Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stocking Stuffers?

Dover Books has fascinating resources, including facsimiles of old books. They're having a sale right now and I spotted these, which might be of interest.

From Dover Books.
The House Servant's Directory: An African American Butler's 1827 Guide
by Robert Roberts

Classic survey of work, home life, and race relations in early America — written by an African-American — offers keen insight into the social milieu, hierarchy, and maintenance of the antebellum manor. It's only $3.18

There's also a 1796 American cookbook. The First American Cookbook: A Facsimile of "American Cookery," 1796


Saturday, November 08, 2008

What did people die of?

Yes, I'm back! It's been a very busy year, mostly in a good way and I've finally sent off my next book -- The Secret Wedding, out next April. I'm hoping to be a bit more active now, here and on . Jo Talk

I'm posting because I just stumbled across this.

Causes of death in the late 19th century.

The picture is of Dr. John Helmcken's medicine chest from the mid to late 19th century. It's big because it's a ship's doctor's medicine chest. Dr. Helmcken left England in 1850 to be the doctor for the Hudson Bay Company on the north west coast of north America, but before that he'd been a ship's doctor with the company. His house, built in 1852, still exists in Victoria, BC, and is now part of the Royal BC Museum there. It's open to visitors at certain times of the year. The next opening will be over Christmas.

This site is related to Dr. Helmcken and includes a bit of information about medicine in the 19th century.



Thursday, August 14, 2008


Interesting data on plague, then and now.
Click here.

BTW, that's me and my agent in San Francisco, belatedly celebrating A Lady's Secret's success.

In case you don't read any of my other online places, I'm off to Australia for a few weeks. If I discover interesting historical bits and pieces, I'll try to get a connection and report here.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A typical Georgian country family

This seems to be to be a typical development through the 18th and 19th centuries.

"John Spencer
Born 1718, died 1775. John's ancestors had accumulated wealth through the early iron industry. Coal pits took on more importance during their tenure. John was a huntsman, a bold rider, a hard drinker with a violent temper and speech, but open and warm hearted with good manners, a paternalistic approach. He was scholarly and possessed a large library. He was never interested in politics but became a racehorse owner and ran cockfights on Sunday in Cawthorne Park. However he attended the local All Saints Church regularly. Parson Phipps at this tme lived at Banks Hall, a batchelor for most of his life (An "old parochial squire") with no male issue.
John Spencer introduced about 100 deer into the park between 1760 and 1766, they were purchased in February. 1762. 18, pl93 The deer 'dissipated 'during WW2. By 1807 the Hall was basically as it is today.

Walter Spencer-Stanhope
Born 4th Feb 1749 died 4th. April 1821. He inherited Cannon Hall from his uncle, John Spencer in 1775. Walter changed his name from Stanhope to Spencer-Stanhope (18, p2) A politician, educated at Bradford Grammar School, University College, Oxford, Law studies at Miiddle Temple member for Carlisle (first of four constituencies). A close supporter of William Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce (Yorkshire anti-slavery campaigner).William Wilberforce was a frequent visitor to Cannon Hall.

Walter had income from estates, iron furnaces and coal mines. A bloomery had operated at Cinder Hill and there still are numerous "Smithy Fields"12, p51 to the north (see Ordnance Survey maps)
In the l650's the Spencers' had manufactured iron at Bamby Furnaces, Wortley Forges, Bank Furnace (Thornhlll Parish) and Kirkstall Iron Works near Leeds. Timber was taken from the surrounding woodlands for this purpose.l2, p62 Even back in 1352 there was a contract to supply wood and iron for the "iron blomes at Kirkstell near Otley".12, p51
By the 1750's pit coal was being used in the smelting of iron, and after1744 the occupation of "collier" was listed more frequently in the Parish Register.12, p62

In 1783 he married Winifred Pulleine (she was an only child) this gave him more property and wealth in North Yorkshire such as Carlton Hall, Nr Richmond and in Northumberland. They were blessed with a happy marriage producing 15 children.
Walter was a humanitarian (eg pre 1775 he had all the Horsforth Estate tenants vaccinated against smallpox). He became a religious humanitarian after meeting William Wilberforce.18, p4
In 1787 Walter began the practice of delivering the Sunday evening sermon.18, p4 He worked against the cruelty to animals in sport, e.g. in July 1794 he had a bull-baiter shoot his own bull; bull Baiting was made illegal by 1835.18, p4
By 1799 the Barnsley Canal had been opened with a branch line to Barnby (Cawthorne) Basin, this allowed the collieries at Silkstone and Barnby Furnace to increase their output. By the early 1800's the largest output had been achieved at Norcroft and Bamby Furnace.12, p62

Cliffe hill was the main road to Cannon Hall in the late1700's to the early 1800's. It is now little used, the main entrance being more directly in front of Cannon Hall itself.
In 1805 Walter Spencer-Stanhope commanded 600 Staincross Volunteers, a false alarm was raised (instead of a warning beacon, a brick kiln had been lit near Pontefract Beacon) The Volunteers walked to Hemsworth on the way to Pontefract, when informed by a horserider with a letter.

John Spencer -Stanhope Born 1787, died 1873
Studied Greek mythology, married Lady Elizabeth Wilhelmina Cox third daughter of Thomas Cox (Coke of Holkham). In 1817 Thomas Cox had 7000 farmers visit his estate in Norfolk. Elizabeth married John Spencer on 5th. Dec 1822, prior to this, in 1810, John had toured Iberia where he had been imprisoned. He later toured Greece. The carriage which brought Sir John Stanhope home on parole from a French prison also carried Mrs.George Batchelor from Barnsley whose husband was due to be buried in Cawthorne, he had been a coachman at Cannon-Hall.12, p99
On Nov. 2nd 1869 Bishop Marsden, the grandson of Samuel Marsden [once a blacksmith of Horsforth, and who was sent out on the recommendation of WilIlam Wllberforce and Sir Walter Stanhope as chaplain to the convicts of Australia] gave a lecture in Cawthorne about Australia. Mr John Stanhope reminded Bishop Marsden of his own father's interest in Samuel Marsden. It was Samuel who in 1808 sent his nephew in Leeds the first bag of Australian wool ever received in England.12, p168

From this page.

The image is from the Cannon Hall website, here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Strange stuff from Sheffeld

I'm reading through an e-text called REMINISCENCES OF OLD SHEFFIELD, compiled in 1872. As I'm mostly interested in the 1760s, there clearly will be no direct references, though some go way back. I'll share some as I go.

The image is from this site, which sells prints. and is of the Stagg works in Sheffield, but I haven't found a reference to that in the book.

But this book is a great example of things that were readily understandable once, but now aren't -- to me, at least. Can you help?

"The house at the top corner of Paradise square and Campo lane,
now a dram-shop, was, sixty years ago, a respectable grocer's shop, kept
by Mr. Newton (who was sueceeded by Mr. Benjamin Ellis), and at that
time was much celebrated amongst the grinders, both in town and country,
for the quality of the articles of emery, crocus, and glue.

WRAGG: Yes., that shop had almost the monopoly of the trade."

All right, a dram shop is a sort of pub, and I assume a grinder ground, which would fit with emery. But why crocus and glue? Anyone know?


Friday, May 02, 2008

More on pubs.

(This is not the right Angel, but it's close to the right period and gives a good sense of a coach of the time.)

My characters are briefly in the Angel Inn in Sheffield, and I came across this.
"The Angel - 15 Angel Street. The Angel was even older than the Kings Head having been in existence since 1657. An article in The Sheffield Star dated 25th February gave a brief history of a notable Sheffield landmark that was situated on the corner of Angel Street and Bank Street

"...(The Angel's) first real claim to fame came in 1760, when it became the terminus for the first regular mail stage coach service between Sheffield and London. The coach was fancifully described as 'a flying machine on steel springs' which completed the hazardous journey in a mere six days. Travel in those days was a problematic affair - the adverts warned journeys would be completed "if God permits". Overnight stops on the way up to Sheffield included St Albans, Northampton and Nottingham. Later the time to the capital was reduced to three days, then 26 hours, and finally to just 16 hours before the railway made the service largely redundant.
Original prices for the trip were £2.2s (£2.10) - or £153 in today's money, leaving twice a week at 5am. The coach traveling north linked with a service to Leeds.
By the time of its heyday in the early 1800s the inn saw stage coaches also arriving from and departing to Birmingham, Doncaster, Carlisle, Hull, Manchester and Edinburgh - the interchange of its time."
Read the whole article here.

I said more above, because I posted about pubs on Word Wenches recently.
Read that post here.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Looking for Doncaster inns, (see today's wordwenches here.) I stumbled across a couple of excellent pages about Ferrybridge and coaching.

Ferrybridge is clearly an important coaching town in 18th and early 19th century documents, but now it's been swallowed up in other urban developments. I wish I'd had this page when I set some scenes there in Devilish.

Visit the page.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

When royalty come to call.

From Horace Walpole's letters, 1764

(The quiet summer living of George III and Queen Charlotte is a minor factor in A Lady's Secret, set in 1764 and out in April.Read more about it here.

Now, Horace, whose house at Strawberry Hill was famous.

"I have been much distressed this morning. The royal family
reside chiefly at Richmond, whither scarce necessary servants
attend them, and no mortal else but Lord Bute. The King and
Queen have taken to going about to see places; they have been at
Oatlands and Wanstead.

A quarter before ten to-day, I heard the bell at the gate ring,--that is, I was not up, for my hours are not reformed, either at night or in the morning,--I inquired who it was? the Prince of Mecklenburgh and De Witz had called to know if they could see the house; my two Swiss, Favre and Louis, told them I was in bed, but if they would call again in an hour, they might see it. I shuddered at this report,--and would it were the worst part! The Queen herself was behind, in a coach: I am shocked to death, and know not what to do!

It is ten times worse just now than ever at any other time: it will certainly be said, that I refused to let the Queen see my house. See what it is to have republican servants! When I made a tempest about it,Favre said, with the utmost sang froid, "Why could not he tell me
he was the Prince of Mecklenburgh?" I shall go this evening and
consult my oracle, Lady Suffolk. If she approves it, I will
write to De Witz, and pretend I know nothing of any body but the
Prince, and beg a thousand pardons, and assure him how proud I
should be to have his master visit my castle at Thundertentronk."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

costume site

I stumbled across this interesting illustrated dictionary.
Costume site

It's actually a collection of old clip art, but as it gives information about the different clothing items, it's useful.

I'm not sure this picture is on the site. I plucked it from my own clip art collection.

Jo :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another delicious Googlebook

I love Google Books for the fabulous old books they're making available, especially 18th century ones, which are so hard to find in hard copy.

My latest find in here. It's The General Shop Book: Or, The Tradesman's Universal Director,from 1753, and it's a mini encyclopedia of places, goods, and laws of the time.

Check it out!

If you're curious about what I was searching there -- Sheffield and Doncaster. Yes, my characters are in Yorkshire, and Diana, Countess of Arradale and Marchioness of Rothgar is involved, but the action is about to head south.

This book, as yet untitled, will follow on from A Lady's Secret, which will be out in April. You can find out more here.

If you want a reminder when it's on the shelves, sign up on my web page above.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008


It's the things you don't know you don't know that get you. I would have sworn that the falling blade form of execution was an 18th century invention of a Frenchman called Guillotine, but no. It's an ancient development of Halifax, Yorkshire!

I stumbled across a reference in a book and found it so odd, I had to check. Here's a page all about it.

The Halifax Gibbet


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Green goose

Ever wondered exactly what a "green goose" was? Clearly eaten in spring and something of a delicacy, but according to The Compleat Housekeeper, by Peter Brears (Wakefield Historical Society), it is "young and grass fed, eaten in early summer accompanied by greensauce, rather like mint sauce but made with sorrel pounded with vinegar and sugar to give a particularly piquant taste."

So now you know!

Jo :)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Turnpikes in Lancashire.

Good page for anyone wanting information about old roads in general, and in Lancashire in particular.
Click here.

More here.

This map shows my home county of Lancashire. My home town, Morecambe, (pronounced Morcum) isn't there because it was a Victorian development, but it's just below Hest (Bank) on Morecambe Bay.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another nasty summer

Most of us know about the "year without a summer" in 1816 due to the eruption of the Tambora volcano but I hadn't come across something similar and in some ways ever worse in 1783. There was an article in the Economist's Christmas Edition, which is always full of juicy stuff.

The summer of acid rain. Read it here.

It was catastrophic for Iceland. As the subheading says: "Molten iron raining down like cowpats; ice floes at New Orleans. The weather of 1783 was an extraordinary case of sudden climate change driven by atmospheric gases."

What happened? "...the earth split open along a 16-mile fissure called the Laki volcano. Over the next eight months, in a series of vast belches, more lava gushed through the fissure than from any volcano in historic times—15 cubic kilometres, enough to bury the whole island of Manhattan to the top of the Rockefeller Centre."

This created both clouds and acid rains that drifted down across Europe and onward. The effects in Iceland itself were truly horrific.

I went looking for other contemporary references and didn't find many. I assume most didn't realize what was causing the problem. This certainly seems clear in the following letter from The Gentleman's Magazine review of 1783.

"For a considerable time past the weather has been very remarkable here; a kind of hot fog obscures the atmosphere, and gives the sun much of that dull red appearance which the wintry fogs sometimes produce. The fog is not peculiar to Paris ; those who are come lately from Rome say that it is as thick and hot in Italy, and that even the top of the Alps is covered with it, and travellers and letters from Spain affirm the fame of that kingdom.

Some people of abilities declare they never remember the like; and the timid, who think of the recent misfortunes of Calabria, dream of earthquakes and war, revolutions, etc. Happily for the age, there are too many enlightened people at present to suffer these things to spread so universally, as, to the great benefit of the priesthood (here), they formerly did, though it is remarked even now that the churches and saints arc more respectfully attended than usual,and that the fear of impending calamities has occasioned one of the literati of the Academy of Sciences to write the following letter, and have it inserted in the Journal de Paris.

To the Authors of the Journal.It is known to you, gentlemen, that for some days past people have been incessantly enquiring what is the occasion of the thick dry fog which almost constantly covers the heavens.As this question is particularly put to astronomers, 1 think myself obliged to say a few words on the subject, more especially since a kind of terror begins to spread in society.

It is said by some that the disasters in Calabria were preceded by such weather, and by others that a dangerous comet reigns at present. In 1773 I experienced how fast these kind of conjectures,which begin amongst the ignorant even in the most enlightened ages, proceed from mouth to mouth, till they reach the best society, and find their way even to the public prints. The multitude therefore may easily be supposed to draw strange conclusions when they see the sun of a blood colour, shed a melancholy light, and cause a most sultry heat.

This however is nothing more than a very natural effect from a hot sun after a long succession of heavy rain. The first impression of heat has necessarily and suddenly rarefied a Overabundance of watery particles with which the earth was deeply impregnated, and given them, as they rose, a dimness and rarefaction not usual to common fogs. This effect, which seems to me very natural, is not so very new; it is at most not above nineteen years since there was a like example, which period too brings the moon in the fame position on the same days, and which appears to have some influence on the seasons. Among the meteorologic observations of the academy for the month of July 1764 1 find the following: The beginning of this month was wet, and the latter part dry; and, from the second to the ninth, the wind continued in the north. The mornings were foggy, and the atmosphere in a smoke during the day.This, you perceive, bears a great resemblance to the latter end of our June, so that it is not an unheard-of or forgotten thing. In 1764 they had afterwards storms and hail, and nothing worse need be feared in 1783. I have the honour to be, etc. De La LAnde, de l'Acad. de Science."

I wonder what he thought when he heard about Laki?

You can read more at Wikipedia.