Treasure 48: Erasmus Darwin’s prescription notebooks

These notebooks are a series of medical practice records, covering the 1740s to 1780s.  Each entry deals with an individual patient, recording symptoms and treatment. It’s clear that there is more than one style of handwriting in the books, but we believe the later entries to be the work of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) who moved to Derby in 1783.

They are nominated by our Assistant Conservator, Clare, who repaired them over the course of a year – all 1316 pages!  Clare says: “It was an extremely satisfying project to do even if there were occasions when I was still repairing them in my sleep…”

Here’s what was prescribed for Thomas Bamford of Ticknall, who was suffering from cramps:

d2375-thomas-bamford

Two drachms of Gammoniacum To ss. pint of penny royal water.  Two spoonfulls occasionally repeated.  January the 15th.  When the pains return to loose some blood, and then take at one dose a Quarter of a Pint of common Sallad oil, after an hour or two if the pain continues.  Take one Pill, and repeat it every hour till the pain ceases or till he has taken four.

At the intervals of his pain he should take one of the 2nd Box Pills every nights.

Small beer posset drink made by mixing equal parts of beer and milk warm, then taking off the Curd and 15 Drops of Laudanum in it every night.  Jan[uary] 27th Six powders Rhubarb 15 grs. Ginger.  19. Infusion. z ii Marshmallow root boild to one

Travels with William Porden: London to Newark… an escaped prisoner!

On Monday 17 November, 1794, William Porden left London in the Newark stage coach on his way to Lincolnshire.  His fellow travellers didn’t particularly impress him:

My companions were a Quaker from Sheffield and a young man of York, neither of them entertaining in any shape whatever and not possessed of so much civility as may generally be found under the meanest Garb and in the most untutored mind. They however were not positively disagreeable.

Things got a bit more interesting when they got to ‘Kates Cabbin’, which now seems, appropriately enough, to be a service station by Peterborough.  There, a new passenger joined the coach: a Bailiff from York who had been taking a prisoner under sentence of transportation to London.

The Prisoner has been a servant to a Gentleman near Hull and having paid his addresses to a female servant either in the same or another family, the woman had robbed her master and prevailed upon the youth to secrete the stolen goods. This was the crime.  In other respects his character was uncommonly Good and his master and others had solicited his pardon.  He was low in stature and of a mild character, yet altho he was handcuff’d and had irons on one leg and was chained to an iron bar or rail on the top of the Coach he had the courage and dexterity to make his escape which he effected by throwing himself off and thereby breaking his chain.  This was about two o’clock in the morning, extremely dark.  The Bailiffe the Coachman and the Guard got down to pursue him but in vain, under cover of the darkness he eluded their search and got off but whether he was afterwards retaken or not I have not heard.  I think it probably that he had thrown himself into one of the ditches by the road and laid quiet otherwise the noise of his irons must have discovered him.  The Chain which he broke by the jerk was as thick as a common waggon-trace chain.  A piece of it was found next morning on the Road.

William Porden here, and in other diary entries (archive ref. D3311/4/4-5), , shows himself to be more merciful than the justice system of the day:

As his crime was not great and he had suffered a long confinement if the Bailiffe could justify himself, I wished he might not be retaken.  The end of punishment would probably be as perfectly answered by his future fears and anxieties as by transportation and perhaps his mind might escape the contagion and corruption of Newgate and the voyage to Botany Bay and he be preserved a useful and worthy member of society in his own Country.

With a bit of digging in the York Quarter Sessions or Assizes records for 1794, it would probably be possible to find out the name of the prisoner.  Whether it’s possible to find out what happened to him after his escape is another matter.  Like William Porden, I rather hope he got away, changed his name, and lived a long and happy life.  Of course if he did, he may well have created a future nightmare for some poor family historian trying to find his birth in the parish records!

Travels with William Porden: London to Guildford, 1793

As his diary records (archive ref. D3311/4/4), on 25 May 1793, architect William Porden set off in the stagecoach to Guildford in order to visit Hampton Lodge in Farnham, Surrey.  He doesn’t mention why he was going, but possibly the owner of Hampton Lodge was a client.

This is a journey that nowadays takes just over an hour (according to Google Maps – I feel sceptical you can actually get out of London by car that fast!), but in 1793 took three to four days.  Mr Porden rarely mentions the scenery on his travels; on such long journeys it was your travelling companions that made the journey more or less enjoyable. There only seem to have been two other passengers on this journey:

At 8 in the morning left London in the Guildford – Passengers W Gill a Gentleman of some fortune in the Neighbourhood of Guildford, and the Rev W Chandler … a neighbour and acquaintance of Mr Gill. He was a Gentleman Parson and more interested in the affairs of this world than the next. I had no reason to think his natural abilities or his arguments extraordinary. His remarks were common place and related more to fashionable amusements than general life and literature.

Mr Gill appeared to be a man of sense, and well acquainted with men and books. I did not think him polite with regard to me, but perhaps I ought to have blamed myself, for having rose early after a night of little sleep I was not much disposed to attentions – however it seemed as if he was willing to keep state with Passengers in a Stage Coach.

The Rev W Chandler seems to have been doing most of the talking on this journey, and the topics of conversation certainly didn’t verge into the religious.  They discussed Ranelagh, the fashionable public pleasure gardens in Chelsea:

A View of Ranelagh Gardens, 1754, copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum

A View of Ranelagh Gardens, 1754, copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum

Mr Chandler said that about 30 years back the Company used to assemble at Ranelagh from 6 to 8 o’clock and retire about 11 or 12. It was no uncommon thing for a Gentleman to drive himself in a Phaeton, full dressed, bag [wig] and sword to drink tea there and return by eleven or earlier – At this day few persons of fashion think of going till eleven or twelve.

Mr Chandler also had something to say about horses:

When Horses are landed from a vessel they always fall down the moment their feet touch the Ground. Those who are acquainted with the circumstance take care to have them landed on straw to prevent them from breaking their knees.  Mr Chandler was once obliged to swim a favourite Horse to a packet that lay off Brighton at above a mile distance.  The Horse was slung and hoisted out of the water when the tackle broke and plunged him again into the sea – by good fortune he turned towards shore and swum out amidst the hollowing [hallooing] of the spectators which with the peculiarity of his situation hade him tremble with terror.  He was afterwards swum back to the vessel and safely embarked.

Poor horse!

Fothers, Franklin and Folksongs

Around this time yesterday, I was at an interdisciplinary seminar at Brunel University, showing an assortment of lead-mining documents to an assortment of academics.  All those assembled had an interest in metals and mining during medieval and early modern times, whether from the perspective of a historian, geographer, palaeoecologist, sociologist or, in my case, archivist.  Here are three examples of the Derbyshire Record Office documents that I had digitised to take with me:

D258/27/1/18d258-27-1-18

This is a lease by the Abbot and Convent of the Dale (i.e. Dale Abbey) to Richard Blackwell of “Worseworth” (Wirksworth), of their lot and tithe ore at “the Gryffe” (Griffe). It dates from 1489.  The tithe was ten percent of whatever lead ore was extracted at Griffe during that period, whereas lot was a customary payment of every thirteenth dish of lead ore. For the six years covered by this lease, those payments would go straight to Blackwell – by the time the lease expired, he would know whether the bargain had been worth making.

The all-important measuring of lead ore would have gone on in a building like the one depicted in this map of Wensley of 1688, reference D239/M/E/5525:

d239-m-e-5525

See the circular yellow-green blob just to the right of the centre? Inside is a drawing of something marked “reckoning coe”, where the ore would be measured.  You can also see the “smithy coe” in the bottom-right corner.  (A coe is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a little hut built over a mine-shaft, as a protection to the shaft, or as a repository for ore, tools, etc” – although on the map it is spelled “cow”.)

Finally, there’s this petition, D258/10/9/35:

d258-10-9-35

It is addressed to the King from Wirksworth’s miners and argues that the town ought to have its own representatives in parliament, because as things stood the miners “have noe voyces” in choosing MPs.  To back up their argument, they point to the importance of the town’s barmote court in regulation of the lead industry, the employment of “many thousand people” in the mines, the profitable incomes from the customary dues of lot and cope, and the benefits of having so much lead “for the use of the kingdome in generall, and in transporting the rest to forraigne nations, whereby your Majestie hath greate customes, both for the leade exported, and for the other merchandize imported in exchange thereof”.  I am afraid we do not know exactly when this petition was drawn up, but it was not a success – Wirksworth never had its own parliamentary constituency.

After the seminar, heading home from Derby railway station, I chanced to hear a song by Jim Moray which has been nominated for this year’s BBC Folk Awards.  The reason I mention it is that it was clearly inspired by the life of Sir John Franklin, polar explorer (1786-1847).  You might want to have a look at some of this blog’s previous posts about Franklin, or listen to the the very final tune of Simon Mayo’s programme on the iPlayer.

 

Introducing William Porden…

d3311-5-1-000002

Portrait of William Porden (D3311/5/1)

Just before Christmas I flicked through a couple of diaries written in the period 1793-1820. I love reading diaries and letters. Through them, I feel like I know the people who wrote them; they become familiar friends and their world, even if 200 years old, seems as real as our own.

I thought I would share some of the diary entries in this blog, partly just because I like them (a good enough reason in itself – that’s partly what this blog is for), but also because their author, William Porden, is a Hull man and so we can do our bit to celebrate Hull’s status as City of Culture 2017.

So firstly, a quick explanation about the man himself.  In his first diary and commonplace book, he notes family events, but interestingly, it looks as if he didn’t know the date of his own birth.  He records himself thus:

W Porden son of Thomas & Hannah Porden of Kingston upon Hull was Baptised January the 29th 1755 as St Mary’s Church and it is supposed his Birth was sometime in December preceding.

An eminent architect of his day, he lived in London and his most famous surviving building is the riding school and stables at the Brighton Pavilion, built 1803-1808, which is now the Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

Brighton Pavilion Stables

Brighton Pavilion Stables

If you’re wondering why on earth his papers are held at Derbyshire Record Office, it’s because William Porden’s daughter, Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825), was the first wife of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), who famously led a disastrous voyage of Arctic exploration along the Northwest Passage in 1845 (you’ll find more blog posts about this here).  Their daughter, Eleanor Isabella Franklin, married into the Gell family of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire, and so her mother’s and maternal grandfather’s papers came with her into the family and now form part of our Gell collection D3311 – it all makes sense in a way!

William Porden didn’t use his diaries to record his everyday life, but begins his diary in May 1793:

If every man would treasure the Observation, which he makes in his Journey through life and Register the remarks of others he would soon collect an abundance of knowledge and preserve the means of amusing many a future hour. I have often made this remark and I have often resolved to put the matter in execution nay I have frequently begun to do so; but idleness and want of perseverance has rendered it of little effect.  I again resolve to do so and I now again begin to register what has occurred during a Journey of three or four days.  I dare not flatter myself that I shall be more steady than I have been – but I will try – Whatever may be the end I shall consider all that is got as gain.

I confess to also being guilty of occasional idleness and want of perseverance in my blog posts, and may also not be more steady than I have been – but I, too, will try.  In the next post, we journey with Mr Porden on the London to Guildford stage…

Treasure 47: Plan of proposed railway to Mapperley Colliery

This treasure (Q/RP/2/207) is a plan of a proposed railway to Mapperley Colliery, submitted to the Quarter Sessions Court in 1889 by the Great Northern Railway. It shows the line between the Heanor branch and the Midland Railway branch to Mapperley Colliery.

aph-mapperley-rail-plan-02

This is one of over three hundred railway plans and books of reference in the Quarter Sessions collection – the reason we have them is that from 1792 onwards, anyone who planned to build a canal, turnpike road or railway had to deposit plans with the Clerk of the Peace for any affected county.

aph-mapperley-rail-plan-01

If you would like to support our work by adopting this document, for yourself or as a gift, have a look at the Adopt A Piece Of History page

Treasure 46: Register of child factory workers

This treasure comes from the Belper-based cotton spinning company W G and J Strutt Ltd and is a register of children dating from May 1853 to April 1860 (D6948/14/5).  Education was not made compulsory until 1880, so the use of children’s labour in the Strutt mills in Belper was very normal.

The register records the reference number of each child’s certificate of employment, the first day of employment or re-employment and when they worked in the morning or afternoon. A column notes when they change their group or leave – or come to the end of their thirteenth year and become classified as “young persons”.