Feb 132019

Richard Hall’s diaries for 1780-85

I last kept a diary when I was at school, rather a lot of years ago, but I remember one thing about the diaries – Letts made them – and that was that they always showed the phases of the moon. Which struck me as slightly odd, because nowadays it matters very little whether it is a new moon, a full moon, or something in between. Unless you are a vampire. Or believe that you should only sow seeds in your vegetable garden if the moon is full.

But I suspect that our Georgian ancestors would have taken a very keen interest in the moon, not least because it could make a huge difference to travel times and to the cost of travel.

Take the trip from London to Bath – normally a two-day journey. The person arranging the coach would need to factor in an overnight stop, including dinner and breakfast the next day, when calculating the ticket price. But if it was a full moon, as long as the roads were in decent repair (i.e. no potholes, like there are in today’s roads, because a broken axle was best avoided!) the coach could simply keep going through the night. OK the carriage lamps were not exactly headlights and perhaps were more used to make sure people could see you rather than so that you could see them, but every little bit helps. Especially if you wanted to be able to see if there were people lurking in the undergrowth at the side of the road, ready to hold you up at gun point….

The highwayman – Stand and Deliver!

I have previously used these two paper cuts by Richard to show the difference which the Turnpike Trusts made to road transport in the middle of the 18th Century:

Before: note the front wheel about to crash down over a large rock…

After: – a smoother road surface

The attempted Jacobite uprising in 1745 drew attention to the appalling state of the roads – troop movements were hampered because equipment got bogged down as the army tried to move north. It led to a great push to improve the roads throughout England, funded by each locality via tolls raised at turnpikes across the land. Roads became safer, rides became more comfortable…

 So I was interested to see that Richard Hall recorded a novelty (for him) in his diary: a night-time trip from London on the Gloucester coach. “Thursday 23 March 1780, set out in the Gloucester Coach after Dinner, to travel all night – was thru the goodness of God very kindly preserv’d”. There was a frost and Richard remarked that it was cold in the morning. In the early hours of Friday 24 March they reached Oxford at a quarter past two, took an early breakfast, got to Burford between 7 and 8, and had a second breakfast. I imagine that he then changed coaches, because he got to Bourton on the Water at midday. (“Oh what occasion for thankfulness. A frost, cold day, rain at night”).

On checking the records, I see that there had been a full moon at around the time of his journey. I suspect that he must have been pretty knackered after travelling all night – unless the rattling monotony of the coach sent him to sleep. He certainly didn’t have a busy schedule the next day – the only appointment was to “take teas with Mr Palmer”.

I am sure that the overnight journey would not have been attempted if there had been no moon to guide the way – a reminder of just how much the Georgians were dependent upon planetary movements. In the summer Richard got up 15 minutes earlier every week from the beginning of April, meaning that he would be rising at 4 a.m. by the end of August – but in the winter he hibernated, unless, of course, the moon was full so that he could prowl the Gloucester countryside…

Sep 262018

228 years ago my ancestor Richard Hall noted that following the passing of the Duke of Cumberland, there was a period of mourning at Court which was to last six weeks. The entry echoes the way that my ancestor always referred to the monarch as “good” King George. He clearly approved of the King, sympathised with him over his bouts of illnesses, and previously had remarked whenever there were signs of recovery.

DoC 001 I am not quite clear why the period of general mourning was delayed, since Prince  Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, actually shuffled off this mortal coil on 18 September. Perhaps it took a week for anyone to notice…. the Prince was the son of Prince Frederick, and was 44 at the date of his death. I like the man because of his colourful affairs. When caught in flagrante with the wife of Lord Grosvenor he was sued for damages in crim. con. and ended up having to touch up his brother (the King) for ten thousand pounds, plus costs of three thousand pounds. Lawyers, even then, didn’t come cheap!

On the debit side, he helped popularise Brighton by introducing the Prince of Wales to the delights of sea bathing and general carousing, away from the court of George III. I don’t think I can forgive him for that, because Brighton has been a nightmare for motorists ever since…

What else was happening to ancestor Richard Hall on This Day in History? Well, in 1780 it was “a fine day, very warm”, but Richard omits saying what he did with his time so he may well have been sitting around with his feet up, catching the late autumn rays! The following year was positively hectic, as he caught the Oxford Stage and got there,  in safety, in time for a spot of Supper. It was a fine day mind you, but “very Cold”. In 1782 it was the night of the Harvest Supper (“pretty fine day, mild”). The following year was “a delightful fine day” spent taking tea with Mr Freeman, dining with Mrs Snooke,and attending a sermon taken from Jeremiah  2, part 31. Things hadn’t improved by the following year when it was ” very wet in the morning, after, part dull, fine-ish with some rain in the evening.” So, nothing exceptional  ever happened on 26 September, and then to cap it all, Richard would have had to close his shop just because the Duke had popped his clogs….

It is however interesting to compare and contrast what Richard had to say, with the comments made by his brother-in-law William Snooke. Richard always wrote about the weather, whereas William never once tells us if it raining or shining. Instead, he busied himself on 26 September 1775 saying that he”went afield and had a syllabub instead of Tea”. That day he also mended the stucco, and paid two shillings to Thomas Reynolds for half a hundred crayfish which he had “had some time ago” and forgotten to pay for! The year before that he had attended Burford Fair, while “Mrs Dunn and Mrs Roper went to Cirencester in a chaise a little after 8 o’clock”. He appears to have had a full house that night, because he notes that  “Mr Willis and Mr Whiting also supp’d, and slept in our house in one bed”. (Mind you, I can still remember  the family putting up people in a shared bed, usually end to end!).

Good old William: he always jotted down if he had a memorably fine  meal, and on this day 1768 he “din’d on a Gammon of Bacon, Apple Dumplings and Fillet of Veal”. It must have put him in a good mood, because he promptly gave his wife a present of five guineas, paid one shilling and sixpence for a hare, and “gave an old man at Mr Freeman’s one shilling.”

Somehow I get the impression that William always enjoyed 26 September (and every other day of the year come to that) rather more than Richard did!

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.


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


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.

Travel distances – and yet another list from the 1790s ….

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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 !

Shopping lists, 1790/1

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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!

The cost of travel in the 18th Century

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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….

Apr 182017

In an earlier  post I mentioned about Richard worrying about events around him – none more so than the British weather.

Here is a page reviewing the weather trends in 1794/5:Scan_20170321The page opens with the comment  that January 1794 saw considerable frosts and that it was slippery walking. At the latter end of January there was much snow – which lay on the ground. The weather was described as “sharp”. March saw much wet weather – occasionally it was very fine, and with very little frost. However, June and July saw “fine hay-making”. It was very warm, a very dry season. Richard notes that rain was “much wanted” and that he only got a small crop of gooseberries and currants (“much blited”). The summer saw much Lightning and Thunder but there was a fine harvest. Richard states that the year ended  with heavy snowfalls: “December 24th 1794 a frost set in, much snow in the night of 25 December – held on ’til Tuesday January 27th.” In other words snow lay on the ground for the period of an entire month. The thaw then set in “and at night a great flood” Typical British weather – it then turned cold again, with snow, and it froze very hard.

Ten days later on February 9th on “Thursday morning about 8 o’clock a second flood took place, greater than the former. About this time great floods were very general in places throughout the kingdom – great damage done to bridges,  a large number of them. A distressing time”. Apparently the flood at Cambridge was almost a foot higher than the remarkable one of October 1762, while the flood in Oxford and its neighbourhood on February 7th was “so great as has not been known for 22 years”. This suggests to me that Richard gleaned this information from reports in the newspaper and then wrote things up in his diary – and indeed some of the weather entries relate to far-distant places such as St Petersburg and Berlin.

The next page of the day book is taken up entirely with his records for bottling off currant wine, before meandering off into a memorandum about powers of attorney, the sale of £500 South Sea Stock intended for the benefit of Horsleydown School in London (of which he was a trustee) and more payments to have his short and longcase clocks cleaned.

This particular note book ends with a review of the days on which he did his laundry – or rather, as her put it, the days when he “wash’d a great wash”. March 27 1794 was apparently warm enough to do the first laundry of the Spring – presumably because the bedding could be hung out on the hedges to dry – and was repeated on June 2nd. The next time he did any washing was a double dose on September 10th and 11th. That seems to be it for the year, so unless he had rather a lot of sets of bedding that would suggest a change of sheets just three times a year…. no wonder the Georgians got bed bugs!



Apr 162017


My ancestor was a real worrier – and the older he got the more he worried – and the more he filled his diaries with notes about what concerned him. Those concerns spilled out into his collection of day books and informal jottings – and here is one example.

It starts off with the comment that 1792 saw “very catching Haymaking  – good crops”. This was followed up with the words “Very Catching Harvest – large crops”. He saw a pretty good crop of fruits – “little Wall fruit, but large quantity of Gooseberries and Currants. Many plumbs and a great many damsons.” So far, so good (and I assume that ‘wall fruit’ are those grown espalier-style against a wall, such as apples, figs and peaches).

The next entry was made a year later: 1793 January and February it was “very sickly”  – particularly in the village where Richard Hall lived (Bourton on the Water) and the villages adjacent. A sore throat and fever prevailed. The seasons seemed ‘out of synch’ in the sense that there was very little frost and hardly any snow. Then in March it turned very cold, with high winds. Come April 1st  it was a very snowy day – more snow than at any time all winter long.

Richard saw it as a “melancholy time for War and great failures” – first from country banks and then to numbers of individuals. It was, he surmised, “perhaps the greatest number of bankruptcies in a short space of time that was ever known.”

May was remarkably cold, but the haymaking and harvest were good and then Richard appears to have cheered up – the wheat harvest was particularly good, there was a medium crop of fruit, and the weather turned warm in October and stayed mostly mild until the end of the year.

Punctuating these comments were the facts that on April 1st 1793 Mr Fox cleaned his upstairs clock, and came back on January 6th 1794 to clean the short clock (I assume that this was his bracket clock – unfortunately no longer in the family). He seems to have lost faith in William Fox and his ability to sort out his clocks, because that summer he resorted to having the upstairs clock cleaned by Mr Hardyman. Elsewhere he records that the cost of cleaning the clock was half a crown (2 shillings and sixpence). Mr Hardyman was certainly a handy fellow in the village – he also acted as barber! Richard remarks that on July 2nd 1792 he began to shave with My Hardyman – and in those days a shave was a probably a whole-of-head experience

The next page of his jottings was taken up with a couple of shopping lists – the things he needed to get from Mr Johnson’s shop. In case you wish to do your own deciphering of Richard’s scrawl – here it is:

Scan_20170320 (2)

In subsequent years, as war with France dragged on, and the National Debt grew ever-larger, Richard’s jottings became even more troubled and haphazard, ending up with pages and pages of scrawl about the iniquity of Income Tax, about “the Irish Question” and about the sky-rocketing price of bread. As I said at the start, poor Richard, he was a worrier all the time!

Mar 172017

The diary entry of my ancestor Richard Hall, for March 1800, reads: “The Queen Charlotte Man of War took fire and blew up – it is feared not less than 700 lives are lost.” It was typical of many such diary entries of my ancestor, who seemed to get more and more agitated in his old age about accidents and calamities around the world.

The destruction by fire of the British warship HMS Queen Charlotte on 17 March 1800 was one of the most disastrous naval accidents of the era. The flagship of Admiral Lord Keith was anchored off the Italian port of Livorno (otherwise known as Leghorn) in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It had been intended that the ship would sail to capture the island of Cabrona from the French; but the Admiral and a number of the ship’s officers had gone ashore for the night. At about six in the morning a match, which had been kept alight to fire a signal gun, accidentally set ablaze some hay left on the half-deck. There were some 900 men on board and for five hours they struggled to get the blaze under control. In vain they flooded water into the lower decks to stop the fire spreading. Equally in vain, they tried to hurl buckets of water up into the blazing sails and rigging.

At about 11 in the morning the fire reached the massive gunpowder store and blew the ship to smithereens. 673 of the officers and crew on board perished, with only 165 survivors being picked up. The British Register ‘State of Public Affairs’ for April 1800 recounts the story:

We have the painful duty to state the loss of his majesty’s ship Queen Charlotte, of 100 guns, captain Todd, which was burnt off Leghorn on the 17th of March, when the commander and nearly 800 of the crew perished by the explosion. Vice admiral Lord Keith, whose flag was flying on board of her, was, at the time, with some of the officers, providentially on shore. Twenty commissioned and warrant officers, two servants, and 141 seamen, were the whole of the persons who escaped destruction. The particulars are detailed by Mr John Braid, carpenter of the Queen Charlotte: as he was dressing himself about six o’clock, he heard throughout the ship a general cry of ” Fire.” He then states the particulars until half past ten o’clock, when, finding all efforts to extinguish the flames impossible, lie jumped from the jib boom, and swam to an American boat approaching the ship, by which he was picked up and put into a Tartan, then in the charge of lieutenant Stewart, who had come off to the assistance of the ship.

On the morning of the accident. Lord Keith being, as above stated, on shore at Leghorn, had the mortification of discovering the Queen Charlotte on fire four or five leagues at sea. This sight rendered Lord Keith almost frantic – he immediately gave orders for all the vessels and boats to put off, and every assistance to be given; and in this service he was zealously seconded by the Austrian General, and all ranks in Leghorn. They came to an anchor, as the wind blew strongly off the land, but the flames were so rapid that very little hopes could be entertained of saving her. Between eight and nine o’clock the masts and rigging caught fire, and made a most awful blaze; the crew, however, cut the masts by the board ; and, going over the ship, they no longer threatened mischief; but the fire had taken strong hold of the body of the vessel, and continued to rage. The guns began to go off, and the people in the boats and other vessels, who had gone from Leghorn, were much alarmed for fear of the shot, that they would not approach the ship.

It was an ignominious end to a ship named after the wife of George III, and built in 1790 only ten years earlier. In 1796 she had been Admiral Howe’s victorious flagship at the Battle of the Glorious Ist of June, and it is shown here guns blazing away at two French ships of the line. Six were captured and one was sunk.

The Glorious First of June was the first major fleet battle of the French Revolutionary War, 1793-1801. Fast forward to 1800 and it must have been a most appalling experience for Admiral Keith to have to watch as his pride and joy went to its watery grave in a ball of flame.

On the left: a carving of Queen Charlotte in full regalia, in miniature. It was probably made before the full-size carving for the figurehead was commissioned, and would have been used to obtain Royal approval to the design.