What were raree shows?

What was a raree show? Possibly a name derived from the word rarity, but no-one seems quite sure. It was a peep show, exhibited on the streets of the country, usually by itinerants, much like any other street performers.

The Raree-show (’t Fraay Curieus), Willem van Mieris, 1718. Rijksmuseum
The Raree-show,  Willem van Mieris, 1718. Rijksmuseum

The show was often carried around in a wooden cabinet with several viewing holes in which sets of pictures could be set by pulling a corresponding cord, or in a box, as can be seen in this painting above.

The showman then provided a narrative to accompany the images.  This post is very much a visual one showing some of the different rarees, along with a few stories from the newspapers.

Engelbrecht theatre peepshow, 18th century, Germany. Victoria and Albert Museum d A
Engelbrecht theatre peepshow, 18th century, Germany. Victoria and Albert Museum

The newspapers often provided advertisements for such shows and the charge to see them was usually half a penny.

The Oracle and Daily Advertiser 31 August 1803 described that a man with a raree show stopped to exhibit, on Lancashire Bridge, Stockport, one day last week and a crowd of people, as usual, gathered around him.

Amongst them was a solider who wished to have a peep at what was going on inside. He paid his halfpenny and applied his eye to the glass. The show man had shown him half the fine cities in the world, and eventually came to Paris. ‘There is the famous city of Paris’ said the showman, ‘You can see the great Bonaparte haranguing his troops for the invasion of England’. The indignant soldier could contain himself no longer, his fury was roused at the sight of his notorious enemy. He grabbed the show box and threw all the fine cities of the world, along with Bonaparte and his troops, over the bridge. ‘There, and now you see Bonaparte and his troops drowning and be damned to them.’

This image above, is located at the British Museum and The Leeds Intelligencer, 1 June 1779, reported:

A correspondent passing through Whitechapel on Friday observed a man, by his accent a German, exhibiting a halfpenny show to the children. There was something so whimsical in the contents of the show, that our correspondent could not help listening to the man and has brought off s much of the exhibition as his memory would contain; and has endeavoured to reduce it to English, from the jargon in which it was delivered. The article then continued to outline exactly what we are seeing above in the image.

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

The Globe, 17 August 1826 reported that the collection of the late John Hunter was purchased by Parliament in 1796, and given to the Corporation of Surgeons, on certain conditions, intended to secure the medical world and the public the benefit of this fine collection.

The two main conditions were:

That the collection should be visible, and that it should be intelligible – that it should be open a certain number of days (twice) every week in a year, and that a catalogue of it should be provided.

A collection of anatomical preparations is very ill adapted for a raree show, to be exhibited on feasts and festivals, and, but for these conditions, which secured to studious men, the facilities of frequently examining it, the money spent upon it would have been better bestowed upon puppets or magic lanterns.

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Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Raree show

The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall

‘Clothes optional’ marriages of the 18th century

As the old saying goes, you learn something new everyday, and this is certainly a new subject to me, at least. One of my lovely readers said that they had read about such marriages in ‘Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England’ and hadn’t seen anything on All Things Georgian about such a type of marriage, so it seemed only right to correct this omission!

So, what was  this type of marriage? It was often referred to as a ‘shift‘ or ‘smock‘ marriage and occasionally a puris naturalibus or a naked marriage.

British Museum

One of the earliest references I came across which explains this bizarre notion was from the British Spy or New Universal London Weekly Journal of December 1757 which tells us that:

At Cranborne, Dorsetshire on 10 December 1757 a young woman who was married at our church, had only a shift on for a wedding garment; and the reason she gave for her coming to perfectly undressed, was, that she might be entirely quit of all debts she owed before marriage.

So, there we have it. If a woman appeared at the church with either little or nothing on, then she was free of debt when she married. It surprised me that the newspapers contained several references to such marriages in connection with debt, but here we have a slightly different take on this, from the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 30 June 1763, which reported that:

Worcester, June 23. The following circumstances, we are told, attended a marriage a few days ago, at a church near Stourbridge in this county. As soon as the woman came into the church, she stripped off all her cloaths, except her cap, shift, shoes and stockings; in which delicate and decent appearance she passed through the ceremony. This extraordinary piece  of whom, we are told, was thus occasioned. The bridegroom owed an acquaintance of his a sum of money, the creditor agreed to cancel the debt, on condition the woman could be prevailed upon to be married in the manner above mentioned.

Whilst many of these accounts carry no names (perhaps to save the blushes of the bride in question), we do know that according to the Salisbury and Winchester Journal 2 October 1775, we have the names of the happy couple, who married by licence in the town of Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire, on 21 September.

Bishop’s Waltham. © Sarah Murden

This couple were Richard Elcock, a bricklayer, and his new bride, Judith Redding. Judith wished to exempt her future husband from the payment of any debts she might have incurred. Judith went into one of the pews in the church, and stripped herself of all her cloaths except her shift, in which she went to the altar and was married, much to the astonishment of the parson, clerk etc.

According to the Northampton Mercury, 22 November 1794, at Lewes, Sussex, Mr Hollingdale, of Barcomb, near this town, was married to a widow of the same place, named Ford.

In order to get rid of some pecuniary obligations, ’twas judged expedient by the above couple, that the bride should cross the high road, attired en chemise only, in the presence of three male witnesses. Three neighbours were accordingly sent for, without being informed of the occasion, before whom the widow performed the curious ceremony, but as one of the witnesses was so confounded at what he saw, as to render him incapable of swearing to particulars, ‘tis doubted’ whether the stratagem of the newly married pair will prove successful.

The parish records confirm that Edward Hollingdale and Annie Ford were married by bans on 4 November 1794.

The Runcorn Examiner, 3 February 1912 had picked up on these unusual marriages and carried out its own research. It reported of one such marriage which took place on that date in 1774, at Saddleworth.

This marriage related to an Abraham Brooks, a widower, aged about 30 and his bride to be, a widow, Mary Bradley aged almost 70. Mary was believed to have been a little in debt and as such, Abraham obliged her to be married in her shift.

The weather was very severe on that day and caused her to suffer a violent fit of shaking, so much so, that the minister being compassionate, covered her with his coat whilst the marriage was solemnised.

The Wedding Breakfast; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

The Caledonian Mercury 27 October 1794 reported that:

There is a prevalent (though we believe a very erroneous) opinion that if a widow is married without clothing, except a chemise, her second husband will be free from her debts.

The parish register book of Orchesten St Mary, a village in Wiltshire, contains an entry of the marriage of a woman ‘in her smock, without any head gear on,’ This marriage pertained to John Bridmore and Anne Selwood who were married on 17 October 1714.

At Ulcomb, in Kent in 1725, a woman married in her chemise. Having looked at the parish register and newspapers covering Ulcomb in Kent for 1725 there appears to be no mention of such an unusual wedding.

Similar marriages took place in America too, and from an article in the Hamilton Daily Times of 30 October 1919 and according to this article, in America at least:

The bride stood in a closet and put her hand through a hole in the door, sometimes she stood behind a cloth screen and put her hand out at one side, again, she wound about her a white sheet, furnished by the bridegroom and sometimes she stood in a her chemise or smock.

Whether this happened in Britain, there doesn’t seem to be anything to confirm such a thing.

In Lincolnshire, between 1838 and 1844, a woman was married wrapped only in a sheet. At Kirton in Lindsey, in North Lincolnshire, they took things one step further.

There was a popular belief  in that town, that the woman must be actually nude then she left her residence for that of her intended husband, in order to relieve him of her debts. The woman left her house from the bedroom window, stark naked and put on her clothes as she stood on the top of the ladder by which she accomplished her descent.

I have to say that I can’t see this custom being re-established any time soon.


Wood, Edward J, The Wedding Day in all Ages and Countries

Maryport Advertiser 4 June 1869

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The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall; Fylde Borough Council

The Montgomeryshire Ghost of 1827

There are plenty of ghost stories from the 18th and early 19th century, and I have previously written about The Hammersmith Ghost, but today I have a very different ghost story for your Halloween.

This story took place at a large, old mansion house, by the Welsh name of Tee Gwyn, or The White House, just outside the village of Llanfyllin in Montgomeryshire.

A gentleman by the name of Mr Thomas, a supervisor of excise, was ordered to take over responsibility for the district from another supervisor, as was often the case at that time. Mr Thomas was married with children, but rather than arrive with his family, he went on his own, on the assumption that once he’d settled in the area, his wife and family could join him.

He had never been to Wales before and  as you would imagine he wanted to find out more about the area and make sure that wherever he was bringing his family to that it was suitable. Unfortunately, the only vacant house was the large, old, dilapidated mansion house, which stood in decay, at the foot of a mountain. Mr Thomas was advised that it was that or nothing.

The house had a large garden which was full of weeds and the steps leading to the door covered with moss and several windows were broken, the whole place had an air of neglected grandeur.

Upon visiting the mansion house, he decided to see if there were a few suitable rooms that would be suitable to live in and the cheap rent proved a suitable inducement.

He was directed to a man whom he believed to have been the owner who instantly offered to let him the mansion at the low rent of five pounds a year. Mr Thomas didn’t really want or need a large house but didn’t think it was suitable to continue living at the local ale house for long as he wanted his family to be with him as soon as possible.

He decided that four or five rooms upstairs would be fine, so struck a deal, five pounds a year, and purchased a few bits and pieces to make it feel more homely until his family arrived with all their possessions.

On the first night he lit a large fire to make it feel more homely and to get rid of the dampness, had a cup of grog and settled down to enjoy a good night’s rest.

The following morning, he went into the village to the barber’s shop for a shave, where several people enquired how he had slept. He declared that he had enjoyed the best night’s sleep of his life, but was somewhat taken aback by the question, until the locals revealed that the house was believed to be have been haunted for over fifty years.

Mr Thomas was a very down to earth gentleman and  just laughed at the idea of ghosts and declared that he didn’t believe in ghosts.

Country characters no. 9: Exciseman. Digital Commonwealth

On returning to the house, he began sorting it out and preparing for the eventual arrival of his family and didn’t give the ghost story another thought.

Given his role as that of an excise officer,  he thought an empty house might have made the perfect place for working an illicit still, so he spent much of the next day checking out the vaults and all hiding places, but didn’t find anything to indicate any sign of anything suspicious.

As night drew on, he threw an extra log on the fire, and having borrowed a chair in the town, he at himself down in front of the fire, ate his bread and cheese, and once again, supped his cup of grog.

He did still have a niggling worry in his mind about the possibility of there being an illegal still, and that given the remoteness of the property, that if it were being used to brew illicit alcohol, someone could return during the night and that if someone found him there, he could have his throat cut and his body thrown into a tub, while his wife and family would be none the wiser.

Fears of the living, more than the dead, worried him until eventually he decided, in case he heard anything going on that he needed to remain as quiet as possible, and send all the information he could to the heads of his department. He could see by his watch that it was nearly twelve o’clock, but he couldn’t sleep.

All of a sudden, he heard footsteps on the staircase, and he felt or thought he felt his hair lift his hat involuntarily a least an inch off his forehead. His heart began to beat faster and faster, the logs did not seem to blaze as brightly; he listened anxiously … but heard nothing, not a sound.

Eventually, he plucked up the courage to open the door  and took himself off to bed, having given the fire a last poke, to keep it going. He had just begun to doze off when he was woken by a strange clattering on the staircase, as if ten thousand imps were ascending to his room.

In the panic of the moment, he jumped out of bed, rushed to the landing, where he distinctly heard the said imps clatter down the broad staircase again, making faint shrieking cries, which died away with the sound of their footsteps as they seemed to disappear into the vaults.

To him, it was clear that there were other tenants living in the house beside himself, he kept as quiet as possible, but was anxious about what he thought he had heard. Eventually, as he watched the dawn break in the east, he got up and began searching to find out where thee noises had come from.

He found absolutely nothing, the house was silent, not even a footstep on the staircase, although he could have sworn that he really did hear his disturbers ascend towards his room, and then depart.

On his visit to the town that morning, the previous day’s inquiries were repeated, but he strenuously denied having been disturbed, for fear he should be thought a coward. The next evening, he decided to find out whether anything really did climb the staircase, or whether it was mere fancy. With that, he spread a thick layer of sand on every step, imagining that if his tormentors were really substantial, they must leave some tracks behind them.

In the middle of the night, the same extraordinary noise was heard, so, armed with  with pistols, and a lamp, Mr Thomas set off downstairs as fast as he could. The imps, however, were too quick for him, and he couldn’t even get a glimpse of them.

Yet again, did he searched everywhere in vain, he was retracing his steps when he remembered the sand, which, in his terrified descent he had forgotten about, when, to his horror, he perceived some five or six hundred cloven tracts ! They were too small for goblins, and much too large for rats. Mr Thomas was more puzzled than ever, he had no idea what could have left such marks, certainly not a ghost, he thought.

The matter assumed rather a serious aspect, and he wrote to his wife, ordering his wife not to join him until he wrote to her again, he didn’t want to put his family in any danger. All day long, he racked his brain as to the species of creatures that had disturbed his peace and quiet.

Over and over again, he concluded that perhaps it was a trick, and as often did he abandon that notion as improbable ; but then he could not account for his not being able to see what had made the tracks.

He had given up every idea that rats could have made such a noise or tracks so large, but he decided to set a few rat traps to try to solve the mystery. Accordingly, he purchased six, as that was all he could get, and on the fourth night he carefully set them in a row on one of the steps of the staircase, so that if the imps ascended in a column, he was sure of catching at least one of them.

Still, he would not abandon his pistols or his lamp, but determined to be on guard all night.

About the mystic hour of twelve, he heard the jumping or hopping, as it seemed, up the stairs, and while he cocked one of the pistols, he heard a trap go off, then another, then another, succeeded by appalling shrieks, and the same clattering noise down stairs again.

He proceeded to the spot, and there, much to his surprise he found three fine fat rabbits, caught by the legs in the traps.

Herring I, John Frederick; A Happy Family; Leeds Museums and Galleries

The reality was, there was no ghost, just the inhabitants of an adjoining rabbit warren who used to make their way up through the sewers into the deserted mansion, and their gambols through the empty rooms first gave rise to the story of ‘Tee Gwynn’ being haunted.

With that, Mr Thomas was reassured and immediately sent for his family, and they now enjoy a house, and as many rabbits as they could eat, all for five pounds a year!

As to whether there was any truth in the whole story, who knows.


Hampshire Advertiser 3 November 1827

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Bodfach house and grounds c1781 National Library of Wales

Berners Street Hoax – True or False?

Anyone familiar with the Georgian period will probably have heard of the Berners Street Hoax. So much has been written about this over the centuries that I was unsure as to whether it warranted yet another telling of the story, but as one of my lovely readers asked me about it, I felt it was worth checking out, if only for my own peace of mind and to confirm what everyone thought they knew about the story.

Let’s begin by setting the record straight about the name of the unfortunate recipient of  one of the most famous hoaxes. The lady in question was NOT, Mrs Tottenham, she was in fact Mrs Tottingham.

Almost all accounts I have read state that she was either just a Mrs T or Mrs Tottenham. I can now reveal that she was in fact, Mrs Mary Teresa Tottingham, a widow at the time the hoax is believed to have occurred, but as to why such a hoax was instigated, I have no idea. Nor do I know how Mary Teresa would have felt about such a prank or whether she even knew of it until she read it in the newspaper, as she would, no doubt, have had servants to receive guests and trades people.

Her late husband, John Tottingham (1735-1808) spent much of his life employed by the East India Company and was based in India, which is probably where he met his wife, Mary Teresa as there’s no record of them having married in England.

They had 4 children, Hester, born in India, Maria Teresia, born Sept 1773 in Munger in the Indian state of Bihar, followed closely by John James who was born in Danapur in October 1774. The couple’s youngest child being Jane Mary who was born in 1783 and baptised in London, so it’s fairly safe to assume that they had returned to England with their ever growing family by this time.

John, a retired colonel of the East India Company, died in 1808 and his will confirmed the street the couple lived in as being Berners Street, so I definitely had the correct family.

Mary Teresa remained at Berners Street until her death in 1833, at which time her 3 surviving, unmarried daughters, moved into their parents’ house where they remained until at least 1841 as we see here on the 1841 census.

Let’s now return to the prank itself; it is said to have taken place on 27 or 28 November 1809 or 1810, the year seems rather unclear, but the first public account of it  did not appear until  28 November 1810, in the Morning Post, which said that it

exceeded by far that in Bedford Street a few months since.  

Prankster and author, Theodore Edward Hook, apparently wagered a bet with a friend, Samuel Beazley, that

he could make any house in London the most talked about address in London within one week

He selected Mary Teresa’s home for this mischief.

Theodore Edward Hook, by Samuel De Wilde. Courtesy of Bonhams
Theodore Edward Hook, by Samuel De Wilde. Courtesy of Bonhams

To achieve this, he was said to have sent out around 4,000 letters to trades people who were to arrive throughout the day at the home of a Mrs T___, No. 54 Berners Street, London. This prank was said to have eventually created chaos on Berners Street, blocking the whole street with waggons laden with coals from Paddington wharf, upholsterers’ goods by the cartload, organs and pianofortes, linen, jewellery and a whole variety of furniture.

Even the Lord Mayor was invited to attend to house, but his stay was said to have been very short upon seeing the chaos being caused and he was driven to Marlborough Street police office to resolve the matter.

In case you needed any further proof as to the occupant of that now infamous address, here we have the burial register which confirms that Mary Teresa Tottingham lived at 54 Berners Street until her death at the age of 80. She was buried at the same church has her husband on 27 May 1833.

The Naval and Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service, 1 June 1833 also noted her demise, but no mention was made of the prank, perhaps it had faded from memory by this time, or perhaps it never really happened!

The 1841 census confirms that her three daughters, Maria, Jane and Hester took over the family home.

But was there really a hoax played upon the family, or, was the hoax something created for the newspapers only? I began to search the newspapers for similar such hoaxes and sure enough there were quite a few.

On 7 November 1809, one took place at 37 Bedford Street, near Covent Garden, at the home of a Mr Griffiths. Again, a mass of letters were sent out to trades people who were to attend 37 Bedford street bringing with them a diverse range of items.

Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Courtesy of Wiki Commons

They demanded to see Mr Griffiths, who, it transpired was out of town, leaving the servants to eventually lock and bolt the doors. His deliveries included a mangle, sofas, boots, tea and coffee, fiddles and flutes, pianofortes, prints and drawings, coal wagons and gigs to name but a few. Physicians, surgeons dentists and Pidock, of the Exeter Exchange Menagerie was required to purchase a live tiger. The most annoyed person, however, was an elderly man who had hobbled to town from Hammersmith to be paid a legacy of £700 which he was assured Mr Griffiths had received for him.

Edinburgh witnessed a very similar hoax, according to the Morning Post, 26 December 1810.

A singular hoax was practised on Tuesday, at Edinburgh. Cards were put into the post office, addressed to medical gentlemen, undertakers, upholsterers, grocers, confectioners, haberdashers, milliners, mantua makers, wig makers etc. desiring their attendance at a gentleman’s house, a few miles from Edinburgh, and requesting them to sen a hearse and mourning coaches for a funeral; and others to send out quantities of wine, grocery articles, etc.  In consequence of this the road was crowded with carriages, coaches, a hearse and twelve mourning coaches. After their arrival at the house to their utter astonishment they found the whole thing to be a hoax of some silly malicious wag!

Another one took place in London, according to the Evening Mail 14 March 1810:

Hoax – physicians, surgeons and apothecaries, jewellers, auctioneers and governesses, poulterers, pastry cooks, and undertakers etc have for the last four day besieged the house of Mr Hookham, 15 Old Bond Street, in consequence of two-penny and threepenny post letters, containing appointments, order etc.

Finally, the Suffolk Chronicle, 19 January 1811 reported the following hoax, which they believed to have been instigated by the same prankster as the Berners Street hoax:

On Sunday se’nnight every confectioner in the metropolis, from Whitechapel to Hyde Park, including the adjacent streets, to the amount of near 100, sent Twelfth Cakes of various dimensions, none less than 20 pounds weight, to Mr E I Samuel, West India merchant, Great Prescott Street, Goodman’s fields; circular letters having been sent to the different shops with the orders, stating that Mr S was recommended by an eminent city baronet. The whole of the gentleman’s friends were invited, most of whom did themselves the honour to accept the invitation, to the no small amusement of the authors, who it is suspected, attended as if invited. On Tuesday, circular letters were also sent to about 100 grocers, in consequence of which, from 9am to 9pm the neighbourhood was amused with arrival of parcels of tea and sugar about 30 pounds in weight each, and on Wednesday arrived, by the same plan, about one hundred fine large Cheshire cheeses, which cut a curious appearance from their uniformity, and sometimes 8 or 10 meetings at the door at one time!

From these, it would appear that 1809-1812 was a great time for carrying out hoaxes, if indeed any of them really happened, I remain unconvinced, what do you think?

Hoax at the Pavilion Sloane Street. August 31 1812. British Museum
Hoax at the Pavilion Sloane Street. August 31, 1812. British Museum

In the next article we will continue with this story by taking a look at Samuel Beazley, the other party involved in the Berners Street hoax, so do join me to find out more.


Hereford Journal 8 Nov 1809

Chester Chronicle 7 December 1810

Chester Courant 4 December 1810

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By William Heath. Courtesy of British Museum

18th century marriage customs

When people marry today, they can choose where they marry, be it a religious building, registry office or even by taking their vows whilst sky diving and anywhere in between, as long as an officiating officer is present.

In the Georgian period marriages had to take place in a religious venue, presided over by a religious official, unless you chose to elope over the border to Gretna Green, Scotland.

Gretna Green, or, the red-hot marriage, c.1795. Lewis Walpole Library
Gretna Green, or, the red-hot marriage, c.1795. Lewis Walpole Library

Forthcoming marriages were usually announced by banns read out in church. If the couple wanted more privacy, then they would apply for a Marriage Licence, which, if you could afford it, could be purchased for a whole variety of reasons such as  – they were in a hurry as the bride being pregnant or that the couple were of different social standings, so perhaps a master marrying his servant,  or there was a large age gap. There may have been opposition from the family, or the parties may have been of different religions. It could even have been that they had married overseas and wanted it to be legitimatised by the Church of England. Paying for a licence made it a quicker and easier option.

According to the Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical, marriages could only take places between the hours of 8am and midday. So perhaps with a marriage licence you would opt for the earliest time available, so you could simply ‘tie the knot‘ and slip away without anyone noticing.

Usually there were only one or two marriages per day in London churches, far less in local parish churches, but on extremely rare occasions as many as 8 could take place, but this would have made each one an extremely hurried affair, literally giving the couple enough time to make their vows and leave in order to allow the next wedding to take place. Not ideal nor romantic, in my opinion.

I was recently  reading about the life story of the Scottish poet and ballad writer, David Love, who, although Scottish, spent much of his life in Nottingham, when I came across some details of his first marriage which took place in Scotland and he described how different marriage in Scotland was, compared to England.

Barber, Thomas; David Love (1750-1827), Ballad-Writer; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

In David’s own words:

Marriages in Scotland are not performed as is done in England, there is no ring put on the bride’s finger, no repeating of words after the minister, no common prayer book to read out of, nor any form of words till the minister bids them join their hands; the minister then says “Are you willing to have this woman to be your wedded wife” he bows as a token of his willingness: then he says to the woman “Are you willing to have this man to be your wedded husband” she makes a courtesy; the minister then says “ the presence of God and these witnesses I pronounce you man and wife, for whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The minister then begins with an exhortation concerning the marriage-state, how each is to behave, respecting their duty to one another, concluding with prayers suitable to the occasion.

Today, the tradition is to throw the wedding bouquet, David tells us though, that in his time, the tradition was to throw one of  stockings of the bride. Then the process was repeated by the groom. (Hmm, I’m not so sure that throwing a man’s sock today would be seen as lucky though!)

Having read David’s account, I thought I would take a look at some of the other wedding customs of the Georgian period.

I came across this interesting piece in the Carlisle Journal, October 1846 which explains some of the tradition practised in the north of England (a similar article also appeared previously in 1823).

Marriage ceremonies in the north of England – The day of marriage has always been, and it is to be hoped, in spite of disconsolate old maids and love-crossed bachelors, will ever continue to be, a time of festivity.

Among the rustics in Cumberland, the is plentiful music, dancing and revelry. Early in the morning, the bridegroom, attended by his friends on horseback, proceeds in a gallop to the house of the bride’s father. Having alighted, he salutes her, and then the company breakfast together. The repast concluded, the whole nuptial party depart in cavalcade order towards the church, accompanied by a fiddler, who plays a succession of tunes appropriate to the occasion. Immediately after the performance of the ceremony, the company retire to some neighbouring ale house, and many a flowing bumper of home brewed is quaffed to the health of the happy pair. Animate with this earthy nectar, they set off at full speed towards the future residence of the bride, where a handkerchief is presented to the first who arrives.

The Village Wedding; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

The Ribbon

In some of the country villages in the county of Durham, after the connubial knot is tied, a ribbon is proposed as the subject of contention, either for a foot or a horse race, supposed to be a delicate substitute for the bride’s garter, which used to be taken off while she knelt at the altar; and the practice being anticipated, the garter was generally found to do credit to her taste and skill in needlework.

In Craven, where this singular sport also prevails, whoever first reaches the bride’s habitation is ushered into the bridal chamber and having performed the ceremony of turning down the bedclothes, returns, carrying in his tankard of warm ale, previously prepared, to meet the bride, to whom he triumphantly offers his humble beverage, and by whom, in return, he is presented with the ribbon, as the honourable reward of his victory.

Lizars, William Home; A Scotch Wedding; National Galleries of Scotland

Riding for the kail

Another ancient marriage ceremony of the same sort, still observed in the remote parts of Northumberland, is that of ‘riding for the kail’, where the party, after kissing the bride, set off at full speed on horseback to the bridegroom’s, the winner of the race receiving the kail(today, written as kale), or dish of spice broth, as the chief prize.

The wedding ring

I have no idea whether there is any truth in this one from the Cheltenham Chronicle October 1815, but I do like it.

This custom was introduced by the ancients, who used to present their mistresses with a ring, meaning thereby to express as a ring has no end, so there shall be no end of that love which is necessary to constitute connubial felicity; and it was put upon the fourth finger of the left hand because anatomists affirm, that there is a vein in it having direct conveyance to the heart, which is the source of love and affection.

The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall
The Village Wedding, Thomas Falcon Marshall; Fylde Borough Council

It was also custom to that ring was directed first to be put on the thumb, afterwards the second, then upon the third and lastly on the fourth finger, where it would remain. The Perthshire Courier of September 1824, also stated:

Married women are so rigid, not to say superstitious, in the notion concerning their wedding rings, that neither when they wash their hands, nor at any other time, will they displace it from this finger, extending, it should seem, the expression of ‘till death do us part’ even to this golden circlet, the token and pledge of matrimony.

Bride cake

I have previously written about wedding cakes and you find more about the first tiered wedding cake, by clicking on this link.

The bridal party after leaving the church repair to a neighbouring inn, where a thin currant cake, marked in squares, though not entirely cut through, is ready against the bride’s arrival. Over her head is spread a clean linen napkin; the bridegroom standing behind the bride, breaks the cake over her head, which is thrown over her and scrambled for by the attendants.

This sounds potentially rather messy, I would have thought, so perhaps not one for today’s brides given the cost of today’s wedding dresses.

The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

Bridal Pie

The bridal pie was so essential a dish on the dining table after the celebration of the marriage, that there was no prospect of happiness without it. This was always made round, with a very strong crust, ornamented with various devices. In the middle of it was a fat, laying hen, full of eggs, probably intended as an emblem of fertility, which was also garnished with minced and sweet meats. It would have been deemed an act of neglect or rudeness if any of the party omitted to partake of it. And on this occasion, it was the etiquette for the bridegroom always to wait upon the bride, from whence it is supposed the term bridegroom took its origin.


According to the Morning Post, December 1815:

Honey moon – it was the custom of the higher order of Teutonics, an ancient people who inhabited the northern parts of German, to drink mead, or Metheglin, a beverage made with honey, for thirty days after every wedding. From this custom comes the expression “to spend the Honey Moon”.


Constitutional Canons Ecclesiastical

Header Image

The Wedding Breakfast; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Pancake Day in the early 1800s

Today we’re going to take a quick look at Pancake day, also known as Shrove Tuesday. The word ‘shrive’ means, to give absolution after hearing a confession, so people would historically attend confession in order to prepare themselves for Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday.

The earliest English recipe for pancakes is believed to date back to about the 15th century, but I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at what the newspapers of the early 1800s had to say about Pancake day.

The Pancake Woman by Willem van Mieris c.1710-19. (c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

To begin, I came across this variation on the origins of Pancake day in the Cumberland Pacquet 12 March 1821:

Pancake Tuesday – The custom of eating pancakes on this day is believed to have originated from the following circumstances. One, Simon Eyre, a shoemaker, being chosen Lord Mayor of London, made a pan-cake feast, on Shrove Tuesday, for all the apprentices in London; and ordered that upon ringing a bell in every parish, which is still called the pan-cake bell in the city, they should leave work for the day. In the year 1446, Mr Eyre built Leadenhall.

We have an interesting report on the Derby Mercury, 19 February 1823 which reported that the type of people ate pancakes by 1823 was largely governed by social class!

The custom of eating pancakes on this day, arose from the discipline of the ancient church, which, though it allowed the people to indulge in festive amusements after their confession, did not permit them to eat flesh meat. Recourse was therefore had, to pancakes and fritters; and the custom of eating them peculiarly on this day, though the decline among the great, is still maintained by many families of the better sort; but more especially among the lower class through the Kingdom.

Was there anything those Georgians thought unacceptable?

Shrove Tuesday all the year round - a cock wot every one throws at.
Shrove Tuesday all the year round – a cock wot every one throws at. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Not only, like us today, they enjoyed pancakes, but also, they had another tradition that took place on that day – cock throwing, but it would appear that by 1803 they were society was beginning to disagree with this long established practice on Shrove Tuesdays, if this report in the True Briton, of 19 February is to be believed:

As Shrove Tuesday us approaching, we hope some steps will be taken to abolish the barbarous practice of throwing cocks.

The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of February 1823 waxed lyrical about pancakes, although I’m not sure I like the idea of adding vinegar – it’s lemon juice for me, for sure.

Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie, c. 1790 – c. 1810

Shrove Tuesday is a relic of the carnival, and is more properly called, in some parts of the country, Pancake Tuesday, the shriving, or confessions of sin, taking place in the Shrove-tide, or Lent, which follows it; it was the interval between flesh-eating and fish-eating, and so they judiciously filled up the time with pudding.

The making of the pancakes used to furnish as much amusement in the kitchen as their mastication did in the parlour – the operators piquing themselves on tossing them skilfully in the pan; but the custom is too much gone out. We see many reasons for the discontinuance of some customs – of cock fighting, for instance, which use to be the disgrace, and which is the pastime of cowards; but why we should give up our pancakes, unless we have lost our gums as well as our teeth, or are subject to heartburn we see no reason upon the table. They are of taste “not inelegant” as Milton says. They are a nice variety – their entrance is a prodigious moment for the children – they can accommodate themselves to sophisticated palates by means of lemon juice or vinegar, the rolling of one of them up, and then cutting it with a knife and fork, and dipping the slice into plenty of sugar, is a thing not be to slightly praised.

To end with, I wonder what event this child baptised on February 26, 1775, could possibly have been named after? Mary Pancake, illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Staines was baptised at Cowley, St James, Oxford.


Georgian Mourning Rings

Thinking about the past couple of years living with the Covid situation and how we remember those we have lost during this time, led me to think about death in the Georgian period and I thought I would take a look at items used at that time as keepsakes and tokens of love.

This of course led me to mourning rings, objects which are rarely purchased today. We often think of such items as morbid, but they’re not, they are tokens of love and something the wearer has right next to them all the time as a permanent reminder of someone close who is no longer with them.

I found myself on the British Museum website looking at some of the mourning rings and have tried to find out a little more about some of them, not necessarily who owned them, rather, whose death had instigated the creation and purchase of them.

Many mourning rings include the person’s name, their age and the date they died, and money was often set aside in wills for the purchase of such items, so here we go with just a few of the many they hold in the collection.

The first ring was in memory of cordwainer, John Bignell/Bignall. John died on 3 August 1782, aged 56 and was buried at St Benet Fink church, London.

His will tells us that he set aside £10 for ‘mourning items’ for his brothers, which could, in all likelihood, have been for mourning ring(s) as well as perhaps items of clothing for the funeral itself. Of course we have no idea which brother this particular ring belonged to. The ring is a gold hoop with a floral design and an enamelled skull engraved on outside; floral design, enamelled, covering whole hoop.

The next ring was to commemorate the life of Judith Sheldrake.  Judith died on 26 October 1788 at the age of 44. The British Museum queried whether  she was from Hadleigh, Essex, but with a little research it would seem that she was actually from Hadleigh, near Ipswich and was buried at the parish church of Little Wenham, near Ipswich on 1 November 1788.

Judith was born Judith Everett, daughter of Isaac and Mary, but married into the Sheldrake family, her husband being Robert Sheldrake, a grocer and draper of Hadleigh, according to the Ipswich Journal which carried a notice of Judith’s death. The couple had married at Hadleigh in 1775, so relatively speaking their marriage was quite short, but during that time they had at least 5 children, Robert, Thomas, Isaac Everett, Jeremiah and finally, a daughter, also named Judith, who was born in 1786, so she was just under two years old when her mother died. All the children was baptised in the non-conformist church.

Judith and Robert’s place in the family tree was recorded in ‘Notes and Queries on subjects connected with the counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk,’ as Robert’s brother was Thomas Sheldrake, of Wetheringsett Hall, who wrote about the family’s genealogy. Robert remained in Hadleigh until his death in 1818 and there is no record of him having married again, so perhaps the mourning ring was his, as a constant remainder of his beloved Judith.

We move on to Gilbert Allix, who died on 27 June 1767 at the age of 73 and was buried on 3 July 1767 at St Giles, Camberwell. We know little of his life, but we do know that he was a merchant and that he left a brief will in which he named his dearly beloved wife, Jane and his brother, William. His estate went to Jane, and he left twenty guineas for mourning to William, so it’s possible that the ring was purchased by William as a memento of his brother.

Our next ring was in memory of Barbara Davenport who died 4 November 1812 aged 57, according to the ring. Although the ring names her as Mrs Barbara Davenport, this would have been a courtesy title, as she was a spinster.

British (English) School; Reverend William Davenport (1725-1781); National Trust, Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village

Barbara was born 28 June 1754, at Astley Abbots, Shropshire, the daughter of Rev Dr William Davenport and his wife, Martha of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire.

Barbara left a will which tells us that one of her close friends was the MP Charles Bragge Bathurst of Lydney Park, Gloucester, but sadly there is nothing that specifically tells us to whom the ring was a gift to, but this link will take you to a fascinating story about the family and tells you a little more about Barbara.

The final ring was in memory of a John Higgs who died at the age of 53, on 12 May 1782. John’s will tells us that he was a bargemaster of Millbank Street, Westminster.

John was married to Hannah, and they had two sons, William and John and two daughters, Lydia and Mary. His wish was that his two son should continue to run his business after his death, which consisted of 5 barges and a punt.

This ring is a little more unusual and more elaborate than the others and the description from the British Museum tells us that it was

Gold, marquise bezel, urn on pedestal with monogram painted on white ground; above, a weeping willow executed in hair and inscription; inscription on black enamel round hoop

The fact that inscription on the ring says ‘in memory of a dear father’ means that it was purchased by one of the children, so perhaps each child received one and to date this is the one that has survived.

It’s been quite surprising how much information such a small object can tell us about the life of a person.

The Meaning of the term ‘Molly’

I’m delighted to welcome back a now familiar guest to All Things Georgian, erAto who is going to tell us more about a term rarely used today – ‘Molly’.

Tho’ Briton’s, tis said, were not Mollies of old,

Were for dealing of blows, and were manly and bold

And if out-number’d to fear they were strangers,

No councils of war restrain’d them from dangers.

from The Mock Expedition, or; The Woman in Breeches, ca. 1695

The word molly appears in many Georgian era historical fictions as, more or less, a synonym for the modern terms “gay” or “homosexual.” The popular reference book by Francis Grose, 1811’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, includes it with the definition: A Miss Molly; an effeminate fellow, a sodomite. It seems of course, that this should point to it as a word appropriate to the 1810s. However, it must be noted that this book was a reprint of a title originally released in 1785, and that even in the first edition, many of the slang terms were outdated in common language. (Take the entries of Oliver’s Skull and Olli-Compolli, which both seem to be sourced from a 1699 Dictionary of the Canting Crew.)

While even today we have some slang terms that have lasted 90 years or more, such as “the bee’s knees” (ca. 1923) or “bimbo” (floozie sense, ca. 1920) these are, at the same time, not indicative of words used in fashionable speech or slang. They should be employed with caution by an inexperienced English speaker, since they can easily make one sound strange or childish.

Yale Center for British Art

Molly was one of these words that had been in use for quite a long time by the Regency era. The Woman in Breeches Broadsheet of circa 1695, quoted above, is the oldest certain use of it I have been able to locate. The term is most probably an alteration of the Latin word mollis, which would have been a word known to educated men through its use in Livy, Cicero and other classical writers. Literally meaning “soft” the term mollis designated a certain type of man who was very effeminate and thus implied homosexual. It also appeared in the Latin vulgate version of the Bible to translate certain passages about fornicators and homosexuals, and it is probably through this that it entered the underworld slang. (Do not doubt, a quick look through those old slang dictionaries will show a good deal of Biblical and Ecclesiastical references.) The words popularity was probably enhanced by its coincidental similarity to the name Molly, which was often used as a generic name for a floozy type of girl in songs and poems.

A text of 1709 by one Ned Ward, reporting on a “Mollies Club” in London, defines a molly for readers unfamiliar with the term:

“Sodomitical Wretches […] so far degenerated from all masculine Deportment, or manly Exercises, that they rather fancy themselves Women, imitating all the little Vanities that Custom has reconcil’d to the Female Sex, affecting to Speak, Walk, Tattle, Cursy, Cry, Scold, and to mimick all Manner of Effeminacy, that ever has fallen within their several Observations; not omitting the Indecencies of Lewd Women, that they may tempt one another by such immodest Freedoms to commit those odious Bestialities [i.e. behaviours unbecoming mankind], that ought for ever to be without a Name.”

In addition to a noun, it seems to molly was also employed as a verb. From a 1726 court case we have:

“they look’d a-skew upon Mark Partridge, and call’d him a treacherous, blowing-up Mollying Bitch.”

In another case of 1744 we have:

“James Ruggles, who had followed them at a Distance, and waited only till he saw them closely engaged, came up to them, and seizing upon the Gentleman, cry’d, D – n your Blood you Dog, what are you a Mollying one another? Give me what you have this Minute, or I will carry your directly to the Guard-Room. The Gentleman, confounded and frightened almost out of his Wits, made answer, […] but C – soon silenced him, by crying out, indeed he seduced me hither to Molly me.”

The subject not being a topic often discussed in polite literature, much of the information we have about the use of the word molly comes from old court cases. To judge from the records, the term peaked in the 1720s through 1740s, then is seen less and less through the 18th century until disappearing almost entirely after the 1770s. In fact, the only post-1770 use of the term in its homosexual sense which I have seen as of this writing is, you guessed it, Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

So, what wiped out the word ‘molly‘? To some extent the rival term madge seems it may have supplanted it in slang. Nevertheless, an increased prudishness about sexual talk through the 18th century may be also a culprit. (A personal story on this: I once was editing an edition of Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer, initially using a first edition text; but finding some missing page or such issue that required checking another copy, I looked to an edition from 1800. The 1800 edition had needed to cut a lot of sexual references in the dialogue to make it acceptable for public performance. It was quite heavily trimmed compared to the original.) By the early 19th century, a term “mollycoddle” meaning a weak or effete man is able to appear in print with perfect respectability, indicating the sexual suggestion in the word was lost — compare the term “weakling” which too originally had a sexual implication.

The term molly does seem to have a more effeminate connotation about it than the modern term gay, but that might simply be due to gay culture in a modern understanding, not yet existing. Words like sissy or faggot might better replicate the abusiveness of the term.

All Things Georgian – A Year in Review

Just to let you know,  I’m taking a seasonal break now until Wednesday 13 January 2021, and  would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone seasons greetings and my sincerest wish for you all, that 2021 will be an improvement on the rollercoaster ride that 2020 has been.

The Mistletoe Bough by Francis Wheatley. Yale Center for British Art
The Mistletoe Bough by Francis Wheatley. Yale Center for British Art

This year, apart from my own articles I have been delighted to welcome several guests to All Things Georgian, who have shared some fascinating stories with us. So, whilst you try to relax over the festive period you might enjoy re-reading some or catching up on ones you missed the first time around.

No Coward Soul‘ by Kim Reeman

‘The Golden Rump‘ by Erato

General James Wolfe by Kim Reeman

Policing From Bow Street: Principal Officers, Runners and The Patroles by Peter Kennison

Who was Kitty Clive? by Dr Berta Joncus

Britain’s Black Past’ by Dr Gretchen Gerzina

Dido Elizabeth Belle: Questions and Answers by Etienne Daly

HMS Dido 1782 by Etienne Daly

Where were Dido Elizabeth Belle’s sons buried? by Etienne Daly

Who was Selina Cordelia St Charles? by Paul Martinovich

William Hogarth, The March of the Guards to Finchley by Jerry Bell

I have also looked at works of art, such as the portrait of ‘Black Charley of Norwich‘ and ‘Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom‘; searched for people who have been lost to history such as Joseph Paul, the artist who married 5 times and was accused on several occasions of murder, not to mention The Complex Life of Teresia Constantia Phillips, who coincidently also managed to marry 5 times too.

I’ve met some really interesting characters from the Georgian Era including The Yorkshire Little Man  and Joseph Longchamp of the Jockey Club and  Elizabeth Woodcock who was buried in the snow in 1799, but survived.

On my return I will be delving further into the annuls of Georgian history and see who else’s story grabs my attention.

In the meantime, in case you weren’t aware, our latest book, is due to be published in the next few days: The History of the Dukes of Bolton. 

Last and by no means least, enjoy the festivities but Please Stay Safe.

The Contents of 18th-century Wills

When a person writes their will, they focus on the end of their life whenever it may occur, and it is an opportunity to ensure that family and friends are provided for and to gift keepsakes. When researching family history, wills are often a really rich source of information, but many wills don’t really provide anything unexpected, except perhaps occasionally an unknown name, which is always a bonus. However, I came across these extracts from wills in ‘The (Kirby’s) Wonderful and scientific (eccentric) museum’ which seemed worthy of sharing as they give a slightly amusing insight into the persons’ thinking at the time of writing. As I wasn’t totally convinced they were genuine, I did take the trouble to check them out, just in case they were fictional.

Turner, Joseph Mallord William; View on Clapham Common; Tate

We begin with the will of a Mr David Davis of Clapham, Surrey which was proved in 1788. David and his wife, Mary had only been married a few years when David died. Mary was a minor at the time of their wedding which took place on 3 May 1780. Their son, Charles Peter Davis was baptised 15 April 1781, so just under a year after their marriage. Clearly, David, despite having his name in the baptismal register, had doubts about the legitimacy of the son, so perhaps the honeymoon period was over somewhat abruptly!

I give and bequeath to Mary Davis, daughter of Peter Delaport, the sum of five shillings, which is sufficient to enable her to get drunk with, for the last time, at my expense, and I give the like sum of five shillings to Charles Peter, the son of the said Mary, whom I am reputed to be the father of, but never had, or ever shall have any reason to believe.

Priest, Thomas; The Thames at Battersea, London; Wandsworth Museum

The next will is that of lighterman (a worker on light flat-bottomed boats), Stephen Church whose will was proved in November 1793.  He and his wife, Diana had been married for 18 years at the time of Stephen’s death and he wanted to ensure that his wife and children were provided for.  He was not a wealthy man but had sufficient funds to ensure that Diana would receive twenty-five pounds a year until her or, should she choose to marry again, then this money would transfer to their daughter, Elizabeth.  Stephen also had children by his first wife, again whom he provided for in his will,  but clearly, one child was not in favour:

I give and devise to my son, Daniel Church, only one shilling and that is for him to hire a porter to carry away the next badge and frame he steals.

William Darley, of Ash, Hertfordshire died in 1794 and clearly wrote his will with much resentment toward his wife Mary. William was clearly an affluent gentleman and in writing his will he left everything including properties, both leasehold and freehold, money,  in fact, everything he owned to a Mr and Mrs Thomas Hill. As for his wife he simply stated:

I give unto my wife, Mary Darley, for picking my pocket of sixty guineas and taking up money in my name, of John Pugh, Esq. the sum of one shilling.

Hill, John; Interior of the Carpenter’s Shop at Forty Hill, Enfield; Tate

In the will of Stephen Swain, late of the parish of St. Olave, Southwark, proved February 1770, it noted that Stephen was a carpenter who provided, as you expect, for his wife, Sarah and family members, then added this bequest, with no further explanation. I would love to know what John and his wife had done to warrant this bequest.

I give to John Abbot, victualler, and Mary, his wife, the sum of sixpence each, to buy for each of them a halter, for fear the sheriffs should not be provided.

1719, saw the death of the Right Honourable Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Stafford, who wrote a very lengthy will and in it made a derogatory reference to his wife, Claude-Charlotte Gramont, and his in-laws, Philibert, Count de Gramont and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Hamilton. I find;t manage to spot the quote in his will, but I’ve no reason to assume it wasn’t there, hidden amongst all the other bequests.

Portait of Elizabeth Hamilton comtesse Gramont by Lely
Portait of Elizabeth Hamilton comtesse Gramont by Lely

I give to the worst of women, who is guilty of all ills, the daughter of Mr. Gramont, a Frenchman, who I have unfortunately married, five and forty brass halfpence, which will buy her a pullet for her supper, a greater sum than her father can often make her; for I have known when he had neither money or credit for such a purchase, he being the worst of men, and his wife the worst of women, in all debaucheries. Had I known their character, I had never married their daughter, nor made myself unhappy.

William Blackett, Esquire, late Governor of Plymouth, Devon, died in 1782 and wanted to be absolutely certain that he was dead when he was buried, so added this little gem into his will:

I desire that my body may be kept as long as it may not be offensive and that one or more of my toes or fingers may be cut off, to secure a certainty of my being dead.

I also make this further request to my dear wife, that as she has been troubled with an old fool, she will not think of marrying a second.

Rowlandson, Thomas; A Long Queue of Angry Patients Agitating outside the House of a Doctor (Surgeon-Apothecary); He Squirts a Syringe at Them from an Upstairs Room; Wellcome Collection

The final offering is courtesy of a Joseph Dalby, apothecary of the parish of St Marylebone, who died in 1784 and this extract from his will conjures up quite an image.

I give to my daughter Ann Spencer, a guinea for a ring, or any other bauble she may like better.

I give to the lout, her husband (William), one penny, to buy him a lark-whistle. I also give to her said husband, of redoubtable memory, my fart-hole, for a covering for his lark-whistle, to prevent the abrasion of his lips, and this legacy I give him as a mark of my approbation of his prowess and nice honour, in drawing his sword on me, (at my own table), naked and unarmed as I was, and he well-fortified with custard.

I give to my son, Joseph Dalby, of the Island of Jamaica, one guinea, and to balance accounts with him, I give him forgiveness and hope the Almighty will give him a better understanding.


The (Kirby’s) Wonderful and scientific (eccentric) museum, Volume 5

Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers

Patrons and Pirates: Publishing Dance in the Eighteenth Century

Today’s blog is a promotional one for ‘The Early Dance Circle Annual Lecture, 2020’  which will take place on

Friday 28 February 2020 at 7.15 p.m.

Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House,

20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

Last year their guest speaker was one of our fellow Pen and Sword,author, Mike Rendell and this year’s speaker will be the dancer, dance Historian and archivist at New College, Oxford, Jennifer Thorp.

The high seas of British publishing have always been choppy. Of course, publishing piracy is not a thing of the past by any means. Last March, Katy Guest wrote about the modern problem in The Guardian, reporting the boast, ‘I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds.’ It’s estimated that 17% of e-books are consumed illegally. Katy found the recurring claim that there was nothing wrong in the practice because, “Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it.”

In 1706 English dancing-masters were introduced to the new concept (for London) of dances recorded in notation and manuals in English on how to read them. That year John Weaver, with the encouragement of two significant patrons, sold copies of his influential Orchesography and A Collection of Ball-Dances … by Mr Isaac through the Strand bookshop of Paul and Isaac Valliant. They did him an honest and successful job but inadvertently signalled to less scrupulous printers that there was money to be made in such publications, by fair means or foul. This talk looks at the ways in which some of the eighteenth-century dance materials that we cherish today came into being and survived – if they did?

The dance publishers that Jennifer Thorp will tell us about, like authors today, might stoutly disagree! Come along to the EDC Annual Lecture this year and hear more about the 18th century form of publishing piracy and its consequences. You’ll be very welcome!

For further information or to reserve your free place, please contact: secretary@earlydancecircle.co.uk or 020 8699 8519 . A suggested donation is £5.00.

Christmas 1819

Today I thought I’d take brief look back at what was making the news in December in 1819, so here we go.

Christmas Shopping

Very much as it is today, advertising for Christmas was in full swing, with retailers mainly recommending books as gifts, but if you wanted to buy someone a gift with real possibilities then you could do as one gentleman did for his daughter at Blackheath, London when he presented her with a Lottery Share from Piddings of No.1 Cornhill. She won a quarter share of twenty thousand guineas. What a lovely Christmas gift that must have been.

Of course they too had their Boxing Day sales as we discover at Mr A. Shears, Bedford House, 11 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden


Bombazines in all colours cheaper and better than ever. Rich figures and plain poplins at little more than half price. Beautiful velvets 9 shillings and 6 pence per yard. Fine merino and ladies’ clothes warranted never to wear rough.

As it is today, it was also Pantomime Season for those Georgians too,  ‘Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes, it is’!

Joseph Grimaldi, The Clown. The Garrick Club
Joseph Grimaldi, The Clown. The Garrick Club

Yes, those Georgians loved the pantomime and of course if you were in London you had several choices as to which to. All went well at the Adelphi, according to The Globe, December 28th, 1819 and Drury Lane theatre hosted the premiere of a brand new pantomime – Jack and The Beanstalk:

The entertainment at this small but attractive theatre brought a very numerous audience last night. The pit, at an early hour, was crowed to excess and the boxes, before the rising of the curtain, exhibited the same appearance. The entertainments commenced with the principal dancers with much elegance and effect. A pantomime called The Fairy of the North Star, or Harlequin at Labrador, was produced for the first time this season. Though it has no incidents particularly new or striking, it is not however, without merit, and did not fail in affording pleasure and amusement to the Christmas visitors.

The new pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk; or Harlequin and the Ogre was first performed at Drury Lane theatre on the same day. Jack, performed by Miss Povey, who sang, is in poverty, and the little money which he had gained by a sale, is, by the Genie of the Harp, turned into beans, which the mother indignantly throws away. A fine ‘scarlet runner’ soon sprouts forth and threatens to wind round the moon. Jack ascends and reaches the fierce Ogres’ Castle.

The various hair-breadth escapes in endeavouring to rescue the damsel, Junetta found there, is the ground work of the subsequent changes and Harlequinading. Their approach was most acceptable, as the early scenes were heavy, there being too much narrative and too little action.

In Royal News

The Prince of Wales accompanied by Sir B Bloomfield visited the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in Marlborough Row on Christmas Eve of 1819. The Bells of the parish church immediately rung a merry peal on the occasion.

Lawrence, Thomas; George IV (1762-1830), Reigned as Regent (1811-1820), and as King (1820-1830); National Galleries of Scotland
Lawrence, Thomas; George IV (1762-1830), Reigned as Regent (1811-1820), and as King (1820-1830); National Galleries of Scotland

His Royal Highness had the happiness to find the Duchess of Gloucester (who has been indisposed for a few day), much recovered.  On Christmas Day, at noon, divine service was performed in the presence of the Regent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the royal suite, by the Rev. J.R Carr. The Regent and the Duchess received the sacrament. The royal dinner party was small and select. At nine o’clock a few of the nobility joined the assemblage, and a charming selection of music was performed for the entertainment of the guests. The workmen an artists of the Pavilion, anxious to get everything ready for the reception of his Royal Highness, had assembled on Christmas Day, but a mandate from the Regent quickly occasioned their dismissal, his Royal Highness positively ordering that the day should be observed as one of rest and sacred devotion.

The Irish Free School

An appeal to the public was made a few days ago by Mr Finnegan, the Master of The Irish Free School, in George Street. St Giles on behalf of 240 of the destitute children of his fellow natives. On Christmas Day we visited these schools and were highly gratified at seeing the greater part of those suffering innocents (boys and girls) provided with new clothing, which we understand has been procured for them through the liberal aid of a generous public. At two o’clock all the children sat down to a plentiful dinner of plum pudding, beef and potatoes, at the expense of a gentleman, a long benefactor to the institution. Our pleasure, we confess was greatly increased at seeing ladies of the highest respectability become servants of these poor children.

Newgate Prison

On Saturday, as usual on Christmas Day, the Lord Mayor ordered the prisoners in Newgate to receive each one pound of beef, a pint of porter and a two-penny loaf of bread, in addition to the increased allowance of bread, meat and coals, given by the City of London.

And finally …

Christmas Food Fight

On Christmas morning a ludicrous event occurred in Union Street, Holborn. As two women, residing in George Alley were carrying dishes to the oven to be baked, they ran into two drunken labourers. The dishes which contained in one, a piece of beef and the other a loin of mutton, each with a batter pudding, both were thrown out of their hands. Here the fun began. The women, on finding their Christmas dinner was spoiled were so enraged that they grabbed the two men by their hair and beat them around their heads with the beef and mutton until they were covered with grease, milk and flour much to the amusement of the large crowd which had now gathered.

Eventually after some intervention peace was restored, and the two women left the scene and headed to the nearest public house, where they drowned their sorrows with copious amounts of rum, gin and beer.

I would like to wish you all a very happy festive season.

If you’re still searching for that last minute Christmas present, then perhaps take a look at the Bookshelf, you might just find what you’re looking for.

Sources Used

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 December 1819

Morning Advertiser 27 December 1819

Bell’s Weekly Messenger 26 December 1819

Statesman 27 December 1819

Eighteenth Century Exercise

In the Georgian era strenuous exercise seems to have been something predominantly undertaken by the men,  with the main form of exercise for women at that time being around deportment.

Morning Post 5 May 1825

Exercise for men was highly recommended! The benefits, according to Professor Voelker, who established his first gymnasium in May 1825, were the obvious one of improved fitness, but also that weak and sick persons recovered their health and these exercises were, perhaps, the only effectual remedy that could have been found for their complaints. The judgement of physicians, in all places where these exercises were introduced, concurred in their favourable effect upon health; and parents and teachers uniformly testified, that by them their sons and pupils, like all other young men who cultivated them, had become more open and free, and more graceful in their deportment.

A subscription to Professor Voelker’s gymnasium was:

1 shilling for one month

2 shillings and 10 pence for 3 months

4 shillings for six months

6 guineas for twelve months.

For one to one tuition, the charge was a guinea per lesson.

Exercises included the following:

Running for a length of time, and with celerity. If the pupil follows the prescribed rules, and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first six lessons, he will soon be able to run three English miles in from twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some of Mr. V.’s pupils have been able to run for two hours incessantly, and without being much out of breath.

Leaping in distance and height, with and without a pole. Every pupil will soon convince himself to what great the strength of the arms, the energy of the muscles of the feet, and good carriage of the body, are increased by leaping, particularly with a pole. Almost every one learns in a short time to leap his own height, and some of the pupils have been able to leap ten or eleven feet high. It is equally easy to learn to leap horizontally over a space three times the length of the body; even four times that length has been attained.

Climbing up masts, ropes, and ladders. Every pupil will soon learn to climb up a mast, rope, or ladder of twenty-four feet high; and after six months’ exercise, even of thirty-four or thirty-six feet. The use of this exercise is very great in strengthening the arms.

The exercises on the pole and parallel bars, serve in particular to expand the chest, to strengthen the muscles of the breast and small of the back, and to make the latter flexible. In a short time, every pupil will be enabled to perform exercises of which he could not have thought himself capable, provided that he does not deviate from the prescribed course and rules.

Vaulting, which is considered one of the principal exercises for the increase of strength, activity, good carriage of the body, and courage, which employs and improves the powers of almost all arts of the body, and has hitherto always been taught as an art by itself, is brought to some perfection in three months.

Fencing with the broad sword throwing lances, wrestling, and many other exercises.

Brown, Mather; Henry Angelo; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/henry-angelo-155314
Henry Angelo by Mather Brown; National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1826 Professor Voelker opened a second gymnasium, so the first must have proved very popular.

19 Aug 1826 London Courier and Evening Gazette

Should you prefer to exercise alone then perhaps this machine would suit you needs better.

A man sitting inside a large wooden frame holding on to straps as the wheels turn. Engraving by J. Walker c1798
A man sitting inside a large wooden frame holding on to straps as the wheels turn. Engraving by J. Walker c1798

If you suffer from gout then here we have a satirical image for exercise to improve the condition.

Satirical aquatint - exercise for gout. Paul Sandby. Wellcome Library
Satirical aquatint – exercise for gout. Paul Sandby. Wellcome Library


The Every Day Book: Or, A Guide to the Year Volume 1 by William Hone

Featured Image by George Cruikshank

All Things Georgian is taking a summer break

We’re taking a summer break from the blog, but we’ll be back again in September.

In the meantime, we do have some events coming up which you can find out about on our Events Page.

If you’re looking for some summer holiday reading, why not take a look at our books? They’re available at all good bookshops and most libraries.

If you find you’re missing your weekly fix of All Things Georgian, we will continue to update our Facebook page throughout the summer, and if you haven’t already, we’d love it if you’d join us there.

We hope that you all have a fun and enjoyable summer, and look forward to entertaining you with some more blog posts – and some news about our next book – when we return from our break.

Shady retreats for summer, or, The tip of the ton!!
Shady retreats for summer, or, The tip of the ton!!

Slavery in Guyana during the Georgian Era

I thought long and hard about whether to publish this on the blog, but decided that, despite being almost unbearable to read, it was merely one short extract which doesn’t even come close describing the horrors that slaves endured during the Georgian Era on a very regular basis but decided it needed to be shared. I do however, warn you from the outset, this does not make for easy reading.

Dr George Pinckard (1768-1835)
Dr George Pinckard (1768-1835)

This extract comes from a newspaper article published in September 1806, but it is also available to read in Volume 3 of the work written by Dr George Pinckard. His 3 volumes are available to read online (see below).

This work, which would be interesting at any time, derives a peculiar interest at the present moment, from the light which is thrown on that great question, respecting the African Slave Trade, and the system of slavery which it feeds in our West-Indian colonies, now passing under the review of the legislature of this country. The facts recorded by Dr Pinckard, are the result of his own personal observation, serve strikingly to develop the real nature of colonial bondage and are therefore entitled to particular attention from the public. The following extract will furnish a specimen of the kind of information which is to be derived from these interesting volumes, while it will afford fresh proof of West Indian humanity. The circumstances detailed in it are stated to have occurred on the estate of an English planter at Demerara, where Dr Pinckard himself was stationed at the time, and are as follows:

Two unhappy negroes, a man and woman, having been driven by cruel treatment to abscond from the plantation at Lancaster, were taken a few days since, and brought back to the estate, when the manager, whose inhuman severity had caused them to fly from his tyrannical government, dealt out to them his avenging despotism with more than savage brutality. Taking with him two of the strongest drivers, armed with the heaviest whips, he led out these trembling and wretched Africans early in the morning, to a remote part of the estate, too distant for the officers to hear their cries; and there, tying down first the man, he stood by, and made the drivers flog him with many hundred lashes, until, on releasing him from the ground, it was discovered that he was nearly exhausted; and in this state the inhuman monster struck him with the but-end of a large whip, he fell to the ground; when the poor negro, escaping at once from his slavery and his sufferings expired at the murderers feet. But not satiated with blood, this savage tyrant next tied down the naked woman, on the spot by the dead body of her husband, and with the whips, already deep in gore, compelled the drivers to inflict a punishment of several hundred lashes, which had nearly released her also from a life of toil and torture.

Hearing of these acts of cruelty, on my return from the hospital, and scarcely believing it possible they could have been committed I went immediately to the sick house to satisfy myself by ocular testimony; when alas! I discovered that all I had heard was too fatally true: for, shocking to relate I found the wretched and almost murdered woman lying stark naked on her belly, without any coverings to the horrid wounds which had been cut by the whips, and with the still warm and bloody corpse of the man extended at her side, upon the neck of which was an iron collar, and a long heavy chain, which the now murdered negro had been made to wear from the time of his return to the estate.

The flesh of the woman was so torn, as to exhibit one extensive sore from the loins almost to her hams; not had humanity administered even a drop of oil to soften her wounds. The only relief she knew was that of extending her feeble arm in order to beat off the tormenting flies with a small green bough, which had been put into her hand for that purpose by the sympathizing kindness of a fellow slave. A more shocking and stressing spectacle can scarcely be conceived. The dead man and the almost expiring woman had been brought home from the place of punishment, and thrown into the negro hospital, amidst the crowd of sick, with cruel unconcern. Lying on the opposite side of the corpse was a fellow sufferer in similar condition to the poor woman. His buttocks, thighs and part of his back, had been flogged into one large sore, which was still raw although he had been punished a fortnight before.

The owner was challenged about the severity of his manager’s action and said that the slaves only got what they deserved. The law of the colonies restricted slave owners to lashings of up to a maximum of 39, but the fine being so small for excessive use meant that 100 lashes were very commonplace.

British (English) School; The Kneeling Slave, 'Am I not a man and a brother?'; Wilberforce House Museum
British (English) School; The Kneeling Slave, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’; Wilberforce House Museum

Useful Slavery Resources

Legacies of British Slave-ownership

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Featured Image

Guyana owners house at Hope Estate in Demerara, Mahaica region. Courtesy of  digital collections University of Wisconsin

The Eighteenth Century Gin Craze

In today’s world gin has seen something of  a resurgence, with gin bars popping up everywhere and flavoured gins becoming the drink of choice for many. So how do you take yours? Pink perhaps, with a tonic, ice and a slice – sound good, yes? Well, if we take you back to the 18th century we can offer you gin, but would have been a somewhat weaker gin than you’re used to today, as it was only about 30% proof – but how does the addition of oil of turpentine and sulphuric acid oil of vitriol (better known today as sulphuric acid or drain cleaner!) sound? No takers then, presumably? Despite this, gin became the drink of choice for the poor, including children, although, people really had little idea of what it was they were actually consuming.

'The Gin-Juggernath, or the worship of the Great Spirit of the age'. Wellcome Collection
‘The Gin-Juggernath, or the worship of the Great Spirit of the age’. Wellcome Collection

We can but hope that lessons have been learnt since the 18th century as can be seen in Hogarth’s caricature of Gin Lane which shows just what the effects of it could be. The detail in this caricature show the link between poverty and the demon drink, with people taking anything they owned to the pawn broker just to raise enough money to worship at ‘The Temple of Juniper’ and to feed their addiction to ‘Juniper water’ or ‘Madam Geneva’ as it was often referred to as.

Gin Lane.
Gin Lane. Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Gin became much more the drink of choice for England in the 1720s as it came from Holland, whereas, although available, it was brandy that had been the number one best seller, but as brandy was from France whom the British had been at war with, people were much more suspicious of anything French.

Gin houses were popping up everywhere, you could pretty much buy it in all the shops in London. It was even sold from wheelbarrows and ‘pop-up stalls’.

The battle of A-gin-court.
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

There were several Acts of Parliament designed to raise revenue, but also to reduce the obsession for gin drinking, the first being in 1732, when an Act was passed raising the retail tax to five shilling per gallon, but this didn’t stop people finding the money from somewhere, beg, borrow or steal, to buy what had arguably become an addiction.

The consumption of gin was becoming a real problem, with more women than men drinking it. The death rate was higher than the birth rate and infertility was on the rise. Hence the name ‘mother’s ruin’ a term for gin, which survives to this day.

'The Gin shop'. A satirical sketch on the dangers of drinking alcohol. British Museum
‘The Gin shop’. A satirical sketch on the dangers of drinking alcohol. British Museum

Gin drinking even led to one famous case heard at the Old Bailey where gin led to an horrific event. Just in case you’ve never heard of it, Judith Defour found herself on trial for the murder of her two and half year old daughter, Mary Defour, otherwise Cullinder.

Judith had placed her daughter in a London workhouse, but on the 27th February 1734, she took the child out for a few hours as she was permitted to do. Then she met up with a friend who was simply named Sukey.

The court document records the tragic story:

On Sunday night we took the child into the fields, and stripp’d it, and ty’d a linen handkerchief hard about its neck to keep it from crying, and then laid it in a Ditch. And after that, we went together and sold the coat and stay for a shilling, and the petticoat and stockings for a groat. We parted the money, and join’d for a quartern of gin.

Judith and her friend simply left the child to die in a ditch. Defour was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death on February 27, 1734. She was hanged at Tyburn on the 8th of March 1734.

Two years later in 1736, the famous Gin Act came into force. The tax paid by the retailer was raised to a whopping twenty shillings per gallon and the price of holding a spirit licence also increased. It was reported in The Scots Magazine in 1743, that:

The number of gin retailers in Westminster, Holborn, the Tower and Finsbury division, exclusive of London and Southwark was 7,044 plus 3,209 alehouses that did not sell spiritous liquors, and besides a great number of persons who retailed gin privately in garrets, cellars and back rooms or places not exposed to public view.

This increase in tax led to rioting in the streets of London. The passion for gin remained and was forced underground, so in 1743 the government had little choice to but to loosen its restrictions and allowed gin-shops to operate under the same terms as ale-houses.

Lettering within the image on a shop sign reads "Shave for a penny and a glass of gin." Wellcome Collection
Lettering within the image on a shop sign reads “Shave for a penny and a glass of gin.” Wellcome Collection

According to the Ipswich Journal of October 1736, licensees found ways of avoiding paying this hefty tax by selling the drink using somewhat fancy names, i.e. implying that it wasn’t actually gin, such as ‘Cuckold’s Comfort’, ‘Make shift’, ‘The Ladies Delight’ and ‘Sangree’.

The Gin Acts of 1736 and 1742 failed to be effective with an increase in crime, violent and the production of illegally distilled gin – it was a failure and was repealed.

People were actively encouraged to shop to the law anyone they believed to be producing or selling gin illegally, this simply led to more violence. In 1738 the next Gin Act all but outlawed gin and made it crime to attack informers. Yet again, it simply drove the trade underground.

By 1743 the population of England was just over six million and some seven million gallons of spirits was being consumed by them, a tenfold increase in only sixty years. Half a penny’s worth of gin was having more effect on a person than a pint of strong beer, which cost three times as much, so it’s hardly surprising people switched to the cheaper option.

The 1743 Gin Act failed too, as informers were being paid a £5 reward to inform, but those caught were being fined £10, which of course most simply couldn’t afford to pay, so the Commissioners ran out of money to pay informers.

The funeral procession of Madam Geneva, Sepr 29, 1751. Yale University Library
The funeral procession of Madam Geneva, Sepr 29, 1751. Yale University Library

The government eventually realised that there were major problems associated with gin drinking and in 1751 they bought in the Gin Act as a way to reduce consumption but raising taxes and fees for retailers to £2 and made licences only available to inns and taverns. Actively promoting of beer and tea as alternatives and eventually the mass craze for gin subsided and people simply switched their choice of beverage.


London Journal, Saturday, March 9, 1734

Caledonian Mercury 10 January 1744

The Scots Magazine 01 April 1743

Chester Courant 29 December 1829

A Collection of such Statues relating to his Majesty’s Customs 1734

Header Image

Allegory of Drink: Effects of Intemperance (verso) British School. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Wedgwood jasperware teapot with Domestic Employment designs by Lady Templetown. V&A Museum

Artists, Workers and Tastemakers: Wedgwood and Women – a guest post by Sophie Guiny

Today we are thrilled to welcome to our blog,  Sophie Guiny. Sophie is a Wedgwood collector and researcher. She is also the newsletter editor for the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C.

Wedgwood jasperware teapot with Domestic Employment designs by Lady Templetown. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware teapot with Domestic Employment designs by Lady Templetown. V&A Museum

In May 1759, 260 years ago this month, 29-year old Josiah Wedgwood founded his own pottery works. Born in a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, young Josiah was struck by smallpox and the resulting damage to his leg (which would eventually be amputated) left him unable to operate a potter’s wheel. He turned his attention to design and experimentation with new clays and glazes, improving on known techniques and creating new styles and ceramics bodies, including the now iconic jasperware, which Wedgwood perfected around 1775. In both pursuits, women played a critical role as patrons, artists and factory workers.

Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion depicting Josiah Wedgwood. Sophie Guiny's personal collection.
Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion depicting Josiah Wedgwood. Sophie Guiny’s personal collection.

Josiah Wedgwood’s sense of innovation extended to marketing his wares in what was a crowded market. As the quality of his creamware (a type of ceramic made of pure white clay with a clear lead glaze) had garnered him royal orders, he petitioned Queen Charlotte for the right to use her name in selling his products. Starting in 1763, Wedgwood’s creamware was sold as Queen’s ware, and the Queen’s patronage became very visible on all advertising materials.

The Frog Service commissioned by Empress Catherine II of Russia in 1773 is a good case study of the role of women in Wedgwood’s business. First, as with the naming of Queen’s ware, Josiah Wedgwood aggressively courted royal and aristocratic female patrons, as they had the ability to influence the taste of other women, both in the aristocracy and in England’s burgeoning middle class. In a letter to his partner Thomas Bentley, Wedgwood muses, “Suppose you present the Duchess of Devonshire with a Set and beg leave to call them Devonshire Flowerpots.” This was never to be. But having Catherine the Great as a repeat customer (she had already ordered a service in 1768) was a marketing coup for which Wedgwood was prepared to incur financial losses.

Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion of Catherine II, Empress of Russia. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware portrait medallion of Catherine II, Empress of Russia. V&A Museum

The Frog Service comprised 952 pieces, and was to be decorated with a different view of England on each piece, an extremely ambitious task. The only repeating designs would be the border and the frog emblem, as the service was destined for a palace known as “Frog Marsh.” To realise the service, Wedgwood had to hire numerous skilled painters, which included a number of women: factory records show that at least half a dozen women were employed to paint the Frog Service, working on both the borders and the centre landscapes. The highest paid woman, a Mrs Wilcox, was paid eighteen shillings a week, which is just over half of what the highest-paid man earned (thirty-one shillings).

Wedgwood Queen’s ware dessert plate from the Frog Service painted with a view of 'Mr Hopkins' Gardens, Painshill, Surrey.' British Museum
Wedgwood Queen’s ware dessert plate from the Frog Service painted with a view of ‘Mr Hopkins’ Gardens, Painshill, Surrey.’ British Museum

Wedgwood catered to a variety of tastes, and was always trying to introduce new styles. Many pieces were decorated with classical designs, inspired by antiquity, and modelled by such noted artists as John Flaxman Junior and George Stubbs. It is worth noting, however, that in the 1787 company catalogue, Wedgwood gives a place of pride to designs made by three women artists: Elizabeth, Lady Templetown, Lady Diana Beauclerk, and Miss Emma Crewe. All three were gifted amateur artists, and their designs were used exclusively to decorate the very fashionable jasperware.

Lady Templetown, often misspelled as “Templeton”, perhaps based on Josiah Wedgwood’s own frequent misspelling in his letters, was inspired by sentimentalist literature (such as Laurence Sterne’s novels) and traditional domestic activities. Born Elizabeth Boughton in 1747, she came from an aristocratic, if not particularly wealthy, family and married Clotworthy Upton in 1769. In 1776, in recognition for his services to the royal family, Upton was made Baron Templetown of Templetown, County Antrim in Ireland, and Elizabeth became the first Lady Templetown. Left a widow with three children in 1785, she managed her family’s Irish estates until her son’s coming of age, and retired to Rome where she died in 1823.

Wedgwood jasperware brooch with The Bourbonnais Shepherd, designed by Elizabeth Lady Templetown after Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware brooch with The Bourbonnais Shepherd, designed by Elizabeth Lady Templetown after Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. V&A Museum.

Her drawings caught the eye of Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned several designs from her starting in 1783. In a letter to Lady Templetown dated June 27, 1783, Josiah Wedgwood expresses: “a wish to be indulged in copying a few more such [figure] groups” in addition to what she had already lent him. She provided drawings or cut-outs in Indian paper of her designs, and William Hackwood, a sculptor employed by Wedgwood, modelled the actual reliefs to be applied on the jasperware. The etching below, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is based on one of Lady Templetown’s series of cut-outs on the theme of Domestic Employment. The jasperware version of this design (which is the mirror image of the cut-out) is on the teapot at the top of this post.

Peltro William Tomkins, “Book of Etchings from Papers cut by The Right Honourable Lady Templeton,” 1790. V&A Museum.
Peltro William Tomkins, “Book of Etchings from Papers cut by The Right Honourable Lady Templeton,” 1790. V&A Museum.

Emma Crewe’s designs were quite similar in inspiration to Lady Templetown’s, but much less is known about her life. She was born in 1741 and was the sister of John Crewe, a Member of Parliament and a staunch supporter of Whig party leader Charles James Fox.  It is likely that these personal acquaintances played a role in Emma’s designs being used by Wedgwood, as Josiah Wedgwood was also a committed Whig.

Wedgwood jasperware covered sugar bowl with The Reading Lesson, a design attributed to Emma Crewe. Sophie Guiny's personal collection.
Wedgwood jasperware covered sugar bowl with The Reading Lesson, a design attributed to Emma Crewe. Sophie Guiny’s personal collection.

Lady Diana Beauclerk’s designs were of a different style, although they too feature boys and cherubs at play. She was born Lady Diana Spencer in 1724 in one of Britain’s most prominent families: she was the great-granddaughter of the first Duke of Marlborough and grew up at Blenheim Palace. In 1757, she married Lord Bolingbroke, but her unhappy marriage was dissolved in 1768. That same year, she married Topham Beauclerk. The Beauclerks were part of the literary and artistic society of the time, counting among their inner circle such luminaries as Horace Walpole and Joshua Reynolds, and her life was the source of some gossip, which had been featured on this blog. Lady Diana Beauclerk died in 1808, having spent the last years of her life mostly blind and in much reduced circumstances (her husband Topham died in 1780).

According to Beatrice Erskine’s 1903 Lady Diana Beauclerk Her Life and Work, the first contact between Lady Diana Beauclerk and Josiah Wedgwood occurred in 1780 through their mutual friend Charles James Fox.

Wedgwood jasperware wine cooler with Bacchanalian Boys designs after Lady Diana Beauclerk, c. 1783. V&A Museum
Wedgwood jasperware wine cooler with Bacchanalian Boys designs after Lady Diana Beauclerk, c. 1783. V&A Museum

It is likely that Josiah Wedgwood chose to hire women artists and to publicise their work because he thought that it would appeal to the market, showing a softer side than scenes inspired by the Iliad, or portrait medallions of Roman emperors. Wedgwood has reproduced Domestic Employment and Bacchanalian Boys countless times since the eighteenth century, showing the long-lasting appeal of the more feminine designs.

However, Josiah Wedgwood was ahead of his time on many social and political issues, from his commitment to the anti-slavery movement  to his position in favour of the independence of the American colonies, and was involved in the latest scientific research of his time through his membership in the Lunar Society. So it is not inappropriate to think that hiring women artists may have gone beyond commercial considerations and reflected Josiah Wedgwood’s progressive positions.

For more on this topic:

  • The Wedgwood Museum is part of the World of Wedgwood experience in Barlaston, Staffordshire
  • Both the British Museum and the V&A have large collections of Wedgwood, including works by women designers
  • The Frog Service is in the collections of the Hermitage Museum  in Saint Petersburg
  • The most comprehensive reference book is Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (two volumes), Macmillan & Co, 1989.
  • For more on Wedgwood during and beyond the Georgian era, the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C. publishes a bi-monthly newsletter.

Eighteenth-century watch papers

In a recent article, we looked at disability in the 18th-century and about people with no arms using their feet as an alternative, some of whom created the most beautifully delicate watch papers. One of our readers asked what more we knew about watch papers, our reply being –’not very much!

Always up for a challenge though, we set about seeing what else we could find, and we confess, this article is a little self-indulgent with some lovely images of watch papers which remarkably have survived in some cases for over two hundred years, most will have been lost or damaged over time, making survivors quite rare.

It was believed that initially watch papers were a form of protection for the mechanism itself, which may well be correct, they then developed into the equivalent of a trade card, which for our regular readers you will be aware that we have looked at before and have a great interest in.  Early eighteenth-century watch papers appear to have been made of either paper or very fine linen. This developed in the later part of the century to include crotched or silk watch papers.

Watch papers would have been a fabulous of advertising your wares, inside the watch so every time the wearer opened it they would see an advert for the watchmaker and see what else they sold. As you can see from this image:

Victoria & Albert Museum c1820
Victoria & Albert Museum c1820

The Cambridge Intelligencer September 1795 carried the following advertisement


Barford begs leave to inform his friends and the public, that he prints mezzotints, fine engravings, banker’s cheques, tutor’s bills, watch papers and music.

The British Museum has several watch papers and this one was used by John Oglethorpe, born 1823, who appears on the census returns as being of Kirkby Thore, Cumbria where was he described himself as a watch cleaner and repairer, a trade he would have learnt from his father Samuel.

British Museum
British Museum

This beautiful watch shows the watch paper placed inside with the makers’ name clearly visible both on the mechanism itself and on the advert on the watch paper – Thomas Bullock of Claverton Street Bath, who we discovered was trading there in 1770.

The next belonged to Camerer and Cuss, New Oxford Street. The watch paper is very plain, and we haven’t been able to locate the company, however, it nicely fits into the Georgian era, as they were trading ‘since 1788’.

Our next one shows the watch paper of a gentleman by the name of Goldsworthy. He was an Edward Goldsworthy of Exeter, who died in April 1824, aged 73 in Chelsea.

British Museum
British Museum

Edward was working in his home city of Exeter and here we see him in 1788 taking on an apprentice clock-maker.

Tempus Fugit! This one seems a little morbid, reminding you of impending death each time you open the watch. It is an advert for George Frankcom of Portsea, Hampshire. Frankcom must have moved to Hampshire after completing his apprenticeship which he began in 1792.

To finish, we have very kindly been given a stunning watch paper to include, by Mike Rendell (Georgian Gentleman)

Richard cut it out when his first wife died – it must have taken hours. It shows her coffin in a template, with her name, age and date of death. I still have the pen knife he would have used to make it (i.e. the knife he used to make pens from quills). It is incredibly sharp even after 250 years! He must have had excellent eyesight – and a very steady hand).


Throwing at cocks and other pastimes: Shrove Tuesday in the Georgian Era

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.

The First Stage of Cruelty by Hogarth
The First Stage of Cruelty by Hogarth via Wikimedia

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.

Foot Ball played at Market Place, Barnet by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Foot Ball played at Market Place, Barnet by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

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.


Some towns in England still continue this tradition. A much more satisfactory custom was gathering for drinks and a feast.

An English Merry-Making, a Hundred Years Ago by William Powell Frith, 1846.
An English Merry-Making, a Hundred Years Ago by William Powell Frith, 1846. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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

Caledonian Mercury, 12 November 1766

Stamford Mercury, 18 February 1768

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.

Employment opportunities for girls in the eighteenth-century

Not all women in the eighteen-century were able to marry a wealthy aristocrat, in fact very few did, the majority had to hold down a job as well as running the home and raising children. We thought today we would follow on from an earlier article in which we looked at eighteenth-century careers and have picked out a few of the career options listed in Joseph Collyer’s book of 1761, that were deemed suitable for girls and women, of which of course, there were only a limited number, far fewer choices than for men.

Basket Maker

There are several sorts of basket-maker. Some who form baskets of green oziers (willow), chiefly for the use of gardeners. These are the most considerable branches; for some of the masters employ many hands, and also rent large ozier plantations; which not only produce sufficient for themselves, but many to spare. This part of the work requires no other abilities but strength and application. Another sort of basked makers make finer works with rods stripped, split, halved and dyed; or with split cane or dyed straw of various colours. The workers in the finer sort of baskets, which are chiefly to be found in the turner’s shops, require less strength and more ingenuity. This is chiefly carried out by girls and women who make the smaller wares.

A young girl and child carry baskets on their heads
A young girl and child carry baskets on their heads. Wellcome Library

Bodice Maker

This was once a trade of universal use, but now bodices are worn by none but the poorer sort of women and girls in the country. They are made of canvas and whale-bone or cane and sometimes leather. Women are principally employed in making them; they can get six or seven pounds a week and require no great qualification. Their apprentices are generally parish children, whom they take with little or nothing. As their dealings are mostly in the country, they require a pretty large stock; most of them now deal also in ordinary stays, by which means they make a handsome livelihood.

Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795.
Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys from The Cries of London, 1795. The strawberry seller wears a simple canvas or leather bodice. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Button Maker

The greatest part of the mohair, silk and horsehair buttons are made in the county and sent up to shops in town. Those made here are chiefly livery buttons, or some patterns particularly bespoke. Those who work at this are chiefly women, who are paid by the dozen and are able to get but a poor living. The boy or girl designed for the business of making gold and silver buttons ought to have some fancy and genius, that they may be able to invent new fashions. They should also have good eyes and a dry hand. The lace-man furnishes them with all the material for his buttons, except the moulds and pays him for the work when done.

Portrait of a Trumpeter in Livery (called ‘Valentine Snow, 1685–1759, Sergeant Trumpeter’); Michael Dahl I (1656/1659–1743) (style of); National Trust, Fenton House

Cap Maker

These are shopkeepers who make and sell caps for men or women to travel in and also men’s morning caps. They deal in many sorts of millinery goods, such as ladies’ hats, bonnets, cloaks, cardinals, short aprons, hoods, handkerchiefs, or almost anything made of black silk or velvet. Their apprentices ought to be smart girls of a genteel appearance, they should work well at their needles and be ready accomptants. They serve only five years and are kept the first part of their time close to the needle. Once qualified they may be cap-makers but may also be shop women to the milliners, the haberdashers or to any buying and selling trade proper for women.

A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner's Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782.
A Morning Ramble, or, The Milliner’s Shop; Carington Bowles after Robert Dighton, 1782. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Child’s coat maker

This branch of business is generally performed by women and is a pretty profitable employ. They take ten or fifteen pounds with a girl; who ought to be ingenious, handy and a tolerable needle-woman. The boning part is hard work for the fingers, but the rest is easy enough. As the apprentice must appear neat and gentle, and, when out of her time, must depend on a good acquaintance this trade is not fit for the children of people in low circumstances; but for those a little above the vulgar it is a very proper one. A journey-woman may get a pound a day in summer, but they are generally out of business some of the winter months.

Fan Painter

Fan painting is an ingenious business and requires skill in drawing, in perspective, in the proper disposition of the lights and shades and in laying on the colours. This business is however almost ruined by the introduction of printers fan-mounts. Therefore it would be a pity that any ingenious girl, who has a taste for drawing should be put apprentice to it.

Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757.
Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757. Met Museum

The Gilder

The gilding of metals is a very profitable and at the same time a dangerous business with respect to those who perform the work, occasioned by the quicksilver used in this art, which is apt to affect their nerves and render their lives a burden to them; whence the trade is but in a few and some of them women.  Gilding is performed with the following amalgam of gold and Quicksilver. The gold is then heated in a crucible and when just ready to flow, three or four times the weight of quicksilver is poured upon it and immediately quenched in water, both together become a soft substance like butter. When the artist intends to gild, the piece is rubbed with aqua fortis and then covered with the amalgam. When is all covered over and smother it is held over a charcoal fire, by which means the mercury evaporates and the gold remains upon the piece. The artist then rubs off all the roughness and at the same time spreads the gold with an instrument called a scratch brush, the work is then burnished to give the colour wanted.

Goldsmith's workshop: interior view, gilding dishes and the implements used.
Goldsmith’s workshop: interior view, gilding dishes and the implements used. Wellcome Library

A Quilter

Quilting is chiefly performed by the women, but there are some masters, who employ a number of women and girls in making bed quilts for the upholsterers. The women of this business not only make bed quilts but quilted petticoats. They either take poor girls as apprentices, whom they keep for the sake of their work or have a small for learning those grown up, whom they afterwards pay about ten or twelve pounds a week.

Portrait of Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763.
Portrait of Nelly O’Brien wearing a quilted petticoat by Joshua Reynolds, c.1762-1763. © The Wallace Collection

Tassel Maker

These are more frequently women than men. They make tassels for pulpit cushions, window curtain cords and for a variety of other uses. These tassels are made of gold or silver thread, silk, mohair or worsted, worked over a mould. When tassels were worn by the ladies to their mantels, this was exceedingly good employment, and many families go a genteel maintenance by it, but now, I believe, it is hardly worth learning. The masters take girls out of the schools and parish children with little or no money who, if in good hands, may, when out of their time, be able to get six or eight pounds a week as journey-women, or may set up with a very little. All materials being found from the lace or worsted men.

Late eighteenth-century purse with pink tassels.
Late eighteenth-century purse with pink tassels. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tire woman

Thirty years ago this business gave many women in London genteel bread; but now the ladies cannot be dressed with elegance, except by a French barber, or one who passes for such, by speaking broken English, adjust and curls their hair at the exorbitant price of a crown or half a guinea a time. Our grandmothers thought it bordered on immodesty to appear with their heads uncovered; but probably our grandchildren, despising such narrow prejudices, may not be ashamed of going naked from the waist upwards or of having men chamberlains or dressers. I believe the few women, who now cut hair, cannot live by the employment and therefore need to say nothing of the terms on which they teach others.

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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Picking mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson

Buried beneath the mulberry tree

We have the following odd affair transmitted to us from Windsor, viz. That a few days ago there died at Portsmouth a person who had lived at Windsor for many years, and by his will order’d that a relation of his (to whom he had bequeathed his all) should go to Portsmouth, bring his body from thence in a hearse, and bury it at six o’clock in the morning, in a grave ten feet deep, in his orchard, where he had himself buried a favourite dog some time ago…

The man was John Mathews, a hat maker from Windsor in Berkshire, who died sometime in late August 1741. (It’s hard to be sure, without a ‘regular’ burial in a churchyard, but his will was opened on 27 August and proved on 3 September 1741, and the newspaper report was dated two days later.) The Will actually stipulated that John should be buried in his ten foot deep grave in his garden under the mulberry tree. No more than a dozen of his friends ‘that have been used to sport with me’ were to be present. A French horn was to be played (the newspaper said it should sound the Death of the Hare while John’s body was being lowered into the ground).

Each mourner was to get a bottle of wine and the parson, who John’s executor should choose, should have a pair of gloves.

An orchard by a stream by Jonathan Skelton, c.1750s.
An orchard by a stream by Jonathan Skelton, c.1750s. Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Collection.

John specifically stipulated that if he died away from his home, his executor should bring his body back to be buried beneath the mulberry tree and, if he’d already been buried, to exhume his remains and rebury them as directed. If not, the executor would ‘answer it at the last day and forfeit ten pounds to my next heir at law in three months after my decease…’.

This executor was John’s nephew, William Mathews, who lived with his uncle at Windsor. In return for carrying out his uncle’s wishes, William got the bulk of John Mathew’s wealth and possessions.

We’re not sure what John’s wife, Martha, made of all this, but she was also named in his will, getting 5l. within twenty days of his death and then 20l. a year thereafter, to be paid quarterly unless she remarried in which case her annuity would cease.

Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood's Brewery.
Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. © Royal Collection Trust

There was one further condition placed on William Mathews.

The said relation (who is not of the Establish’d Church) should within three calendar months [of John’s death], receive the Sacrament according to the Ceremony of the Church of England; and upon neglecting to comply with these things, to be cut off from all that this whimsical person died possess’d of, which we hear is about 1000l.

Can we just say here, that if this was his true fortune, we feel for his wife Martha, described by John in his Will as his ‘loving wife’. She got just a fraction and, unless her nephew allowed otherwise, doesn’t seem to have had any right to remain in her home (assuming it was owned by John and not Martha). However, the newspaper wasn’t quite correct on one thing; if William didn’t take the Sacrament, he didn’t forfeit everything, just 100l. which was to go to whoever stood next in line as John’s ‘lawful heir’.

Oh, and as a quick postscript to his Will, John left just a shilling to a niece.

Plums and mulberries by William Henry Hunt
Plums and mulberries by William Henry Hunt; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The newspapers reported that the first part of this odd will had been complied with, and John had been laid to rest in his garden at 6 o’clock in the morning. A week later, twelve people were to assemble at the makeshift grave, the invites already having been sent (John’s Will, however, seems to suggest they should have been present at the burial itself), ‘and ‘tis not doubted but the last part will be perform’d in due time’.

Picking mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson
Picking mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

John Mathews’ will had been written on 9 January 1738/9, but when he died just over two years later he was described as being ‘late of New Windsor in the county of Berkshire but at Portsmouth in the county of Southampton’. As a further clue to the date of John Mathew’s death, his nephew William swore that he had opened the cover in which the Will had been sealed on Thursday 27 August 1741.

We’re reminded of the phrase, mad as a hatter. Hatters, through their trade, were susceptible to mercury poisoning. Whether or not John Mathews suffered in this way, there’s no doubt he was an eccentric character both in life and in death.


National Archives, PROB 11/712/16 Will of John Mathews, Hat Maker of New Windsor, Berkshire, 3 September 1741

Newcastle Courant, 5 September 1741

A perspective view of the north-west front of ye parish church of St Bride’s with the beautiful spire, the height from the cross above the vain to the ground is 242 feet.

Eighteenth-century wedding cakes

As it’s Valentine’s day I thought I would have a romantic post, however, this has become a confusing one instead and one for which I don’t, as yet, have a conclusive answer. Everywhere I have looked to find out more about tiered wedding cakes or bride cake as it was previously called, there appear to be two different accounts as to who the cook was that originated it.

Courtesy of Little Bear Cakery
Courtesy of Little Bear Cakery

There are accounts in national newspapers, magazines and blogs with different versions. One says the tiered wedding cake first came about in 1703 and was made by a cook named Thomas Rich of Ludgate Hill who, as an apprentice, fell in love with his master’s daughter, married her and baked a beautiful tiered cake for the wedding based upon the steeple of nearby St Bride’s church.

St Bride's church. British Museum
St Bride’s church. British Museum

The other version is very nearly the same story, except that it relates to a William Rich. The only difference is the date, William (1755-1812) of 3 Ludgate Hill, was said to have married the daughter of his boss, one Susannah Prichard in 1776.

Whilst I am unable to validate any information about the first possible candidate, as apprenticeship indentures didn’t begin until 1710 I can’t prove that there either was, or there wasn’t, a Thomas Rich of Ludgate Hill who was a cook, but I have, however, found records for a William Rich, who was apprenticed as a cook, but much later. On that basis alone he appears a more likely candidate.

View of St Matthew's Church, on the west side of Friday Street where William and Susannah married - quite plain in comparison to St Brides. British Museum
View of St Matthew’s Church, on the west side of Friday Street where William and Susannah married – quite plain in comparison to St Brides. British Museum

I have also found the marriage allegation and bond for William to a Susannah in 1776.  This is where the story begins to unravel. Firstly, Susannah Prichard (born 1758), was the daughter of a Davis Pritchard, a peruke maker, not a cook as I was expecting to see, if the story were true.

Secondly, I have found that William was born 23rd March 1754 in Long Newnton, on the Gloucestershire border with Wiltshire, the son of Stiles Rich and his wife Mary Neale.

Next, I came across a Freedom of the City Admission Paper for William which supports that I had found the correct person as it confirms him as the son of Stiles Rich, a yeoman in Wiltshire. The document confirms that William, aged just thirteen had been apprenticed to William Stiles, a cook, for seven years from 9th April 1767, so married his bride some two years after completing his apprenticeship.

It doesn’t mean for one minute mean that William didn’t make the cake for his bride, Susannah, but it does disprove the theory that she was the daughter of William’s master – wrong name!

William and Susannah lived at 4 Ludgate Hill, not number 3 as others have stated, but number 2, as this was confirmed in the register for St Bride’s church where the couple had seven of their children baptised.  Their eldest child, Mary Ann Elizabeth Moon Rich was baptised in 1777 just nine months after their marriage, with their youngest child, Margaret being born 1801, 34 years after their marriage. They had a total of twelve children.

William died 24th January 1811 and not 1812 as I have seen recorded elsewhere and left a very lengthy will providing for his family and friends. I do know that he died quite a wealthy man, so his baking skills were profitable, and that he was commissioned to bake for the great and the good of the day.

I also know from the newspaper report of his death that he had clearly diversified from just baking into being a dealer of venison too. Susanna died the previous year and both were buried at St Bride’s church.

It’s easy to see how the story has become confused over the years and whatever the truth it’s a lovely story of boy meets girl, boy makes a beautiful tiered wedding cake for their big day, so let’s leave it at that and assume that there is a grain of truth in it. A fragment of Susannah’s wedding dress and a party dress belonging to her seems to have survived and was on display at St Bride’s church at some time.

Elizabeth Raffald (née Whitaker). NPG
Elizabeth Raffald (née Whitaker). NPG

Mrs Raffald’s, the famous 18th century writer of a cookery book, wrote a recipe for bride cakes which involved layers of cake with a filling, almond icing, then sugar icing, but there’s nothing to confirm that this involved using layers of cake to make tiers. It seems perfectly feasible that William adapted this recipe and created several of Mrs Raffald style cakes tiered up to look like the nearby St Bride’s church for his own wedding. This may be a myth, but I quite liked it.

A perspective view of the north-west front of ye parish church of St Bride’s with the beautiful spire, the height from the cross above the vain to the ground is 242 feet.
A perspective view of the north-west front of ye parish church of St Bride’s with the beautiful spire, the height from the cross above the vain to the ground is 242 feet. Yale Centre for British Art


The court and country confectioner: or, the housekeeper’s guide. Mr Borella. 1770

Beaufoy's Vinegar Works, Cuper's Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.

A Careers Guide for the Eighteenth-century

In 1761, Joseph Collyer developed a careers guide for parents including information about the requirements for being an apprentice. He stressed the importance of good education of course, but it also began with a ‘how to’ guide for new parents describing how the mother should establish a moral code for children and ensuring that they behaved well from infancy, including discipline. Mothers should take care not to create groundless fears in the child, such as making the child afraid of the dark, telling him idle tales of ghosts, hobgoblins and haunted houses. She should instil the principles of religion and virtue. She should help shape not only their bodies but their minds too. The book offers guidance on many trades, so here are a just a few of them with more to follow in future articles.

The first three occupations that Collyer considers are Divinity, Law and Physic.

In a nutshell, if the child is likely to be easily led into drink, women, and other vices then divinity would not be the right careers path and law would be a much better option as people are more forgiving of these vices.  They would need to be fluent in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. To study ethics and moral philosophy and to apply himself to the Holy Scriptures and be good at public speaking in order to deliver sermons.

The Country Vicar's Fire Side.
The Country Vicar’s Fire Side. © The Trustees of the British Museum

To enter the legal profession a boy would need to have a quick understanding.  A lively wit and volubility of speech. He should have a great command of temper and a sincere love of justice. They must learn languages and read the works of great orators. Upon leaving university he must enter one of the four Inns and apply himself to the laws of the country.

Mr Bannister Junior and Mr Parsons as Scout and Sheepface in 'The Village Lawyer' by Samuel de Wilde (Scout the lawyer on the left)
Mr Bannister Junior and Mr Parsons as Scout and Sheepface in ‘The Village Lawyer’ by Samuel de Wilde (Scout the lawyer on the left); Leicester Arts and Museums Service

The physician – the youth intended for the study of physic ought also to have an extensive genius, particularly clear perception, a found judgment and a retentive memory. He should have the liberal education of a gentleman. He should have a tender compassion for his fellow creatures.  Well versed in the dead languages, skilled in natural philosophy, anatomy, botany, pharmacy and chemistry. A periwig is essential headgear for a doctor as it imparts an air of gravitas and his patients will trust him more than wearing any other type of wig.

A Physician in His Study, Writing a Prescription for His Waiting Patient by Pieter Jacob Horemans, 1745
(c) Wellcome Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Collyer moved on to the other trades rather than professions and outlined various occupations and what a master would expect to be paid for training their new apprentice. For most apprentices, the amount paid was between five and ten pounds.  The book runs to well over two hundred pages, so far too many occupations for us to cover in this post so it may be one we will return to if people find it of interest.

Anvil Smith

A boy designed for this trade needs only a basic education, with no great mental abilities being required. The art of his trade is learnt by feeling the tempering of the steel. However, it requires a good deal of strength. It is a very profitable business for the master.

A blacksmith at his anvil
A blacksmith at his anvil. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The baker

The boy, designed for this useful trade, ought to be of an honest disposition, and both strong and industrious; since the apprentices in London are obliged to carry out great loads of bread by day and to work had most of the night. The money given with an apprentice is from 5 pounds to 20 pounds. The journeymen have 6 or 7 pounds a week and their board, and a master cannot well set up with less than 100 pounds considering he is obliged to give credit.

Baker's boy, 1746.
Baker’s boy, 1746. Met Museum

Catgut spinner

A cat-gut spinner is a necessary article in several trades; in the making of whips, the stringing of violins etc. But yet, cat-gut spinning is a very mean, nasty and stinking trade, that requires no genius or abilities. None but the poorest children are put apprentice to it, and when out of their time, they are able to earn only very mean support.

Catgut makers: various stages in the process of catgut making and instruments used. Etching by Antonio Baratti.
Catgut makers: various stages in the process of catgut making and instruments used. Etching by Antonio Baratti. Wellcome Library

Drapery painter

The boy designed for this business, which is the lowest degree of liberal painter, ought to learn to draw and to form a just knowledge of the nature of light and shade; and this may serve as a sufficient preparatory for his being put apprentice; when, if he be bound to a proper master, he will learn, though he has no very extraordinary genius, to obtain a tolerable notion of painting in general, a sufficient knowledge of colours, and the manner of mixing them. To exhibit the folds of a garment in such a manner as to show the materials of which it is composed, whether woollen, linen, silk or velvet.

Though this business does not require a very great genius, yet those who are eminent in their way and employed by a celebrated limner (portrait painter), may frequently earn a guinea a day.

Joseph Van Aken, The Drapery Painter by Thomas Hudson. (Writing in 1743 George Vertue observed in one of his notebooks that the most skilled living drapery painter was Joseph Van Aken.)
Joseph Van Aken, The Drapery Painter by Thomas Hudson. Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd. (Writing in 1743 George Vertue observed in one of his notebooks that the most skilled living drapery painter was Joseph Van Aken.)

Fan Stick Maker

This is a business for weakly boys. Fan stick makers are employed by those who keep a fan shop and make sticks of ivory, tortoiseshell, wood etc. Many fans now are brought ready mounted from the East Indies and sold here extremely cheaply and have almost ruined this branch of the business.

Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757.
Fan depicting the gardens of Chiswick Villa, 1757. Met Museum

Iron Hoop Maker

This is a class of Smith solely employed in making iron hoops for large vessels belonging to the brewers and distillers. It is a laborious, noisy and requires no extraordinary abilities.

Beaufoy's Vinegar Works, Cuper's Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.
Beaufoy’s Vinegar Works, Cuper’s Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.

Muffin Maker

This business has but of late years been carried on in shops, but they are now pretty numerous. The muffins are cakes made of white flour and used at the tea-table. It is a tolerable business for a master; though a poor one for a journeyman. They take poor lads from the parish or others with no money; who the first part of their time cry the muffins through the streets early in the morning, and again in the afternoon; and also work hard when they are making these cakes.

London Cries: A Muffin Man by Paul Sandby, c.1759.
London Cries: A Muffin Man by Paul Sandby, c.1759. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Patten Makers

These keep shops and make wooden clogs as well as pattens. It is an easy light business and requires few talents, and very little learning is necessary. It is enough, if the boy designed for it, can write a plain hand and understands the first rules of arithmetic. When he has completed his apprenticeship, he may earn twelve pounds a week.

Piety in Pattens or Timbertoe on Tiptoe
Piety in Pattens or Timbertoe on Tiptoe. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Screen Maker

The boy, who is designed for this business, would do well to learn to draw and to obtain some knowledge in perspective before he becomes an apprentice.  There is great variety in this piece of furniture, serving both for ornament and use; and therefore, there is some room for a boy of genius to exert his talents. The master, who are but few in number, generally keep handsome shops. The make their own frames, which they mount with gilt or painted leather etc and the sometimes deal also in cabinet and chair makers goods. They take about twenty pounds with an apprentice and if they keep a genteel shop, employ several hundred pounds in trade.

Screen depicting Hunting, Cock-Fighting, Card-Playing, Horse-Riding, Game-Shooting, Dice-Throwing, Fishing and Bathing by an unknown artist, 1746.
Screen depicting Hunting, Cock-Fighting, Card-Playing, Horse-Riding, Game-Shooting, Dice-Throwing, Fishing and Bathing by an unknown artist, 1746. Victorian and Albert Museum

Tire Smith

His is an ingenious branch of the Smith’s business, consisting of making ironwork belonging to the carriages, coaches and chaises. The nicest and most curious part of their work are springs for the spring coaches and other vehicles of pleasure. There is great variety in this business.

English coaches and carriages from Le Costume Historique.
English coaches and carriages from Le Costume Historique.

More career choices can be found by clicking this link.

In this article, you will find some of the jobs that were available for women.

French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83

Find out more about the job of a calenderer in the 18th-century

Here’s a new one for you. What did a calenderer do? Any ideas? I hadn’t, so off down the proverbial rabbit hole I disappeared to find out more.

When you’ve visited a stately home and wandered into the bedrooms with those immense four-poster beds, like this one at Houghton Hall, have you ever wondered how on earth they cleaned the drapes around the bed – or is that just me (rhetorical)?  I have looked at beds and bedding in a previous article, so I thought this subject required further investigation.

Courtesy of Houghton Hall
Courtesy of Houghton Hall

Looking at the sheer amount of fabric they must have been incredibly heavy, can you imagine trying to climb up there, take them down and wash them by hand? I have visions of several servants attempting to do this precariously balancing on ladders.

But no, if you were wealthy you would employ a calenderer to do part of this process for you at around 12-15 shillings per bed which equates to roughly the wages to employ a tradesperson for 5 days in 1790.

French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83
French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83; Met Museum

Calenderers, also known as calico glazers (the term appears to be interchangeable), would visit the home and were often described as ‘journeymen’ (we should point out at this stage that our research has shown that quite a few women also carried out this type of work), unstitch the drapes, from the bed frame, take down the canopies and bedding. The fabric would be washed by the domestic servants, then the calenderman (person) as they were often termed, would apply the final process and rehang the fabric.  It was a process that would have been carried out for the most affluent in society.

I noted that Dido Elizabeth Belle had her mahogany bed at Kenwood House, ‘washed and glazed’ for 12 shillings.

Detail of French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83
Detail of French Tester bed (lit à la duchesse en impériale), c.1782/83; Met Museum

Glazed or shiny chintz originally known as calico, was the favoured style of the eighteenth-century for bed drapes and curtains. The fabric would be scoured and washed, then stretched. The material would be starched with a special solution and finally, the glaze, similar to a waxy substance would be applied using a machine with heated rollers, known as a calender to give it a lovely sheen.

The Garrick Bed, ca.1775. A four-poster bed designed by Thomas Chippendale with 20th-century reproduction hangings. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

It would have been a very time-consuming job to unpick the curtains and drapes, carry out the process, then restitch everything back into place.  Despite this, it was a relatively cheap job to do, around 12 shillings. This was because although labour intensive, labour was cheap at that time.

London had relatively few calenderers, unlike Manchester which seems to have had plenty, but there were quite a few calico glazers. The job of calico glazer required a seven-year apprenticeship to be undertaken, so a skilled trade.  Quite a few of these companies went bankrupt as we’ve found them appearing in the newspaper lists, so it doesn’t look to have been the most lucrative of occupations.

Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700
Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A

It wasn’t just drapes that were calendered as we can see from this advertisement from The Morning Herald, January 25th, 1793:

Clout. Calenderer and Calico-Glazer. No, 10 King Street, Golden Square, facing the chapel begs leave to inform his friends and the Ladies in general, of Chintz, Muslins, Dimities, Cotton and Linen Gowns and Dresses, in the most elegant manner, without taking to pieces, on the following terms.

Camp beds, Window Hangings, Chair Covers, Coach Linings etc, in proportion

N.B Wanted an apprentice or any young man, that would wish to learn the above business; none need apply who cannot command a small premium.

In The Morning Post and Fashionable World of September 21, 1795, we see Mr Bunting of 41, New Bond Street offering his services as:

Silk dyer, Calenderer and Glazer to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

Caroline of Brunswick when Princess of Wales, depicted in her wedding dress by Gainsborough Dupont, 1795-96. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Caroline of Brunswick when Princess of Wales, depicted in her wedding dress by Gainsborough Dupont, 1795-96. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

We came across several newspaper advertisements by women, including the family firm of Wrights, which included the three daughters of Mrs Wright, the owner, who took over the business upon the death of their mother. We have looked for wills for all the calenderers that we’ve found and not one, so this leads us to conclude that in all likelihood they didn’t have enough to make it worthwhile leaving one.


Records of London’s Livery Companies Online Apprentices and Freemen 1400-1900

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, February 8, 1775

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, May 2, 1778

Public Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, May 13, 1780;

Hall Genealogy, Old Occupation Names


Extraordinary Exploit During the Frost, 1826.

William Leftwich and the Ice Well

As we’re sure you have probably read in the news recently, an eighteenth-century ice house or ice well has been discovered in London.

The egg-shaped cavern, 9.5 metres deep and 7.5 metres wide, had been backfilled with demolition rubble after the terrace was bombed during the war, requiring three months of careful excavation before its structure could be fully revealed.

It appears to have originally been constructed in the 1780s for use in connection with the brewing industry, but it was taken over by a William Leftwich, who used it as an ice well. At the turn of the century, it was mainly the affluent who had an ice house or possibly a well on their land, places such as Chatsworth, Petworth and possibly Kenwood, but William’s idea was on a much larger scale, his aim was to supply commercially, so we thought we would try to find out a little more about his life and business.

William was born July 1770, the son of William and Martha Leftwich, née Barns of Aldford, a village in rural Cheshire. At the end of January 1785, William was apprenticed to James Reynolds, a pastry cook living in Tower Street, London.

Having completed his apprenticeship he became a confectioner and established shops in Fleet Street and Kingston upon Thames (which is where his two youngest children were baptised).

It was in 1795 at St Marys, Newington, Surrey that William married Susanna Ricketts, some eight years his junior. The couple went on to have many mouths to feed, which, being a pastry cook must have helped –William Henry and Thomas Robert (twins) (1796), George (1799-1802), Susannah (1801), Thomas (1803), Eliza (1806), Martha (1807), George (1810), Mary Ann (1813) and finally Charles (1815).

Goodness! William’s wife died in 1818 leaving him to not only run his confectionery business but also to raise the children – so, not an easy task.

Britain had developed a taste for ice in drinks such as sherry cobblers, mint julep and iced desserts and the likes of William struggled to keep dairy foods cool, as did fishmongers. Working class men who owned a donkey or horse and cart would club together, pay rent to the landholder so that when the water was frozen they could collect ice from their water supply which they could then sell on to fishmongers and confectioners for a small profit.

‘Homegrown’ ice was reliant upon the country having a cold winter, thereby allowing ice to be gathered from the frozen rivers, so was unreliable and quantities were somewhat limited.

The Thames Frozen Over, near the Tower of London. Yale Centre for British Art
The Thames Frozen Over, near the Tower of London. Yale Centre for British Art

William hit upon an idea to import ice from Norway and with that, in 1822, he went to Norway where he purchased a large quantity of ice and in May 1822, he chartered a vessel, ‘The Spring’ to sail to Norway to collect it. Apart from the obvious problem of the ice melting it also created problems for customs as when the vessel returned they had no idea how much tax to charge him, so a charge of 20% was levied on his cargo. Concerned by such a high levy William then decided to send vessels elsewhere, mainly America and in doing so, the importation duty was reduced to 5%, making the whole operation more profitable.

It was suggested to him that he had a large well dug on Little Albany Street. This would hold some 1,500 tons of ice. The ice was thrown in and descended on a platform, the waste due to melting, filtered through the sand layer and fell into the space below, from where it ran off by means of a pipe into a deeper and smaller well by the side of the large one. The water, by the means of machinery, was pumped up to supply several neighbouring houses with a fresh supply of water.

Glaciarium 1876
Glaciarium 1876

The ice was drawn up in buckets and onto a cart (the weight of the cart having previously been determined), then the whole load weighed again to determine the weight of the ice itself. The cost of ice varied between 2 shillings and 2 shillings and 6 pence a load. William also had a further two wells constructed, one being in Wood Street.

As well as selling to London, William also sold to amongst others, the towns of Bath, Cheltenham and Bristol.

ICE six inches thick and remarkably clean. – WILLIAM LEFTWICH begs leave to inform the Nobility and Gentry that they may be SUPPLIED  with ICE of a superior quality for cleanliness than that usually sold. Delivered at their houses in any part of London, in quantities of not less than 18lbs, at 2d. per lb., or 14s. per cwt. Orders received at 162, Fleet-street, and at the Ice-well, Park-crescent-mews, New-road, punctually attended to. Taverns, Coffeehouses, and Clubs on moderate terms.

Morning Post, 31 March 1826.

William took the trouble to explain in his newspaper advertisements how it could be used to preserve beef during hot weather.

London Courier and Evening Gazette 05 June 1827
London Courier and Evening Gazette 05 June 1827

William was quite the entrepreneur and made himself and his family a handsome profit and by 1835, William was a ‘Purveyor of Ice’ to His Majesty, as we see in this newspaper advertisement.

ICE – The Nobility, Gentry, Club Houses, Hotels, Tavernkeepers, Confectioners, Fishongers, and others are respectfully informed that WILLIAM LEFTWICH, 43, Cumberland Market, Regent’s Park, Purveyor of Ice to his Majesty, has just imported, and will continue to import, SPRING WATER ICE from Norway, the best frozen, clearest, and most durable that can be obtained, at very low prices, which will be in proportion to the quantity required.

Morning Post, 6 April 1835.

In 1841 we find William living a comfortable life at 43, Cumberland Market, Regent’s Park, with two of his daughters, Susanna and Martha, which was where he was to remain for the remainder of his life. Two of his sons, William and Thomas lived on the same street with their respective families, both still working in the family, with all supplying ice to affluent families in the area.

William was died November 1843 and was buried on 23rd November 1843, at Kensal Green. He died leaving an extremely detailed will in which he provided for all his surviving children.  His sons continued the business for some considerable years to come.


Online baptism, marriage and burial registers, census returns, wills and the apprentice register


The Guardian online 28 December 2018

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 10 May 1822

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

To all our lovely readers, we send a massive ‘thank you‘ for all your amazing support during this year and our best wishes to you all for this holiday season. We will be taking a blog break until January 8th when we will return with plenty more stories for you and some exciting news too!

If you haven’t sorted those last-minute Christmas pressies for history-loving friends and relatives, then they might like one of our books.

If you like nonfiction books about strong and remarkable women from history, why not take a look?

This article tells you a little more information about our special offers on them.

We thought we would leave you with some of the most popular articles from this year to have a read through if you find a little time to put your feet up with a cuppa (and find out how it was made in the 18th-century), a coffeehot chocolate or something a little stronger.

The story of a domesticated tiger

A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for "Oriental Field Sports", 1805, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for “Oriental Field Sports”, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Dido Elizabeth BelleDido Elizabeth Belle

Discovering the history of the Ram Jam Inn

The Ram Jam Inn sign, showing the landlady with her thumbs stuck in the barrel. © HitchinLookers/Dragontree; www.waymarking.com
The Ram Jam Inn sign, showing the landlady with her thumbs stuck in the barrel. © HitchinLookers/Dragontree; http://www.waymarking.com

An Unconventional Marchioness: The Life of Lady Salisbury

The Marchioness of Salisbury (Diana return'd from the Chace) by James Gillray.
The Marchioness of Salisbury (Diana return’d from the Chace) by James Gillray. © National Portrait Gallery, London

The humble apron of the 18th century

French School; A Young Girl Carrying Cherries in Her Apron; The Bowes Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-young-girl-carrying-cherries-in-her-apron-44714

Frith Street, Soho: Mozart’s London Tour

Leopold (1791-1787), and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791); Royal College of Music
Leopold (1791-1787), and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791); Royal College of Music

A Serial Killer on the island of Jamaica, 1773

Skittles and Nine Holes, or Bumble Puppy: sporting pastimes in the Georgian era

The game of Bumble Puppy or Bubbling, 1803.
The game of Bumble Puppy or Bubbling, 1803. © The Trustees of the British Museum



Image of Harriet engraved from a painting held by a Mr Oakley via UCD Special Collections on Twitter.

The curious case of Harriet Moore, alias John Murphy

Harriet was born in Sligo, Ireland in the early 1800s. Her mother died in 1816, leaving her an orphan. It is reported in one account that she was put out to service, in another, simply that being orphaned, she put on her brothers’ clothes and, dressed as a boy, changed her name to John Murphy (her mother’s maiden name) as she feared travelling alone as a female, and set off to seek employment.

On the banks of Lough Gill, County Sligo by John Faulkner, RHA.
On the banks of Lough Gill, County Sligo by John Faulkner, RHA via Whyte’s.

Her first job was as a cabin boy during which time she accidentally fell overboard, and fearful of being discovered she escaped to shore and ran away.  She then took employment as a footboy to a Rev. Mr Duke where she remained for a year, during which time one of the maids, assuming Harriet was a boy, fell in love with her. The maid told her employer that she had discovered John was really a woman. Upon questioning, Harriet swore that the maid was mistaken and that he was a male but Harriet/John had no option but to move on.

She sailed on board a ship to Liverpool and assisted a Mr Lowther with driving his cattle to Leicester. Having travelled as far as Shardlow, Derbyshire she left Lowther and took up employment at the Navigation Inn, Shardlow, working for a Mr Clarke. After only a couple of months, still masquerading as a man, she was beaten up by one of the other servants for being Irish.

Shardlow Hall
Shardlow Hall

Harriet then moved on and worked as a groom to James Sutton Esq. at Shardlow Hall. This was a good position, and all went well until there was some sort of altercation and Harriet left under a cloud.

During her time in Shardlow, Harriet gained employment at the local salt works and lodged in the nearby village of Aston-on-Trent, with a Mrs Jane Lacey who had a daughter, Matilda (born 1808). Matilda found herself pregnant by the village butcher, a married man, but she was also in love in love with John aka Harriet.

A Derbyshire Landscape by William Turner of Oxford.
A Derbyshire Landscape by William Turner of Oxford. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Somehow, Mrs Lacey discovered that John was actually Harriet – blackmail began. Mrs Lacey told Harriet that if it was discovered that he was a she, she would be transported (i.e. sent to Australia on a convict ship). Mrs Lacey arranged for Matilda’s child to be raised as if the child were John’s and that John should marry Matilda.

In a state of distress at the prospect of marriage, Harriet sought employment just over the border in Nottinghamshire. At Chilwell, near Beeston, just 8 miles away, she worked for a bricklayer and first learnt to carry the hod, which she was very successful at since she had become accustomed to doing manual work. She was well-respected by her master and fellow workmen. This peace was shattered when Matilda’s mother wrote a letter to the master, saying that John had abandoned Matilda. The employer, a moral man dismissed John.

Bricklayer's labourer, c.1820
Bricklayer’s labourer, c.1820

Worried about being discovered, Harriet agreed to Mrs Lacey’s demands and married Matilda at the parish church at Aston-on-Trent on 25th August 1823. John didn’t find it easy trying to maintain a wife, child and Matilda’s mother and began to seek work away from home and this often drew the attention of the parish officers towards him, until eventually, he left.

John went on to meet a woman who became his confidante, and upon telling her the story, she procured for him suitable female clothing and Harriet divorced herself from her matrimonial troubles. Harriet was described as short, stout, good-looking and stated to be in her twentieth year but was perhaps somewhat older.

Image of Harriet engraved from a painting held by a Mr Oakley via UCD Special Collections on Twitter.
Image of Harriet engraved from a painting held by a Mr Oakley via UCD Special Collections on Twitter.

It is interesting to note that another child, Mary was born in 1826, with no father’s name being given, the child being described as a bastard.

Then a son, George, who was baptised in the north of the county at Hayfield, 19th August 1827, this time both parents, John and Matilda Murphy were named. I’m not totally certain that this was their child though.

The 1827 baptism is doubly curious because, prior to that date, John had become Harriet again and married John Gardiner, a widowed silk weaver at Derby on 17th October 1825.

In April 1830, Matilda married again too, under her maiden name, but only a few months in February 1831, an entry appears in the burial register for Aston for a Matilda Browne, so it’s relatively safe to assume that she died. Interestingly, a couple of weeks later a baby, Jane Browne, aged just 6 months was also buried, so presumably, this was their daughter.

As to what became of Harriet and her husband I have no idea, they seem to have vanished into thin air. Perhaps after all the publicity, it’s hardly surprising?


Captain Rock in London, Or, The Chieftain’s Weekly Gazette, Volume 1

Perthshire Courier 14 July 1825

Bury and Norwich Post 02 November 1825

Parish registers Hayfield and Aston-on-Trent

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald 15 March 1930

Featured Image

Courtesy of  University College Dublin, Special Collections via Twitter

Lotions, Potions and Pills – Druggist Trade Cards

We have looked at trade cards on a couple of previous occasions and it appears that many of our readers like them as much as we do. So, today we’re going to look at a specific trade – that of a druggist or chymist.

Wellcome library
Wellcome Library

Our first offering is a lovely card for a Joseph Leaper, who was running his business in Bishopsgate, London. We love that not only did he make up lotions and potions, but also diversified into coffee, tea, chocolate and snuffs, a real 18th-century entrepreneur.

Joseph Leaper. Wellcome Library
Joseph Leaper. Wellcome Library

As the card is giving away few clues we can’t be sure whether it relates to him Joseph senior or junior who took over the business on his father’s death in 1750. His will made no clear mention as to who was to take over the business after his death, but family were clearly important to him and he made provision for both his children grandchildren and so if this trade card postdates Joseph senior’s death, then it’s safe to assume his son Joseph took over the reins In Joseph senior’s will he specifically wished to be buried with his wife in Whitechapel, or, if he died in Derbyshire, to be buried at Osmaston, near Derby. Joseph senior got his wish to be buried with his wife and didn’t make it to the pretty village of Osmaston. He was buried 21st May 1750 at St Mary’s, Whitechapel.

The next one conjures up quite a dramatic image, someone clearly spent a great deal of time designing this. Something this detailed and imaginative would probably have been expensive to produce. You could spend hours just reading the symbolism contained within it.

Richard Siddall. Wellcome Library
Richard Siddall. Wellcome Library

Richard Siddall who was operating his business from the Golden Head, Panton Street, near the Haymarket. He was a maker and seller of all manner of chymical and Galenical medicines. He also sold ‘The Elixir for the Asthma and for gout and rheumatism’.

We know that he was already trading from that address when he married on 9th November 1751, as the London Magazine, or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 20 as it confirms his marriage to Miss Sukey le Febre (sic), fourth daughter to John le Febre (sic). In May 1753 Richard was declared bankrupt, so we have no idea what became of him after that. We do, however, know that his business was taken over by Daniel Swann, as he used an identical trade card showing the same address, just with a name change.

Our third one is for GJ Beavan who was trading at 114 High Street, Cheltenham, so, a fashionable spa town, an ideal place to visit for the upper classes and potentially lucrative for the businessman.

GJ Bevan Wellcome Library
GJ Bevan Wellcome Library

This one tells us little about who Beavan was, but we do know that his company took over the business from Paytherus, Savory and company who also owned a warehouse on Bond Street, London and who were involved from 1793, in the production of Cheltenham Salts. Beavan’s was certainly trading under its new name from 1818 onwards according to the newspapers and we see this advert below for one of their products in 1832.

Cheltenham Chronicle 18 October 1832
Cheltenham Chronicle 18 October 1832

The final one belonged to John Kempson Esq., a druggist of Snow Hill, London and according to Yale Centre for British Art was dated c1770. This helps us to narrow it down and we have found that John died in 1788 whilst getting into his carriage at his home in Cheam, Surrey. His will confirms that the main beneficiary of his estate was his wife, to whom he left £1,000, so not an inconsiderable sum of money. John was buried at St Dunstan church, Cheam on 6th November 1788, aged 77.

John Kempson. Yale Centre for British Art
John Kempson. Yale Centre for British Art

It would appear that John didn’t work alone but had a chemist Richardson Ferrand working with him according to a newspaper report in the Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette of May 19th, 1804.


Derby Mercury 11th May 1753

Worcester Journal 29 September 1808

Chelmsford Chronicle 07 November 1788

Featured Image

Showing the effect of taking Cheltenham Salts c,1820

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park.

The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park

Today we are going to take a look at a building which stood in Hyde Park, on the north side of the Serpentine next to the Ring (a circular track around which the nobility could drive in their carriages). It was known as the Cheesecake House, (among other names) and was a place where refreshments could be purchased.

The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797.
The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797. Royal Collection Trust

An ancient building, made of timber and plaster with a flat tiled roof, the Cheesecake House stood in the park from at least the reign of Charles II (and perhaps even earlier). To gain access to the front door, the visitor had to cross the small stream which ran in front of the building via a rudimentary wooden bridge. Samuel Pepys was a visitor; in 1669 he took his wife for a visit and they sat in their coach and ate ‘a cheesecake and drank a tankard of milk’.

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park by Thomas Hearne, c.1795.
The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park by Thomas Hearne, c.1795. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In the time of Queen Anne, it was known as the Cake House or Minced-pie House and later was called Price’s Lodge (later sources say after Gervase Price, chief under-keeper of Hyde Park). By the late seventeenth-century Price’s Lodge was run by a widow named Frances Price.

St James’s Park is frequented by people of quality; who, if they have a mind to have better and freer air, drive to Hyde Park, where is a ring for the coaches to drive around; and hard by is Mrs Price’s where are incomparable syllabubs.

A Journey to London in the year 1698 by Dr William King (1663-1712)

But, it is best remembered as the Cheesecake House, after one of the delicacies which could be bought there as cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs were all on the menu.

Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

Mrs Price was still the landlady in 1712 when a famous duel was fought literally on her doorstep in Hyde Park between James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun on 12th November 1712.

Lord Mohun’s coach was stopped by the keeper of Hyde Park but, telling him they were headed for Price’s Lodge, he allowed it to pass. Mohun and his second, an Irish officer named George Macartney, got out of the coach and walked away, bidding the coachman to go into the lodge and ask John Reynolds, the Drawer, to get some ‘burnt-wine’ ready for when they returned. Reynolds was wise to their tricks. He said he would not do so, ‘for very few came thither so soon in the morning but to fight…’.

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park, 1786.
The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park, 1786. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The duel was fought with swords and the seconds joined in too; both Hamilton and Mohun were wounded, Mohun fatally but the Duke of Hamilton only received a cut on his arm, at least at that point. Accounts differ, but it was claimed that the duke then dropped his sword and Macartney, Mohun’s second, delivered a fatal blow to him. John Reynolds came out and tried to help the duke walk to the house but before they reached the bridge, Hamilton said ‘he could walk no further’ and died on the spot.

With both the main protagonists dead, the two seconds, Macartney and the duke’s man, Colonel Hamilton were charged with manslaughter; Macartney fled to Hanover but Hamilton stood trial and was found guilty.

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park.
The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Frances Price died around 1719 and her will, written seven years earlier, left Price’s Lodge to her grandson, John Price. However, Frances’ will stipulated that, if she wanted to take over the management, her widowed daughter, Anne Silver, who lived with her mother in Hyde Park, should be allowed to do so, paying John Price an annual sum of £10 a year for the use thereof. Sadly, Anne Silver was to predecease her mother.

By 1801 the Cheesecake House was in use as a boat-house and in the nineteenth-century was demolished altogether. Except when there was a fair, for around a hundred years no refreshments were allowed to be sold in Hyde Park, a situation which caused many complaints. Finally, on 1st April 1909, the Ring Tea House was opened, a newly built Georgian rustic style circular building which catered for the park’s visitors.

You might be interested to know that cheesecakes of the period contained no cheese and were akin to a Yorkshire curd tart. In our next blog post, we will take a look at some Georgian era recipes for cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs.


Edward Walford, ‘Hyde Park’, in Old and New London: Volume 4 (London, 1878), pp. 375-405. British History Online

The Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1801

London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions by Henry Benjamin Wheatley and Peter Cunningham, Cambridge University Press, 2011

Daily Telegraph and Courier (London), 9th April 1909

The Original Works in verse and prose of Dr William King, vol 1, 1776

The substance of all the depositions taken at the coroners’ inquest the 17th, 19th, and 21st of November, on the body of Duke Hamilton. And the 15th, 18th, 20th, and 22nd, on the body of my Lord Mohun, 1712

National Archives:

PROB 11/573/157, Will of Frances Price, widow of Hyde Park, 19 March 1719/1720

PROB 11/542/334, Will of Anne Silver, widow of Hyde Park, 25 October 1714

The Dipping Well in Hyde Park, engraving by James Godby after Francis Wheatley, 1802.

The Dipping and Drinking Wells at Hyde Park

In the early eighteenth-century, the Serpentine in Hyde Park was no large and ornamental lake, but rather a series of ponds described as consisting of dirty and stagnant water which were supplied by the Westbourne, a river which originated in the Hampstead and which, before entering Hyde Park, was joined by the ‘Cool Bourne’ (Kilburn) and a tributary called the Tyburn Brook or Stream. The Westbourne carried on under Knightsbridge to meet the Thames near Chelsea Hospital but, in Hyde Park, it ‘wandered about in a series of ponds’ until in 1730 Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, ordered that it be banked, forming the artificial lake we know today as the Serpentine.

Queen Caroline of Ansbach
Queen Caroline of Ansbach; Warwick Shire Hall

St Agnes’ Well was at the northern end of the lake (it was located about where the statue of Edward Jenner now stands). In the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries the springs of this well had two distinct uses.

The Drinking Well in Hyde Park by William Pickett c.1812.
The Drinking Well in Hyde Park by William Pickett c.1812.

St. Agnes’s Well, Hyde Park, considered one of the holy wells, existed as late as 1804, near the head of the Serpentine on its east bank, in a part of Hyde Park formerly known as Buckden Hill. There were two springs: one was used for bathing the eyes, and for the immersion of children, and is mentioned by Dr. Clippingdale in his paper on West London Rivers, as the ‘Dipping Well’; the water of the other, said to be medicinally potent, was sold in glasses by an attendant to visitors, amongst whom were many children of the richer classes, sent by their parents. The water was also taken away in jugs or bottles for consumption at home. It was probably mildly chalybeate.

The Drinking Well in Hyde Park, engraving by James Godby after Maria Spilsbury, 1802.
The Drinking Well in Hyde Park, engraving by James Godby after Maria Spilsbury, 1802. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The image above of the drinking well, showing a paid attendant allowing women and children to fill glasses from the small trough like well is an engraving from an original by the artist, Maria Spilsbury (1776-1820), who lived immediately opposite the site at her family’s house, 10 St George’s Row. Maria would have known this scene well.

The Illustrated London News, in 1908, contained an advert for Pears soap (invented in 1789) which waxed lyrical on the pastoral charms of old Hyde Park.

The spot was one of sweet sylvan beauty, to which mothers and nurses resorted in the morning hours with their infant charges, for the purpose of washing and bathing them in the fresh bubbling spring, caught at its source in a rustic open well. What more delightful mode of having a bath could be imagined than here in the pure open air, with the luxuriant glades dissolving into the distance behind, and deer loitering in the leafy shade? It is, indeed, a scene of grace, natural beauty, and enjoyment.

The Dipping Well in Hyde Park, engraving by James Godby after Francis Wheatley, 1802.
The Dipping Well in Hyde Park, engraving by James Godby after Francis Wheatley, 1802. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The dipping well may also be depicted in the painting Juvenile Tricks by Joseph Mallord William Turner, c.1808. The notes on the Tate website suggest that, as there appears to be a level of organisation in the boys’ activities in Turner’s depiction, that it might represent an apprentices’ initiation rite.

Juvenile Tricks by Joseph Mallord William Turner, c.1808. The scene may depict the Dipping Well in Hyde Park
Juvenile Tricks by Joseph Mallord William Turner, c.1808. The Tate


Illustrated London News, 20th June 1908

Old London’s spas, bath, and wells by Septimus Sunderland, 1915

Maria Spilsbury (1776-1820): Artist and Evangelist by Charlotte Yeldham, Routledge, 2017

Two Engravings (dated 1802) of the Drinking and Dipping Wells in Hyde Park by Sir StClair Thomson, M.D. (from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine)

The Fleet on the Serpentine River, Commemoration of the Battle of the Nile, August 1st 1814.

The Grand Jubilee of 1814

We will be taking our usual summer blog break until the end of August when we’ll be back with more Georgian stories for you, but in the meantime, we’ll leave you with this one.

Monday, 1st August 1814 was both the anniversary of the Battle of the Nile and the centenary of the ascension to the throne of the Hanoverian monarchs; to celebrate these and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended hostilities between Britain and France, the day was chosen for a grand national Jubilee. (British weather being what it is, in the run-up to the event it was advertised that the date was moveable, depending on predicted rainfall but all went to plan and the 1st August proved to be dry.)

London virtually shut up shop for a day out at the three parks chosen to host the celebrations, Green Park, St James’s Park and Hyde Park, and people journeyed from miles around to witness the spectacle.

The Fair and Naumachy or sham sea fight in Hyde Park was in honour of the Peace.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Thomas Smith of Marylebone, in his Historical Recollections of Hyde Park, left us a detailed account of the day.

Many hundreds of workmen had been employed for several weeks in making the necessary preparations, while a numerous body of artists from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich were occupied in arranging the fire-works under the superintendence of Sir W. Congreve, in temporary buildings erected for that purpose in the Green Park. The most judicious precautions were adopted to prevent accidents from the pressure of the crowd, by taking down the iron railings and part of the wall in several places, thus affording free access to the immense multitude that had been attracted from all parts of the country. It is an indisputable fact, that such a number of persons were never brought together on any former occasion of public rejoicing.

In St. James’s Park, the principal object was a bridge thrown across the canal on which an elegant Chinese pagoda of seven stories was erected, profusely ornamented and hung with lamps, with fire-works affixed to various parts, the interior of the enclosure being appropriated to those who paid for admission; numerous booths and tents were pitched, while boats filled with elegantly dressed females on the canal, presented to the eye a scene of enchantment not easily to be imagined or described.

The Chinese Bridge and Pagoda previous to the fire, 1st August 1814.
The Chinese Bridge and Pagoda previous to the fire, 1st August 1814. King George III Topographical Collection, British Library

The illuminations formed a complete blaze of light, the trees in the Mall and Bird-cage walk, being encircled with lamps, and Chinese lanterns fancifully painted, glittered among the foliage. Her Majesty and the Princesses entertained a party of 250 of the nobility at dinner in Buckingham House, the front of which was also brilliantly illuminated, in uniformity with the Royal Booth in the Green Park, the devices exhibiting the names of our most celebrated military and naval heroes.

The fortress (which inclosed the Grand Pavillion) in the Green Park, with the ascent of the balloon (1814).
The fortress (which inclosed the Grand Pavillion) in the Green Park, with the ascent of the balloon (1814). Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

In the early part of the evening Mr. Sadler ascended with his balloon from the space in front of Buckingham House to the great gratification of the royal party, who had taken a lively interest in witnessing the preparations for the ascent; at a later period of the evening, an unfortunate accident happened which threw a damp over the whole proceedings at this point, the fire-works having set fire to the pagoda; two of the men employed were so seriously injured that they expired on the following day; and before the fire could be got under, five stories of the pagoda were consumed.

View of the Chinese bridge and pagoda over the canal in St James's Park, as it appeared at midnight during the firework display, the pagoda in flames, 1st August 1814.
View of the Chinese bridge and pagoda over the canal in St James’s Park, as it appeared at midnight during the firework display, the pagoda in flames. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A revolving temple was erected in Green Park. This edifice was the work of Sir William Congreve, Baronet, of Congreve’s Rockets fame. Not surprisingly, a very loud and impressive display of artillery and fireworks was planned for the evening’s entertainment.

The Temple of Concord in Green Park, 1814.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

At ten o’clock a long and continued discharge of artillery announced the commencement of the pyrotechnic display; a grand discharge of fire-works from the battlements and walls continued for two hours, when the metamorphosis of the fortress was effected during the prevalence of a dense cloud of smoke created for the purpose of concealing the method by which it was accomplished. The smoke having cleared off, the Temple of Concord, brilliantly illuminated, and ornamented by numerous transparent allegorical paintings burst forth to the delighted gaze of the multitude. By an ingenious contrivance the Temple was rendered moveable on an axis, each face being presented at intervals and in succession to every point of the compass.

A View of the Temple of Concord in Green Park, 1814.
The Met Museum

In Hyde Park booths were erected for a Great Fair (which descended, after nightfall, into a scene of drunken dissipation); the highlight of the day at this location was a mock sea-battle, to be held on the Serpentine.

The entertainments in Hyde Park although of a different description, were not the less interesting, the whole space being converted into an extensive fair; between 400 and 500 booths were erected, where every delicacy that could please the eye or suit the taste of the most fastidious gourmand might be obtained. The liberty of the press was here also proudly recognised, a number of printing presses being set up, whence issued with great rapidity engraved views of the Temple, Pagoda, &c. and random records of great variety, which were eagerly purchased by the visitors as mementos of the pleasurable sensations they experienced. Many shows and theatres were also to be seen where the heroes of the sock and buskin, afforded infinite amusement to His Majesty’s lieges.

The View of the Fair in Hyde Park, August 1st 1814
© Cambridge University Library

Unusual anxiety was however evinced to witness a mimic naval engagement on the Serpentine river; this splendid sheet of water, presented the singular spectacle of two hostile fleets, viz. an English and American, riding in proud defiance on its bosom, both shores being lined with a dense mass of people assembled to witness this novel scene.

The Fleet on the Serpentine River, Commemoration of the Battle of the Nile, August 1st 1814.
© Cambridge University Library

Built at Greenwich out of timber from old ships, each miniature frigate was manned by three sailors; they fired blank ammunition at each other.

About six o’clock the action commenced by a cannonading by the ships in the van of the opposing fleets, until the whole line gradually neared each other; after a severe struggle the Americans were ultimately driven on shore; at dark, however, the British line formed and bore down upon the American fleet then lying at anchor, and set fire to the whole of their ships which were burnt to the water’s edge. The effect of this conflagration was surprizingly magnificent, indeed the whole of this exhibition was calculated to afford infinite gratification to the middling and lower classes of a maritime nation like Great Britain. The entertainment terminated at this point by a display of fire-works, among which the water-rockets, a new species of combustible, attracted much notice.

The action between the British and American frigates on the Serpentine, Hyde Park, 1st August 1814
King George III’s Topographical Collection; British Library/SPL Rare Books

This day all business appeared to have been suspended in London and the suburbs, and John Bull, Mrs. Bull, and their numerous progeny, seemed to have thrown themselves with perfect good humour into the vortex of public rejoicing and festivity, and in spite of the eccentricities of his nature, gave vent to feelings and expressions of joy and gladness, at the restoration of peace and harmony to his native land.

The fair was allowed to continue during the whole of the week; the park being cleared by order of the Secretary of State on Monday the 8th, and such was the injury done to this beautiful spot by the influx of so many visitors, that a lapse of two years passed away ere it recovered its pristine beauty.

18th-century business women – trade cards

We have looked at trade cards in a previous blog and if we’re honest this post is slightly self-indulgent as we’re fascinated by them. Today we thought that we would focus on the trade cards for those women who chose to run their own business or were forced out of necessity to continue running their husband’s business after his death as they would most likely have no other source of income.

There is an assumption that all women in the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century needed or wanted a husband to secure their position in society, although for some this was not the case. Whether they succeeded on not we may never know, but they certainly tried to be self-supporting.

We have previously looked at Eleanor Coade, businesswoman extraordinaire, a force to be reckoned with and we have our very own ‘Georgian Heroine’ Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, who, whilst not running a business in the way you would expect, lived life on her own terms in a male-dominated world. She was paid by the government for her work as a sort of spy, reporting back to them about life in France around the time of the French Revolution and organising the major event of the golden jubilee for George III, almost single-handedly such. So, women were not all sitting around gossiping and drinking tea, looking pretty and waiting for ‘Mr Right’ to sweep them off their feet.

Women have always run businesses and in the eighteenth-century having your own business card and advertising in the newspapers was an excellent way of self-promotion, so we’re going to take a look at some such cards.

Our first and the earliest and most unusual card we found is for Dorothy Pentreath (1692-1777), known as Dolly, as her trade card states; she was ‘the last person who could converse in the Cornish language’ – she also sold fish for a living.  Dolly was apparently not averse to cursing people in her native language when annoyed, oh and was possibly a witch! So multi-talented – quite a woman it would seem.

Dorothy Pentreath of Mousehole, Cornwall. Wellcome Library
Dorothy Pentreath of Mousehole, Cornwall. Wellcome Library

There are many for occupations traditionally associated with women, such as fabric and frock sellers, but we wanted to look at the unusual ones, so our next offering is a seller of plates for coffins, near Newgate, London.

Bodleian Library. John Johnson Collection
Bodleian Library. John Johnson Collection

Susanna Passavant took over a going concern from the late William Willdey, jeweller and toy man, Plume of Feathers, Ludgate Hill, opposite the Old Bailey.

Trade card for Susanna Passavant. British Museum
Trade card for Susanna Passavant. British Museum

Next, we have one for Mrs Wood, a midwife in 1787, whilst a common occupation, this is the only trade card we have come across to date, for a midwife offering her services.

British Museum
British Museum

Sarah Greenland, tobacco and pipe maker, who was possibly also an exporter of her goods.

British Museum
British Museum

We love this next one, Mary Wiggett, chimney sweep. Mary took over the business after her husband died and remained at ‘The Broom ‘. Her unique selling point was that she would ‘make foul chimneys clean, and when on fire, puts them out with all expediency’.

Trade card for Mary Wiggett, chimney sweep. British Museum
Trade card for Mary Wiggett, chimney sweep. British Museum

This next one is quite sad. This was dated 19th June 1830, Martha Banting of Bampton, Oxfordshire was notifying people that her son John was no longer a part of the business, but that she would continue trading alone. On the 26th June 1830, Martha wrote her will – it was proven on the 28th July 1830. Despite her demise, her children inherited the business, so hopefully, they continued trading under the Banting name.

Bodleian Library. John Johnson Collection
Bodleian Library. John Johnson Collection

Our final offering is Dorothy Mercier, printseller, stationer. Dorothy née Clapham was the widow of the artist Phillipe Mercier (1689- 1760). She would buy and sell old prints and frames. She also sold writing paper, vellum, drawing paper, lead pencils, chalks, paintbrushes, watercolours, so she would have been very popular with the artists of the day. Oddly she also sold ladies fans. She was also something of an artist as she was selling her own paintings of flowers too. Quite the entrepreneur.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum

A humorous scene at the regatta, 1775

The first Thames Regatta, 23rd June 1775

A proposal was made in April of 1775 to hold a Regatta or Water Ridotto on the Thames. It was scheduled to run on a day between the 20th and 24th June, weather dependent. An event to see and to be seen at although, according to the Morning Chronicle of 20th June 1775, the Duchess of Devonshire expressed concerns about ‘being mixed with the mob and asked the Duke why he couldn’t hire the Thames for the day’. True or not, said in jest or not, we’ve no idea!

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

Nonetheless, plans were made for the event and they went as follows:

Between twelve and thirteen hundred tickets were to be issued and the parties were to supply their own boat or barge and were to congregate under Westminster Bridge early evening.

The centre arch to be left open for the race boats manned by watermen, twelve of which, with rowers each were to start to fix-row against the tide to London Bridge and back again; the three boats which first clear the centre arch of Westminster bridge on their return to claim the prize which would be proportioned accordingly as they came in.

First prize was 10 guineas each, with coats and badges

Second prize seven guineas each, with coats and badges of inferior value

Third prize – five guineas each with coats and badges

Also, every successful waterman would be given an ensign to wear for one year on the Thames, with the word REGATTA, in gold characters inscribed and the figures 1,2, or 3 according to the order in which he arrived at the end of the race.

After the race, the whole procession in order would move on to Chelsea and land at the platform of Chelsea Hospital and from there proceed to the Rotunda at Ranelagh in which an excellent band of vocal and instrumental music would be ready to perform as the company arrived. Boats with musical performers would also be stationed at Westminster bridge and attend the procession on the Thames.

Westminster Bridge by Antonio Joli
Westminster Bridge by Antonio Joli; Parliamentary Art Collection

Applications had to be made to the manager of the Regatta for seats in the public barges which were being loaned for the event by city companies.

The rowers of the private barges were to be uniformly dressed and in such a manner as to accord with someone of the three marine colours, chosen by the marshals of the Regatta – the white, the blue or the red. The blue division was to take the four northern arches of Westminster bridge; the red division to take the four arches next to the Surrey shore and St George’s division, the two arches on each side of the centre.

Ticket for the Regatta Ball at Ranelagh, 1775. Francesco Bartolozzi.
Ticket for the Regatta Ball at Ranelagh, 1775. Francesco Bartolozzi. Yale Centre for British Art

The whole procession to move up the river, from Westminster bridge at seven o’clock in the evening with the marshal’s division rowing ahead about three minutes before the second division; and the same interval of times before the second and third divisions.

The company would embark, using the several sets of stairs adjacent to Westminster bridge, as well on the Lambeth side between five and six o’clock, ready to begin at seven o’clock. The marshal’s barge of twelve cars, carrying St George’s ensign (white field, with red cross) would be to the west of centre.

The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney
The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney

A circular arrangement of tables, with proper intervals, would be placed around the Rotunda at Ranelagh on which supper would be prepared in the afternoon, and the doors were to be thrown open at eleven o’clock. The several recesses on the ground floor to serve as sideboards for the waiters and for a variety of refreshments.

A band of music consisting of one hundred and twenty vocal and instrumental performers would play in the centre of the rotunda during supper time. The garden of Ranelagh was to be lit up and a temporary bower erected and decorated around the canal for dancing. The platform of Chelsea hospital to be open for the great convenience of those disembarking.

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea by Daniel Turner
The Royal Hospital, Chelsea by Daniel Turner; Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies

The plan at this stage was that the event should take place on the 20th June, but a signal would be given by the committee to confirm the weather was suitable for it to go ahead. A red flag would be displayed at ten o’clock over the centre arch of Westminster bridge and the bells of St Margaret’s would ring from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Without such notification, it was to be understood that due to inclement weather it would not take place and would be postponed until the 21st of June. If the weather continued to be unsuitable then it would be postponed until the following day, i.e. 22nd June.

A humorous scene at the regatta, 1775
A humorous scene at the regatta, 1775. Lewis Walpole Library

Despite the inclement weather, the event took place on Friday 23rd June 1775, with the flag being finally raised at 10 o’clock and yes, despite the earlier report, the Duchess of Devonshire did attend.


A Guide to managing your servants in the 18th century

For this post, I am revisiting a book I’ve used before, The Art of Conducting a Family with Instructions to Servants to take a look at some of the guidance for employing servants at the end of the 1700s.


Servants are an invaluable acquisition, but they have no interest at heart but their own. The more extravagant a family is, the better they fare. Economy they hate. Service, they say, is no inheritance.

Maidservant; British School
Maidservant; British School; The National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle;


Servants like to see their masters and mistresses spending their money and servants enjoy wasting it for them regardless of whether it can be afforded or not.  A good servant should be as careful and frugal of their master’s property as they would be if it their own.

The Careless Servant; Francis Wheatley
The Careless Servant; Francis Wheatley; Walker Art Gallery


A servant owes his master respect and should never answer back and only speak when spoken to. Whether servants are hired by the week or the year, their whole time is their master’s; and if they wilfully waste that time, by idly omitting what they are ordered to do, or by staying longer on messages or errand, it is as bad as picking their master’s pocket; for it is robbing the master of that time the servant has contracted to give him, and for which he is paid.

The Scullery Maid; Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
The Scullery Maid; Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow;


If a servant asks permission to take leave and it is declined, under no circumstances should he/she take it regardless but wait until a more convenient time.

A Game of Quadrille by Hubert-François Gravelot, 1699–1773, French, active in Britain (1733–45) c1740. Yale Center for British Art
A Game of Quadrille by Hubert-François Gravelot, 1699–1773, French, active in Britain (1733–45) c1740. Yale Center for British Art


If the master and mistress have any disagreements the servant must never interfere.

An Old English-Gentleman pester'd by servants wanting places.
An Old English-Gentleman pester’d by servants wanting places. British Museum


As a wife is bound in duty to obey the injunctions of her husband, should it so happen that a master gives a servant one direction, and the wife or mistress contradicts it, or gives counter-orders, it is the duty of the servant to tell his mistress, when she gives those counter-orders, that his master has ordered otherwise; and that it is his duty to obey the master rather than his wife or mistress.

Displeased with servants. Lewis Walpole Library
Displeased with servants. Lewis Walpole Library

No Singing or Romping

No servant should ever sing, whistle or talk loudly in the hearing of any of the master’s family, nor make any other noise about the house, so as to disturb, nor particularly should the men and maids romp in the kitchen.

A Master Parson with a Good Living by Carington Bowles
A Master Parson with a Good Living by Carington Bowles. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Tread lightly

When a servant enters the room where the master or mistress is, they should tread lightly and never speak but in a quiet voice. They should equally go up and down stairs lightly.


When entering a room, if the door is closed, they should close it after them and close it again when they leave. Whilst speaking to the master they should not keep the door open and fiddle with the knob of the lock, but shut it gently, by turning the bolt, and opening it again, when they retire. Nothing is more insolent, or gives more offence, that slamming a door.

Silence is golden

Quietness adds to the comfort of every family and the more quiet and orderly servants are, the more they are valued.

Answering back

Servants should never answer their master or mistress back.

No Spitting

A servant should neither blow his nose or spit in his master’s presence and, if possible, neither sneeze nor cough.

Answering the bell

Attentive servants will always come at the first ring of the bell. Tread lightly and speak in an under-voice, yet so as to be heard distinctly, and will whisper to their master or mistress. They will not thrust their heads in the face of their master or mistress nor poison them with offensive breath.  To avoid anything disagreeable on this score, such as attend the room, servants will be clean of their person and will on no account eat onions, garlic or shallots.

Taking instructions

When a servant is receiving directions, he should be attentive, look in his master’s face, and not leave the room until the master has finished giving his instructions. If this was always done, there would not be so many mistakes nor would the ignorance of servants be so much complained of.

A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts
A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

Books and Papers

A servant should not presume to take a book out of a master’s room or library to read, nor take away or remove any paper that may lie about, without first asking whether it is of any use. Many a valuable paper has been destroyed by the ignorance and carelessness of servants.

Landscape with Carriage and Horses by William Ashford (1746-1824).

The Georgian Landau

It has been announced that HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen to use the Ascot Landau carriage at their wedding, assuming the weather stays fine, so we thought we would take a very quick look at the Landau, as it was first used in Britain in the 18th-century, but  was named after the German city of Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate where it was first produced. Today, the royal family presently have five Landau’s, all of which are post-Georgian.

Miseries of human life, 1808.
Isaac Cruikshank c1808. Lewis Walpole Library

A Landau is a coachbuilding term for a four-wheeled luxury convertible carriage. Its main feature was that it had a low body which gave maximum visibility of the occupants and their clothing, so ideal for processions and for the gentry in all their finery to be seen by onlookers.

1827-1828 Landau. British Museum
1827-1828 Landau. British Museum

The earliest reference to a Landau being used in England that we have found dates to July 1738 in the London Evening Post.

Last night his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Hervey, Henry Fox Esq and another person of distinction, arrived in town in a landau and six, from Sir Robert Walpole’s seat at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Princess Amelia (1711-1786) by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1729-30.
Princess Amelia (1711-1786) by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1729-30. Royal Collection Trust

Clearly even in the 1750s the public enjoyed catching a glimpse of members of the royal family as this report from Bath in August 1752 describes.

Princess Amelia, (daughter of George II) arrived here in an open Landau, attended by a large retinue, and escorted by some of the Oxford Blues. Her Royal Highness passed through the city and went on to the seat of Ralph Allen Esq. The bells rang, the cannon were fired, and the flag was displayed on the Tower. Her Royal Highness walked publicly about on Saturday and yesterday, and numbers of people flocked from all parts of the country to see her.

1809 - Patent Landau - Ackermann's Repository
1809 – Patent Landau – Ackermann’s Repository

Ascot, was, as it is today, the place to see and to be seen. Amongst others was have a report from June 1786 in the London Chronicle that ‘their majesties were yesterday on the Ascot race ground, in an open Landau, with the younger branches of the Royal family. They partook of a cold repast in their carriage, consisting of ham and chicken’. It seems highly unlikely that Prince Harry and his new bride will be dining in theirs, to be honest!

One clearly had to be looking at one’s best when on display as the comment about the Prince of Wales showed in this report from the Whitehall Evening Post of May 1800 ‘The Prince of Wales, on Friday, took an airing in his open landau and looked considerably better than his Royal Highness has been for some months past.’

The Vis-a-Vis Bisected

It was quite common for the newspapers to report when a member of the aristocracy had a new landau built as can be seen here in this advertisement in the Morning Post, 4th November 1818.It was quite common for the newspapers to report when a member of the aristocracy had a new landau built as can be seen here in this advertisement in the Morning Post, 4th November 1818.

This one gives you an idea of how much they cost from The Suffolk Chronicle; or Weekly General Advertiser & County Express. 13 April 1816


A very handsome Landau Barouche, town-built, nearly new, the property of a gentleman going abroad. Price 80 Guineas.

1816 Landau, wind-up side windows and fore-runner to the convertible car
1816 Landau, wind-up side windows and fore-runner to the convertible car

That was a cheap one in comparison to this one in the Hampshire Chronicle of July 1816 for a Landaulet, which was a cutdown or coupe version of the Landau


A handsome Landaulet, nearly as good as new on its first wheels; cost 320 guineas – lowest price 200 guineas.

It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.

It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.

Our final image is a sketch of  Landau by the coachbuilders Hooper & Co. Unfortunately, this sketch is not dated, but the company was founded in 1805. The seal says that by then they were ‘coachbuilders to her Majesty and the Prince of Wales’.

Carriage Design: A Square Landau undated Pen and black ink, watercolor and collage Sheet: 5 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (14 × 26 cm) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Carriage Design: A Square Landau undated Pen and black ink, watercolor and collage Sheet: 5 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (14 × 26 cm) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Sources used

London Evening Post (London, England), July 20, 1738 – July 22, 1738

General Advertiser (1744) (London, England), Thursday, August 13, 1752

Featured Image

Landscape with Carriage and Horses – William Ashford – Ulster Museum

The Duties of a Georgian Footman

A Couple of Antiques or my Aunt and my Uncle.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

A while ago we took a  look at the below stairs roles of the household maid, the laundry maid and the cook, now we come to the role of the footman. Once again, we’re using the information provided by a certain Mrs William Parkes.

Charming well again.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

She firstly explains that the role of the footman varies greatly dependant upon the size of the household and its position within society. In a small household employing only one footman his typical morning would commence with the rougher part of the work of his department such as cleaning cutlery. Next, he would clean the household shoes and brush clothes.

He would also be required to assist the housemaid with cleaning the polished furniture in the library, dining and drawing room.

He would then prepare to serve breakfast by first making himself ready, then by setting the breakfast table, making sure that everything was ready on the table; seeing that the water was on the fire at the proper time so that no delay would arise when the family gathered in the breakfast room.  He would also be responsible for ensuring that crockery was clean by washing the china and ensuring that glassware was as bright as possible. After the family had eaten it was his role to clear everything away and ensure that the breakfast room was tidy. That would largely take up most of his morning, but he also had to be ready to answer the bells in the house and to open the hall door.

The Card Party or the Utility of Paper
© The Trustees of the British Museum

His next job was to wait at table. It was the footman’s responsibility to lay the dinner-cloth, set each place with the correct cutlery, a tumbler, wine-glass and a chair. He also had to announce dinner once everyone was present at the table.

He should remain quiet at all time but be ready to assist as soon as required. Bread, wine or water, when handed round, should be presented with the left hand and upon the left side of the person served. The footman should take care never to reach across the table, nor to put his hand or arm before anyone. He should tread lightly and speak quietly when answering a question.

The Last Gasp; or, toadstools mistaken for mushrooms.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

As great care was required when cleaning cutlery with ivory, ebony or silver handles this role also fell to the footman – there’s nothing more disagreeable than carelessly cleaned cutlery!

A good steady servant will keep his clothes and person clean and neat; he will be particularly careful in washing his hands, being called upon constantly to wait and hand so many various things. In many families, the footman, is very properly, not allowed to deliver any small thing, not even a card or letter, except on a waiter.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
The Favourite Footman; or, Miss Well Mounted. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A good footman, when sent out, will not waste his time but will execute his errands quickly, and return to his business. Punctuality is a very important quality in the footman, who must be ready to serve his master or mistress at any time required.

Within a large establishment, the footman would be under the constant watch of either the housekeeper or the steward and would probably never be seen by the master or mistress.

Kentish Gazette, 20 September 1780.
Kentish Gazette, 20 September 1780.

The newspapers of the day were full of adverts from people seeking employment as a footman and others from employers seeking a footman. The key attributes required appeared to be honesty, cleanliness and sobriety and for the prospective candidate to have worked for their previous employer for at least a year.

Featured Image

Taking an airing at Brighton, the donkies, or the humours of fashion. British Museum

Eighteenth Century Agony Aunts, Part Two

I continue my brief look at the replies to questions by our eighteenth-century agony aunts, I do hope you enjoy them. I have to confess, the first one caused much hilarity here at All Things Georgian, both in terms of the question and its response!

Be not over hasty to bury those who die from an apoplexy

Question: A friend of mine was watching her friend who was busy making cheese when he suddenly fell head first into the vat of curd with just his feet sticking out. Someone went to fetch help and managed to get him out. The doctor tried to bleed him, but to no avail, so he was put to bed to get warm, but nothing would revive him, so he was pronounced dead. When it came time to bury him, a knocking could be heard on the coffin. The coffin was opened, and he was alive. Could you tell me how he managed to stay so still as to be presumed dead?

Answer: This must have been a very strong apoplectic fit during which time spirits entered his body, chiefly into his heart, making it seem to have stopped. Our advice is not to be too hasty to bury someone, make sure they are in fact dead first.

The Dead Alive!
The Dead Alive! Lewis Walpole Library

A young woman will not bed with her husband

Question: We have been married for a while now and my wife promised she would never change once married, but now we are married she won’t sleep with me. Can she lawfully do this?

Answer: NO! she entered a contract with you in the presence of God,  ‘to obey, to serve, honour and keep you, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live’, so she is in breach of that contract.

Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700
Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A

A gentleman of 500 pounds a year keeps me company

Question: I am a young woman with about 500 pounds in my account. A very charming young man of about the same wealth keeps me company, but he is adamant that he won’t marry. I love him very much but I’m not sure it is reciprocated. What should I do?

Answer: – Get rid of him, he’s not worth the trouble, look for someone worthy who will love you and marry you.

A beau desires to make himself acceptable to the ladies

Question: You give such wise advice that I simply had to write to you to ask what I need to do to create a good impression of myself amongst the Beau Monde. Please help me.

Answer: From the tone of your question it does sound as if you need some assistance. We would recommend that you are brisk in your repartee; let every action captivate the air, the flourish when taking snuff, the twirl of the wig will work wonders. Be witty, but not impertinent. Make sure that you are right on point when following the fashion of the day. Make sure you write your letters neatly and fold them nicely and ideally add a drop of scent to them. We hope these suggestions will be of assistance to your future happiness.

A young lady with 800 pounds pines for a husband

Question: I live in the country but do visit the town. I have 800 pounds, but I still can’t find myself a husband, why is that?

Answer: We see two issues with this –  firstly, you live in the country so unless you are