Nov 282012

I like this Thomas Rowlandson print from 1811 entitled  ‘A Midwife going to a Labour’.

A night watchman is half asleep in his box, a chimney sweep scurries down the street with a big yawn, and the corpulent midwife hurries through the howling gale with her lantern in one hand – and her bottle of booze in the other.  She wears pattens (metal shoe blocks to protect against the filth of the cobbled streets) and a be-ribboned straw hat over a white cap.

The Eighteenth Century was marked by a long-running dispute between trained male doctors and midwifes and their more traditional female (untrained) counterparts. Cruikshank reflects this division in his half-male, half-female midwife, drawn in 1783.

While looking for material for this post I came across these solid silver ‘forceps’ – apparently late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, and probably French.

They show the stork, its body wrapped in a snake, signifying medicine; opening the forceps reveal a baby cocooned safely inside. Apparently they would probably not have been used for delivering the baby, or even cutting the cord, but for threading ribbons  through baby garments after they had been removed and then washed. They appear on the site of Phisick – Medical Antiques.


Forceps were originally invented by  the Chamberlen family of doctors – Huguenots who fled to England from France in the latter half of the 16th Century. Astonishingly they kept their invention secret within the family for 150 years, One of their number, Pierre Chamberlen, became obstetrician-surgeon to Queen Henrietta, wife of King Charles Ist. So secret was the device that it would be brought into the birthing room in a box; everyone apart from the mother would have to leave the room; and the mother herself was blindfolded! When Pierre died his widow hid his collection of forceps under the floorboards of their home, and they remained concealed there for  the next 130 years! But by the middle of the Eighteenth Century  forceps were widely available, as seen in these two images from  the The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: the first shows the Chamberlen forceps in their collection, and the other is a print by William Smellie from 1754 showing the forceps in use.




Nov 262012

In the Eighteenth century lotteries were often used to raise money for specific “good causes” – such as the construction of a new bridge across the Thames at Westminster,  or to establish the British Museum at Montagu House. Various public funding exercises were arranged. Even military campaigns were part-funded via the State Lottery.  In the case of James Cox, a jeweller who went monumentally bankrupt because of the high cost of his unsold stock, a lottery was also used (with Parliamentary consent) in the hope that the money raised would clear the bankruptcy. (It didn’t, and the be-jewelled automata made by James and intended for the Far Eastern market had to be sold for scrap).

My ancestor Richard regularly forked out twenty five pounds (shared with his brother in law) for a lottery ticket and on at least one occasion he won a prize. Here are the actual lottery tickets he purchased in 1753 (top) and 1740 (bottom).


And the actual handbill issued by the ticket seller? Richard collected that also:

The final sentence drew attention to the fact that you could insure against a blank being drawn – usually by paying a fee to a “Moroccan” – in other words a spiv offering odds, and wielding a red Moroccan purse in which he kept the money he earned.

Alternatively punters could go into the lottery insurance office to take out insurance – as in this 1777 print (shown courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library ):

As for the actual drawing of the lottery winning ticket this is a print entitled “Coopers Hall, Lottery Drawing”, from Ackermanns Microcosm of London”, dating from 1809. It may not have the shrieking crowds and razzmatazz associated with 21st century lotteries on the television, but it clearly was a public spectacle – if only to ensure that it was seen to be open and fair.

I cannot be sure, but I am fairly certain that Richard Hall ticked the box marked “no publicity” when he won his share of the lottery prize …. and then went off to spend it on fast women and slow carriages!

Nov 242012

I am pleased to say that I have taken delivery of a shiny pile of paperbacks of the Journal of a Georgian Gentleman and am delighted to be able to offer them for sale to UK readers at a price of nine pounds plus £2.20 postage. Alternatively if you would prefer to buy via Amazon (they take credit cards – I don’t) you can find it at  where it is cunningly disguised as a hardback. It’s a long story. Amazon will not allow me to list it as a paperback because it is not available from anyone else. So, I have to call it a paperback version of the hardback…

For anyone in the States who is interested, send me an e-mail to  (I am coming to the States in the next couple of weeks and will be happy to bring copies to post while I am over there). The price will be approximately fifteen dollars plus US postage, but that is about half of what I have to charge if I am posting from the U.K.



And it is also on Kindle! Come to that, it’s on Kobo and just about every other platform I could think of. Not as many illustrations as there are in the printed version of the book, but that is because of download time. Besides, you know you deserve the printed version, and it is nearly Christmas. Mind you, the Kindle at £2.56 (or fractionally over four dollars) isn’t bad but I thought you deserved a choice!

Meanwhile I am busy giving talks on Life in Georgian England, so  my pile of paperbacks is steadily diminishing!

Nov 232012

In my first blog on Lady Archer I explained that both she and Lady Buckinghamshire ran Faro Banks at their homes, rotating play from one night to the next. Punters up in Town would come  round by invitation, often arriving at eleven o’clock and staying to gamble until  the not-so-early hours. One of the unfortunates to be ensnared in the gambling trap was the unfortunate Henry Weston.

Henry came from a respectable Irish family. He came to England in the 1790’s and got a job working for a Mr Cowan,who had links with the Army. In 1794 Mr Cowan had to go abroad, and gave his (apparently trustworthy) employee an unlimited order to draw upon his bank. Henry was inveigled to abuse the trust put in him and to take out funds for use as stake money for games of Faro. The young man lost the lot. He therefore forged a cheque, in the name of General Tonyn, and managed to obtain ten thousand pounds in cash. It lasted him just two nights at the Faro tables…

Henry managed to cover this up for a while – he still paid the General his dividends when they became due, but he became more and more desperate for cash. He approached his cousin, Sir Hugh Walter, and suggested that he could assist him by investing money which Sir Hugh had inherited. That money was also gambled away in next to no time. Henry then persuaded a young woman to impersonate the sister of General Tonyn and to accompany him to the Bank of England and to sign a warrant as the General’s attorney. The ruse worked, and the couple left the Bank a hundred thousand pounds richer.

But guess what, Henry managed to blow the lot at the Faro table! Realizing that his time was up he headed for Liverpool in an effort to flee the country for America. As the authorities began to catch up with him he attempted to commit suicide by slashing his throat. The attempt failed. He was caught and committed to the Old Bailey and his trial took place in May 1796. The jury found him guilty of forgery and he was sentenced to death. In his address to the court he apparently made a most touching statement:

“My Lord and gentlemen of the jury, the verdict which has now been passed upon me I hear with calmness and resignation, which I am happy in possessing upon so awful an occasion. I am, my Lord, as my appearance may easily show, a very young man. I hope the numerous young men who surround me will take example by my fate, and avoid those excesses, and fatal vice of gambling, which have brought me to ruin and disgrace, and I hope too that those further advanced in years will be cautious not to confine with too unlimited a control the management of their concerns to the care of inexperienced young men. The justice of my condemnation I acknowledge, and shall submit to it with patience and, I hope, with fortitude.”

Henry Weston went to the gallows on 6th July 1796. His death was a harsh reminder of the perils of gambling.

Faros Daughters, by Isaac Cruikshank,
courtesy of the British Museum

A prosecution for running illegal gambling activities was brought against Lady Buckinghamshire and three of her cronies, and each of them was fined fifty pounds. The Morning Post of January 12 1800 says “Society has reason to rejoice in the complete downfall of the Faro Dames, who were so long the disgrace of human nature. Their die is cast and their old tricks no longer avail.” The days of the Faro Ladies were indeed nearly over. Public opinion had turned against them and custom dried up.

In the caricature above I am not quite sure why Cruikshank shows Fox, instantly recognizable with his stubble, sitting in the stocks, half-hidden under the petticoats of the buxom Mrs Concannon. In the centre is Lady Archer (unmistakable with that nose in profile!) and to the left Mrs Sturt. Lady Buckinghamshire is shown, with her bare posterior, at the rear of the picture. The ‘Faro Daughters’ were not actually put in the pillory, but the ridicule must have been overwhelming for the four concerned.

One wonders how many other foolish young men had been ruined by the illegal activities of the Faro’s Daughters, which had gone unchallenged for so many years – presumably because the ladies in question were titled and well-connected.

Lady Archer died in 1801.

Nov 212012

In my previous post I explained that Lady Sarah Archer was widowed at the age of 37 when her husband Andrew, 2nd Lord Archer, Baron of Umberslade, died on 18th April 1778 . She was left to bring up three (possibly four) teenage daughters, She had no inclination to re-marry (why would she: if she remained a widow she kept her late husband’s money; if she re-married all control would pass to her new husband).

She had expensive tastes – she was a keen horsewoman, she ran a fine carriage and set of matching greys, and as I showed previously, she had a gambling habit to make the eyes water. Her daughters simply could not wait to escape her clutches, and her sixteen year old daughter the Honourable Sarah Archer (born 19 July 1762) wasted no time in becoming the wife of the 5th Earl of Plymouth. He rejoiced under the name of none other than Other Hickman Windsor. Their marriage took place on  20 May 1778 (one month after her father died)and gave rise to this fascinating trio of cartoons, shown on the British Museum site.

In the first, entitled ‘The Happy Escape or Arch-runaways’, Lady Archer is shown whip in hand driving her high phaeton, but drawn not by the four greys but by her four daughters. Three have slipped their reins and are running off, leaving one in harness. The Museum description gives us “Lady Archer, an angry harridan, slashes her whip at the runaways. On the side of the gig is an ‘A’ in an escutcheon surmounted by three crossed arrows and a baron’s coronet. On the extreme right is a signpost, one arm of which points ‘To Longsl . . . .’ The other, in the direction which the daughters are taking, ”To Bruton St.’ All the ladies wear the broad-brimmed hats with high circular crowns which had just become fashionable. Lady Archer wears a driving-dress with a triple cape and a large shirt-frill. It is dated 19 March 1788.”

According to the Museum the daughter still in bondage is Harriet. The leader of the pack of runaways (shown in back view) is Maria, the next Anne, and the last is Sarah Archer.

The second in the series of etchings is entitled ‘The Vain Pursuit’

It shows Lady Archer riding astride one of her daughters, using her whip to lash her backside, while her rather stoutly-built sister Miss West accompanies her, holding a poodle and riding a greyhound. The abandoned high phaeton appears in the background, while on the roadside, behind the hedge three fugitive daughters are in hiding. The front one says “Just & steady to our purpose”. The sign post points towards Plymouth (as in the Earl) and to Dis(s)ipation. The print appeared ten days after the first one was published.

The third in the trilogy is dated 1st May 1788 and is entitled ‘So, so, the Race was for a Husband.’ It shows a somewhat obese Earl Plymouth escorting  Hon. Sarah Archer with his arm in hers as they walk along a path towards a country church.  In the porch are the vicar and his clerk. Plymouth says:
‘See the Vicar waits to Join

Plymouth to Archer all Divine’
She replies:
‘Let us now to Church repair

Hymens bonds I had rather bear

Than a Mothers surly care’
Her two sisters walk immediately behind them, hand in hand.   On the extreme right Lady Archer,  walks off saying:
‘You may go if you will

For I shall have my fill

Of Mirth & of Pleasure

Without End or Measure

So take your own way’

The trio of prints clearly show disapproval of Lady Archer’s maternal skills – someone who had tyrannized her daughters and was largely indifferent to anyone’s happiness other than her own. In fact her daughter Sarah had three children by Plymouth, and following his death she married William Pitt Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst of Arracan, and had four more children by him. She died in 1838

Her sister the Hon.Maria Archer married Henry Howard , on 4 November 1788. She died exactly one year later. The other sister Harriet married Edward Bolton Clive in 1790.

In my next post I will revert to the mother’s gambling addiction, and to her connection with the death of poor Mr Weston…

Nov 192012

This is the first part of a trilogy of posts linked to one of the 18th Century’s most flamboyant (one might say fragrant…) women, Lady Sarah Archer. Boy, was she loved/hated by cartoonists of the day! You cannot get much more vicious than this  splendid caricature by the cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson, (1756-1827) dating from 1792 (when the subject was just over fifty years old).

It is entitled “Six Stages of Mending a Face” and is ‘dedicated with Respect to the Rt Hon Lady Archer’. Huh, if that is respectful….! It shows her as a bald- headed old crone, putting in a glass eye, inserting a set of dentures, applying make-up and then appearing (bottom left) as a somewhat younger woman. What had she done to deserve such treatment?

Another  rather kinder portrait was  done in 1781 when she was forty. It was by Charles Bretherton and appears on the British Museum site.

Kinder maybe, but it reminds me rather of Maggie Thatcher caricatures: she is shown with a distinctively hooked nose – and with far too much make-up. It is unclear why the likes of Rowlandson,  Cruikshank and Gillray so hated women wearing rouge – to modern eyes why shouldn’t she, perhaps a plain Jane, make the most of herself? But over and over again she is ridiculed for her reliance on cosmetics.

The Morning Post at the end of 1788 announced, incorrectly, that Lady Sarah had died. The edition of January 5th 1789 contained an apology saying “The Lady Archer whose death  was announced in this paper of Saturday, is not the celebrated character whose cosmetic powers have long been held in public estimation”

Three days later it reported: “It is said that the dealers in Carmine and Dead White as well as perfumers in general have it in contemplation to present AN ADDRESS to Lady Archer in gratitude for her not having DIED according to a late alarming report.”

This is the background to a fine picture of the grande dame heading for her favourite cosmetic shop in Pall Mall.To give it its full title “The Portland Place a-r.  [archer] Driving without a beau to R-d’s perfume warehouse P-ll M-ll: 

Lady Sarah is, as always, shown driving a very high gig, poised on high springs, with four horses; she was famous for driving matching greys. She wears a feathered hat and a coat of masculine cut – hall-marks which were always picked on by cartoonists who hated her ‘unfeminine’ appearance. On the side of the gig is an “A” surmounted by a baron’s coronet. “A” also appears on the harness of the horses.

Behind the horses on the right is the large glass window of a shop, above which a sign reads “PERFUME WAREHOUS[E]”. Over the door is written “Italian Washes, Ivory Teeth, Mouse Eye Brows, &c.”; and “The Best French Roush”. In the window various articles are exhibited: glass jars, one inscribed “Marsh”, switches of hair, a mask, and a fool’s cap, &c. Its date: 18 June 1782

Her main crime would therefore appear to be that she was a woman of independent means, out on the streets without a male companion, and handling her horses with considerable skill and dexterity. She had been born as Sarah West in 1741, the daughter of a Warwickshire landowner and Member of Parliament. When she was twenty she married Andrew Archer,  who a few years later became 2nd Lord Archer, Baron of Umberslade. Burke’s Peerage suggests that she bore him three daughters (Harriet, Maria and Sarah) while cartoonists refer to a fourth daughter (Anne) Her one son was born in 1781 but he died in infancy – certainly prior to the death of his father the Baron in 1788.

As a widow of 37, with teenage daughters of a rebellious nature, she cannot have had it easy. The story goes that she was so addicted to gambling that she started to raid the children’s inheritance to fund her gambling habit, and that as a result the daughters could not wait to get out from under her feet and escape from her household. This gave rise to a series of cartoons which will be featured in the next blog, but I haven’t finished with the mother and her gambling ways yet…

In this 1792 Gillray cartoon entitled ‘Modern Hospitality, or a Friendly Party in High Life’ the harridan is shown, in riding habit, next to the Prince Regent. She wins the trick with the Jack – the implication being that she has cheated, hence the sub- title “The Knave Wins All”. On the extreme right, the Whig Leader Charles James Fox shows his dismay, while underneath the caption reads:

“To those earthly Divinities who charmed 20 years ago….Woman! Woman! Everlasting is you power over us, for in youth you charm away our Hearts, and in your after-years you charm away our purses.”

The etching appears courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

By then Lady Archer was well-known as one of the Faro Ladies;  along with Lady Buckinghamshire and others she held soirees (sometimes disguised as theatrical evenings) taking it in turns to use each others houses. They were really no more than high-class gambling dens (illegal). Men had their clubs such as White’s, but women would not be allowed there, so they made their own arrangements…. and added to their pin money by ‘adjusting’ the odds in their favour. Their preferred game was Faro, a card game where punters gamble on the next card to be turned up. In theory at any rate it offered good odds to gamblers – but not if the order in which the cards were turned up could be manipulated in favour of the Faro Bank. The Faro Ladies seemed to be expert manipulators! On one occasion it was alleged that someone had stolen the bank, although this may have been an allegation made by Lady Buckinghamshire to elicit sympathy. It gave rise to this cartoon, shown courtesy of the British Museum:

It shows Lord Buckinghamshire rushing in to inform his wife that they were ruined because “the Bank’s stole” and offering to fetch a horse and saddle. Lady Buckinghamshire is aghast.

“The bank stole, my Lord – Why, I secur’d it in the housekeepers room myself! This is what comes of admitting Jacobins in the house! Ah the Cheats! Seven hundred gone smack – without a single Cock of the Cards!”

Over on the extreme right Lady Archer, clad as usual in red, remarks “Stole – Bless me, why a Lady had her Pocket picked at my house last Monday”

The excessive gambling did not go down well with the public – it seemed too much like the excesses across the Channel which gave rise to the Revolution in France. There was disquiet that the Faro Ladies were flouting the law and getting away with it because of their high status. Things reached a head with the death of a young man who attended  these Faro parties, by the name of Henry Weston (more of him in a later blog).

Lord Chief Justice Kenyon had got fed up with the antics of these ladies and their ‘Faro’s Bank’ and the ruination visited upon their followers, announcing:

“If any prosecutions are fairly brought before me, and the parties are justly convicted, whatever may be their rank or station in the country, though they should be the finest ladies in the land, they shall certainly exhibit themselves at the pillory.”

This gave rise to more cartoons, such as these:

In this caricature  she is literally ‘being pilloried’ for her devotion to gaming at Faro (Lady Buckingham on the left, Lady Archer on the right). Entitled ‘Exaltation of Faro’s Daughters’ it shows a card reading “Cure for Gambling. Published by Lord Kenyon in the Court of Kings Bench May 9th 1796”. The cartoonist is of course James Gillray and appears courtesy of the the National Portrait Gallery.

Another Gillray features Lord Kenyon flogging Lady Buckinghamshire as she is tied to the back of a cart, while her friend Lady Sarah Archer languishes in the pillory.

Again, this picture comes courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Lady Archer  features in this spankingly good print entitled “The Royal Joke, or Black Jacks Delight” from 1788 – she is the figure at the left in the red riding habit.


She appears to be featured in much the same outfit in this final (Gillray) tribute to her, from September 1791, entitled “Finishing Touches”. It shows Lady Sarah at her Dressing Table applying rouge by the bucket-load, while she wears a smart if somewhat manly garb – the top hat softened by tall feathers, the cuffs on her tightly cut riding jacket fashionably buttoned à la marinière, the high collar and braided lapels all typical of the period. Outside through the window can be seen her high phaeton.

More of Lady Archer and her children in my next post…

Nov 172012

Reading about the history of preserving foods in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries is to marvel at the differences between the French and the English. The French experimented with preserving food in glass jars. Not just any old food, but esoteric delights such as “A matelot of eels, carp and pike, with veal sweetbreads, mushrooms and anchovy butter, the whole cooked in white wine”.

An Appert flask, courtesy of Wikipedia

The British on the other hand took over the invention, substituted metal canisters (shortened to ‘cans’) for the glass bottles, and then, well, then waited another forty years for someone to invent the can opener!

If this proves nothing else, it demonstrates the French love of fine food, and the eccentricity of the British in coming up with an invention no-one knew how to use.


First: the French. Napoleon knew only too well the adage that an army fights on its stomach. For centuries it had been a problem for armies everywhere – where to get the food which your troops can rely on. If you are invading Russia or Spain in the depths of winter you cannot expect to live off the land you are conquering. In much the same way you won’t get the best out of your men if you drag them halfway across Europe on a diet of salted meat and weevil-infested dried biscuits. So Napoleon issued a challenge: come up with an effective way of storing and preserving food and the State would award a prize of 12,000 francs.

The challenge was taken up by Nicolas Appert, a man who had trained not just as a brewer and a confectioner but also as a chef. If anyone was experienced in food preparation and storage, and had experience of the effect of heat on food, it was our man Appert. What he discovered was that slow cooking of the food, without letting the air get to it, and immediately sealing it in a tightly stoppered bottle, would enable the contents to be kept for a very long time. What he did not know (because Pasteur did not come up with his ideas on microbes for another half century or so) was why this was the case.

He experimented with all types of food, from meats to vegetables and even milk. He got the local glass-maker to come up with wide-necked bottles to enable him to fill them more readily. A loose cork was fitted and the jar with its contents was placed in a bath of heated water. As the contents expanded the air in the bottle was driven off; the jar was then sealed tightly using cork tops held down by wire and sealed with wax to stop any air getting in, and the whole thing was then re-heated to boiling point.

For 15 years Appert toiled over his hot stove, often having to wait months to see if the food and taste quality were correctly preserved. By 1804 he had a fairly shrewd idea how long each food type needed to be cooked. From 1806 onwards the French navy started evaluating the fruits of his labours (or more prosaically, they ate the contents of the jars and lived to tell the tale). Finally, in 1810 Appert published the results of his hard work. It was translated into English as: ‘The Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances for Several Years’.

It wasn’t the catchiest of titles but it sold well and more to the point it was enough to win him his prize. Both the French Army and the Navy placed orders for his delicacies. Napoleon was on the move, no longer limited to spring and summer campaigns!

Much of the award was ploughed back into developing a food processing factory (ironically it was to be destroyed a couple of years later when invading English troops razed it to the ground in 1814). Undeterred, the factory was rebuilt and although Appert died a relatively poor man in 1841,his family grew wealthy on the eventual profits. The family factory existed into the 20th Century.

The English version of Appert’s book was read by a man called Peter Durand. He could see the problems of spoilage and breakages caused by the glass jars breaking or leaking, and decided that what the world really wanted was the tin can. Unbreakable, lighter than glass, stackable, and capable of being made in all shapes and sizes, Durand would have known that for upwards of a century tin from the mines in Cornwall had been plated onto iron to produce a rust-proof surface. He may even have known that Dutch fishermen had been sticking pieces of salmon (first boiled and then smoked) into tin boxes since the 1770’s.

Whatever, Durand took out a patent for his sealed can in 1810 and then approached the London iron foundry of John Hall and Bryan Donkin and persuaded them to carry our trials in terms of how hot, and for how long, the food should be prepared. Donkin and Hall were so impressed they bought out Durand’s patent. They tested the soldered seams, and by 1812 the tin can was ready for production. The world’s first canning factory opened in Bermondsey the following year, under the name of Donkin Hall and Gamble. As a safety check, stacks of the containers were put into a specially designed test chamber where they were heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit for up to five weeks. The manufacturers claimed that if the cans could survive this without the contents exploding (i.e. with expanding gases caused by decomposition) they could survive anything. Immediately, the Royal Navy bought the new-fangled containers, bringing soups, vegetables and fruit into the diet of sailors otherwise at risk from scurvy. That, and a fairly high risk of lead poisoning from the use of lead in the solder….

One of Parry’s tin cans which evaded the hammer and chisel.

And so it was that when Sir William Edward Parry headed for the Arctic in 1824 on board HMS Fury, looking for the North West Passage, he took with him a tin or two of roast veal, and some tinned pea soup. The main problem was that until the tin opener was invented by Robert Yeates in 1855 you had to attack the lid with a bayonet, or hit it with a hammer and chisel. Try doing that when your hands are suffering from frostbite…

Early canning was never cheap. One of the problems faced by the canners was the time taken to make each can: a skilled tinsmith could make perhaps half a dozen in a working day. Mechanization eventually came in, with the invention of a machine which not only stamped out the body but could also solder the ends. But even with speedier production methods the actual cooking time (five hours in boiling water to make the can and the food inside completely sterile) meant that it was never a cheap way of feeding the hungry. As ever, it was war which launched the tin can in the USA, where imports had started in 1819. Initially hardly anyone wanted to eat food out of a tin, and only with the advent of the Civil War did sales of canned foodstuffs really take off.

So spare a thought for the gourmet of the 18th Century: before cans came along almost all your food was either fresh (but therefore seasonal) or salted, dried or pickled. At this wintry time of year, Spring, with fresh vegetables and more particularly fresh meat, must have seemed an awfully long way away. So: happy birthday Monsieur Appert and all who followed down the path you blazed. (Well, except where it led us to Pot Noodles….).

Nov 162012

I recently published a small volume of paper cut-outs made by my ancestor in the latter part of the Eighteenth Century. You can find it on Amazon here (UK), and here (rest of the world). It is also available on Kindle, though I have to say that I am not convinced that an e-book is the best format for intricate and tiny illustrations like paper cut-outs.

But the point of the post is this: I end the book with an illustration which completely baffles me. It is this:                        

In the book I have suggested that it appears to represent a giant angel blowing a trumpet from the rooftop, above a room in which a lady is taking tea; a man emerges from a building opposite carrying what appears to be a watering can, while a dog scampers ahead….

I would be intrigued as to how others interpret the scene – everything else which my ancestor Richard Hall cut out were pictorial representations of his everyday life, the world about him. So I have deer parks, horses, troops, a sword, country houses and inns – but what on earth is this one all about? Your suggestions please (and with luck, just for once, my comments page will not consist almost entirely of spam from people flogging Ugg Boots and fake designer watches, scarves and handbags….).

Thanks for your help!


Post script: Thanks for the responses! I suspect there is some significance in the outsized angel/ weather vane, because Richard could easily have made it more to scale. I also think it may have been illustrating a poem or nursery rhyme, since forgotten. I have trawled through a variety of poems featuring weather vanes, but so far without success!

Nov 152012

I love this caricature by George Cruikshank (1792-1878)  entitled ‘The Umbrella’ and dating from 1820. It rather reminds me of the Donald McGill cartoons from the middle of the twentieth century (but without the rude innuendo!).

“They make these here things sadly too small for good sized people! I’ll be hanged if I ain’t as wet as  Muck!!!”

Which leads me on to a blog I did on posterous,  eighteen months ago, which started with a list of nick-names for the umbrella – brolly, rainshade, bumbleschute, gamp, Robinson, Hanway….

In the States they apparently use the name “bumbleschute” (at least in songs) i.e. part rhyming slang for umbrella ( = cloud) and part parachute. “Gamp” is the name of the Dickens character (Mrs Gamp) in Martin Chuzzlewit – she invariably carried an umbrella. “Brolly” is a more English shortened form of umbrella. And Hanway ? He was the man without whose perseverance in the 1750s in the face of ridicule and outright hostility we might still be facing the elements unprotected and unprepared!

For years the brother of the umbrella, the parasol, had been a sign of high rank and elegance, protecting the person beneath it from both the sun and the common gaze. Daniel Defoe has his Robinson Crusoe construct a parasol of leather “I covered it with skins, the hair outwards, so that it cast off the rain like a pent-house, and kept off the sun so effectually, that I could walk out in the hottest of the weather with greater advantage than I could before in the coolest.” From this description the original heavy umbrellas were given the name of “Robinson,” which they retained for many years, both in England and France. They were made of oiled cloth or leather stretched over whalebone ribs and weighed as much as ten pounds – hardly an easy implement to twiddle above your head beneath leaden skies!

                         Jonas Hanway by James Northcote.The image appears on Wikipedia.

Jonas Hanway is generally credited with being the first Englishman to carry an umbrella being specifically designed to keep off the rain. He carried one constantly about the streets of London from the mid 1750´s onwards, until his death in 1786. The steel ribbed umbrella was still a century off, and initially wearers had to put up both with the weight and the insults from passers by. Anything outlandish and uber-fashionable was called “french” as a term of derision, and umbrella wearers would be pursued by cries of of “Frenchie, Frenchie” wherever they went. They also incurred the wrath of the coach drivers, whose trade depended so greatly upon pedestrians hiring their carriages with the sole intention of keeping dry in the rain.

It was not until 1786 that John Beale registered the first umbrella patent based on a circular coned canopy supported by ribs attached to a central shaft.

It would be unfair to say that Hanway was the first person to carry an umbrella. His design was almost certainly continental and it had been mentioned in literature often in the early part of the century, but he certainly popularized it and made its use acceptable. In the first half of the century Coffee Houses would use umbrellas to provide shelter for their customers alighting from their carriages while they were being escorted onto the premises, but they were never commonplace.

So who was this dry haired hero and paragon of fashion? Hanway was born in 1712 and died in 1786. He had travelled extensively in Russia and Northern Europe before returning to these shores to promote various philanthropic causes – he wrote and campaigned in favour of improved working conditions for child chimney sweeps; he advocated the abolition of tipping; but on the other hand felt that prisoners should be kept in solitary confinement throughout their imprisonment. He founded the Magdalen Hospital and was made a Vice President of the Foundling Hospital in 1772.

No post is complete without a Gillray, so here is one showing a lady of generous proportions clattering down the street in her patterns (raised metal frames to keep the shoes clear of the wet road surface). It is entitled “Wet under foot”

James Ince and Co are perhaps the oldest umbrella makers still in business, and indeed within a stones-throw of their original premises in Spittalfields.

So let us here it for Jonas Hanway, without whom Glastonbury and Wimbledon would be less pleasurable places to visit…



H.W.Bunbury: Man walking with Umbrella (1797)

Nov 092012

9th November 1797 saw the publication of this splendid cartoon by Richard Newton. It shows the Pope (Pius VI) kissing the bare backside of Napoloeon and was entitled “Buonaparte establishing French Quarters in Italy”. Charles James Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan are shown cheering, as William Pitt the Younger prepares to take his turn, sobbing into his handkerchief:

“It’s my turn next. Ah, it’s what we must all come to!”

Napoloeon says “Your Holiness is not the first that has fallen in the rear of the French Republic”

Bad taste, satire, wit and a fine caricature. Great stuff!