Going Great Guns

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.

rifle-1
A German sporting rifle from the late eighteenth century

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.

The Battle of Poltava
The Battle of Poltava

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 Girandoni ‘wind gun’
The Girandoni ‘wind gun’
Advertising leaflet for the Puckle Gun
Advertising leaflet for the Puckle Gun

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.
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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

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.

Autumn from the original picture by John Collet, in the possession of Carington Bowles. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Autumn from the original picture by John Collet, in the possession of Carrington Bowles.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

 

collingwood
Francis Collingwood
john-woollams
John Woollams

 

 

 

 

Our source is ‘The Universal cook and City and Country Housekeeper by Francis Collingwood and John Woollams.

To Make an Apple Tart

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.

van Os, Jan; Fruit; Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/fruit-148201
van Os, Jan; Fruit; Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery

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.

Bidlingmeyer, Jules; Apples and a Pan; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/apples-and-a-pan-204454
Bidlingmeyer, Jules; Apples and a Pan; Manchester Art Gallery

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.

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

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.

black-currant-jam

Gooseberry Cream

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.

18th Century Lottery

A Lottery is a taxation Upon all the fools in creation;

And Heav’n be prais’d It is easily rais’d. . . The Lottery

Henry Fielding

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 and mary 25 may 1770

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.

The lottery ticket, or, The sunshine of hopeThe ticket a blank, or, The clouds of despair 1792

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.

The Lottery’ by William Hogarth 1721 Courtesy of The Met Museum
‘The Lottery’ by William Hogarth 1721 Courtesy of The Met Museum showing the lottery wheels

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 –

Daily Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, September 24, 1777
Daily Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, September 24, 1777

Below is one of numerous examples of what you could win when buying a share.

Lloyd's Evening Post (London, England), January 31, 1794
Lloyd’s Evening Post (London, England), January 31, 1794

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.

gardener greengrocer
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

It was even possible for gamblers to insure themselves against drawing a blank.

lwlpr04121
To the subscribers to the Lottery Magazine for 1777 : this plate (representing the four favourites of fortune who receiv’d the four hundred guineas for last years Lottery Magazine) is most gratefully inscribed by their obliged humble sert. E. Johnson

Legends of the sea

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.

The Mermaid of Galloway by William Hilton II (1786–1839) Tabley House Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-mermaid-of-galloway-103846
The Mermaid of Galloway by William Hilton II (1786–1839)
Tabley House Collection

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.

Figure of a man with the tail of a fish, large prominent ears and four talons to each hand and foot, standing on a beach clutching a fish; said to be a life-drawing of a merman captured near Exeter, 1737. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure of a man with the tail of a fish, large prominent ears and four talons to each hand and foot, standing on a beach clutching a fish; said to be a life-drawing of a merman captured near Exeter, 1737.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

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.

Header image: The Carta Marina, a map of the Nordic countries showing various sea monsters (via Wikimedia).

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.

Women in Music and Art in the Georgian Era

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.

Adolphe, Joseph Anton; Caroline D'Arcy (d.1778), 4th Marchioness of Lothian; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/caroline-darcy-d-1778-4th-marchioness-of-lothian-209742
Adolphe, Joseph Anton; Caroline D’Arcy (d.1778), 4th Marchioness of Lothian; National Galleries of Scotland

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.

Anastasia Robinson c.1727 via Wikimedia
Anastasia Robinson c.1727 via Wikimedia
A Girl at a Harpsichord by Mather Brown (attributed to), 1782 (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Girl at a Harpsichord by Mather Brown (attributed to), 1782
(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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 Countess of Eglinton, 1777 by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92) Private Collection © Agnew's, London English, out of copyright
The Countess of Eglinton, 1777 by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92)
Private Collection © Agnew’s, London
English, out of copyright
A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, exhibited 1814 (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, exhibited 1814
(c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare (c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare
(c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sarah Curran (1782–1808), Playing the Harp by William Beechey (c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sarah Curran (1782–1808), Playing the Harp by William Beechey
(c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The guitar was also a popular instrument for women to play as we can see in these next paintings.

(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A young Woman playing the Guitar with a Songbird on her Hand by Louis-Léopold Boilly
(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Artist-Painting-a-Portrait-of-a-Musician
Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician, Marguerite Gerard, Before 1803 courtesy of the State Hermitage Museum

And finally, an all female quartet.

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.
The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

But the post would not be complete without Gillray’s take on an old woman playing the harpsichord now would it!

lwlpr07752
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Coroner’s Verdict is final

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.

Coroners inquest Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library Banner

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.

The 'King's Harms', British (English) School (a painting of the 'King’s Arms' inn in Manchester. As the sign on the façade shows, the artist misspelt the name of the establishment, hence the title of the picture). Compton Verney http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-kings-harms-54665
The ‘King’s Harms’, British (English) School c.1800 (a painting of the ‘King’s Arms’ inn in Manchester. As the sign on the façade shows, the artist misspelt the name of the establishment, hence the title of the picture).
Compton Verney

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.

Bone House - Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Bone House – Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.

The Harvest Wagon by Francis Wheatley, 1774. Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-harvest-wagon-46836
The Harvest Wagon by Francis Wheatley, 1774.
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

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.

The Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge by Thomas Rowlandson. © The Trustees of the British Museum
The Race for Doggett’s Coat and Badge by Thomas Rowlandson.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

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.

18th Century Tax on Gloves

18th c gloves MFA Boston
Courtesy of MFA Boston

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.

William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), after 1806. Via Wikimedia.
William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), after 1806.
Via Wikimedia.

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.

lwlpr07169
Billy’s Babel. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.

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Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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. Speeches of the Right Honourable RB Sheridan Volume 1

Sources:

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

Speeches of  The Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Volume 1, 1842