19th January 1819. The Narrative Art of Frith.

The William Powell Frith Painting of the Great Western Railway Station at Paddington represents an example of Narrative Art telling the story as it does of many incidents including the departure of Frith’s son to school with a cricket bat, whilst on the right Scotland Yard detectives, Haydon and Brett are making an arrest, much in the news at the time.

The Railway Station.

William Powell Frith, the son of an inn-keeper, was born Today in 1819 in Aldfield, Yorkshire. Starting as a portrait painter he based his early works on the literature of such luminaries as Charles Dickens, Scott and Shakespeare.

Dolly Varden c.1842-9 William Powell Frith 1819-1909 Bequeathed by Mrs E.J. Thwaites 1955 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00041

[To the left], he painted Dolly Varden a character in Dickens’, Barnaby Rudge and after whom a dress of the time was named.

Frith was the greatest British painter of the social scene since William Hogarth and not content to paint set poses of members of London society, he is remembered for his contemporary depictions of the social scene and  panoramas of large gatherings of the 19th century.

These are particularly seen in such lively and diverse scenes  as his Derby Day and Ramsgate Sands [see below] and The Railway Station [see above].

Ramsgate Sands.

Frith’s first triumph of 1851 was Ramsgate Sands later to be bought by Queen Victoria, and inspired by a holiday with his first wife, to be followed by his more famous Derby Day (1856-8) where he used the pioneering photographer Robert Howlett to take shots of small groups of people which were then painted into the whole.

The Derby Day 1856-8 William Powell Frith 1819-1909 Bequeathed by Jacob Bell 1859 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00615

Immortalised by Frith in his painting which took 15 months to complete, Derby Day at Epsom was so popular it made it impossible to transact parliamentary business, whilst special trains and road conveyances brought a mass of costermongers, card sharps, gypsies and ‘dangerous classes’.

Not concerned about the actual racing, it was the varied social classes which inspired Frith interested as he was in Physiognomy of the thimble riggers, tumblers and exponents of the three-card trick.

To the left of the picture, near the tent of the Reform Club, top-hatted gentlemen can be seen being duped by thimble riggers whilst to the right is one gent with his hands in empty pockets and shirt gaping, having lost his all to the tricksters. Farther right, the tumbler’s lad is more concerned with looking at a banquet being laid out.

As an English painter devoted to his many children it was later a surprise to discover that 1 mile away he kept a mistress with whom he had many children and was to marry on his first wife’s death in 1880.

Frith hated the Aesthetic Movement of Oscar Wilde and the Pre-Raphaelites of the later century and after his death he fell from fashion as Impressionism became the preferred genre, his genius later to be recognized in his revival in the next century.




guardian.com/art/design. 11.6.2011. D.J. Taylor.

tate.org.uk/Pic of Derby Day and Dolly Varden.



18th January 1926. Spoof and Propaganda.

Pre-War was the age of the practical joke particularly by the ‘Varsity’ types as recounted by among others cricket commentator, Brian Johnston in his memoirs, reflecting a period of innocent fun after the horrors of World War I.

These ‘jokes’ infected the media as seen today in 1926 when the Daily Mail reported under a four-tiered head: ‘A broadcasting Skit/Listeners’ Scared/ There was no Revolution/ Anxious Inquiry’.

The paper recorded that the broadcast from the BBC Edinburgh studio, was described by the Company (as it was then), as a ‘joke’ and a ‘burlesque’ created by Fr. Ronald Knox and provided for entertainment which included such wit as ‘Mob in St. James’ Park are attacking the water-fowls with empty bottles; the mob is now marching on the BBC offices; they are now spending their time reading the Radio Times’, all rather puerile stuff.

Other spoofs concerning attacks on the Savoy Hotel and Big Ben would have obviously caused concern as today when everything in the media is treated as gospel. Also the Russian Revolution was still in the public mind, and a General Strike loomed and one wonders what the then BBC Director-General John Reith, not known for his sense of humour, thought.

By 1941 the BBC, in wartime, was in more serious mode as the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday October 8th: ‘More Control of BBC News’, describing negotiations for greater government control were now nearing completion, ‘and whilst the BBC will retain direction of entertainment and cultural programmes, the Ministry of Information and other government departments will assume control of all the home and overseas news propaganda’. So now the impartial BBC had become an organ of government misinformation.

The Daily Telegraph Political Correspondent went on: ‘I understood the new plan will leave Mr. Ogilvie and his Board of Governors undisturbed in office… Mr. Ivone Kirkpatrick who interviewed Hess after his arrival here will be the new director of European Broadcasts responsible to the Political Warfare Executive’.(1)

Mr. Brendan Bracken the Minister of Information along with Mr Eden, Foreign Secretary and Mr Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare, were to be the three Ministers concerned with the whole sphere of broadcast news and propaganda. Seriousness was now the order of the day, replacing the ’humour’ of the converted Catholic priest Knox.

Now even sneering at the Germans was condemned with the Daily Telegraph reporting on Wednesday February 18th 1942 a Commons’ debate of the previous day, concerning ‘Broadcasts to Germany’ MP.s denouncing ‘silly’ talks. Bracken was defending the BBC when replying to ‘lively’ debate on a motion to supplementary estimate of £1,300,000 for the BBC during which British foreign propaganda was seriously criticised.

Mr Pickthorn(Con) called for ‘plain simple broadcasts without trying to sneer at the Germans’, whilst Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Con) complained about harm done, ‘by silly rude things said about Hitler and his gang’.

Mr Strauss (Con) said the tendency to foster revolution in our broadcasts among the Germans was calculated to harm our Allies and make the Germans laugh at us.

Mr. McGovern (ILP) said indulging in abuse of Nazi leaders was only fit for ‘low music-hall comedians’. Dr Russel Thomas (L.Nat) called for music in programmes to Italy:’not jazz but grand opera’. Bracken robustly replied he would, ‘give bombs rather than music to Italy and at any rate our foreign propaganda was reasonably good and sole hope for large numbers of suffering people’.

These extracts show how the BBC responded to changing circumstances in less than 20 years, but separating ‘spoof’ and ‘propaganda’ from actuality would have taxed the most discerning of radio listeners. But at least we hadn’t to be beastly to the Germans, the Italians were obviously a different matter.

(1) Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy had parachuted into Scotland with ostensible plans for peace.

Ref: ‘It’s been a lot of Fun’. Brian Johnston. W H Allen 1983.

17th January 1889. Zeroth Law.

The Zeroth Law in Thermodynamics is so called as it came to light after the other Laws had become established and named but, as it was considered more important was given the lower name Zero: Zeroth, a term introduced by physicist RALPH FOWLER who was born Today in 1889. (1)

A basic concept is that of Thermal Equilibrium which exists when two objects are in this state meaning heat can pass between them, but no heat is actually doing so.

For example if you and the swimming pool you are in, are at the same temperature, no heat is flowing from you to it or from it to you, (though the possibility is there), then you are in Thermal Equilibrium.

On the other hand if you jump into a pool in winter, cracking through the ice, (Don’t try this), you wont be in thermal equilibrium with the water and you don’t want to be!

To check thermal equilibrium especially regarding a frozen pool, its temperature and one’s own temperature need to be taken and if the two agree they are in thermal equilibrium with the thermometer, thus all are in thermal equilibrium with each other.

In physics this comparison of temperatures of multiple objects is the application of the Zeroth Law in a nutshell.

One can then say each of the objects has a thermal property they all share, a property which is called Temperature. The temperature of two systems is the only thing you need to know to determine which direction heat will flow between them, and no measurement is possible without relying on the Zeroth Law. The other Laws of Thermodynamics don’t predict the direction the heat will flow if in contact.

(1) Fowler died 28th July 1944.


livescience.com.zeroth law.


wikipedia.org/Zeroth Law.


16th January 1930. Whittle’s Engine.

It was the Germans who first flew the jet in August 1939 the Heinkel He-178, a Patent having been taken out in 1935 independently of Whittle’s developments; 10 years earlier the first rocket powered aeroplane invented by Fritz von Opel had made its maiden flight.

Today in 1930 Frank Whittle filed his first Patent for his turbojet engine having written a paper on the subject at 23 whilst still a RAF cadet at Cranwell.(1)

Whittle shows his engine in 1948 to a journalist.

However industry and Air Ministry refused to believe his invention would work, but increasing international tension brought a change of heart and in 1936 he was encouraged to resume work on the engine, but it wasn’t until Ernest Hives, General Manager of Rolls Royce took an interest that serious developments took place.

Test Assembly of the first model of Whittle’s experimental engine. 1937.

Whittle was to first operate his machine successfully on the ground in 1937 and the Whittle engine was later added to Rolls Royce gas turbine operations begun at Derby by A.A. Griffith in 1939.

By May 1944 the first Meteor fighter powered by Rolls-Royce ‘Wellands’, (the production version of Whittle’s prototype the W.2B) was delivered to the RAF. Later that year Lord Hives wrote to his old friend Major Bulman, ‘The turbine engines have arrived’.

The jet technically a gas turbine works by taking in air at the front compressing it, feeding fuel into the stream and burning it. The resulting high-speed jet of hot gas propels the aircraft.

By July 1944 the Meteor jet fighter was first employed against the VI rockets.

(1) Later Air Commodore, Sir Frank Whittle.





15th January 1934. Blackshirts.

These young Germans have discovered that it is no good trusting to the old politicians…and urged the British youth to form a parliamentary party of their own’.(1)

Today in 1934 in the right-wing Daily Mail under the head: ‘Hurrah for the Black-Shirts… the British Union of Fascists (BUF) is a well organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs…[having] purpose and energy of method Hitler and Mussolini have displayed’. (2)

The previous year on 7th December 1933 Hitler had written to Lord Rothermere saying: ‘He rejected the idea of initiating another war and praised him for the wise and beneficial public support…given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to…pacification of Europe’.

Flyer of London Communist Party

One bedazzled by the oratory of the dictators was Sir Oswald Mosley who founded the BUF which advocated the abolition of free speech, greater interest in the Commonwealth and anti-Semitism.

His public meetings, often attended by violence culminated in the plan to march through London’s East-End resulting in the 1936 ‘Battle of Cable Street’ demonstrating that Mosley now meant business to foment communal hatred setting Jew and Communist against the Fascism.(3)

The clashes set an estimated 100,000 Communists and anti Fascist demonstrators pitch against 2,000 Blackshirts and 6,000 police determined to allow the march. Barricades were erected by the Jews and Catholic Irish dockers, supported by Communists adamant there was to be no march.

Initially when the police arrived they were met with bricks, milk-bottles, marbles and anything else they could muster. ‘A number of police surrendered and the lads didn’t know what to do so they took their batons and one took an helmet as a souvenir for his son’.

Battle of Cable Street.

Meanwhile skirmishes took place along a ‘front’ from Tower Hill to Gardeners’ Corner with Fascists cowering behind police cordons. Mosley arriving late, had a brick through his car window, at which stage Sir Phillip Game, Police Commissioner, banned the march.

It was this action which avoided mayhem and resulted in the march being diverted and dissipated away to the West End and the Embankment. Injuries, arrests, imprisonment and fines resulted but the anti-Fascists, notably the Communists had won the day: the Blackshirts eventually lined up, saluted their leader and dispersed (4)

It was the result of these riots in London’s east end, that the 1936 Public Order Act was enacted which banned political uniforms and empowered the police to stop political processions when there was a risk of public disorder; wisely the BUF was not banned who were free to continue their propaganda at meetings addressed by the charismatic Moseley

The 1936 Act was used to good effect in the anti-capitalist riots of 1st May 2001, which followed a Mosleyite rally in Trafalgar Square the previous week, which became violent after fifteen minutes as demonstrators charged the plinth where Mosley was due to speak and who blamed the Government ’for having lost control of the streets to the red anarchy’.

His re-emergence was seen as part of a return of right wing extremism with a British Nazi Party preaching anti-Semitism. Trouble spread to Dudley in the Midlands as a gang of ‘400 whites’ marched on the immigrant population and a police superintendent described them as, ’a pack of ravening wolves after their prey,  shouting and brandishing their weapons’.

(1) Proprietor of the Daily Mail, Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere (24.9.1930).

(2) The Blackshirts were parodied in Wodehouse’s 1938 novel ‘The Code of the Woosters’ as Sir Roderick Spode’s, ‘black shorts’.

(3) The Cable Street Riots took place on 4th October 1936.

(4) Phil Piratin, ‘The Battle of Cable Street’ from our ‘Flag Stays Red’, Copyright Lawrence and Wishhart 1948 as recorded in the Mammoth Book of Eyewitness. Britain pp.497/8. Carrol & Graf, Publishers New York 2001. First Pub in Britain by Robinson an imprint of Constable & Robinson 2001.

Piratin a Jew was elected to Stepney Council in 1937 and was a Communist MP for Mile End in 1945 until 1950, being only one of four Communists elected to Westminster.

Ref: Morning Post. October 5th 1936. ‘Cancellation at last minute. Game’s sudden decision to ban march’.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pics.

14th January 1860. Bath Buns and Adulteration.

In ‘A Simpleton’ by Charles Reade he says: ‘A bath bun’, said Staines, ‘why they are coloured with annotto to save an egg, and annotto is adulteration with chromates that are poisons’.

Today 1860 Punch Magazine reported on a recent case when boys from Clifton College Bristol had become ill from eating poisoned bath buns, and only quick stomach pumping saved their lives.

It was an issue taken up by scientist William Crookes who had written a large number of editorials on public health in the 1860.s and in 1870 in the 4th issue of Chemical News he discussed the analytical ramifications of poisoning in which a druggist in Clifton had sold lead dichromate as a yellow colouring agent for Bath Buns.

Bath Bun and tea.

Crookes now launched a campaign against food adulteration, and for the proper training of chemists, druggists and analysts.(1)

A year after Clifton, The Reynolds Weekly in 1861 pointed to the scandal of the Bradford poisoning and brought the issue of adulteration to Authority’s mind on 7th April.

It related to probably the biggest disaster involving arsenic on November 1st 1858 when peppermint lozenges sold on Bradford Green Market by William Hardaker (Humbug Billy) had accidentally had arsenic added to his sweets in the manufacture.

Hardaker had bought them from wholesale confectioner Joseph Neal in Stone Street, who mixed sugar with ‘daft’ from a Mr Hodgson a Shipley druggist. However this is where matters went wrong for Hodgson was ill, so his lad William Goddard was sent to the cellar, but found the wrong cask which contained arsenic of which 12lbs was eventually to be mixed with 40lbs of sugar and 4lbs of gum into lozenges.(2)

Each lozenge was to contained 9 ½ grains enough arsenic to kill two people and the 5 ½ lbs sold enough to kill 2,000. Unsurprisingly people did die numbering about 20, and 200 made seriously ill.

However as the first were children it was initially though they had cholera which was endemic at the time. The result was a lenient view was taken of those involved and both Goddard and Neal had their charges of manslaughter withdrawn: Hodson acquitted at York on 21.12.1858.(3)

(1) Bath bun poisoning 31.12.1859.

(2) ‘Daft’ was sulphate of lime/Plaster of Paris/gypsum.

(3) Newspaper report from probably the Bradford Observer, now The Bradford Telegraph and Argus.

Ref: William Crookes 1832-1919 and the Commercialisation of Science,William Hodson Brock.

Ref: freefictionbooks.org: Charles Reade, A Simpleton.

Ref: Technology Crime and Justice:The question concerning technomia Michael McGuire.

Ref: Punch Magazine Vol 38 to be found under Wikipedia.org/ Bath Bun Poisoning.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Bath Buns/Pic.

13th January 1547. Living the Rule.

Dr Legh, along with other devious sycophants, was responsible to Thomas Cromwell for reporting on the conventual houses prior to their dissolution. In their eagerness to close and acquire the proceeds, many negative reports concerning immorality, lack of vocation and of numbers were cited.

In the case of Denney the reports even concerned the desire of the inmates to move out as revealed when from 21st to 30th October 1535, Legh revealed that had found: ‘Half a dozen’ nuns who instantly desired with weeping eyes to go forth’. [One] the sister of Sir Giles Strangeways of the six nuns still in residence, instantly kneeling desired to be delivered of such religion as they have ignorantly taken upon themselves…[and] is married to one Ryvel, a merchant ventrer (sic) of London, with whom she had four children, and now moved of scruple of conscience…desireth most humbly to be …restored to her husband’.

Today saw the death of Catholic Dame Elizabeth Throckmorton in 1547 the last Abbess of Denney, near Cambridge who having moved to Coughton Court Warwickshire, to her nephew George, spending her last eight years ‘Living the Rule’.

Once the Abbey Church.

The Abbey of Denney Manor was granted to Mary de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke in 1327 for life and was unusual in being inhabited by a succession of three Orders. 1)

The first Order was a Benedictine Priory, dependent on Ely Abbey, which had moved from the waterlogged monastery at Elmeney [now vanished]. A Church and Monastery were built in 1159, but the monks returned to Ely and the site went to the Knight Templars.

However The Preceptors of the Knights by the end of the 13th century lost power and in 1308 Edward II had all members arrested and imprisoned for heresy and their property confiscated.

Denney was given to the Knights Hospitallers but in 1324 it went to the Crown. Finally it became a House of the Poor Clares and in 1327 Edward III gave the Priory to the young widow the Countess of Pembroke  building a new church for the Franciscan 2nd Order of Nuns the Order of St Clare.(2)

The ‘Poor Clares’ had arrived from their Spartan, flood-prone monastery at nearby Waterbeach but providing comfort for the Countess, who never in fact became a Poor Clare.

Mary de St. Pol died in 16.3.1377 leaving Edward III a ring set with gems in memory of her, praying him to have the charity of his great goodness to aid and maintain her ‘poure maison de Deneye’. In 1379 the Abbey had forty-one nuns about the same as the four Benedictine Nunneries in the Ely diocese.

When the Priory was sold it was bought by Edward Elrington, passed through the care of the City of London, was an 18th century farm and bought by Pembroke College and in the care of Ministry of Works in 1947. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Coughton Hall, Warwicks, West Front.

(1) Domesday Book records the land as held by Edith the Fair (Swanneck) Consort of Harold II.

(2) Founder of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge.


Abbess Joan Keteryche was at pains to remind secular correspondents she can only communicate in writing so there were strict rules of access to visitors which did include Margery Kempe of Lynn.

‘Parlour’, ‘Turn’ and ‘Gate’ were employed at Denney Priory, Cambridge. Parlour (parlatorium) being where monks and nuns could meet to chat (Parler, French to speak), for spiritual colloquy.

The ‘Turn’ was the revolving barrel shape in the wall where food was placed so providing a restricted entry, except for the resident chaplain of the sisters, their confessor, ministers of friars minor, cardinal, bishop and those having Papal licence.

Ref: VCH/ Priory of Denny.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pics.

Ref: Cambridgeshire: Pevsner described the remains as ‘the only case of a substantial architectural remains surviving in England of a house of the Order of St Clare and of Franciscan Nuns and the only case of an older monastic estate being converted for the use of the Franciscans.

Ref: pastscape.org.uk: Denny Abbey.