Today in the Burton Mail, local paper of the Author’s home town of Burton-on-Trent, and reminiscent of the era of the pre-war depression era, it was reported that a soup-kitchen had re-opened, which brings to mind the food banks whch have been a feature now in Britain for some years. It also is a time to reflect how women in the old days managed to feed large families without recourse to hand-outs, as they would rather have died than admit to receiving, as suggesting an inabilty to feed the family with their canny frugality of necessity.(1)
A representative biography of a family in the last decade of the 19th century gives some notion of the cost of basic food, and diet, in a typical 4-roomed house in London which sustained a typical working-class family. (known to A. Ludovici. Ref Below.)
Her coal cost 1s per cwt.; gas from 3d to 4d a day; Sunday joint, a 3s shoulder of lamb, had to last until Tuesday, with potatoes at 2d for 3lb, and a penn’orth of ‘pot herbs’, consisting of one onion, a carrot, a turnip and a little parsley. Her baked pudding, made of scraps of stale bread, a little chopped suet, 4 oz of currants or raisins, one egg and 1/2 oz of sugar, cost 4d or 5d.
For the rest of the week she could rely on such things as breast of lamb (two at 6d a piece, stuffed heart at 9d; pig’s fry (1lb for 6/7d) and vegetables accordingly. Her bread cost her 2 3/4 d a loaf; milk 11/2d a pint, and 1d a pint skimmed for puddings, on top of which there would be rent and clothes and shoes.
The one great treat was an annual trip to Southend for the day cost 6s 3d (2s 6d for herself and 1s 3d for each child, but an unforgettable event. (No paid holidays then).
She had 13 children of which she managed to only rear three-two girls and a boy-to healthy adolescence. Her husbnad gave her a £1 a week for housekeeping and only by the most studious and careful management was she able to balance her budget. Even so she would have found it difficult if she hadn’t earned 15 shillings per-week, by working 5 days in a laundry from 8am to 7pm as ‘best ironer’.
On reflection the above compares favourably to my memory of the 1940s when even a day trip couldn’t be taken until post-war. Certainly then the Sunday joint was eked out until Wednesday when it was minced.
(1) I recollect a lady, on TV, turning up to a food-bank in car, which must show some notion of priorities.
cwt was a hundredweight; ‘d’ short for the pre-decimal penny; ‘s’ was short for a shilling; oz was short for ounce..
Burton Mail. 31st July 2021.
Punch Magazine. The Inferior Sex. Anthony M Ludovici. Dec. 1.1965.
HMS Amethyst was a modified Black Swan-Class Sloop laid down by Alexander Stephen and Sons, Linthouse, Govan, Scotland on 25th July 1942, being launched on 7th May the following year. After World War II she was redesigned as a Frigate (FII6).
During the war she was engaged on anti-submarine patrol and escort duties, however it was in 1949 that Amethyst became a household name whilst being caught-up in the civil-war in China between the Communists and the Nationalists, when on her way from Shanghai to Nanking on 20th April she was fired on by the Peoples’ Liberation Army. Later becoming known as the ‘Amethyst or Yangste Incident’, it was later made into a film.
Under the Moscow Declaration the UK., US., and Soviets agreed to non-intervention in the Chinese civil-war especially as the Communists said foreign ships would be attacked, the problem being however, that HMS Concert was a guard ship for the embassy at Nanking and Amethyst was sailing up the Yangste to relieve Consort when it came under attack from Communist batteries, resulting in the captain Lt. Commander Bernard Skinner and 22 others being killed.
The ship ran aground and in total 50 were killed or injured, with some being evacuated to hospital in ‘friendly’ Shanghai. Amethyst was stuck for a 100 days before being escorted, under cover of fog, to the south China Sea Today July 30th.
Prior to this 3 other ships were involved in the escape attempts: the destroyer Concord, the frigate Black Swan and cruiser London involving many casualities and damage, and due to the narrow nature of the Yangste all were sitting ducks.
Concord had managed to enter Chinese territorial waters to relieve Amethyst and under deep fog was able to transfer vital supplies, before her escape.
However any idea of overt celebration in Hong Kong afterwards was marred when Sir Ralph Steven our ambassador in Nanking telegrammed to the Foreign Office in Singapore that; ‘No, repeat no, publicity that Concord had been in Chinese territorial waters’, frightened as they were of an international incident.
Like all ships heroic or otherwise Amethyst was scrapped, on 19th January 1957: London was scrapped in 1950.
Lt. Commander Kerans who took command after the after the first captain Skinner was killed bacame a press hero and so did the ship’s cat Simon who did a valiant job keeping down the many rats on board. He was later to be awarded the animal VC., the Dicken Medal.
However the true heroes, as ever, are those who valiantly lost their lives in that post-war skirmish when Britain still had a world-wide power and presence.
Naval Review 1960 Edition Part 1.
Metals divided into ferrous and non-ferrous, are normally relatively strong, tough and ductile at room temperature. However corrosion occurs when most or all the atoms on the same metallic surface are oxidized, damaging the entire area. Most metals are easily oxidized by losing electrons to oxygen and other substances, in air or water. As oxygen is reduced (gains electrons, it forms an oxide with the metal.
Edwin Smith FRS born in Staveley, Derbys., Today in 1931 made his name as a metallurgist specialising in the investigation of the deformation of the crystalline structure of metals where the atoms, normally arranged in an orderly manner, can under various conditions, say stress, lead to plastic flow and fracture and was importantly concerned with the structural integrity of nuclear power stations.
The most obvious degradation of metals we see is corrosion or rust, a natural process which converts a refined metal into a chemical of a more stable form as an oxide, hydroxide, carbonate or sulfide.(1)
Due to its electronegativity oxygen forms stable chemical bonds with almost all elements to give corresponding oxides, exceptions being the noble metals (gold, silver) which resist direct chemical combination with oxygen.
Experiments to demonstrate the oxidizing power of oxygen is to remove the element: boiled water for instance, contains no oxygen and thus no corrosion on anything within, and oil and grease stops fresh oxidation.
Modern methods to reduce oxidation of pure iron is to use for instance, stainless steel where iron is mixed with alloys which reduces the incidence of corrosion.
(1) An oxide compound has at least one oxygen atom and one other element in its formula. Hydroxide is a negative ion( OH-) is oxygen and hydrogen held by a single covalent bond.
Edwin Smith who died in 2010 and common in that age, did his metallurgical calculations before the widespread use of computers, but he did have access to electron microscopes. Metallurgy has contributed to public safety going back to the early days of aircraft design especially in the 1950s when many aircraft, notably the Comet, were lost due to unseen metal fatigue.
Smith later pro-vice-Chancellor at Manchester, was also to realise the amalgamation of the metallurgy departments of UMIST and Manchester University which eventually led to complete integration in 2004.
Today in 1588 when the weather favoured the Hapsburg Spanish Armada, a strong southerly wind bottled the English fleet in Plymouth Sound giving Drake time (accordingto tradition), to finish his bowls. The ships would have been pulled out by large rowing boats and managed to gain advantage by getting up wind. Most of the ships would have been privately owned privateers hoping for spoils, Queen Elizabeth being a keen supporter of privateering adventures.
By the 26th off Portland Bill, Sidonia came out with sixteen of the best galleons but were forced to give way. Just as well for if the Spaniards had managed to land its thousands of soldiers would have been hard pressed as the militia levies, were poorly prepared.
Lord Huntingdon, Lord Lieutenant, had said on the 25th July, that our soldiers ‘were poorly furnished and some would kill one another than the enemy’. During the nights of the 28th of July and the 7th August fire ships were sent against the Spaniards who were lying near Calais and by the next day Lord Howard said ‘we gave them chase’.
It is possible that the weather suited Drake and winds logged by both fleets suggest that the exceptional north-westerly gales would have caused problems as they came down the West Coast of Ireland. The ‘Protestant Wind’ had come to our aid and severe losses were experienced by the Spaniards, at sea and when they tried to land they were cut down by the English. Thus ‘afflavit Deus et dissipati sunt’, says the inscription on Elizabeth’s medal awarded to those who fought in the battle: ‘God blew, and they were dispersed’.
However Geoffrey Elton the Tudor historian gives the weather only last place in his assessment of our victory, citing better seamanship and the new breed of ships with names like the 1573 Dreadnought with its trimmed-down fore and aft castles and carrying heavier guns, ships such as the first Ark Royal, (originally Ark Raleigh, ordered by Raleigh), the flagship of Lord Howard of Effingham and Vanguard.
These long, low and fast ships had been designed by Matthew Baker, had no high fore and stern castles built from the Wealden cast-iron gunnery, cheaper than the old bronze, and which could be loaded inside the ship unlike the Spanish where they had to load from outside. As with most battles more of our sailors died of disease than in conflict and Lord Burghley, Lord Treasurer, cynically said that ‘by death and the discharging of sick something may be spared for general pay’.
Geoffrey Elton. England Under the Tudors. 1955.
It was Today that farmer George Tupper cutting his ploughshare through the soil of the The Berry, one of the strips farmed in the north shadow of the South Downs at Bignor, west Sussex, jarred to a halt. On inspection the impediment proved to be a stone water basin surrounded by vividly coloured patterns which turned out to be one of the most detailed Roman mosaics discovered in northern Europe. The site was to be excavated over the next six years by local MP John Hawkins and antiquary Samuel Lysons and proved to be an unusually grand Roman residence at the centre of a 2000 acre estate.
More detailed excavations were to take place in 1926 under S.E. Winbolt and from 1956 to 1962 under S.S. Frere, but had to await until the 1970s and 80s for a more professional investigation, latterly under Margaret Rule, (famously associated with the discovery of Henry VIII’s flagship, Mary Rose.)
The Bignor area had existed as a farming settlement for over 6 millennia with neolithic flint tools and bronze-age pot shards having been discovered in an environment of woods, chalk downs and the Arun valley. Roman Stane Street would have changed the environment as it cut its way through the region from London Bridge to Chichester. (1)
The villa would have housed about 70 members of the household along with slaves and one of 100s built in Roman Britain, being traditionally enclosed by a courtyard.
Discovered were mosaics, carved stonework and underground heating (hypocausts), but abandoned in the later period of Roman occupation.
By the time of the Norman Domesday Book of 1086 the area was registered as having 16 households, 3 ploughlands, 2 mills and 2 acres of meadow; all the while the worms, roots and time having obscured the sleeping Roman remains underground.
By 1811 on the brink of an agricultural revolution probably land was being ploughed deeper having the effect of revealing more of what lay under the soil surface and it is no surprise that more remains are being discovered in our age of new roads and buildings. The Tuppers still work the land with the difference that the site is now a magnet for visitors to see the splendours of our forebears.
(1) Stane Street was 57 miles long from Londinium to Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester).
The Paston Family of Norfolk wrote 100s of letters to each other in the 15th century and miraculously have survived to tell us much about social conditions of the age. One was written Today in 1461 when John Paston wrote to his cosyn (sic) Margaret. The day was also memorable as being the movable feast called Relick (Relic) Sunday, the day when relics in church were especially venerated. This in itself gives some idea of the religious beliefs under which the Pastons lived.
Relick Sunday (festo Reliquium was as described in a late 15thc sermon, a religious day and celebrated on the Sunday following the translation of ‘seint Thomas of Caunterbery’ (sic) (Thomas-a-Becket), but also to be celebrated on the third Sunday after Mid-Summer’s Day.
Cynics might say that it focussed pilgrimage onto shrines where no saints’ day was appointed and which would be recognized by offerings for which a papal indulgence could be granted.
Also forget major sites such as Canterbury as people didn’t need to go far for it is recorded that, John Baylis’ wife only needed to go to the parish church at Rolvenden, Kent on Relic Sunday in 1511 where it was stated she was, ‘going on pilgrimage at the relics’.
However, as always, there were penalties for non-observance as noted at the Quarter Sessions in Wigan, Lancs., in 1592 when Richard and William Buckley of Charnock Rich, laboueres (sic) and Richard Sharrock of Heath Charnock, (butcher), on the day called Relic Sunday in time of divine service at Chorley played bowls. What the penalty was is unknown.
Mary according to the Catholic Church could not have relics because she had been ‘assumed’ body and soul into heaven following her death. However many places as at Thetford Priory were to have ‘visions’ of Mary which resulted in the widespread founding of Lady Chapels as sites of pilgrimage. The cult of Mary was particularly strong with the old Mozarabic Rite of the Catholic Church so many of the early parish churches were thus dedicated to her.
Pilgrimages attracted people of all types in a fatalistic society accepting good and bad as God’s providence, looking for divine intervention for all ills from saints and shrines. This was a convenient ‘money-spinner’ for churches in a credulous and superstitious age, where a dedication to a particular saint could only be made after a relic had been obtained and preserved in the church either in an alcove or near the altar.
Even though the Reformation would have its say, old religious customs still continued in the 19thc and parts of Northants commemorated the Sunday after St. Thomas-a-Becket Day as Relic Sunday. (Thistleton Dyer. Popular Customs). The Paxton line died with the death of William, 2nd earl of Yarmouth in 1732 when owing to debt the estate was sold.
feste reliquium. Harley MS 2447 Harley MSS. late 14thc/15thc described the commemoration.
Paston Letter: CLXXIII (VI Vol IV p21).
Reliquiae: (Latin remains). The scriptural basis for relics are many: Exodus 13:19: ‘And Moses took Joseph’s bones with him’; Acts 19:11-12: ‘And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. ’Later, St Jerome c CE 340-420: ‘By honouring the martyrs relics we do not fall into error of Gentiles who gave the worship of Latria (adoration) to dead men’. Later still St Thomas Aquinas in summa theological: ‘God honours such relics by working miracles at their presence’. In 2 Kings 13:20-21 we get the account of Elisha’s bones.
If the surrender of the King at Newark in 1646 marked the end of the first civil war, so defeat at Preston of the Royalist Scots invaders in August 1648, marked the end of the second.
The turning point for Parliament in the first civil war, was Marston Moor fought Today on 2nd July in 1644. Lasting three hours, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War was a disaster for the Royalists as 4,150 were killed and 1500 taken prisoner.
As Oliver Cromwell said in a letter to his brother: ‘Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory…God made them a stubble to our swords’.
Cromwell’s New Model Army of Ironsides brought about the decisive defeat of King Charles at Naseby in 1645 and a year later he surrendered to the Scots at Newark and the first Civil War ended.
He was handed over to Parliament on 30th January 1647 and later seized by the Army in June and imprisoned at Northampton and Hampton Court.
Here he was helped by ’double-agent’ Henry Firebrace to escape in November 1647, before fleeing to the Isle of Wight where he thought he had friends, but ended up imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle where he made three attempts at escape using coded messages. (1)
One of his attempts at escape on 20th March 1648 was recorded by this page Firebrace, who attempted to shove him through a window, but a central bar impeded the attempt: ‘But I gave signe, at the appointed tyme, His Majesty put himself forward, but then too late found himself mistaken; he sticking fast between his breast and shoulder…I heard him groan, but could not come to help him’.( (sic) 2)
Charles later secretly negotiated whilst at Carisbrooke with certain Scots’ Covenenters who signed the Alliance or Engagement on 26th December 1647 with the King to restore him to the throne in exchange for a religious settlement.
Aided by the earls of Lauderdale, Loudoun and Lanark under the terms which the King agreed to confirm, saw the ‘Solemn League and Covenant‘.
The result was the breakdown of the Alliance of Scots and English Parliament and the dissolution of the Committee of Both Kingdoms and the disorganised Scots‘ ‘Engager’ invasion of England which ended in defeat at the Battle of Preston. The remnants on 25th August 1648 laid down their arms, after scattering as far as Asbourne and Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.
The die was cast for the King who was despatched to Newport Isle of Wight, then Hurst Castle and finally London to stand trial. The Register at Carisbrooke Church simply records: ‘In the yer (sic) of our lord God, 1649, January the 30th day was Kinge(sic) Charles beheaded at Whitehall Gate’.
(1) A bowling green was laid specially for the use of King Charles I (a keen player), when incarcerated at Carisbrooke Castle.
(2) Firebrace trained as a scrivener was Page of the Bedchamber and later Clerk of the Kitchen under Charles and was a double agent.
Ref: Wright, Stephen. Sept. 2004. Firebrace Sir H OUP. ‘On 20th March 1648 ‘King intended to depart through window’, but the central bar impeded. Also mentioned in Clothes and the Historian: JL Nevinson. Firebrace (1619-1691), was a distant ancestor of poet WH Auden, and accompanied Charles to the scaffold, and is said to have received a diamond ring.
Today in 1492 the dour and parsimonious image of Henry VII takes a knock when we find that he lost £40 at cards and on the previous January 8th put aside £5 for an evening’s gambling, big money for those days. (1)
Unlike his predecessors Henry took a keen interest in financial affairs knowing that a wealthy monarch was a strong monarch and vice-versa. Also wealth would pay for a larger army to keep the barons in check and retain their loyalty. Then he arranged his elder son Arthur to marry Catherine of Aragon and so hopefully avoid the cost of war with Spain.
Henry VII’s claim to the throne is disputatious as many of the monarchs of Britain. However what is indisputable is Henry’s claim to the throne by his victory at Bosworth in 1485.
There is only one reference, and that in a poem in the reign of James I, which mentions the later transition of the Tudors to the Stuarts with the tendency to downplay their Welsh ancestry; Henry VIII preferred to emphasise his credentials as the House which melded York and Lancaster.(2)
Later in the reign of Henry VII legislation prohibited servants and apprentices from engaging in dicing and cards except at Christmas, even royalty was to avoid such activities during religious holidays, but as now there was one law for the rich and powerful and one for the rest.(3)
(1) Privy Purse Accounts in PRO show details.
(2) It wasn’t until David Hume in his History and Philosophy which designated the Tudors as a distinct period.
(3) Christmas Origens and Associations. William Francis Dawson.
Ref: Henry VII Polydore Vergil Anglia Historia.
Ref: murrayand blue.wordpress.com/ Pic
Ref: englishhistory.net/tudor entertainment and pastimes.
Hair has long had social and religious implications. As said in Ezekiel: ’Son of Man take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor and cause it to pass upon thine head and thine beard’. In late medieval England Chaucer describes the squire: ‘With lokkes crulle, as they were leyd in presee’.
In Shakespeare’s, Two Gentlemen of Verona, wigs are first recorded.
Today in 1789 Parson Woodforde recalls in his Diary for Monday that: ‘Old Mr. Dalton called on me…I did not know old Mr. Dalton at first as he now wears his Hair’.
A century before on Thursday October 22nd 1668 the diarist Samuel Pepys recalls: ‘Up, and W Batelier Frenchman, a Perriwigg (sic) maker comes and brings me a new one, which I liked and paid him for…’
Pepys as the fashion was new in 1663 was worried that people might laugh at him in church and that the hair could have come from someone with the plague. Wigs might come from human hair, horse hair, cotton thread, goat hair and silk. They came in many styles: bob, bag, campaign, grizzle, Ramilles, cauliflower, brown tie, riding bob and more. Depending on length of braid and bounciness of curl a full wig could cost £50, in those days an astronomical amount, and were often left in wills. Servants (‘frisseurs’) blew coloured powder onto the wigs.
Wigs then went out of fashion and soon only the clergy would be faithful to the fashion, and barristers and judges to this day. The situation was bad enough for the Peruquiers Petition on the 11th February 1765 presented to King George III by the master perukemakers of the metropolis, which complained about…’the almost universal decline of their trade, in consequence of gentlemen so generally to wear their own hair’.
Wigs or ‘perukes’ (made by perukemakers) had been a fashion accessory since classical times; Queen Elizabeth had eighty ‘attires’ mostly red or yellow, but they became really fashionable after 1624 when Louis XIII wore one to hide his baldness. Dandies had their wigs blue powdered in the late 18thc in special closets, there was even a tax on wig powder!
Cecil Hartley’s Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette (1873) wrote: ‘there was a time when it was thought presumption and vanity to wear one’s own hair instead of the frightful elaborations of the wigmakers’. In the church of St James’s Garlickhythe the wig on warm days could be hung on a wooden peg behind the pulpit and other examples were to be seen in many City churches.
Wigs are now the preserve of barristers and judges and evidence of the clerical origin of lawyers was seen in the circular orifice in the centre of the judge’s wig, all that remains of the monastic and clerical tonsure. Will Owen the artist records in Old London Town 1921 that a wig-maker in the Temple Mr Witts daily powdered Mr Justice Hawkins wig when he presided at the Old Bailey.
Hair was to acquire a price and young children were at risk of having theirs forcibly removed, whilst the poor bought lottery tickets in the hope of winning a wig. In the early 19thc it was recorded that the ‘Jasey’ (a corruption of Jersey), ‘a worsted wig, a very old-fashioned article’, was still being worn by some octogenarians.
The cleric William Wake enthroned in 1716 wore a curly wig quite unlike real hair, but the next eight archbishops all wore more formal wigs, ending with William Howley as late as 1848. The last prelate to wear a wig under his mitre was Archbishop John Bird Sumner (accession 1848) up to his death in 1862.
In the 1851 census there were around 12,000 hairdressers and wig-makers. Nowadays one would be lucky to find a wig-maker outside the metropolis. One trade that has abounded in recent times is barbering if Burton-on-Trent, Staffs is anything to go by.
Ref: End Column, Christopher Howse. Sacred Mysteries. Daily Telegraph Sat. 23.2.2013
Ref: Hair: Corinthians II (NT). Ezekial (OT).
Ref: Parson Woodeford’s Diaries.
Ref: Pepys Diaries.
A statue of the two Cornish rebels is to be found at St. Keverne, along with a plaque on Blackheath Common and at Guildford the site of a preliminary skirmish.
Today in 1497 saw the first of two Cornish rebellions in the age of the first Tudor, which ended in Michael Joseph the Smith (an Gof) and Thomas Flamank a lawyer, being Hanged Drawn and Quartered as traitors at Tyburn.
It resulted from a march of the people of St. Keverne on London, where on reaching Blackheath and the Battle of Deptford Bridge, they were defeated.
The rebels believed Henry VII’s taxes would bring no benefit and would be spent fighting the Scots especially after the doomed attempt of the King to marry-off his daughter Margaret to James IV.
One of the key rebels was Sir James Tuchet, 7th Lord Audley 1463- 1497, leader of this first Cornish rebellion in June 1497 at Wells.
A later Cornish revolt came in the reign of Edward VI who was under increased opposition from social unrest with the Prayer Book Revolt ( Western Revolt) in the West Country of 1549. The Western rebels were crushed with such ferocity by Seymour that Paget wrote: ‘Every man of Council have misliked your proceeding’. (1)
In 1542 Andrew Boorde’s ’First Boke (sic) of the Introduction of Knowledge’, records that, ‘in Cornwall is two speeches, the one is naughty Englysshe and the other is Cornysshe, And there may be many men and women the which cannot speak one word of Englysshe bevelling all Cornysshe’.
Cornwall has always been isolated from the rest of the country, its language only dying in the 18thc. Having its own flag it still maintains a sturdy independence.
(1) Arthur Champernowne of the Devon Family who had the explorers Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Raleigh as nephews, as sons of his sister, originally from Cambernon in Normandy, helped to put down the 1549 Cornish Rebellion as he was not a fan of restoring the Latin mass, favouring as he did the English Prayer Book.