As you do, we have just stumbled upon a book titled ‘An Account of Prisons and Houses of Correction in the Midland Circuit’, which provides details of the conditions within the prisons following a review carried out by John Howard Esq., prison reformer, on behalf of the Duke of Montagu, so we thought we would share some bits with you.
Howard’s aim was to review the physical condition of the prisons, and the benefits or otherwise of the prisoners themselves.
The morals of prisoners were at this time as much neglected as their health. Idleness, drunkenness and all kinds of vice, were suffered to continue in such a manner as to confirm old offenders in their bad practices, and to render it almost certain, that the minds of those who were confined for their first faults, would be corrupted instead of being corrected, by their imprisonment.
Howard made a series of recommendations regarding prisons including these:
Every prison be white-washed at least once every year, and that this be done twice in prisons which are much crowded.
That a pump and plentiful supply of water be provided, and that every part of the prison be kept as clean as possible.
That every prison be supplied with a warm and cold bath, or commodious bathing tubs, and that the prisoners be indulged in the use of such baths, with a proper allowance of soap and the use of towels.
That attention be paid to the sewers in order to render them as little offensive as possible.
That great care be taken, that as perfect a separation as possible be made of the following classes of prisoners. That felons be kept entirely separate from debtors; men from women’ old offenders from young beginners; convicts from those who have not yet been tried.
That all prisoners, except debtors be clothed on their admission with a prison uniform and that their own clothes be returned to them when they are brought to trial or are dismissed.
That care be taken that the prisoners are properly supplied with food, and their allowance not deficient, either in weight or quality.
He also recommended that gaolers were to be paid a proper salary, that religious services take place and that no swearing was to be permitted. A surgeon or apothecary be appointed to tend to the sick. That attention be paid to the prisoners on their discharge and that, if possible some means be pointed out to them by which they may be enabled to gain a livelihood in an honest manner.
The book provides brief details of the finding at some of the prisons, so we thought we would share a few of these with:
County Bridewell – Warwick
A new prison is finished and occupied. There are separate apartments and courts with water, for men and women; and vagrants have a court and apartments separate from the other prisoners. Allowance, as in a gaol.
No coals: no employment at present; but a long room, ten feet and a half wide is provided, with looms, and other materials for work.
1788, Feb. 15 Prisoners – 10.
Birmingham Town Gaol
The court is now paved with broad stones, but dirty with fowls. There is only one dayroom for both sexes, over the door of which there is impudently painted ‘Universal Academy’. Neither the act for preserving the health of prisoners, nor clauses against spirituous liquors are hung up. The gaoler has no salary, but still a licence for beer.
1788, Feb. 14 Prisoners – 13.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Two rooms. No court: no water. Keeper’s salary only £4
1788 Aug. 7. No prisoners.
An old house lately purchased. Prisoner were formerly confined in a room in the inn keeper’s public house. No allowance, keeper’s salary £20
1788, Aug 3. No prisoners.
County Gaol at Nottingham
At the entrance is this inscription on a board ‘No ale, nor any sort of liquor sold within the prison’. Gaoler’s salary now £140. The prison too small. The debtors in three rooms, pay 2s a week each, though two in a bed. They who can pay only 6d are in two rooms below, confined with such felons as pay 2s a week. The other felons lie in two dark, offensive dungeons, own thirty-six steps called pits, which are never white-washed.
Another dungeon in 1787 was occupied by a man sentenced to two years solitary confinement. The town ‘transports’ and criminals are here confined with the county felons, which it may be hoped the magistrates will soon rectify. The room used for a chapel was too close, though when I was there, only one debtor attended the service. Allowance to felons now 1 and a half pence in bread and a half penny in money. Five of the felons were county, and give town convicts.
1787, Oct 23, Debtors 9
Felons etc. 21
1788, Aug 6, Debtors 12
Felons etc. 10
County Bridewell, Folkingham, Lincolnshire
No alteration in this offensive prison. Court not secure. Prisoners locked up. No water: no employment. Keeper’s salary £40 out of which he maintains (of starves) his prisoners.
1788, Jan. 17, Prisoners 3
Lincoln City and County Gaol
No alteration. Through the window of the two damp cells, both men and women freely converse with idle people in the street, who often supply them with spirituous liquors till they are intoxicated. No court: no sewers: no water accessible to the prisoners. Gaoler’s salary augments £20 in lieu of the tap.
1788, Jan 16 Debtors none. Felons etc. 5
County Gaol at Northampton
Gaoler’s salary £200, out of which he is to give every prisoner three pints of small beer a day.
In the walls of the felons court there are now apertures for air. The prison clean as usual. The new room for the sick is over the Bridewell, with iron bedsteads and proper bedding. The bread allowance to felons is a fourpenny loaf every other day (weight 3lb 2oz). County convicts 2s 6d a week.
1787, Oct 27 Debtors 9. Felons etc. 20.
The Humours of the Fleet. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Mrs Porcher in a letter to Cooper tells him it is reported in London that Mrs Fenwick is going to be married to Mr Hodgson, the infamous seducer of many of the girls at the Asylum some years ago!!!
This somewhat vague but tantalizing comment needed further investigation to establish more about this ‘infamous seducer’ but the chances of finding him seemed like a mammoth task and possibly not one worth pursuing until now. George and Amanda (custodians of Fanny Chapman’s diaries) recently began looking at a will that provided some clues as to his identity and to cut a long story short, they have tracked him down, so it seems only right to correct Fanny’s spelling of his name (it was Hodson) and then to ‘name and shame’ him. So here we go with a grizzly, if not unfamiliar story.
Septimus Hodson was born 17th February 1763, the son of Rev. Robert Hodson and his wife Mary in Huntingdonshire. He was educated at Caius College, Cambridge after which he was ordained into the priesthood.
Having found his parents and education we began to look for any potential marriages for him. The first marriage we came across took place when he would have been under the age of 21! The Marriage Act, 1753 did allow couples under 21 to marry by Banns, as in this case, either with parents consent or if the parents did not forbid it.
This was to be a very short marriage as Ann Hodson née Bell was buried at St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon on the 14th May 1784.
A little under two years later on the 15th March 1786 Septimus married Miss Charlotte Affleck, the daughter of Rev W. Affleck, who conducted the ceremony at All Saints Church in Stamford, Lincolnshire.
On the 7th March 1788 he became a preacher at Tavistock Chapel, Broad Court near Drury Lane, amongst his duties he was appointed Chaplain-in-ordinary to George, Prince of Wales.
Septimus and Charlotte produced 5 children during this time, Charlotte (1790), William (1791), Charles Phillip (1793), Robert Eyres (1795) and finally Gilbert (1796).
Never shall I forget calling on the above mentioned gentleman, upwards of forty years since, on behalf of a poor country curate who was anxious to come to London on literary pursuits, and to fill the situation of assistant reader, then vacant at the Asylum. I was introduced to the Rev. Mr. Hodson, in his peculiarly neat and handsome apartments, where his accomplished and beautiful wife, and I think the finest family of children I ever saw, were partaking of a dessert. He politely asked me to partake, and pressed me to take wine, which I did; and from his easy and graceful manner, his handsome form and figure, and animated countenance, added to those of his smiling cherubs of children, on whom my eyes were fixed, I thought I never witnessed so much conjugal happiness and domestic felicity in my life.
By 1789 he had been given the living of Thrapston in Northamptonshire. He had also been appointed chaplain to the Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road, in the parish of Lambeth. This is the point at which the horrors of his actions became clear and for once we do put a serious warning – this account from 1823 is reported as being true and if so it is quite distressing
VILE ACTIONS OF THE REVEREND SEPTIMUS HODSON
Child violator, formerly Chaplain to the Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road.
“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.”
The Asylum of which Mr. Hodson was an unworthy Chaplain, educates and provides for numerous female Orphans, who otherwise would be consigned to lives of infamy and ruin.
Mr. Hodson was celebrated as a preacher, and noted for the uncommon sanctity of his manners; he had a fine person, and always assumed such a sincerity of heart in delivering his exhortations from the pulpit, that the chapel was crowded to an overflow whenever he preached; but alas! he was fair without and foul within. The Monk of Lewis’s novel was not more infamous, and whilst outwardly attending to the salvation of the helpless Orphan’s souls he was inwardly meditating the ruin of both body and soul.
From his situation, he had access to the Orphans, at all hours, and a little child, named Fox, about thirteen years of age, was selected by him for the object of depraved debauchery.
In fact he violated the hapless Orphan’s person; to call it by the name of seduction would be untruth: for surely a child at her time of life could only be a passive instrument in the hands of one, whom she had been taught to look up to with fearful obedience.
The pregnancy of Fox, as a natural consequence of illicit intercourse, ensued, and she, most probably tutored by the artful and lustful priest, delivered herself in a certain office in the chapel yard; and there left the infant, which she imagined would never be heard of.
Suspicions, however, were immediately awakened, and the infant was found, and as a natural effect of contrition and fear, Fox pointed out the father of her offspring. The Governors and Committee were horror struck at the Reverend Divine’s hypocrisy and depravity; but they had no power to punish him beyond dismissing him from his office, and striking his name from the list of Chaplains, which was instantly done, in as marked a manner as possible.
The Reverend Violator, incredible as it may appear, was suffered to retain his gown; and we cannot help reflecting that the good Bishop Porteus, then in charge of the Metropolitan see, must have been very strangely misinformed respecting this hideous transaction, or he would never have permitted the criminal to escape with impunity.
Mr. Hodson now resides on his living at Thrapston in Northamptonshire; we are sorry for it, he merits the severest punishment; penitence, it is true, can atone for any crime, but few repent in affluence and prosperity; it is poverty and obscurity, disgrace and obloquy, that wring the sinner’s soul, and make him sensible of all he has lost upon earth, and the little he has to hope for in heaven.
Such corrupt pillars only for a time uphold a fabric by deceitful support that it may fall unexpectedly with more tremendous ruin: and they should be at once levelled with the ground, never more, to rise in a conspicuous situation.
If we hear anything more of this fortunate sinner, it shall be recorded; such a person cannot remain long in obscurity; success will throw him off his guard at last, and the punishment so long delayed come with tenfold vengeance on his head, when the stings of a guilty conscience are made additionally severe by the bodily pangs of old age.
The Ipswich Journal, 14th October 1797, reported that ‘The Prince of Wales has commanded that the name of a certain Rev. Seducer be erased from the list of His Royal Highnesses Chaplains’ and that he has been ‘suffered to resign, in consideration of the services he has rendered to the charity’.
The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 12th October 1797 confirms the story.
A Clergyman, Preacher to the Asylum, has lately seduced a young woman, retained as a singer in the Chapel of that Charity. By which act, the man has ruined himself and family, disgraced the Charity and his profession, brought shame on the unfortunate object of his passion, and set a most unpardonable example for a man of his character to the world.
We did, of course, wonder what happened to Miss Fox; did she survive this horrific experience and what became of her?
The answer appeared in The Morning Post and Gazetteer of 26th January 1801:
The girl that was seduced by Septimus Hodson at the Asylum is now married to a gentleman of about seven thousand a year, and now goes regularly to the asylum, every Sunday in her own carriage.
This report was not quite accurate and later revision was published in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 2nd February 1801
The statement in the Papers respecting the Asylum Girl of the name of Fox, who was so basely seduced by a late Chaplain of that Charity, is erroneous. She is neither married to a Gentleman of 7000l. per annum, nor attends the Asylum every Sunday in her own carriage, because she has succeeded no more to the one than the other:- but, from her exemplary conduct, she has wedded a widower near Barnet, who is possessed of about 500l. per annum, with whom, and his amiable family by a former wife, she now partakes of a domestic felicity, not very frequently enjoyed.
The Monthly Visitor and Entertaining Pocket Companion, Volume 12 described Miss Fox as ‘the asylum warbler’ but so far we haven’t managed to track down her marriage. She was noted as a beauty, and had received offers of marriage from several gentleman before the Reverend Hodson debauched her (which does suggest that she was older than thirteen years). She was retained as a singer in the Chapel, and contemporary newspaper reports give the information that the child was not born alive but Miss Fox suffered a miscarriage. It was during this traumatic event and whilst she feared that she was dying that she gave the information which proved the Reverend’s guilt (no-one had suspected she was pregnant until she lost the child).
The girl is an orphan, bred up from infancy in the charity, and afterwards articled to it as a singing girl. She is very pretty, and rather of a gay than grave appearance; and has had several offers of marriage. A gentleman of property has solicited her hand.
(Ipswich Journal, 14th October, 1797)
On the other hand we find that by the 14th March 1809 Septimus had been widowed and had married again, his next wife being Frances Fenwick, the widowed daughter of G. Burden. The service was performed in Doncaster, Yorkshire again by his father-in-law, Rev Affleck. Frances was the one referred to in Fanny’s Diary.
This marriage proved to be a financially lucrative one for Septimus as his wife had inherited the Bywell estate in Northumberland from her late husband and upon her death it transferred to Septimus, who then sold it for £145,000.
Then finally, at All Saints South Kirkby, near Wakefield, Yorkshire on the 16th October 1826 he married once more, his final spouse being Margaret Holford, author; her most successful work was a historical verse romance entitled Wallace, or, The Fight of Falkirk. She was also a good friend of Robert Southey and another close associate of hers was Joanna Baillie, a Scottish poet and dramatist.
Hodson was to die on the 12th December 1833 in his seventy first year. The inscription of his grave at St John the Evangelist, Sharow, near Ripon, Yorkshire reads:
Sacred to the memory of the Revd.Septimus Hodson late Rector of Thrapston in the county of Northampton And Perpetual Curate of Little Raveley In Huntingdonshire. He died on the 12th day of December AD 1833 In the seventy first year of his age. His widow offers this poor brief tribute To his beloved memory ‘I shall go to him, but he will not return to me’.
He left £1500 in his will (about £75,000 in today’s money) to his wife, so despite this shocking incident in his life he appears to have married well, produced several children and lived an enjoyable life, we can only hope the same was true for Miss Fox. Was it all true about Miss Fox, we really don’t know so we will leave it for you to draw your own conclusion.
Although we haven’t manage to find a picture of Septimus there is an engraving of him dated 1790 held in the Royal Collection but not yet digitized.
Well, we said that our blog was going to be about ‘All Things Georgian‘ and so far we have written about relatively mainstream topics. However, as well as historians we are also both keen gypsiologists so we could not resist writing about a group of people who remained largely ‘under the radar’ during the Georgian era – the gypsy community.
Today and throughout history gypsies have received ‘bad press’, in part due to the nomadic lifestyle they led, but also for the fact that when things went missing the finger was immediately pointed at the local gypsies, often quite rightly so, as the press of the day confirmed. Given the amount of publicity their antics had it could be argued that it should make these nomadic people easier to trace for gypsiologists, sadly though, on the whole, quite the contrary is true as they prove to be a complete nightmare to track down.
Gypsies were renown for changing both their forenames and their surnames as well as using names that were almost unpronounceable making tracing their family history even more complex and difficult to track down than tracing your average family. There were several main groups that travelled around the countryside using the surnames Smith, Boswell and Grey (Gray), changing their names as quickly as the weather, presumably to avoid detection.
Many of the men were given biblical first names such as Elijah, Nehemiah, Absalom, Moses and Wisdom whereas the women had some beautifully exotic sounding names such as Cinnamenta, Trezi Ann , Lamentana or names taken from nature such as Ocean or Evening. One thing we have learnt about the gypsies through the numerous years we have spent researching our own families apart from their unique lifestyle, culture and language was their propensity for the re-use of first names which helps greatly when trying to link members of the same ‘tribe’ but equally provides gypsiologists with an immense headache when trying to untangle who the possible parents were.
Baptisms – the vast majority of gypsy children were baptized and it was quite common for them to be presented for baptism on more than one occasion and at more than one church. The reason for this being that it was accepted tradition for the ladies of the parish to give the children gifts, so the gypsies soon learnt which were the best parishes to get their offspring baptized at, having had the child baptized and received gifts, they swiftly moved on to another parish where they promptly repeated the exercise, thereby receiving more ‘goodies’ – a crafty scam if you could get away with it!
Their marriages were of course a great cause for celebration and equally their funerals were treated with much pomp and ceremony.
FAREWELL TO THE KING OF THE GYPSIES
Died on the 15th inst of February 1826 aged 60 Absalom Smith better known in the neighbourhood of Nottingham as “King of the Gypsies”, leaving behind him a wife and 13 children (to whom he is said to have left 100 pounds each)and 54 grandchildren. He was attended in his last illness in his camp in Twyford Lane, by doctor Arnold and two surgeons. He was followed to his grave in Twyford churchyard by a large retinue of gipsies on Friday last. He was interred in his coat the buttons of which are silver and marked A.S, lest his circumstance should be a temptation to disturb his body. His followers caused alternate layers of timber and straw to be put into the grave with the earth.
As well as their often unusual names their ‘occupations’ remained largely unique to their community – basket maker, besom maker, bone gatherer, cutler and grinder, clothes peg maker, cane chair mender, skewer maker. The vast majority made objects they made were created from things produced by nature, they then sold them around the towns and villages, making their other occupation that of hawker or seller of goods.
They were also renown for being horse dealers, though quite where they acquired these animals remains something of a mystery, or at least better left unsaid! At the beginning of June each year gypsies would travel from far and wide to the village of Appleby, Cumbria to trade their horses, this small village having being granted a Royal Charter to do so by James II in 1685.
Gypsies were and still are today regarded by many as ‘curiosities’ for their nomadic and seemingly unorthodox lifestyle, none more so than by the Georgian poet John Clare (1793 – 1864), also known as ‘ The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet’who frequently met up with and wrote poems about the gypsy community. Clare was not judgmental about them, but merely described their nomadic lifestyle through his poems such as this one:
The Gipsy Camp
The snow falls deep; the Forest lies alone: The boy goes hasty for his load of brakes, Then thinks upon the fire and hurries back; The Gipsy knocks his hands and tucks them up, And seeks his squalid camp, half hid in snow, Beneath the oak, which breaks away the wind, And bushes close, with snow like hovel warm: There stinking mutton roasts upon the coals, And the half roasted dog squats close and rubs, Then feels the heat too strong and goes aloof; He watches well, but none a bit can spare, And vainly waits the morsel thrown away: ‘Tis thus they live – a picture to the place; A quiet, pilfering, unprotected race.
Clare also noted in his diary on 3rd June 1825:
‘Finished planting my auriculas – went a-botanizing after ferns and orchises and caught a cold in the wet grass which has made me as bad as ever – Got the tune of Highland Mary from Wisdom Smith a gipsey and pricked another sweet tune without a name as he fiddled it’. As Wisdom Smith was a direct ancestor he warranted specific mention.
This is an excerpt about Ryley Boswell, born 1798 from the book by George Smith, ‘Gipsy Life, being an account of our Gipsies and their children.’
Ryley, like most of the Bosvils, was a tinker by profession; but though a tinker, he was amazingly proud and haughty of heart. His grand ambition was to be a great man among his people, a Gipsy king (no such individuals as either Gipsy kings or queens ever existed). To this end he furnished himself with clothes made after the costliest Gipsy fashion; the two hinder buttons of the coat, which was of thick blue cloth, were broad gold pieces of Spain, generally called ounces; the fore-buttons were English “spaded guineas,” the buttons of the waistcoat were half-guineas, and those of the collar and the wrists of his shirt were seven-shilling gold-pieces. In this coat he would frequently make his appearance on a magnificent horse, whose hoofs, like those of the steed of a Turkish Sultan, were cased in shoes of silver. How did he support such expense? it may be asked. Partly by driving a trade in “wafedo loovo,” counterfeit coin, with which he was supplied by certain honest tradespeople of Brummagem; partly and principally by large sums of money which he received from his two wives, and which they obtained by the practice of certain arts peculiar to Gipsy females. One of his wives was a truly remarkable woman. She was of the Petalengro or Smith Her Christian name, if Christian name it can be called, was Xuri or Shuri, and from her exceeding smartness and cleverness she was generally called by the Gipsies Yocky Shuri—that is, smart or clever Shuri, Yocky being a Gipsy word signifying “clever.” She could dukker—that is, tell fortunes—to perfection, by which alone, during the racing season, she could make a hundred pounds a month. She was good at the big hok—that is, at inducing people to put money into her hands in the hope of it being multiplied; and, oh, dear! how she could caur—that is, filch gold rings and trinkets from jewellers’ cases, the kind of thing which the Spanish Gipsies call ustibar pastesas—filching with hands. Frequently she would disappear and travel about England, and Scotland too, dukkering, hokking, and cauring, and after the lapse of a month return and deliver to her husband, like a true and faithful wife, the proceeds of her industry. So no wonder that the Flying Tinker, as he was called, was enabled to cut a grand appearance. He was very fond of hunting, and would frequently join the field in regular hunting costume, save and except that instead of the leather hunting cap he wore one of fur, with a gold band round it, to denote that though he mixed with Gorgios he was still a Romany chal.
In this series we will recount some of the stories of gypsy life, so watch this space.