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