In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.
* * *
In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.
Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.
The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.
Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.
She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:
… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.
Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.
That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.
The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii
We have some exciting news to share with you, our readers, today. As well as writing our bi-weekly blog posts, we have also been working on our fourth book together… and this one is based on our blog! In fact, we’ve reused the name, and the title of our new book is All Things Georgian: Tales From the Long Eighteenth-Century.
It contains 25 tales that you won’t find on our blog already, all a little longer in length but, as ever, lavishly illustrated, predominantly in colour. In fact, we’ve got over 100 gorgeous colour pictures scattered throughout the text. The tales are all in roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830 and set within the framework of the main events of the era.
So, what stories can you expect to find inside? We bill ourselves as historical super-sleuths and we’ve dug into various archives to discover the weird, the wonderful and the downright strange side of long eighteenth-century.
Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.
Out in the UK by the end of April, 2019. Click here to discover more.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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
Quilted petticoats were an item of clothing that transcended any notions of class or status; they were worn throughout most of the eighteenth-century by all women from nobility down to fish-wives and had a variety of uses. Usually tied at either side of the waistband, they had a gap in the side seams which allowed access to a pair of pockets worn underneath.
Clearly, the primary function of the garment was that of warmth; in colder climates (and here in Britain we’re always complaining about the weather!) the padding provided an extra layer to insulate the wearer.
By the mid-eighteenth century, women’s gowns were worn open at the front and the petticoat underneath became a decorative item. Well-to-do ladies wore petticoats made of silk or satin, often in contrasting colours to their robe, although the backing was often made of a more robust material such as calico or coarse linen.
The courtesan, Nelly O’Brien is famously depicted wearing a simple diamond patterned pink quilted petticoat in her portrait by Joshua Reynolds, but embellishment is added with an embroidered gauzy apron worn over the top. Note the contrasting blue and white striped gown.
Flat quilting, whereby two or three layers were stitched through using a running or backstitch, and corded quilted which involved parallel channels being sown through which cord was inserted from the reverse, were the most popular forms. The latter provided a textured relief.
The designs used were often more decorative and elaborate than the simple pattern on the petticoat worn by Nelly O’Brien; flowers, intricate geometric patterns and even animals all featured.
The following image gives an example of a linen quilted petticoat dating to c.1700-1725, designed to be worn under a mantua. Backed with linen, the quilting pattern was worked first and then both layers of linen were overstitched with embroidery. The notes against this petticoat suggest it was made domestically rather than professionally as the join and certain other details are clumsy.
When just the front of the petticoat would be glimpsed, the decoration was concentrated on that area. As polonaise gowns became fashionable, where the skirts were gathered and looped up at the back, the full hemline of the petticoat was visible. This led to a trend for decoration all around the undergarment. John Wilkes’ daughter, Mary, in this next portrait, demonstrates the fashion; her green quilted petticoat, contrasting sharply with her pink gown, has the addition of a deep frill all around the hemline.
Marseille (or French) quilting is a term used to describe the distinctive cotton quilting which was a feature of the Provence area of southern France, known for fine cording and stuffed designs. There, textiles were made for export, and the London weavers suffered as a result.
In the 1740s, a solution was found: a weaving technique was developed in England using a loom which imitated hand quilting, making the process both quick and inexpensive although it was not true quilting. Usually made with linen, while the fabric appeared to be quilted there was no middle layer of woollen wadding so, although cheap, petticoats made this way lacked the warmth of their ‘Marseilles’ counterparts.
A Sale of Ready Made Goods, &c. by JONAS CLIFTON, SILK-WEAVER and WAREHOUSE-MAN, from SHOREDITCH, LONDON: who now sells at the FOUNTAIN in MARGATE, His CURIOUS BRITISH LOOM QUILTING, for Ladies Petticoats, Bed-gowns, and Gentleman’s Winter Waistcoats, exceeding rich, neat and serviceable…
Kentish Gazette, 9th December 1769
The profession of quilted petticoat maker is described in the London Tradesman, 1747. It was not a lucrative one.
I must just peep under the Quilted-Petticoat. Every one knows the materials they are made of: they are made mostly by women, and some men, who are employed by the shops and earn but little. They quilt likewise quilts for beds for the upholder. This they make more of than of the petticoats, but not very considerable, nothing to get rich by unless they are able to purchase the materials and sell them finished to the shops, which few of them do. They rarely take apprentices, and the women they employ to help them, earn three or four shillings a week and their diet.
An extra cost to the manufacturers of quilted petticoats was the price of the wool used for the wadding, which was subject to the attention of customs.
Last week, the Prince Frederick, a Collier, lately arriv’d from Newcastle, was searched by a custom-house officer, who found about 200 weight of the combings of wool, in two bags, the property of a female passenger on board the said ship, who follows the business of making quilted petticoats; whereupon he seiz’d the same, together with the ship and all her cargo, as forfeited by law, for bringing wool from any part of England without entering it at the custom-house and clearing it from thence; and modestly demanded 600l. of the owners for clearing her, which was refus’d…
Ipswich Journal, 29th October 1743
Quilted petticoats provided shape to the skirts worn over them. Often the wadding used in the manufacture of these petticoats did not extend all the way to the waistband, so they were less bulky at the waistline. But, in an era when women wore a variety of hoops, bum rolls and panniers to enhance and alter their natural forms, quilted petticoats were a useful tool, providing a little extra padding where needed. In fact, evidence shows that they were worn in a variety of different ways throughout the century, both with and without a little extra support and definition beneath them depending on the desired silhouette. Perhaps, when Mary Hobbins went missing, she was trying to disguise her slim frame by wearing multiple quilted petticoats: even for late September, wearing two of these garments must have been quite warm.
September 26, 1724. Whereas one Thomas Robinson… went away with one Mary Hobbins of Swineshead near Boston in Lincolnshire: She is a slender thin-vizzag’d Woman, had two quilted petticoats on, viz. one green, and the other red and blue, with a white Gown with small Stripes or a Popple and white with broad Stripes…
Stamford Mercury, 29th October 1724
The painter Arthur Devis depicted women wearing quilted petticoats over hoops and panniers which gave definition and decoration to the fine silk gowns they wore, which are clearly very wide in the hips.
Towards the 1770s, it was common for fashionable ladies to wear a bum roll underneath their quilted petticoat, to add emphasis to their rear (think Kim Kardashian today!), others simply wore only their shift or another petticoat underneath.
A working woman would, of course, need to be able to move freely; they would wear very little under their quilted petticoats, relying on the bulkiness of the garment to provide any necessary shape, more concerned with practicalities than fashion.
By the end of the eighteenth century, women’s silhouettes became more slender and quilted petticoats were no longer in vogue with women of fashion although lower class women still clung to the practical, hard wearing and warm garment.
So, we’ve looked at quilted petticoats being worn for decoration, for warmth and to add shape to gowns, what other possible reason could there be to wear one? Well, they were handy when smuggling items such as tea or lace past the strict customs officials of the day!
Another smuggler is committed to the Castle of Norwich; from whence ‘tis added, that the Officers of the Customs there had seized a considerable Quantity of Tea, India Silk Handkerchiefs brought up from Yarmouth by a Woman, who, when taken, had several Pounds of Tea quilted in her Petticoats.
Ipswich Journal, 9th January 1731
Thursday a Gentleman and Lady put up at an inn at Dover, where they had just landed from France; when two Custom-house Officers came in, and insisted upon searching the Lady, on whom they found a quantity of Brussels lace, to the value of near 300l. which was concealed in her quilted petticoat… Some of our Nobility, it seems are suspected and even accused of harbouring smuggled goods. The truth is, so many Nobility and Gentry deal so much in smuggling, that a Correspondent says, he will venture to affirm that one half of the foreign lace that shall appear at Court on the ensuing birth-day, is smuggled.
Stamford Mercury, 4th June 1772
Patchwork and Quilting in Britain, Heather Audin, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013
The Dreamstress: What to wear under a quilted petticoat, 6th January 2012
FIDM Museum: Quilted petticoat, c.1840-45
Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium, Collections Database: Object Accession No. HD F.495A
The London Tradesman: Being a Compendious View of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, Both Liberal and Mechanic, Now Practised in the Cities of London and Westminster. Calculated for the Information of Parents, and Instruction of Youth in Their Choice of Business, R. Campbell, Esq, 1747
For this post, we are revisiting a book we’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.
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.
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.
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.
If the master and mistress have any disagreements the servant must never interfere.
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.
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.
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.
Servants should never answer their master or mistress back.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Taking an airing at Brighton, the donkies, or the humours of fashion. British Museum
Many people immediately think of places such as Bath, Harrogate and Cheltenham when thinking about iconic eighteenth-century towns and cities, but Bristol still retains much of its Georgian era heritage. Following a trip to the city recently we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the old buildings.
Bristol stands on the river Avon and is spanned by the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which opened in 1864, but was based on a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1753 as a means of crossing the Avon Gorge and the design was contributed to by the inventor, Sarah Guppy.
Bristol was well-known as a centre for trade and was the second largest port until the mid-eighteenth century when Liverpool took over the position as it had more capacity. Bristol’s main trades were in sugar, coffee, tobacco and chocolate which were produced in the Caribbean by the slave trade.
One of the main streets in Bristol that has survived largely intact is that of Corn Street, which now accommodates banks, shops, restaurants and an indoor market, known as St Nicholas Market.
Within the market itself, there is an old pub, known as the Rummer, which has stood there since 1742 and is still open today.
The building had side structures with two storeys of shops and offices which were used by insurance dealers. One of these became the Corn Exchange and was formally opened on 18th October 1813.
From the Cheltenham Chronicle, 28 October 1813
On Monday last the new established Corn Market in the Exchange, Bristol was regularly opened. The boxes in which samples are exhibited upon the plan of Mark Lane, London, form a line on the south side. Considerable business was transacted; and no doubt great benefit will be derived from the establishment. The market days are Monday and Thursday. A very respectable party dined together at the Rummer Tavern, after business was over to celebrate the opening.
The Corn Exchange building which leads into the markets was built around 1740, by John Wood the Elder. Outside the building are four pillars, known as ‘the nails’.
The oldest pillar is reputed to date back to the end of the Elizabethan era. The second oldest was given by Bristol merchant Robert Kitchen, who died in 1594. The other two are dated 1625 and 1631. On top of the pillars were ‘containers’ with slightly raised edges which were used by merchants, the money would be placed inside the container without risk of it falling out. It is said that the phrase ‘paying on the nail’ originates from the use of these (it’s a great story, but probably not true).
Also, on the front of the building, there is a clock, You can see from this photo that there are two ‘minute’ hands, one in red, the other black. The reason for this is that Bristol had its own time which was ten minutes slower than Greenwich Mean Time but, with the advent of the railways, it was necessary to have a standard time, i.e. GMT, but Bristol also retained its own local time.
The Commercial Rooms
In November 1808 funds were raised to build an exclusive club for merchants to meet. The sum of £10,000 was raised within a 24-hour period, but it wasn’t until February 1810 that adverts began to appear in the newspapers for tradesmen to apply via sealed bids to carry out the work and the first stone was laid on 19th March 1810. The portico is of the Grecian Ionic order, with the three statues above personifying the City, Commerce and Navigation. The first president of the Commercial Rooms was John Loudon McAdam, the inventor of Tarmac.
Those like us who are lovers of chocolate will be pleased to know that Bristol was also renowned for its chocolate manufacture; way back in the late 1720s Joseph Fry senior invested in an apothecary, Walter Churchman who found the ideal way to produce chocolate and set up a factory, Castle Mills.
So confident of his new product was Walter, that he published the technical specifications for it in the London Evening Post in 1737.
Sadly ‘the great chocolate maker’s’ life was to end only 4 years later. The business was continued by his brother, Charles Churchman and in 1761 Joseph Fry and his partner John Vaughan acquired the patent for a water-powered machine which ultimately led to the establishment of the brand we know today as Fry’s chocolate.
Below is an advert from 1750 for his chocolate detailing how to eat it and its benefits.
Royal York Crescent, Clifton
The area of Clifton stands above the city and was where the affluent of Bristol live, to avoid the squalor of the city itself in the Georgian Era. The main street was the Royal York Crescent. A plan, known as ‘The Bristol Tontine’ was devised on 26th December 1782 by Mr James Lockier, a merchant, to build the Crescent, consisting of 46 houses. There would be 700 shares at £100 each, after the properties were built they were to be sold making the shareholders a substantial profit.
Their aspect was to be nearly due south with views of the Clifton Hill. Each house was to be 25 feet in front and 54 feet in depth. They would have drawing-room 27 feet by 23 feet, dining room 27 feet by 17 feet, with excellent lodging rooms, good offices and everything that can contribute to render them desirable dwellings for families of respectability and consequence, with a spacious terrace and shrubbery in front.
It was a fascinating city to visit and far too much to see to include everything in this post, but hopefully, it gives a flavour of the city. It was amazing to see places that would have been so familiar to our Georgian Heroine who lived there in the early 1800s, both in the city itself and also at Clifton.
View over the Avon. British School. Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives
We came across the following publication which caused us more than a little amusement, so we thought we would share a few snippets with you. The Gentleman and Lady of Pleasure’s Amusement published 1759. The book is a series of questions about eighteenth-century dilemmas with the author(s) offering replies – something akin to agony aunts of the day.
For ease of reading, we have updated the questions and their replies into today’s language. So, here below is a sample of the 80 questions in the book, with more to follow next week.
A young lady is pregnant and not sure how it happened.
Question: I am in the prime of life and not unattractive, one of two daughters to a loving and industrious father. I now think I am pregnant, not sure how or when it happened, but I’m worried that my father will disinherit me. My question being, is it possible for me to have become pregnant whilst asleep as that is the only way it could have happened, and didn’t know about it? Also, is it legal for me to kill the embryo so that my father doesn’t find out?
Answer: It is highly unlikely that you could have become pregnant without knowing it unless you were very drunk or having a swooning fit. Given that neither of these seem likely, we are sure that you will be fine, so stop worrying about it. In answer to your second question – that would be murder and treated accordingly.
A gentleman in love with two sisters.
Question: I’ve been dating two sisters, both equally beautiful and talented. I know I can’t have them both, what should I do?
Answer: As you appear to love them both, you can’t pretend to either, as we presume you expect a whole heart in return for only half of yours!
A young gentleman twice married to one lady
Question: Before I reached the age of consent (21) I married a young lady, without telling my family. Now that I am of the age of consent, can I lawfully marry her a second time in the presence of my parents?
Answer: Yes, effectively you are renewing your vows, it is not illegal to marry the same person twice, it is only illegal to marry someone else whilst still married to the first person.
An Old Maid has an inclination for a young man
Question: I’m an old maid and going grey, but I’d like to marry a ‘toy boy’, but I’m not sure he would want me, although I have plenty of money, but … there’s a wretched old bachelor in the way who declares his love for me – or perhaps just my money. What should I do?
Answer: As you’re grey already, speed is necessary for any decision, so we’ll reply with haste. Whichever appears first, lock them in, throw away the key and keep them there – haste is paramount.
Question: What sex is the devil?
Answer: By his roughness one assumes male, but as he often appears in petticoats, we believe him a hermaphrodite.
A wife wants to read her husband’s mail
Question: Is it acceptable for me to read his mail without his consent?
Answer: Goodness, if you opened his mail once, where could that lead? But seriously, a good husband wouldn’t object to you reading his mail – once opened by him, of course.
I promised to marry her
Question: I made a promise to marry a young lady whilst under the influence of drink, although I didn’t really mean it. My uncle, who is my guardian expects me to marry a young, wealthy widow, what should I do as the young lady says I’m committed to her and that I can’t go back on my promise which I did repeat again when sober?
Answer: Whilst it wasn’t very clever to have proposed to her when under the influence, you did repeat it when sober. Hard luck, you’ve made the commitment, so you must follow it through.
An apprentice to trade for himself
Question: I’m not asking for myself, but, an acquaintance of mine is an apprentice to a surgeon and a friend of his contracted a disease from a young girl. He approached the apprentice for a cure for the condition. The apprentice provided the cure and was paid for it. Is it acceptable for him to keep the payment or should it belong to his master?
Answer: Whilst employed by the master they are duty bound to give it to their master or to advise their master what has occurred and find out how the master wishes to deal with it.
We do hope you have enjoyed some of these anecdotes from our eighteenth-century agony aunts.
On December 26th, 1788 the ship, Pitt East Indiaman, which was owned by the East India Company and captained by Edward Manning set sail for St Helena, Benkulen and then China. She reached St Helena in March 1789, Benkulen in July, arriving in China November 1789.
In China, she collected her cargo began the return journey back to England via St Helena, reaching England in August 1790. There was nothing unusual in journey except that when they arrived in China they acquired an additional piece of cargo – a tiger.
When first brought on board, the tiger was no larger than a puppy of one month to six weeks old, and the ship’s company were determined, if possible, to tame him. The familiarities used with this creature grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength until by the time he was almost a year old he was harmless and as playful as a young kitten.
We have no explanation as to why this tiger was onboard, whether it was destined for a circus in England we cannot say. The animal was described by the newspapers as:
a beautiful young male tiger, about ten or twelve months old and nearly the size of a large mastiff dog.
The Kentish Gazette in its coverage described the animal as being:
a singular instance of the practicability of taming and domesticating wild beasts, a tiger being allowed to be the most ferocious of the savage creatures.
Until he grew too large he lived in the carpenter’s cabin and frequently slept with the sailors in their hammocks, each becoming very fond of the animal.
During the passage home, he was mischievous as most young animals are and frequently stole the sailor’s shoes and hid their clothes, at one time he had in his concealment no less than twenty-five pairs of silk breeches.
He was extremely playful and would often climb about the ship like a cat and perform antics which you would have to have seen to believe. He was known to play with the dog on board, tossing him in the air and catching him in his paws. The sailors used to make him lie down on the deck and three of them at one time would rest their heads on him using him as a pillow, the tiger never stirred until the sailors had taken their nap.
In return for this familiarity he was known to steal their meat – they became so fond of the creature that he was never really punished. One day during the voyage, however, he also stole the carpenter’s favourite roast beef, the carpenter followed the tiger and retrieved the piece of meat. On this occasion, the animal was punished but apparently ‘took it with the patience of a spaniel’.
Mr Murray, the purser, having left his cabin door open, the tiger jumped into the cot whilst he was asleep, but not liking his bedfellow Murray hastily jumped out leaving the tiger in full possession of both his cot and his cabin.
When the ship arrived at Gravesend, an old woman came on board with a basket of gingerbread to sell, the tiger set upon the old woman as a cat does when chasing a mouse, seized its opportunity, sprang at her, jumped upon her from behind and threw his paws around her neck. This unexpected attack, on the part of the woman was depicted with every tragic emotion; the basket, gingerbread, fruit and all its contents fell on the deck, which when done, as if conscious of the woman’s situation, he released his prisoner and wandered off to find something else to do in another part of the ship.
Six or eight sailors, part of the men put on board the ship to work her up to the moorings at Deptford, had at this time their portion of fresh beef served to them; and whilst they were debating whether it should be boiled or roasted, a diversity of opinions having taken place, the tiger who lay close by watched for a favourable opportunity, made a sudden spring and seized it, which not only ended the contest, but even saved them the trouble of preparing it, as the tiger it had been observed, preferred his meat raw rather than boiled or roasted.
The above story was reputed to be true and was verified by a gentleman who went on board the Pitt. This gentleman wishing to see this domesticated tiger was led to the carpenter’s cabin, where the tiger lay sleeping at the feet of the carpenter’s wife and sister. Encouraged by the account he was given of this docility, he first ventured to touch him, and after growling a little, which he always did when disturbed from sleep, he patted him in the most familiar manner and then proceeded to put his hand into the tiger’s mouth. The tiger was perfectly content with this.
What became of the tiger we have no idea, but presumably he came part of the circus, but it would be nice to think he remained on board with the carpenter, but it seems unlikely as only a few months later the ship, still under Manning’s command became a convict ship.
Kentish Gazette 31 August 1790
Three Tigers in a Rocky Landscape by Sawrey Gilpin. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
In the Georgian era, if you weren’t afflicted by gout you were nobody, it was very much a statement of wealth and class, something to aspire to have. Most sufferers of this complaint ate too much rich food and drank even more – port being regarded as one of the most common causes.
Gout was described in ‘A Treatise on the Nature and Cure of Gout’ by Charles Scudamore, written in 1816, as
a constitutional disease, producing an external inflammation of a specific kind; the susceptibility to it often depending on hereditary conformation and constitution, but more frequently wholly acquired; not occurring before the age of puberty, seldom under the age of five and twenty; and most frequently between the ages of twenty-five an thirty-five; affecting chiefly the male sex; and particularly persons of capacious chest and plethoric habit; in the first attack invading usually one foot only and most frequently at the first joint of the great toe; but in its return affecting both feet, the hands, knees and elbows, often accompanied by a fever.
Today, of course, medical knowledge has moved on and we now know that gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid which the body cannot break down and presents as a swelling in a joint, usually the big toe with red skin around the affected joint, as can be seen in this caricature by James Gillray. This being only one of countless caricatures of the day, mocking sufferers.
Where there was illness there were plenty of so-called doctors ready to offer you a quick fix. So much so that they proudly advertised the efficacy of their product in the newspapers, with claims that they could not just ease the condition, but totally cure it. So confident were they with their products that they provided testimonies apparently from people they had treated such as this one for ‘Mr Gardner’s Pills and Plaisters’.
Wright Esq. No. 40 Duke Street, Manchester Square, was many years afflicted with the gout, is cured by Gardener’s Pills and will with pleasure satisfy the afflicted.
Mr. Watson, Merchant and Underwriter, No. 25 Mincing Lane, seven years afflicted.
Mr. Purser, Talbot Innkeeper, Whitechapel, twenty years afflicted.
If that didn’t take you fancy, then no problem, why not try a more palatable cure?
Spilsbury’s Antiscorbutic Drops. This medicine had undergone a series of trials and held a variety of certificated of efficacy and could cure scurvy, gout, leprosy, rheumatism etc. The drops themselves were reputed to be pleasant to take, required no confinement. They were supplied in moulded bottles, with fluted corners and the words Francis Spilsbury, chemist, his Antiscorbutic Drops, by the King’s Patent, indented on each 5-shilling bottle and were supplied with directions to usage.
Interesting to note that almost half the advertisement seemed to focus on the appearance of the container rather than the product it contained. Whilst it seems feasible that these drops could help to prevent or cure scurvy, as they were predominantly a form of vitamin C tablets, there seems little evidence that they could have any effect on gout.
So, who amongst the great and the good of the day suffered from gout – well naturally the Prince Regent with his excessive lifestyle was a prime candidate and the newspapers reported instances of him having suffered ‘a slight attack of gout in his knee’. Sir Joseph Banks whose gout became so debilitating that he had to resort to using a wheelchair. Both William Pitt, the elder and the younger were both troubled by the complaint. Pitt, the younger being advised to avoid port and to drink wine instead. If you read the letters of Horace Walpole, you will find countless references on the subject of gout!
Lord Byron, noted in 1814 that King Louis XVIII of France was another sufferer of gout and nicknamed him ‘Louis the Gouty’.
We will finish with an extract from the work of Rev. Jonathan Swift
As, if the gout should seize the head,
Doctors pronounce the patient dead;
But, if they can, by all their arts,
Eject it to th’extremest parts,
They give the sick man joy, and praise
The gout that will prolong his days.
In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, we mention her uncle by marriage, John Dundas who married Helen Brown, Grace’s determined and strong-minded maternal aunt who was a constant presence in Grace’s formative years. In 1748, some six years before Grace was born, John Dundas was a Captain in the 34th Regiment of Foot and was placed in command of a troop of soldiers hunting two fugitives from Newgate Prison.
William Gray and Thomas Kemp had been arrested for smuggling, both members of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers and thieves who terrorised the south coast of England from Kent to Dorset during 1735 to 1750. On the 30th March 1748, these two, along with five other smugglers who were all being held in Newgate, managed to escape, all taking different routes through the London streets. Five of them were soon taken, but Gray and Kemp got clean away. They evaded capture for some weeks until, in mid-May, the following report appeared in the newspapers:
By an Express from Hastings we have an Account, that William Gray, who lately broke out of Newgate, was last Tuesday Morning retaken by a party of Lord Cobham’s Dragoons, under the Command of Capt. Dundass, of Cholmondeley’s Regiment of Foot and carry’d to that Place; and that Kemp, who broke out at the same Time with Gray, narrowly escaped being taken with him.
William Gray stood trial and was sentenced to be transported for seven years; the Penny London Post reported on 27th July 1748, that Gray had given the Government information regarding smugglers and he was to be pardoned, however, he remained in Newgate and the General Evening Post, 19th November 1748 mentioned that he was so ill his life was despaired of. Thomas Kemp was recaptured along with his brother in 1749, after breaking into a house armed with pistols; both were sentenced to death.
More information on John Dundas and his wife Helen Brown can be found in our book which documents not only Grace’s life but those of her extended family as well.
Today the majority of us rely on computers, tablets, mobile phones etc. for communication, but obviously, such things did not exist in the eighteenth-century when – shock horror – they used paper and hand-wrote everything. So once again we dip into a most useful book The London Tradesman for today’s article.
The process of manufacturing paper
The use of paper is an ancient invention so the writer of this book has provided a description of how paper was made in the mid eighteenth-century.
Our paper in Europe is made of linen rags; the rags are then picked, separated into parcels, according to their fineness, washed and whited; then they are carried to the paper mills, where they are pounded amongst water till they are reduced to a pulp. When they are beat to a due consistence, they are poured into a working tub where there is a frame of wire, commonly called the paper mould, which is composed of so many wires laid close to one another, equal to the dimensions of the sheet of paper designed to be made; and some of them disposed in the shape of the figure which is discovered in the paper when you hold it betwixt you and the light.
This frame the workman holds in both his hands and plunges it into the tub and takes it quickly up again. The water runs through the spaces between the wires and there remains nothing on the mould but the water pulp, in a thin coat which forms the sheet of paper.
A flannel cloth is laid upon the top of the mould as the paper turned off upon it; then they dip it as before and continue to supply the vessel with fresh matter as it decreases. The flannel cloth sucks up the remaining moisture and the paper, after some time will suffer to be handled and hung up to dry in place properly suited for the purpose.
The writer then describes the process of manufacturing of a French invention, snuff boxes.
Snuff boxes are made of the same material as paper; are to be had at Paris of any colour, but are most commonly black, as ebony and are actually as hard and durable as any made of wood, horn or tortoise-shell. They are made of linen rags, beat to a pulp, as if intended for paper. A large quantity of pulp is put into a vessel and the water allowed to drain off; the pulp is dried and coheres together in a hard vessel, and the water allowed to drain off; the pulp is dried and coheres together in a hard, uniform lump, out of which they turn upon the leath (lathe), boxes or any other kind of toys which for their novelty fetch a large price.
He ends his article with a complaint about how much money is spent in the UK on paper purchased from France, Holland and Genoa who, according to the writer produce the best paper. The French excel in writing-paper and the Genoese in printing paper.
Basically, he is saying that the UK needs to ‘get its act together‘ and to produce a better quality of paper so that it stops buying from abroad!
Collier, John; Trompe l’oeil Painting; The Fitzwilliam Museum.
With Easter almost here, we would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter and share with you some snippets about the way Georgians spent their Easter with some extracts from the newspapers of the day – partying being the most obvious!
We begin with a letter of complaint, clearly, from someone who didn’t appreciate many of the celebrations that took place during the year and felt it appropriate to vent his/her annoyance to the editor of the Whitehall Evening Post, we’re only focusing on a snippet from it about Easter though…
Whitehall Evening Post (1770), August 2, 1783 – August 5, 1783
Some things customary refer simply to the idea of feasting, according to the season and occasion. Of these, perhaps, are lambs-wool on Christmas eve; furmety on Mothering Sunday; Braggot (which is a mixture of ale, sugar and spices) at the festival of Easter … lamb at Easter to the Paschal Lamb. This, perhaps, may be the case also with respect to pancakes on Shrove Tuesday; unless that shall be supposed to allude to ‘the egg at Easter’ an emblem of the rising up out of the grave; in the same manner as the chick, entombed as it were in the egg, is in due time brought to life. So also the flowers, with which many churches are ornamented on Easter-day, are most probably intended as emblems of the resurrection having just risen from the earth during the severity of winter, they seem to have been buried.
A custom, which ought to be abolished as improper and indecent, prevails in many places of lifting, as it is called, on Easter Monday and Tuesday. Is this a memorial of Christ being raised from the grave? There is, at least some appearance of it; as there seems to be trace of the decent of the Holy Ghost on the heads of the Apostles in what passes at Whitsuntide fair in some parts of Lancashire; where one person hold a stick over the head of another, whilst a third, unperceived, strikes the stick, and thus gives a smart blow to the first. But this, probably is only local.
The Hampshire Chronicle, Sunday, March 31, 1788
Of the multitude of customs and ceremonies which formerly commanded attention at this season, but very few are preserved; it is however, universally considered as a time appropriate to recreation and innocent festivity. Amongst the common people it is even now a custom in the North to rise early, in order to see the sun dance. We suppose this o have arisen from some metaphorical expression in the sacred writings. Boys carry a vessel of water into the fields, that the sun may seem to dance from the tremulous motion of the water.
Paper eggs, properly pasche eggs, are stained of different colors and covered with gold leaf, and given to young children in the North of England as a fairing. This is a relic of Popish superstition; an egg being considered a type of the resurrection. This custom prevails in Russia; a long account may be seen in Hackluyt’s voyages. Dr. Chandler also in his travels in Asia Minor says ‘they made us presents of coloured eggs and cakes of Easter bread’.
Durand says, that on Easter Tuesday wives used to beat their husbands, on the day following husbands beat their wives.
In the city of Durham the following custom is still preserved: On one day the men take off the women’s shoes, which are only to be redeemed by a small present. On another day the women take off the men’s in a like manner.
In Yorkshire tansy puddings and cakes are made, which custom Seldon, in his ‘Table Talk‘, has referenced to the bitter herbs which the Jews greatly use at this season.
At Newcastle, on Easter Monday a great match is always played at hand ball for a great tansy cake.
Many other incidents might be enumerated, most of which are obsolete, and many generally forgotten; we sincerely however regret, that the memory of anything should be lost, which, by introducing innocent merriment, strengthens the sweet bond of social life.
The Hampshire Chronicle, Monday, April 28, 1794
The belles and beaux, from the fineness of the weather, exceeded far, very far, any number that ever were seen at that favourite spot. From six to eight o’clock, on their return to London, it was one continued throng of holiday people of all ranks and descriptions, from Greenwich park to Westminster bridge. There was no resisting the torrent; and many an honest young woman who was so yesterday morning, will have fatal cause to repent, before this day twelvemonth, the frolic of tumbling down the hill in the park – drunkenness, riots, battles and thefts, as usual, dignified the proceedings. Not less than one hundred thousand persons were present.
At ten in the morning, at least ten thousand equestrians and pedestrians were upon the forest: every species of vehicle from the hand cart and buggy to the light waggon and splendid chariot was there. At one, the stag, bedecked with ribbons was turned out on Fairmaid Bottom – and then the fun began, with running, riding, crossing, jostling, tumbling, hooting, shouting, screaming and howling; which formed the scene that may be seen, but cannot possibly be described, and that indeed never before was exhibited but in a nation of madmen. At four, the stag was at bay in a thicket, near the Royal Oak and was taken and put in a cart and with continual shouts was brought to the starting house in order to afford fresh sport in future.
The Easter Hunt at Epping Forest by Henry William Bunbury, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection
Mary Manlove married Nicholas Luhorne, some seven years her senior, in 1715 at St Andrews Holborn. There’s nothing especially noteworthy about either of them on the face of it until after the death of Nicholas, a captain in the navy, when the story of Mary’s life after the loss of her husband became particularly tragic as we discovered in a book, titled Lives and anecdotes of misers. What became of Mary…?
In the month of August of the year 1766 there died at Deptford a wretched old woman, in her ninety-sixth year; she was the widow of Captain Luhorne, of the East India service. She survived her husband forty years, and during the whole of that period she lived a most miserly and penurious manner. She not only denied herself the comforts, but even the most common necessaries and decencies of life.
Her clothes were so tattered that she was almost in a state of nudity, and the rags which she hung upon her shoulders were so filthy, and so animated with vermin, that passengers took the precaution to keep at a distance from her in the streets.
She was never known to have lit a fire in her room, and never indulged in the luxury of a candle; she wore no under garments, and had no sheet to cover her at night; she eschewed all the rules of cleanliness, and appeared never so happy as when surrounded with filth and loathsomeness. She would frequently wander along the roads to beg of passers by, and always professed the utmost poverty.
The demon of avarice was so strong within this covetous soul, that she was more than once detected pilfering some trifling articles from her neighbours. One Tuesday the old woman was missed; she had not been observed to leave her room, and she had not been seen in her accustomed walks: Wednesday past, and the neighbours began to suspect that the old miser must be ill; they knocked at her door, but no voice replied; they waited for the morrow; and when the day had far advanced, and she did not appear, they got in at the window. They found her in bed alive, but speechless: with the attention she revived a little, but on Saturday the old woman died.
Her relatives were sent for, who on opening her drawers and chests found securities and gold to the amount of forty thousand pounds, besides clothes of the most sumptuous make and texture, plate, china, jewels and linen. For years she had been surrounded with this wealth and possessed these luxuries, which if rightly used would have served to comfort her old age, and have been the means of relieving the miseries and wants of others; the remembrance would in return have proved great solace to the bed of sickness and death.
Yet although her drawers were thus crammed with costly apparel, which was slowly moldering and rotting before the effects of time; that wretched object of penury chose rather to wear rags so filthy that it became the imperative duty of her relatives to burn them immediately after her death.
In a life so wretched, so devoid of purpose, so laborious, so self-denying and so debased, we have a striking ample of the littleness of human wishes, and the ignobility of the human mind, when unguided by reason, and when swayed by the despotism of the passions. Her life is indeed, a problem the philosopher will find some difficulty to solve. With forty thousand pounds, no fraction of which she would venture to enjoy – with none for whom affection would prompt her to save – here was a wretched being whose lust for gold and whose propensity to hoard was so overwhelming, that she would beg of strangers in the streets whatever she could lay her hands upon; and although surrounded with an abundance, deprive herself of every enjoyment – of every hope and consolation, that she might gratify this most senseless propensity of her life, of her avarice, as manifested in all its strength at the age of ninety five, and of her lonely and comfortless death bed, we are prompted to exclaims, with the psalmist:
(Henry Fielding, The Covent Garden Tragedy, 1732).
There are many tall tales told about Mary (Moll) King, a shrewd businesswoman and proprietress of King’s Coffee House in London’s Covent Garden. Several sources say she was a pickpocket, stealing watches from ladies’ pockets and held in Newgate before being transported on more than one occasion. She was, it was alleged, the notorious Jonathan Wild’s accomplice, one of his gang of thieves, and while in Newgate met Daniel Defoe who used her as the inspiration for Moll Flanders. Later she settled down with her husband to run their very successful coffee shop, from where she operated as a form of bawd and was prosecuted for keeping a disorderly house.
It all seems a little far-fetched and, if we’re completely honest, we don’t believe the half of it. A certain Moll King appeared before the judges for thieving in 1693, and our Moll wasn’t born until 1696 (as claimed in a pamphlet, The Life and Character of Moll King, late mistress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden published anonymously in 1747 shortly after her death).
Mary King is not an uncommon name and we’re sure more than one Mary or Moll King would have been in trouble with the authorities in London in the first half of the eighteenth-century. It seems that the history of the pick-pocketing Moll King, who had a criminal career lasting between at least 1693 and 1728 and who Defoe based Moll Flanders upon, has become entwined in popular imagination with that of Moll King, mistress of King’s Coffee House. The pick-pocketing rumours abounded even during Moll’s own lifetime, as they are specifically discredited in The Life and Character.
Moll was born in 1696 in a garret in Vine Street (now Grape Street) in the heart of St Giles in the Fields, the daughter of a shoemaker and a fruit, fish and greens seller. As a child, she helped her mother in the market and had a brief spell as a servant but hated being indoors all day and went back to selling fruit from a barrow. According to The Life and Character, in 1717 at the Fleet, she married one Thomas King.
Tom King too has a somewhat fanciful story. The son of an obviously well-to-do family, he was born around 1694 in West Ashton in Wiltshire. E.J. Burford, in Wits, Wenchers, and Wantons: London’s Low Life: Covent Garden in the Eighteenth Century says he was the son of Thomas King, a squire of Thurlow in Suffolk and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Cordell, Baronet, who had married in 1691 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden. In 1708, at the age of 14 years, he went to Eton and then, in 1713, to King’s College, Cambridge. Three years later he left Cambridge under a cloud, either expelled or in apprehension that his fellowship would be denied to him, depending upon which account you read. Whatever the cause, he ended up working in Covent Garden market where he was known as Smooth’d-Fac’d-Tom, and there he met Moll.
Around the time she met Tom, it is alleged that Moll also had an affair with a gentleman named John Stanley who, in 1723, met his end at the gallows on Tyburn; he had stabbed his mistress. A pamphlet published the same year gave his history, including details of his brief dalliance with Moll five years earlier.
Is it true? Almost certainly not; it’s another of the many myths which surround Moll’s life, and probably relates to Moll the pick-pocket. The Life and Character admits only an affair with a man named Murray who was in high public office, whilst noting that the handsome Moll was never short of male admirers. One son was born to Tom and Moll, named Charles (Moll names him in her will as her only child and subsequent claims that she educated him at Eton appear to be a falsehood stemming from Tom King’s education there).
The next sighting of either Tom or Moll upon which we can rely comes in 1730 when ‘Thomas King, the Market’ appeared amongst the list of victuallers in St Paul’s, Covent Garden in the licensing register.
The Kings, or rather Moll, had made a tidy profit selling nuts from a stall in the Covent Garden market, and with the money rented a shabby little house (in fact nothing more than a wooden shack) in the Piazza at Covent Garden market and began selling coffee, tea and chocolate to the market sellers, naming their business King’s Coffee House. It was soon known informally as King’s College. As they opened in the very early hours of the morning, when the market traders began work and started to sell strong liquors as well as coffee, they began attracting the custom of those who had ventured to Covent Garden after dark, seeking pleasure, everyone from prostitutes to fashionable young beaux. Soon they were open all through the night. It is said that the clientele included Hogarth, Henry Fielding (who mentioned the coffee house in two of his works), Alexander Pope and John Gay. By 1732 business was booming and the Kings bought the two adjoining properties to expand their business. The new Covent Garden Theatre opened next door to their coffee house.
The business thrived. It is said that Moll acted as a procuress and bawd, but had no beds in the coffee house (except hers and Tom’s in an upstairs room, accessed via a ladder which they pulled up behind them) so she could not be prosecuted for running a brothel. Instead, the assignation would be made at her coffee house and she would then send a servant to light their way to a nearby bagnio. It is also suggested that she operated as a money lender. To deter outsiders from knowing what was going on within their doors, Tom and Moll, and their customers, started ‘Talking Flash’, their own secret language.
Their good fortune enabled Tom to build two or three ‘substantial houses’ and a villa on Haverstock Hill on the road to Hampstead, and he and Moll moved into one of them. The dancer and actress Nancy Dawson (famous for her hornpipe between acts in The Beggar’s Opera) later lived in the villa. Tom King died in the October of 1737 at his Hampstead home after a lingering illness exacerbated by his drinking and was buried at St Paul’s in Covent Garden on the 11th of that month. Moll was granted administration of his estate (goods in Hart Street, Covent Garden and the Coffee House in Covent Garden were mentioned) and took over the running of their coffee house, together with her nephew, William King.
Moll now took to drink – she was previously known for remaining sober – and the coffee house gained a worse reputation than that which it had previously enjoyed under Tom’s management and she began to appear before the courts charged with keeping a disorderly house. It was around this time that Hogarth depicted King’s College in his painting Morning, one of ‘The Four Times of the Day’ series. The scene shows two rakes and their prostitutes who have just staggered out of King’s into the early morning sunshine of a wintry day; icicles can be seen hanging from the timber roof of the coffee shop. Inside, a fight can be seen taking place.
Moll stayed a widow for a twelvemonth, and when her year of mourning was over she married again, on the 11th October 1738 at St Dunstan in the West, to John Hoff, a carpenter and builder who lived on Compton Street in Soho. It was thought that John Hoff married Moll for her money, and indeed she did continue to use her former married name, at least in connection with her coffee house, but none of the evidence suggests that Mr Hoff was after Moll’s fortune. He died just less than four months into their marriage and his will, written on the 6th February 1739, appoints Moll as his executrix and everything is left to her. Moll proved the will on the 9th February before her husband was even in his grave. (John Hoff was buried at St Paul’s in Covent Garden on the 14th February 1739.)
It was in 1739, shortly after Mr Hoff’s death, that a disturbance at King’s Coffee House made the newspapers. A young gentleman claimed that Moll had beaten him in her house and the case ended up in the Court of the King’s Bench. Moll was found guilty. She was told that she was to be fined the considerable sum of £200, had to find sureties for her future good behaviour and that she would be held in prison until the fine was paid. Moll stubbornly went to prison refusing to pay the fine for, as she said, “if she was to pay two hundred pounds to all the insolent boys she had thrash’d for their impudence, the Bank of England would be unable to furnish her with the cash”. In her absence, the coffee house was run by her nephew and Moll languished in prison. It was said that she eventually came to an arrangement to pay less than half the fine in return for her release.
Moll retained her Hampstead villa (which was known locally as Moll King’s Folly), but when she came to write her will on the 6th June 1747 she was ‘Mary Hoff of the parish of St Paul Covent Garden, widow’. She left a few small bequests to her sister-in-law and friends, but the bulk of her reputedly considerable fortune she left to her only child, Charles King, in trust for him until he reached 30 years of age. If he died before that, she willed that her estate was to be used by the parish of St Giles in the Fields to benefit poor children. Moll obviously hadn’t forgotten her roots. She died later that year, on the 17th September 1747 and was buried ten days later in the same churchyard as her two husbands, St Paul’s Covent Garden.
It was after Moll’s death that The Life and Character of Moll King appeared on the streets, which gave details of her criminal career. But how much truth is there in it? To be honest, we’re still not completely sure. Our opinion, and it is no more than that, is that the legend of the pick-pocketing Moll King has become entwined with that of Moll King, mistress of King’s Coffee House. You could accuse the latter Moll of being a bawd, a drunk and the keeper of a disorderly house, but we’re not sure that you could accuse her of much else. Unfortunately, it’s probably one of those cases which will never truly be proved one way or the other.
 E. J. Burford says Thurlow in Essex, but the marriage register at Covent Garden gives Thurlow in Suffolk. Thomas was the son of Robert King of Great Thurlow in Suffolk; Robert’s will c.1709 mentions his ‘unfortunate son’ Thomas and a grandson named John King, but not a grandson named Thomas.
Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737 (The Tate)
The Records of Old Westminsters, Up to 1927
The Life and Character of Moll King, late mistress of King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden, 1747
Women in Business, 1700-1850 by Nicola Jane Phillips, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2006
London – The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Prostitution and Vice by Fergus Linnane, Robson, 2007
Wits, Wenchers, and Wantons: London’s Low Life: Covent Garden in the Eighteenth Century by E. J. Burford, Robert Hale Ltd, 1986
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Volume 11: Sixth Series, The Royal Historical Society, Cambridge University Press, 2003
There are many reasons to visit Lincoln and when you do, the one place you can’t avoid is the magnificent cathedral that dominates the Lincoln skyline. As we both live in the county we thought we really should write a bit about it. So let’s begin with its dimensions:
The foundations of the cathedral were laid in 1088, and as with any building, maintenance is required over the years and of course, the cathedral has been no exception. Today we thought we would take a look at what renovations those Georgians undertook.
In 1762 the centre window of coloured glass at the East end was executed by Mr Picket of York.
1775 The embattlement on the top of the Broad Tower was designed by Mr Essex of Cambridge and erected under his directions. The same eminent architect was employed in various extensive repairs to the edifice, particularly the roof; he also added the pointed arch with open balustrade which connects the two first pillars of the nave (a little in advance of the centre door in the West Front); and constructed the present Altar Screen.
1782 The floor of the church was newly paved, which occasioned the removal of many monuments that had escaped the ravages of time, fanaticism and mischief; and of the greater part of the inscribed gravestones. The new paving was certainly necessary and is a great improvement, but it is in consequence rendered very difficult to trace the graves of many of the learned and pious men who are there deposited.
1793 The Roman Pavement discovered several feet below the surface, in the centre of the Cloister Quadrangle. Steps descend to it, for the accommodation of visitors; and a brick shed has been built round to protect it from the weather.
1800 The Altar Piece was painted by Mr Peters, Prebendary of Langford Ecclesia.
The Stamford Mercury, 19 July 1805 reports details of the theft of Communion Plate
On Sunday morning the cathedral church of this city was discovered to have been robbed of the whole of the communion plate, consisting of several massy silver vessels, the value of which is supposed to exceed 500l. The last time the plate was seen was on Tuesday se’nnight, when the person who had it under his care sent a little boy with the keys to show it to a stranger. The robbers must have picked five locks, and there is no appearance of violence on any of them, four of them being re-shot. Everything proves this sacrilegious transaction to have resulted from a pre-concerted and well-digested plan. What occasions much conversation is, the circumstances of a convict in the city goal (lately a dragoon solider) having intimated to the gaoler who a few weeks ago conveyed him to the hulks at Woolwich, that ‘no long time would elapse before a great building Above-hill, and the warehouse of an eminent draper in Lincoln would be robbed by two persons, one of who was well know, and little suspected to be capable of such a transaction’. In consequence of this information which Mr. Tuke, the gaoler, divulged o his return to Lincoln, Mr. Smith, who was the draper alluded to, and fortunately paid to the assertion to the convict more attention that it was generally though worthy of, had new locks and bars put upon the doors of his valuable warehouse, and the robbery of the cathedral has proved with what well-employed caution. Proper persons have been sent from Lincoln to obtain what further intelligence respecting this mysterious affair it is possible to extort from the convict dragoon.
1807 The two Western spires which were made of timber and lead were taken down. The Norfolk Chronicle, 22 August 1807 reported:
It is determined to remove from that noble pile, Lincoln Cathedral, the two spires which surmounted St Hugh’s and St Mary’s Towers. Although necessity may require this the picturesque effects of that fine building will be greatly injured by it.
1824 The ancient service of Communion Plate having been some years before sacrilegiously stolen from the Vestry, the present splendid Service was presented to the church.
Also in 1824 repairs were needed according to the Stamford Mercury on 29 October.
The high winds of Tuesday blew off one of the weathercocks from the broad tower of Lincoln Cathedral, as well as the ponderous ball on which it stood. The ball fell with great force on the roof of the church making a large aperture in the lead, but was prevented from going through the stone-groined roof below by the strength of the rafters. The vane fell to the ground near to the cloisters. It is the north-east pinnacle, which has thus suffered; it is feared that the tops of the other three pinnacles are in nearly the same decayed state.
Bell’s Weekly Messenger 9 May 1825:
For the magnificent Minster at Lincoln, a large and splendid organ is now building in London, which has been already performed upon by professors, and has been pronounced equal in power and superior in many points to any in the United Kingdom. The Rev. the Dean has also presented the Minster with a set of communion plate to the value of 1,000l. It is silver chased and gilt, and is similar to that which the King has ordered for his private chapel at Windsor.
1826 The new organ erected by the Dean and Chapter was opened, the church having previously undergone a thorough cleaning.
December 1827 Great Tom of Lincoln was found to be ‘cracked’ and unfit or duty to the great regret of the inhabitants of the ancient city. In 1834 it was broken up and a new one made to replace it. This was the bell that hung in St Mary’s Tower at the West End or Front of the Cathedral (St Mary’s is one tower, the other is St Hugh’s).
And, to finish, we came across this curious article for which can offer no explanation.
Extract of a Letter from M. Johnson Esq.; to William Bogdani Esq.; concerning an extraordinary Interment.
In a letter to me from Mr. Symson, master of the works of the cathedral of Lincoln, dated 28 September last, I was informed that, in digging a grave at the west end of that church, they opened the foot of an ancient sepulcher – the corpse was sewed up in a strong tanned leather hide, the seam running up the middle of the breast. I should suppose it to be some great lay lord, before the custom prevailed of laying them within the church itself.
An augmented reality app is being designed which will allow users to experience the history of the cathedral spires giving them a taste of the height they once were before their removal in the early 1800s, in relation to the well-known building today.
A Guide Through Lincoln Cathedral
Archaeologia: or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London. The second edition. Volume 1. 1779
Baker, Joseph; A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)
George Coventry, Viscount Deerhurst and the future 7th Earl of Coventry, suffered a catastrophic hunting accident in 1780 when still a young man in his early twenties, resulting in the loss of his sight. He is mentioned frequently in our latest book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and we thought our readers might be interested in this contemporary newspaper account of his tragic accident, given in full, as a little extra information.
Lord Viscount Deerhurst was alive when the last express arrived from his surgeons, but lay in such a dreadful state, that his dissolution might almost be wished for by his friends. The following is the real state of the fatal accident. – His Lordship was hunting on Monday last, with his Grace the Duke of Beaufort, near Wooton in Oxfordshire; while the hounds were running, he and Sir Clement Cotterell came up to a very aukward [sic] five barr’d gate at the same time. – “Come, Cotterell,” says his Lordship, “don’t stand here, let’s get over!” – Sir Clement replied, “I would not take it for all the money in Europe.” – “No!” replied his Lordship, “then I do for twenty pounds!” – and at this instant he pushed his horse at it, who entangled his feet between the upper bar, on which Lord Deerhurst clapped his spurs to his side, which only served to irritate the horse, without disengaging him, so that they both fell over the gate and the horse upon him, by which Lord D’s right eye was beat into his head, his nose broke and laid flat to his face and his Lordship so much mangled in other respects, that he was taken up the most terrible spectacle that ever was beheld. As soon as he came to his senses, he requested of his friends that they would put him to death; there was but little probability of his surviving it when the last accounts came away. Lord Coventry, his father, went down yesterday to him; they had not seen each other since Lord Deerhurst’s marriage with the younger sister of Earl Northington.
Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, 23rd November 1780.
We are thrilled to welcome A J Mackenzie which is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians. Between them, they have written more than twenty nonfiction and academic titles, with specialisms including management, economic history and medieval warfare. You can find out more on their website by clicking here.
When it came to finding new ways of killing people, the Georgians were very inventive. Some of their weapons were lethal; some were also downright weird.
We’ve seen plenty of eighteenth-century weapons in films, of course, from the duelling pistols in Barry Lyndon to the Brown Bess muskets carried by the squaddies who go around terrorising the poor (alternatively, keeping order in lawless coastal communities) in Poldark.
In The Body on the Doorstep, the first of our Romney Marsh Mystery series, a rifle is a key weapon, but other firearms are also used by a variety of characters. Most people of quality would have owned a firearm of some sort. The country squire would have a fowling piece (ancestor of the modern shotgun) for shooting birds and rabbits; the lady of the town would carry a muff pistol when going out to deter highwaymen and footpads. In the absence of an established police force, people reserved the right to defend themselves.
But with advancements in science, spurred on by the Enlightenment, came advances in weaponry. Early in the eighteenth century the mathematician Benjamin Robins (ironically, the son of a Quaker family) calculated that cutting a pattern of helical grooves into the bore of a musket would impart spin to the projectile. This, in turn, meant the bullet would fly in a straight line, meaning greater accuracy. Most smoothbore muskets were barely accurate beyond fifty yards; a good rifle could hit a target at three hundred yards or even more.
It took a while for rifles to catch on in Britain. They were more popular in Germany among the sporting set, German sportsmen preferring to shoot their prey from long range rather than chasing it across the country on horseback. The rifle also became popular in America where the colonists used them to shoot game for the pot. In 1775, when the colonists stopped shooting deer and started shooting redcoats instead, the British army took notice. A few experimental rifles were commissioned for the British light infantry, but it took another thirty years for the Baker rifle – Richard Sharpe’s weapon of choice – to come into service.
One of the things that determined the accuracy and power of any firearm was the quality of the gunpowder. Fighting the Russians at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, the Swedish army’s powder was so poor that the musket balls sometimes merely rolled down the barrel and dropped at the musketeer’s foot.
In the 1760s, a Tirolean watchmaker named Bartholomew Girandoni decided to do away with powder altogether and built a gun powered by compressed air. His was not the first air gun, but his Windbüchse, or ‘wind gun’ was one of the best yet seen, much faster to load – it could fire around 20 rounds a minute, compared to the musket’s three or four – and quieter to shoot than an ordinary musket. The Austrian army was so impressed that it ordered several thousand for special light infantry units.
The strangest weapon of the eighteenth century may well be the Defence Gun, more usually known as the Puckle Gun, patented by James Puckle in 1718. This was a flintlock repeating weapon mounted on a tripod and fired by turning a crank handle. There were various versions of the Puckle gun, some of which could fire as many as eleven shots without reloading. How many Puckle guns were made is not known, but two are still in existence and there are rumours of a number of others. Puckle was not able to persuade the notoriously conservative Board of Ordinance to take up his gun, but later engineers refined the design and eventually produced more satisfactory weapons; the nineteenth-century Gatling Gun is a direct descendant of the Puckle Gun.
Strange and quirky, the weapons of the eighteenth century were the forerunners of the more deadly ones of the nineteenth; and the truly terrifying ones of our own time.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
For anyone unfamiliar with this extract, we have the words of the poet, John Keats, summing up the season in his beautiful poem ‘Ode to Autumn‘, composed on the 19th September 1819. The weather is now changing and we’re now into Autumn, so we thought we would take a look at some Georgian recipes from 1797 for using up that glut of fruit you may have acquired.
Scald eight or ten large codlings and skin them as soon as they are cold. Beat the pulp very fine with a spoon and then mix the yolks of six eggs and the whites of four. Beat all together as fine as possible, and put in grated nutmeg and sugar to taste. Melt some fresh butter and beat it till it is like a fine cream. Then make a fine puff paste, cover a patty pan with it, and pour in the ingredients, but do not cover it with the paste. Bake it a quarter of an hour, then flip it out of the patty pan onto a dish, and strew over it some sugar finely beaten and sifted.
To make an Apple Pie
Having laid a good puff paste round the sides of the dish, pare and quarter your apples, and take out the cores. Lay a row of apples, thick, throw in half the sugar you intend to use, throw over it a little lemon peel minced fine, and squeeze over them a little lemon; sprinkle in a few cloves, and then put in the rest of your apples and your sugar. Sweeten to your palate, and squeeze a little more lemon. Boil the peeling of the apples and the cores in water, with a blade of mace, till it is very good. Strain it, and boil the syrup with a little sugar, till it is considerably reduced in quantity. Pour it into your pie, put on the upper crust and bake it. You may beat up the yolks of two eggs, and half a pint of cream, with a little nutmeg and sugar. Put it over a slow fire and keep stirring it till it is ready to boil. Then take off the lid and pour in the cream. Cut the crust into little three corner pieces, stock them about the pie and send it to the table cold.
To make a Codling Pie
Take some small codlings, put them into a pan with spring water, lay vine leaves on them, and cover them with a cloth, wrapped round the cover of the pan to keep in the steam. As soon as they grow soft, peel them, and put them in the same water as the vine leave. Hang them high over the fire to green, and, when you see them of a fine colour, take them out of the water, and put them into a deep dish, with as much powder or loaf sugar as will sweeten them. Make the lid of a rich puff paste and bake it. When it comes from the oven, take off the lid, and cut it into little pieces, like sippets, and stock them round the inside of the pie, with the point upwards. Then make a good custard, and pour it over your pie.
To make a Cherry Pie
Having made a good crust, lay a little of it round the sides of the dish, and throw sugar at the bottom. Then lay in your fruit and some sugar at the top. You may, if you please, add some red currants, which will give an additional flavour to your pie. Then put on your lid, and bake it in a slack oven. You may make plum or gooseberry pieces in the same manner.
To make black Currant Jam
Having gathered your currants when they are full ripe, pick them clean from the stalks, bruise them well in a bowl, and to every pound of currants put a pound and half of loaf sugar, finely beaten. Put the into a preserving pan, boil them half an hour, skim and stir them all the time, and then put them into pots.
Put two quarts of gooseberries into a saucepan, just cover with water, scald them till they are tender, and then run them through a sieve with a spoon to a quart of pulp. Have ready six eggs well beaten, make you pulp hot and put in one ounce of fresh butter. Sweeten it to your taste, put it over a gentle fire till they are thick; but take care that they do not boil. Then stir in a gill of the juice of spinach and when it is almost cold, stir in a spoonful of orange-flower water or sack. Pour it into basins and serve it up cold.
A Lottery is a taxation Upon all the fools in creation;
And Heav’n be prais’d It is easily rais’d. . . The Lottery
We have come across this question in the newspaper, posed to the legal profession on 20th May 1770 about a woman’s right to retain her winning from the state lottery for herself questioning whether her husband had any right to a share of it. So far, we have not found a response to it in the newspapers, so the challenge to our readers is this – does anyone know how such an issue would have been dealt with? any help gratefully received.
John marries Mary, and agrees that part of her fortune, which is in the funds, shall be settled upon her the said Mary, for her own separate use. Mary, from the interest of her money, buys a ticket in the lottery, and gets a ten thousand pound prize. Query, Has John any right, in law, over this ten thousand pounds: or has Mary any obligation, in conscience, to give her it to her husband? A solution of this question will end all disputes, and quiet the much disturbed minds of
John and Mary Somebody
With the question of lotteries in mind we thought we would take a look at 18th century lotteries and see whether it was as popular then as it is today. The answer in short is – yes, very much so.
As today, the lottery then had the potential to make massive change to people’s lives. We tend to think that things like the national lottery are very modern, but this is far from the truth.
State lotteries began as early as the 1690s and were established by the Bank of England. In the 1700s, as well as generating money for ‘good causes’ it also generated money which enabled Britain to go to war, for example it was reported that just over a quarter of money raised was used in fighting Napoleon. In the mid-1700s the lottery assured potential punters that they would not lose and that at a minimum they would receive their stake back and potentially win a large life changing amount of money. There was usually one prize winning ticket for every four blanks.
Apart from individuals many borough corporations also bought lottery tickets for the benefit of poor children; the church was also involved with many parish clerics gambling. The tickets were quite expensive, but then so were the prizes, this led to people who couldn’t afford to buy a full ticket purchasing a share. People even place advertisements in the newspapers for people to share with –
Below is one of numerous examples of what you could win when buying a share.
It was reported that in 1798 four low paid workers shared a winning ticket valued at £20,000 (approximately £1.2m in today’s money), a female servant from Holborn, a servant of the Duke of Roxburgh, a keeper of a fruit stall and a vegetable carrier from Covent Garden.
It was even possible for gamblers to insure themselves against drawing a blank.
There have always been rumours of mermaids and mermen in the seas, and these appear to have been seen on a fairly regular basis during the eighteenth-century with the newspapers so helpfully providing us with detailed descriptions of such creatures. We will leave our readers to judge for themselves whether any of these accounts could have even a grain of truth.
Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post, Saturday, August 31, 1717
Letters from Leghorn of the 15th tell us that there has been seen in those seas a terrible mermaid or rather merman; that it shows itself at least 13 or 14-foot-high above the water; but if any boat or vessel makes towards it, then it makes a strange frightful noise and plunges into the sea. Several that have been it represent it as the most hideous monster that has ever been seen in the world.
Dublin Journal, Tuesday, October 12, 1725
Some particular advices from Brest, in France say that on that coast has lately appeared a strange sort of sea monster, in the form of a man, eight-foot-high call’d a merman; his teeth are white as ivory, he hath black curl’d hair, flat nose and in other members proportionable to his stature without deformity.
Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer (London, England), Saturday, December 11, 1725 provides a somewhat lengthy and detailed description of the merman, sadly there seems to be no evidence of any of the people named actually existing – unless you know otherwise, if so, we would love to hear from you.
The wind being easterly, we had thirty fathoms of water, when at ten o’clock in the morning a sea-monster like a man appeared near our ship; first on the larboard where the mate was, whose name is William Lomone, who took a grappling iron to pull him up: but our captain named Oliver Morin, hindered him, being afraid that the monster would drag him away into the sea. They said Lomone struck him only on the back to make him turnabout, that he might view him the better. The monster being struck, showed his face, having his two hands closed, as if he had expressed some anger. Afterwards he went round the ship. When he was at the stern he took hold of the helm with both hands and we were obliged to make it last, lest he should damage it. From thence he proceeded to the starboard, swimming still as men do. When he came to the forepart of the ship he viewed for some time the figure that was in our prow, which represented a beautiful woman; and then he rose out of the water, as if he had been willing to catch that figure. All this happened in sight of the whole crew. Afterwards he came again to the larboard, where they presented to him a codfish banging down with a rope. He handled it without spoiling it and then remove the length of cable and came again to the stern where he took hold of the helm a second time.
At that very moment, Captain Morin got a harping iron ready and took it himself to strike him with it, but the cordage being entangled he missed his aim and the harping iron touched only the monster, who turned about sowing his face as he had done before. Afterwards he came again to the fore part and viewed again the figure. The mate called for the harping iron but he was frightened fancying that this monster was one La Commune, who had killed himself in the ship the year before and had been thrown into the sea in the same passage. He was contented to push his back against the harping iron and the monster showed his face as he had done at other times.
Afterwards he came along the board so that one might have given him the hand. He had the boldness to take a rope held up by John Mazier and John Dessiere who being willing to pluck it out of his hands, drew him to our board and rising out of the water to the navel we observed that his breast was as large as that of a woman of the best plight. He turned upon his back and appeared to be a male. Afterwards he swam again round the ship and then went away; we have never seen him since.
I believe that from 10 o’clock till 12 that this monster was along our board, if the crew had not been frightened he might have been taken many times with the hand being only two feet distant.
The monster is about eight-foot-long: his skin is brown and tawny without any scales. All his motions are like those of men; the eyes of a proportionate size, a little mouth, a large and flat nose, very white teeth, black hair, the chin covered with a mossy beard, a sort of whiskers under the nose, the ears like those of men, fins between the fingers and toes of his hands and feet, like those of ducks. Which is certified to be true by Captain Oliver Morin, John Martin, pilot and the whole crew consisting of two and thirty men.
Common Sense or The Englishman’s Journal, Saturday, July 29, 1738 (we’re loving the title of the publication in light of the subject matter!). It provides us with a completely different description of a merman.
4 feet and a half in length, having a body much resembling that of a man, with a genital member of considerable size; together with jointed legs and feet extending from his belly 12 or 13 inches, with fins at this thighs and larger ones, like wings in the form of which those angels are often painted, at his shoulders, with a broad head of very uncommon form, a mouth 6 inches wide, smellers, or kind of whiskers at his nostrils, and two spout holes behind his eyes through which he ejected water when take 30 or 40 feet high.
And for our final offering we have, from the Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal), Saturday, May 5, 1739 the following:
They write from Vigo in Spain that some fishermen took on that coast a sort of monster, or merman, 5 feet and a half from its foot to its head, which is like that of a goat. It has a long beard and mustachoes, a back skin somewhat hairy; a very long neck, short arms and hands longer and bigger than they ought to be in proportion to the rest of the body; long fingers, like those of a man with nail like claws; very long toes join’d like the feet of a duck and the heels furnish’d with fins resembling the winged feet with which the painters represent Mercury. It has also a fin at the lower end of its back, which is 12 inches long and 15 or 16 broad.
Needless to say in the 18th century women were regarded as being of lower status than their male counterparts, this was especially noticeable in music. How many well-known female composers of the 18th century have you heard of – not many, if any for a guess! Many women were however expected to study music and to be accomplished at playing an instrument or singing, merely as a form of entertainment for their family and friends. This went hand in hand with being the perfect hostess.
In this post we thought we would take a look at how art captured women playing a musical instrument, whether these women were actually able to play theses instruments we have no idea, maybe they were simply used as props in the paintings. One of the most popular instruments for a woman to become accomplished at playing was the harpsichord and so we begin with Anastasia Robinson, mistress of the 3rd Earl of Peterborough followed by A Girl at a Harpsichord 1782 attributed to Mather Brown.
The harp was also immensely popular as we can see here in the painting by Joshua Reynolds, who captured the Countess of Eglinton playing it, then we have A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote.
The guitar was also a popular instrument for women to play as we can see in these next paintings.
And finally, an all female quartet.
But the post would not be complete without Gillray’s take on an old woman playing the harpsichord now would it!
Life expectancy was much lower in the Georgian era mainly due to lack of medicine, poor diet, hygiene and sanitation but, looking back through the newspapers of the day, Health & Safety and personal injury/accident lawyers would have had a high old time with many accidents and deaths resulting from guns accidentally discharging and killing people, fires in the home, deaths as a result of falling off horses and accidental drownings due to due to excessive alcohol intake appears to have been a common cause, as does being run over by a waggon … the list goes on. The eighteenth-century was clearly a dangerous time to live in, as demonstrated by this example
Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer, December 14, 1754 – December 17, 1754
Reading, Dec 14. On Monday last an Inquisition was taken at Beaconsfield in Bucks, on the body of a woman, well known in that part of the county to be a common prostitute, who meeting with one William Clarke, at the Hare and Hounds at Red Hill in the said county, who was driving a cart, she got into the cart and calling at several places to drink gin, they were both intoxicated, and about half a mile from Beaconsfield the woman fell out of the cart when the man was asleep, and about two in the morning she was found dead on the road, several carriages having run over her head and body, but unknown to anyone who they belonged to. The jury brought in their verdict of accidental death.
The remainder of our post looks at some more unusual instances of death which were recorded by the Coroner as ‘accidental’. There are certainly some verdicts which, if viewed today, could quite easily be regarded as murder or at least manslaughter, but the Coroner’s Verdict was recorded as accidental and his decision was final.
We begin with the Daily Advertiser, Friday, November 7, 1777
On Tuesday a pack of goods, weighing about three hundred and a half, fell from the Bengal India Warehouse, in New Street, Bishopsgate upon Mr. Netherhood, belonging to the above house, by which accident his back, thigh and both legs were broke and he died on the spot. On Wednesday the Coroner’s Inquest sat on the body of Mr. Netherhood, at the Magpye, a public house in the above street, and brought in their verdict – Accidental Death.
Lloyd’s Evening Post, November 21, 1798
Wednesday evening, a Coroner’s Inquest sat at the parish church of St. Laurence, Cateaton Street on the body of Norman, a private in the West Yorkshire Militia, who was unfortunately killed by a fall from the roof of the Manchester Coach the preceding day.
Whitehall Evening Post, September 1, 1798
On Friday morning last Mr. Benjamin Hale, a soap-boiler in Goswell Street, having been up all night at work, unfortunately lost his light, and, shocking to relate he fell into a pan of lees then boiling, by which he was so much scalded and mortification coming immediately on, that he died in the afternoon of the same day. The coroner’s Inquest was held on the body on Monday.
Star, Friday, September 7, 1798
On Tuesday an Inquisition was taken at Stone, Bucks, before Mr. Burnham, his majesty’s Coroner, on view of the body of Edwin Smith, a boy about eight years old, who, as he was climbing upon the spokes of the wheel of a harvest cart, with an intent to get up and ride in the same, in consequence of the horses suddenly moving forward, he fell to the ground, the wheel passed over his boy and killed him on the spot.
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, August 4, 1774 – August 6, 1774
On Wednesday night died, of a mortification in this thigh, Mr. Edward Paget, many years Master of the Queen’s Head Alehouse in Marsham Street, Westminster. His death was occasioned by being shot in the back part of his thigh, by standing too near one of the cannons going off on Millbank at the time of the boats passing by for the rowing match on Monday for Doggett’s Coat and Badge, which immediately mortified. The Coroner’s Inquest on Thursday morning brought in their verdict – Accidental Death.
True Briton, Thursday, October 4, 1798
On Thursday se’nnight, Joseph Beight, a well-cleaner of Damerham, undertook to clean a well in Mr. Coomb’s yard at Milford, near Salisbury, and when about to descend, a rope was procured, which Mr. Coombs wished him to fasten round his body, that me might be pulled up in case of accident, which was rather to be apprehended, as the well was about 30 feet deep, narrow and very foul; he, however, unfortunately rejected this advice and was let down in the bucket, holding the rope in his hand only.
When about half way down, he called to the people above to let him go faster; but when they had turned three rounds more, he called ‘stop!’ and presently after, ‘pull up’, it was immediately discovered that he had let go the rope, and, overcome by the foul air, his body sunk by the side of the bucket, and obstructed its passage as it was drawing up. More assistance was then called, but from the exertion that was used, a link of the chain gave way and the man’s body sunk precipitately to the bottom of the well. Another man was let down, with the rope fastened round him, but he felt himself so strongly affected by the noxious effluvia, that he was obliged to be drawn up when he had reached half way.
Grappling irons were then resorted to and near an hour was spent in their efforts to draw the body up. No hope could be entertained of restoring animation and account of the time that had elapsed and the sad bruises the body had received. Mr. Whitmarsh held an Inquest on the body the next day, Verdict – Accidental Death. The unfortunate man was 54 years of age and has left a widow and eight children to lament the loss of an industrious husband an affectionate father.
Middlesex Journal and Evening Advertiser September 6, 1774 – September 8, 1774
On Saturday a chimney-sweeper went up a baker’s chimney, near the Maze Pond, Southwark, when the chimney was so hot that he had not the power to get down again, but was suffocated in a few minutes. The Coroner’s Inquest brought in their verdict – accidental death.
Britain was struggling financially and so, needless to say, the government looked for ways to raise much needed revenue to balance the books. If it could be taxed, it probably was! In a previous post we looked at the various taxes that existed around this time so for this blog we thought we would take a closer look at the tax placed on gloves.
In 1784 a tax on hats had apparently proved lucrative so in the budget the following year William Pitt the Younger decided to add a tax to gloves, much to the mild amusement of the committee apparently.
He felt that it would be difficult to lay the burden of the tax on the consumer so Pitt proposed that a mark should be put on the gloves and that the duty should be paid by the retail trader. In his opinion the sale of gloves would be extremely high and that one pair of gloves would be sold to every individual, and therefore 9,000,000 pairs would be purchased each year. As such he proposed a tiered system of taxation:
One penny duty should be added to all gloves up to the value of ten pence
Two pence to gloves costing between ten pence and fifteen pence
Three pence for all gloves costing over fifteen pence
He estimated that this would raise a revenue of some £50,000. Mr Fox held no strong objection to this tax, but felt that Pitt was over estimating the amount of revenue it would generate as there were ‘children, labourers and other inferior classes of mankind who never consumed this article’, but nevertheless he sincerely hoped that this tax might be as productive as the minister wished.
26th July 1785, The Stamp Office declared that:
Anyone selling gloves without this tax would be liable for a fine of £20.
Every licensed retailer selling gloves and mittens without the words ‘Dealer in Gloves’ painted or written in the front of his shop shall be forfeits for each pair of gloves or mittens sold £5.
A stamp ticket denoting the particular rate of duty to be paid on every pair of gloves or mittens is to be affixed upon the right hand of each and every person (except those dealing with each other) who shall sell, buy or exchange any gloves or mittens without having such a stamp affixed as foresaid, forfeits for every pair sold, bought or exchanged £20.
In less than one year the newspapers began to report that the glove tax was not proving to be the great success it was expected to be, but that there was no good reason as yet to conclude that it should be repealed, despite many people trying to evade it. So it remained in place.
By the September however it was becoming clear that it was generating nowhere near the revenue expected, in fact it was achieving less than one eighth of anticipated revenue.
Despite its poor income generation, the tax was to remain in place for several years, generating only a fraction of its expected revenue.
A letter in the St James’s Chronicle, 1790, addressed to Mr Pitt read as follows.
My purpose is not to censure your system of taxation, to inveigh against you on the extension of the Excise, or to express my displeasure at the means you have pursued, to prevent our snuffing up the coffins and dried juices of our ancestors … I turn your attention to the Glove tax, which is generally hated. The gloves and stamp are tendered to the customer in such a manner, that he can purchase the one without the other, and in nine instances out of ten the stamp is left unpaid for. If you wish to make this tax productive, you must stamp the gloves, and contrive so to unite the tax with the price, such that the commodity cannot be purchased without paying it. At present none but the conscientious submit to it.
An article in the Public Advertiser, Wednesday, September 14, 1791, on the subject of the glove tax reported on an accident which they directly attributed to it.
Friday afternoon, a melancholy accident happened in St James’s Street; a modern young man, whose pockets were his gloves and his hands in them, coming briskly up the street, trod on the peeling of an apple which tripped up his heels, threw him against a lady following him, knocked her down, by which she was much bruised and he broke both his elbows – Wearing hands in pockets, says our correspondent is to subvert Mr. Pitt’s Glove Tax, but a penalty should be inflicted on any person or persons throwing parings of apples or oranges on the footpath, or his Majesty may lose some of his most valuable subjects.
By this time, it was reported that the tax was generating a maximum of just over £6,000 per annum rather than the anticipated £50,000 and so in March 1794 the government finally conceded that the glove tax was not workable and was not generating anything like the amount anticipated and the act was repealed – common sense finally prevailed.
We will leave The Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan to have the final words on the subject of the glove tax.
The inefficacy of the glove tax, might prove the futility of every one of the same sort, which could never be made productive but by means so arbitrary that the house ought not to agree to them. At present, the glove duty was so generally evaded, that almost every man who purchased a pair of gloves, would consider it as a species of shoplifting to take the stamp out of the shop with him. The system of extending taxation by stamps, to such articles as the principle of a stamp duty would not apply to, was absurd in the extreme. Stamping law proceedings and other documents, was a good idea; the stamp gave a weight, a sanction, and authority, where so applied; but could that be said of gloves, or of all the trumpery of a perfumer’s shop, to which they were now about to extend stamp duties? Would a stamp legalize pomatum, or give validity to lavender-water?
(Speeches of the Right Honourable RB Sheridan, volume 1, 1842)
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, July 30, 1785
Public Advertiser, Saturday, May 20, 1786
General Advertiser, Saturday, September 30, 1786
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post (London, England), April 1, 1790
So, just how did those Georgians cope with cleaning delicate fabrics? They couldn’t simply nip along to a dry cleaner to have them chemically cleaned. Well, we came across this wonderful little book from 1753, packed with all types of useful information including top tips for cleaning clothes, ‘Madam Johnson’s Present: Or, Every Young Woman’s Companion in Useful and Universal Knowledge’ so we thought we would share some of them with you. We have no idea as to how effective some of these methods are so ‘approach with caution’. Some of them sound very dubious, so please do be careful if you try them one at home as we accept no responsibility!
To take iron mould and all sorts of spots and stains out of linen
These are removed by holding the linen, where they are, round a silver or stone mug containing boiling water, and by rubbing them with a slice of lemon. In the middle of summer, when the sun is very hot, the soaping them on both side will take them out; and if the linen be soaped all over it will be very white. Rubbing the stained places with juice of sorrel, or dipping them in the hot juice will take out the spots. The same may be done by rubbing them with salt and vinegar and squeezing; or by dipping them a few times in sharp vinegar boiling in an earthern, tin or silver pipkin over the fire; after which they should be well rubbed with soap, dried before the sun or fire and washed. Boiling milk will take the stains of fruit out of linen.
To take paint out of linen
Stains of that kind are extracted by rubbing them over with butter, hanging them in the sun, or before some heat to dry and then washing them.
To wash thread and cotton stockings
Let them have two lathers and a boil, having blued the water well. Wash them out of the boil, but don’t rinse them. Turn the wrong sides outwards and fold them very smooth and even, laying them one upon another and a board over them, with a weight of press them smooth. Let them lie thus about a quarter of an hour, after which hang them up to dry and when thoroughly so, roll them up tight without ironing by which means they will look as new.
To clean gold and silver lace
This is performed by taking some Talk, finely pounded and moistened with the spirit of wine, and then rubbing it with a brush over the lace every way. The same will do also for gold and silver stuffs highly raised, but lace turns black, if rubbed with Talk by itself.
How to make starch for small linen
Having wetted a quarter of a pound of starch, mixed with a little Powder Blue, so as it will bruise, add it to half a pint of water, and then pour them into a quart of water boiling on the fire. Stir well, and let the starch boil at least quarter of an hour, for it cannot be boiled too well, neither will the linen iron or look well, unless the starch be thoroughly boiled. After the starch is strained, dip the linen into it and then squeeze it out. Dip first those things you would have stiffest, but do not rub them in the starch; and as you want the starch stiff or thin, add or diminish. Some put Gum Arabic, Allum and Candle into the starch as it boils, but these are prejudicial; and if anything be added let it be Isinglass, about an ounce to quarter of a pound of starch, for that will help to stiffen and make them clear, but not to be used for laces. A kettle of Bell-Mettle is the properest vessel to boil starch in.
To take dirt from any silk
This is done by wetting it with a cloth dipped in clear water, and then wiping it, till the stain is out; then rubbing it first with a wet cloth, and next with a dry one and afterwards rolling it up dry in another clean cloth; but no air must come to it, for it would change the colour or crumple it. If the pieces of dirt be thick, they should be let dry and then shaken off; after which the silk should be rubbed with crumbs of bread and then with a clean cloth. If it be stained with coffee, rubbing with milk and then with fair water and a cloth will clean it.
How to take out spots of oil or any grease spots in silk
Let the spot be covered with French chalk, scraped and then rubbed well with a clean cloth. Pure spirit of lemon, without the essence, will extract any stain; but spirit of Sal Ammoniac is though preferable; for although the silk be all over stained with oil, it will take it out, at least on the second application if the silk be dry.
To take spots out of thin silk
Dip a piece of black cloth in a pint of white wine vinegar, pretty well heated and rub it over the stain; after which scrape Fuller’s Earth on the stain and putting dry woollen cloths above and below, place and iron, moderately hot on the upper part and the spot will vanish.
To clean satins and Damasks
A suit of these may be cleaned by rubbing them with the crumb of a three-penny loaf, two days old, mixed with a quarter of an ounce of Powder-Blue.
And, to finish, we couldn’t resist a Thomas Rowlandson caricature, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.
Madam Johnson’s Present: Or, Every Young Woman’s Companion in Useful and Universal Knowledge
Today’s post has been written with our genealogy followers very much in mind and those who love nothing more than a good challenge.
So, according to the government, health experts and others we’re going to live longer than ever before. Well, if you believe these accounts of longevity below we’ve got quite a way to go to exceed some of these instances.
All of these accounts appeared in the newspapers and also in a collated account of longevity written by James Easton ‘Human Longevity: Recording the Name, Age, Place of Residence, and Year’ in 1799.
Certainly Easton had done his homework by trawling through the newspapers, etc. We have tried in vain, so far, to validate any of them with a corresponding date of birth, yet if true, then they are accounts of longevity that far exceed anything you would expect for that period and many would still make headline news today even by our standards of life expectancy. Easton also noted that:
the more a man follows nature and is obedient to her laws, the longer he will live; and that the further he deviates from these, the shorter will be his existence. It is not the rich and great, nor those who depend on medicines who become old, but such as use much exercise, are exposed to the fresh air, and whose food is plain and moderate, as farmers, gardeners, fishermen, labourers, soldiers and such men, as perhaps never employed their thoughts on the means which have been used to promote longevity.
John Burnet aged 109, of Broadwater, Sussex. He married six wives, three of them after he was one hundred years old; and died in the same house in which he was born.
Margaret Patten died aged 137 (no, it’s not a typo!). She was of St Margaret’s workhouse, London, a Scotch woman. She always enjoyed good health till within a few days of her dissolution; and for many years subsisted mostly on milk. (Born near Paisley, according to the newspapers.)
John Hussey aged 116. Of Sydenham, Kent and formerly a farmer at Crawford. His breakfast was balm-tea sweetened with honey; and pudding for dinner, above fifty years; by which he acquired long and regular health.
Mary How aged 112. Of Mapleton, Derbyshire, widow. Her death was occasioned by pulling a codling off a tree, the limb of which breaking, fell on her arm and broke it. About two years before, she cut several new teeth and her hair changed its colour from grey to a beautiful white.
Rev. Mr Braithwaite – aged 110, of Carlisle. He had been one hundred years in the cathedral, having commenced singing-boy in the year 1652. N.B. There was a Rev. George Braithwaite listed in the Archaeology Data service who became a minor canon in 1679, ‘but that this fact does not necessarily imply that he was by that time in holy orders. A chapter order made November 23rd, 1703, distinguished between “lay petty canons who are skilled in music” and “petty canons who are in holy orders and are not skilled in music”‘.
Whether it was the same Reverend Braithwaite we have no idea.
Of Ripon, Yorkshire Robert Oglebie (Ogleby) aged 115, a travelling tinker; born Nov 6, 1647, as appears by the register of Ripon, married seventy-three years, and had twelve sons and thirteen daughters; had all his senses perfect and could see to work a short time before his death. His wife lived to be one hundred and six years old. He also claimed his father lived to the ripe old age of 140 and there was apparently a monument erected for him at Tanfield church, although we can find no evidence of this!
William Cotterell, aged 107, of Nottingham, farmer. His wife died three days after, aged ninety-eight, having been married eighty years.
Mary Wilkinson who died aged 109 in 1788. She was a native of Lundale, and changed her residence to Romald Kirk, in the north of Yorkshire. When she was young, she walked several times to London in four days, a distance of 290 miles. At the age of 99 years, she was desirous of seeing London again, and buckling a keg of gin, and a quantity of provisions on her back, she left Romald Kirk, and reached London in five days and three hours. –[S]he lived to see four Kings reign, and is interred in a stately tomb, erected at the expense of the inhabitants of Romald Kirk.
Anne Froste of West Rasen, Lincolnshire. She was the wife of a labourer, had been married three times and left a daughter ninety years of age. She was married to her last husband in her ninety-third year. For many years past she had lived on milk and tea diet. She died aged 111.
John Roberts died aged 103, of Digbeth near Birmingham. He married three wives, by whom he had twenty-eight children; was nearly eighty when he married his last and by whom he had six of the children.
William Troy, died aged 120 near Waterford, farmer. A short time before his death he read very small print without spectacles and daily walked about his farm without support.
John Sayer, aged 100 of Caistor near Norwich, butcher. He retained the perfect use of his faculties to the last hour of his life, with a memory very unusual at his age.
John Sayer’s burial record, at St Edmunds in Caistor, gave his age as 105.
And one we found in the London Evening Post, 13th October 1737.
We hear the following remarkable instance of longevity from Lewes in Sussex. Last Saturday died there Mr. Henry Morgan, aged 105 years and a half. He never made use of spectacles, but work’d at his trade as a sieve-maker the day before his death. He never had a day’s, nor scarce an hour’s illness in his whole life. The morning he died he walk’d into his garden and when he return’d sat down in his chair and died immediately, not so much as any of the family perceiving any difference in him.
And finally a little gem from 1771, which implies that not washing your face for over thirty years could be the key to a very long life, although we don’t recommend it!
Yesterday se’ennight were interred in the church-yard of Logie, the remains of Jean Stevenson, who died on Sunday preceeding, at Montrose, in the 107th year of her age. Her neighbours say, that she had not washed her face for thirty or forty years before her death.
Caledonian Mercury, 13 February 1771
Human Longevity: Recording the Name, Age, Place of Residence, and Year, of the Decease of 1712 Persons, who Attained a Century, & Upwards, from A.D. 66 to 1799, by James Easton
We came across this curious case in the British Mercury or Annals of History, Politics, Manner, Literature and the Arts 1788 and thought we would share it with you.
A few months since some extraordinary particulars were given in this paper relating to the daughter of Mr. Capon, a considerable farmer at Silsoe, in Bedfordshire, discharging from her stomach 52 brass pins, a pincushion stuck with pins and needles, a pair of small scissors, with an iron chain etc.
The strange propensity of this child to swallow the above and various other indigestible substances, was by the ignorant attributed to the power of witchcraft and a man named Saunders, a gardener at Silsoe, was reprobated as a wizard and was accused of having exerted his diabolical influence over Mr. Capon’s daughter.
About eight years ago Mr. Saunders and his wife were ducked at Silsoe till they were nearly drowned, on the supposition that one was a witch and the other a wizard.
About a month since the above mentioned Saunders died, and Mr. Capon’s daughter having, through the assistance of the Faculty much recovered in health, the ridiculous notion that her singular conduct was the effect of the super-natural agency of Saunders is amazingly strengthened; for though since April the child had been gradually recovering from a very ill state of health, the untaught multitude obstinately insist that the favourable change is but the natural consequence of the death of Saunders, who notwithstanding the strong prejudice against him was, by the more rational part of his neighbours always considered as an industrious, inoffensive man. Not only in Bedfordshire, but in many other parts of the Kingdom, the absurd notion of the power of witchcraft is as strongly prevalent as at Yatton, Bristol or any part of Somersetshire.
The case also attracted interested from the media with the national ones giving similar accounts, some stating that the child had to be watched day and night in case she decided to start eating other things not designed for human consumption. We have done some research to try to find out who the child was and so far no luck, so if any of our readers have any luck in tracing her please do let us know. The wizard aka Mr Saunders could have been Thomas Saunders who was buried on 22nd April 1788 at Southill, Bedfordshire but apart from that there don’t appear to be another possible match, so if those names mean anything to any of our readers please do let us know, we’d love to find out whether there was any truth in the story.
The British Mercury Or Annals of History, Politics, Manners, Literature, Arts Etc. of the British Empire, Volume 6, Issues 27-39, 1788
We’re all aware of the elaborate ladies’ hairstyles of the Georgian period, and the chance of a little visitor or two becoming lodged inside them. Fleas yes, we knew that was a possibility, but we’ll freely admit that getting mice inside your hair whilst sleeping was not one of the dangers of living in Georgian Britain that had ever occurred to us. However, according to the Ipswich Journal (25th January 1777) and the Society of Arts, it was a constant and worrying hazard.
The many melancholy accidents that have lately happened in consequence of mice getting into ladies hair in the night time, induced the society of arts, at their last meeting, to offer a premium to the person who should invent the neatest and most useful bed-side mouse-trap.
Well, indeed! We can foresee all kinds of further melancholy accidents ensuing here when a recently woken lady fumbles around, completely forgetting she’d set a trap for her little night-time companions…
The following uncommon circumstance is authentic. On Monday morning, about three o’clock, the Lady of a well-known Gentleman, whose name we are desired not to publish, waked suddenly in a fright, and screaming out aloud, also waked her husband. He desired to know the reason of her being thus alarmed, when she told him, she felt something in her hair behind alive. On searching, a poor innocent mouse was found, who, it is supposed was invited there by the amazing quantity of powder and pomatum. The mouse made its escape, and no dangerous consequences ensued; which was very fortunate for the Lady, as she is very far advanced in her pregnancy.
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 18th March 1773
Mr Moses Martingo, a silversmith from New Bond-street, came to the rescue. He invented a silver trap (unfortunately the newspaper advertisement doesn’t say how it differed from a normal trap, other than obviously looking a little prettier) and began to sell these for three guineas a pop. He didn’t stop there though, oh no…
He also sells night-caps, made of silver wire, as flexible as gauze, and yet so strong that no mouse, or even rat, can gnaw thro’ them. The present demand for these articles is incredible, Mr Martingo employing no less than 40 hands in that branch only. The caps if made of plain silver wire, are sold at 3 guineas each, but the ton have them of gilt wire, from six guineas to ten.
Nightcaps made of stiffened linen were worn to protect lady’s coiffures, which could last many weeks. Perhaps Mr Martingo and the Society of Arts felt that these were not protection enough against the nocturnal activities of nibbling little rodents?
OK, hands up. We believe the 1777 advert is a fake and poking fun of the elaborate hairstyles of the day but if there really was a Mr Martingo, then fair play to him for cashing in on the fashion. So, Georgian fact or Georgian fiction? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sources not mentioned above:
Cambridge Sentinel, Volume XXXI, No. 29, 18th July 1936
Having seen Faith Evans on the red carpet of the 2016 Grammys, sporting a sleek black ‘fur’ accessory, we thought we would take a look at the muffs, tippets and the use of fur, which were extremely popular in the Georgian Era even though today the wearing of fur is somewhat controversial, to say the least.
The tippet was an item of clothing worn that today we would refer to as a stole or scarf but was largely made from fur.
Porcupine, Tuesday, December 2, 1800
Fashion for December 1800 – Miscellaneous Observations
The fashionable colours are scarlet, purple, puce and Mazarin blue. The fancy article generally adopted are blends of various colours, as amber, scarlet, pink and rose; plain and figured, feathers of all kinds, flowers, gold and silver trimmings. Weymouth tippets instead of long tippets.
Oracle and Public Advertiser, Monday, January 15, 1798
The front hair dressed very low upon the forehead; the sides cut very short and combed straight; full plain chignon. Polish cap of black velvet, trimmed with white fur, and a tassel of black bugles on the top of the crown; three rows of black bugles across the head-dress, on the left side, with a tassel of the same; two large black ostrich feathers in the front. Black satin striped dress; short sleeves trimmed with black fringe; black crape trimming round the neck, looped on the shoulders, and fastened before with bugle buttons. Black necklace and ear-rings. Black gloves; and black satin shoes. Swandown tippet.
We have yet to find out what a Weymouth tippet was and how it differed from the long tippet – maybe one of our readers will know.
Morning Herald, Saturday, November 9, 1799
The cold weather has begun to make an extraordinary change in the dress of the Ladies of Haut Ton: a tippet or two yesterday appeared in Bond Street and some females in defiance of fashion, had actually made to their chemise the addition of a petticoat!
We were quite interested to find out the cost of such items and thought you would be too, even then they were using fake fur rather than the real thing. Sable tippets and muffs price from 1 shilling, 5 pence (around £5 in today’s money) up to 16 shillings (around £60 in today’s money).
Morning Post and Fashionable World, Thursday, November 19, 1795
Muffs, Tippets, Trimmings of fur of every denomination: Very handsome bear muffs at 12 and 14s such as have always been sold at 18s and 21s. Fox muffs at eight shillings.
The muff was a ‘must have’ fashion accessory, maybe one that we should revive for cold winter’s days. It was a cylinder of fabric or fur which was open at both ends but provided a way of keeping the hands warm. The concept dated back to the 1500s and was used by men and women. Muffetees were a type of shortened muff, worn not only for warmth but also to protect the wrist ruffles when playing cards. There were also small muffs which were closed at one end with a thumb section.
The newspapers regularly carried ‘fashion of the month’ reports so that women knew exactly what was in vogue – hairstyle, dress colour, shoes, muff or no muff … so that one wouldn’t be caught out wearing the wrong outfit! Have times changed, probably not!
At the other end of the spectrum was came across a book entitled Instructions for cutting out apparel for the poor which provided the cost and instructions of how to make cheap tippets for poor girls in 1789, priced at 3 old pennies, that’s a mere £0.70 in today’s money!
We always find that our research leads us in the most unexpected directions and this time we ended up in the law courts. At the Old Bailey, we came come across quite a few cases of theft of muffs and tippets. If found guilty the sentence ranged from prison/hard labour or transportation for a period of 7 years.
13th December 1786
Ann Ward was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 24th day of November, a red fox fur muff, value 20 shillings, the property of Joseph Thomson, a haberdasher in Oxford Street. Ann stole a red fox skin muff. – Verdict Guilt – Sentence – Transportation
25th February 1789
Amelia Morley, alias Amie Lovel, was indicted for stealing, on the 3d of February, one muff, value 18 s. and one tippet, value 5 s. the property of Daniel Bumstead. Verdict Guilty, Sentence imprisoned for 6 months
Well, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching so it’s the perfect time to find your soul mate. The Georgians were no different – they believed that they had to pull out all the stops to find the person of their dreams, so forget internet dating and give some of these a go! Please feel free to let us know if you tried them with success!
These suggestions come courtesy of a Miss Arabella Whimsey (draw your own conclusions on that one) who apparently wrote to the editor Mr Town on the 17th February 1755, despite our best attempts we have not managed to locate such a young lady!
You must know I am in love with a very clever man, a Londoner; and as I want to know whether it is my fortune to have him, I have tried all the tricks I can hear of for that purpose.
I have seen him several times in coffee-grounds with a sword by his side, and he was once at the bottom of a tea-cup in a coach and six with two footmen behind it.
I got up last May morning and went into the fields to hear the cuckoo; and when pulled off my left shoe, I found a hair in it, exactly the same last Midsummer Eve.
I and my two sisters tried the Dumb Cake: you must know of it, two must make it, two bake it, two break it and the third put it under each of their pillows (but you must not speak a word all the time). This we did, and to be sure I did nothing all night but dream of Mr Blossom.
The same night, exactly at twelve o’clock, I sowed hempseed in our backyard and said to myself ‘Hempseed I sow, Hempseed I hoe, and he that is my true love, come after me and mow’. Will you believe me? I looked back and saw him behind me, as plain as eyes could see him.
After that I took a clean shirt, and turned it, and hung it upon the back of a chair; and very likely my sweetheart would have come and turned it right again (or I heard his step) but I was frightened and could not help speaking, which broke the charm.
I likewise stuck up two Midsummer Men, one for myself and one for him. Now if he had died away, we should never have come together: but I assure you he bowed and turned to me.
Our maid Betty tells me that if I go backwards without speaking a word, into the garden upon Midsummer’s Eve and gather a rose and keep it in a clean piece of paper until Christmas day, it will be as fresh as in June and then if I stick it in my bosom then he who is to be my husband will come and take it out.
Last Friday, Mr Town, was Valentine’s Day and I’ll tell you what I did the night before.
I got five bay-leaves and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillow and the fifth to the middle; and then if I dreamt of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year out.
But to make it more sure, I boiled an egg hard and took out the yolk and filled it up with salt; and when I went to bed I ate it shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it and this was to have the same effect as the bay leaves.
We also wrote our lovers names upon bits of paper and rolled them up in clay and put them in water and the first that rose up was to be our Valentine. Would you think it?
Mr Blossom was my man: and I lay in bed and shut my eyes all the morning, till he came to our house, for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.
Dear Mr Town, if you know any other ways to try our fortune, do put them in your paper. My Mamma laughs at us and says there is nothing in them; but I am sure there is, for several Misses at our boarding school have tired them and they have all happened true.
Your humble servant
Connoisseur (Collected Issues), Thursday, February 20, 1755
We all like a good pancake so we thought we would take a trip back in time to look at some eighteenth-century recipes as well as some newspaper articles about pancakes. And like now, people didn’t just eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
Caledonian Mercury, 13th August 1724
London, August 6. We hear from Harrow-weel, near Stanmore in Middlesex, that a Labourer’s Wife in that Parish, having been delivered on the Wednesday of a fine Child, was found the next Day by the Midwife, with her Stays lac’d on, frying Pancakes for her Husband’s Dinner.
Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 23rd March 1767
Cork, March 5 – Monday last, at Mallow fair, a man choaked himself by excess of eating. He had laid a bet with his companion that he would eat three pennyworth of new bread and two pounds of cheese, while the other could sip two quarts of ale with a table spoon; and while the deceased was taking the last bit, he declared he had never before got such a delicious feast of the kind, but he was afraid it would spoil his meal of pancakes the next day. [Shrove Tuesday fell on the 3rd March that year.]
Stamford Mercury, 1st April 1773
Extracts of a letter from Exeter, March 19.
Wednesday last Matthew Hutton, an ostler in this city, was committed to the gaol of this city for the murder of his wife; it appeared upon examination before the coroner, that on Friday last he came home and ordered his wife to get some pancakes for supper, which she did, and when she had fryed one, he took it to his plate, and then sent her out for some beer, during which time it is supposed he put some arsenic in the batter, as he ate no more, and she died the next morning at eight o’clock in great agonies; and on opening the body some arsenic was found, and several symptoms to corroborate the suspicion, and influence the Jury to bring in their verdict, wilful murder.
What adds to the general opinion that he is guilty is, that he endeavoured to poison her about a month ago in coffee, and never came home till the above evening for a long time past, keeping company with another woman. The remainder of the batter is taken care of, and is intended to be analysed.
[NB he was named Robert Hutton in a report of him being committed to gaol in the Bath Chronicle, 25th March 1773.]
Perthshire Courier, 16th August 1810
The warm approbation and applauses given by the generous inhabitants of the City of Perth, to the Exhibitions now in the Theatre here, are extremely flattering to Mr HERMAN BOAZ, and highly honorable to his labours; he seeks not to conceal that the love of public fame, more than private interest, is his chief thirst, and the applauses which every spectator have bestowed on his Performances, have amply gratified his expectations and wishes; he therefore, begs leave to render his unfeigned thanks to the numerous audiences who attended him the three first evenings, and begs leave to inform the Public, that he exhibits again on FRIDAY Evening, the 17th inst. August.
N.B. MR BOAZ begs leave to observe, that on the above evening, he will Fry Hot Pancakes, in a Gentleman’s Hat, without the assistance of Fire, or damage to the Hat. The Performance will conclude with the Grand Coup de Main.
The Doors will be opened each Evening, at half-past Seven o’clock, and the operations begin precisely at Eight, and finish at Ten.
PIT, 2s. – GALLERY, 1s.
Chester Courant, 26th February 1811
SHROVE TUESDAY – The following account of the origin of frying pancakes on this day, is copied from Mr Gale’s Recreations:- One Simon Eyre, a shoe-maker, being chosen Lord Mayor of London, instituted a pancake feast on Shrove Tuesday, for all the apprentices in London; and from that it became a custom. He ordered that, upon the ringing of a bell in every parish, the apprentices should leave off work, and shut up their shops for that day; which being ever since yearly observed, is called the Pancake Bell. In that same year he built Leadenhall, viz. 1406, so that the present Shrove Tuesday will be the 365th since its institution.
Chester Chronicle, 14th February 1812
Shrove Tuesday was celebrated in this city with the usual solemnities – pancakes, cockfighting, and fuddling, were the orders of the day; and scarce a snip or a snob were to be found within the hills of mortality – at work: it was a holiday for them, as it always has been from time immemorial – all the close pits in the neighbourhood were thronged with eager spectators of the royal pastime! As night spread around her dusky mantle, the participators in the festivities of the day staggered towards home, with head and pockets ‘light as air,’ many of them ornamented in the most luminous part of their person.
And we thought we would end with a few recipes, should you fancy trying something a little different this Pancake Day.
A recipe for Rice Pancakes (from the Oxford Journal, 20th February 1796)
Boil a quarter of a pound of ground rice in a quart of milk till the rice is tender, then strain it; put to the Rice four or six eggs, leaving out half the whites; cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar to your taste, and a large spoonful of flour; mix it some time before you fry them. Great attention must be given whilst frying them, lest they burn.
To make fine Pancakes
Take a pint of cream, eight eggs (leave out two of the whites) three spoonfuls of sack or orange flower water, a little sugar, if it be agreeable, a grated nutmeg; the butter and cream must be melted over the fire: mix all together, with three spoonfuls of flour; butter the frying pan for the first, let them run as thin as you can in the pan, fry them quick, and send them up hot.
To make a pink coloured Pancake
Boil a large beet root tender, and beat it fine in a marble mortar, then add the yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, and three spoonfuls of good cream, sweeten it to your taste, grate in half a nutmeg, and put in a glass of brandy; beat them all together half an hour, fry them in butter and garnish them with green sweetmeats, preserved apricots, or green sprigs of myrtle. – It is a pretty corner dish for either dinner or supper.
Apple Pancakes for Gentry. – For this, after you have pared your Apples, cut them in round Slices, first taking out the core Part; these fry in fresh Butter; next beat up twelve or sixteen Eggs in Milk, or better in a Quart of Cream, which mix with Ginger and Nutmeg powder’d each two Drams, powder’d Sugar six Ounces; then pour the Batter on the fry’d Apples, and fry altogether: Sprinkle with Sugar, and they’ll be good eating. Others mince the Apples, and then mix them with Batter.
We have even managed to find a Youtube ‘how to’ for pancakes using recipes in the book.
Sources not mentioned above:
The experienced English house-keeper, consisting of near 800 original receipts by Elizabeth Raffald.
We thought today we would take a look at newspaper reports about these furry felines and were quite surprised by the articles we found, so here we go, were they fact or merely folklore, please don’t ask us to verify the truth behind any of them!
The Sun, 1st January 1795
A few days ago a cat kept by Mr. Wood, boatman, at Sleaford, produced a kitten with two heads and two tails, which was remarkably strong and lively and sucked alternately with each head, till puss, displeased with the monster she had brought forth, set her teeth and talons to work and killed it, and that after she had suckled it for two days and two nights.
On the 30th October 1799, The Observer wrote the following:
Mr. Bowle, tool-maker of Ipswich, has a cat of the tortoise-shell kind, which last week produced a fine male kitten marked in like manner. This we believe to be the first instance of a male cat of this colour on record.
WRONG … Mr Bowle would have been out of luck as one was reported to have been born over 20 years earlier according to the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of August 29th, 1776:
So do any of our readers know when the first male tortoiseshell cat appeared?
On the 24th October 1800, The London Packet, returned us to Ipswich with this article
Thursday a gentleman in this town bought a cod fish; on dressing it, a kitten and crab were found in its belly. It was afterwards cooked, but those who knew the circumstance preferred something else for dinner.
On the 25th April 1798, The London Packet wrote that:
On Thursday last a cat in the Groat Market, Newcastle, brought forth a kitten of the following curious description: – It has eight legs and four ears, two of the latter are close together upon the top of the head, the others in the usual places. From the middle backwards, it separates and has all the parts complete of two, one male and the other female. The foreparts are those of a single animal, except the ears and legs.
Our final offering really does defy belief. It is taken from Stuart’s Star and Evening Telegraph, 17th April 1789.
Dr. Falconer, an eminent physician of Bath, has lately made a discovery that will astonish all mankind. The Horse of Knowledge, the Stone eater or the Learned Pig, will now be thought trifling, as the doctor has fallen upon a method to learn a cat to perform all the actions of a human being!
The doctor has always been very fond of this ferocious animal. If ever he hears that a cat is with kitten, he attends her carefully twice a day and administers such medicines as he thinks may operate favourably; and, though in this human practice he has often been received in a scratching manner, yet his perseverance is unalterable.
At present he has a cat tutored to such perfection that it dresses his hair, writes letters, prepares medicine, and some persons say he will soon learn it to wait on his patients.
He however, does not intend to make any public show of this surprising creature … but has in contemplation to set up a school to teach cats and to advertise places for them; and there is no doubt but their qualifications will be very extraordinary.
Our final painting is a rather ‘cute’ one by James Northcote which was, according to The Oracle and Public Advertiser painted around 23rd July 1795:
Northcote, the painter, is occupied upon a very difficult subject, the visitation to Balaam…the same artist has produced a beautiful portrait of a girl with a kitten.
Header image: The Sense of Touch by Philippe Mercier, 1744-1747
Whilst researching our book, An Infamous Mistress: the Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, we came across ‘The Curse of the Nine of Diamonds’, in reference to Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s paternal family.
Grace Dalrymple made a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’ to a wealthy doctor in 1771, but it was not a success! Grace was young, tall and beautiful and her husband, Dr John Eliot, was much older, and reputedly much shorter too, than his new wife. The workaholic doctor allowed his wife to be escorted around London by his friends and other young men, while he basked in the reflective glory of having a wife who was desired by many but ‘owned’ by him. When this ran to its obvious conclusion and Grace was discovered at a bagnio with Viscount Valentia, a divorce swiftly followed leaving Grace, although still not legally an adult, to survive on her looks and her wits.
And so Grace Dalrymple Elliott (she chose to spell her surname differently from her husband, possibly in defiance to him) became a courtesan, notorious amongst the ranks of the Cyprian Corps.
We know that Grace had longed to use the crest of George, 4th Earl of Cholmondeley, one of her lovers but, denied permission to have his arms displayed on the door of her new carriage, Grace instead opted to display those of Dalrymple of Stair instead (although truly not entitled to do so), promoting her aristocratic connection, albeit a distant one, with the then current head of that family, John Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Stair.
The heraldic arms of the Dalrymple of Stair family is known as The Nine of Diamonds, a reference to the nine diamond lozenges which are displayed on it.
There are numerous theories as to the origins of this curse, but the earliest one we have found dates back to 1708 where it was reported in the British Apollo or Curious Amusements for the Ingenious’, 3rd September.
Q. Why is the Nine of Diamonds call’d the curse of Scotland?
A. Diamonds as the Ornamental Jewels of a Regal Crown, imply no more in the above-nam’d Proverb than a mark of Royalty, for SCOTLAND’S Kings for many Ages, were observ’d, each Ninth to be a Tyrant, who by Civil Wars, and all the fatal consequences of intestine discord, plunging the Divided Kingdom into strange Disorders, gave occasion, in the course of time, to form the Proverb.
Amongst these theories as to the origin of the curse, the one that appears reasonably plausible concerns John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair, who ordered the massacre at Glencoe (1692). The massacre caused an outcry across Britain and as his family coat of arms contained the nine of diamonds at its centre the card, as a result, assumed this appellation.
There was also a somewhat later theory which, bearing in mind the above newspaper report, would now appear to be totally implausible. The account stated that it was due to the Duke of Cumberland who, on the evening before the Battle of Culloden in 1746, was playing cards with his staff when a young officer appeared and wanted to know the orders for the battle.
The Duke, it is reputed, ordered “no quarter” to the Jacobites. The young man was worried by this possible massacre and asked the Duke to write down the order, he duly obliged and wrote it on the nearest playing card which happened to be a nine of diamonds. This interesting theory we know now is impossible as the ‘curse’ was already in existence.
Another suggestion seems to relate ‘Pope Joan’ which was a card gambling game that was played from at least 1732. The nine of diamonds was a significant card and was called the pope. The pope was regarded a villain amongst Scottish reformers and so the nine of diamonds was renamed the curse of Scotland in this game.
Clearly the mystery continued to make news and in 1786, The General Evening Post offered the following explanation:
‘… the proverbial expression of ‘The Curse of Scotland’ to have taken it’s rise from the Earl of Stair’s (who had a principal hand in the Union) bearing nine diamonds in his coat of arms, and as the Scotch have considered that event as an unfortunate one, and distinguished it as the ‘Bitter Onion’ they have since called the nine of diamonds ‘the Curse of Scotland’.
Whatever its true origins it was considered to be the unluckiest card in the pack. Grace would surely have known of these stories, but the distinction of displaying these arms on the door of her coach overcame any associations with a reputed curse.
Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.
Possibly one of the most iconic images of a woman of the Georgian era wearing a riding habit has to be that of Lady Seymour Worsley. So, with that in mind, we thought we would take a look at this fashion statement outfit. We know from Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s receipts that she purchased her riding habits from the tailor to the Prince of Wales, one Louis Bazalgette, as did Mrs Fitzherbert, and it is more than likely that Lady Worsley did too.
The outfit would consist of a tailored jacket or redingote, possibly one of the most glamorous garments a woman could wear, so much so that even today fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier use it for inspiration.
With a long skirt, tailored shirt or chemisette, a hat, low heel boots, glove and a necktie or stock, based on the male coat and waistcoat of the day. Needless to say, though the breeches would have been totally unacceptable. As you can see in the portrait though of Lady W, she was clearly sporting a very elegant pair of shoes, hardly suitable for riding in.
We came across this interesting letter about the wearing of riding habits in ‘The Ladies Complete Letter-writer – a collection of letters written by ladies’ of 1763 – the writer was clearly not a fan of this type of attire!
Censure of the Ladies Riding-Habits
I was lately, in a beautiful evening, admiring the serenity of the sky, the lively colours of the fields, and the variety of the landscape everywhere around me, a little party of horsemen passing the road almost close to me, arrested my attention, and a fair youth, seemingly dressed up by some description in romance. His hair, well curled and powdered, hung to a considerable length on his shoulders, and was wantonly tied, as if by the hands of his mistress, in a scarlet ribbon, which played like a streamer behind him. He had a coat and waistcoat of blue camblet, trimmed and embroidered with silver; a cravat of the finest lace; and wore in a smart cock, a little beaver hat, edged with silver, and made more sprightly by a feather.
His pacing horse was adorned in the same airy manner, and seemed to share in the vanity of the rider. As I was pitying the luxury of this young person, who appeared to be educated as an object of sight alone, I perceived, on my nearer approach, a petticoat of the same with the coat and waistcoat; and now those features which had before offended me by their softness, were strengthened into as improper a boldness; and she, who in appearance was a very handsome youth, was in reality a very indifferent woman. These occasional perplexities, and mixtures of dress, seem to break in upon that propriety and distinction of appearance in which the beauty of different characters is preserved, and would, if much more common, turn our assemblies into a general masquerade, the model of this Amazonian hunting-dress, for ladies, was first imported from France, and well enough expresses the gaiety of a people who are taught to do anything, so it be with an assurance; but I cannot help thinking it fits awkwardly on our English modesty.
The petticoat is too a kind of encumbrance upon this dress, and if we go on in thus plundering the other sex’s ornaments, we ought to add to our spoils, methinks, the more commodious breeches. There is so large a portion of natural agreeableness among the fair-sex of our island, that they seem betrayed into these romantic habits, without having the fame occasion for them with their inventors: All that needs to be desired of them is, that they would be themselves, that is, what nature designed them; and to see their mistake when they depart from this; let them look upon a man who affects the softness and effeminacy of a woman to learn how our sex must appear to the men , when so near approaches are made by us to their resemblance
Your most affectionate servant
The average cost of a riding outfit was around £5, which is around £350 in today’s money (the equivalent of just over 1 month’s wages for a craftsman of the day), so not exactly a cheap purchase. Then, of course, there was the cost of keeping the outfit clean and needless to say there was money to be made by inventing a powder that would be perfect for the task, as this advert for Williams’s Kerseymere and woollen cloth powder shows.
We thought it might be nice to finish with a few of the portraits painted during the Georgian era depicting women in a riding habit, we hope you like our choice.
We’re delighted to be featured in the February edition of Family Tree Magazine. As well as a great review of our new book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, we have also penned a genealogy article for them titled ‘The Truth Will Out’ showing how even the best documented facts can sometimes belie the true story.
There are also many other fascinating articles in the magazine, plus free access to selected records at The Genealogist, so please do check it out. Details on the February issue can be found by clicking here.
And for more details on An Infamous Mistress, head over to the Pen and Sword website.
We know through our research that those Georgians were prolific letter writers so we thought we would take a look at communication before the advent of telephones, the internet, computers and the like, back to a time when the quill pen was all the rage and when all letters were either hand delivered or sent by mail.
Quill pens pre-date the Georgian era by some considerable time, made mainly from goose feathers, although high-quality ones were made from peacock or even swan feathers by using discarded flight feathers after the bird has moulted.
In 1764, an Act of Parliament was passed that allowed the Postmaster General to set up a local Penny Post in any city or town, similar to the system that already existed in London. In 1784 a new type of postal rate was introduced linking the distance a letter had to travel more important than ever before. The further it had to travel obviously the more expensive it was to send it, not to mention the cost of paper.
Sending two sheets of paper cost twice as much as a single sheet, so those canny Georgians opted for an impressive way of saving money – they adopted a style of writing to fill the entire page, firstly they wrote the way we today, then they turned the paper and wrote in the remaining spaces, commonly referred to as ‘cross hatching’.
Everyone loves stylish shoes and needless to say those lovers of fashion, the Georgians, were no exception. As they are today, they were, as well as being obviously practical they were very much about making a statement despite being somewhat hidden below those wonderful long gowns.
The manufacture of shoes required great skill, no mass production existed in the Georgian Era, and each pair would have been crafted by hand. A shoemaker ‘if he be a good hand, sober and industrious will earn thirty shillings a week’ that equates to about £70 a week today.
For many shoemakers, it was a relatively solitary life, working in their own workshop, for others they would have a large shop in which to exhibit their work.
The work involved in making a pair of shoes required the shoemaker to cut out a leather upper to a pattern. A small weight would then be placed on the skin to keep it from slipping; a hammer was then used to beat down any rough parts which lay on the inside of the shoe. Then using a pair of pincers the leather was stretched. The upper was then joined to the sole of the shoe. The parts were then sewn together and waxed. He would then use an awl to make holes for laces to fit through if required. The best and strongest thread being that made from hemp.
Women were employed to bind shoes of all kinds and sew together those made of silk and satin. Women’s shoes were highly ornate often with curved heels and a strap to keep them in place. The streets, of course, weren’t clean and paved as they are today so it was common for women to wear a ‘clog’ or ‘patten’ over her shoes in order to keep them clean, quite a good idea, if somewhat uncomfortable to walk in!
By the advent of the Regency Era women’s shoes changed in style from heels to the equivalent of today’s ballet pumps, much lighter in substance and fastened with ribbons. These shoes were unusual in so much as they were straight and therefore there was no right or left shoe – would this have made them easier to wear?
With the advent of the Napoleonic Wars, huge quantities of boots and shoes were required and this saw the advent of methods of mass production. Handcrafted boots and shoes continued to be manufactured, but obviously, a premium price would have been paid for them, much as is the case today.
We couldn’t possibly write a blog about shoes and not include a pair worn by the doyenne of fashion, Marie Antoinette, which sold at auction in 2012 for 50,000 euros (£40,600; $65,600) on the anniversary of the French queen’s execution.
Our final offering is one of the usual caricatures courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, this young lady, however, appears to be showing off slightly more than just her new shoes!!
So, you are a grandly dressed Georgian lady, with a fully powdered head of hair, fashionably coiffed but with a few little inhabitants. Scratch, scratch! How would you rid yourself of fleas?
Back in the eighteenth-century fleas were a common problem for all classes and would happily live in beds, inside wigs and on pets, and everyone was prey to them. Bathing of course helped, and there was the tried and tested method of painstakingly searching for and picking off the little critters. The Parisian artist Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), in a couple of his genre paintings, depicted some ladies searching themselves for fleas (and offering the viewer a titillating glimpse of flesh while doing so).
One other way, popular for a short period in the eighteenth-century, was to use a flea-trap which became something of a popular fashion accessory. It consisted of a hollow perforated cylindrical tube, sometimes ornately carved and made of silver or ivory, inside which would be a small rod, tuft of fur or a piece of cloth. This would be smeared with a few drops of blood, to attract the fleas, and also fat, honey resin, designed to make the fleas stick fast to it as they crawled inside, and which was removed as necessary to get rid of them. The flea trap was worn on a ribbon as a necklace, hanging down inside a dress – it could also be placed in a bed to attempt to rid that of fleas. A German doctor named Franz Ernst Brückmann (1697-1753) designed the first flea trap in the early 1700s.
Louth museum in Lincolnshire holds one, although they are unsure of the date of their flea trap. It is made of ivory, with a carved pattern, and measures 7cm in length and 1½cm in width.
The French name for the flea was ‘la puce’, which is supposedly how we have the name for the colour today – it is taken from the colour of a squashed flea or one full of blood, or from the bloodstains left behind by a flea on the bedsheets.
Reputedly, this brownish purple was one of Marie Antoinette’s favourite colours, and it was Louis XVI who jokingly compared it to the colour of a flea and so named it. From Domestic anecdotes of the French nation, during the last thirty years, indicative of the French revolution, written in 1800 by Isaac D’Israeli (author and father of the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli):
In the summer of 1775, the queen being dressed, in a brown lutestring, the king good humouredly observed, it was “couleur de puce”, the colour of fleas; and instantly every lady would be drest in a lutestring of a flea colour. The mania was caught by the men; and the dyers in vain exhausted themselves to supply the hourly demand. They distinguished between, an old and a young flea, and they subdivided even the shades of the body of this insect; the belly, the back, the thigh, and the head, were all marked by varying shades of this colour. This prevailing tint promised to be the fashion of the winter. The venders of silk, found that it would he pernicious to their trade; they therefore presented new sattins to her majesty, who having chosen one of a grey ash-colour, Monsieur, exclaimed that it was the colour of her majesty’s hair! Immediately the fleas ceased to be favourites, and all were eager to be drest in the colour of her majesty’s hair. Servants were sent off at the moment from Fontainebleau to Paris, to purchase velvets, rateens and cloths of this colour. The current price in the morning had been forty livres per ell, and it rose towards the evening to the price of eighty to ninety livres.
We’ll end with a couple of satirical prints. We think the people in these could do with a flea trap!
During the 18th and early 19th centuries the more affluent in society had plenty of time for reading and although circulating or lending libraries had existed prior to the 1700’s, it wasn’t until then that they really took off as booksellers and other organisations saw them as another way of making money by reaching people who couldn’t afford to buy books outright, but who were willing to pay a relatively low subscription to read them, given that the cost of purchasing a book was fairly prohibitive for many. Circulating libraries popped up in towns and cities across the country.
The largest circulating library carrying over 20,000 books, was the Minerva Press on Leadenhall Street, London, established by William Lane and was famous for creating a market for sentimental and Gothic fiction.
At the other end of the scale were small libraries such as that at Ashbourne, Derbyshire, which was run from about 1795 to 1801 by the librarian Susanna Oakes who can be seen in this portrait
There were two types of ‘public’ library in existence, the subscription library and the circulating library. The difference between them being that members of a subscription library also paid for a share of the library and had a say in which books the library purchased and how the library was run.
Both produced a catalogue of books available and you could purchase a copy of this list for around six pence and make your choice of reading material from it. Some simply provided an A-Z list, others provided a more detailed breakdown by category. Subscription libraries tended to be more expensive to subscribe to.
The tariff for a circulating library would have been similar to this one below, dated 1804 :
One pound, 1 shilling per year
Or 12 shillings for half a year
Or 6 shillings per quarter
Or 2 shillings and 6 pence for a month
These subscriptions allowed you to borrow 2 books at a time if you lived in the town or 4 if you lived in the country. The number of books you could borrow varied from library to library.
Each library had its own rules about which had to be strictly adhered to such as these shown below
One catalogue we came across was that of Marshall’s, of Milsom Street, Bath which offered –
‘upwards of twenty thousand volumes, choicely selected in all the different branches of polite literature.’
Given the length of the Georgian era we thought it might be fun to take a peek at how the Georgian ideas of what was fashionable and how it changed over the period. The comments have been taken directly from English Costume, Volume 4, by Dion Clayton Calthrop (1878 – 1937) so here goes.
George I (reigned 1707 – 1727)
The ladies were little lace and linen caps, their hair escaping in a ringlet or so at the side and flowing down behind, or gathered close up in a small knob on the head.
George II (reigned 1727 – 1760)
The hair is very tightly gathered up behind, twisted into a small knob on the top of the head and either drawn straight back from the forehead or parted in the middle, allowing a small fringe to hang on the temples. Nearly every woman wore a small cap or a small round straw hat with a ribbon around it.
In the middle of George II’s reign fashions and hair styles changed. Now the lady would puff her hair at the sides and powder it; if she had no hair she wore false, and a little later a full wig. She would now often discard her neat cap and wear a veil behind her back, over her hair and falling over her shoulder.
George III (1760 – 1820)
This was period of immense change in fashions both in terms of clothing and also hair styles. The writer of this book’s description of hair styles and hygiene is highly amusing:
Those piles of decorated, perfumed, reeking mess, by which a lady could show her fancy for the navy by balancing a straw ship on her head; for sport, by showing a coach, for gardening, by a regular garden on flowers. Heads which were only dressed, perhaps, once in three weeks, and were re-scented because it was necessary. Monstrous gatherers of horse-hair, hemp-wool and powder, laid on in a paste, the cleaning of which is too awful to give in detail. Three weeks, says my lady’s hairdresser, is as long as a head can go well in the summer without being opened’. With the fashion of 1786 came the broad brimmed hat and the turban.
We simply couldn’t resist including this caricature!
George IV (1820-1830)
By the 1820’s it was all change again in fashion and hair styles.
Young ladies wear their hair well arranged … the curls again appear in numerous clusters around the face; and some young ladies who seem to place their chief pride in a fine head of hair have such a multitude of small ringlets that to give what is a natural charm all the poodle-like appearance of a wig.
Header image: Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Thomas Gainsborough, National Galley of Art