Feb 232016

Richard Hall liked to jot down helpful remedies and cures – here, a recipe to prevent a miscarriage.

miscarriageGiven that Richard’s first wife  had at least half a dozen  miscarriages, and just three live births, one suspects that there may have been frequent visits to Mr Godfrey the Chymist at his premises in Southampton Street. I will leave it to others to clarify what was meant by ‘spirit of clary’ – I can trace an essential oil with the botanical name “Salvia sclarea” otherwise known as Sage Clary, which may (or may not) have  its origins with spirit of clary. The site for Spiritual Oils gives this as its history:

“History: Descriptions of the medicinal use of Clary sage date back to the writings of Theophrastus (4th century BCE), Dioscorides (1st century CE), and Pliny the Elder (1st century CE). It was particularly popular during the Middle Ages, when it  was known as “clear eye,” “Oculus Christi” (the eyes of Christ), and “muscatel sage,” due to its resemblance to muscatel wine grape vines. In modern times, it is used to enhance the flavor of commercial tobacco.”

Anyway, mix it with “Mountain” (i.e. mountain wine, which generally meant any wine which did not come from France and which probably came  either from Malaga in Spain, or from Portugal), some oak bud water, a pint of best  wine, and flavour it with saffron and sugar’d carraway, and if you knock back a quarter pint of the gloop morning and evening  all will be well.  And if it isn’t, then please take the matter up with Mrs Stringer, not me!

My only concern: how do you get hold of oak bud water at any other time of the year except the Spring? What if you are foolish enough to get pregnant in high summer? Oh well, back to the drawing board…..



Feb 092016

Regency coverThe observant may have noticed a slight diminution of output when it comes to my blogs. There are two reasons: the first is to give you all a rest; the second is because I am away on my travels, observing what Sri Lanka and Southern India have to offer in terms of 18th Century reminders. I will let you know the result of my researches in due course…

a cover JoGGTo send me on my way I had a very pleasant surprise when I called in to see those lovely people at the Holburne Museum in Bath, where they had kindly agreed to stock “The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman”. I walked in to the shop to see before me a veritable bookshelf full of my tomes, not just the “Journal”, but both of the “Illustrated Introductions” (Georgian and Regency) and, for good measure, “The Georgians in 100 Facts”. I was more than a little taken aback – especially when I was told that the “100 Facts” is selling well – typical, because it is my least favourite! But it just goes to show – you give the public what they want, not what you want!100 facts image


Anyway, normal blogging service will be renewed in due course! Meanwhile I will auto-post a few re-hashes to keep you on your toes….

P.S.  “In bed with the Georgians – Sex Scandal and Satire” is with the printers as we speak. Meanwhile “Petticoat Pioneers” is half-way written and I suspect I may polish off a few more chapters while I am relaxing after visiting tea plantations in the Sri Lankan hills.  Now that is my idea of a  perfect holiday!

Feb 052016

Today let us hear it for a Bristol school teacher called George Pocock. O.K., he was mildly eccentric, and yes, maybe his invention of a machine to spank multiple miscreants at the same time was perhaps ahead of its time but hey, discipline was important at the George Pocock Academy at Prospect Place St Michael’s Hill, Bristol. He called his invention the Royal Patent Self-acting Ferule and of course it is a travesty of history that George never made a fortune from his brilliant idea. Synchronised spanking – it could have made it as an Olympic sport….

Instead we have to remember George for a splendid flight of fancy called the  charvolant – a kite-based form of transport which astonished the public and royalty alike, from 1826 onwards.

George had been born in 1774. When he was 26 he had opened his Prospect Place Academy in Bristol with the stated objective of turning boys into successful young businessmen. He was a wonderful eccentric and had devised a number of curious things as an aid to learning, including the idea of celestial globes (inflatable balloons 45 to 65 feet in circumference filled with air, inside which the teacher could stand on a pedestal lecturing his attentive pupils on astronomy. Transparent holes in the globe would mimic the positions of the stars, enabling those inside to get the impression of being in the centre of the Universe admiring it through eye glasses).

George had always been fascinated by kites. He wrote how as “a little tiny boy, I learnt that my paper kite would draw along a stone on the ground, tied to the end of its string.” Years later he strapped his daughter Martha into an arm chair, attached it to a pair of kites, and flew her 300 feet into the air. She subsequently recovered and went on to become the mother of England’s most famous cricketer – W G Grace.

In subsequent experiments he harnessed a pony chaise to a pair of kites and discovered that it was possible to move up to half a ton on the carriage, depending on wind strength. He made a number of ‘charvolants’ for these first horseless carriages, and it was claimed that the Pocock kite carriages could race mail-coaches from Bristol to London and back. A pilot kite was fed out first, followed by one or, if needed, two main kites. The four ropes enabled the “charioteer” to steer even along a road at right angles to the wind. “Thus,” he found, “whatever road the car may travel by a side-wind, the same road it may return by the same wind; and where there is space for traverse, as on plains or downs, it is possible to beat up against the wind.”

To slow down or stop the driver would slacken off one of the ropes, collapsing the main kite and forcing a hoe-like brake into the surface of the carriageway.

In 1826 Pocock obtained a patent for his char-volant and 2 years later demonstrated it at Ascot racecourse to King George IV. Immediately afterwards, he raced against horse-drawn coaches on the road between Staines and Hounslow, winning easily.

The charvolant could allegedly reach speeds of twenty miles per hour. Pocock wrote about journeys from Bristol to Marlborough stating that the charvolant beat one of the London stages to Marlborough by twenty-five minutes, even though the stage had a fifteen minute head start. Of this journey Pocock comments:

“This mode of travelling is of all others the most pleasant: privileged with harnessing the invincible winds, our celestial tandem playfully transpierces the clouds, and our mystic moving car swiftly glides along the surface of the scarcely indented earth; while beholders, snatching a glance at the rapid but noiseless expedition, are led to regard the novel scene rather as a vision than a reality.”

Pocock wrote a book with the handy little title ‘The Aeropleustic Art or Navigation in the Air by the use of Kites, or Buoyant Sails’ which was published in 1827 . In it he describes an instance when the charvolant had the impertinence to overtake the carriage of the Duke of Gloucester – a mark of extreme bad manners. He made up for his rudery by stopping and allowing the Duke to overtake, thereby commending himself to the Duke.

One added advantage of the machine was that it escaped all road tolls. Toll gate operators sought to charge drivers according to the number of horses using the road – but as no horses pulled the charvolant  no fee could be levied. As Pocock remarked

“There is a peculiar satisfaction in not being detained at toll-bars. The pains and the penalties which there arrest common travellers, never intercept this celestial equipage. The Char-volant, then, has the distinguished prerogative of conferring this Royal privilege; and those who travel by kite travel as Kings”.

“The herald-bugle is sounded — the gates fly open — you pass unquestioned” Pocock marveled.

On 18 July 1828 at the Liverpool Regatta ten men crossed the Mersey against strong tides and winds with a kite-drawn two-masted boat, “to register great surprise among the nautical parties who witnessed it” (The Engineer).

Pocock was carried away by the potential of his kite-drawn invention, announcing that he estimated that a party of six might cross the Sahara in 10 days and 10 hours for a total cost of about £80. “Is it too fond a hope that, by the system of æropleustics, those sands may be navigated as the sea, and thus a most speedy and safe communication be opened between the east and the west of the interior?”

He was convinced kites could be used to assist sailing ships i.e. as auxiliary sails. He also suggested using kites in the case of a shipwreck, using them to drop anchor. Pocock does, however, acknowledge that “portions of the plan are not practicable”

For a number of years the use of kites seemed on the point of reaching a breakthrough in everyday transport, but then came the railways and eventually the motorcar, and Mr Pocock and his splendid invention were consigned to history’s rubbish bin… I think it is a shame, so let us hear it for a mad school teacher with a flight of fancy. George, you are a hero!