; liquid Laudanum three drops; oil of turpentine twenty drops. Mix them with sugar and take this dose at the beginning of the fit.
To break a boil
Take some honey and wheat flour, and the yolk of a new laid egg; mix it well together and spread it on a rag and lay it on cold.
Roast a turnip very soft; beat it to mash and apply it as hot as you can bear it to the part affected. Let it lie on two or three days and repeat it two or three times.
To procure an easy labour
Take half a pound of raisins of the sun ston’d, half a pound of figs, four ounces of liquorice scrap’d and sliced; aniseeds bruised one spoonful; boil all these in two quarts of spring water till one pint is consum’d then strain it out and drink a quarter of a pint of it morning and evening, six weeks before the time.
To procure a speedy delivery
Take of borax powder’d half a dram; mix it in a glass of white wine, some sugar and a little cinnamon water; if it does no good the first time, try it again two hours after, so likewise a third time.
To increase milk in nurses
Make a gruel with lentils, let the person drink freely of it, or boil them in posset drink, which they like best.
If our final offering cure works then we’re definitely going to practice our fainting skills!!
May proceed from different causes as excess of joy or sorrow; sudden surprises, worms, stubborn heartburn etc and are always dangerous if they come often, without some apparent cause. Sometimes they are occasioned by a fullness of blood. Those who are subject to them, and women especially must carefully avoid all sorts of drams; for they afford but temporary relief and cause the distemper to return. Chocolate is much better for them as it will stay within them recruit their spirits and not burn their stomachs.
On the 4th April 1792 Spence Broughton, formerly a Lincolnshire farmer, swung at York Tyburn for committing highway robbery.
On the 29th January 1791, together with a man named John Oxley or Oxen and with financial backing from a Thomas Shaw of Prospect Row, St. George’s Fields, Spence Broughton robbed the Rotherham to Sheffield mail coach. Five or six days before the robbery, Shaw had turned up at Oxley’s house in London, No. 1 Francis Street, Tottenham Court Road, and suggested that Oxley, together with Broughton, should hold up the Rotherham Mail. This being agreed to, Shaw lent the two men ten guineas and they travelled to Nottingham, catching the coach there from the Swan and Two Necks Inn in Lad Lane. They slept the night at Nottingham and, the next day, set off on foot towards Chesterfield, stopping the second night at Sheffield.
On the day of the robbery they set out on the Rotherham Road, and were passed by the Mail heading towards Sheffield. They intended to rob it on the return journey and so lay in wait for it on Attercliffe Common. Spence Broughton had brought a smock frock as a disguise and he took off his coat, threw on the smock frock and an old little hat. He then took a gate off an adjacent field and told Oxley he would lead the Mail cart and the Post Boy in charge of it into that field. Oxley was directed to take Broughton’s coat and wait in another field.
Broughton, dressed as a labouring rustic, flagged down the Mail and then put his plan into action. The Post Boy was not physically hurt, just frightened, and after he had bound him securely Broughton took the post and went to find Oxley. The two men set off, on foot, for Mansfield, just over the Yorkshire border into Nottinghamshire. Disappointingly for the two men, the only thing of value in the Mail was a bill for £123 drawn from Paris on the banking house of Minet and Fector and the rest of the mail was thrown into a brook. At Mansfield they parted company and Oxley took the bill to London and cashed it.
Shaw then suggested another robbery, to again be carried out by Broughton and Oxley, this time on the Aylesbury Mail. On the 28th May 1791, this robbery was executed but nothing of value was taken and Shaw was left complaining that, as he had funded the venture, he was £14 out of pocket.
To repay Shaw, it was now proposed to rob the Cambridge Mail at Bourne Bridge. Again, Shaw backed the enterprise financially. Oxley recounted that they used the same ruse as with the Rotherham Mail, Broughton donning his smock frock and Oxley hiding a little way distant, but Shaw, who had some female connections with Broughton, deposed that it was actually Oxley who had carried out the heist on this occasion, the smock frock Broughton had brought as a disguise being too small for him, necessitating Oxley to wear it.
The Cambridge Post Boy could not see his attackers, it was too dark for that, but he remembered that the man who had bound him had been tall and well built. Broughton stood 6 feet and one inch in height; although he was not related to the well-known boxer of the time, Jack Broughton, who had died a couple of years earlier, he was mentioned to be of a similar build. The boy therefore identified Broughton as his attacker rather than the smaller Oxley.
The Cambridge Mail yielded bank notes, it was later estimated that perhaps even to the value of five or ten thousand pounds, but not all could be passed. Some were burnt and some needed identifying marks to be erased from them before they could be used.
Within months all three men had been arrested. They were captured when John Oxley and a woman handed over £10 notes from the Cambridge robbery at a silversmiths in Cheapside. The note proving to be from the robbery, the silversmiths shop boy saw Oxley a day or two later and tracked him to a public house where he alerted a constable. Oxley claimed he had been given the notes by Thomas Shaw and, while he was being questioned, the officers duly made their way to Shaw’s house. There they waited for Shaw to come home but the first man to appear at the door was Spence Broughton himself who made a run for it when he saw that the game was up. When he was caught his pockets were found to be stuffed with bank notes.
Thomas Shaw turned King’s Evidence and evaded trial (although the Morning Post newspaper thought him the most culpable of the three) and put all the guilt onto Oxley, trying to exonerate Broughton and himself; Oxley pointed the finger squarely at the other two before escaping the gaol he was being held in (Clerkenwell Bridewell) and the subsequent trial.
With the help of some smugglers at Folkestone in Kent he was soon reported to be on his way to America, escaping justice. Spence Broughton alone then was left to face the music and he was moved from the Cambridgeshire gaol he had been held in to Newgate before being taken to York for trial. It was reported that on his arrival at the York Castle gaol he gave £50 to the gaoler for liberty to walk with the debtors. On the 24th March, 1792, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, and was told his body would be gibbeted afterwards.
On the scaffold Spence Broughton proclaimed his innocence and said that although he had intended to rob the Rotherham mail he was in fact six miles distant when the robbery took place, and that he was only guilty of receiving his share of the booty. It made not a jot of difference though, he was duly hung on the York Tyburn gallows (the same on which Dick Turpin swung many decades earlier) and then his body carted back up to Attercliffe Common on the outskirts of Sheffield, the site of the robbery, where his decomposing remains hung in the gibbet for many years.
Spence Broughton was 45 years of age when he robbed the mail coach, but his earlier life had been one of respectability and good bearing. He had been born in 1744 in the Lincolnshire village of Horbling, a few miles from Sleaford to a farmer named John Broughton and his wife Anne. John Broughton had been married before but his first wife and daughter, both named Mary, had died. It is known that Spence had one sister, who was living at the time of his arrest and running an inn on the South road, and this is probably Frances, daughter of John Broughton, who was baptised at Sleaford on the 16th October 1741.
Three years later, on the 19th December 1744, Spence was baptised at Horbling.
On the 9th October 1770, at Folkingham in Lincolnshire, he had married Frances Graves or Greaves, by licence.
She is sometimes mentioned as bringing a fortune to the marriage and was quite possibly the daughter of a prosperous local farmer. Three children were born to the couple, a son named Spence for his father in 1771, another son, Greaves, in 1773, both baptised in Horbling, and a daughter, named Frances for her mother and Spence’s sister, in 1777. By the time little Frances was born Spence Broughton was tenant of a farm in Martin, Lincolnshire, leased from Mr. King, Esquire, and Frances was baptised at the nearby church of Timberland.
It was after this that Broughton started to keep bad company, gambling and attending the races and cockings. He was asked by his long-suffering wife to leave their home as he had run up debts she was struggling to pay, and he accordingly did. He made his way to Lambeth where he took some lodgings and lived with a woman named Eliza as his wife. He penned a letter to Eliza just before his death, reconciled to his fate but hating the thought of his body being gibbeted rather than decently buried, and in this letter he refers to his children and asks Eliza to see to their education. He can’t be referring to his children by Frances as they were no longer young, and it appears that he had a second family by Eliza.
After his execution, Spence Broughton’s widow possibly married again, to a James Carter. Her eldest son, Spence Broughton junior, became a successful surgeon in Leicester.
A postscript to this article belongs to John Oxley, reputed to have made his way to America. Reports surfaced that he finally met his end in the January of 1793, found frozen to death in a barn on Loxley Moor near Sheffield, although the body was never properly identified. The clothes the man was found dressed in matched those Oxley had last been seen in though and he had marks around his ankles as though he had been manacled; he had been wandering in the area for some weeks and, it was said, had made the journey across the moor to visit the mouldering bones of his old friend, suspended in the gibbet. But then, in May, 1798, reports surfaced in the newspapers naming, ‘Oxley, the supposed accomplice of Spence Broughton, who was executed at York some time back for robbing the mail passed through Stamford, as a deserter from the 34th regiment.’ This was then countered a few days later with the following information.
A man, calling himself John Oxley, now in the Savoy, as a deserter from one of His Majesty’s regiments, and who asserted himself to be the famous mail robber of that name, turns out to be the same man who imposed the like story on the Magistrates at Northton, about a year and an half since.
So, was it John Oxley, hiding in full view of the authorities, or an imposter with the same name? This man had in fact been questioned by Richard Ford, Esquire, at Bow Street in December 1796 after being taken into custody in Northamptonshire, but had obviously not been believed and released if he was at large in the May of 1798, even though on that occasion it was reported that he had confessed to being the same man who had been concerned in robbing the Rotherham Mail and who had broken out of Clerkenwell Bridewell. Not for want of trying, it appears that if this was the same John Oxley, then he couldn’t talk himself into standing trial.
Sources used not already referenced:
St. James’s Chronicle, 1st February 1791, London Chronicle, 13th October 1791, Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 18th October 1791, Derby Mercury, 27th October 1791, Stamford Mercury, 4th November 1791, Norfolk Chronicle, 11th February 1792, Caledonian Mercury, 31st March 1792, Stamford Mercury, 13th April 1792, Derby Mercury, 26th April 1792, Oracle and Public Advertiser, 16th December 1796, London Packet, 11th May 1798 and Criminal Chronlogy of York Castle by William Knipe, 1867.
With the ‘flu season’ rapidly approaching we thought it might be interesting to look back at how it was dealt with in Georgian England before the advent of vaccines. Most of us have at some stage suffered from influenza although statistics show that in most years relatively few people died as a result of the virus alone however in certain years for some reason there were epidemics causing far more deaths than was the norm – the winter of 1775-1776 being one such occasion.
Weather reports in the newspapers confirm that the winter of 1775-76 was especially severe. The Thames was frozen for some considerable time, this was followed by severe frost during January and an intensely stormy February. This cold weather could potentially have made it easier for the pandemic to spread* combined with poor housing, sanitation and lack of appropriate of medicines. During this particular winter it was reported that somewhere in the region of 40,000 people died from the epidemic.
This report in the London Chronicle dated 19th December 1775 on the other hand is quite amusing – could it have been a typo?? Whilst we shouldn’t mock, this would be quite a interesting to have witnessed the following day!
…a correspondent says, some Gentlemen in a coffee house a few days ago speaking of the present fashionable influenza and how generally people throughout the Kingdom were complaining of being affected by it – a gentleman lately arriving from Tipperary assured them that it raged more violently in Ireland and was attended with much more fatal consequences, for to his knowledge, for many people who went to bed well at night, got up dead in the morning.
How to treat influenza – well, The Public Advertiser in November was recommending the use of Edinburgh Powder as being the most effective cure for influenza but whether or not it was effective in this we couldn’t possibly confirm or deny. The Middlesex Journal and Evening Advertiser of the 25th November 1775 reported that two thirds of the city of Dublin had influenza or ‘epidemical cold’ so presumably it wasn’t working for the people of Dublin.
We also came across another remedy in the newspapers – ‘Daffy’s Elixir’ that was highly recommended as a cure for influenza and was especially beneficial for the nobility and gentry.
This product was regarded as being a ‘cure for all ills‘, the reality being that it given its ingredients of aniseed, brandy, fennel seed, jalap, parsley seed, raisin and senna amongst other things – it was more likely to cure constipation rather than influenza!
Weeks later a newspaper that the epidemic was raging across the country, but most curiously that the Isle of Thanet , one of the healthiest places to live in the country was severely suffering, so much so that ‘the parson was sick, the clerk was sick and a large part of the parishioners were also sick, that it was judged expedient to shut up the church for the day and to leave the good people at home to pray for each other.’ Reports also mentioned physician John Fothergill was reported to have seen around 60 patients per day during the epidemic. By the end of February 1776 reports in the newspapers ceased, so presumably the epidemic was over and Spring on its way.