May 312013

Personal hygiene was never a strong-point for Richard Hall, and, as I have mentioned before, he rarely bathed. A two-month interval between such ablutions was normal, and if for any reason the interval was less, he described the process as being a ‘continuation’.

And so in his diary for 31st May 1773 we have this splendid entry:

“Resum’d my Bath and thro’ Mercy was carried very well through it.”

bath time 001

Clearly taking a bath was seen as a risky activity, and one which Richard did not repeat until the height of summer…. I think another dab of Eau de Cologne on the hanky might be called for!


Post script: Just in case you feel that I am being unfair to grandpa, and wish to point out that he may well have wash’d his important little places in between bath-times, he may not have been fastidious about washing but he was fastidious about recording such instances in his diary! We even have:


                                                 “Fine day – not quite so hot. Washed feet.”

May 292013

I have often come across the waspish Thomas Rowlandson caricature of Lady Sarah Archer entitled  Six Stages of Mending a Face  – and indeed included it in my blog about the harridan here.

Rowlandson 6 stages mk 2

But what I had not appreciated was that it was published the very same day  (May 29th, 1792) as another Rowlandson print, presumably as a companion-piece, entitled  Six Stages of Marring a Face, showing a man’s’ visage as it is pummelled during a bare-knuckle fight. So on the one hand you have a female vanity, and on the other male brutishness. An interesting comparison, and as usual the images come courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library site.

Rowlandson 6 stages

The other point to note is that  there were virtually no rules in boxing until mid-way through the century – apart from ‘no biting and no gouging’. It took the death of Yorkshireman George Stevenson to bring about the first attempt at formal rules for all bouts. He had fought the English champion Jack Broughton on the 17th February 1741. This was in a fairground booth on Tottenham Court Road. Unfortunately, Stevenson died a few days after his 45-minute fight, as a result of injuries sustained during the fight. Broughton was very upset by this and the death prompted him to draw up a code of rules in order to prevent a recurrence.

Published on 16 August 1743, ‘Broughton’s Rules’ were intended to apply to all bare-knuckle Prize fights and included ‘That no person is to hit his adversary when he is down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist; a man on his knees to be reckoned down’.

Otherwise much was left to the discretion of referees. Rounds were not of a fixed length but continued until one of the fighters was knocked or thrown to the ground, after which those in his corner were allowed 30 seconds to return him to the ‘scratch’ – the middle of the ring – failing which his opponent was declared the victor. So “not up to scratch” meant not good enough to continue”

Incidentally it was also Broughton who first introduced mufflers – an early form of boxing glove. Never intended to be used in the ring they were devised as a way of ensuring that inexperienced boxers did not get too cut-up and damaged during training bouts.

And to end with, a nice reminder that ‘the fairer sex’ were also a feature of many a boxing booth, Particularly in the first part of the century, women would fight other women – and occasionally men. Needless to say these encounters were hugely popular with the largely male audience, if only because the women’s clothing invariably got ripped once a fight got under way, leaving little to the imagination….

This apparently shows Elizabeth Stock, a well known female boxer, on her way to victory in the 1720’s. Under her maiden name of Wilkinson  she was known as ‘The Cockney Championess’ but after she married Mr Stock, who ran a boxing booth in London, she aspired to the grand title of ‘European Championess’


Post script: never one to duck the issue, here is a mezzo-tint from May 1776 courtesy of the British Museum entitled “Sal Dab giving Monsieur a receipt in full”. It was apparently  a satire against the French, with a fist fight  out in the street between an English fish-wife on the right, and a Frenchman; There are three bystanders, including a fishwife who holds out a lobster to pinch the foreigner’s bottom.


May 272013

May 27th colds 001

May 27th colds 001 (2)Richard Hall, writing on 27th May 1773, makes reference to what appears to have been an Influenza epidemic which hit London that year: “The present a remarkable time for  the Lord’s visiting more or less most familys in London with Coughs and Colds, with which many are confined – may the hand that afflicts be observ’d and the Inhabitants of our land learn Righteousness..’

And to illustrate the entry what better than a Thomas Rowlandson etching from 1785, shown courtesy of the British Museum and entitled “Ague and Fever”. The B.M. site describes it as:

” The patient sits in profile to the left with chattering teeth, holding his hands to a blazing fire on the extreme left. Ague, a snaky monster, coils itself round him, its coils ending in claws like the legs of a monstrous spider. Behind the patient’s back, in the middle of the room, Fever, a furry monster with burning eyes, resembling an ape, stands full-face with outstretched arms. On the right the doctor sits in profile to the right at a small table, writing a prescription, holding up a medicine-bottle in his left hand. The room is well furnished and suggests wealth: a carved four-post bed is elaborately draped. On the high chimney-piece are ‘chinoiseries’ and medicine-bottles. Above it is an elaborately framed landscape…”

Ague and Fever, ©British Museum

Ague &  Fever, ©British Museum

No doubt Richard would have looked out his book of remedies at the first sign of a sore throat. There he noted  “Sal prunella – an excellent thing  for a Sore throat – take Night and Morning (very disagreeable).”  Well it would certainly have had a salty tang to it – heat saltpetre and it converts to potassium nitrite, in small balls, and this was called sal prunella. It is still used for preserving meats, giving the distinctive pink colouring found in some sausages. But as a cure for coughs and colds brought on by Divine displeasure – absolutely useless!

May 242013

On Monday 24th May  1773 Richard Hall recorded in his diary that he spent some time in the evening at the Boars Head at Eastcheap (in the company of Messrs Warne, Rybright, Button and Lopard).

boars head 001

The Boars Head was one of London’s most famous Public Houses, featuring as the setting for Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, as well as being the watering hole of one of Shakespeare’s most famous and much-loved characters, Sir John Falstaff. It is thought that several of Shakespeare’s plays, including the Merry Wives of Windsor were performed at the Boars Head in the Bard’s lifetime and by the time Richard visited in 1773 it had become a sort of pilgrimage for Shakespeare fans to visit. Indeed, up until 1784 grand Shakespearean Dinner Parties were regularly held at the Boar’s Head.

The original Boar’s Head Tavern was built in the reign of Henry VII but was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. Shortly after that date it was rebuilt in brick, with a carved stone bas-relief of a boar’s head set above its first-floor windows.

Boars Head c MoL

The original carving survived when the building was finally demolished in 1831 – ironically as part of the same road widening scheme (linked to the new London Bridge) which saw my family’s home at One London Bridge razed to the ground. The carving belongs to the Museum of London, and the image above appears courtesy of Guildhall Library. Having been locked away for the best part of two centuries the carving was exhibited at the  Globe Theatre in 2010 as part of the promotion for that year’s revival of Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

In the 1860’s the architect R L Roumieu designed a splendid gothic monstrosity at 33 Eastcheap – intended as a vinegar warehouse for Messrs Hill & Evans -and included a boars head in the decoration of the facade, linking the building to the old tavern which had previously stood on or near the site. The photographs appear courtesy of the Ornamental Passions Blogspot here.


boars head eastcheap c  Ornamental passions


Eastcheap was the site of London’s main Medieval meat market and a major centre of London commerce. ‘Cheap’ was the Saxon word for market. In the map below, the Boars Head was situated in Great Eastcheap, running westward from Gracechurch Street.




John Stow's Map of Eastcheap from 1720

John Stow’s Map of Eastcheap from 1720

Years later, the writer Washington Irving describes a visit to the Boars Head in his “Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon.”

“…I at length arrived in merry Eastcheap, that ancient region of wit and wassail, where the very names of the streets relished of good cheer, as Pudding Lane bears testimony even at the present day. For Eastcheap, says old Stow, “was always famous for its convivial doings. The cookes cried hot ribbes of beef roasted, pies well baked, and other victuals: there was clattering of pewter pots, harpe, pipe, and sawtrie.” Alas! how sadly is the scene changed since the roaring days of Falstaff and old Stow! The madcap roisterer has given place to the plodding tradesman; the clattering of pots and the sound of “harpe and sawtrie,” to the din of carts and the accurst dinging of the dustman’s bell; and no song is heard, save, haply, the strain of some syren from Billingsgate, chanting the eulogy of deceased mackerel.”


Well I hope Richard enjoyed convivial company that evening 240 years ago: I will raise  a glass to him, the plodding tradesman, and will regret that he was not more of the madcap roisterer!

boars head  1829 c

Finally, a picture of the Boars Head in 1829 shown courtesy of  By that time it had already fallen into disrepair, was no longer used as a tavern, and been sub-divided into shops. The plaque of the boars head is still visible in the centre of the building.

May 202013

In the Regency period another word for ‘a dandy’ was ‘an exquisite’ and whatever the name, caricaturists simply loved to mock them!

Here are a few, linked by their titles, appearing courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library site. The first is entitled “An exquisite alias dandy in distress!” and shows our hero, thin as a rake, trying to retrieve his handkerchief despite the tightness of his trousers!

 It was published in 1819.

Another one, called simply “An Exquisite” from G M Woodward’s Hudibrastic Mirror, shows our hero admiring himself in the cheval glass:

Another reflective image is this one from 1818:

A  common theme in  these lampoons is that these precious dears are prone to a fit of the vapours and likely to be blown over in a breeze. Here we have Robert Cruikshank’s ‘A dandy fainting, or, An exquisite in fits : scene a private box opera’ from 1835

The gentleman on the left  declares “I must draw the curtain or his screams will alarm the house – you have no fello feeling my dear fellos, pray unlace the dear one’s stays, and lay him on the couch” Next to him a dandy remarks “I am so frightened I can hardly stand” while his colleague urges “Mind you don’t soil the Dear’s linen.” The next man comments “I dread the consequences! That last Air of Signeur Nonballinas has thrown him in such raptures we must call in Dr —– immediately” as he wafts a phial of Eau de Cologne under his nostrils.

Ah Beau Brummel, it may not have been what you wanted, but it is what you led to!

May 182013

A0 001Ordered of Messrs Johnson … your typical shopping list at the local grocery store a couple of centuries ago, if you were reasonably well-off:

28 pounds of Lisbon Sugar (yes, 28 pounds of it, and it probably lasted Richard Hall about a month. Some of it was needed for the currant wine he was busy making…).

1 small loaf (probably a loaf of sugar, rather than bread, because he bought bread from the baker, not the grocer). The Lisbon sugar was soft and off-white in colour and would have been used for cooking. The loaf sugar would have been broken into lumps and served  at the table).

1 pound sugar candy – presumably in case he felt the need for a sugar rush.

Half a pound of mint drops (might have been handy for disguising bad breath, which I am sure he would have had from consuming so much sugar and therefore having rotten teeth!)

One ounce of candied orange peel – good sort

2 pounds of coffee – four shillings

2 pounds Bohea Tea (3 shillings and two pence)

3 pounds Souchong (4 shillings, last not so good as usual)

1 pound green tea (4 shillings). Armed with these various teas  Mrs Hall would have been able to be her own blending master, mixing the leaves according to her taste.

Half a pound of Hartshorn Shavings (made from the horns of the male red deer and containing Ammonia. Used in medicine – as sal volatile – as well as  in baking and as a detergent).

A quarter of Isinglass (used  in confectionery and desserts such as fruit jelly and blancmange – and possibly as a flocculent for Richard’s home made wine).

Half a dozen lemons

An ounce of cinnamon

1 quart of hemp seed (I suspect he used then for feeding his canary, although they did have culinary uses!)

1 pound of Gingerbread Nutts.

Unfortunately I cannot be sure where Messrs Johnson traded from – probably Stow on the Wold, in the English Cotswolds. Richard lived a couple of miles away at Bourton.

May 172013

William Constable

Winifred Constable

I recently came across a painting by an artist I had never heard of – Henry Walton. Paraphrasing his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Walton was born in 1746, and was baptized on 5 January in that year at Dickleburgh, Norfolk. He was one of three children of Samuel Walton, yeoman farmer, and his wife, Ann Newstead. Father served as churchwarden and overseer of the poor. Little is known of Henry’s early schooling but the collection of books belonging to him at his death suggest that he could read Greek, Latin, and French, so presumably he had a very thorough education.

A Gentleman at Breakfast, painted in 1775

In 1765, aged nineteen, Walton moved to London, although it is not clear whether he had a trade or formal training at this stage. The first recorded painting by him was a husband-and-wife portrait dated 1768. In 1770 he enrolled at the Maiden Lane Academy, in Covent Garden, London, to study Art, and while there became a pupil of Johan Zoffany. By 1771 Walton was living at Great Chandos Street, Covent Garden, painting portraits in oil and miniatures, often featuring close friends and family. 1771 saw Walton elected a fellow of the Society of Artists, where he exhibited two portraits. In 1772 he was elected a director of the society, showing four works at that year’s exhibition. He exhibited there again in 1773 and 1776.

Thomas Inyon aged 70, painted in 1776

On 10 September 1771 Walton married Elizabeth Rust, the daughter of a wool draper and herself a miniature painter. She came from the Suffolk village of Wortham and shortly after the marriage Henry Walton purchased Oak Tree Farm, in the village of Burgate, near to Wortham, and converted one of the cottages into a house and studio. The marriage was to prove childless.

While he was initially drawn to landscapes, during the early to mid-1770s Walton seems to have concentrated on working as a portrait painter, presumably because it was easier to get commissions for these from the Suffolk gentry. He also painted Edward Gibbon on at least half a dozen occasions (including this one at the National Portrait Gallery).


Another was of Horatio Walpole, first earl of Orford:






In 1776 Walton exhibited his first genre subject, A Girl Plucking a Turkey (Tate collection), at the Society of Artists. This was followed by other genre subjects, notably A Girl Buying a Ballad (Tate collection), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777.


                                         Girl plucking a turkey, 1776

A Girl Buying a Ballad

In November 1778 Walton was turned down for membership of the Royal Academy, allegedly because of his prior connection with the rival Society of Artists. Feeling snubbed, he showed only two more works there in 1779 after which he ceased to exhibit altogether. During the 1780s Walton devoted himself increasingly to his farm in Burgate. He also travelled to Yorkshire, where he painted portraits of important local families.

 Country Maid

Country Maid


The Market Girl

By the early 1790s he was established as a picture dealer and adviser to some major private collectors, notably Lord Lansdowne, Lord Fitzwilliam, and Sir Thomas Beauchamp-Proctor, to whom he sold a Poussin from the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Walton’s expertise was apparently such that ‘there was scarcely a picture of note in this country, with the history of which he was unacquainted’ . Walton continued to paint local Norfolk and Suffolk families well into the early 1800’s. By 1810 Walton was in poor health, having contracted a fever ‘which caused a great alteration in his appearance’. One evening in May 1813, on returning from a party to his London lodgings in New Bond Street, Walton complained of feeling ill. He was found dead in bed the next morning, the immediate cause of death being described as “hydrothorax and pleurisy” and he was buried near his parents in the churchyard at Brome, Suffolk.

May 152013

“Rose, dressed and took breakfast and then ordered the carriage to take one to Drury Lane Theatre Royal. Arrived at three o’clock for the Royal Command Performance of ‘She would and She wouldn’t’; got shot (twice) by some madman, watched most of the play but fell asleep towards the end; went home.”

G£  3

So, to paraphrase the diaries of our dear King George III, might the monarch have written up the story of his day 213 years ago.

He had arrived at the theatre to a packed audience, who all stood for the playing of “God Save the King”. In the audience was a deranged former soldier who believed that, by dying, he would herald Christ’s Second Coming. His cunning plan to bring about his own death: shoot the king and be sent to the gallows for treason.

The man’s name was James Hadfield. The story goes that he had suffered a number of severe sabre wounds to the head while serving in the British army. Whatever the cause, he was clearly a total nutter, and not a very good shot. One of the slugs missed its target by 14 inches, the other brought down flakes of plaster from the ceiling of the Royal Box. Luckily one member of the audience – a David Moses Dyte – had the presence of mind to disarm the assailant before he could do any more damage to the building – or the King. Dyte’s reward? He was eventually made up to the exalted position of  ‘Purveyor of Pens and Quills to the Royal Household’. Now that’s what I call gratitude!

G3 - Copy

An etching entitled Strong Symptoms of Loyalty courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library appeared shortly after the incident. It shows an imaginary scene before Hadfield was bundled over the rails and into the orchestra pit and dragged away to the music room. Charles James Fox grapples with Hadfield and shouts: “Shoot him, Kill him, Hang him, D—n him, Assassin – oh words where are you fled!!”

Theatre manager Sheridan exclaims “You D-d Jacobin scoundrel – Democratic Villain – You Republican Rascal, you Regicide you Traitor, you – you – Oh Heaven I fail for lack of words to Express my rage – to attempt – oh Devil – Fiend – A Monarch whom we love, A King whom we adore”

On the right, the snuff-taking George Tierney looks on unconcernedly. He casually remarks “Why, D-n me, you are as bad a Shot as I am.”

What actually happened was that  Sheridan came into the music room with the Duke of York and the prisoner apparently told the Duke “God bless your Royal Highness, I like you very well; you are a good fellow. This is not the worst that is brewing.”

It turns out that Hadfield had been an orderly working for the Duke, and he admired the Duke greatly. Hadfield was taken away and later charged with High Treason. To the great admiration of all present,the King insisted that ‘the show must go on.’ He apparently enjoyed the play so much he fell asleep in the second half…

Thomas Rowlandson: An audience watching a play at Drury Lane Theatre, 1785

Thomas Rowlandson: An audience watching a play at Drury Lane Theatre, 1785

The case against Hadfield came to trial in the Court of King’s Bench in June 1800. Various members of the public were called to give evidence as to what happened – the pistol was produced by a Mr Wright, who had picked it up off the floor. The Duke of York was called, which must have been a little embarrassing for him, with questions along the lines of “Do you normally employ complete madmen as your orderly?”

Erskine by Thomas Lawrence

Erskine by Thomas Lawrence

The questioner was the great barrister Thomas Erskine. He had a field day defending his client, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The problem was that in all other respects the prisoner appeared perfectly normal. According to the Newgate Calendar, seeing the Duke in court upset the prisoner greatly, causing him to exclaim in great agitation “God bless the Duke, I love him!” The Court immediately gave directions that he should be permitted to sit down; and Mr Kirby, the keeper of Newgate (who all the time sat next him), told him he had the permission of the Court to sit down, which he did, and remained composed during the remainder of the trial. The Newgate Calendar continues ‘When the prisoner was asked what could have induced him to commit so atrocious an act, he said he was tired of life, and thought he should have been killed’.

Erskine called various medicos to attest to the meaning of insanity and insane delusions, the problem being that up until that time the defence of insanity was only available if the insanity was so total that the accused was utterly irrational and had no control over his actions. That was clearly not the case here – Hadfield obviously intended to kill the King, and had brought along his pistol for the express purpose of firing it at the monarch. Eventually the judge halted the trial saying that the medical evidence meant that the verdict would inevitably mean an acquittal, because it was quite obvious that the guy was as mad as a hatter. But he added that “the prisoner, for his own sake, and for the sake of society at large, must not be discharged”.

The difficulty here was that in the past, the criminally insane were often handed back to the families to be looked after, but Hadfield could hardly be let loose to wander the streets. Parliament quickly passed new laws – the Treason Act and the Criminal Lunatics Act (both in 1800). The latter enabled prisoners who were found to be criminally insane to be locked up indefinitely, and Hadfield was carted off to Bedlam, or more correctly, Bethlem Royal Hospital.

bedlam st georges fields southwark

When the asylum was rebuilt in 1815 (which involved moving it to St George’s Fields, Southwark) Hadfield moved too. Apart from one time when he escaped and headed for Dover, intent on catching a ferry to France, he finished his days in the asylum, eventually dying of tuberculosis in 1841.

Sheridan, painted by Reynolds.

Sheridan, painted by Reynolds.

Poor Sheridan: he was already stretched financially by the cost of building the new theatre, and running it was an expensive business.In 1809 disaster struck and the theatre was burned to the ground. It gave rise to the famous remark by Sheridan, when he was encountered wandering around with a wine glass in his hand, watching the flames destroy his project:  “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”

G3 2

The loss of the theatre completed his financial ruin – he died in poverty in 1816 and was buried in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

May 132013

I have a terrible confession: I am not particularly a cat-person. That, against a background of knowing that a huge majority of my followers on Twitter are moggy-lovers! I don’t dislike cats: I just don’t understand them. Or rather, I didn’t until I read the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1754. It explains:

“The phaenomenae of electricity, which has so many surprising properties, seems to be of two sorts, natural and artificial. The last is to be obtain’d from all bodies naturally susceptible of it, as glass etc in which the property lies dormant till excited to act by friction, or some other violent motion.

Natural electricity is common almost to all animals, especially those destin’d to catch their prey by night; cats have this property in the greatest degree of any animal we are acquainted with; their furr or hair is surprisingly electrical. If it be gently raised up it avoids the touch till it be forc’d to , and by stroking the backs in the dark, the emanations of electrical fire are extremely quick and vibrative from it, follow’d by a crackling noise as from glass tubes when their electrical atmosphere is struck. It appears to me of singular use to animals destin’d to catch their prey in the dark: they give a sudden and quick erection of their furr, raises the electrical fire, and this, by its quickness running along the long pointed hairs over their eyes, and illuminating the pupilla enables them to perceive and seize their prey. It would be worth while to enquire whether all the wild sort that catch their prey with the paw are not endow’d with the same vibrations of electrical fire; the cat is the only domestic animal of that species but such a discovery in the ferocious kind would still be an additional demonstration of that infinite wisdom so easily discoverable in the minutest executions of all his works, and so perfectly adapted to a proper end.”

The article is interesting in illustrating the 18th Century preoccupation and fascination with electricity, from its cause to its effects. I rather like the idea of cats seeing in the dark because of their ‘natural electricity’.

Mind you, while looking for illustrations to go with this post I came across a highly inappropriate, un-funny (and downright cruel!) picture of a cat piano, apparently designed in 1650 by one Athanasius Kircher a 17th century German Jesuit scholar.

According to the Neatorama site “The piano was designed to raise the spirits of an Italian prince who was too stressed out. The musician would select cats whose voices were at different pitches then arrange them in the pens accordingly. The piano delivered sharp pokes into the tails of the cats”. (No, not funny, definitely in bad taste, definitely worth including….). I mention it as an example of how cruelty to animals was endemic: more so because cats had always been associated with witchcraft.

May 102013

My ancestor Richard Hall presumably approved of the highly moral tale of Joe the Collier, a man who feared the Lord and put up with the mockery of his fellow-miners who worked the pits near Newcastle. Certainly Richard kept the poem, neatly folded, with his other papers.

According to the poem, Joe missed his shift because he chased after the dog which had stolen his bacon sandwich – thereby being spared the fate of being trapped and killed in the mining collapse.

I rather like the small drawing which accompanied the poem, showing the dog snaffling the bacon while Joe and his mate Tim Jenkins walk past the pit-head, where the pony labours to draw the water from the mine shaft….

Post script: I am most grateful to Sarah Waldock for taking the trouble to google in the words “Patient Joe, or the Newcastle Collier”and for pointing out that it is a tract written in 1795 by Hannah More, the social reformer and educator.  The Abe Books site shows it to be scarce – it can be found in fewer than half a dozen public collections and is therefore quite collectable.