The Stonebow and Guildhall, Lincoln, 1836. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Thomas Carr of Lincoln, dealer in almanacs and… fish!

A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West by Joseph Baker, 1742; The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery).
A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West by Joseph Baker, 1742; The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery).

Thomas Carr of Lincoln was a hawker of almanacs and fish… and yes, we think that’s an odd combination too! He was well-known around the county’s markets, famous enough for a print to be made of him.

Thomas Carr of Lincoln. © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln. © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection.

Underneath the print is some very helpful genealogical information about Thomas.

Thomas Carr of Lincoln

The well-known dealer in Almanacks & Fish being born at Hexthorpe near Doncaster and was christenened the 19th of October 1718.

August 1804

So, Thomas wasn’t really a Lincolnshire man but had obviously lived in the city of Lincoln for long enough that he was described as being of his adopted town. His baptism can be found, exactly as described on the print, in the parish registers of Hexthorpe, a small village on the outskirts of Doncaster in South Yorkshire.

Lincoln Cathedral, from the west by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832)
© Whitworth Art Gallery

He died in 1807, described as being of an advanced age: he was 89 years old, maybe not to us such an old age these days, but for someone back then, who had gained his living as a hawker which would have been a tough occupation for someone of advancing years, he didn’t do badly at all.

The Stonebow and Guildhall, Lincoln, 1836. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
The Stonebow and Guildhall, Lincoln. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Last week died, at an advanced age, Thomas Carr, well-known here, and to those who frequent Lincoln markets, as a vender of almanacks.

Stamford Mercury, 7th August 1807

Thomas’ funeral was held at St Swithin’s Church in Lincoln on the 26th of July, and he was described in the burial register as a widower. St Swithin’s has undergone several reconstructions during its life. Originally located near the Sheep market, it was ravaged by fire in 1644 during the English Civil War and stood in ruins for just over a century and a half. The ruins can be seen in the drawing below, next to The Greyfriars, the remains of a Franciscan friary dating back to the 1200s.

The ruins of St Swithin's Church and the Greyfriars, Lincoln, 1784
The ruins of St Swithin’s Church and the Greyfriars, Lincoln, 1784

In 1801 a new church was erected on Sheep Square; a pencil drawing of this church can be seen by clicking here. In the 1880s the present church was built. The old Greyfriars buildings still stand next to it.

St Swithin's Church, Lincoln. © Copyright Julian P Guffogg (Geograph)
St Swithin’s Church.  © Copyright Julian P Guffogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The Royal Dockyard at Chatham. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Thunder and Lightning: the storm of 18th June 1764

On Monday the 18th of June 1764 much of southern and eastern England was struck by a prolonged and violent thunderstorm together with torrential rain and hail with catastrophic results. It struck in the afternoon, described as a ‘Tempest of thunder and lightning . . . the claps succeeded each other incessantly for near an hour, and seemed to run into one another like the ignited flashes of the Aurora Borealis’.

Many people were killed and injured, animals in fields struck down and the crops in farmers fields flattened and destroyed, buildings caught alight and church steeples tumbled to the ground.  The heavy rain caused rivers to overflow their banks and flood properties and villages; there was untold misery.

St. Bride’s Church in London’s Fleet Street was one of those affected when the storm raged between two and three o’clock in the afternoon; the steeple of the church was shattered and the falling masonry damaged several nearby houses. The total damage was estimated at 2000l. The steeple, measuring 234ft had been a later addition to the church designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the original had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London, the steeple being added between 1701-1703. The lightning strike destroyed the top 8ft of the steeple. Rayleigh parish church in Essex was similarly affected.

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

The Powder Mills on Hounslow Heath had a lucky escape when a tree within a few yards of one of the mills was ‘cleft asunder’ by lightning, another bolt striking one of the gibbets on the heath. At Chatham docks the Ramillies man of war was another casualty, being hit with a ‘ball of fire,’ splintering the deck and masts, only the ferocity of the rain preventing the ship from further damage by fire.

A View of Chatham Dockyard, Kent, 1774; Elias Martin; Historic Dockyard, Chatham
A View of Chatham Dockyard, Kent, 1774; Elias Martin; Historic Dockyard, Chatham

The damage caused by this June thunderstorm brought about a more widespread acceptance for the installation of lightning rods on the top of tall buildings and church steeples in imitation of the practice already widely adopted in America. Benjamin Franklin famously first experimented with lightning rods, fixing one to the roof of his house and attaching to it a wire that ran to another rod in the ground. His belief, that the lightning would strike the rod on his roof and that the electricity would pass to the rod in the ground, was correct, but the practice had not received much popularity in Britain until the June 1764 storms after which the British began to look for preventative measures. However, King George III decreed that lightning rods used in Britain should be blunt-ended not pointed.

Christ Church, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, from the West, Showing the Spire Struck by Lightning by John Hepworth; (c) Doncaster Museum Service
Christ Church, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, from the West, Showing the Spire Struck by Lightning
by John Hepworth (c) Doncaster Museum Service


Part of the problem was that people believed that a pointed lightning rod did not merely conduct the electricity away, but attracted the strike in the first place; one ending in a knob or blunt end being safer although Christ Church in Doncaster would disagree as in 1836 their steeple was destroyed by lightning shortly after a blunt-ended rod had been placed on the top of it!

 

Sources:

London Evening Post, 19th, 21st and 26th June 1764

http://www.stbrides.com/history/chapter-5-1666—1730.html