Wynyard Ghost Story

wynyard ghost
Infantry Uniforms of the British Army Left to right: Private (1750), Officer (1780), Courtesy of Wikipedia

Ghosts and the supernatural were a popular topic in Georgian England, and, in the 1700s, no story appeared to be more authentic or capture the attention of the British public than the tale known as the Wynyard Ghost. Although there are some slight variations and differences in the story — including exactly what time the event happened as some reports state it occurred at four in the afternoon and others claim it took place at eight or nine in the evening — the main elements of the story remain the same.

The story begins when the English troops were camped in Nova Scotia at Cape Breton during the war with America. At the time, the weather was severe. The harbor was frozen and the supplies expected from England delayed. On the afternoon of 15 October 1785, four officers — Sir Hildebrand Oakes, Colonel Ralph Gore, Captain John Coape Sherbrooke, and Lieutenant George West Wynyard — in the 33rd regiment dined together in their small barrack. The men drank no wine and “retired from the mess to continue together the occupations of the morning.” Continue reading

Victorian Surnames in England and Wales

The idea of surnames, or last names, is not a common nor universal practice. Surnames supposedly evolved from a medieval naming practice known as “byname,” where a person’s occupation, residence, or nickname would be added to distinguish two people with the same Christian name. The fifty most common surnames in England and Wales for 1853 are listed in alphabetical order below. “More than half of the surnames are derived from the Christian or fore-name of the father,” and based on a total of 3,253,800 people, “nearly 18 in every 100 persons” was known by one of these fifty surnames. Continue reading

Harry Rowe – The Puppeteer and Noisy Trumpeter

Harry Rowe
Harry Rowe, Public Domain

Harry Rowe “made a good deal of noise in the world while he lived, and caused considerable speculation among Shakspearian [sic] commentators after his death.” He was born in Nottingham in 1728 to a school teacher and mantua-maker. Rowe was a “sharp boy” and when old enough became his father’s assistant at school; “but instead of attending to the morals of the scholars, he led them into a number of boyish tricks, such as breaking into hen-roosts, robbing of orchards, &c.”

For his waywardness, his father apprenticed him to a stocking weaver, but Rowe “formed an improper connexion [sic] with one of the maid servants … [and] having lost his master’s good opinion … he entered as volunteer into the Duke of Kingston’s light horse.” It was under Kingston’s regiment, Rowe obtained the rank of trumpeter and found himself ordered to Scotland.

In Scotland he became a participant at the Battle of Culloden, where Kingston’s troopers, who were not regulars, behaved beastly. They pursued the retreating army and killed and maimed women and innocent children. Having won the final confrontation in the Jacobite Rising at Culloden, Kingston’s regiment was ordered back to England where it was disbanded and where Rowe suddenly found himself unemployed. Continue reading

Courtship Etiquette for Gentlemen

Courtship Etiquette: Gentleman of the 1800s
Gentleman of the 1800s, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Certain etiquette and conduct was expected of an eighteenth or nineteenth century gentleman when courting. One etiquette book noted that “courting ought never to be done except with a view to marriage.” One nineteenth century gentleman maintained that “true courtship consists in a number of quiet, gentlemanly attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, not so vague as to be misunderstood.” This meant a gentleman had to walk a fine line. He  could not pay exclusive attention to any particular woman unless he was serious and wanted to pursue marriage, and he could not attend church with a woman regularly, give her costly presents, or be her constant escort unless he had serious intentions. If he neglected “all others to [solely] devote himself to a single lady he [gave] that lady reason to suppose he [was] particularly attracted to her … [and there was] danger of her feelings becoming engaged.” In addition, by avoiding such singular-focused behavior, a gentleman would avoid winning a love he could not reciprocate, stop wasting his time and money, or sidestep falling in love with someone considered unworthy.

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Fire, Hoarding, and Two Sisters in the Victorian Era

Borough of Gosport Shown Within Hampshire, Courtesy of Wikpedia
Borough of Gosport Shown Within Hampshire, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Fires were always a danger in the Victorian Era, but one fatal fire in Gosport was worsened by the hoarding of two sisters. The event began in High Street in Darby Court on Tuesday, 10 December 1867 at about two o’clock in the afternoon. A widowed neighbor named Elizabeth Russell noticed smoke rising from the tenement house occupied by two unmarried women. The women were in their 70s and known in the neighborhood as “Nancy” (Ann) and “Betsy” (Elizabeth) Miller. Russell took immediate action. She broke through the door but could not enter as the lower room was “literally crammed with filth and rubbish, consisting of dirty-worn out articles of wearing apparel, the remains of culinary and domestic articles, rags, bottles, and the various et ceteras usually found in a marine store.” Continue reading

The Jockey Club 1750-1773

The Jockey Club by Thomas Rowlandson, Public Domain
The Jockey Club by Thomas Rowlandson, Public Domain

The Jockey Club was established as a high society social club, somewhat similar to a gentleman’s club but for horse owners. It is claimed to have been founded in 1750, although there are some claims it may have been established much earlier. Exactly how it was formed is unclear, but what is clear is that it was established during “an age of clubs, which were springing up like mushrooms on all sides.” The club’s main purpose was for members to have a good time, but earliest club members, more than anything else, “promoted the improvement of the thoroughbred and the prosperity of the Turf.”

They also formed the Jockey Club for several other reasons. Noblemen and gentlemen could enjoy each other without fear of mingling with ruffians or blackguards, and they could “win one another’s or anybody else’s money by acquiring, whether for a price or from breeding, the best horses in creation. And a further object,…was apparently to knit together the horse-loving, horse-breeding, and horse-racing nobility and gentry.” They could also ride their own horse or other member’s horses but, subsequently, decided against it and confined their racing to professional jockeys. Continue reading

Ice Skating Etiquette

Skating in the 1820s, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Skating in the 1820s, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Ice skating was a popular pastime among Britain’s upper and middle classes by the mid 1800s. It was so popular the first attempt at creating artificial ice skating rinks occurred in England in 1841. It required using a mixture of hog’s lard and salts. But these artificial rinks were so smelly, they quickly fell out of fashion. Some thirty years later, in 1876, the first mechanically frozen ice rink appeared in London. Although it was a vast improvement over the smelly rinks of the 1840s, most people still relied on local frozen ponds, rivers, or streams. Continue reading

Button’s Coffee House

Button's Coffee House: Joseph Addison, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Joseph Addison. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Will’s Coffee House was the intellectual and provocative den for the wits of John Dryden’s time, but after Dryden’s death the “it” place became Button’s Coffee House. Button’s Coffee House came about because of Joseph Addison. He established Daniel Button, the one time servant to Charlotte, Countess of Warwick, in a building as chief waiter “over against Tom’s, near the middle of the south side of … [Russell] street,”[1] in Covent Garden in 1712. At the time it was also fashionable to name a place based on the head waiter. Thus, it became called Button’s Coffee House.

Button’s chief patron was Addison who before marrying Lady Warwick, breakfasted every day with either “Steel, Budgell, Philips, Carey, Davenant, … [or] Colonel Brett … [and then went] to Button’s, and then to some tavern again, for supper.”[2] However, Addison’s time at Button’s Coffee House was soon stretched to sometimes last “five or six hours; and sometimes far into the night.”[3] That may have partly had to do with his home life. He had worked as a tutor for Charlotte’s son before marrying her and she was described as arrogant and imperious, and her son, Edward Rich, was said to be unfriendly. Continue reading

Matthias Buchinger – The Wonderful Little Man of Nuremberg

Matthias Buchinger, Public Domain
Matthias Buchinger, Public Domain

Matthias Buchinger was “little more than the trunk of a man,” but he was also dexterous, talented, and capable, which is why he became known as “the wonderful little man of Nuremberg.” Buchinger was born in Ansbach, Germany, on 2 June (or perhaps 3) 1674, without hands, feet, or thighs and was the youngest of nine children. James Caulfield, an English author and printseller, described Buchinger:

“[He possessed] two excrescences growing from the shoulder-blades, more resembling fins of a fish than arms of a man; but who nevertheless was able to write well, and to perform many curious and active tricks.”

This knack for writing and tricks came about because of the following:

[H]is parents … were of humble rank … and, during his childhood, being distressed at his unnatural form, concealed him as much as possible; but at length, as he grew older, finding him an encumbrance, they bethought themselves of providing him with some employment, which should necessarily be a sedentary one, and … had at one time an intention of apprenticing him to a tailor … [but] were forced to abandon this plan, as they could find no place for the thimble.” Continue reading

Courtship and a Woman’s Responsibilities

Victorian Depiction of Courtship in early 1800s, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Victorian Depiction of Courtship in early 1800s, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtship preceded an engagement and was a period of time that allowed a man and woman to discover whether or not they were compatible. Because marriage was the goal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, courtship was important, and perspective mates attempted to put their best foot forward. Women could accomplish this by following proper etiquette and possessing desirable qualities that would make them a good spouse. In addition, young ladies were encouraged to seek acceptable partners. Their parents were also encouraged to be involved to the extent that they were “perfectly familiar with the character of their daughter’s associates and … exercise[d] their authority so far as not to permit her to form any improper acquaintances.” After all, parents had to keep in mind their daughter might fall in love with someone whom she had frequent contact with, and, so, “if any gentleman of her acquaintance [was] particularly ineligible as a husband, he [was to] … be excluded as far as practicable from her society.” Continue reading