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!

A volcanic eruption leads to Derbyshire rebellion

On this day 200 years ago, Mount Tambora, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, erupted.  The volcanic eruption on 10 April 1815 was one of the most powerful in recorded history and you can see a dramatic photograph of the crater left at the summit in this NASA image here: Mount Tambora.

So you may wonder what this has to do with Derbyshire… Well, the repercussions of the eruption were felt all around the world and we can see the evidence of its impact here in the archives.  Why?  Because the eruption sent volcanic ash and sulphur into the stratosphere, which obscured the sun and reflected its rays, cooling the earth’s climate and resulting in Europe and North America experiencing the ‘Year without a summer’ in 1816.  We can see how this affected the people of Derbyshire because Sir Henry Fitzherbert of Tissington Hall wrote a fascinating account of the year in his notebook.

D239 MF 10229_0001 - cropped

Of the weather he says:

“The spring was most severely cold, the snow falling as late as the 7th of June; and there was no grass till the end of June.”

Sir Henry also used his notebook to record annual prices of basic commodities.  And analysis of his figures shows how the bad weather affected harvests, causing food prices to go up drastically (except, for some reason, malt and cheese!):

  1814 1816 1818
Wheat (per quarter) 80 shillings 170 shillings 90 shillings
Oats 27 shillings 80 shillings 70 shillings
Barley 35 shillings 90 shillings 45 shillings
Malt (per strike or bushel) 70 shillings 16 shillings 12 shillings
Flour (per sack) 2:11:0 5:17:0 3:9:0
Derbyshire Cheese (per cwt = 120lbs) 3:16:0 2:10:0 4:4:0

The rocketing cost of living led to many people falling into poverty (Sir Henry says a third of the population became paupers), which meant that the parishes, who gave relief to the poor, struggled to cope.

We can see some corroboration of this in the Quarter Sessions records.  There were strict criteria setting out who could receive relief from the parish, and parishes would apply to the Quarter Sessions for a removal order to move paupers on to another parish. We have a handy database of removal orders (do ask us to check the database if you’re looking for an ancestor who might have become a pauper) from which I’ve extracted the numbers of orders for each year.  Take a look at the increase in the number of removal orders before and after the eruption:

Year 1814 1815 1816 1817
Removal Orders 54 68 171 228

Poverty and food prices led to social unrest across the country (Sir Henry again provides helpful details), but the biggest uprising happened here in Derbyshire.  On 9 June 1817, the Pentrich Revolution (also known as the Pentrich Rising or Pentrich Rebellion) took place, as armed men marched on Nottingham in the first stage of an attempt to bring about government reform.  The revolution was easily thwarted by troops who were awaiting the marchers at Giltbrook; indeed the revolution seems to have been largely instigated by a government spy, acting as an agent provocateur.   Jeremiah Brandreth, and two other conspirators, William Turner and Isaac Ludlum, were subsequently hanged and then beheaded as a warning to others.

You can read a transcript of Sir Henry’s diary here: D239 M F 10229 pp 4-7 transcription.  The Pentrich & South Wingfield Revolution Group are developing plans to commemorate the Pentrich Revolution’s 200th anniversary in 2017, but it’s sobering to reflect that it may never have happened if not for a volcano that erupted 7000 miles away…

Treasure 12: Clara Palmer-Morewood’s Recipe Book

The Record Office has many household recipe books (or receipt books as they were known), dating back to the 17th Century.  Our twelfth treasure is the 1830s recipe book of Clara Palmer-Morewood of Alfreton Hall.

Recipe books of this time combine cookery recipes with medicinal and veterinary cures as well as beauty treatments.  Clara’s is a great example, with recipes for fashionable foreign dishes such as ‘fromage fondue’, ‘petty shoes’ (petit choux!) and ‘Spanish fritters’, but also ‘a cure for dogs who are troubled with the snort’, lip salve and a recipe to wash chintz amongst other delights.

Many of Clara’s recipes have been contributed by friends and relations, whose names are given beside each recipe, so the book also gives an insight into Clara’s social circle.  You can see a full list of recipes and their contributors on our online catalogue here, or read some of Becky’s transcriptions of the recipes for rabbit soup, lobster curry, sponge cake, gingerbread, pancakes, ginger beer, mince pies, and biscuit puddings on this blog.

What really makes Clara’s book a treasure, though, is that it has a recipe for Bakewell Pudding dated 1837.  It is a really delicious and easy recipe, which I’ve now made several times!  Legend has it that this local speciality was invented by accident in the 1860s.  Clara’s book shows that this local legend can’t be completely true – and Ivan Day’s excellent research into this question has revealed some even earlier Bakewell Pudding recipes.

D7555/1 Clara Palmer-Morewood recipe book, Alfreton Hall

If you’d like to make the pudding yourself, here’s how to do it:

Line a 7 inch (18cm) metal pie dish with puff pastry.  Spread a couple of tablespoons of jam over the bottom and scatter over some candied orange peel, if you like it, and flaked almonds to taste (about 50g).  As an alternative to jam you can use dried cherries or raisins, finely chopped.  Cherries are better as they are a bit more tart.

In a bowl put 4 egg yolks, 1 egg white, 4 oz (100g) melted better, cooled, and 4 oz (100g) sugar.  Beat for a couple of minutes with an electric whisk until fluffy, pour into the pie dish and bake in the middle of the oven at 180 degrees centigrade (gas mark 5) for 30-35 minutes.

If you give it a try, do leave a comment to let us know whether you enjoyed it!

Explore Your Archive – A Derbyshire Spirit Story

From the Derby Mercury, 26 September 1860:

A Derbyshire Spirit Story

The following singular story is given in Owen’s “Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World,” as being told to the writer by William Howitt and given in Mr Howitt’s own words:-

The circumstance you desire to obtain from me is one which I have many times heard related by my mother.  It was an event familiar to our family and the neighbourhood, and is connected with my earliest memories; having occurred, about the time of my birth, at my father’s house at Heanor, in Derbyshire, where I myself was born.  My mother’s family name, Tantum, is an uncommon one, which I do not recollect to have met with except in a story of Miss Leslie’s.  My mother had two brothers, Francis and Richard.  The younger, Richard, I knew well, for he lived to an old age.  The elder, Francis, was, at the time of the occurrence I am about to report, a gay young man, about twenty, unmarried; handsome, frank, affectionate, and extremely beloved by all classes throughout that part of the country.  He is described, in that age of powder and pigtails, as wearing his auburn hair flowing in ringlets on his shoulders, like another Absalom, and was much admired, as well for his personal grace as for the life and gaiety of his manners. 

One fine calm afternoon, my mother, shortly after a confinement, but perfectly convalescent, was lying in bed, enjoying from her window the sense of summer beauty and repose; a bright sky above, and the quiet village before her.  In this state she was gladdened by hearing footsteps which she took to be those of her brother Frank, as he was familiarly called, approaching the chamber-door.  The visitor knocked and entered.  The foot of the bed was towards the door; and the curtains at the foot, not withstanding the season, were drawn, to prevent any draught.  Her brother parted them, and looked in upon her.  His gaze was earnest, and destitute of its usual cheerfulness, and he spoke not a word.  “My dear Frank,” said my mother, “how glad I am to see you!  Come round to the bedside: I wish to have some talk with you.”  He closed the curtains, as complying; but instead of doing so, my mother, to her astonishment, heard him leave the room, close the door behind him, and begin to descend the stairs.  Greatly amazed she hastily rang, and when her maid appeared she bade her call her brother back.  The girl replied she had not seen him enter the house.  But my mother insisted, saying, “He was here but this instant.  Run! quick!  Call him back; I must see him!”  The girl hurried away, but after a time returned, saying that she could learn nothing of him anywhere, nor had any one in or about the house seen him either enter or depart. 

Now my father’s house stood at the bottom of the village, and close to the high road, which was quite straight; so that any one passing along it must have been seen for a much longer period than had elapsed.  The girl said she had looked up and down the road, then searched the garden – a large, old-fashioned one, with shady walks.  But neither in the garden nor on the road was he to be seen.  She had inquired at the nearest cottages in the village, but no one had noticed him pass.  My mother, though a very pious woman, was far from superstitious; yet the strangeness of this circumstance struck her forcibly. 

While she lay pondering upon it, there was heard a sudden running and excited talking in the village street.  My mother listened: it increased, though up to that time the village had been profoundly still; and she became convinced that something very unusual had occurred.  Again she rung the bell, to inquire the cause of the disturbance.  This time it was the monthly nurse who answered it.  She sought to tranquilise my mother, as a nurse usually does a patient.  “Oh, it is nothing particular, ma’am,” she said, “some trifling affair,” – which she pretended to relate, passing lightly over the particulars.  But her ill-suppressed agitation did not escape my mother’s eye.  “Tell me the truth,” she said, “at once.  I am certain something very sad has happened.”  The woman still equivocated, greatly fearing the effect upon my mother in her then situation.  And at first the family joined in the attempt at concealment.  Finally, however, my mother’s alarm and earnest entreaties drew from them the terrible truth that her brother had just been stabbed at the top of the village, and killed on the spot. 

The melancholy event had thus occurred.  My uncle, Francis Tantum, had been dining at Shipley Hall, with Mr. Edward Miller Mundy, member of Parliament for the county.  Shipley Hall lay off to the left of the village as you looked up the main street from my father’s house, and about a mile distant from it; the road from the one country-seat to the other crossing, nearly at right angles, the upper portion of the village street at a point where stood one of the two village inns, the Admiral Rodney, respectably kept by the widow H–ks.  I remember her well – a tall, fine-looking woman, who must have been handsome in her youth, and who retained, even past middle age, an air superior to her condition.  She had one only child, a son, then scarcely twenty.  He was a good-looking, brisk young fellow, and bore a very fair character.  He must, however, as the event showed, have been of a very hasty temper. 

Francis Tantum, riding home from Shipley Hall after the early country dinner, that day, somewhat elate, it may be, with wine, stopped at the widow’s inn and bade the son bring him a glass of ale.  As the latter turned to obey, my uncle, giving the youth a smart switch across the back with his riding-whip, cried out, in his lively, joking way, “Now be quick, Dick; be quick!”  The young man, instead of receiving the playful stroke as a jest, took it as an insult.  He rushed into the house, snatched up a carving-knife, and, darting back into the street, stabbed my uncle to the heart, as he sat on his horse, so that he fell dead, on the instant, in the road. 

The sensation throughout the quiet village may be imagined.  The inhabitants, who idolised the murdered man, were prevented from taking summary vengeance on the homicide only by the constable’s carrying him off to the office of the nearest magistrate.  Young H–ks was tried at the next Derby Assizes; but (justly, no doubt, taken into view the sudden irritation caused by the blow) he was convicted of manslaughter only, and, after a few months’ imprisonment, returned to the village; where, notwithstanding the strong popular feeling against him, he continued to keep the inn, even after his mother’s death.  He is still present to my recollection, a quiet, retiring man, never guilty of any other irregularity of conduct, and seeming to bear about with him the constant memory of his rash deed – a silent blight upon his life.  So great was the respect entertained for my uncle, and such the deep impression of his tragic end, that so long of the generation lived the church-bells of the village were regularly tolled on the anniversary of his death.  On comparing the circumstances and the exact time at which each occurred, the fact was subtantiated, that the apparition presented itself to my mother almost instantly after her brother had received the fatal stroke.

Heanor church burial, 4 February 1795, M465 vol 4

Heanor church burial, 4 February 1795, M465 vol 4

Derby Mercury, 5 February 1795

Derby Mercury, 5 February 1795

D4734/1/10/11 Account of murder of Francis Tantum in 1795

D4734/1/10/11 Account of murder of Francis Tantum in 1795

Derby Mercury, 19 March 1795

Derby Mercury, 19 March 1795

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt1)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt1)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt2)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt2)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt3)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt3)

Q/RA 1/3 Register of licensed victuallers, 1795

Q/RA 1/3 Register of licensed victuallers, 1795

Excerpt from Pigot's Directory, 1821-1822

Excerpt from Pigot’s Directory, 1821-1822

Heanor church burial entry, 16th February 1848, DVD 83

Heanor church burial entry, 16th February 1848, DVD 83

EYA-poster-poetry-workshop

Explore Your Archive – Prisoners of War

I first became aware that there had been Napoleonic prisoners in Derbyshire when I came across an unusual gravestone at St Mary and All Saints church, Chesterfield, aka the Crooked Spire.  The inscription translated as ‘In memory of Francois Raingeard, thirty years of age, Prisoner of War, died 1oth March 1812’ and bore the message ‘Stop Traveller!  If thro’ Life’s journey, Sympathy Has found a seat in thy Breast; thou’ll drop a pitying tear to the memory of one who…’; the last line started ‘In Friendship…’, but the rest had worn away.

This wasn’t the first time there had been prisoners of war in Derbyshire.  During the Seven Years’ War with France, the Victoria County History (Vol 2) states that 300 French prisoners were sent to Derby in July 1759.  Apparently the churchwardens of Derby All Saints made an “absurdly boastful and vainglorious entry” in their books concluding:

Their behaviour at first was impudent and insolent; and at all times vain and effeminate; and their whole deportment Light and Unmanly; and we may venture to say from our observation and knowledge of them that in any future war, this Nation has nothing to fear from them as an Enemy.  During their abode here, the road from this place to Parliament was by an Act of Parliament repair’d; the part from St. Mary’s Bridge (which by reason of the floods was impassible) being greatly raised.  Numbers of these people were daily employ’d, who work’d in their Bag Whigs, Pigtails, Ruffles, &c., a matter which afforded no small merriment.  But to their Honour let it be remembered, yet scarce an Act of Fraud or Theft was committed by any of them during their stay amongst us.    

Whilst prisoners of war from the lower ranks were held in prisons or on prison ships, officers were placed on a parole of honour in which they promised not to leave or escape from the town they were sent to.  Derbyshire’s central geographic position made it an ideal place to hold the men.  Our local studies library copy (940.27) of part of the National Archives’ general entry book of French prisoners of war on parole shows that from December 1803-July 1812 there were 172 prisoners on parole at Ashbourne and from November 1803-June 1811 there were over 400 held at Chesterfield.  The parish registers for Chesterfield show that aswell as Frenchmen there were at least a few Polish, Swiss, German, Italian and Hungarian prisoners too.

D302 Z/W 1 Weekly accounts, December 1812

D302 Z/W 1 Weekly accounts, December 1812

We have at the Record Office a bound volume of letters, accounts and reports (to the Transport Board) by John Langford (D302 Z/W 1) who was appointed as the agent for the care of parole prisoners at Ashbourne in March 1812.  The accounts and the discharge information can sometimes record prisoner’s names, the name of the prize i.e. from which vessel or place the prisoner was captured, whether the prize was a man of war, privateer or merchant vessel, what rank the prisoner held, and in some records the date of the beginning of their parole at Ashbourne, their date of discharge and how much they were paid.  One particular list which records prisoners at Ashbourne who hadn’t been held on parole or in prison anywhere else in the country, also records details of their age, height, hair colour, eye colour, face shape, complexion, figure, and any wounds or distinguishing marks.

D302 Z/W 1 Accounts of subsistence paid, 1812

D302 Z/W 1 Accounts of subsistence paid, 1812

Whilst the papers don’t reveal that much about their day-to-day activities, there are some letters which let us glimpse into individual lives, such as one from 26th November 1812 giving the account of a Monsieur Frohart who was judged to be in a state of insanity.  He was lodging with a Mr Mellor in the town and it was Mellor who reported to Langford that Frohart, having been restless and singing and making a noise the preceding night, appeared deranged the next morning and ran into the street only half-dressed and broke the windows of several neighbouring properties.  Apparently a couple of years previously he had been in a similar state whilst being on parole in Chesterfield.

Other letters record the various escapes of prisoners, such as Jacques Perroud, the captain of the privateer the ‘Phoenix’, who ran away in the night in April 1812 and was believed to be heading to the Kent coast.  A physical description of him is included and it also reports what he could be wearing, topped by a new hat with a narrow crown, broadish brim, a ribbon and a small white buckle.  Captain Perroud left behind at his lodgings a trunk, four small French dictionaries, three pairs of cloth pantaloons, four old cotton shirts and two cotton pillow cases.

Between 1803 and 1815, around ten prisoners (all men on parole at Chesterfield) appear in the Quarter Sessions Calendars of Prisoners, though I’m sure the actual figure was much higher.  Half of them are being tried on charges of breaking or exceeding their parole and the other half are up on bastardy charges for fathering illegitimate children.  There are at least twelve prisoners of war, including Francois Raingeard, buried in the Crooked Spire churchyard.  From 1806 onwards there are approx. ten marriages of prisoners of war to local women and about eighteen baptisms of children of prisoners, either with wives who were also taken as prisoners or women they had met and married in Chesterfield, and also a few illegitimate children.  

The Ashbourne St Oswald registers seem to show that one local family was particularly welcoming:  15th August 1808, Vincent Pierre Fillion, a French Prisoner of War, married Hannah Whitaker, spinster; 7th May 1810, Louis Hugand, a French prisoner, married Mary Whittaker, spinster; 30th December 1811, Peter/Pierre Dupre, Prisoner of War in Ashbourne, married Elizabeth Whittaker, spinster; 26th November 1812, Otto Ernst d’Heldreich, Prisoner of War, married Margaret Whittaker, spinster. 

Whilst a few remained in Derbyshire, most of the prisoners of war, and their families, eventually returned to mainland Europe.  But aswell as the legacy of a method of glove-making which carried on and thrived in Chesterfield during the nineteenth century, as the story goes it was a French prisoner who first introduced the recipe for what is known as Ashbourne Gingerbread, which is still made and sold in the town two hundred years later.

EYA-poster-poetry-workshop

Explore Your Archive – Pride and Pugilists: Round Two

D5459/4/32/2 A Milling Match, Thomas Rowlandson, [1811]

D5459/4/32/2 A Milling Match, Thomas Rowlandson, [1811]

Jem Belcher had been left partially blind since 1803 after the ball struck his left eye during a game of rackets.  All too familiarly, he carried on after his 1805 defeat to Henry ‘Hen’ Pearce ‘The Game Chicken’, and suffered further losses against the future champion Tom Cribb in 1807 and 1809.  He seems to have been arrested after his last fight, and the Gell letters chart his misfortune that year.  

I have been fagging myself to death to settle the business of my ally Jim Belcher & what with Windham, Lord Archibald, Jackson, & Adam the Lawyer, I have at length got a letter for him to Mr Nolan the great Lawyer who attends at Guildford quarter sessions, who is to defend him for nothing.  That Brute Tom who ought to have gone with him is not only gone to Newmarket to Captain Barclay himself, but has taken with him or rather is taken by a Mr Shelton who should have been bail or security, but I will blow them both well up when they return, d— them.  If you have any of the guts of charity in your r*ctum send me some money for him and I will give it him from you, for he feels a great difference in not being the winning man.

D258/50/22, [2 July] 1809

An August letter to Phillip Gell provides an update on legal proceedings and financial woes, aswell as the latest news.

I hope to be with you by the first of October, for a fortnight.  Pray write to me at Lord Oxford’s, Eywood near Presteigne, Radnorshire directly.  If I had time I would get acquainted with all the young pugilists at Bristol, of which there is a fine young flock who will probably arrive in town in a year or two.  I have directed Jackson to get you a Barclay handkerchief.  Thank you about Mr Kinderley & James Belcher, but the people were so kind to me about it that he would have had all he wanted in court but it was put off till October at Kingston when by the blessing of God I will rout the beasts by the assistance of Mr William Adam & Mr Nolan at Kingston.  Why the devil don’t you write to Henry Raikes.  He does not object to the country & would have bought your living before this time had you managed properly.  I stopped the boat in my way here & landed at Boyle farm to know if Old Raikes had heard of you, no damn me no, so you will lose you living & I & Jim Belcher our regalo.  Lady Elizabeth Forbes has got some good naughty for you when you meet again…There is a fight this day between Richman the black & Maddox who is as you say a slow chap.  People think Richman will win & I have just sent James Belcher by the coach to second that Lilly hero hoping he will put a guinea or two into his pocket by it.     

D258/50/27, 11 August 1809

Unfortunately the court’s verdict did not go Belcher’s way.

Only think, I took Jem to Kingston, no causes tried that day.  He went the next Mr Nolan defended him 3 hours.  He was had up to day Oct 5 2 hours.  He was indicted on 4 charges.  Only guilty of fighting “verdict”.  But one of the jury stuck out & the rest wanted to lick him.  The consequence is that he is come home but is to go on Novr 5 to hear the Judge’s decision.  It is a d—-d shame I wish he had the thrashing of them all.  He is very grateful for your regalo, & Tom who has been sparring to night for Bittons benefit asked after you very kindly.  When you come a-Parliamenting I hope you will come to Benham.  Craven comes here on 11. I came on 1st.  Damn the Judge & Jury for he cannot see about a house with a sign while this hangs over him poor fellow.  

D258/50/29, 5 October 1809

The damned sons of B*****s have confined Jem for 28 days in the County goal Horsemonger lane from 2nd of November blast them.  I sent him a letter saying you, I & Keppel would be answerable for Jem & Mr Frowman has promised the license so on the 2nd or 3rd of December Jem will be out & in his old situation I hope.  I went twice to see him as I passed through Town.  He is very cheerful & merry poor fellow though only to be seen from 12 to 2.  Tom lives almost next door which wir virry good hearing for me.  I don’t think he wants anything, but he is so modest I cannot found out except by a trap so I have sent Richmond to find out.  Said Richmond has received forfeit from Cropley who won’t fight…Jem had a very poor benefit previous to his confinement there being nobody in town…Tom Belcher has a benefit soon after that, at which I shall be if possible…The Covent Garden gets worse & worse.  I saw the Lord Mayor’s show as I returned from seeing Jem in prison.  County gaol Horsmonger lane.  There is a man in the same place with him confined for some small offence of very genteel appearance who does every thing for Jem even to cooking as if he were his servant so well liked is he by every body.  I am very glad tis no worse, he sends his grateful regards to you and as I knew you would like to hear of him I write.               

D258/50/30, 11 November 1809        

Despite Gell’s efforts ( D258/50/31, December 1809 “…Jem is out & I am working to get him re-established.  I think I shall succeed…”), the elder Belcher brother slipped further into decline and died in London in 1811. 

Cropley & Power are to fight & they have matched T Belcher against Lilly White but as I was told the black would prove the best man I have given Tom a lecture about his brother losing his fame by over fighting & convinced him that unless he is sure of winning he ought not to try having left off with 5 victories since his defeat by Sam over Dogherty, Farnborough & Cropley.  He is convinced by my arguments & as 50£ is wanting in the purse Hi doant think it wull be a fite.  

D258/50/39, 16 July 1810

Tom Belcher seems to have fared better than his older brother.  Despite fighting a few more times after this, he was at one point owner of the famous boxing watering-hole the Castle Tavern in Holborn, and eventually died in 1854. 

As one of her chamberlains, Sir William Gell left England in 1814 to accompany the former Princess of Wales, now the exiled Queen Caroline.  He remained in Italy, continuing to publish topographies, with continual money problems, until his death in 1836.  His letters (D258/50/1-155) are available to view at the Record Office on CD 152.

EYA-poster-story-boxes

Explore Your Archive – Pride and Pugilists: Round One

Sir William Gell (1777-1836), archaeologist and topographer, author and illustrator, enjoyed a social circle that encompassed the royal court and the square ring.

…as I was to dine at the Princess of Wales’s to day at Kensington Palace I thought it proper as a specimen of rising & falling in poetry to send for Jim Belcher to go to Astleys on my return down the river, as there can be nothing more picturesque than to pass at once from the society of a Serene Highness to that of a serene boxer.  I should certainly on the same principle send for Tom to go to a lark somewhere to night but that her Royal Highness eats and drinks so much that dinner will probably last till 4 in the morning.

D258/50/20, c.1808

A series of letters (D258/50/1-155) written by William – mainly to his elder brother Sir Phillip Gell MP, of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth – offer glimpses into the world of Regency pugilism.

I should have told you my friend Perry has presented Dutch Sam to me, he was very civil, is half dead, quite drunk, and how he could beat Tom I cannot conceive.  I do not patronize him for I had an opportunity of seeing that he was a great blackguard very soon, so I hope he will die.

D258/50/20, c.1808

D258/50/37

D258/50/37

Yesterday I went with Tom to a bull bait & fight at a green one mile beyond Hampstead.  Byrne & Dogherty were to have fought, but them there Westminster chaps brought forward a Costarmonger named Silverthorne much less than Byrne who though seemingly very stout was compleatly wasted and cowed & gave in his defect is this for the dotted line is the right shape & those whose shoulders are so flat cannot as you observe hit out.

D258/50/37, 27 June [1810?]

Boxing was one of the most popular sports of the era, with both the gentry and the general  populace, and attracted big crowds and even bigger wagers.  William Gell appears to have patronized the Bristolian boxers Jem Belcher, the former all England champion, and his younger brother Tom.  Occasionally Gell writes part of a letter in the ‘style’ of Jem or Tom, and his patronage veers towards the patronising, as in the following extract.

D258/50/34, 4 January 1810

D258/50/34, 4 January 1810

Despite its public popularity, boxing was illegal, and bouts had to be furtively arranged out of view of local magistrates.

I am ordered by Matthews to give you an account of a larking party in which I was engaged on Wednesday the 19th ultimo at Comb wood near Wimbledon.  I copy the card of notice for your information.  “Sir) the fight is at Coum hood near Kingston at 12 o clock”.  This being my notice I was at breakfast when the two Belchers came to take me there.  I resisted a hackney coach as too slow & took them both in a chaise.  As we went along I was told to look in the common at a woman whom I saw & they told me it was Jerry Abershaw’s wife, in fact she was wandering near the spot where Abershaw the noted robber was hanged.  Soon after we passed several Chay carts in one of which, they saw some clergymen whom I found to be three chimney sweepers on enquiring how they could distinguish them at such a distance.  When we got to the place which was an open space in the wood there were not many people, but I found Jackson who patronized me & Payne, Sir Henry Smith & Green an untried man & Smith whom you have seen were to fight.  At length the company increased to about 1,000 people & the ring was made.  Of course as I am to be M.O. for Westminster I soon had a great circle round me & was insisting “that the bill do lie on the table” to the great entertainment of the mob when Tom Belcher every now & then came & ordered me away, as there were more than 60 pickpockets in the place, and this species of tyranny he practised several times for my benefit & to his own risque for the light fingered gentry would have half killed him if they had known it.  In short they all took so much care of me, that I think Lord Cochrane will have but little chance next time.  Tom betted on Green who lost by selling himself as they all said, for he was not much hurt.  After this there was a second battle between Little Lenox & a person named Cowpe, a young man who got very well thrashed, & a much better battle it was than the first.  To this succeeded a Bull baiting on which I was violently laid hold of by Power (for his name is not Powell) and taken in the spirit to the top of a Hackney coach that I might see the fun…after this I returned home and supped with the Princess of Wales according to the prophecy which sayeth “when thou larkest in the morning let thy evening be in the palace”.  By the bye I dine there to day & have sent to one of my Castors or Polluxes to breakfast here for I want to set him up again in the world and have engaged Windham in the business.

D258/50/25, July 24 1809

Continues tomorrow…

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Explore Your Archive – Reading, Writing and the Theatre Royal

Compare and Contrast – a selection of Derbyshire Record Office documents regarding Regency children and education.

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt1)

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt1)

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt2)

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt2)

From 'Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope', 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

From ‘Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope’, 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

From 'Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope', 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

From ‘Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope’, 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

D2375 M/84/24 Printed orders to parents on the admission of their children into charity schools, 18th cent

D2375 M/84/24 Printed orders to parents on the admission of their children into charity schools, 18th cent

D6948/15/2 Pages from Belper Mill Girls School admission register, 1820s

D6948/15/2 Pages from Belper Mill Girls School admission register, 1820s

Dronfield Academy advert, Derby Mercury, 11 July 1811

Dronfield Academy advert, Derby Mercury, 11 July 1811

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt1)

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt1)

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt2)

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt2)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt1)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt1)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt2)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt2)

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D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt1)

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt1)

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt2)

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt2)

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D5459/1/35 Part of 'Sunday Morning', George M. Woodward.  On the back is written: 'GM Woodward sketches when a child.  These are evident proofs of his natural Genius he used to draw before he could speak plain (W.W.)' - the handwriting is that of his father, William Woodward.

D5459/1/35 Part of ‘Sunday Morning’, George M. Woodward. On the back is written:
‘GM Woodward sketches when a child. These are evident proofs of his natural Genius he used to draw before he could speak plain (W.W.)’ – the handwriting is that of his father, William Woodward.

Explore Your Archive – Get the Ball Rolling

As we await kick-off of the first Explore Your Archive week, here is a vigorous selection of images for sporting ladies and gentlemen.

D5459/2/23/9 Image from Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, 1799

D5459/2/23/9 Image from Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, 1799

D5459/4/32/5 A Cricket Match Extraordinary, Thomas Rowlandson, [1811]

D5459/4/32/5 A Cricket Match Extraordinary, Thomas Rowlandson, [1811]

D5459/3/11 A Mistake at New-Market, or Sport and Piety, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, [1807]

D5459/3/11 A Mistake at New-Market, or Sport and Piety, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, [1807]

The Derby Races advert, Derby Mercury, 29 July 1813

The Derby Races advert, Derby Mercury, 29 July 1813

D5459/2/23/14 Image from Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls: No 21, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, 1800

D5459/2/23/14 Image from Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls: No 21, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, 1800

Boxing report, Derby Mercury, 13 May 1829

Boxing report, Derby Mercury, 13 May 1829

D5459/2/23/12 Image from Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls: No 18, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, 1800

D5459/2/23/12 Image from Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls: No 18, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, 1800

The Football, Derby Mercury, 28 February 1827

The Football, Derby Mercury, 28 February 1827

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Explore Your Archive – On This Day: French Prisoners of War

From the Derby Mercury, 14th November 1811:

On Wednesday the 6th inst. Dominique Ducasse, Captain and Aid-de-Camp to Gen. Dufour, Tugdual Antoine Kerenor, Lieutenant, and Julien Deslories, Ensign, three French prisoners of war at Chesterfield, were conducted from the house of correction there, by a military escort, on their way to Norman Cross Prison, for having broken their parole of honor.  The two former were apprehended at the Peacock Inn, (along with George Lawton, of Sheffield, cutler,) about 10 o’clock on Saturday night, the 26th ult. by the vigilance of Mr. Hopkinson, the landlord, who much to his credit, refused to furnish a post-chaise to carry them to Derby, and dispatched a messenger to the Commissary at Chesterfield, detaining them until the return of the messenger; the next day they were conveyed back to Chesterfield, and Lawton is now in our county gaol to take his trial for assisting in the escape. 

D5459/1/5 French Prisoners, George M. Woodward, 1783

D5459/1/5 French Prisoners, George M. Woodward, 1783

The same escort took another prisoner (Monsieur Bernier, an Ensign) from Newark, where he was recaptured, on the information of the Waiter, at the Saracen’s Head Inn, having also escaped from Chesterfield; and the Transport Board have ordered 15 guineas to be paid for the recapture of these three prisoners. 

In short, that Board have since, in consequence of the great number of escapes of French prisoners of war on parole in this kingdom, ordered that in future, the following rewards shall be paid, for recaptures, viz., 10 guineas for every commissioned officer, 5 guineas for every non-commissioned officer, and 20 guineas for every British subject convicted of assisting such prisoners to escape. 

And we are sorry to find, that this Government have lately been under the necessity of ordering the French aspirants and midshipmen on parole in this country, into close confinement in consequence of the French Government having sent the English midshipmen on parole in France, to prison, and their not releasing them though remonstrated with, by our Government; this conduct of the French Ruler, in the present situation of affairs, is too obvious to need comment.

There will be more about Napoleonic prisoners of war on the blog next Thursday.

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