6th May 1728. Rule and Misrule.

Today in 1728 The Ireland Parliament Act which disenfranchised Catholics from voting received the Royal Assent.

Irish House of Lords Chamber. Peter Mazell engraving based on drawing by Rowland Omer. 1767.

Irish House of Commons Dublin. Engraving ref. as for Lords.







The Act passed by the British Parliament the previous year was one of a series of Penal Laws which followed the death of George I in 1727. (1)

It was replaced in 1793 when all Irish males holding property with rental value of at least £2 annually were enfranchised.

The Parliament of Ireland in Dublin from 1297 was formally founded by Justiciar John Wogan to represent the Irish nobles and merchants, a system set to last until 1800.

The Irish Parliament was based on the English model having two chambers, a Commons, directly elected, and an unelected Lords, the main purpose being to approve taxes levied on those who would pay the bulk of taxes: the clergy, merchants and landowners, with most meetings being at Dublin Castle.

John Foster the last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons (1807-11).

The Parliament arose from and for the citizens of the Lordship of Ireland based on Norman Laws and English practices and Magna Carta was extended in 1217 in the Great Charter of Ireland alongside of which grew a political and cultural Gaelic resurgence.

In turn this resulted in a number of the Anglo-Irish  nobility and the old English nobility joining Gaelic nobles in asserting feudal independence which over the centuries led to British Crown influence shrinking to a fortified enclosure round Dublin-The Pale.

Protestant in character many Acts passed by this Irish Parliament, in The Pale, were anti-Catholic. 

In 1782 a grant of legislative independence gave in theory the right of the Irish Parliament to no longer submit legislation to the Irish and British Privy Councils, but in practice was still controlled by the iron grip of London. Matters came to a head in May 1798 when an Irish rebellion revealed the poor state of constitutional relations between England and Ireland.

However England at this time had other concerns with the threat of invasion, by Napoleon’s forces from its western approaches, so a deal was done resulting in the Union of Ireland Act 1800, coming into effect on January 1st the next year, when the two legislatures were combined despite opposition.

This opposition came from the Irish Commons’ Speaker, John Foster and members of the Irish elite, but others including the Irish Lord Chancellor, Lord Clare proved to be more amenable and with judicious bribery won the day.

(1) Elections then only took place on the death of the monarch.

On the death of  the pro-Catholic James II the Stuarts continued to create their own titles and not until the death of James Francis Stuart did the Papacy recognise the Protestant Hanoverian kings.

Ref: wikivivedly.com/Pic.

Ref: historyofirelandonline.org.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pics.


5th May 1795. Hair Powdering.

1795 saw the Duty on Hair Powder Act, initiated by William Pitt, the Younger, an independent member of the Whig Party, to help pay for the French War.(1)

Leaving-off powder or frugal family saving a guinea. James Gillray 1705. Lewis Walpole Library.

From Today in 1795 anyone wishing to use hair or wig powder was required to visit the stamp office to register and pay for an annual certificate of one Guinea. 

The list of those who had paid was lodged at the local Quarter Sessions and a copy affixed to the local church door by the Parish Constable.

Tax returns for powder from Warwickshire.

However among the exemptions to the tax were the royal family and their servants, clergymen whose income was less than £100 pa, subalterns, NCO’s and privates and officers in the Navy below Commander.

Stamp Office Certificate.

However most people were not of the status to wear wigs or hair powder; women didn’t wear wigs requiring powder, so powdered their hair blueish grey, never bright white like men.

Powder was made from finely ground starch to which was added lavender, jasmine and rose perfume.

The use of powder was said to have begun with the French king Henry IV (1553-1610) when a brown powder was used to hide his grey hair.

One factor in an age of infrequent hair washing, powder helped reduce greasy hair and when wigs became the fashion, the most expensive being white, men started using white powder on their off-white wigs.

It was a breach of social etiquette not to powder, but it was messy, requiring a gown and a horn-shaped mask to protect the face, and time consuming, so special rooms were used as powder closets as seen in Dr Johnson’s Museum off Fleet Street, London.

Powder closet behind doors to the right at Dr Johnson’s house.

Horn and ivory powder bottles from London Science Museum.






First the hair was covered with lotion called pomade which helped the powder to stick, which was applied with bellows at the rate of 1 pound or more, most of which filled the the room.

Not surprisingly the tax collected and numbers wishing to ‘powder’ fell: in 1812 (46,684), in 1855 (997). The annual revenue collected in 1869 when it was abolished was £1,000.

(1) Act: 35 Geo III c 49.

Ref: georgianera.wordpress.com/Pic.

Ref: Journal of Mary Frampton. 1779-1846. Ed. by Harriot Mundy 1885.

Ref: wikipedia.org.

Ref: regencyhistory.net/Pic.

Ref: ourwarwickshire.org.uk/Pic/



4th May 1471. de Ferrers.

Today in 1471 saw the Battle of Tewkesbury when the two cadet lines of the Plantagenets fought to decide supremacy which resulted in the Yorkists defeating the Lancastrians in the last battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Tewksbury saw Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI, heir apparent to the throne killed and the end of the Lancastrian line. On the winning side were members of the Ferrers family of Tamworth who were Yorkists.

Arms of Robert styled Comes de Ferr(ariis) the earl de Ferrers. Robert 1st Earl of Derby, born c 1070 at Derbyshire.

The Tamworth side of the family were staunch Yorkists and related to the ascending Lord William Hastings. Two of the family earned their knighthoods at Tewkesbury.

At Bosworth in 1485, Sir Thomas Ferrers of Tamworth Castle and his son Sir John fought for Richard III and among the dead were Lord Ferrers of Chartley and Sir Thomas’ heir Sir John.

The landed people who came over with the Conqueror, from early days were committed to fighting for the monarch and William granted large swathes of land to those who had helped him at Hastings.

One of these was the Norman French, Ferrers, ( meaning ‘to bind with iron’ or ‘to shoe an horse’). Henricus Ferrarus founded a church ‘apud castellan meum Tuttesbury’ (in my village of Tutbury).

Domesday entry for Tutbury, Staffs. It reads: ‘Henry de Ferrers has castle of Toteberie. In the town about the castle are 42 men who live by merchandise’.

Walchelin de Ferrers (Ferriers) was seigneur of St Hilaire de Ferrers an area south of Bernay in Normandy the centre of ironwork. He had two sons William and Henry and the family was allied to Count of Mortain who was half brother of the Duke of Normandy.

During the Conquerors minority Walchelin (Walkelin) was killed in a joust with Hugh de Montfort where both died, this after the original castle built in 1071, for Hugh de Avranches, later Earl of Chester, had been handed to him.

Henry, Earl Ferrers, Lord of Longueville, Normandy and a Domesday Commissioner held Duffield Castle and granted 210 manors and lordships in England and Wales by Duke William for conspicuous bravery and support at Hastings; 114 were in Derbyshire and much in Nottinghamshire. Henry later became Earl of Derby in 1190 and also of Nottingham.(1)

Henry’s descendants rebelled against Henry II, took part in the Crusades, rebelled against Henry III, when the 5th earl’s son Robert supported de Montfort, and the title died in 1279.

The titles other than those mentioned included Sheriff of Lancaster (1223-1227), Baron Chartley c 1271, Baron of Groby and of Oversley. However by the ‘100 Years War’ in the 14thc they had lost all earldoms and lands and only held Baronys of Groby and Chartley.

Today near the Author’s home the de Ferrers Family is remembered by the ruins of Tutbury Castle and the local Comprehensive School.

(1) Orton-on-the-Hill Leicestershire (Wartone in Domesday) was recorded as in the possession of Henry, Earl Ferrers with six ploughs, one of thirty-five Lordships bestowed on him. His son Robert (1062-1139) was created the 1st Earl of Derby by Stephen in 1138 for help at the Battle of Northallerton; charters and chronicles from this point refer to him as Earl of Ferrers and Earl of Nottingham.

Ref: pinterest/Pic.

Ref: helenlee.co.uk/tutbury/Pic.

3rd May 1538. Gavelkind.

Gavelkind from the Middle English, ‘Gavel Payment/Rent and Kind’, is first recorded in the 14th century. It was a system of inheritance whereby on decease land was divided mainly between males.

In the 16thc there is an obscure reference Today regarding the will of Thomas Bourne of Tenterden, Kent in 1538, ‘expressly noticing the ‘Act to avoid use of wills and bequeathing money to his sons that they might consent to carry out provisions of the will respecting Gavelkind Lands in Hawkhurst and a house and shop in Tenterden of the same tenure’.

An anomaly in English, Welsh and Irish land tenure was that of Gavelkind, a tenure of land found mainly in Kent, from Anglo-Saxon times, where land was equally divided, but not always, between sons. (1)

It owed a resemblance to Salic Patrimony (continental in origin), which was only abolished in 1925 under the Law of Property Act. This meant firstly that a tenant could pass on part or all his land, as a fiefdom (granted in return for feudal allegiance) from the age of 15 years.

Silas Taylor 1624-78.

Secondly on conviction of a felony the tenant’s lands were not subject to ‘Corruption of the Blood’, so not disinherited.

Thirdly the tenant could always dispose of his lands in a will, and fourthly on intestacy all the sons, and females in their own right, as second preference, could inherit an equal share of the estate.

Then also widows with no children could inherit as long as they remained unmarried.

It appears that as a tenant when Kent was settled it was of freeholders following  the custom of their native country and marked by individual farmsteads and hamlets rather than manorial villages with no tradition of co-operative farming under a lord. So there were no mansions or great magnates and no ‘common fields’ as found elsewhere.

The perambulation of Kent by William Lambarde in 1570 noted: ‘the Yeomanrie, is no where more free and jolly than in this shyre…in manner every man is a freeholder, and hath some part of his own to live upon. And in this their estate they please themselves and joy exceedingly’.

The Romanized Britons of Kent benefited from the early invasion and were thus advanced communities when the Jutish invasions came later in the south east. The Kentish churls were more advanced in land tenure than the people of Wessex and Mercia so that by the 12/13thc villeins were commuting services for rent and ownership. However land under ecclesiastical manors as at Orpington (Kent) services to to the Lord still persisted.

Free dealings of small areas of land were common and deeds relating to a number of transactions in the Down parish, going back to the 13thc, are in existence as seen in the reference to Sabina, (see (1) below).

Monument at Swanscombe recording legend of how Kent extracted concessions of land tenure.

The customary law of Gavelkind could have been a concession to Kent by William the Conqueror, his first landing area; the rest of the country saw the feudal Law of Primogeniture become the norm where first born, mainly sons, inherited.

(1) ‘Sabina of Green Hill c1297 by Deed sold half an acre of land which lies in Westfield’, Kent.

Ref: The Tenures of Kent. Charles Isaac Elton.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pic.

Ref: The Lawbook Exchange Ltd/Pic.


2nd May 1888. Wind Power.

James Blyth offered Marykirk in Scotland electricity to light the main street, but was spurned, as it was regarded by that zealous God-fearing community as the ‘work of the devil’.

Wind turbine at the cottage of Professor James Blyth of Anderson’s College.

It was Today in 1888 that Blyth of Marykirk in a Paper delivered to the Philosophical Society of Glasgow described his wind turbine as, ‘being of a tripod design with a 33 foot wind shaft, four arms of thirteen foot with canvas sails, and Burgin dynamo driving from a flywheel using a rope’.

Three years later in November he received the UK patent for his ‘wind engine’: one hundred years later in 1991, Delabole in north Cornwall was the first commercial wind farm in Britain.

In August 2010 the original 10 turbines began to be demolished to be replaced by 4 larger, more powerful turbines.

Wind turbine technology has being pushed by the EU to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and their associated pollution. However turbines rely on the so-called rare earth metals for their  operation and China is the main supplier of these from a highly polluted process, so we have exported our environmental problems.(1)

The problem is that there is a trade-off in new technology between the benefits and environmental damage, and in reality whilst avoiding fossil fuel, renewable energy cannot function without say nuclear fuel or stuff dug from the ground: neodymium, terbium and dysprosium (increases magnet longevity) which are essential for the magnets of wind turbines.

Wind Turbines in Cumbria.

The spinning turbine causes large magnets to revolve within wire coils-the generators-and the moving magnets cause the electrons (charged particles) to move with the coils (armature). The result is electricity which now flows within a negative(-) and positive (+) cables. 

The Whitelee Wind Farm, Scotland is the largest onshore in the UK operated by Scottish Power Renewables. However do we really need the landscape and seascape to be filled with power turbines, in a small island?

(1) Also required in the magnetic properties of computer hard drives. Also rare-earth metals are used in nickel-metal hybrid re-chargeable batteries which power electric vehicles.

Every megawatt of wind power electricity needs 200kg of neodymium or 20% of one tonne, so if every big wind turbine produces one megawatt-five turbines require one tonne of neodymium.(Peter Kelemen, Arthur D Storke Memorial Professor of geochemistry at Earth’s Institute, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory).

There are 30 rare earths comprising the lanthanide and actinide series and one lanthanide and most actinides are trans-uranium or synthetic and are found in Groups 3 and 6 & 7 of the Periodic Table.

Ref: chemwiki.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pics.

Ref: Price, Trevor J. 2004, Blythe, James, 1839-1906. OUP.

Ref: eco-business.com.

Ref: Rare earth metals, will we have enough? Renee Cho.

1st May 1412. Merry Monks.

In the middle-ages, abbots and bishops had acquired wealth and political influence, and in Thomas Becket’s case could even challenge the king. Monastic wealth and abuse were a feature of later monastic life, none more so than that at Burton Abbey, Staffordshire.

Charter of Ethelred the Unready to Burton Abbey confirming will of Wulfric Spot 1004.

Today in 1412 Henry IV issued Abbot John Sudbury of Burton-on-Trent, with a pardon after accusations and counter-claims. The terms of the amnesty were, ‘for all treasons, insurrections, rebellions, felonies, misprisions, offences, impeachments, transgressions and contempts’, a fairly standard list: ‘murders and rapes of women’, however were not included in the pardon. (1)

The ‘Merry Monk’, Sudbury had against him allegations of adultery and rustling cows, belonging to John Hondesacre of nearby Stapenhill, poaching game from Needwood Forest and assault on Sir Thomas Gresley’s chaplain.

Also as the Abbot was responsible for collecting tariffs for the King, when a number of tenants from Stapenhill refused to pay he waited until they came to Burton market and took the sum by force.

The Abbott’s pardon was subject to his future behaviour and by not supporting, ‘Owin Glendourey of Wales (Owen Glendower), Thomas de Trumpyngton, or other of the King’s adversaries’. Just three years later Abbot Sudbury was in need of another pardon, and this time murders, rapes and rebellion were included in the deal.

The Earl of Mercia, Wulfric Spot had founded Burton Abbey in 1002 and Henry I had confirmed various rights to the local abbey and Abbot Nicholas was to create the first Burgage Plots and so ‘made the first borough of Burton’, towards the end of 12th century.

Print of the late Burton Abbey 1611, which was converted to a Collegiate Church until demolished. Wenceslas Hollar.

Burton however was not given a formal borough licence until Abbot Melbourne in 1200 was so granted by King John whilst a guest at the Abbey.

Many monarchs visited the Abbey over the centuries, including the Conqueror (William I) and  Henry II in 1155, to visit the shrine of St Modwen, and the Royal treasure was lodged there in 1186. (2)

The affairs of towns and surrounding villages, to some distance, were carefully controlled by abbots and their officials, and there was always the chance that competition for a market and fair would arise as happened with Burton when a few miles away another borough was created in 1222 when Abbot Richard de Lisle obtained a royal licence for Abbots Bromley, with market and fair.

There was animosity later between the two communities as Sir John Bagot of Abbot’s Bromley was to harass Abbot Sudbury’s predecessor, Thomas Southam extorting what amounted to protection money, but John Sudbury forcefully repossessed land he believed rightfully belonged to the Abbey and defied Bagot to take him to court.

Henry V issued pardons fairly liberally in an attempt to unite the country, but subject to its recipients not becoming involved in counterfeiting, one of the few crimes not to have been levelled against the Abbot Sudbury who resigned in 1424.

Another Burton Abbot, Ralph Henley received a general pardon in 1446 from Henry VI, after the death of Abbey servant William Cooper in 1448, when Henley and two monks, Thomas Norton and William Stapenhill faced charges of accessory to murder. Persistent drinking, gambling and poor management led to Henley’s suspension after which he was pensioned and resigned in 1455.(3)

The situation of the Burton, the Author’s home town, on the River Trent saw the control of mills by the Abbey and the Reeve was responsible for management of the demesnes (estates) and summoning of courts, and the abbot, as lord of the manor, had considerable judicial power which included the death penalty at the local gallows.

Long after the abbeys had disappeared the bailiff continued to be the leading official of the Manor whose courts continued until 1855.

Though I have highlighted Burton Abbey it can be regarded as a microcosm of abbeys generally in Britain and it is nice to know that the inmates didn’t live in ivory towers after all. 

(1) Violence and disorder was common in monastic life for Bernard who became Abbot of Burton in 1160, previously Abbot of Cerne, who had flitted to become a monk at Gloucester on account of ‘great disorder’ (Ann. Mon. (Rolls Series.) i 187.

(2) King John lodged in 1204 and 1208, Henry III, 1235 and 1251, Edward I in 1275 and 1284, Edward II in 1322 in his campaign against Thomas Earl of Lancaster and Henry IV in 1402/3 when he was fighting the rebels.

(3) Henry VI ordered the Chapter to elect a replacement ‘devoted to God and useful and faithful to the realm’. They chose William Bronston, but immorality continued and prostitutes visited the Abbey regularly.

By 1465 another royal amnesty was necessary and was duly issued by Edward IV. Matters improved but not until Abbot Beyne 1502-30/1 was proper order and discipline restored.




30th April 1958. The Lords at Bay.

The Lords once they had wrested power from the monarch became the main legislative assembly, but as a result of Civil War the Commons gradually became the more powerful.

Today in 1958 the Life Peerage Act received its Royal Assent which in time was to dramatically change the constitution of the upper house.

Punch Magazine 1911. Asquith and Lloyd George prepare coronets for 500 extra Peers to threaten the Lords.

Inheritance of Titles in the past was in two ways: by Writ of Summons or by Letters Patent. The first was merely a summons to parliament and did not explicitly confer a peerage, and descent was to heirs of the body be they male or female. Letters Patent explicitly created a peer and names the dignity of the person.

The peerage descended normally, only to a male who was legitimate of the married parents, or who subsequently marry. There were anomalies with Scottish Peerages. Not surprisingly down the centuries inheritance has caused much litigation.

One of the aspects of peerage introduced in the 15thc by Edward IV was the ‘Writ of Acceleration’ which enabled the eldest son and heir apparent to attend the British or Irish Lords using one of his father’s subsidiary titles. This was a useful means of lowering the average age and increasing the talent of the Lords.

Queen Anne addresses the Lords c1708-14. Peter Tilleman.

Acceleration was abolished in 1999 by the House of Lords Act; the last to have Acceleration was given by Prime Minister, John Major to Robert Gasgoyne, Cecil Viscount Cranborne, eldest son of the 6th Marquis of Sele.

The same Act which received Royal Assent on 11th November 1999 reduced hereditary peerages in the Lords from 1330 to 90 with a total of 669, so now mainly composed of Life Peers. Further reform is promised! (1)

1) Reform of the Lords had been a constant theme with the Labour Party, as on Tuesday May 4th 1948 when Mr Herbert Morrison announced (to the surprise of none) that the talks between party leaders on the subject of the reform of the House of Lords had failed. It had discussed reconstruction of membership as well as a review of the powers of the Upper House. But all had come to nought.

Ref: Punch Magazine. Impression of Parliament. May 12th 1948.

Ref: Inheritance of Titles. wikipedia.org.

Ref: Debrett’s Com. Creation of Peers.

Ref: Royal Assent to 1999 Act 11.11.1999.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pics.