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Mar 112018
 

My latest book, on female pioneers in the Eighteenth Century, was published in March 2018 (to mark International Women’s Day) and is available from the publishers Pen & Sword here and of course on Amazon. Sorry, but if you are in the States you will not be able to get hold of it until 3 July 2018 at Amazon.com

My previous book, from the same publisher, was “In Bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal & Satire” and it can be found (here) and of course at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.ukIn Bed with the Georgians

And if you want to know what comes next, it will be about Pirates, Privateers and plunder, but you will have to wait until later in 2018…

 

 

 

To find earlier blogs please put the title (or part of it) in the search box in the sidebar and that will take you to the appropriate post. Thanks!

Aug 152018
 

(c) Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

I love the way that so many inventors in the Georgian era came up with what were basically fakes – and I will be featuring some of them in my next-book-but-two*. Imitation  stone (Eleanor Coade) imitation gold (Christopher Pinchbeck) and imitation silver (Thomas Boulsover) are just a few. But there was also the interesting story of  John Baskerville, a man who made his fortune imitating the lacquer work previously imported from the Far East. Japanned tea sets, trays, boxes, clock cases – you name it, he made and embellished them, especially with flowers and classical motifs.

In the case of John Baskerville he is remembered, if at all, for the exquisite typeface which he designed and which is named after him. But printing was a hobby which he came to later in life – after he had made his fortune manufacturing  ‘japanned wares.’ The problem was that the tree used to extract the lacquer in the Far East (Toxicodendron vernicifluum, better known as the Chinese Lacquer Tree) was not available in Europe. In the second half of the 1600’s a way had been found to take a base material, such as wood or paper and coat it with layer after layer of coloured resin, like shellac. The procedure was described in publications such as Stalker and Parker’s Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing, which appeared in 1688, and which does little to hint at the dirty, odorous and often hot working conditions endured by the people doing the japanning. The resin was applied in layers to produce a lustrous finish, usually black, achieved by mixing lamp-black into the resin. Stalker and Parker’s Treatise explained how to get the lamp black:

To make lamp black: Being furnished with a lamp that has 3 or 4 spouts, for as many lights and cotton-week (wick) which you may have at the Tallow Chandlers, twisted up so big that it will but just go into the nose of your spouts; for the greater light they make, the greater quantity of black is afforded. Procure a quart of oyl, by the oyl shops rated at 6d., and so much will make black enough to use about a large cabinet. Get a thing to receive your black in, such in shape and substance as you may often see is planted over a candle to keep the flame and smoak from the roof or ceiling of a room. Having placed your weeks (wicks) in their proper apartment, and put in the oyl, fire or light ‘em and fix your receiver over them so close, that the flame may almost touch them. After it is continued so the space of half an hour, take off your receiver, and with a feather strike and sweep off all the black on it. Snuff your weecks, and put it on again, but forget not to supply your lamp with oyl, as often as occasion shall require, and when you imagine that more black is stuck to the receiver, do as before directed.

Different manufacturers used different varnishes. One, known as “tar varnish” or “Jewish pitch”, involved a mixture of black asphaltum, amber, linseed oil and rosin in turpentine. In order to achieve a higher gloss this would then be coated with a mixture of copal resin in linseed oil – or with a variety of spirit varnishes. But as each layer was built up the japanners had to resort to frequent stovings – which in turn had a tendency to warp and crack the underlying base material. In time many japanners turned to tinplate as an alternative to a wood or paper base, because this was more resistant to the damage caused by the stoving process. The high glossy black finish was often embellished with gold decorations – used in order to make an ideal display for the tea ceremonies which developed throughout the eighteenth century.

Very often japanning was done in small factory units and during the Georgian period these started to be clustered around towns in the West Midlands, such as Wolverhampton and Bilston. And then John Baskerville appeared on the scene to develop a way of japanning onto a papier-mâché base. It produced a strong but lightweight material which did not warp when the resins were being oven-dried, and Baskerville set up in business in 1740 at 22 Moor Street in central Birmingham. Five years later production was moved to workshop premises in the 8-acre grounds of the fine house he built at Easy Hill on the edge of Birmingham and before long he was supplying the market with a range of high quality products. He continued to make papier-mâché products from that address for the remainder of his life, taking on a succession of apprentices (seven in all) during the period between 1754 and 1765. Baskerville loved flaunting his success, and had a reputation for wearing clothes richly adorned with gold lace. And, to make sure that no-one could mistake him, he  bought a pair of cream-coloured horses to draw his carriage, which had its doors and side panels made from papier-mâché richly decorated by the Master’s hand. Here was a man who did not believe in hiding his light under a bushel…

John had been born near Kidderminster in 1707 and initially had made a living teaching calligraphy, and carving gravestones. As a twenty-year old he had moved to Birmingham and set up a school in the Bull Ring where he taught writing and book-keeping, while still maintaining his work as an engraver. A slate inscribed with the words ‘Grave Stones Cut in any of the Hands by John Baskervill, Writing Master’ is all that remains  of his business. He was in his late thirties when he stumbled across the use of papier-mâché as a substrate for lacquer-work – allegedly as a result of following another papier-mâché maker around the city’s apothecaries, noting exactly what products were being bought. He ended up producing products which had the appearance of being made of wood, but which were feather-light, durable and with a very even high-gloss finish.

Having amassed a fortune making lacquered papier-mâché with his innovative production methods he turned back to his first love – the printed word. During the 1750s he developed the use of wove paper (as opposed to laid paper). Wove paper, which was used for a smooth white finish, had been invented by James Whatman and Baskerville was the first person to see its commercial possibilities. He also experimented with using clearer, more lustrous, inks, and developed a system for drying the ink quickly and evenly – preventing it from being soaked into the paper and instead giving a consistent and clear finish. He also brought about changes to the way that the metal type was cast, making the printed word appear really crisp. He really was a pioneer in the field of print-making, design and book production, and his name quickly became a by-word for quality.

All these developments were reflected in the production of his first book in 1757, a superb edition of works by Virgil. The care taken by Baskerville was astonishing – the production of that one volume took three years but the result was so impressive that Baskerville was appointed printer to Cambridge University. Shortly afterwards he started work on the production of a remarkable folio edition of The Bible, which was finally published in 1763. The care taken was all the more surprising when you consider that Baskerville was an atheist – not a closet atheist but a highly prominent and vociferous atheist who was not afraid to demonstrate his rejection of Christian doctrines. This even extended to his refusal to marry the woman generally referred to as his wife, the long-suffering Sarah Eaves. Sarah was originally a servant girl and was still married to a Mr Eaves. She had two children by her husband but John Baskerville treated them as his own, and brazenly set up home with Sarah for some twenty years. It is thought that the couple eventually did marry, after the death of Mr Eaves, but to eighteenth century moralists ‘living in sin’ for two decades with an adulterous woman was not generally acceptable.

John Wilkes said that Baskerville shocked him with his openly atheistic stance and that he was ‘a terrible infidel’ – which makes it all the more amazing that during his life Baskerville printed three bibles, nine common prayers, two psalm-books, and two Greek testaments. When he started as a printer he announced: ‘It is not my desire to print many books; but such only as are books of consequence, of intrinsic merit, or established reputation.’ These books included the works by Milton, Addison, Congreve, Shaftesbury, Virgil, Juvenal, Horace, the Italian renaissance poet Ludovico Ariosto and a number of other classical Italian authors.

As a printer he was able to direct John Handy, his punch-maker, to design and produce a new and exceptionally clear and simple typeface. It so impressed Benjamin Franklin (a fellow printer) that when he returned to the newly-created United States of America Franklin directed that federal government documents were to be printed using the Baskerville typeface. Baskerville was elected a member to the Royal Society of Arts, and became an associate of many of the members of the Lunar Society. As a result of this sort of networking he became an important influencer – a major player in Birmingham’s industrial scene. In effect he became mentor to the young Matthew Boulton, encouraging him in his early endeavours and at one stage lending him the not insignificant sum of £1470 in 1767. Boulton, of course, went on to fame and fortune as one of the great architects of the Industrial Revolution, but it is worth remembering that he only achieved that pinnacle because of the support and   encouragement given to him by others in his early years.

Baskerville’s typefaces mark a high point in the transition between Old Style and Modern type design – they are beautifully cut, and although they went out of fashion they were subsequently picked up in the twentieth century by type foundries such as Linotype and Monotype. Baskerville helped establish Birmingham as the leading city for print and publishing outside of London, with a reputation as a leader in design. He may have made his money by making cheap imitations of Far Eastern handicrafts but he spent his money in becoming one of the finest printers of the Age. And if we think of elegance as being the mark of the Georgian era it is worth remembering that elegance does not simply consist of a neo-classical tea-pot, or an Adam fireplace or a fine façade designed by William Chambers – it is also defined by the beauty of the printed page.
Baskerville died in January 1775 at his Easy Hill home, having left very specific instructions that his mortal remains were not to be buried in consecrated land, but in a vault which he had created in an old mill building. As he said: ‘Doubtless to many [this] may appear a Whim – perhaps It is so – but it is a whim for many years Resolve’d upon, as I have a Hearty Contempt for all Superstition [and] the Farce of a Consecrated Ground…’

In practice his coffin was to have a somewhat nomadic existence – Easy Hill was burnt down in the Birmingham Riots of 1791 and the mausoleum was knocked down when a canal was re-routed across the site. The lead-lined coffin was moved to a warehouse in 1821 where is was used as a workbench and later became something of a tourist attraction as people asked to see the corpse. Originally in a good state of preservation, this constant exposure to the air caused rapid deterioration to the body. Finally the oderous corpse was secreted in a family vault belonging to a local publisher. Years later even this building was demolished, and the coffin moved again before finally being re-buried in catacombs at Warstone Lane Cemetery.  So, even after two centuries, John Baskerville has still not got his final wish, although there are occasional attempts to get him buried yet again, this time on un-consecrated ground.

Baskerville left most of his fortune, some £12,000, to his widow Sarah as well as making various bequest to family members and to charity. Sarah carried on with John’s printing business for some months after his death, and also maintained the type foundry for another two years. She died in 1788.

 

*My next book to be published, by Pen & Sword, is due out in November and will be on the topic of Pirates and Privateers. After that comes one to mark the anniversary of the publication of Robinson Crusoe next April – all about castaways and violent storms and disasters at sea. And after that comes one on lesser-known Georgian inventors, discoverers etc. I have also just been commissioned to write what will probably be my final book, on Sex and Sexuality in the Georgian era. Watch this space! And if you find my blogs getting fewer and fewer, it is probably because I am too busy trying to keep my publisher happy!

Jul 112018
 

Elizabeth Cane was born July 11, 1750. Few will recognize the name but she was to become one of the most fascinating and notorious women of the century. Little is known about her early years but it is likely that she came to London when about sixteen, and either became a hairdresser or a hairdresser´s model. The one thing which is clear is that her talents extended far beyond a spot of back-combing, and within a few short years she had transformed herself into Elizabeth Armistead, high class courtesan and confidante of the Prince of Wales. Was there ever a Mr Armistead? I have no idea, and it may just have been a name chosen to give her an air of respectability. She quickly became one of the richest and most celebrated beauties of the Age – with a string of lovers from the upper echelons of the aristocracy. Two Dukes, an Earl, a Viscount – and the Prince of Wales – all succumbed to her charms. Each in turn lavished her with jewels and expensive gifts.

Elizabeth Armistead by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

She knew her worth, and certainly was not going to waste what she had on one man alone. That is, until she was 33 and met the charming and enigmatic Charles James Fox. The Whig aristocrat was a couple of years her senior, and their love affair was to scandalize society and prove that love could overcome all obstacles.

Elizabeth and Charles did not fall for each other straight away, but their love developed into something quite special. From the start Charles treated her as his equal, often writing to her about politics while at the same time declaring his undying love for her. She had been used to being supported financially by her lovers – now the boot was on the other foot and within a year she had reportedly sold both of her town houses and her two handsome annuities (gifted to her by wealthy admirers) – allegedly in order to stave off Fox´s creditors. She retired from her chosen profession and took up residence at St Anne’s Hill which she purchased in 1785 in her own name, albeit with a mortgage of £2000 granted by the Duke of Marlborough. The house was near Chertsey in Surrey and had extensive gardens. Much of the lovers´ time together was spent gardening and enjoying the walks which the property offered. Fox was often called away to London for days and weeks on end and there can be few more poignant letters than the ones written by Fox at this time. On occasions Elizabeth accompanied Charles to London, but the doors of fashionable society were closed to her. They could be seen in public – in the parks or at the theatre, but never could she be entertained in any of the grand houses which would otherwise be open to Charles.

A Gillray-esque satirical etching showing Charles Fox and Elizabeth Armistead as ‘the odd couple’.

They had first met in 1783 by which time Fox had gambled away a vast fortune. He was no longer the youthful dandy but a political figure of reduced means, although for all that, a brilliant orator. Fox had been in Elizabeth´s circle for some time – he had just had an affair with her close friend the actress/courtesan ‘Perdita’ Robinson. Equally, she had granted her favours to a succession of Whig politicians in Fox´s circle including Lord George Cavendish (brother of the Duke of Devonshire), Lord ´Bob´ Spencer (third son of the Duke of Marlborough), Lord Cholmondley and of course the Prince of Wales (although the latter was not in the right league, financially, to be able to afford her services for any length of time).

But as time passed it became increasingly apparent that their union was both stable and permanent. Fox begged Elizabeth to marry him and at first she accepted but later broke off the engagement. It was obvious to everyone (well, everyone except Fox) that such a union would be an absolute scandal, and liable to be the ruin of his career. Finally they agreed to marry but to keep the union a secret. They wed in 1795 and it was only in 1802 that the news was officially confirmed. Meanwhile Elizabeth´s sheer charm and capacity for friendship slowly but surely captured the hearts of all around her – she became socially acceptable. This must have been a hugely significant achievement for the couple. Sadly Charles died in 1806 and his beloved Liz carried on living at St Anne´s Hill until 8th July 1842 when she died just days before her 92nd birthday. Her popularity is reflected in the fact that not only did she receive a pension  on the orders of her former lover the Prince of Wales (once he became King) but this was increased by his successor William IV – and even continued by Queen Victoria.  She remained discreet about all her previous lovers, never threatened to ‘kiss and tell’ and died  a well-respected and much-loved old lady.

Theirs was a remarkable love match, a true story of the Beauty and the Beast. Elizabeth’s  story appears in Kate Hickmann´s fascinating book “Courtesans” published by Harper-Collins, and  I certainly had no hesitation about including her story in my book “In bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal and Satire” because she really was a quite amazing woman. Many happy returns Lizzie – 268 and still as gorgeous as ever!

[This repeats a blog which I did six years ago, and dusted off/modified to mark the occasion.]

 

Jun 032018
 

Isabella Beetham, born Isabella Robinson (c.1744-1825) was an interesting character. She came from a wealthy family but when she was twenty she eloped with an itinerant Irish actor called Edward Beetham. Her family cut off her maintenance and she was forced to take up portraiture as a way of keeping the wolf from the door. She specialized in making paper cut-outs (we now generally call them silhouettes, but they were then called shades). She then studied with the London minituarist John Smart, and started to paint the silhouette of the sitter (rather than to cut it with scissors). She painted on glass as well as on paper, and some of the results are really beautiful.

Meanwhile her husband continued to work on the London stage. He also invented things – initially the roll-up weighted safety curtain to be used at theatres to prevent fire from spreading. But there was insufficient money to pay to take out a patent and the idea was soon copied by others, and he never made his fortune from it. Another invention – and one which he did patent, was called a “patent Mangle with Rollers”. Basically this was a primitive form of washing tub where the wooden rollers were kept pressed together so that the moisture in the clothes was wrung out. It was a considerable financial success and Edward was able to move in to shop premises at 26 and 27 Fleet Street in London. He sold his mangles downstairs and Isabella did her painting upstairs.

One of the things which make Isabella so collectable, and distinguishes her from the many gifted but anonymous amateurs who did paper cut-outs and painted silhouettes, was that she started backing her creations with a trade label giving her name. From around 1774 her works were backed with a splendidly verbose label of which part reads “By application leagued with Good Natural Gifts Mrs Beetham has enabled herself to remedy a Difficulty Much lamented and Universally Experienced by PARENTS, LOVERS AND FRIENDS.The former, assisted by her Art, may see their offspring In any part of the Terraqueous Globe. Nor can Death obliterate the features from their fond Remembrance. LOVERS the Poets have advanced, ‘Can waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole. She will gratify them with more substantial though Ideal Intercourse by placing the Beloved Object to their View. FRIENDSHIP is truly valuable was ever held a Maxim.…”

OK, so that is a bit over the top, but at least it means her works can be identified!

An advertisement, published in 1792, read:

PROFILES:  Mrs. BEETHAM, who has ever been distinguished as one of the most eminent who ever attempted PROFILE LIKENESSES, continues to execute them with that Taste and Elegance which remains unrivalled. She paints them on Chrystals, ornamented with gold and silver, displaying the hair and drapery in a manner more beautiful than can be conceived till seen: and if not the most striking likeness, no gratuity will be expected. She likewise finishes them on IVORY, COMPOSITION, AND PAPER, for RINGS, LOCKETS, BRACELETS, &c.

Time of Sitting, One Minute

Specimens to be seen at her house, no. 27, Fleet Street”.

In the early 1790s, the Beetham’s oldest daughter, Jane, began working with her mother, and continued to do so until she got married in 1797. A label from that period noted that “Mrs. And Miss BEETHAM” were creating “PROFILE LIKENESSES.” Jane  exhibited several of her works at the Royal Academy between 1794 and 1816, sometimes using the name ‘Beetham’, sometimes dropping an ‘e’ and calling herself ‘Betham’ and occasionally using her married name of ‘Read’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, just in case I am accused of bias by not showing any male sitters, here are a couple of her portraits of  two splendid-looking gentlemen, courtesy of Bonhams auction house.

    

 

 

 

(For the biographical information I am indebted to an article by Joy Ruskin Hanes  in the New England Antiques Journal). I have dusted off this blog for re-issue because in the summer I am giving a talk in the West Midlands to a group of antique dealers and collectors – featuring silhouettes of the 18th Century.

 

Apr 302018
 

As it is just a day or two after the passage of 248 years since the death  of the notorious forger David Hartley I thought I would repeat an earlier post about him:

He appears to have been born in 1729 and died at the end of a hangman’s noose, on 28th April 1770. His body was buried in the old graveyard at Heptonstall above Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. The burial site is unusual in that two churches are built alongside each other, served by the same graveyard. It is also where the poet Sylvia Plath is buried but that is another story…David Hartley was nick-named “King David” while his brother Isaac was called the “Duke of York”, and another brother William was known as the “Duke of Edinburgh”. Why? Because of their fame in the tiny and isolated community of Cragg Vale, up in the Pennines. “King” David led a gang of perhaps 200 people who supplemented their meagre earnings from the land with a spot of illegal coin clipping. Even today our higher value coins have a milled edge (or an inscription, as with ‘Decus et Tutanem’ – literally, ‘an ornament and a safeguard’ – on our one pound coins) intended to prevent clipping .The clipping of coins in the Middle Ages had always been a problem, because coins were hammered (by hand) rather than being milled (by machine). Indeed prior to the reign of Edward I there were no coins smaller than one penny and traders were free to cut pennies in half to make a ‘halfpenny’, or into four to make a ‘fourth thing’ i.e. farthing. The coins were designed with a cross on one side, marking the quarter points, so that the unscrupulous traders could not easily cut five quarters out of the one coin! Clipping and counterfeiting were both criminal offences which invariably carried the death penalty.

Hammered coins disappeared when Charles II came to the throne, with the introduction of superior quality machined coins. To prevent clipping, higher value coins had an inscription raised around the circumference of the coin (on its edge) with the regnal year (that is to say, showing in which year of the King’s reign it was minted). In the Georgian era the Restoration practice of marking coins with the regnal year had died out. With higher value e.g. gold coins, this had been replaced with milling marks – a series of decorative marks around the edge. What Hartley did was cut off the milled edge, then hand-file the edge of the smaller coin, marking it to make it look as though it was milled. The clippings were then melted down and recast as coins.

To do this the coiners needed a ready source of gold coins to work with. Local publicans were happy to oblige in return for a piece of the action. They would hand over the coins to the gang and then later feed the coins back into circulation.Not just English coins were dealt with in this way. Because coins from other countries circulated freely in this country, the gang also had access to coins from Spain and Portugal, and these were particularly susceptible to clipping. And if this all sounds like small beer, reflect on the fact that by the 1770s it was estimated that 9% of all gold coins had been tampered with in this way, and that fake guineas with a face value of three and a half million pounds had been paid into the Banks.

What lent itself to the clipping and coining was the remoteness of Cragg Vale: any stranger entering the valley would be spotted a mile off so the gang of ‘cottage workers’ were never likely to get caught red-handed. And so, for five years, they prospered…

Quite separate from the clipping (‘diminishing the coin of the realm’ in legal parlance) was the actual counterfeiting i.e. melting down the gold shavings and hammering them with an impression to give the appearance of a genuine gold coin from the continent. These forgeries were not particularly well done, but they did not have to be, since the quality of coins in circulation had become extremely poor. Pure gold is soft, and any parts of the design which were raised were quickly worn, so the public had become used to poor quality coins. The actual counterfeiting was done by outsiders. Three of them were named in the later court proceedings as Thomas Sunderland of Halifax, Joseph Shaw of Bradford and a man called Lightoulers. who made the dies for David Hartley. The picture shows a set of dies used in the counterfeiting process.

Coin dies courtesy of Heptonstall Museum.

After a while the prevalence of light coins in the area, and the poor fakes, came to the notice of the authorities and in particular one William Dighton, Excise Officer. He was astute enough to know that he was never going to catch the gang without inside information, so he offered a bribe of one hundred guineas to one of the coiners called James Broadbent. He was happy to betray his accomplices for a mere promise (the reward was never actually paid) and he swore before the magistrates that he had seen David Hartley and his colleague James Jagger clipping four gold guineas at the family home at Bell House.

This was enough for Dighton, and David Hartley was arrested on 14th October 1769 at the Old Cock Inn in Halifax. At this point family loyalty intervened; so incensed was Isaac Hartley (brother to David) at the idea of his sibling being in York prison that he put up a reward of £100 to anyone who would kill Dighton. No sooner said than done! Poor Mr Dighton, who was only doing his job, was ambushed in the darkness on 10th November 1769 while walking in Bull Close Lane in Halifax. He was shot in the head and fatally wounded, his assailants being Matthew Normanton and Robert Thomas. You don´t mess with the Hartleys…

The authorities were outraged. No lesser a personage than the Marquis of Rockingham, Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding, was tasked with hunting down the killers. Extensive bribes were offered for information, and pardons offered to those willing to turn King’s Evidence. By the end of that year (1769) a list of some 80 coiners had been prepared, of which 30 came from Cragg Vale. Arrests followed soon afterwards.

The gravestone marking where members of the Hartley family are buried.

None of this helped “King” David. He was tried in the Spring Assizes, found guilty of ‘impairing diminishing and lightening guineas’ and sent to be hanged at Tyburn, near York, on 28th April 1770. The records show that he and his fellow coiner James Oldfield ‘died penitent and acknowledging the justice of the sentence passed upon them’

The entry in the register of deaths at St Thomas à Becket Church at Heptonstall states in Latin: “1770 May I. David Heartley de Bellhouse in Villa Erringdinensis suspensus in collo prope Eboracum ob nummos publicos illicite cudendos et accidentos” which as everyone knows (!) translates roughly as “David Hartley of Bell House in the town of Erringden was hanged near York for unlawfully stamping and clipping public coin.”

It took a while for the other ringleaders to be rounded up. Of the two who murdered Dighton, Normanton got wind of his impending arrest and went into hiding. He was finally captured and hanged on 15th April 1775. A year earlier his co-conspirator Robert Thomas had been caught, tried and acquitted for lack of evidence, but justice caught up with him shortly after that when he was charged with Highway Robbery. He too went to the gallows, and his body was displayed on Beacon Hill Halifax as a warning to others.

Other members of the Hartley family were also called in for questioning. Brother William, a.k.a. The Duke of Edinburgh was, according to the Leeds Mercury, fortunate to escape through a window, wearing only his shirt, when the local constables surrounded his house in December 1769. Poor blighter, shivering half to death in a night shirt out on the bleak Yorkshire moors! In fact it is unlikely that William played a significant part in the family’s coining activities.

Isaac Hartley, the man who organised the murder plot, was one of the ones wanted for questioning but was never brought to trial due to lack of evidence. He died at the age of of 78 at Mytholmroyd in 1815. The ‘Wanted’ poster back in 1769 had described him as “Isaac HARTLEY, late of Erringden, in the Parish of Halifax [commonly called the Duke of York, being younger Brother of David Hartley, usually called King David, now a Prisoner in York Castle] about 35 years old. 5 ft 7 ins high, a dark down-looking man, wears his own hair, which is black, a little pock-broke, and generally wears light-coloured cloaths”

The importance of the various cases involving the Cragg Vale coiners is shown by the fact that Parliament debated the whole question of the state of the coinage and what should be done to protect it: trust in coinage was central to trade, and anything diminishing public confidence had to be dealt with. The King’s Speech at the opening of the 1773 session contained the words “nothing can better deserve the attention of Parliament than the state of the Gold Coin”.

The debates in the Commons and Lords culminated in 1773 with ‘An Act for the better preventing the counterfeiting, clipping, and other diminishing the Gold Coin in this Kingdom’ (13 Geo. III c. 71). One of the changes was to define the weight of each gold coin more accurately, and to give anyone paid with an underweight coin an entitlement to compensation from the person tendering it. All of which would have put more pressure on shopkeepers like my ancestor Richard Hall, where light or forged guineas handed over in the gloom of the counting house at the rear of the shop could easily be accepted in payment for goods, only to leave the shopkeeper out of pocket when he reached the Bank. Small wonder weighing scales were the 18th Century equivalent of a light scanner to check forged banknotes today….

(The two paper cut outs used in this post were made in the 1780’s by my ancestor Richard Hall. More information about these fascinating illustrations appears in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman.)

Apr 262018
 

Following on from high-lighting some of Richard’s lists, here is a repeat of an earlier blog about the entire list of household contents at One London Bridge, at the time when Richard’s son William was in residence:

When Richard and  William terminated their partnership (selling hosiery and general haberdashery from Number One London Bridge) they commissioned an Inventory of the items at the premises. This excluded trade items but covered all the furniture and effects, right down to bed-linen, pictures and books. The inventory was dated 15th May 1794. William stayed a haberdasher but concentrated on the import of silks – and eventually became Master of the Haberdashers Guild (1820). His place in the family business was taken by his younger brother Francis, who remained living over the shop for another twentyfive years.

The list reveals that the building (other than the shop and counting room) consisted of thirteen separate rooms. No mention is made of a privy – presumably because it was outside.

Even the shop had a feather bed – no doubt because an apprentice slept there overnight. Indeed it is the sheer number of beds which catches the eye. Assuming that a bolster would not have been appropriate to a single bed, it looks as though there were seven double beds, one single, plus a “straw pallice” i.e. palliasse. In theory sixteen people could be in occupation. From the description of the Hall household it is assumed that there were only two domestic servants “living in” – presumably in “Room No. 3 – Left hand” with its “Stump bedstead…a wainscoat chest of drawers, round table, square dressing glass” (i.e. mirror) and stove with “tin fender”.

The other rooms contain rather more furniture and benefit from “window curtains” (as distinct from “bed curtains”).

In the main bedroom there is a half tester bed (i.e. with a canopy) with what is described as “Harrateen furniture” (Harrateen being a type of woollen fabric, used here for the drapes, canopy and curtains). The main bed had a goose feather mattress and pillows – other mattresses appear to have been mostly “feather” (of unspecified origin) or “flock” or straw. “Scotch carpet” appears to have been laid in strips – presumably around the sides and bottom of the bed – in most rooms. Only the Dining Room had a Wilton carpet.

As the Hall family would only have justified half the beds, the rest were either an indication that rooms were let out (a common way of generating an income, then as now) or shows rather more than one apprentice or shop assistant living in.

I appreciate that a mere list can seem as dry as dust, but just in case any novel writers out there are looking for authenticity, here is the list of all the things at One London Bridge this week, 218 years ago.

Inventory of the Household Furniture Linen China & Books taken at Mr Wm. Hall, hosier

No.1 London Bridge May 15, 1794

No. 1 Right hand and spair back

A half-tester bedstead and crimson Harrateen Furniture

A goose-feather bed, bolster and pillow. 2 blankets and a quilt

A truckle bedstead – a feather bed. Bolster, three blankets and a quilt

A walnut chest of drawers. 6 stained chairs – canvas seats

A corner night chair. A table clock – black Ebony Case by Smolling (?).

3 slips of carpets. A Harrateen window curtain

No 2 Right hand front

A bath stove, serpentine fender. Shovel, tongs and fender

A 4-part bedstead, Linen furniture. A feather bed, bolster & pillow

3 blankets. A linen quilt. A pair glass in a walnut tree Gilt frame.

A walnut tree kneehole dressing table. A ditto low chest of drawers.

6 black dyed chairs – matted seat A square Scotch carpet 2 slips of Ditto.

A wainscoat. Pillow, Chair, Table.  5 paintings on Glass.

No 3 left hand

A Stump (?) bedstead. A feather bed bolster & pillow. 3 blankets a wainscoat chest of drawers a ditto round table. A square dressing glass

A Scotch carpet. A brass front stove, tin fender.

No 4 Back room

A high wire fender. A parrot cage. 3 Cloaths horses. A large round table

A (?) Lanthorn (lantern). Sundry boxes. A folding board and sundries

A hatch and stairs

No. 5 Spair back room

A 4 part bedstead with Green Damask furniture – a goose feather bed bolster,

2 pillows, a flock mattress. A blanket, a green damask window curtain.

A Mahogany one drawer table. An oval swing Dressing Glass.

4 Mahogany Chairs – horse hair seats. Sundry fossils and shells.

A  basin stand, a wainscoat bureau. A Scotch carpet to go around the bed.

No. 6 – Spair right hand front room

A bath stove. Shovel tongs and poker. A 4 part bedstead, mahogany feet.

Pillows. Printed cotton furniture. A feather bed, bolster, 2 pillows. A straw pallice.

3 blankets, a white cotton counterpane. 2 sets of cotton festoon window curtains.

A compress front mahogany Chest of drawers. A swing glass in a Mahogany frame.

A Mahogany double chest of drawers. 6 Mahogany chairs, horsehair seats.

A Scotch carpet and 2 bedsides (i.e. slips). A Mahogany basin stand Jug and Basin

A small ditto Cloaths Horse. Side bed. A small feather bed.

2 pillows, 2 flannel blankets a Marseilles quilt, an India picture. 2 China jars & Covers. 2 ….(?) & 2 pieces blown glass.

No. 7 – Spair left hand

An iron grate on hearth stones. A harrateen window curtain & rod

A Mahogany cloaths press with folding doors & drawer under.

A Mahogany bureau. A small ditto. An easy chair. Cushion. Linen case.

A Scotch carpet 2 setts of window curtains. ….….(?) A purple ditto.

Linen

4 Diaper Table cloths,2 small ditto. 4 Damask Breakfast Ditto

4 Diaper Table Cloths. 1 pair Lancashire Sheets

4 pairs Russia Ditto, 3 pair Ditto. 2 pair Lancashire Ditto, 2 odd sheets

8 pairs Pillowcases, 6 Diaper Hand Towels. 9 Huckerback towels – 2 Jack Ditto

2 old Ditto. 20 hand towels. A breakfast cloth – 2 Pudding Ditto

A cotton counterpane. A sett of blue check bed Curtains

Books

One vol. Folio ½ bound. 1 Ditto unbound. 5 Ditto 4to (Quarto). Plates to ditto. Miscellaneous Tracks (tracts) relating to Antiquity. Baileys Dictionary. Buchans Domestic Medicine. Thompsons Travels. Non-conformists Memorial, 2 volumes, Winchesters Tracks. Philadelphian Magazine. A Dictionary. Harveys Meditations. Herberts Poems. James Beauties (?). 36 bound books. Sundry pamphlets – 4 bound. Pashams Bible. Hymns & Psalms. A family bible. Crudens Concordances. Clark on the Testament.4 maps of Europe Asia Africa & America. An orrery. 3 Portraits framed & Glazed.

No.8 Spair back room

A fretwork Mahogany Tea Table. A Japan Ditto. A variable (?) one-draw Table.

A Draft Board. A slip of floor cloth. Sundry stones shells & fossils.

A painting of fruit, sundry shells in a drawer.

No. 9 Dining Room

Fender shovel Tongs & Poker. 3 sett of blue Damask festoon window curtains.

A steel stove.  2 oval pier glasses in carved gilt frames. A square pillar & claw Table.

2 square mahogany Dining Tables with 2 flaps.  A round Ditto.

A Mahogany Dumb Waiter. 6 Ditto Chairs Sattin hair seats brass nailed. 2 Elbow Ditto. A Wilton carpet.

A marble slab on a Mahogany stand – a Mahogany book Case, Glass Doors.

A Harpsichord in a walnut tree case by Kirkhoffe …(?), a violin, a flute, a high Mahogany Chair, a Ditto stool, a Japan’d Urn, a Mahogany stand, 2 waiters.

Cut(lery) and knife tray. Sundry Moths & insects framed & Glazed. Sundry Stones Shells & Fossils. A Canary Bird & Cage. A Mahogany Knife case.

A set of cruets with Silver Tops – 2 small miniature portraits.

No. 10 Kitchen

1 Trivet, 2 Crane Hooks. Footman(i.e. kettle stand) 2 Spits…(?) Dripping Pan Stand.

2 Gridirons. A copper Boiler. A Tea Kettle. 2 Porrage pots & covers. 3 Saucepans.

A chocolate pot. A pair of Princes metal candlesticks. 1 pr shorter Ditto.3 high brass Ditto. A brass ladle. A tin fish kettle plate & cover. 5 Saucepans & covers.

6 candlesticks. 10 patties. Loose tea ware (?). Bread basket. Japan Sugar Ditto. 3 Tin Cannisters. 14 Oval & round dishes.12 large plates. 6 small Ditto.

Sundry Queens Ware. 4 water (?) plates. A meat steamer(?) lined with Tin. A Deal table with 2 flaps.6 wood chairs. A pair of bellows. Salt box. Spice Box.2 sieves. A Japan Patent Jack. A Deal cupboard under Dresser. A Hatch on stairs.

No. 11 Store Room

An eight day clock in a walnut tree case by Wright. A Square Mahogany 2-flap Dining Table. A 2-flap Deal Table. A small cloaths horse. A plate warmer.

2 Frying pans. A footman (i.e. kettle stand). A tin Fish Kettle. A copper warming pan. A brass Ditto. A small Lanthorn (lantern). A Japan Tea Tray. 3 Flat irons & 2 stands.

A pewter(?) water dish. 4 round dishes. 10 plates. A tureen. A copper stew pan. A bell. Metal Saucepan.

1 brass 1 copper Urn. Part of a set of China containing 35 pieces. A tea-pot

Cover.6 cups & saucers. 6 blue and white cups & saucers. Basin. 6 candle

Basins & Saucers. 27 china plates. 3 Ditto bowls. A dragon basin. 2 mugs.

A tureen cover. 14 soup plates. 4 Dishes. 9 Patties. 4 basons.2 jugs. 4

Round dishes. 15 pieces of Queens Ware.4 Red dishes & sundry Jars. 2

Glass Decanters. 20 wine & jelly Glasses. A Tumbler. A Mahogany

knife tray. 2 Waiters. 1 Japan Ditto. Candle box, lamp, 2 pairs of plated

Candlesticks. A dish cross (?). 2 pairs of snuffers. A plated stand. A plated

Cruet (?) with 5 glasses. 12 brown-handled knives & forks.12 small Ditto.

10 forks.

Shop No. 12

A feather bed, bolster & pillows. 2 blankets & a rug.

No. 13 Cellar

A beer stand. 2 wash tubs. 2 pails. Sundry Garden Pots

All the Effects in the Foregoing Inventory is valued at One Hundred & Twenty Five pounds fifteen shillings & 6d by

John Fletcher

for Samuel Burton, Houndsditch.

The family interest in astronomy was reflected in the “orrery” – a clockwork mechanism used to show the movement of the planets around the sun, and named after the Earl of Orrery. Some years earlier the Earl had commissioned the instrument maker J Rowley to make just such an instrument copying the invention of George Graham.

The list of linen is interesting with its reference to “Diaper Table Cloths” – diaper meaning “diamond patterned”, Huckerback towels – which the Oxford Dictionary defines as being “made of stout linen or cotton fabric” and “Jack Towels” meaning roller towels. The family appear to have been musical, with a “harpsichord in a Walnut Tree case” along with a violin and a flute. Ornaments seem to have been dominated by shells and fossils,many of which are still in my possession, along with miniature portraits and “sundry Moths and Insects framed and glazed”.

Even the canary in its cage was listed in the inventory (in the Dining Room, next to the Mahogany Knife Case). The parrot cage in the Back Room was presumably without an inmate (since none was mentioned) but indicates the popularity of keeping caged birds as pets.

The total value of the entire household contents came to a modest £125.15s.6d. (the equivalent of perhaps £6,500) but this may well have reflected that at ten pounds per room this was a “family valuation”.

A picture showing One London Bridge (then, the postal address of premises North of the River Thames, immediately to the left of the Church of St Magnus the Martyr, and behind the old water wheel).

Many more details about One London Bridge can be found in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman but I find it fascinating to think that I actually know in which room in the house some of the items I now own were originally kept.

Apr 232018
 

Richard filled book after book with distances between towns which he visited, sometimes combined with the turnpike fees paid along the way. Here his list gives  the distances by road when travelling from Bath to Bristol, from Gloucester to Bath and from Bourton to both Stow-on-the-Wold and to London. Richard would also follow his progress on journeys by looking at the route on his linear maps, such as this one, showing a journey between Bristol and Banbury:

More lists – and what they meant – in the Journal of a Georgian Gentleman !

Apr 192018
 

My ancestor Richard Hall loved lists – even lists of lists. Quite why some of these lists have survived the centuries is a bit of a mystery. OK, it has helped that the males in my family have all been inveterate hoarders, but I still find it strange that at no stage  have any of the women in the family come along and binned the whole lot, as being a load of rubbish. Only now, 250 years, can you say that they have any historic value!

Take Richard’s shopping lists: I have dozens of them. This is an example, showing two sets of purchases from ‘Messrs Johnson’ – which I take to be the name of a shopping emporium in Burford in the Cotswolds (the nearest large town to where Richard lived).  Decipher it yourselves – and let me know if you hit any stumbling blocks and I will give you a transcription!

Apr 172018
 

My idea of packing for a few days away is to put a few things in a suitcase and hope that I have remembered something waterproof. My Dear Lady’s Wife has a rather different approach: she sits down and makes a list. (Boring!)

She would therefore empathise with ancestor Richard Hall: he never went anywhere without making a list – of how far the journey was, what it cost, how long it took, where he stayed, what he ate – and what he needed to pack for the journey. Take a five day trip, made in May 1784. Here is his packing list:

I will refrain from spoiling the fun by translating the handwriting. Suffice to say I like the idea that you had a silk waistcoat for evening-wear, quite separate from the white dining waistcoat, and from the cloth (‘cloath’) waistcoat and coat for outdoor wear.

The list ends with muflatees – fingerless gloves to help keep the hands warm in an unheated post chaise. And I am glad he remembered his night-caps – two of them!

Apr 142018
 

I am always amazed at how much it cost to travel in the Georgian era – at least, if you wanted to do it in style rather than in the back of a hay waggon. In 1784 Richard Hall and his wife set off for Bourton on the Water from London – a two-day trip involving meals and accommodation along the way. This is his note of the expenses:

So, he got a hackney carriage to take him from London Bridge to the coaching Inn (cost so far 1/6d) where he would have caught the Post Coach to Oxford, going via Maidenhead. The coach cost seventeen shillings per person, hence £1/14/-  for the pair of them. That would have included the cost of the overnight stop. He paid the coach man 4/- and tipped the porters for loading his luggage on and off the coach 4pence and 8pence. The Post Chaise to Burford set him back the odd sum of 15/7d with another 1/9d going to the driver. The stage to Bourton from Burford cost another 9/2d, plus a shilling for the driver and turnpike fees of 3/2d. In all, the actual cost of travel was £3/11/8d.

By the time you add on Dinner at Maidenhead and Supper at Oxford and what looks like a top-up of probably bread and cheese at Burford, the entire journey cost Richard £4/10/7d. Multiply that by perhaps eighty to allow for inflation and you get a total of just over £350 in modern money – making it comparable with  two first class rail tickets today!

Richard, being Richard, noted how many bags and cases accompanied him on the journey (eight items) and even lists all the clothes he required whenever he travelled away from home.

Travel costs were all duly entered in Richard’s expenses book – £24/3/2d in 1780 being the highest (because that was the year he got married and was making repeat journeys to woo his soon-to-be second wife). The expenses dropped to £7/17/10d the next year, £3/19/4 the year after  that and then went back up to £16/18/4d in 1783. In all, he records paying out  just under £65 over a four year period. It just goes to show, travel was never cheap….

Mar 222018
 

I am delighted to be giving a talk on Saturday 24 March at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. I have entitled my segment “Quakers, Quacks and Quadrilles”, and I will be one of three speakers covering aspects of life in Bath in the 1780s. In particular it links in with the publication of journals kept by a Quaker visitor to Bath by the name of Edmund Rack. He went on to start an agricultural show, which eventually grew into the Bath and West Show, attracting thousands of visitors every year to its site at Shepton Mallet. Back in the late 1700s it was held on a farm on the outskirts of Bath, and my ancestor Richard Hall used to visit the area and stay at the Bear Inn, next to the farm in question.

I will be looking at what it was like to visit Bath – the roads, the coaching inns and so on – as well as considering the entertainment available – from dancing to gambling, from promenading to eating. I will look at the spats between members of the medical profession, each vying with  the other to attract custom from the wealthy visitors, who were often riddled with gout or suffered from hypochondria.

If you are interested in what life was like in Fun City in the Georgian era and can get to Bath this Saturday, do come along to 16 Queen Square Bath BA1 2HN. The fun starts at 10.30 and the box office can be contacted by telephone on 01225  463362. Other contact details appear at the foot of the advertisement.