We have previously written about fortune telling, a matter which was very popular during the Georgian era, so today we have a couple of short stories to share with you on the subject.
In April 1801 John Rowe was indicted for defrauding Sarah Hall of the sum of two shillings and six pence. According to the newspapers he was ‘one of those modern Sidrophels’.
“Who deal in destiny’s dark counsels,
And sage opinions of the moon sells,
To whom all people far and near
On deep importances repair”
He had announced his celebrity in resolving all questions appertaining to future events in a hand-bill, addressed to the ladies only, in which he acquainted them he attended at his Evening Planetarium, No. 5 Exeter Street, Strand, where he would answer any lawful questions he was asked.
Sarah Hall, an elderly woman, about fifty (don’t judge, it was regarded as old at that time), had heard of his great fame and was determined to visit him and that through the medium of the stars she would find out about her destiny. She had never been married and wanted to know whether she would remain celibate for the rest of her life.
She parted with the usual ‘symbol’ which in this case was half a crown (about £5 in today’s money), he proceeded to assess her horoscope, he traced the planets through their several houses and discovered by mystic lore who was lord of the ascendant at her birth. He systematically arranged their several aspects and exclaimed, with the inspiration of the Cumaean Sybil, that the fates were favourable to her wishes.
That Mars and Venus were in conjunction; Virgo and Gemini, Sextile and Mercury, lord of the seventh house, the very hour she was born and consequently that these appearances denoted marriage.
Having lived a single life until now, he said was due to negative influence of Saturn, but that this was no longer to be case. He told her to go home and assure herself of approaching happiness. He informed her that she would first be courted by a dark man with broad shoulders, dark hair, large dark eyes, bushy eyebrows and thin legs – but he was not the man for her.
The husband for whom the stars intended was a fair man, with light hair and blue eyes and that he was very wealthy and that she would meet him in the next few days. He also advised her to invest in the lottery as she might gain a considerable sum of money. The old lady was ecstatic about this forthcoming good fortune. She left the venue and returned home and told all her friends about her approaching wedding and about the money.
She waited for the dark gentleman to appear – of course he didn’t, she waited longer for the fair gentleman – and as you guessed he failed to appear too. She invested in the lottery as she had been instructed to do. You’ve guessed, it she lost her money. She told a friend of her about what had happened, and he advised her to apply to the magistrate – she had, of course been conned.
John Rowe was arrested, his magical apparatus and books were seized, and he was sent to gaol. Once all the facts had been established Rowe said he was a poor man, a carpenter by trade and with his earnings he had managed to support a wife and large family, but such were the pressures of the times, though he worked as hard as ever he did, he could not support them. His wife had been brought to bed and he was unable to provide her with the comforts her situation required, he had seen others doing similar deceptions and earning money from this sort of public credulity that he decided he could do the same thing.
Needless to say he was found guilty and sentenced to one month imprisonment.
Our second story concerns a Mary Deverell, a fortune teller who was brought before the sitting magistrate at Marlborough Street, charged with defrauding Susannah Foresight, under the pretence of telling her fortune.
Susannah, servant to Mrs Westall in New Road, Marylebone told the magistrate that she knew that women in London found wealth in strange ways and that she wanted to know more about it from the prisoner, Mary Deverell.
Susannah parted with all her money – ten shillings, with a view to finding some good fortune that she was told she would have. Needless to say she was also deceived. Instead of finding the palace she was promised, instead she found the workhouse.
As with John Rowe, Mary Deverell was sent to gaol. I really want to believe the name of this gullible woman, but no luck as yet with tracing such a person!
Hampshire Chronicle 13 April 1801
Morning Post 11 April 1801
Oxford University and City Herald 06 February 1808
Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns. These sweet, spiced buns were also popular throughout the Georgian era, known both as cross buns as well as hot cross buns, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The well-known song relating to them has its origins in the eighteenth-century.
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
This started out as a London street cry, used by the sellers of the buns. The Oxford English Dictionary references a street cry dating to 1733, printed in Poor Robin’s Almanack:
Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs,
With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.
So, when did the street cry become a ditty? Wikipedia (not always the most reliable, we know!) dates the earliest recorded version of the rhyme to its appearance in The Christmas Box, published in London, 1798. However, we have found mention of a ‘catch’ (a round song; two or more voices singing the same song but beginning at different times) dating from 1767 and printed in the London Chronicle newspaper (2-4 June 1767).
A Catch that won the Prize at the Boarded Bagnio:
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns;
If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons;
And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves,
Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves.
One a penny, two a penny, &c.
(Da capo is an Italian term meaning to repeat from the beginning. The Boarded Bagnio was located in Banister’s Alley, St Giles.)
We’re not sure what exactly was going on at the Boarded Bagnio to merit the hot cross bun rhyme winning a prize, but this version of the popular ditty predates its appearance in The Christmas Box by over three decades and is the earliest reference to it that we can find. Is this the origin of the song?
What of the origins of the buns themselves? One writer, in 1777, refers to the custom in Greece to make presents of coloured eggs, and cakes of Easter bread. He continues:
Probably the Cross Buns made at present on Good Friday have been derived from these or such like Cakes of Easter Bread. The Country People in the North make with a knife many little Cross Marks on their Cakes, before they put them into the Oven, &c. – I have no doubt but that this too, trifling as the Remark may appear, is a Relique of Popery. Thus also persons, who cannot write, instead of signing their Names, are bid to make their Mark, which is generally done in the form of a Cross.
We’ve searched for an authentic recipe for the cross buns of the era, but the closest we have found is this from the Morning Chronicle, 23 April 1791:
GOOD FRIDAY ADVERTISEMENTS
A person, well known at Leicester, lately took this mode of informing the public, ‘that his Buns, made of the best Flour, and the genuine spices of the East, would be ready for delivery by six in the morning’. After desiring them to be aware of imposters, he concluded as follows:
GOOD FRIDAY approaches, and hard have I strove,
My highest respect for the Public to prove;
And to make my commodity worth approbation,
Collected the sweets of each spice-breathing nation.
What tho’ some base Gingerbread Weavers, for fun,
In their ribaldry, call me a Cake and a Bun;
In the making of Buns, there’s no rival I fear,
I’ve in mine, no mix’d Butter, nor rot-gut Small Beer –
But there’s everything genuine! Look at their size,
For they’ll melt in your mouth, and swell proud to your eyes.
And so, while I exist, you shall never lay fault on
Your Cross-bun Distributer, fam’d EDIS WATTON.
There was a tradition, probably harking back to the religious connotations with the buns, that stale and mouldy cross buns would cure many childhood ailments. Luckily the child does not seem to have been expected to eat the buns – sometimes several years old – but instead they would be bandaged to their body.
Sources not referenced in the text:
Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda to every chapter of that work: as also, an appendix, containing such articles on the subject, as have been omitted by that author. By John Brand, A. B. Of Lincoln College, Oxford. 1777
The person, Sir, who I informed you had last year swallowed a fork on Shrove Tuesday, discharged it by the anus the same year, (1715) on the 25th June.
Ahem! Now we’ve got your attention, today being Shrove Tuesday, we’re taking a look at some of the events which occurred on the day in the Georgian era. Often celebrated as a half-holiday with bell-ringing and games, we all know of the custom of pancakes; today pancake races are still often held. But, what about other traditions? And no, fork swallowing wasn’t one of them; that was just an accident which occurred on the day. Mind you, some of the customs were just as awful…
An old custom around the mid-1700s was to throw sticks at cocks on this day… no, we don’t know why either. One theory, given in a letter in the Stamford Mercury of 1768 said that:
Gallieide, or cock-throwing, was first introduced by way of contempt to the French, and to exasperate the minds of the people against that nation: but why should the custom be continued when we are no longer at war with them?
A cockerel would be tied to a post and then coksteles (weighted sticks) thrown at the bird until, inevitably, it died. In 1763, the mayor and justices of Bath printed an appeal for this practice to end, it being ‘barbarous, and therefore doubtless offensive to Almighty God’. They asked the country folk who lived nearby the city not to bring their cocks to market and sell them for this purpose. Possibly their plea went largely unheeded, as they were forced to repeat their appeal the following year too. In 1753, a riot broke out in Dublin when some soldiers, who were watching the proceedings, expressed their distaste at the practice. In 1766, at Blackburn in Lancashire, some of the local lads were throwing sticks at a cock in the churchyard, but their aim was off and instead they hit a woman walking past.
The stick flew into her eye, and up into her head, which put her into very great torture, and after languishing some time, she died.
Mind you, with the custom of throwing at cocks all but forgotten by the end of the eighteenth-century, the Justices of Derby worried instead about the practice of:
…playing at Foot Ball on Shrove Tuesdays; a custom which whilst it has no better recommendation than its antiquity, for its further continuance, is disgraceful to humanity, and civilization; subversive of good order, and Government, and destructive of the morals, properties, and very lives of our inhabitants.
The year before, it seems, one John Sneap had lost his life while indulging in the game on Shrove Tuesday. Rowdy ‘mob football’ games were yet another odd Shrove Tuesday tradition. And so the city of Derby:
… being fully satisfied that many public and private evils have been occasioned by the custom of playing at FOOT BALL in this Borough on Shrove Tuesdays.
We have unanimously resolved, THAT SUCH CUSTOM SHALL FROM HENCEFORTH BE DISCONTINUED.
Some towns in England still continue this tradition. A much more satisfactory custom was gathering for drinks and a feast.
In Bury, on 24 February 1762, 72 people who all lived within a mile of the town met at the Old Hare and Hounds, to drink the health of the royal family. Amongst the crowed were 38 elderly folk, whose ages amounted to ‘upwards of 3040 years’. Adding the combined ages of those gathered to celebrate Shrove Tuesday seems to be of national interest. The following dates to 1759.
At an entertainment given by the Master of the Talbot Inn, at Ripley in Surrey, on Shrove Tuesday last, to twelve of his neighbours, inhabitants of the said parish, and who lived within five hundred yards distance, the age of the whole amounted to one thousand and eighteen years. What is most remarkable, one of the company is the mother of twelve children, the youngest of whom is sixty. She has within the fortnight walked to Guildford and back again (which is twelve miles) in one day. Another has worked as a journeyman with his Master (a shoemaker, who dined with him) forty-nine years. The all enjoyed their senses and not one made use of a crutch.
And, let’s not forget the poor fork swallower. He was reputed to be a Spanish officer who had accidentally gulped down the fork (it was only a small implement) while cleaning the root of his tongue with the end of the handle. And, the account we have read suggests he came to no permanent harm.
Derby Mercury, 16 March 1753, 7 March 1766 and 18 February 1796
Manchester Mercury, 6 March 1759 and 2 March 1762
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 10 February 1763 and 23 February 1764
We were busy researching something completely different about Jamaica and stumbled across this story. Whilst we’re unable to add anything much to it we thought it was worth sharing with you – a bit gruesome, but we do write about All Things Georgian, after all.
This story begins on 16th March 1773 in Spanish Town, Jamaica with the hanging of a Lewis Hutchinson, aka, Mad Master; but what warranted such a sentence?
Accounts of what led up to his hanging vary, and quite who he was, we’re unable to ascertain. Reports say he was from Scotland, but there’s no trace of a Lewis Hutchinson being born or having lived there, so far as we can tell. One newspaper report initially referred to him as James Hutchinson but then part way through changed his name to Lewis – so we’re none the wiser.
During the 1770s there were plenty of Scottish men who established sugar plantations in Jamaica, aiming to make their fortunes with the use of slaves to work the plantations. Hutchinson was no different. He owned the Edinburgh Castle plantation in the St Ann district of Jamaica and had around 24 slaves. (The Legacies of British Slave-ownership Project notes that after the time of Hutchinson, Edinburgh Castle had just under 100 slaves).
Hutchinson, it would seem had a penchant for shooting any white man who came anywhere close to his land. Now, Dr Jonathan Hutton, an English doctor owned the close by Bonne Ville plantation with around 60 slaves, 30 male and 30 females and spent his time between Jamaica and his home in Lincolnshire.
The story goes that Hutchinson had a dispute with Dr Hutton over land boundaries, as Hutchinson felt that Hutton had encroached onto his land and this angered him greatly; so one evening when Dr Hutton was riding home accompanied by one of his slaves who was carrying his sabre when Hutchinson took the sabre from the slave and told the slave to pass on his compliments to Dr Hutton and to tell him that he had taken his sabre. Hutton either ignored or didn’t realise what had taken place.
Sometime later, Hutton and his young daughter, Mary, aged about 8 years were out riding when they encountered Hutchinson who, without provocation, struck the doctor with the sabre which had previously taken.
Dr Hutton was severely injured and was carried back to the estate to recover, but his recovery was poor. He managed to travel to Kingston to make a formal complaint about Hutchinson, but nothing appeared to have been done about it, and as he was so ill, he gave up and decided to make the long journey back to England for treatment. Once there he had an operation for trepanning. He eventually returned to Jamaica a year or so later and sought to have Hutchinson arrested.
A soldier by the name of Callender and some other men were sent to Edinburgh Castle to arrest him, but Hutchinson realised what was about to happen; he fired a shot at Callender and killed him. He was eventually overpowered and arrested and taken to Spanish Town gaol. His castle was searched, where some 43 watches were found, along with a large quantity of clothing and other objects which proved that, as people had suspected, he had committed other murders.
If his slaves were to be believed, he murdered many people and threw their dead bodies down an extremely deep sink hole near the property. There were also rumours that he drank his victims’ blood and then dismembered them, true or just folklore?
Another story that circulated was that he had befriended a young white man who was taken ill. Rumours were that Hutchinson had aided the young man’s recovery and when recovered Hutchinson sent him on his way.
It seems that as the young man left the castle, Hutchinson waited, made his way to the rooftop of the castle, took aim and fired a shot which killed the young man. How true that story is no-one can confirm.
Hutchinson was, however, only tried for the one crime and as such was hanged only for that. Over time people have investigated the claims of the dead bodies being thrown down the sinkhole but after much searching, there seems to be no substantive evidence to support this claim, so arguably yet more folklore.
Young Mary Hutton, aged only eight at the time of her father’s attack, returned to London at some stage with her mother Christiana and on the 8th September 1778, although still a minor, was married at St Catherine Coleman church, London to a John Pottinger. The couple returned to Jamaica where Mary and her husband continued to run her father’s plantation, Bonne Ville; they had 45 enslaved people there in 1792 and after the abolition of slavery, Mary made two claims totalling £1,000.
Just as aside, for any of our readers or their family who play Assassins Creed 3, did you know that Edinburgh Castle is featured in it?
A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica
Caledonian Mercury 26 June 1773
Historic Jamaica by Frank Cundell
Legacies of British Slave owner database
View of Port Royal, Jamaica Richard Paton (1717–1791) National Maritime Museum
An old custom, practised in Dunmow in Essex, entailed the award of a flitch (or side) of bacon (essentially half a pig, cut sideways) to any couple who had been married for at least a year and a day and who could prove that they had never had a cross word nor repented of their marriage.
The origins of this custom are murky. It may date to as early as 1104 and the foundation of Little Dunmow Priory by Lady Juga Baynard and as a practice to encourage church weddings as opposed to less formal marriage contracts like handfasting. Other sources say that Reginald Fitzwalter, the Lord of the Manor, and his wife appeared at the gates of the Priory a year and a day after their marriage, dressed as peasants and begging the Prior’s blessing. The Prior did not recognise the petitioners and – impressed by their devotion – he made a gift to them of a flitch of bacon. Fitzwalter, in return, bestowed land on the Priory with one very explicit condition: a similar flitch must be awarded to any couple who presented themselves at the Priory and could claim, after a year and a day’s marriage, to be as devoted as he was to his own wife.
Whatever its origins, the Dunmow flitch was well known enough by 1387 to be mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in Canterbury Tales. The wife of Bath said:
The bacon was not set for him, I trow,
That som men have in Essex at Dunmow.
Little Dunmow Priory fell victim to the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixeenth-century and the custom lapsed into abeyance until 1701.
That year, at Dunmow, the flitch of bacon was awarded twice, once to John Reynolds of Hatfield Regis and his wife Ann, wed for ten years, and secondly to a butcher from Much Easton named William Parsley and his wife Jane who had been married – quietly, peaceably, tenderly and lovingly – for around three years. (The Parsley’s marriage is probably the one which took place at Hatfield Broad Oak in 1698, between Will. Parsley and Jean Judd.)
Bringing witnesses with them to prove their marriage and their fidelity to each other, and to their conjugal bliss in their marriage, the couples were brought before a ‘judge and jury’ where they were questioned. The jury who sat to decide if the Parsleys qualified for the flitch of bacon were five spinsters, Elizabeth, Henrietta, Annabella and Jane Beaumont, and Mary Wheeler. Upon passing this ‘trial’ the man and wife knelt on two pointed stones placed near the door of the church and an oath was administered (the Lady Chapel of the old Priory remains in use as the parish church).
You do swear by custom of confession
That you ne’er made nuptual transgression
Nor since you were married man and wife
By household brawls or contentious strife
Or otherwise in bed or at board
Offended each other in deed or in word
Or in a twelve months time and a day
Repented not in any way
Or since the church clerk said Amen
Wish’t yourselves unmarried again
But continue true and in desire
As when you joined hands in holy quire.
After the oath came the sentence. Then, the pair were borne aloft in a wooden chair and carried around the village to the general acclaim of the gathered crowd, and merry-making commenced.
Since these conditions without any fear
Of your own accords you do freely swear
A whole Flitch of Bacon you do receive
And bear it away with love and good leave
For this is the Custom of Dunmow well known
Tho’ the pleasure be ours, the Bacon’s your own.
Next to receive a flitch of bacon in Dunmow were Thomas Shakeshaft and his wife, Anne, née Amis, who had married in the village of Wethersfield in Essex in 1744. Thomas, an eminent weaver (or woolcomber) was, in one report, said to be 80 years of age and Anne was his second wife. After they had been married for seven years, on the 20th June 1751 they journeyed to Dunmow together with witnesses to make their oath.
It had been fifty years since the last claimants, and the Shakeshafts were treated as minor celebrities. Supposedly a crowd of 5,000 people from all over the country came to see the ceremony and when Anne was examined by a jury she admitted that she had only repented once since her marriage; she wished that she had married sooner.
The canny couple cashed in on their windfall. They sold slices of their ham to several of the ladies and gentlemen who had come to Dunmow to join in the celebrations, most of whom were ‘whimsically merry on the occasion’. On returning to their cottage in Wethersfield, the Shakeshafts were £50 richer than when they had set off.
If the newspaper who reported Thomas’ age as 80 was anywhere close, then his second wife must have been quite a few decades younger: it was claimed that, on the 18th July 1753, Anne and Thomas became the proud parents of twin sons, named George and Edward. Supposedly baptised at Wethersfield (we have been unable to verify this), their godfathers were the Hon Charles Grey, Esq and Hugh Brampton, Esq and Lady Abdy was godmother (the Abdy’s estate was Felix Hall in Essex). (NB. there is a burial at Wethersfield in 1773 for a Thomas Shakeshaft; unless he reached his centenary and then some, it is likely he was, in fact, a fair bit younger than 80 when he journeyed to Dunmow with his wife.)
Although there are reports of other couples claiming the flitch of bacon at Dunmow during the Georgian era, they appear to be fictional. In 1767 it was said that an Irish nobleman and his wife had headed to the village to undertake the trial, the first instance of anyone of rank to do so.
Five years later, the lord of the manor refused admittance to John and Susan Gilder of Tarling in Essex when they made a very public entry into Dunmow at the head of a great concourse of spectators and supporters, demanding to be allowed to take the oath and receive the bacon. They found the gates of the old priory nailed shut and returned home empty handed.
The last noted report concerned Montagu Burgoyne, Esq, named as a commissioner with the Victualling Board and who was later a politician. He had actually demanded – and, it is claimed, received – the flitch, after going through all the requisite ceremonies and oaths. The Burgoynes’ marriage was described as a ‘pattern of conjugal affection’ and so perhaps that gave rise to the notion that the couple had journeyed to Dunmow.
Even King George III and Queen Charlotte were not immune to the tradition. A paragraph had appeared in a newspaper suggesting that ‘two Great Personages’ who intended to tour England during the summer of 1770 would make a stop at Dunmow to claim the flitch of bacon.
The Great Personage on reading it shewed it to his consort, who smiled and said, on its being explained to her, that his Majesty should not have it all, for she would have half of it. The person who was in waiting at the time, said, he supposed it was some nonsense of Mr Such-a-one’s. Nonsense, replied the Great Personage, you may call it what you please, but whoever the author of it is, he has paid me a greater compliment than I have ever received since I was King of England.
The eighteenth-century gossip, Horace Walpole, noted that in Wychnor, Staffordshire where the tradition was also reputedly followed, a flitch was awarded c.1730. However, after 1760 Wychnor didn’t even bother to keep a flitch ready at the manor for any claimants but instead merely displayed a carved wooden replacement over the fireplace in the main hall to pay lip service to the old custom.
In the Victorian period, the tradition was revived at Dunmow and continues to this day with the ‘trials’ now carried out every four years (in mid-July during a leap year).
History of the Dunmow Flitch of Bacon, William Andrews, 1878
Popular Antiquities, vol 2, J Brand, 1841
Derby Mercury 7th June 1751, 3rd August 1753 and 6th July 1764
Ipswich Journal 29th June 1751
Caledonian Mercury, 13th June 1767
Kentish Gazette 18th September 1770
Hereford Journal 12th October 1786
[Anon.] (2004-09-23). Burgoyne, Montagu (1750–1836), politician. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Dorcas Kelly aka Stuart, aka ‘Darkey Kelly’ was a brothel keeper and reputed witch in Dublin in the late 1750s but found notoriety on 7th January 1761 when she was partially hanged then burned at the stake, for allegedly murdering shoemaker, John Dowling on St Patrick’s Day 1760. Her ghost is still said to haunt the city.
Over time, however, the story of her demise took on a life of its own which has now become entrenched into Dublin folklore, so much so that a pub in the city has been named after her. It was reputed that Kelly, whose brothel was in Copper Alley, Dublin became pregnant with the child of Simon Luttrell, Lord Carhampton, a member of the Irish Hellfire Club and that she had demanded he pay maintenance for the child. Legend has it that he not only refused to pay but accused her of witchcraft and that she sacrificed her child in some sort of bizarre satanic ritual. The body of this alleged child was never found, but nevertheless, Kelly was sentenced to death.
This account from the Leeds Intelligencer, 21st September 1773 gives an account of the method used to sentence Elizabeth Herring to death; it appears that a similar method was used for Kelly.
It is only recently that more accurate accounts of her crime have come to light. As to whether she did in fact murder John Dowling, we will never know, but true or false, she was sentenced to death. At her trial, she had pleaded her belly, but a jury of midwives ascertained that she was not, in fact, pregnant; had she been, she would have given her a reprieve. It is interesting to note that women were both strangled and then burned, whereas men guilty of murder were hanged without the additional torture.
It was almost thirty years later the World newspaper of 27th August 1788 carried an historical account of her death, which added fuel to the story. It was claimed that in the vaults of her house in Copper Alley, were found the bodies of five murdered gentleman and amongst them was supposed to be that of Surgeon Tuckey’s son, who went missing and had never been found. So not only was she a witch but now a serial killer – but was she? No mention was made of this at the time of her death.
Interestingly this latter part of the story only came to light when her ‘sister’ and successor, Maria Lewellin (Llewellyn) found herself accused of procuring a child aged twelve or thirteen, Mary Neal (Neill) for the use of Lord Carhampton’s son, Henry Luttrell. So far there has been no way to ascertain whether Kelly and Lewellin were biological sisters or merely described as such because they ran the same brothel.
The story tells that John Neal and his second wife, Anne, lived close to Lewellin’s brothel. John was a hairdresser who was apparently rather too fond of a drink and somewhat neglectful of his family and customers. He had a young daughter, Mary, by his first wife. Reports state that Mary was enticed into delivering a letter to the house of Madame Lewellin. On arriving there she was taken inside, and it was then that she was allegedly raped by Henry, Lord Carhampton. Afterwards, she managed to leave the house but didn’t tell her parents what had happened for some time. Lewellin was arrested, tried and sentenced to death for her part in the crime. However, proof seemed to appear from other prostitutes who supported Lewellin, claiming that the child was lying about the whole thing and that she was actually, at the tender age of twelve or thirteen, a prostitute. Needless to say, Carhampton denied even knowing the child and so Lewellin was released and ultimately freed.
In the meantime, both of Mary’s parents were arrested for robbery and imprisoned, where Anne, who was heavily pregnant, died. What became of Mary and her father we may never know.
Other Sources used
An Authentic Narrative; being an investigation of the trial and proceedings in the case of Neill and Lewellin.
Curious Family History: Or Ireland Before the Union by the author of the Sham Squire
Ireland before the Union: with extracts from the unpublished diary of John Scott, Earl of Clonmell, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, 1774-1798. A sequel to The sham squire and the Informers of 1798
A Brief Investigation of the sufferings of John, Anne and Mary Neal by Archibald Hamilton Rowan
Where do we begin with this story? Let’s begin with the accounts of Jane’s life as repeatedly recorded ad nauseum since her death in 1816 and which has entered into folklore … after all, why let the facts get in the way of a good story! Except that for those who read our articles will know we have a penchant for setting records straight.
Jane Lewson died on 28th May 1816, at her home, no. 12 Coldbath Square, Clerkenwell, aged 116. She was reputedly one of the figures who may have provided the inspiration for Dickens’s Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. She was known in the local area as Lady Lewson due to her eccentric appearance: she chose to wear clothes that would have been worn during the reign of George I.
Jane Vaughan was born in 1700, in Essex Street, The Strand of most respectable parents. She married a wealthy gentleman, Mr Lewson, who died when she was only 26, leaving her to raise her daughter alone. Jane apparently had many suitors but never remarried. When her daughter married, Jane became almost a recluse, rarely going out or allowing visitors and as the years passed, Jane became more and more eccentric and retained no servants except one old female servant and then, after this lady’s death, an old man who looked after several houses in the square and who would go on errands for her, clean shoes etc. Jane eventually took this man into her house where he acted as her steward, butler, cook and housemaid, and, with the exception of two old lap-dogs and a cat, he was her only companion.
The house was large and elegantly furnished but very run down. The beds were kept constantly made, although they had not been slept in for about 50 years. Despite the attention of the old lady and gentleman retained as a servant, Jane’s apartment was only occasionally swept out but never washed, the windows were so crusted with dirt, that they let in virtually no light.
Jane never washed as she believed that those who did so caught colds, so instead smeared herself with hog’s lard because it was soft and lubricating Her overall health was good, and she apparently cut two teeth when aged 87. She would only drink tea from her favourite cup and always sat in her favourite chair. She lived through five reigns and was supposed to be the most faithful historian of her time, the events of 1715 being fresh in her recollection. Jane loved her garden and that was the only part of her home that was well maintained.
She always wore powder, with a large téte, made of horse hair, on her head, near half a foot high, over which her hair was turned up; a cap over it, which knotted under her chin and three or four curls hanging down her neck. She generally wore silk gowns, and a long train with a deep flounce all round; a very long waist and very tightly laced up to her neck, round which was a kind of ruff or frill. The sleeves of her gown came below the elbow. A large straw bonnet, high-heeled shoes, a large black silk cloak, trimmed with lace and a gold-headed cane, completed her everyday costume for around 80 years.
Her funeral consisted of a hearse and four, and two mourning carriages, containing Mr Anthony, of Clerkenwell, her executor and some relatives.
After her death, a witness recalled visiting the house and was shocked to find the number of bolts and bars fitted to the doors and windows. The ceiling of the upper floors lined with bars to prevent anyone getting into the property through the ceiling. The cinder ashes had not been removed for many years and were piled up as if to form beds.
Right, so we’ve finished with the fiction, let’s get down to the facts. The ODNB gave us a slightly cryptic clue that all may not be well the existing information about Jane, but it stopped short of following it through.
Had further investigation been carried out the clues contained in the 1846 book, The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk by Alfred Inigo Suckling would have been found. Suckling also placed Jane’s husband in a very wealthy family with links to the house of Cromwell.
Jane Vaughan, according to her burial at Bunhill Fields was buried as Jane Luson, not Lewson and was aged 96, not 117, making her birth closer to 1720, rather than 1700.
She did not marry until 21 July 1751, so if she had been born in 1700, then she must have been 51 when they married and in her sixties when she gave birth to three daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, Hepzibah and a son Robert (buried 1759). Her husband was Robert Luson, a very wealthy merchant from Great Yarmouth and the couple were married at St Mary-Le-Strand, Somerset House Chapel.
Robert had previously been married in Great Yarmouth, but his wife Hepzibah had died some years previously. Robert then died in 1769 almost 20 years after their marriage and left Jane well provided, but his estate Blundeston Hall he left to his eldest daughter, Maria, who married George Nicholls in 1778 and his other estates in Blundeston to his second daughter Hepzibah, who married Nathaniel Rix in 1777 and a further estate to his third daughter, Elizabeth who married Cammant Money in 1776.
There is one baptism which could feasibly be Jane’s, but we are unable to confirm that it is her. It is dated 3rd February 1720 and took place at the Temple Church, The Strand, London with the parents named as Thomas and Jane. Temple Church is only a few minutes’ walk away from St Clement Danes which Jane gave as her home parish when she married and Essex Street where she was reputed to have been born.
Jane did leave a will, dated 11th May 1816 in which she named her servant William Brunton who received many of the household belongings plus an annual payment for the remainder of his life and one or two friends, but no provision was made for any family members.
The Edinburgh Annual Register, Volume 9 edited by Walter Scott
Records of longevity: with an introductory discourse on vital statistics by Bailey, Thomas, 1785-1856
Clerkenwell News 08 November 1870
Lancaster Gazette 22 June 1816
Liverpool Mercury 28 June 1816
Fleet Street and Temple Bar by Samuel Scott. Courtesy of the Walker Art Gallery
In 1745, Joseph D’Acre of Kirklinton Hall in Cumbria, was one of His Majesty’s troops defending Carlisle Castle from the approaching Jacobite army. He had left his wife, Catherine and young children in the care of his father-in-law, Sir George Fleming, Bishop of Carlisle, and they were at Fleming’s Cumbrian estate, Rose Castle: Mrs D’Acre was in the late stages of pregnancy and about to be confined.
Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, also known as the Young Pretender, had raised his standard at Glenfinnan in the Highlands on the 19th August 1745 and many of the clans had gathered at his side. The prince claimed the thrones of Scotland and England in the name of his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender.
After taking Edinburgh – although not the castle – and vanquishing the government army at Prestonpans, the Highland army travelled south to invade England. One column reached the strategically important city of Carlisle on the 10th November 1745. They surrounded the city on the 13th and Carlisle Castle surrendered with surprisingly little resistance the next day. The men and garrison were allowed to leave a day or two later, on the condition that they did not bear arms against the bonnie prince’s army for twelve months (or, if they preferred, for a handsome bounty they could agree to be conscripted into the Highland army).
A letter to the newspapers, written in the aftermath of the Siege of Carlisle Castle, gave details of the marauding which had taken place in the immediate vicinity.
Hexham, Nov. 19th
I am sorry to tell you that CARLISLE is taken by the Rebels. They have plundered and destroyed all our Country. I was a Prisoner amongst them on Saturday sen’night, and made my escape from them with extream hazard of my life; I left them on Sunday sen’night. The Pretender’s son lay at my house all the last week. I left my brother and a servant maid to take care of my house; but they have destroy’d all my meat, drink, corn and hay…
Rose Castle lies a few miles south of Carlisle. On 15th November 1745, with her husband’s fate still in the hands of the Jacobite army, Catherine D’Acre went into labour and was delivered of a baby girl, who she named Rosemary. An hour after the birth, a company of Highlanders, led by a Captain Macdonald, arrived at the gates of Rose Castle, intending to plunder it of the plate and other valuables they had heard lay inside. A servant, old and grey-haired, bravely stopped the Scots and asked them not to venture inside, knowing that the new mother would be alarmed at their presence. Captain Macdonald asked when the lady had been confined and upon being told ‘within this hour’, he halted his men. The servant added, ‘They are just going to christen the infant’. Perhaps Rosemary was sickly at birth to warrant such a hasty, private baptism, hence the extra impetus to keep the troops from the door? Captain Macdonald swept off his bonnet and removed the white cockade from it, presenting the knot of ribbons to the old servant and saying, ‘Let her be christened with this cockade in her cap; it will be her protection now, and after, if any of our stragglers should come this way: we will await the ceremony in silence’.
The Highlanders withdrew to the coach-yard where beef, cheese and ale was sent out to them: after eating their fill they left without further disturbing mother and daughter.
The following year, on the 3rd November and shortly before her first birthday, Rosemary was publicly christened in the church at Kirklinton (as Mary D’Acre). Of course, in the first twelve months of Rosemary’s life, the Jacobite army had been defeated at Culloden (on the 16th April 1746), the survivors of that battle vanishing into the Highlands in the hope of outrunning the British troops who were ruthlessly hunting them down.
The white cockade was the symbol of the Jacobites, usually worn on a blue bonnet. There are a few myths and legends about this emblem, but it is often said to have come about because Bonnie Prince Charlie picked a wild, white rose and pinned it to his hat. The captain’s gift was preserved by the D’Acre family and, as an old lady, Rosemary recalled that:
My white cockade was safely preserved, and shewn to me from time to time, always reminding me to respect the Scotch, and the Highlanders in particular. I think I have obeyed the injunction, by spending my life in Scotland, and also by hoping at last to die there.
Rosemary, or Molly, as she was known to her friends and family, lived a long and happy life. In December 1777, at the age of 32, she married John Clerk of Penicuik (pronounced Pennycook) in Midlothian, Scotland, an officer in the navy and heir to the baronetcy of Penicuik.
Last week at Kirklington, in Cumberland, Capt. Clarke, to Miss Molly Dacre, daughter of Jos. Dacre, of that place, Esq; a young lady whose engaging temper and disposition, cannot fail of securing every wish’d for happiness in the marriage state.
In 1817, Rosemary sent an account of the particulars surrounding her birth to the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, in which they were published. She did so, she wrote, with infinite pleasure, ‘as it reflects great honour on the Highlanders, (to whom I always feel the greatest gratitude,) that at the time when their hearts were set on plunder, the fear of hurting a sick lady and child instantly stopped their intentions’.
The subject of our first biography, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, was descended from a lowland family who had served in the military during the 1700s. But on which side? To discover more, click here.
N.B. Joseph D’Acre was also known as Joseph D’Acre Appleby.
Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, volume 1
The History and Antiquities of Carlisle: with an Account of the Castle, Gentlemen’s Seats and Antiquities in the Vicinity and Biographical Memoirs of Eminent Men Connected with the Locality by Samuel Jefferson, 1838.
Elizabeth Morton was baptized May 4th May 1747 in the small, rural Nottinghamshire village of Misterton, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth. She had three siblings – Mary (25th September 1743), Thomas (25th Sept 1757) and Ann (1757).
When just 15 years old she had gained employment as a servant in the neighbouring village of Walkeringham, just over 2 miles from her home, for a farmer John Oliver and his wife Elizabeth née Clark. At that time the couple had three daughters:
Ann (baptized 12th October 1758);
Mary (baptized 7th June 1760);
Rebecca (baptized 20th May 1762)
Their son John (baptized 29th May 1763) was not born until after the incident in question.
On 10th August 1762, Elizabeth was committed to Nottingham county gaol, by Daniel Newton, one of the coroners. She was charged with the murder of an infant about two years of age, the daughter of John Oliver. The Leeds Intelligencer of 24th August 1762, reported that Elizabeth had strangled the child with her hands as it lay in the cradle. The newspaper also stated that:
there is too much reason to suspect, that this unhappy girl has murdered two other young children, in different places, where she was taken in to look after them. She is a stout made girl, has little to say for herself,can neither read nor write, and appears to be of a brutish disposition.
Some seven months later, on 10th March 1763 at the Nottingham Assizes, her trial for a capital offence began i.e. the murder of a two-year-old child and the attempted murder of another child, who survived and had recovered. Also for attempting the life of another of the children, whose neck she had almost twisted round, and hid it in some straw in the barn, where it was found by its mother struggling in the agonies of death. At her trial, Elizabeth claimed that she had been incited to commit the crime by a ‘gentleman in black’ who came to her during the night (alluding to it being the devil who made her commit the crime).
The Derby Mercury of 11th March 1763 described her as:
a most profligate harden’d young wretch, the reason she gives for such inhuman acts, is that the children were cross and troublesome. Execution was respited for the time being on account of her youth.
The Derby Mercury of 1st April 1763 noted her demise.
Yesterday Elizabeth Morton, a girl of only 16 years of age, was executed at Nottingham (being her Birth-Day) for the murder of her master’s daughter, a child of two years old, who liv’d at Walkeringham, near Gainsboro’. Her behaviour since she received a sentence of death has been decent. She never denied the fact but could give no satisfactory account of the motives that induc’d her to commit so shocking a crime. She was attended to the place of execution by a prodigious concourse of people where after the usual time spent in prayer with the minister, she was tuned off about one o’clock much frighted with the terrors of death.
After her death, her body was given to a surgeon of Calverton near Nottingham, to be dissected, then buried in a village near her home.
According to The annual register, or a view of the history, politicks, and literature, for the year 1763
‘… it is probable that she was an idiot …’
This would if proven, have been sufficient grounds for a pardon, the register gives no indication as to whether this was tested or not.
On a final note, having found the baptism records for John Oliver’s children there are also two corresponding burials at the time Elizabeth was charged with the murder of the two-year-old. Mary was buried on 5th August 1762, but there is also an entry for the burial of Rebecca who would have been a mere three months old on 3rd August 1762 – did she die from natural causes or was she also one of Elizabeth’s victims?
We are now approaching a fascinating tradition of well dressing. This is an annual event which takes places predominantly in villages throughout Derbyshire, but it is now also spreading to other parts of the country.
There are various ideas as to its origin varying from offering thanks to gods for a reliable water supply, to celebrating the purity of water to celebrating the waters constancy during a prolonged drought. It seems unlikely that the true origin will ever been established, but whatever its origin it is still very much alive and well today.
The village of Tissington, Derbyshire and its well-dressing or well-flowering as it was previously known, was one of the first that we came across in the Georgina era. This article in the Derby Mercury of 26 November 1823 sheds a little more light on the event.
Tissington ‘Well flowering’, Tissington, Nov 15th, 1823
TO THE EDITOR OF THE DERBY MERCURY
Sir, – Having a few days ago read in the Derby Mercury, some account relative to the above; I am induced with all deference to Mr. Rhodes, as the author, to submit to your notice a few particulars, therein omitted, which, tho’ trifling in themselves, will not, it is presumed, prove altogether uninteresting they form part of a letter, written by a youth at school, to his parents: –
During my residence in this village, I have been gratified by one of the most pleasing sights I ever beheld. I should much wish you to be present upon a similar occasion. I will, however, in the meantime, endeavour to give you something like a description of the festival to which I have alluded.
Holy Thursday, the time referred to, is observed here with an almost enthusiastic respect, amounting, in some instances, to a degree of veneration.
Perhaps, no part of the world is more peculiarly favoured by providence in the gift of good water than this village; and the above-mentioned day appears to have been fixed upon, by an almost immemorial custom, to make merry and return united thanks for the same, in the following impressive manner.
While the younger branches of the community are busily engaged in gathering flowers, moss etc. during the first part of the week, some few, of rather mature years, occupy themselves in preparing the Springs, or, as they are here called ‘Wells’, tho’ not exceeding in depth a foot and a half, to receive their annual decorations.
Arches, or other fancy shapes, are accordingly formed out of a strong plank, upon which, fine clay, worked to the consistence of stiff mortar, is spread, and the embroidering part, if I may be allowed the expression, commences.
Various tasteful devices are now sketched on the clay, upon which, short ellipt flowers, of diverse sorts and colours, among which, the blood daisy, from its rich velvet hue, is held in greatest esteem, are stuck thereon, so extremely close and regular that not the least atom of the ground-work can be seen; each Spring also a flower printed Motto, in allusion to the ascension of our Saviour. For instance
‘I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God’
St John, chapter 20, verse 17.
On the principal Well, May 16th 1822:
The joyous day at length arrives, ushered in by the ringing of bells, and smiling faces; the decorations are speedily erected over the wells, while garlands, bough etc. disposed in the most fantastic and fairy-like manner, embellish the whole.
And now, labourer, stand thou still ‘tis a holyday for all; the poorest peasant has contrived, out of his hard earnings, to brew a ‘peck of malt’ to treat the passing guest; all doors are thrown open, and all comers experience the English Farmer’s hearty welcome.
‘Around the glossy board in sparkling pride,
The oft fill’d Tankard reels’.
One particular which tho’ last not least, is, that an appropriate sermon is preached; after which the music and signers go around, accompanied by hundreds of visitors from many miles and sing a psalm at each Spring.
With regard to the origin of the above, I have not been able to gather any certain information; prevailing opinion however, dates its rise from the Druids; be that as it may, the custom, as practised at Tissington, far exceeds in beauty and chastity of style everything that is generally conceived of Village rusticity.
Just outside the village of Eyam, in the Peak District lies the village of Stoney Middleton where, according to folklore, in 1762 a young woman by the name of Hannah Baddeley, who was born in the late 1730s, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself over the cliff top.
This is her story as told by a somewhat over enthusiastic reporter for The Buxton Herald, some 80 years later the event, so read into it as you wish! We have tried to find references to the story closer to its time, but somehow the press of the day managed to miss this story, despite reporting similar ones, as you will see at the end.
Hannah Baddeley, a very beautiful young lady was greatly admired for the ardour of love which her incomparable charms created in the bosom of the village swains of Stoney Middleton, the place of her birth and residence. Amongst the many who sought to obtain the affections of the innocent young Hannah, was a young, intelligent man, named Baldwin, who, after countless visits had the happiness to think that his labour would be crowned with success. Enraptured with joy, Baldwin became even more assiduous until he beheld in ecstasy the unequivocal signs of reciprocal affection.
Humble in worldly circumstances, yet the loving couple felt all the blissful glow, the undefinable and delicious sensation of first, pure love. Often, they walked forth and enjoyed their lonely wandering a happiness that to them momentarily increased. The tangled walks along the rugged steeps which overhang the village of their homes, were as a paradise; their hearts were entwined round each other in all the glowing fervency of concentrated bliss.
Months passed away, yet the blissful sunshine of love, in which Baldwin and Hannah walked seemed to increase in glowing, fervent and deeply intoxicating splendor: they were happy and dreamed not of its transitory nature. Alas! Alas! experience tells us of countless instances, in which suns have risen in hope and glory, in which bright prospects of future happiness have been suddenly overshadowed and darkened by the sable shades of maddening disappointment, bitterly agonizing.
Inscrutable as are the operations of the human mind, still, from certain effects, it may be presumed that there is in reality a kind of similarly exiting between the immaterial portion of man, and the material things of the world. When any physical agent or instrument is exercised immoderately, it is soon destroyed; so with the mind, if any of its affections be excited to an unnatural height or pitch, it will, if not regulated in time, lose its zest, become in a manner paralyzed and decay.
The conduct of Baldwin might be instanced in corroboration of the opinion here advanced: for, strange and novel as it may appear, in about twelve months from the commencement of his love for the lovely Hannah, he relapsed gradually into a state of luke-warmness as respects his passion, and at length into total apathy. His visits became less frequent and soon ceased forever. But how was this borne by the lovely confiding Hannah she sank beneath the stroke with all the terrible anguish of a broken spirit. For hours she would sit gazing at the wall in silent stupefaction; then would burst forth a flood of tears bringing short solace. Hapless Hannah! Despair at length began to urge her to escape the bitter pangs she endured by self-destruction: terrible – awful remedy!
After a few months past in this deplorable condition, Hannah resolved to put period to her miserable existence by throwing herself from one of the highest rocks in Middleton dale, a resolution too horrible to contemplate. She repaired to the top of a towering rock early in the morning of the day following her resolution. Her bonnet and handkerchief she laid on an adjoining thorn, and with clasped hands and loose hair waving in the morning breeze, she passionately thus exclaimed
‘O my Baldwin, my Baldwin, false Baldwin, no I will not call thee false, my love, my life, thee whom I loved, I still love thee still. O my love, wilt thou not come to my grave and shed one tear to the memory of her who died for thee? I’ll bless thee again, my love, and then from this dizzy height I’ll cast myself and prove to thee and the world, my love is stronger than death. I sink, I go, my love, my love’.
Hannah sprang from the rock, which is upwards of eighty feet high, but incredible as it may seem, she fell upon a rocky projection, then among some thorns which then grew from the side of the rock, and reached the ground very little injured. The villagers were soon on the spot, and the rash maid was conveyed home, but the sense of her miraculous escape totally erased from her mind the maddening it of love under which she had laboured. She lived a few years after, unmarried and died after having spent that period in a pious and highly exemplary manner*. Such is a brief outline of the story which has been given the designation ‘Lover’s Leap’ to the high and romantic rock in Middleton Dale – a story well authenticated, as may be satisfactorily proved.
Not until the last line of the article does the author tells their readers that ‘the name Baldwin is assumed in consequence of the author not having any means at hand to ascertain the real name of Hannah’s lover‘. Quite why he came up with that name will remain a mystery!
As with any folklore story, newspapers over time have recorded events somewhat differently, some saying that her fall was broken by some small trees and when found she was taken home and gradually recovered from the serious injuries, although she was crippled as a result of the fall.
Other accounts say that she was found by workmen at the pit and when asked how she fell she said that she had been walking up the dale to fetch the cows and her foot slipped.
We know that Baldwin was not the real name of the gentleman, but other reports name him as Johnson and say that he was quite a charmer and told all the young girls the same story about how much he loved them, Hannah was, apparently, just one of many and that he moved on from the neighbourhood after this occurrence. According to reports locally however, the gentleman in question was in fact a William Barnsley.
This idea of young women throwing themselves off high cliffs after being rejected seems to have been somewhat more commonplace than you would have imagined, as there are several places named ‘Lover’s Leap’ around the country, all with similar stories as their origin. We’ve listed a few below, including one leap down the necessary!
* Although we have not been able to view the parish records for Stoney Middleton, another site appears to confirm Hannah’s burial on the 12th December 1764 and gives her parents’ names as William and Joan Baddeley.
Derbyshire Courier, 21 September 1878
The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, February 14, 1883
The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, Saturday, May 04, 1889
True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797
Featured Image (although not Georgian it shows exactly where Lover’s Leap is):
Lover’s Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum
A Jack-in-the-Green was once a traditional sight amongst English May Day celebrations. Dancing at the head of processions on the day, often noisy and drunk, the Jack-in-the-Green was a man who covered himself in a conical or pyramidal framework decorated with green foliage, concealing his body. He resembled a walking tree or bush. The parades were riotous affairs, usually consisting of a King and Queen (or a Lord and Lady) as well as the Jack-in-the-Green, together with jesters, clowns, chimney sweeps and musicians.
It is believed that the custom began from the tradition of making garlands of flowers for May Day and got a little out of hand, resulting in the Jack-in-the-Green being covered head to foot. Although no-one is too sure why the Jack-in-the-Green is usually associated with chimney sweeps. One theory is that it was the Sweeps Guilds who increasingly enlarged the size of the May Day garlands, hoping that the people watching the procession would give them their coins as they passed by rather than donate them to the other participants in the parade. (May Day was a traditional holiday for chimney sweeps; it is sometimes known as ‘Chimney Sweeper’s day’.) First recorded in London, Jack-in-the-Greens were soon appearing across the country.
Although Jack-in-the-Greens can still be seen in some town and village May Day celebrations, often associated now with the custom of the Green Man and signifying spring and rebirth, the custom largely died out in the Victorian era, replaced instead by a more sedate May Queen.
We’ve found some references to eighteenth-century May Day celebrations which include Jack-in-the-Greens in the newspapers. The earliest known reference dates to 1775.
Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his shady building by seven…
(Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 2nd May 1775)
May Day in London, 1786 was awash with events which caused the newspapers to take note. Warren Hastings, statesman and first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, India was facing questions by government ministers over his role in the Maratha War, Frances Lewis stood trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Ann Rose and a Jack-in-the-Green merrily cantered through the London streets.
Yesterday being the first of May, several curious Circumstances took Place. – The Sweeps and Milkmaids, with Jack o’ th’ Green, danced through the Streets – Mr. Hastings appeared at the Bar of the House of Commons to defend his Cause, though no Impeachment is yet made out – And a Woman tried a the Old-Bailey for the Murder of another Woman, was found guilty of Manslaughter.
(Northampton Mercury, 6th May 1786)
Yesterday being the 1st of May, the Honourable Mrs. Montague entertained the Chimney-sweepers according to annual custom, with roast beef, mutton, and baked plumb-pudding, in the lawn of her house in Portman-square, and after their regale gave them each a shilling. Mrs. Montague appeared in good spirits among the Nobility whom she invited to see the motley company. The outside of the place was thronged with people, carriages, and carts; among the latter several broke down by being overloaded with spectators. The Duchess of York, in her curricle, stopped some time, and seemed highly delighted with the Jacks in the Green, the pyramids of tankards, and the dancing of the sweeps and their ladies on the lawn.
(Staffordshire Advertiser, 6th May 1797)
We’ll leave you with this video of a modern day Jack-in-the-Green, from the May Day Festival at Hastings in 2016.
Sources not mentioned above:
Jack in the Green – a chimney sweep’s tale by Lucy Lilliman, Social History intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2013
The Company of the Green Man – The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green
Punch or May Day by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1829; Tate;
Yes, this is folklore, unless anyone can confirm otherwise, and no, we are not talking about the small furry creature kind of moles! These are often referred to as birth marks or beauty marks and judging back the lack of images we have been able to find depicting people with moles, it seems likely that the artists of the day possibly ignored these.
According to ‘Every lady’s own fortune-teller, or an infallible guide to the hidden decrees of fate, being a new & regular system for foretelling future events’ which was published towards the end of the 1700s, experience shows that the presence of moles can provide clues as to one’s future. So do let us know if you have a mole and if the statement pertaining to it is true – we would love to know.
First it is necessary to know the size of the mole, its colour, whether it is perfectly round, oblong or angular because each of those will add to, or diminish the force of the indication. The larger the mole, the great will be the propensity or adversity of the person; the smaller the mole, the less will be his good or bad luck.
If the mole is round, it forebodes good; if oblong, a moderate share of fortunate events; if angular, it indicates a mixture of good and evil.
The deeper its colour, the more it announces favour or disgrace; the lighter the less of either.
If it is very hairy, much misfortune is to be expected, but if few long hairs grow upon it, it denotes that your undertakings will be prosperous.
We will further remark only, that moles of the middling and common size and colour are those we speak; the rest may be gathered from what we have said above; but as it may frequently happen that modesty will sometimes hinder persons from showing their moles, you must depend upon their own representation of the for your opinion.
A mole that stands on the right side of the forehead or right temple, signifies that the person will arrive to sudden wealth and honour.
On the right eyebrow, announces speedy marriage, and that the person to whom you will be married will possess many amiable qualities and a good fortune. On the left of either of those three places, announces unexpected disappointment in your most sanguine wishes.
A mole on the outside corner of either eye, denotes the person to be of a steady, sober and sedate disposition; but will be liable to a violent death.
A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty.
A mole on the nose, shows that the person will have good luck in most of his or her undertakings.
A mole on the lip, either upper or lower proves the person to be fond of delicate things, and very much given to the pleasures of love, in which he or she will commonly be successful.
A mole on the chin, shows that the person will be attended with great propensity and be highly esteemed.
A mole of the side of the neck show that the person will narrowly escape suffocation, but afterwards rise to great consideration by an unexpected legacy or inheritance.
A mole on the throat denotes that the person shall become rich by marriage.
A mole on the right breast, declares the person to be exposed to a sudden reverse of comfort to distress, by unavoidable accidents; most of his children will be girls. A mole on the left breast, signifies success in undertakings, an amorous disposition and that most of his children will be boys. Under the left breast over the heart shows that a man will be of a warm disposition, unsettled in mind, fond of ramblings, and light in his conduct; in a woman, it shows sincerity in love, quick conception and easy travail in childbirth.
A mole of the belly denotes the person to be addicted to sloth and gluttony; selfish in almost all articles and seldom inclined to be nice or careful in point of dress.
A mole on either hip shows that the person will have many children and that such of them a survive will be healthy, lusty and patient of hardships.
A mole of the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and have good luck in marriage. On the left, denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends.
A mole on the right knee, signifies that the person will be fortunate in the choice of a partner for life and meet with few disappointments in the world. One on the left knee portends that the person will be rash, inconsiderate and hasty, but modest in cool blood, honest and inclined to good behaviour in every sense of the word.
A mole on either ankle denotes a man to be inclined to effeminacy and elegance of dress: a woman to be courageous, active and industrious.
A mole on either foot forebodes sudden illness or unexpected misfortune.
A mole on the right shoulder signifies prudence, discretion and wisdom. On the left, declares a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.
A mole on the right arm denotes vigour and undaunted courage; on the left resolution in battle.
A mole near either elbow denotes restlessness, a roving and unsteady temper, also a discontentedness with those the person is obliged to live constantly with.
A mole between the elbow and the wrist promises the person prosperity, but not until he has undergone many hardships.
A mole on the finger or between it and the ends of the fingers, signifies industry, fidelity and conjugal affection.
A mole on any part of the shoulders to the loins signifies imperceptible decline and gradual decay, whether of health or wealth.
A mole on the loins shows vigour, especially in the duties of love.
A Fortune-Teller, Joshua Reynolds, Courtesy of English Heritage, Kenwood
We came across a book written in 1790 entitled The Universal Fortune Teller and concerning a gipsy, Mother Bridget of Norwood, one of the infamous Norwood gipsies who died in 1768. The Norwood gipsies lived in the area now known as Gipsy Hill. The book gives us a description of Mother Bridget along with details of fortune-telling, some of which we can share with you.
According to the book, Mother Bridget’s parents died when she was young and she was left to raise herself and managed to support herself by begging. She gained knowledge of the solar system by spending her nights, when it was clear, considering the stars as the greatest astrologers had done and this gave her a great knowledge of the weather, the alterations of the air and the effect it had. With her knowledge and understanding, she advised local farmers about growing crops and they would seek her out for her opinion as to when to they should sow their seeds for the best crop yield.
She was described as a solitary person, preferring to avoid noise and society in general which initially led to her being ridiculed, but eventually, she gained respect.
Her fame began to spread and her presence became universal, other people apart from farmers and her neighbours consulted her and the truth of her predictions made her veracity gain ground and she became the topic of conversation of the politest circles, many of whom came to consult her, and as she never asked for money so the unbounded generosity of those who applied to her oracle put her in possession of money more than sufficient to keep her.
As she grew older she became increasingly fond of animals, who were her chief companions and she was said to have hundreds of them. Dogs and cats were her main companions during her retirement. She was exceedingly fond of pipe tobacco and was continually smoking. Ultimately though, as a result of sitting for such long periods of time her body became almost doubled, which, together with her enormous length of nose and chin, her pipe and the number of animals about her, made her cut a most hideous figure and appeared rather terrifying to those who were not apprised of it.
Though this famous old woman had never been taught to write, yet by long practice, she had developed a system of hieroglyphics in which she recorded her observations, knowledge and remarks. The author of the book took Mother Bridget’s hieroglyphics and converted them into English. The remainder of the book consists of:
Fortune telling by use of the planets, cards and dice etc
Interpretation of dreams
A brief prognostication concerning children born on any day of the week
And amongst many other things the art of palmistry.
Now, be honest, you did look at your own hand after viewing this image didn’t you? We did! To find out more about any of these topics we recommend taking a peek at the book itself which can be read for free, online.
The Norwood gipsies became synonymous with that area, so much so that in 1777 a pantomime was written about them and was performed at Covent Garden Theatre for many years.
Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Monday, November 24, 1777.
Ladies and Gentlemen who have places for the 7th night of the new comic opera will please observe it will on Wednesday next. Tomorrow the tragedy of Sir Thomas Overbuy, to which was be added a new pantomime (never performed) called the Norwood Gipsies, which new music, scenes, machinery decorations etc.
Following one from one of our earlier posts about the colour green, we find ourselves once again on the same topic. This time, however, it is about an English eccentric: Henry Cope aka The Green Man. It is reported that Henry loved anything and everything green. This extract about Henry comes from The Omnium Gatherum, 1809.
The Green Man at Brighton – Amongst the visitors this season is an original, or would-be original, generally known by the appellation of ‘The Green Man’. He is dressed in green pantaloons, green waistcoat, green frock, green cravat and though his ears, whiskers, eye-brows and chin are better powdered than his head, which is, however, covered with flour, his countenance, no doubt, from the reflection of his clothes, is also green. He eats nothing but greens, fruits and vegetables; has his apartments painted green, and furnished with green sofa, green chairs, green tables, green bed and green curtains. His gig, his livery his portmanteau, his gloves and his whips, are all green. With a green silk handkerchief in his hand and a large watch chain with green seals, fastened to the green buttons of his green waistcoat he parades every day on the Steyne, Brighton.
He became so famous that a verse was written about him, also contained in the above book.
A spruce little man, in a doublet of green,
Perambulates daily the streets and the Steyne;
Green stripe is his waistcoat, his small-clothes are green,
And oft round his neck, a green ‘kerchief is seen;
Green watch-strings, green seals, and for certain I’ve heard,
(Tho’ they’re powder’d) green whiskers, and eke a green beard!
Green garters, green hose, and, deny it who can,
The brains too are green, of the little Green Man!
Virtually nothing seems to be known of his early life, but many tall tales were told about him. Henry was reputed to have been a descendant of Sir John Cope, owner of Bramshill House, Hampshire (later Bramshill Police College) and Henry’s ghost is one of many said to haunt the house. The Morning Advertiser (10 October 1806) however, claimed that The Green Man was a student of Lincoln’s Inn, his mental faculties deranged by intense study, and a near relative of the Duchess of Dorset, Arabella Diana née Cope, daughter of Sir Charles Cope, 2nd Baronet. Others said that he had lost his wits over his love for a beautiful woman. Perhaps she was the Crazy Jane mentioned in this snippet?
Morning Post, 13 October 1806
An interesting young female, in whimsical attire, resembling the costume of the time of Queen ELIZABETH, appeared on Friday evening on the Steyne, at Brighton, in quest, as she said, ‘of the “Knight of the Green Man, who had stolen the wits of Crazy Jane.” She, however, precipitately retired to her residence, before the crowd around her could increase.
A portrait on the Sotheby’s website supposedly shows Henry Cope, The Green Man, as a young man c.1765-1770, identifying him as one of the family of Cope of Bramshill House and holding a ring. The catalogue notes suggest that possibly the portrait was commissioned to mark the sitter’s marriage, but no record of a marriage exists. What happened to Henry Cope’s bride-to-be? Perhaps this might also be a clue to his mental affliction? The artist was Francis Cotes who died in 1775.
His fame soon spread, and the London newspapers continued to run stories, laughing at his expense.
Morning Advertiser, 16 October 1806
The servant of the Green Man at Brighton arrived yesterday in town, at the Green Man and Still in Oxford-street, for the purpose of contracting with an eminent Poulterer to supply him constantly with green geese at any price at which they can be obtained. The Physicians have pronounced that the unfortunate man is afflicted with the green sickness.
(A green goose is one which is killed when under four months old, and eaten without any stuffing, and hypochromic anaemia was, historically, referred to as ‘the green sickness’.)
Henry Cope’s death is often said to have taken place in 1806 as a result of either committing suicide or accidentally falling off a cliff in Brighton. The newspapers of the day suggest that such an event occurred, but he did not die as a result of it.
Staffordshire Advertiser, 01 November 1806
Last Saturday morning, a little after six o’clock, the gentleman and other eccentricities (exhibited on the Steine, at Brighton, for several weeks past) had obtained the appellation of The Green Man, leaped from the window of his lodgings on the South Parade, into the street, ran from thence to the verge of the Cliff nearly opposite, and threw himself over the precipice to the beach below. Several persons immediately ran to his assistance, and carried him, bleeding at the mouth and ears back to his lodging. The height of the Cliff from whence he precipitated himself is about 20 feet perpendicular; but whether his fall has proved dangerous we have not yet heard. From the general demeanour of the above gentleman it is supposed he is deranged. His name, we understand is Henry Cope, and that he is related to some highly-distinguished family.
Morning Post, 24 October 1806
The Green Man of Brighton has received no serious injury from his late accident, though it has effected some change in his colour – for he has ever since looked rather blue.
Several newspapers related that The Green Man had fancied that there was a serious riot in progress and that his presence was needed to quell the disturbance. The person in whose house he was living travelled to London, to contact Cope’s friends and ensure his future safety (Morning Post, 22 October 1806). It would seem, therefore, that the unfortunate Henry Cope lived primarily in London, and his friends did indeed take measures to prevent him from harming himself again for he found himself in St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London.
Almost a year later, according to the Morning Advertiser of 5th September 1807, he was still alive but presumably in dire straits.
This day an auction at Fisher’s Rooms, St James’s Street, excited much attention. It consisted of the wearing apparel, gold watch, chain and seals, and other effects belonging to the well-known character, Mr. Henry Cope, commonly called The Green Man, taken in execution for board, lodgings etc. Most of the articles of dress were sold far below their original value and real worth. They were purchased by some of the most respected people, more for curiosities than for use. A full green suit, not much the worse for wear, and consisting of coat, pantaloons, and waistcoat were knocked down at 1l 6s; another green coat and pantaloons, of somewhat a darker hue, went off at 6s 6d; and a green great coat, of exactly the same tinge, at 1l, 12s. The chapeau de bras, which had been so often and anxiously gazed at by all the fashionable fair upon the Steyne, and public promenades during last season, was disposed of at the moderate rate of one guinea; and for the same amount also went off the miniature set in gold of the beautiful Dulcinea, for whom it is said this unfortunate gentleman has gone mad. It is reported that he is at present in that unhappy state in St. Luke’s hospital, London. The most valuable article, however, disposed of upon this occasion, was a gold repeater, with its chain and seal, which originally cost Mr. Cope 188 guineas. Upon the seal was beautifully engraven the arms and supporters of Earl Vernor, the title this insane Gentleman thought to assume. In the inside of the watch were also engraven ‘the Right Hon. H. Cope, Earl Vernor’ but not withstanding these claims to rank and high estimation, it was sold at the reduced price of 39l 7s 6d. Such are the bargains to be got at Brighton. If sold in London these articles would, no doubt, from the eccentricity of the character to whom they once belonged have brought double the sum.
We have searched as many places as we can think of to locate his death and burial, but all in vain. If anyone out there has any luck please do let us know.
There have always been rumours of mermaids and mermen in the seas, and these appear to have been seen on a fairly regular basis during the eighteenth-century with the newspapers so helpfully providing us with detailed descriptions of such creatures. We will leave our readers to judge for themselves whether any of these accounts could have even a grain of truth.
Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post, Saturday, August 31, 1717
Letters from Leghorn of the 15th tell us that there has been seen in those seas a terrible mermaid or rather merman; that it shows itself at least 13 or 14-foot-high above the water; but if any boat or vessel makes towards it, then it makes a strange frightful noise and plunges into the sea. Several that have been it represent it as the most hideous monster that has ever been seen in the world.
Dublin Journal, Tuesday, October 12, 1725
Some particular advices from Brest, in France say that on that coast has lately appeared a strange sort of sea monster, in the form of a man, eight-foot-high call’d a merman; his teeth are white as ivory, he hath black curl’d hair, flat nose and in other members proportionable to his stature without deformity.
Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer (London, England), Saturday, December 11, 1725 provides a somewhat lengthy and detailed description of the merman, sadly there seems to be no evidence of any of the people named actually existing – unless you know otherwise, if so, we would love to hear from you.
The wind being easterly, we had thirty fathoms of water, when at ten o’clock in the morning a sea-monster like a man appeared near our ship; first on the larboard where the mate was, whose name is William Lomone, who took a grappling iron to pull him up: but our captain named Oliver Morin, hindered him, being afraid that the monster would drag him away into the sea. They said Lomone struck him only on the back to make him turnabout, that he might view him the better. The monster being struck, showed his face, having his two hands closed, as if he had expressed some anger. Afterwards he went round the ship. When he was at the stern he took hold of the helm with both hands and we were obliged to make it last, lest he should damage it. From thence he proceeded to the starboard, swimming still as men do. When he came to the forepart of the ship he viewed for some time the figure that was in our prow, which represented a beautiful woman; and then he rose out of the water, as if he had been willing to catch that figure. All this happened in sight of the whole crew. Afterwards he came again to the larboard, where they presented to him a codfish banging down with a rope. He handled it without spoiling it and then remove the length of cable and came again to the stern where he took hold of the helm a second time.
At that very moment, Captain Morin got a harping iron ready and took it himself to strike him with it, but the cordage being entangled he missed his aim and the harping iron touched only the monster, who turned about sowing his face as he had done before. Afterwards he came again to the fore part and viewed again the figure. The mate called for the harping iron but he was frightened fancying that this monster was one La Commune, who had killed himself in the ship the year before and had been thrown into the sea in the same passage. He was contented to push his back against the harping iron and the monster showed his face as he had done at other times.
Afterwards he came along the board so that one might have given him the hand. He had the boldness to take a rope held up by John Mazier and John Dessiere who being willing to pluck it out of his hands, drew him to our board and rising out of the water to the navel we observed that his breast was as large as that of a woman of the best plight. He turned upon his back and appeared to be a male. Afterwards he swam again round the ship and then went away; we have never seen him since.
I believe that from 10 o’clock till 12 that this monster was along our board, if the crew had not been frightened he might have been taken many times with the hand being only two feet distant.
The monster is about eight-foot-long: his skin is brown and tawny without any scales. All his motions are like those of men; the eyes of a proportionate size, a little mouth, a large and flat nose, very white teeth, black hair, the chin covered with a mossy beard, a sort of whiskers under the nose, the ears like those of men, fins between the fingers and toes of his hands and feet, like those of ducks. Which is certified to be true by Captain Oliver Morin, John Martin, pilot and the whole crew consisting of two and thirty men.
Common Sense or The Englishman’s Journal, Saturday, July 29, 1738 (we’re loving the title of the publication in light of the subject matter!). It provides us with a completely different description of a merman.
4 feet and a half in length, having a body much resembling that of a man, with a genital member of considerable size; together with jointed legs and feet extending from his belly 12 or 13 inches, with fins at this thighs and larger ones, like wings in the form of which those angels are often painted, at his shoulders, with a broad head of very uncommon form, a mouth 6 inches wide, smellers, or kind of whiskers at his nostrils, and two spout holes behind his eyes through which he ejected water when take 30 or 40 feet high.
And for our final offering we have, from the Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal), Saturday, May 5, 1739 the following:
They write from Vigo in Spain that some fishermen took on that coast a sort of monster, or merman, 5 feet and a half from its foot to its head, which is like that of a goat. It has a long beard and mustachoes, a back skin somewhat hairy; a very long neck, short arms and hands longer and bigger than they ought to be in proportion to the rest of the body; long fingers, like those of a man with nail like claws; very long toes join’d like the feet of a duck and the heels furnish’d with fins resembling the winged feet with which the painters represent Mercury. It has also a fin at the lower end of its back, which is 12 inches long and 15 or 16 broad.
We came across this curious case in the British Mercury or Annals of History, Politics, Manner, Literature and the Arts 1788 and thought we would share it with you.
A few months since some extraordinary particulars were given in this paper relating to the daughter of Mr. Capon, a considerable farmer at Silsoe, in Bedfordshire, discharging from her stomach 52 brass pins, a pincushion stuck with pins and needles, a pair of small scissors, with an iron chain etc.
The strange propensity of this child to swallow the above and various other indigestible substances, was by the ignorant attributed to the power of witchcraft and a man named Saunders, a gardener at Silsoe, was reprobated as a wizard and was accused of having exerted his diabolical influence over Mr. Capon’s daughter.
About eight years ago Mr. Saunders and his wife were ducked at Silsoe till they were nearly drowned, on the supposition that one was a witch and the other a wizard.
About a month since the above mentioned Saunders died, and Mr. Capon’s daughter having, through the assistance of the Faculty much recovered in health, the ridiculous notion that her singular conduct was the effect of the super-natural agency of Saunders is amazingly strengthened; for though since April the child had been gradually recovering from a very ill state of health, the untaught multitude obstinately insist that the favourable change is but the natural consequence of the death of Saunders, who notwithstanding the strong prejudice against him was, by the more rational part of his neighbours always considered as an industrious, inoffensive man. Not only in Bedfordshire, but in many other parts of the Kingdom, the absurd notion of the power of witchcraft is as strongly prevalent as at Yatton, Bristol or any part of Somersetshire.
The case also attracted interested from the media with the national ones giving similar accounts, some stating that the child had to be watched day and night in case she decided to start eating other things not designed for human consumption. We have done some research to try to find out who the child was and so far no luck, so if any of our readers have any luck in tracing her please do let us know. The wizard aka Mr Saunders could have been Thomas Saunders who was buried on 22nd April 1788 at Southill, Bedfordshire but apart from that there don’t appear to be another possible match, so if those names mean anything to any of our readers please do let us know, we’d love to find out whether there was any truth in the story.
The British Mercury Or Annals of History, Politics, Manners, Literature, Arts Etc. of the British Empire, Volume 6, Issues 27-39, 1788
We thought today we would take a look at newspaper reports about these furry felines and were quite surprised by the articles we found, so here we go, were they fact or merely folklore, please don’t ask us to verify the truth behind any of them!
The Sun, 1st January 1795
A few days ago a cat kept by Mr. Wood, boatman, at Sleaford, produced a kitten with two heads and two tails, which was remarkably strong and lively and sucked alternately with each head, till puss, displeased with the monster she had brought forth, set her teeth and talons to work and killed it, and that after she had suckled it for two days and two nights.
On the 30th October 1799, The Observer wrote the following:
Mr. Bowle, tool-maker of Ipswich, has a cat of the tortoise-shell kind, which last week produced a fine male kitten marked in like manner. This we believe to be the first instance of a male cat of this colour on record.
WRONG … Mr Bowle would have been out of luck as one was reported to have been born over 20 years earlier according to the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of August 29th, 1776:
So do any of our readers know when the first male tortoiseshell cat appeared?
On the 24th October 1800, The London Packet, returned us to Ipswich with this article
Thursday a gentleman in this town bought a cod fish; on dressing it, a kitten and crab were found in its belly. It was afterwards cooked, but those who knew the circumstance preferred something else for dinner.
On the 25th April 1798, The London Packet wrote that:
On Thursday last a cat in the Groat Market, Newcastle, brought forth a kitten of the following curious description: – It has eight legs and four ears, two of the latter are close together upon the top of the head, the others in the usual places. From the middle backwards, it separates and has all the parts complete of two, one male and the other female. The foreparts are those of a single animal, except the ears and legs.
Our final offering really does defy belief. It is taken from Stuart’s Star and Evening Telegraph, 17th April 1789.
Dr. Falconer, an eminent physician of Bath, has lately made a discovery that will astonish all mankind. The Horse of Knowledge, the Stone eater or the Learned Pig, will now be thought trifling, as the doctor has fallen upon a method to learn a cat to perform all the actions of a human being!
The doctor has always been very fond of this ferocious animal. If ever he hears that a cat is with kitten, he attends her carefully twice a day and administers such medicines as he thinks may operate favourably; and, though in this human practice he has often been received in a scratching manner, yet his perseverance is unalterable.
At present he has a cat tutored to such perfection that it dresses his hair, writes letters, prepares medicine, and some persons say he will soon learn it to wait on his patients.
He however, does not intend to make any public show of this surprising creature … but has in contemplation to set up a school to teach cats and to advertise places for them; and there is no doubt but their qualifications will be very extraordinary.
Our final painting is a rather ‘cute’ one by James Northcote which was, according to The Oracle and Public Advertiser painted around 23rd July 1795:
Northcote, the painter, is occupied upon a very difficult subject, the visitation to Balaam…the same artist has produced a beautiful portrait of a girl with a kitten.
Header image: The Sense of Touch by Philippe Mercier, 1744-1747
In our last blog we told the tale of an eighteenth-century ghost who helped a girl find a hoard of buried coins beneath the stone flags on the floor of her cottage. Today we discuss another ghost who initially seemed equally as helpful, but this one was bent on revealing a murderer rather than a treasure trove and was not what it initially seemed.
The report was circulated in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, dated the 18th March 1762, and began with the following notice:
The Public having for some Time past been impos’d on with so many sham Ghosts, (which credulous People are apt to place too much Belief in), the following may not be disagreeable to the Generality of our Readers.
This referred to the recent controversy in London over the Cock Lane ghost, a supposed haunting carried out by ‘Scratching Fanny’ the dead common-law wife of William Kent, but one really perpetrated by Elizabeth Parsons, the daughter of a man who had recently had a dispute with Kent.
But, to return to our tale…
On a dark night, a farmer’s wife lay tossing and turning, her worry for her missing husband keeping her awake. He had gone to the market at Southam, a small market town about 6 miles south-east of Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, and should have been home hours before. Early the next morning there was a knock at her door.
The farmer’s wife found a man standing there who asked her if her husband had returned the previous evening. She replied in the negative and told him that she ‘was under the utmost Anxiety and Terror on that Account’. The man gave a startling reply.
Your Terror, said he, cannot equal mine, for last Night, as I lay in Bed, quite awake, the Apparition of your Husband appeared to me, shewed me several ghastly Stabs in his Body, told me he had been murthered [sic] by [here he named the individual], and his Carcase thrown into such a Marle-Pit.
The man at the door had named both the murderer and the pit and, after the alarm had been raised, the pit searched and the unfortunate farmer’s body found, the man named by the ghost was arrested. The wounds on the body matched the account given by the ghost and it appeared that the farmer had returned to give evidence against the man who had taken his life.
So thought the men who had taken the murderer into custody, and so thought the jury when the case came to trial at Warwick before the Lord Chief Justice Raymond, all convinced by the evidence said to have been given by the deceased who had helpfully pointed the finger at his murderer and saved them the bother of finding him themselves. They were all set to convict the man accused of the crime until the Judge checked them and spoke to them.
I think, Gentlemen, you seem inclined to lay more Stress on the Evidence of an Apparition, than it will bear. I cannot say that I give much Credit to these Kind of Stories, but be that as it will, we have no right to follow our own private Opinions here. We are now in a Court of Law, and must determine according to it; and I know not of any Law now in being which will admit of the Testimony of an Apparition; not yet if it did, doth the Ghost appear to give Evidence.
The Judge instructed the Crier to call for the Ghost, which he did – three times. Perhaps predictably, the ghost of the murdered farmer neglected to appear in the courtroom.
The Judge continued to address the jury. He pointed out that the man who stood accused of the crime had an unblemished character up to that point, that no cause of a quarrel or grudge between him and the deceased man could be discerned. The Judge gave his verdict.
I do believe him to be perfectly innocent; and, as there is no Evidence against him either positive or circumstantial, he must be acquitted.
Then the Judge pointed his finger at another man in the courtroom, the man who had seen the apparition and had repeated the tale to the poor farmer’s widow.
But from many Circumstances which have arose during the Trial, I do strongly suspect that the Gentleman, who saw the Apparition, was himself the Murtherer [sic]; in which case he might easily ascertain the Pit, the Stabs, &c. without any supernatural Assistance; and on such Suspicion I shall think myself justified in committing him to close Custody, till the Matter can be further enquired into.
With the man in custody, a warrant was granted to search his house and strong proofs of his guilt were discovered. Faced with these he confessed to the murder and was executed for his crime at the next Assize.
The report in the newspaper ended with the following cautionary words – something to bear in mind if you are visited this Halloween.
It is hoped that this simple Relation of a Matter of Fact, now on Record, will be a sufficient Caution to others, not to be over hasty in giving Credit to the Testimony of Apparitions.
Robert Raymond, 1st Baron Raymond (1673 – 1733) was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1725, and held that position until his death in 1733. Although this story has been oft repeated we can find no mention of it before 1762, some twenty-nine years after Raymond’s death.
As Halloween draws near, we thought we’d take a look this week at a couple of helpful (in their own spectral way) eighteenth-century ghosts.
Our first is a ghost that directed the girl it was haunting to a considerable fortune – one we’d all probably be inclined to welcome this Halloween! The Leeds Intelligencer, 3rd July 1764, reported on the story. In the village of Uppingham in Rutland an eighteen year old girl, the daughter of Cornelius Nutt, began to receive visits from a ghost who spoke to her.
Cornelius, or rather Thomas Cornelius Nutt, had married Ann Smyth on Christmas Eve 1741 at St Michael’s in Cambridge and they had a large family with their first few children born at Oakham before they moved to Uppingham. If the girl who saw the ghost was around eighteen years of age she must have been Cornelius’ second child and eldest daughter, Ann, named for her mother and baptised at Oakham on the 1st September 1745.
The ghost informed Miss Ann Nutt that something of value was hidden within her house and when she told her father he had some of the flagstones in the floor of their cottage taken up but nothing was found. The ghost kept on appearing though, and so the girl persuaded a man who was working nearby to take up one particular flagstone (we know not why that certain one – perhaps the ghost had directed her a bit more closely, obviously slightly exasperated with her father’s poor attempt) and when they dug under it they found a black pot. The pot, when opened, was found to contain almost two hundred ancient silver coins.
Cornelius Nutt took possession of the coins and, despite being offered a guinea a piece for them, he intended to take them to London to sell them for a higher value.
The newspaper article ended with a word of caution from the author to Ann and the helpful ‘ghost’:
We would advise this girl, as well as the ghost, to keep their conversation to themselves lest they should both be brought into Westminster-hall.
The British Numismatic Society, in its ‘Additions and Corrections to Thompson’s Inventory and Brown and Dolley’s Coin Hoards, Part 1’ by H.E. Manville, and concerning post-Roman coin hoards, mentions the one found by Ann Nutt and speculates that the coins were English silver and quotes the Gentleman’s Magazine of June 1764.
Friday, 22 June. Near 200 pieces of antient [sic] silver coin being discovered at the house of Cornelius Nutt at Uppington [sic] in Rutlandshire, a report was spread that the man’s daughter had been informed of the place where they were hid in a dream. Be that as it may, some of these coins are said to be very valuable.
Watch out for our next blog later this week for part two and another helpful ghost.
Traditionally, on May Day, people danced around a maypole erected for the purpose, and although this custom was becoming less popular in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century, it was still adhered to by some.
(Derby Mercury, 22nd May 1772)
We hear from Quarndon in Leicestershire, that the young People of that Village, on Old May Day last, erected a lofty Maypole richly adorned with Garlands, &c. which drew together a great Number of the younger Sort to dance round it, and celebrate with Festivity the Return of the Summer Season. Amongst the rest was a Body of young Fellows from Loughbro’, who formed a Plot to carry off the Maypole; which they executed at Night, and removed it to the Middle of the Market-Place at Loughbro’, a Monument of Pride to the Loughbro’ Lads, but which may be the Cause of Mischief and Bloodshed; for the Heroes of Quarndon vow Revenge and are forming Alliances with the Neighbours of Barrow and Sheepshead, and give out they will soon march in a Body to retake their favourite Maypole: In the mean Time the Loughbro’ Youths keep a good Look out, and are determined to preserve Possession of their Spoils.
Male and female couples danced around the maypole, holding and entwining lengths of brightly coloured ribbons, having first set out at dawn to gather garlands and boughs with which to decorate it.
On Monday last at Cheriton, near Alresford, the usual pastime of Maying commenced, where a Maypole was erected in commemoration of the day, and in the afternoon the sons and daughters of May, dressed in a very appropriate manner for the occasion, accompanied by a band of music, proceeded to a commodious bower, composed of green boughs, garlands of flowers, &c. erected for dancing; it was attended by upwards of 50 couple of the most respectable people in the neighbourhood, till the evening. This festive amusement was repeated the next day, with the same order, and, if possible, with greater spirit, as many more genteel couples were added to the gay circle, and the dancing was kept up to a late hour, when, after playing the national air of “God save the King,” the company separated with the greatest harmony and good humour.
(Hampshire Chronicle, 8th May 1815)
Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on the evening of the 9th November 1800, from their family home in Steventon in Hampshire, giving her the local news and the fate of their village maypole.
We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the forepart of this day . . . One large Elm out of two on the left hand side, as you enter what I call the Elm walk was likewise blown down, the Maypole bearing the weathercock was broke in two, and what I regret more than all the rest is that all three Elms which grew in Hall’s meadow and gave such ornament to it are gone.
The American author Washington Irving (1783-1859) recounted his memories of May Day in the early nineteenth-century whilst he was visiting England.
Still I look forward with some interest to the promised shadow of old May-day, even though it be but a shadow; and I feel more and more pleased with the whimsical, yet harmless hobby of my host… I shall never forget the delight I felt on first seeing a May-pole. It was on the banks of the Dee, close by the picturesque old bridge that stretches across the river from the quaint little city of Chester. I had already been carried back into former days by the antiquities of that venerable place; the examination of which is equal to turning over the pages of a black-letter volume, or gazing on the pictures of Froissart. The May-pole on the margin of that poetic stream completed the illusion. My fancy adorned it with wreathes of flowers, and peopled the green bank with all the dancing revelry of May-day. The mere sight of this May-pole gave a glow to my feelings, and spread a charm over the country for the rest of the day; and as I traversed a part of the fair plain of Cheshire, and the beautiful borders of Wales, and looked from among swelling hills down a long green valley, through which “the Deva wound its wizard stream,” my imagination turned all into a perfect Arcadia.
Many people in Nottinghamshire will have travelled past the stone marking Elizabeth Sheppard’s death in 1817 and not even noticed it as it is now hidden in the undergrowth. As a teenager I passed the stone every day on my way to school but never really knew anything about who she was or why there was a stone there, but I had heard about her ghost that was said to haunt the A60 where she died with reports of motorists stopping to offer a girl a lift, when she simply disappeared.
The story was well documented at the time and has continued to fascinate ever since. Stories normally only make it onto our blog if they contain at least one new fact, however, we have made an exception in this case as it’s such a tragic story that we think will be of interest and also quite simply because we can!
Newspapers of the day described the girl in this story as Elizabeth Shepherd, not Sheppard which seems strange that they should have got her name wrong in such an important trial. There was a baptism in 1799 for an Elizabeth Shepherd which I think was in all likelihood her, daughter of Richard and Molly. Her burial in the parish records at Papplewick also recorded her as Shepherd.
On Monday the 7th July 1817 Elizabeth left her home in the village of Papplewick, Nottinghamshire, to walk to the town of Mansfield some 7 miles away, to seek employment as a servant. She was successful in her mission and began the long walk home – but she never made it back. About 4 miles from home Elizabeth, known as Bessie, was attacked by a Charles Rotherham.
Charles Rotherham, aged about 33, was a former soldier from Sheffield, who having fought in the Napoleonic Wars had taken up the occupation of a scissor grinder, so was presumably earning a living by travelling around the country sharpening knives. There was no reason offered in the newspaper reports as to why he was in that area so we can only presume his trade had led him there.
According to the newspaper reports Rotherham, without a word and with no apparent motive, attacked Bessie with a hedge-stake. He beat her until she died. The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser described Bessie as being ‘an interesting girl of 17’ and Rotherham as ‘a monstrous assassin’.
Having found no money upon her person, he stole her new shoes, ones she was wearing for her interview, and her umbrella and threw her body into a ditch. Apparently, shortly after having committed such an appalling crime he continued his journey toward Nottingham, stopping at The Hutt, an Inn, (opposite the entrance to Newstead Abbey, which was until 1816, owned by Lord Byron), for a drink, having passed Bessie’s mother who had set off in search of her daughter who was later than expected. According to the newspapers Bessie’s mother had seen a man with an umbrella on his arm.
When her body was found the following day in a ditch, it was described as being in a dreadful state with her brain protruding from her skull, one eye knocked out of the socket. Rotherham was quickly pursued and arrested, by Constable Benjamin Barnes, at which time Rotherham allegedly said ‘I am guilty of the crime and must suffer the course of the law’. He was taken to the scene of the crime and showed the officer the stake he had used, but could offer no explanation as to why he had done it, but his clothes showed signs of blood stains. He had money, 6 shillings in fact, in his pocket, so possibly money was not the motive, but he had successfully sold both her shoes and her umbrella.
At his trial he entered a plea of guilty, but for some reason the judge persuaded him to change his plea to not guilty. The case was heard, with ‘a considerable number of people called’ including Bessie’s mother; the newspapers reported him as being ‘resigned to his fate’. Right up to the time of his death Rotherham said he had no idea what made him commit such a heinous crime. He was visited by the Rev. Dr. Wood prior to the hanging and seemed to show remorse for what had happened. His fate, however, was sealed and he was hanged on the 28th July 1817 in Nottingham. Some 20,000 people attended the execution, after which his body was given over to a surgeon for dissection and was then interred at St Mary’s churchyard, Nottingham.
Rotherham left a wife, but no children, plus a brother and two sisters. According to the newspapers he had served as a solider for 12 years in the Artillery Corps and had been present in battles in Egypt, Portugal, Spain and France. Apparently on the day of the murder he had drunk 7 pints of ale in Mansfield before walking to the spot where the crime was committed.
Elizabeth was buried on the 10th July 1817 at St James’ parish church, Papplewick. The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser of 13th March 1819, a little under two years later, reported that the local community was so shocked by this murder that money was raised to purchase a stone so that her memory would live on.
On Tuesday night a neat monument was erected on Sherwood Forest, on the spot where this unfortunate female was murdered and on which was engraved the following inscription ‘this monument was erected in memory of Elizabeth Sheppard, of Papplewick, who was murdered on this spot by Charles Rotherham on the 7th July 1817 in the 17th year of her age.
The Bessie Sheppard Stone
Was he guilty? My view is that despite the evidence he was not guilty, surely if he had just beaten someone to death he would not have simply carried on walking to an inn, with blood stained clothes surely he would have wanted to avoid being seen. Wouldn’t Bessie’s mother have recognized the umbrella? Some reports state that Bessie was travelling from Mansfield towards Nottingham and that Rotherham was travelling towards Mansfield when the incident happened i.e. in the opposite direction, if that were the case, did he change his mind and head back toward Nottingham, if not then he could not have passed Bessie’s mother. It also raises the question as to why people felt compelled to mark her death with the stone, not many murders are marked in such a way.
The story of Bessie’s murder lingers on and there are still reported sightings of her ghost and as I grew up I was always aware of the legend that if the stone were ever moved from that spot that she would appear – to answer your question, no, I never saw her ghost.
Header image: Papplewick Dam, Nottinghamshire; John Rawson Walker; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Brumby Wood Hall in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, now a nursing home but once a fine private mansion, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a former housekeeper.
Sally Smith, born c.1759, was not just the housekeeper, but also the mistress of the owner, Thomas Pindar Esquire, a reserved and slightly eccentric gentleman some twenty-three years Sally’s senior who displayed ‘monkish habits’ fostered by a long residence in a college. He had inherited Brumby Wood Hall from his younger brother, the Reverend Robert Pindar who had died in 1795, and Sally presided at the table and over the house, fully mistress of it. The legend says that Sally expected to inherit Brumby (sometimes called Bromby) Wood Hall when her lover died but was cruelly cut out of his will and, in the 1830s, either threw herself from one of the windows or hung herself from the four-poster bed. Her restless spirit now walks the corridors and grounds of the hall, waiting to hear news of her inheritance.
Thomas Pinder actually died in the May of 1813 aged 77 years and was buried at Owston Ferry in the Isle of Axholme on the fifteenth of that month. His will, written on the 15th October 1811, far from cutting Sally out, left her the use of his mansion for her life together with the household furniture, carriages and several nearby farms together with a small yearly annuity and Sally lived on at Brumby Wood Hall until her death almost twenty years to the day after that of Thomas Pindar’s. Sally too was buried at Owston Ferry, on the 24th May 1833, noted in the burial register as being of Brumby Wood Hall.
Her life as mistress of the Hall was not plain sailing though, and it is the dispute ensuing after the reading of Thomas Pindar’s will which has led to the half-remembered tale and the stories of Sally haunting her former home.
In the May of 1822, a singular case was heard at the Lincoln Assizes, brought by Sir Montague Cholmeley against the Honourable John Lygon, younger brother to Earl Beauchamp of Madresfield Court near Malvern in Worcestershire. Both men had, at times, been the beneficiary of Pindar’s will and Cholmeley contested the final one which had left the life interest in the Hall to Sally Smith.
Thomas Pindar had been a fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford and it was here that he had been introduced to Earl Beauchamp and his younger brother, John Lygon, whose family name had formerly been Pyndar (their father had changed his surname upon inheriting his maternal grandfather’s estate), and a relationship was assumed between them. The two families regularly corresponded and visited from 1804 and in 1805 Thomas Pinder made a will leaving his fortune to John Lygon. In the same year, he had asked Earl Beauchamp for a substantial loan of £5000, and the Earl had complied with this request.
On the 2nd April 1810, a second will was made; Pindar had wanted Mr Foulkes, an eminent London solicitor, to draw up the will but Foulkes was unwell and instead a Mr Hutton of York was employed. This will gave the estate of Brumby Wood Hall to John Lygdon in tail male, with ultimate limitation of Lady Cholmeley, Pindar’s niece. Elizabeth Harrison, the daughter of John Harrison and Catherine Pindar of Norton Place, Lincoln, had married Sir Montague Cholmeley, 1st Baronet, on the 14th September 1801 (Catherine Pindar was the daughter of the Reverend Robert Pindar).
A month later Hutton was back at Brumby Wood Hall to draw up another will, this one however in favour of Sir Montague Cholmeley’s family and placing Cholmeley’s youngest son in the place formerly occupied by John Lygon. Hutton added two codicils to this third will, one in August 1810 and one in December to the benefit of Sally Smith.
Sir Montague Cholmeley, who had never visited Pindar at his home, now told friends that he would be benefitted by Pindar’s death, describing Brumby Wood Hall as “a charming little hunting-box here intended for my second son!” But this came to the ears of Pindar and he decided that Lygon should be the beneficiary after all.
Mr Foulkes was now once again summoned and this time complied with the request. He found Thomas Pindar frail in body, almost bedridden and with little control over his bowels (they were described as being very relaxed), virtually deaf and going blind, but, Foulke’s asserted, still in full control of his mind. On the 15th October 1811, a fourth and final will was drawn up, this one leaving the Hall to Sally for her lifetime and after her death to John Lygon. Mr Hutton was asked to hand over the will made the year previously but refused to do so.
And so the stage was set for a protracted legal battle after Thomas Pindar died in 1813. Cholmeley alleged that Pindar did not know his own mind when the 1811 will was made and accused Sally of being the person who had instigated it to her own benefit. Lygon, in turn, accused Hutton of acting in the interests of Cholmeley rather than his client.
Cholmeley had wisely waited until the two men who, along with Foulkes, had witnessed the 1811 will had died before bringing this case to court and he drew on several former servants to Pindar who testified to the old man’s feebleness and mental incapacity. Mr Foulkes dismissed this, claiming that after Sally, whose voice Pindar was familiar with, loudly repeated his words to Pindar the old man was full well able to understand and to ask genuine and rational questions about the execution of the will. Of course, all this provided enough fuel for the local gossips to keep going for many years from the death of Pindar to the case being brought to court nine years later, with Sally made out to be a gold-digging termagant who had had the feeble and kindly old gentleman, and his household, under her control. Enough to give rise to the legend about her ghost and a missing inheritance which still continues more than 180 years after her death.
The case lasted from nine o’clock on the morning of Wednesday 13th March to half-past five the next day, but at last the jury came to a verdict, finding in favour of John Lygon, who had already added the surname of Pindar (although he chose to spell it Pyndar) on to his own in anticipation of his inheritance.
John Lygon Pyndar, who also succeeded to the title and estate of Earl Beauchamp after the death of his brother in 1823, possibly then tried to recover the £5000 loan given to Thomas Pindar by his brother from the life interest and annuities granted to Sally for, in 1823, Pindar vs Smith was heard in the High Court of Chancery, after which the creditors of the late Thomas Pindar were asked to send in proof of their debts. Pindar’s earlier wills had provided for repayment of this substantial debt; the last one in 1811 ignored it to Sally’s detriment.
After Sally’s death, a sale of all the household furniture, carriages and livestock at Brumby Wood Hall (detailed below) was made, pursuant to her own will, and John Lygon Pyndar took possession of Brumby Wood Hall and its surrounding estate. We have found no record of the manner of Sally’s death, but this in itself tends to suggest that her end, at the age of 74, was a peaceful one and not suicide.
At BROMBY WOOD HALL (by order of the Executor of the late Mrs Smith,) on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, July 9th and 10th instant, at Ten o’Clock in the Forenoon of each day.
THE Genteel HOUSEHOLD FUNITURE, comprising Mahogany Sideboards; Card, Pembroke, and Round Tables, Rosewood Chiffonier; two Sofas, sets of Mahogany Hair-seated Chairs; Barrel Organ, with fours stops, Piano-Forte; two Cellarets; several Pier and Swing Glasses; Bracket-Clock; Clock in Mahogany Case; Timepiece; Chimney Ornaments; Barometer; Bookcase, and several volumes of Books; Brussels and other Carpets; Hearth Rugs; Four Post and Camp Bedsteads; Mattresses; several Lots of excellent Blankets and Counterpanes; Mahogany and Walnut Chests of Drawers; Dressing Tables; Bed-side and Stair Carpets; Brass Rods; with a large assortment of Kitchen Furniture and Culinary Utensils; a few sides of BACON, 100 Bottles of good RASPBERRY and other English-made WINES; and several other Articles too numerous to insert.
The FARMING STOCK consists of three good Milch Cows; one Calf; two Pigs; twenty-six Ewes and thirty-one Lambs; eight fat Ewes; ten Hogs; one Waggon; two Carts and Gearing; one Stack of Hay; two pieces of Stacks of Hay; Garden Rollers; and sundry lots of Old Wood.
Also, a good TRAVELLING CARRIAGE, with Harness for two Horses, two useful Carriage HORSES; a Brown Hackney PONY; Saddle, Bridle, Side Saddle, &c. &c.
The Sale of the Farming Stock, Carriage, and Horses, will take place on TUESDAY, and the Furniture on WEDNESDAY.
Hull, June 21, 1833.
Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1904, volume 3
Lincolnshire Pedigrees, edited by the Rev. Canon A.R. Maddison, M.A., F.S.A., 1906, volume 4
Towards the end of 1803, a number of people in the Hammersmith area of London claimed they had seen and, in some cases, even been attacked by a spectre which they believed to be the ghost of someone who had committed suicide. What they allegedly saw was an apparition dressed in white robes. One woman, in particular, said that she saw something rise up from the tombstones, she tried to run but the ghost overtook her, held her in its arms, she fainted and was discovered later by neighbours who took her home and put her to bed. At that time it was the case that anyone who committed suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground as it was believed that their souls would not rest.
With all these reports the locals set up patrols and on the 3rd January 1804 Francis Smith, aged 29 years, an excise officer, armed with a gun saw a figure in white. He demanded the identity of the figure and when the figure did not respond but moved towards him, Smith shot the apparition. It was established afterwards that the apparition who died from this shot was a 23-year-old James or Thomas Milwood, a bricklayer, who according to the Old Bailey transcript was wearing:
‘ Linen trowsers [sic] entirely white, washed very clean, a waistcoat of flannel, apparently new, very white, and an apron, which he wore round him; his trowsers [sic] came down almost to the edge of his shoes’
We have seen records that name him as James Milwood, but just to confirm and to set the record straight, according to the burial records for Hammersmith the deceased was a Thomas Milwood, aged 22.
Francis Smith gave himself up to the police and was put on trial at the Old Bailey for murder. It was decided by the judge that if the case were proven then he would be found guilty of murder and nothing less. The jury, however, was sympathetic and gave the verdict as manslaughter but the judge was not happy with this and the jury was forced to revise it to murder.
After passing the sentence of death Lord Chief Baron Macdonald reported the case to the King and the sentence was reduced to a year’s hard labour.
After the trial, a shoemaker, by the name of John Graham, admitted that he was the ‘ghost.’ He had covered himself in a white sheet to frighten his apprentice for reading ghost stories to his children.
Full transcript available at – Old Bailey Online
Hammersmith Broadway; Hammersmith and Fulham Archives and Local History Centre
The following ghost story, in time for Halloween, is taken from The Morning Post, 16th October, 1822.
A WELL-AUTHENTICATED GHOST STORY
(FROM THE EDINBURGH OBSERVER.)
An old woman had for many of the latter years of her life indulged herself in sitting up in bed in such a position that her knees and her chin were constantly next door neighbours. From this attitude she never departed; so that, for a long time previous to her decease, the tendons and muscles which are used in extending the lower limbs of the body were contracted, and refused their offices.
In this situation she was in the habit of taking exercises by gently see-sawing, or rocking herself backwards and forwards. She died at last, a fate which all persons, eminent or not, must submit.
Her corpse was watched by some of her female acquaintances and relations, “who, towards the witching time of night,” had their meditations or speculations interrupted by a noise which they fancied was a dreadful peal of thunder.
The first impulse was to cast their widely opened eyes towards the body of the old dame, when, to their utter horror, they beheld her started from the recumbent posture of death, into her usual position, and exercising herself in rocking or see-sawing, as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
This sight was beyond the endurance of any female fortitude, and the whole party rushed out of the room without politeness enough to wish the old body joy on returning to its customary occupation. On the circumstance being bruited abroad, the undertaker, a man of considerable resolution, ventured into the haunted apartment, and there found the fact as stated by the terrific feminines.
But he presently solved the mystery, by observing that the large weights which he had placed on the corpse to straiten it for burial, had rolled off and fallen on the floor, which was the cause of the noise, and the body being released from its unwonted confinement, had relapsed into the contracted state to which it had so long been habituated. Some oscillations naturally followed the unexpected recovery of liberty, which made the attendants imagine that they beheld the workings of supernatural powers.