A pious old lady named Mrs. Golding and her 20-year-old maid lived a short distance away from the Tower public house in Stockwell, Surrey. On the Twelfth Day — which was 6 January 1772, about ten o’clock in the morning — a great alarm was raised when out of nowhere and without any visible cause, Mrs. Golding’s crockery began to rattle, tumble, and whirl. It fell down the chimney and sailed through the windows. Pots and pans also began to tumble and then “hams, cheese, and loaves of bread disported themselves upon the floor just as if the devil were in them.” Even the furniture began to misbehave and act strangely: “A clock tumbled down and the case broke; a lantern that hung on the staircase was thrown down and the glass broken … [and] an earthen pan of salted beef broke to pieces and the beef fell about.”
It seemed as if all the articles in the house were possessed by the devil. This caused a fearful Mrs. Golding to inquire of a local carpenter, a Mr. Rowlidge, as to the cause of such unusual commotion. He surmised “the foundation was giving way and that the house was tumbling down, occasioned by the too great weight of an additional room erected above.” With such news, Rowlidge and several other persons began to remove Mrs. Golding’s belongings from her house. Continue reading →
Body snatchers were larger than life and taller than the tallest tale. Writers of the 1800s found them an irresistible element of fictional intrigue and ghoulish interest and included them in many stories. Part of the reason for the interest in body snatchers was that they were willing to go to great lengths to obtain corpses. They scaled high walls, descended into the deepest vaults, and even searched among the living as “one of the besetting terrors of the black night was the silent and remorseless mercenary whose object was robbery, not from the person but of the person itself.”
Although most body snatchers did not seek out the living, they did frequently conduct macabre nighttime raids. These raids were often aided by the very people hired to protect the graves. Watchmen were positioned in watch-houses and expected to guard the grounds, but the watchmen, along with gravediggers and churchyard sextons, frequently participated in the removal of corpses so that they could share in the body snatcher’s ghoulish profits. At one point, body snatching was so prevalent an extraordinary proposition was suggested by a Mr. Sadler in the House of Commons. He suggested England exchange manufactured good for dead bodies in France because it would stop body snatching. Continue reading →
John Chave, his wife, and her brother, a Mr. Taylor, moved into a house owned by Mr. Talley. Before they moved in an agreement was reached between Chave and Talley that Talley would make necessary repairs to the house. (The repairs were detailed by Chave and included painting the house.) The house was in the village of Sampford Peverell and was not considered unusual. In fact, the house was described as being “very ordinary.” It had “a shop and kitchen below, a single staircase, communicating with the upper story, and in the latter a small ante-room or landing, and two rooms one leading into the other.” Continue reading →
In the late 1800s superstitions were usually attached to certain groups. For example, stockbrokers claimed to have lucky and unlucky days. Sailors had their superstitions, as did brides and grooms, and people everywhere were rumored to believe in fate or destiny. With all the good and bad luck circulating, it was not surprising that members of the theatrical profession embraced their own set of superstitious beliefs. Among these stage superstitions were beliefs in the evil eye, the number thirteen, fateful Fridays, black cats, and ghosts. Continue reading →
Today when someone refers to a body snatcher, it conjures up an unsavory, notorious character. Body snatchers were known to deliver corpses to students, surgeons, and teachers for dissections, and, indeed, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they developed an offensive, repugnant, and unpopular reputation. Body snatchers were rejected by every section of society from the highest echelons to the lowest criminal classes. In fact, anyone — student, teacher or surgeon — associated with dissection and corpses was considered “as abandoned and as criminal as the body-snatchers themselves, and equally destitute of the ordinary feelings of humanity.” Part of this negative attitude towards anyone associated with corpses and dissections in the 1700 and 1800s came from the fact dissection was extremely unpopular not only in England but also throughout Europe. Continue reading →
The time immediately following the death of a loved one was sometimes so busy, there was little time for mourning. People needed to be notified of the death, funeral, and interment arrangements needed to be handled, and the arrival of relatives far and wide often resulted in time spent entertaining rather than mourning. But no matter how busy or how sad a person felt, by the beginning of the nineteenth century mourning was complex and mourning etiquette needed to be observed.
Of course, this did not mean that people were to wear black at the slightest hint of bereavement. Neither were they to show an utter disregard on the death of a loved one. They were also not to acknowledge the departure of a loved by only wearing only a band of crape (now more frequently spelled crepe) around the arm, as that was a mark of mourning adopted by servants and certainly not an appropriate outward sign of respect by close relatives for the memory of a dear departed loved one.
An unknown, Catherine Macaulay became “the Celebrated Mrs. Macaulay” overnight. She was the first English female historian, and besides her abilities to retell history with a flair, she was also an adept conversationalist, attracted many admirers, and was a bluestocking. The first of her admirer’s was her husband, a Scottish physician named George Macaulay, M.D., whom she married in 1760. He died six years later.
After his death, she devoted her energies to her writings. In November of 1763, Scots Magazine published a list of new books and along with Jonas Hanway‘s The Seaman’s Faithful Companion and Robert Waddington’s A Practical Method for Finding the Longitude and Latitude of a Ship at Sea, by Observations of the Moon, was Macaulay’s first book. It was one of eight volumes, titled The History of England from the Accession of James I to that of the Brunswick Line. Continue reading →
Christiana Wighton, a young girl, “verging on womanhood,” was the daughter of John Wighton, and he was head gardener to Henry Stafford-Jerningham, 9th Baron Stafford. One January evening in 1863, between nine and ten o’clock in the morning, Christiana and her younger brother James, a lad of fourteen, were proceeding home. They were some distance from their cottage, which was located in Costessy Park, when Christiana was accosted by a young man named Walston Sadler (or Saddler).
Sadler had been working for John Wighton, Christiana’s father, for about three years. During that time, Sadler had attempted to gain Christiana’s affections whenever he found himself in the company of her and her father. Sadler’s attempts were unsuccessful, possibly because it was reported he made a snuffling noise through his nose when speaking. Whatever the reason for Christiana’s disinterest, when Sadler saw Christiana without her father, he decided this was his chance and implored her to have a private conversation with him in the park. Continue reading →
France was prosperous by 1881, and it was shown in the well-dressed people strolling the boulevards and by the fact women no longer worn the somber colors that had prevailed for so long. Besides the change in color, there were other changes. Hoods had been replaced by deep collars that were pointed at the back, and sleeves were fuller at the top with puffs or slashes down their sides. Collars were also deeper and broader. Dress skirts were different too: they were plainer at front, fuller at back, and worn over small crinolines.
As for accessories, gloves were still be worn with grand toilettes and when worn for evening wear, “gloves [were]…buttoned at the side—not with ordinary pearl buttons, but with small pearls, gold studs, ruby buttons—in fact, all kinds of gems…[were] used to button gloves.” Hats were trimmed with feathers and white or black lace. Hats also remained large whereas bonnets were small and “trimmed richly with flowers of the brightest hue, fastened under the chin by ribbon or lace, or sometimes by a small garland of flowers.” Coils, frisettes, and plaits were fashionable for the hair, and the hair was ornamented with semicircular steel combs or steel stars, as “steel by candle-light look[ed] very brilliant.” Continue reading →
One spring evening at half-past six a duel occurred that involved two men — Colonel Robert Montgomery and Captain James Macnamara. It occurred at Primrose Hill, a hill once part of the great chase appropriated by Henry VIII that was later situated on the northern side of London’s Regent’s Park. The quarrel began over the behavior of the two men’s Newfoundland dogs. It ended with only one man surviving, because as one nineteenth century writer put it, they “lowered themselves by an unseemly squabble in public, … by fighting a duel on account of a quarrel for the sake of two vile dogs!” Continue reading →