Archive by Author | colindunkerley

8th February 1965. Smoking.

On 7th May 1956 Health Minister R.H. Turton rejected calls for a Government campaign against smoking as not proved as a causal link between lung cancer. In June 1957 a link was accepted.

Tobacco plants which have been found to have many beneficial medicinal uses.

Today in 1965 the Labour government announced a ban on TV cigarette adverts, after a link between smoking and disease was assumed in 1957 and smoking has been under attack ever since.

By the end of the 17thc tobacco originally a luxury had become so popular that there were 7,000 tobacconists in London and tobacco had become a cure all for maladies such as VD, migraine and the plague.

On Columbus’s second voyage American Indians had been seen sniffing strange powder and the snuff habit caught on, also drinking a tobacco-concoction medicinally was thought to be cure for pox.

John Rolfe who married the Indian Pocahontas, had developed local tobacco and was given the import monopoly in the new colony of America.

The first report of smoking in England is of a sailor seen ‘emitting smoke from his nostrils’, in 1556. It was a Frenchman Jean Nicot from whose name ‘Nicotine’ is derived who introduced tobacco to France in 1560 and it was from France not the New World that tobacco reached England. The term ‘smoking’ is of the late 17th, previously it was known as ‘drinking smoke’.

It was Raleigh’s patronage in the 17thc which helped to spread the habit of smoking and was to be one more indictment of James I (VI) for the Scot’s King could not bear the ‘noxious weed’ and wrote a tract ‘A Counterblast to Tobacco’.

This attitude was surprising as tobacco was another profitable product of Empire available for taxation and which by the 17thc its use had spread in England and Holland much to the benefit of the English Colony of Virginia.

The active ingredient of tobacco is nicotine an alkaloid which is one of the naturally occurring  tobacco smoke compounds and containing mostly basic nitrogen atoms.(1)

In a bid to give up cigarettes the practice of ‘vaping’ using electronic cigarettes containing Nicotine ‘E- Liquids’, has become the fashion which avoids inhalation of deleterious tobacco smoke, but still supplies the Nicotine many crave.

(1) Nicotine comes from the Nightshade Family and is present in potatoes and tomatoes with many finding whilst smoking it aided concentration and clearness of memory whilst reducing anxiety. Research is investigating its possible beneficial effects on Parkinson Disease.


City Am/Pic.

Daily Mail. 15.4.2017 article on beneficial use of tobacco in medicine/Pic.



7th February 1812. The Immortal Dickens.

Charles Dickens in the decade ending 2010 was 78th in volume of books sold. He enjoyed coining new names for himself such as ‘The Sparkler of Albion’, ‘Revolver’ and the ‘Inimitable’.

by (George) Herbert Watkins,photograph,1858.

Dickens books first came out in serial form which was common at the time and his covers were a blue-green colour, as Thackeray’s were canary yellow to aid identification at a distance. Gad’s Hill Place in Kent was the only place he ever owned and was his home for his last thirteen years.

The birth of quill pen author, thrice married, Charles Huffam Dickens took place today in 1812.

Much influenced by the 18thc writer Fielding his first six novels are in the picaresque genre after which Martin Chuzzlewit 1844 saw the transfer to a mature seriousness.

Dickens was inspired by the Arabian Nights and as Steerforth says to David Copperfield who had a fund of stories: ‘you shall tell ’em to me’…We’ll make some regular Arabian Nights of it’.

Writing 2,000 words a day on small pieces of paper, be became one of the most celebrated and prolific of 19th century authors, driven by the need for money and security, he ‘burnt out’ at 58 and died in 1870.

He was one of the first subscribing members of the London Library in 1842; Carlyle picking him a mass of books on the French Revolution for his ‘Tale of two Cities’dedicated to Lord John Russell: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….’There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face on the throne of France’.

Though he lampooned the law in his writings ‘If the law says that it is an ass’, he was always the first to resort to the law in a series of bitter disputes with his many publishers. Dickens fought a High Court battle with publishers Bradbury and Evans when they refused to publish a statement denying rumours that the author was having an affair.

The case became a real life Jarndyce v Jarndyce he had written about in Bleak House a few years before. Later Dickens’s problem was that he committed himself to too many books concurrently and with an early publisher John Macrone, not being able to meet his commitments, Dickens simply tore up the contract.(1)

First Edition of Oliver Twist. George Cruikshank.

Dickens was a great campaigner against Victorian hypocrisy and abuse many of his novels and characters were taken from his personal acquaintance; the workhouse system in Oliver Twist personified in the beadle Bumble; the abuse of children in private schools personified in Wackford Squeers the owner of Dotheboys Hall School in Nicholas Nickleby and illegitimacy the scandal in Bleak House.

Miserly employers in Christmas Carol’s with Scrooge in the Christmas Carol and only when he remembers reading ‘Ali Baba’ does Scrooge’s frozen heart thaw. This along with Pickwick Papers (1836) thus set the traditional Christmas we know today.(2)

Sam Weller from Pickwick Papers.

Micawber found in the largely autobiographical David Copperfield is the perennial optimist ‘hopeful of something turning up’, based on his spendthrift father who was later employed as office manager when Dickens was the short-lived editor of the Daily News, and also features the unctuous Uriah Heep.

Other characters are the hypocritical Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewich; Gradgrind the harsh industrialist in Hard Times and the supercilious Podsnap who was concerned to ignore anything low or debasing. The Coketon was based on Preston then a place of industrial hardship.

Dickens was much travelled, in Britain with his public readings and Europe, whilst his unfavourable 1842 America visit, was used in Martin Chuzzlewit and saw the birth and destruction exacted by the railways, recounted in Dombey and Son.

Dickens was himself involved in an early dreadful railway crash over a viaduct in Kent, going back to the overhanging carriage to retrieve that month’s manuscript of Our Mutual Friend.

Many of the iniquities Dickens’ railed against were reformed with the 1870 Education Act, the 1873 Judicature Act and other legislation.

Matthew Arnold’s ‘Culture and Anarchy’ (1869) came out at the time when Dickens Eliot and Trollope were selling to a growing and literate middle-class, a class which Arnold described as ‘Philistine and saw a need for an elitist culture which would lead the benighted masses towards ‘sweetness and light’. Dickens was kept off the English syllabus at Oxford for decades as critics thought him a superficial populist.


Ref: gettyimages.

Ref: Life of Charles Dickens by John Forster 1872-4. The Unfinished Dickens Dream by R.W.Buss.


A blue plaque, erected in 1903 at Doughty Street, near Covent Garden, one of his many London homes, over the years.

Dickens’ early love Maria Beadnell inspired Dora in David Copperfield and the later more more fleshly Maria as Flora Finching in Little Dorrit.

(1) Jarndyce noted for an interminable court case.

(2) Dickens put Sudbury in Suffolk on the map as Eatenswill in Pickwick Papers.

6th February 1783. ‘Capability’ Brown and Rhubarb.

What rhubarb, senna, or what purgative drug would scour these English hence’: Macbeth, Scene III.

Rhubarb of family Polygonaceae. The colour depends on the presence of Anthocyanins a parent class of Flavonoids which impart the red colour to the stems. It is a laxative!

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, gardener, landscape designer and flatterer of the rich who died today in 1783 would have been familiar with antique rhubarb varieties, but made his name in landscape design.

Brown was born in 1716 at Kirkharle in Northumberland becoming an apprentice gardener at 16 working on the Kirkharle Estate until 24 before going on to design 170 gardens including Blenheim and Warwick Castle.

To celebrate the tercentenary of his birth Doddingtom Farm at Kirkharle not only produced a cheese in his memory but a vintage rhubarb ice-cream using an antique rhubarb variety as used in Brown’s day, from their fields near the dairy.

Brown was to inspire William Kent who had created the garden at Thomas Coke’s Holkham Hall, following the natural landscapes of Claude Lorraine and the 17thc Italian paintings and so ended formal geometric parterres typical of previous times.

One of Brown’s innovations was the ‘ha-ha’ a sunken barrier separating pleasure grounds from the fields. Temples, grottoes and follies proliferated, however one garden defeated Brown: ‘the place is so flat’, he said in declining the 3rd Earl of Harrington’s request to landscape his 200 acre estate at Elvaston, Derbyshire. (1)

Badminton House in the 19thc showing grounds designed by Brown.

After achieving royal recognition with Hampton Court, Brown went on to Blenheim Palace in the 1760s where with 2,500 acres he dammed a river and laid out trees and paths to match the Battle of Blenheim.

Whilst we can still enjoy Brown’s landscapes today we can also enjoy rhubarb much of the early maturing varieties coming from the Rhubarb Triangle near Halifax, Yorkshire where it is forced in dimly lit sheds.(2)

(1) Elvaston was the Country’s first Country Park in 1970.

(2) Rhubarb ( Rheum rhabarbarum) leaves are poisonous containing Oxalic Acid and in WWI many were poisoned when it was thought they could be used to alleviate food shortage.


Ref: Charles Darwin: The Power of the Place. Vol 2. E Janet Browne.

Ref: Sept 2nd 2016. Courtney MaCarton.


5th February 1805. Opium.

John Jones in his 1700, ‘Mysteries of Opium Revealed’, credited it not to dulling pain, but inducing ‘serenity’,‘promptitude‘,’alacrity‘, ‘euphory’, ‘contentation,’ and ‘equanimity’.

Many families were involved in the opium trade with even the Wordsworth’s investing £20,000 in John’s voyage on the earl of Abergavenny, a large sum for a family still living more or less hand to mouth in a tiny Cumbrian cottage with two bedrooms, stone floors, smoking chimneys and sheets of newspaper pasted on the walls. The convoy sailed for China carrying a cargo of silver dollars and the prospect of gain from opium, standing to gain up to £30,000, £1,000,000 in today’s money.

However disastrously for John Wordsworth his ship went down Today on 5th February 1805 after striking a sandbank off Portland Bill three days after setting sail. Two hundred and sixty passengers and crew drowned.

Opium in the late 18th and 19th centuries was the recreational drug and before the 1868 Pharmacy Act anyone could trade in opium products; The Society for the Suppression of Opium was founded in the same year.

The 19thc was the era of sinister opium dens in London and much cocaine use but 1910 saw the dismantling of the Indian-Chinese opium trade which the East India Company had controlled whereby India had the monopoly in growing and selling of prepared opium which brought a quarter of India’s revenue.

Imports rose six fold here between 1825 and 1850 and by 1870 income from its export accounted for no less than a fifth of tax revenues, mainly at the expense of the Chinese.

‘It keeps womenfolk quiet it do’ says the old Fenlander in Charles Kingsley’s, Alton Locke (1850) and was mothers’ little helper in childcare,  and one effect of the the 1868 Poisons and Pharmacy Act was to reduce infant mortality by opium overdose by two thirds.

Alcohol Opium Tincture and Laudanum freely available in pharmacies and grocers, was used to keep children quiet.

Art and literature flourished under the influence of opium or cocaine, from De Quincey’s ‘Confessions of an Opium Eater‘, to Coleridge, Shelley and Keats, later Charles Dickens where it featured in his unfinished ‘Mystery of Edward Drood’ with the seedy addiction of John Jasper. Kipling’s ‘Kim’ 1901 centred on the wide availability of opium.

Other partakers of the period included Wilberforce, Disraeli and Florence Nightingale, with many taking drugs to ease pain.

The popular novelist and intellectual Mrs Humphrey Ward, who suffered ill-health, recorded: ‘my syringe and my needle, like my toothbrush and prayer book, are sacrosanct. I would not dream of allowing my best friend to share them’.

Novels such as the Moonstone 1868 by Wilkie Collins used opium as a plot-device for both medicinal and exotic deviant association. Collins had an ambivalent attitude towards opiates shown when Francis Blake steals a diamond against his knowledge as he had secretly had his drink laced with laudanum. The publication of the book coincided with 1868 Act.(1).

Refined ladies after enjoying afternoon tea would bare their arms and inject each other to relieve the ennui up until WWI.(2)

Opium the once wonder drug continued to be big business by big imperial trader interests until the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 which banned cocaine, though amphetamine-based products such as Benzedrine could still be bought over the counter in the Fifties.

(1) Collins used laudanum and injected morphine.

(2) Reported by Sarah Phelps who wrote The Crimson Field for BBC TV broadcast in April 2014, who had read ‘All these Edwardian ladies diaries saying they used to have morphine parties which explains why they joined the VAD to nurse the soldiers.


Ref: Opium-Realites Dark Dream. Thomas Dormandy, Yale 2012.

Ref: Opium and Empire in Victorian Britain

Ref Wilkie Collins Hutchinson 2013.

Mary Augusta Ward re Humphreys Nb Matthew Arnold.

4th February 1924. Morris Vehicles.

By 1913 the British Motor industry built 25,000 cars and 9,000 commercial vehicles (3rd place in the international league) way behind America’s 461,000 (cars) and France’s 45,000. However while Ford made twenty cars a day, it took Morris a week to turn out the same number.

In 1921 William Morris, the former cycle repairer, decided to slash the price of his already cheap Cowley and more up-market ‘Bullnose’ models  By 1924, the Model T Ford was overtaken by Morris and in 1925 sales, helped by acquisitions, were 54,151. In 1927 Morris took over Wolseley Cars.(1)

Above a share certificate of Wrigley dated 16th March, 1922 soon to be worthless.

One early acquisition by Morris was that of E G Wrigley & Company which Today in 1924 was incorporated as Morris Commercial Cars Ltd, based on the Morris car chassis, and which was to produce a wide range of distinctively designed vans, lorries and buses-Morris Commercials.

Morris Oxford, Cabriolet 1924.

Wrigley was a British car gear and axle components manufacturer of Foundry Lane Birmingham having made its last car in 1913 and its assets and buildings were acquired by Morris on 1st January 1924  after it went into liquidation the previous year..

Up till then a small number of commercial variants of Morris were built at Cowley, Oxford, but now serious production began with Morris Commercial Vehicles being formed by Morris founder of Morris Motors Ltd.

Morris Commercial 1 ton van 1928.

Morris Commercial LC 5. 1953 registered.







In 1932 the commercial vehicle business transferred across Birmingham to the former Wolseley factory at Adderley Park and in 1936 Morris sold the company into his Morris Motors.

1939 registered Morris Commercial Bus.

1952 Morris Commercial Van.







1936 Morris Fourteen Six Cylinder car. Cost c£200-300.

Morris Commercial Cars Ltd had use of the brand name until 1968 when British Motor Holdings (BMC), parent company of Austin/Morris merged with Leyland Motor Corporation to become British Motor Corporation.

(1) Morris was later Lord Nuffield.

References: and wrigleys/Pic.

alamy.1936 Pic

commons of cabriolet.


classic cars.1952.

flickr.1939 bus.


3rd February 1873. Founder of the RAF.

In 1917 the Sopwith Camel bi-plane joined in hostilities against the Germans a year before the founding of the RAF. (1)

Hugh Trenchard born Today in 1873 had joined the army in 1893, but after taking flying lessons became Brigadier-General of the Royal Flying Corps by 1914, then part of the army. He advocated the separation of the Air and Army forces being chiefly responsible for the formation of the RAF in April 1918 when the air force had expanded to nearly 300,000, more than there had been soldiers in 1914.

The other two services tried to kill off the upstart RAF and the bomber was used by Trenchard in his move in securing the future of the service, strategists claiming the bomber would always get through. The Zeppelin raids on East Anglia and London in the First War had caused alarm of airborne forces when Britain realised we were no longer an island immune from attack.

By 1933 the RAF’s fully operational home bomber force comprised five night bomber squadrons and 6-day squadrons, however it did lose the Fleet Air Command to the Admiralty and its aircraft carrier force.

Trenchard’s promoted strategic air power theories, which proposed attacks not just on military and industrial targets but also civilian to undermine moral later to be used in the Second World War.

Inter-war he was the instigator of ‘Air Control’ when as the first Chief of Air Staff he promised Churchill that he could suppress Iraqi rebellion through air power alone. However, troops had to be sent, and a local militia recruited locally to pacify the region.

Trenchard unlike Churchill and Sir Horace Rumbold our Berlin Ambassador thought that the Germans could be persuaded to disarm, especially if we strengthened our Air Force, but when the political tide started to turn in 1935 he was sacked.

Statue to Viscount Trenchard (1873-1956) unveiled by PM Harold Macmillan 7.7.1961.

Today a statue to Lord Trenchard is to be found opposite the old Air Ministry in Whitehall.

(1) Many small companies were building aircraft in the early days such as Norwich’s Boulton and Paul with its Sopwith Snipe and Mann-Egerton’s (under licence) Short’s Bomber. Robert Robey of Lincoln, boiler engineers built Sopwith planes in 1916 and Short’s Sea-Planes.

Ref: alamy/Pic.

2nd February 1758. Rinderpest.

The great cattle disease down the ages has been Rinderpest and attempts to inoculate against it were attempted in the 18th century. 

It was Today in 1758 that medical practitioner Daniel Peter Layard FRS a medical practitioner  read a letter to the Royal Society referring to an experiment by the Dean of York on ‘five beasts inoculated by means of a skein of cotton dipped in the matter and passed thro’ a hole like a seaton in the dewlap’ [of the animal].

It appears that four out of five survived after being re-integrated with the other cows. Layard advised inoculation except for young calves and pregnant animals. What the Dean of York was doing in animal disease control is a mystery!

The first written report on Rinderpest inoculation in a letter signed ‘TS’ to the Gentleman’s Magazine which was read by educated men here and on the Continent.(1)

However there was some misreporting as the author named a Mr Dobson, a gentleman of Yorkshire who was said to have inoculated cattle with nine out of ten surviving. Dobson then replied  that he was surprised to see his name mentioned,  ‘as far from having any cattle he didn’t even own a cow’.

The real story according to Dobson related to a Sir William St Quintin of Scampton, Yorkshire who it appears had inoculated 8 calves of which 7 survived after being run with a herd of infected cattle.

The importance of correct reporting is vital as the later correction went unnoticed and Dobson was credited with the first inoculation and most authors also misspelt his name as Dodson and got the year wrong as 1744 instead as 1754.

Right through the middle ages Anthrax and Rinderpest were epidemic and calamitous for the animals and also affected food, fertilizer and motive power. The diseases were lumped together as common murrain and much disease was imported as nowadays showing the international nature of farming in those early days.

Engraving showing inspection for Rinderpest in 19thc at Metropolitan Cattle Market, London.

In 1714 Rinderpest was brought from the Netherlands and in 1865-6 was imported from Russia which killed 250,000 cattle in the London area, an outbreak which resulted in the British National Veterinary Service in 1865.

Walter Plowright who died in 2010 as a Veterinary scientist was to produce the first tissue culture vaccine (TCRV) a key element to the elimination of Rinderpest world wide, the first animal disease to be eradicated. He went on to win the World Food Prize in 1999.(2)

(1) The letter was signed TS in the November issue 1754. 24:493, and as it supported inoculation against smallpox it was natural to support the same treatment to cattle.

(2) Plowright was born in Holbeach, Lincolnshire on 20th July 1923.

Ref: D.P.Layard ‘A Discourse on the usefulness of inoculation of horned cattle to prevent the contagion among them.’ Philosophical Transactions 1759 50: 11..

Ref: Info. from The Immunization of Cattle against Rinderpest in 18thc Europe,

Ref: F. Home Medical Factors and Experiments. London. A. Miller. 1759.

Ref: Ian Sample. The Guardian Oct. 14th 2010. Article on Elimination of Rinderpest.