Today in 1831, ‘After a month of increasing disorder, a majority of the working population of Merthyr Tydfil impelled by a variety of motives, in part instructive and irrational, but in part political and socialistic purposive …broke into a riot and insurrection… led by ironstone miners of William Crawshay, who attacked the houses of ironmasters and local bailiffs’. (1)
It appears trouble arose from enforced debt collection and wage reductions, as the value of iron fell, and payment in ‘Truck’ where tokens were issued to be spent in the company’s ‘Tommy Shop’, a form of debt bondage.
Truck was legislated against in 1465, but was being paid in mining in West Cumbria in the 1670s and later in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Cornwall.
Many tokens were not necessarily ‘Truck’ being redeemable for cash, the tokens themselves not being officially recognised as currency, but widely accepted as thus.
The situation was not helped by the dearth of small denomination regal copper coins between 1787-1819 owing to amongst other things, forgery and the weight and size of George III, ’Wheel Pennies’. As a result tokens circulated in parallel with official coinage.
Tokens were paid in Copperas production in the 17th/18th centuries, being a source of green vitriol (copperas), hydrated iron sulphate used in black dyes and inks. Local unemployed on the coast of Kent and Essex found copperas stone inside London Clay after a heavy storm and took it to the local Copperas House in exchange for tokens.(2)
In 1807 ‘truck’ was outlawed, but proved ineffective. The 1831 Truck Act listed many trades where payment must be made in cash, but the practice of truck tokens was continued in coal and ironstone mining until the 1887 Amendment Act which made provision to cover virtually all manual workers. An 1896 Act regulated the amount of deduction for poor work.
In 1960 the Payment of Wages Act replaced certain sections of the Truck Acts, permitting the payment of wages by cheque.
The Merthyr riots saw the Red Flag hoisted as a sign of Revolution for the first time in British history, later to be a symbol of worker radicalism ever since.
(1) (Taken from the National Library of Wales Journal. 1959. (Winter Volume X 1/2).
(2) These were located at Queenborough and Minster on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, Walton-on-the-Naze and Frinton in Essex.
The above two cartoons are the work of caricaturist and printmaker James Gillray, famous for his etched political and social satires, who died Today in 1815. Political cartoonists at that time were the focal point for criticism against the overweening power of politicians and monarchy making as it did strong and biting visual comment on any abuse as they saw it.
It was a satire in which William Hogarth had previously blazed a trail in a medium which developed in the latter part of the 18th century with the likes of Thomas Rowlandson.
Gillray is described as the ‘father of political cartoons’, whilst his predecessor William Hogarth is especially famed for his cartoons, having a strong moral tone, portraying as they do, the dire social conditions of that century.
The satirists aim was to call to account the King, politicians and generals with Gillray portraying George III as a pretentious buffoon, with the bulk of his work reserved for Napoleon and Revolutionary France.
It was the likes of George Cruikshank who continued the tradition of Hogarth and Gillray, from 1815 to the 1840s., by which time Punch Magazine was launched with many eminent cartoonists carrying the flag of satire. Later in the century this was taken up by the popular press.
Press, Charles, 1981. The Political Cartoon. Fairleigh Dickinson. Un. Press.
Andrew Roberts. Napoleon. 2014.
Martin Rowson. Secret of Drawing.
Balloon Command used winches by Thompson and Southwick of Tamworth, Staffs., makers of Pit-Head wheels. One anchor for balloons was Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire.
Today in 1942 Admiral Cunningham noted in a minute that: ‘the fact that the enemy are sending up aircraft to shoot these balloons down is practical evidence of the efficacy of the attacks’.
He went on: ‘It is inconceivable that aircraft should be ordered off the ground for pursuing balloons which must be hard to find unless that are regarded by the enemy as being a real menace’.
Cunningham might have been enthusiastic because it was the Royal Navy Boom Defence Dept, which conducted the campaign. In the Battle of Britain, Messerschmitts would attack the balloons with green and yellow tracers and they would explode in flames and sink gracefully to earth. The silver balloons 66ft long and 30ft high were filled with 20,000 cubic feet of hydrogen and tethered by steel cables.
RAF Balloon Command was founded to control the UK barrage Balloons in the UK on 1st November 1938 with an HQ at Old Church Lane, RAF Stanmore Park. It controlled RAF Cardington and Chessington and in its time had four commanders, three Air-Vice Marshalls and finishing with an Air Commodore in February 1945.
At the start of the war WAAFs worked on the balloons repairing seams and doping tears in the fabric, but the need to release men for combat by 1941 prompted the suggestion that women could take charge of the 500lb balloons and hoisting them when a raid was threatened. So by February, a number of WAAF had volunteered for an intensive training course.
This was so successful that the ‘young amazons’ were running over a thousand sites by 1942. Picture Post Magazine to maintain the men’s morale said: ‘it did not imply they had been doing a woman’s job as it requires sixteen women to replace ten airmen…it is only the great progress and simplification of manipulation …that has made the substitution possible‘.
During the war balloons carrying incendiary devices were launched on westerly winds from the Norfolk Coast towards occupied Europe in an attempt to cut pylon cables.
They were associated with Operation Outward which took place from March 1942 to September 1944, involving the release of 100,000 balloons from Landguard Common in Felixstowe, Old Stairs near Ringwold in Kent and from 1943 Waxham north of Great Yarmouth.
There were two types of balloon: 53,543 carried incendiaries and 45,600 trailed a wire. This wire derived from British experiences with errant barrage balloons, was an attempt to disrupt Europe’s electricity supply. There is no record of the incendiary devices causing damage despite Cunningham’s minute, though the wire trailers might have had a greater effect. (1)
(1) A graph showing some correlation between their launch and grid failure in Pomerania and Eastern Prussia can be found in JP Foynes’s book. ‘The Battle of the East Coast 39-45’.
Today saw the death of portrait and landscape painter Francis Wheatley RA. A popular artist of the time, born in 1747 he entered the school of the Royal Academy in 1769, first exhibiting in 1778.
One of the joys of these paintings is their ability to show various aspects of 18th century contemporary life.
Each picture tells a tale as this one by Wheatley of the Irish House of Commons which reminds us that Ireland though controlled by Westminster had its own legislature until the 1801 Act of Union.
There would have been many camp-followers of the military as they move around the country, the background showing tented structures quickly packed and carted according to the demands of military manoeuvres.
The Painting above was executed with 18thc actors and is an interesting example of how artists were influenced by what they saw on stage.
The largely unknown Wheatley contributed 12 paintings to Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery and is one of dozens of talented British artists of the 18th and 19th centuries before photography took its toll.
Manchester City Gallery.
archive.org. Shakespeare Illustrated. Francis Wheatley.
The Korean War saw for the first time jet fighters in air-to-air combat.
The Korean War, described as a ‘police action’ under United Nations auspices, began Today in 1950 when North Korean troops invaded South Korea across the 38th parallel after years of border skirmishes.(1)
The UN which never in fact officially declared war, authorised action which involved 21 countries for service in Korea.
By August Britain still under a Labour government and with Prime Minister, Clement Attlee talking about ‘naked aggression’, had committed troops to the conflict half of whom were National Servicemen and reservists.
America flexing its muscles for the first time against the threat of Communism committed 90% of the ground troops and it constituted the first time both Britain and the US had the chance to combine since the formation of NATO in 1948.
The Soviets temporary absence from the UN Security Council facilitated the Council’s condemnation of the aggression and called on Members to aid South Korea which had been occupied by American and Russian troops in 1945 and in 1947, but which by 1948 was one of two sovereign states in the peninsula.
The Soviets had refused to admit a United Nations Commission and set up a Communist People’s Republic President. Elections were held in the American Zone and the Republic of Korea in the south was established.
Britain committed 22 ships including two carriers the Triumph and Unicorn and the Cruiser Belfast, which were placed under the American General MacArthur, (later to be replaced. (2)
The deciding factor in the war was on 19th October 1950 when the Chinese crossed the Yalu River to enter the war thus forcing an allies retreat back to the 38th Parallel by late December.
The war was to drag on until 27th July 1953 with the loss of more than two million lives, when the truce documents were to be finally signed at Panmunjom.
The Korean War ironically fought under a traditionally pacifist Labour Government saw some 60,000 Britons, out of 78,000 Europeans, serving with over 4,436 killed missing or injured. By the end nearly 75% British soldiers were conscripts.
(1) Words by President Harry S Truman.
(2) The Korean War(1950-53) saw the use of carriers such as the ninth-named Triumph ( launched in 1946 and scrapped in 1981), was a 13,350 ton Colossus Class Light Fleet Carrier, a Class conceived in the mid-1940s.
Triumph in 1952 was the first to be fitted with the British invented angled-flight deck and originally regarded with indifference amounting to derision, said Dennis Campbell later Rear Admiral, its inventor.
Another carrier which served in Korea was the 11th named Unicorn the only ship of her Class was launched on 20th November 1941. Displacing 16,510 tons standard weight, it was a maintenance and occasional light fleet carrier which saw service from 1943 onward, being scrapped in 1960.
IWM [GB] Showing History. R. McDonough. 13.6. 2018.
The first known Almanac to be printed in England was, ‘Sheapheards (sic) Kalendar printed by Richard Pynson of 1497. The mnemonic rhyme the ‘30 Days hath September’… was first recorded in the ‘1606 Return from Parnassus’, and the ‘Winter Cambridge Almanac’ (1635).
The summer solstice last fell on this day in 1979 the next one is not due until 2100.
The Summer Solstice can fall in this country on the 20th and the 22nd, the last time it fell on the 20th was more than a century ago before the years 2012 and 2016.
Elsewhere in the world it can even occur on the 19th and the 23rd although in the Southern Hemisphere it is of course the Winter Solstice.
Before the reorganisation of the calendar in Britain in 1752 the summer solstice fell on June 10th because the Julian Calendar (introduced on 1st January 45 BC) had slipped 11 days. In 1582 the disparity between solar and calendar time had slipped by 10 days and Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed his Gregorian or New-Style Calendar to secure uniformity. It was also decided when the New Year should begin thus moving it from March to January. In Scotland New Year’s Day had been January 1st since 1600.
In the 1660s the Samuel Pepys reflected this confusion in his Diaries starting his reckoning on 25th of March but also noting the Roman consular date of January 1 as ‘New Years Day’.
However it took Protestant nations until 1752 to come into line, by which time the gap was 11 days so it was enacted that September 2nd should become the 14th to compensate. The effect was to bringing forward all dates subsequent to Wednesday September 2nd 1752 by 11 days thus Thursday was 14th September.
Confusion exists with Mid-Summer’s Day, but June 24th has always been a Quarter Day, the feast of St John and celebrated by Christians as the birth of St John Baptist.
One thing which has remained constant however is the naming of seven days of the week, which are based on a mixture of Roman, Germanic and Norse mythology an the five visual planets along with the sun and moon. (1)
Thus Saturday (Saturn), Sunday (Sun) and Monday (Moon. Then Tuesday, originally Tiwesdaeg (Day of Tiw); for Wednesday, Wodnesdaeg (Day of Woden); for Thursday, Thursdaeg (Day of Thor); for Friday, Frigesdaeg (Day of Freya), showing how antiquity still exerts influence over today.
(1) The trust in astrology in the ancient world saw the planetary system in Chaldea reflected in the mysterious Number 7 and the sacred hebdomad symbols as reflected in the staged Tower of Babylon and in the soul’s struggle with seven hostile archons to reach pleroma (fullness of faith and tradition), and the ascent via the seven planets to Anu. All very esoteric to most modern thought.
Netley Cistercian Abbey, painted by Constable in 1833, is one of the best preserved monasteries in southern England and the inspiration for many artists and writers.
Today in 1809 Curwen’s Act was passed to prevent the sale of parliamentary seats and to decrease the number of seats which the British Government could manipulate for its regular supporters.
Abuse in elections, until the 1832 Reform Act, was common as most seats were appointees of the landed aristocracy with possession going back to the Conqueror and especially with that stemming from Monastic Dissolution.(1)
However the political and social structure was to be controlled by landlords for the rest of the 19thc with something like 4000 owning about four sevenths of the cultivated land, let to 250,000 tenant farmers who in turn employed in 1851 about 1 ¼ million labourers. By 1885 landowners still formed the absolute majority in Parliament.
Many of the beneficiaries of the Monastic Dissolution were privateers like Sir Francis Drake who bought the Cistercian Monastery, Buckland Abbey in 1581.
The property remained in the Drake family until 1946 when it was bought by a Naval Officer who gave the Abbey and grounds to the National Trust. Malmesbury Benedictine Abbey was sold to wool merchant William Stumpe who converted the part not sold as a parish church for weaving looms.
Henry Clifford 2nd earl of Cumberland and married to a niece of Henry VIII and related to the Hastings and Talbots of Shrewsbury and the Nevilles earls of Salisbury, held Roche Abbey near Maltby in Yorkshire. Families such as the Ports, Wyndhams, Pophams waxed fat on the proceeds of monastic sales.
Sir John Thynne acquired Longleat Priory for fifty three guineas: ‘when the abbots went out they came in’. Others were the Horners of Mells, and the Wemysses who acquired their Stanway estate from Tewkesbury Abbey, but seemed to have inherited a curse from their ancestors the Tracys, for Thomas de Traci’s involvement in Thomas a Becket’s 12thc murder.
Sir William Poulett (Paulet) (d 10.3.1572), Comptroller at the Court, created 1st Marquis of Winchester was granted the Cistercian Netley Abbey (conferred by Henry III on 7th March 1251), which was converted to a mansion, falling into disuse in the early 18thc.
The Earls of Bedford estates surrounded sites of dissolved abbeys: Woburn (which became his main home), Tavistock (the title of his eldest son) and Thorney (Cambridgeshire).
From the Dissolution of Burton Abbey lands the Port Family gained Ilam in the Peak District. The estate had originally been given in 1004 by Wulfric Spot to the Abbey who had rebuilt and enlarged the small Saxon church.
In 1809 the Ports sold the estate to Jesse Russell and his wife Mary the daughter and heiress of David Pike Watts who rebuilt the village in the present alpine style.
Staffordshire in the 19th century saw 36 families held 43% of the useable land, and when Lord Derby’s National Land Survey in 1870 revealed that a few hundred held 25% of the land, there was greater agitation for reform of the land-owning control over the legislature.
Owning land also meant reaping the natural resources to be found. The Willoughby’s and Middleton’s wealth came from wool, ironworks, woad growing, glassworks and coal-mining with in pits at Cossall, Wollaton and Stapleford Colliery Companies.
Many reaped rewards from iron, quarrying and agriculture and coal from the 16thc as forest timber became scarcer. Measham in Leicestershire was dismissed by a William Wyrley in 1596 as, ‘a village belonging to Lord Shefield in which are many coal mines’, but family influence continued until well into the 20thc.
The North Country had the Lambtons, Montagues, Lowthers (who developed Whitehaven Port), Lonsdales, the Durham Russells of Brancepeth Castle and the 5th Duke of Portland who owned eleven mines around Welbeck Abbey in the Nottinghamshire ‘Dukeries’ where he had three miles of tunnels so he could move unseen, along with estates in London.
The Devonshires owned the large copper mine at Ecton, Derbyshire and Lord Bute and Lord Londonderry (northern coal owners) (Churchill’s cousin), whilst The Curwen Family were later to develop Workington and the Lonsdale Dock in 1865.
One family is remembered in ‘Little Jack Horner’: traditional Nursery Rhyme said to be associated with the Horners of Mells, Somerset. They aquired land from Commissioners of Henry VIII in 1543. ‘ Jack pulls out the plum (the estate) for being a faithful retainer; ‘What a good boy am I’.
(1) One effect of the great reform Act was that it made MPs more accountable for on 6th February in 1837 the Sherborne Mercury recorded a public meeting which had been held at the Guildhall of Lyme Regis on Thursday, 26th January.
The purpose of the meeting was to enable their representative, William Pinney Esq ‘to state his opinions upon the leading political questions of the day and to take the sense of his constituents on his parliamentary conduct’.
Somerset History Environment Record. S.C.C.