Historical Custom: The Flitch of Bacon Custom

Flitch of Bacon Custom
Flitch of Bacon, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Historical customs have long existed. For instance, in Scotland there has been a long tradition of wearing kilts, and the custom continued despite efforts to weaken Scottish support for the restoration of the James II of England by passing the Dress Act of 1746 that forbade “Highland Dress.” Another long-time custom is Lent—forty days of fasting, both from food and festivities. There is also the custom of primogeniture that allows a deceased person’s estate to go to the firstborn male child. However, one of the more unusual, and perhaps less known customs, is a tradition known as the Dunmow flitch of bacon custom.

The Dunmow flitch of bacon custom was “the custom of presenting a flitch of Bacon to any married couple who could swear that neither of them in a twelvemonth and day from their marriage had ever repented of his or her union.” Sometimes the custom was referred to as the “Dunmow Flitch Trials” partly because it was practiced at the Priory of Dunmow in Essex supposedly since the “days of yore,” although one British historian reports it was actually influenced by a Norse tradition. Continue reading

The Learned Pig Toby

Learned Pig

The original Learned Pig, known as Toby and described as a “most extraordinary and singular phenomenon,” was a pig that could read, write, tell time, and do mathematics. Toby would also respond to commands and answer questions. He accomplished these tasks by using his mouth to select cards with letters written on them and then he would arrange the letters into words. Continue reading

Georgian Rules for the Preservation of Sight

Man Wearing Spectacles, Courtesy of Walpole Library
Man Wearing Spectacles, Courtesy of Walpole Library

Before spectacles appeared in the late 1200s, eye problems had been around for a long time. Besides improved eyesight, one reason for wearing spectacles, according to Georgian doctors, was to avoid further eye problems. This was supposedly achieved by wearing long focus glasses at the “first approaches of long-sightedness [as it was said it would bring back people’s] natural sight, and [result in people laying] aside their spectacles for years.”

But what happened if a Georgian person didn’t need glasses or what if a person wanted to avoid spectacles all together? Here was the advice given by one magazine of the 1700s: Continue reading

Interesting Millinery Facts

millinery facts
Young Ladies’ Hat, December 1896, Author’s Collection

Head coverings have been with us since the time of man. Initially, they were seen as utilitarian because they offered protection from nature’s harsh elements or an enemy’s weapon. Some of the first headwear to be depicted was found in cave paintings at Lussac-les-Chateaux in Central France that dates to 15,000 BC. The next headwear to be depicted was skull-caps. These were followed by the Phrygian caps worn by freed slaves in Greece and Rome, which eventually became known as “Liberty Caps” during the French Revolution. In the sixteenth century, woman’s hats at last attained structure, and, by the seventeenth century, women everywhere began to clamor for millinery. This resulted in the idea of millinery fashion, with women’s hats becoming extremely popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

There are also several other interesting millinery facts provided below: Continue reading

Bernadette Soubirous and the Healing Waters of Lourdes

Bernadette Soubirous, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Bernadette Soubirous, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Bernadette Soubirous was the daughter of a miller and laundress born on 7 January 1844. She lived in Lourdes in the south of France, and, on 11 February 1858, at the age of fourteen, she, her younger sister, and a friend were gathering wood in an area near some poplars. At one point they came to stream and to prevent wetting her stockings, she stopped to remove them and sat near an alcove or niche.

As Bernadette bent down to take off her stockings the wind suddenly whipped up. She was so startled she looked up, but the poplars were not moving with the wind. Bernadette was puzzled. She bent down again to take off her stockings and again she heard the wind. This time when she looked up she “would have uttered a loud cry if she had not been choked with fear. She trembled in all her limbs, and fell to the earth dazzled, completely overcome by what she had seen.” Continue reading

Tales of Dog Fidelity in France

dog fidelity
Variety of Dogs, Author’s Collection

Since the domestication of the dog, there have been numerous stories about dogs and their masters. Dog are known for providing friendship and companionship to humans and that is partially why they have earned the title of “man’s best friend.” But besides companionship and friendship, the trait that is usually considered most pleasing in dogs, is their fidelity. In fact, dog fidelity has resulted in numerous anecdotes, and among these anecdotes are several about dogs and their owners living in France during the Georgian Era. Continue reading

Fire at the Richmond House

Henrietta le Clerc, Richmond House
Henrietta le Clerc, Public Domain

On 21 December 1791, at half past eight in the morning, a fire broke out on the second floor at the Richmond House. It began in the bedroom of Henrietta le Clerc, who was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Richmond and also known as the “Poor Orphan.” Apparently, she awoke to find that an ember from the fireplace had landed on the bedroom curtains, which then sparked the fire. Clothed in nothing more than a dressing gown, she escaped the room and made it down stairs to the library where her father, Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, was writing a letter. She sounded the alarm, and she, the Duke, and the Duchess, carrying her favorite dog under her arm, escaped the house. Continue reading

A Shoemaker and his Wooden Legged Opponent

Example of a 19th Century wooden Leg, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Example of a 19th Century wooden Leg, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Fighting was often a way of life in Georgian England. One interesting but rather comical story involves a dispute between a Lewes Fair shoemaker and a “sturdy beggar” in 1794. Apparently, the fight began when the shoemaker offended the beggar by “refusing to bestow a charitable boon upon him.”

The affronted beggar, who was claiming to be a maimed sailor, then attacked the shoemaker. While the beggar’s companion watched and the men fought, a crowd began to gather. The fight was well sustained on both sides for several rounds, but the wooden legged beggar soon discovered the shoemaker’s strength to be superior to his own. At that point, the beggar decided that if he was going to win he needed to alter his fighting tactics. Continue reading

Regency Traveling Tips

Regency traveling tips
Mail Coach Leaving Piccadilly With Travelers by George Scarf, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Traveling in the British Isles or on the European Continent was something done regularly by Regency people. To make traveling as comfortable as possible, one Regency writer gathered a variety of tips, and, here they are in their entirety:

Tips for Traveling in the British Isles 

  • Where persons travel for pleasure, or when they are not compelled by business to travel fast, sixty miles in winter, and seventy in summer, is distance enough to go. Continue reading

Five Interesting Crimes in 1843

Drawing of Charles Dickens in 1842 and crimes, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Drawing of Charles Dickens in 1842, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The year 1843 was a year of exciting events in the United Kingdom. William Wordsworth accepted the office of Poet Laureate on April 4th. In November, the statue of the inspirational British flag officer of the Royal Navy, Horatio Nelson, was placed atop Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square in London, and Charles Dickens publication,  A Christmas Carol, was published on 17 December, released on 19 December, and sold out by Christmas. However, 1843 involved more than just pleasant events. There was also a number of crimes, with “one-fourth of all criminal offenders … [noted to be] at the quinquennial period of life, 20 to 25.”  Moreover, it was discovered that “while 1 in every 336 of the male population [was] yearly guilty of a criminal offence, in the female sex the number [was] 1 in every 1581 only.”

The crimes committed in the United Kingdom in 1843 varied and included five rather interesting ones. The first story involves an unhappy, elderly cellarman, the second, a gamekeeper, the third, some miscreants and an elderly couple, the fourth, a nefarious servant and laudanum, and the fifth and final story, is about an unexpected twenty-year-old discovery. Continue reading