A Georgian Era Tragedy at a Puppet Show

Location of Burwell within Cambridgeshire. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A Georgian Era tragedy at a puppet show in 1727 resulted in 78 people dead, many of them children. The story begins with a man who owned a family-run puppet show who was named either Richard Shepherd (or perhaps Richard or Robert Sheppard). As he was passing through the village of Burwell, about 10 miles (16 km) north-east of Cambridge, with his wife, his daughter, and two servants, he decided to put on a show and rented a barn on 8 September.

Word quickly spread that Shepherd was going to perform that evening in a barn built of Warble stone and thatched with straw. (The site where the barn stood is today located in Cuckolds Row.) Young people and children were particularly excited to see the show, and attendance promised to be high because people would not have to travel far and because Shepherd was charging an entrance fee of 1d. Continue reading

Seven Melancholy Accidents of the Georgian Era

seven "melancholy" accidents of the Georgian Era
Differential Windlass. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the Georgian era, there were many “melancholy” accidents reported in the papers. The first one accident occurred in 1799 on 6 February at Morley Park, near Heage. A servant working for a Mr. Wildsmith was drawing water from a well with a bucket. According to the newspaper, all was going well until suddenly “the windlass slipt out of his hand, and catching hold of the rope to prevent the bucket from being broken, he was precipitated into the well, sixteen yards in depth.”[1]

That wasn’t the only death that involved water in the Georgian Era. Another accident occurred on a Saturday morning in July of 1775. Two 24-year-old twin brothers named Sommerton went to bathe at a saltern that belonged to a Mr. Moxham at Lymington. The twins were said to be of good character and looked and behaved so much alike even their friends could barely tell them apart. However, one of the boys could not swim, and according to the newspaper, Continue reading

Lightning Strikes of the 1700s

Lightning Strikes
Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Experiment in 1752, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Benjamin Franklin was the first to discover that lightning consisted of electric matter. This discovery helped people to understand “that lighting in passing from the clouds to the earth, or from the earth to the clouds, runs through the walls of a house, the trunk of tree, or other elevated objects.” Since Franklin’s time people have learned more about lightning. For instance, lightning strikes occur more in the summer than in winter, and from noon to midnight than from midnight to noon. Knowing these facts helps people to stay safer today. But in the 1700s, just as today, lightning strikes could occur anywhere, anytime, and just about anyone could be struck down by lightning. Continue reading

Heroine of the Seas, Grace Horsley Darling

Heroine of the Seas, Grace Darling
Grace Darling. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The heroine of the seas, Grace Horsley Darling, was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. Grace was born in the month of November on the 24th in 1815, and she was twenty-four when fate came knocking at her door. It happened at daybreak on 7 September 1838. At the time, Grace was sleeping but a noise awoke her. She then looked out her bedroom window from the Longstone lighthouse, and in the distance, she noticed the wreckage of the Forfarshire.

The Forfarshire was a 300-ton steamer that left Hull heading to Dundee with 62 people aboard. However, before it left, Mrs. Dawson, a passenger in steerage, realized something was not right. She thought about leaving the ship but did not. In the end, her concerns were justified because once at sea the steamer struggled. The boiler was not working properly, and when the storm began, the ship was left to mercy of the tempestuous sea. Continue reading

Prominent Theatre Fires in the 1800s in Europe

Theatre fires in the 1800s: Example of a Theatre Fire
Example of a Theatre Fire in 1881, Public Domain

Theatre fires were a big problem in the 1800s. Some fires happened after hours when theatres were closed, but fires also occurred when people were in the building, on stage, or seated in the auditorium. Fires with people present were the most worrisome as lives were endangered and people were often injured or killed.

Among some of the most prominent theatre fires in the 1800s were seven that occurred in Europe. Below are the statistics on each of these fires, including where, when, and how the fire started, as well as how many people were killed or injured and the contributing factors that resulted in the injuries or deaths. Continue reading

Death By Peas and Other Foods

Death by Peas: ice cream
Ice Cream, Courtesy of desktopdress.com

Food was not always safe in the 1800s, and all sorts of foods could cause death. For example, a 22-year-old woman decided to eat raw rice mixed with milk, and afterwards drank her hot tea. A few hours later she fell ill and complained of severe stomach pain, which was caused from the rice swelling. “Emetics were given with great relief,  a large quantity of rice being expelled from the stomach.” Yet, the emetics did not completely solve the problem.

The following morning, the young lady’s pain increased. Then she suddenly showed other symptoms. She had “cold extremities, a small feeble pulse, and great abdominal tenderness.” She died about twenty-four later from having eaten the raw rice. Although eating raw rice may have not been the smartest thing to do, other foods in the 1800s sometimes caused death. Among the foods from which people died were ice cream, chocolate creams, orange peels, watermelon seeds, and peas. Continue reading

London Beer Flood of the 19th Century

A frothy mug of beer. Clip art.

The word “flood” comes from the Old English word “flod.” Hundreds of myths exist about floods with claims that either a deity or deities would destroy civilization with a flood. Yet, one of the most interesting floods proved not to be a myth and did not happen with water. Rather it consisted of beer and became known as the London Beer Flood.

The London Beer Flood occurred in the parish of St. Giles, London, England, at the Meux and Company Brewery. The brewery was located in central London on Tottenham Court Road. It sat in the middle of a squalid and tightly packed area of poor houses and tenements, known as the rookery. Established in the mid-1760s under the name of Horseshoe Brewery, the brewery passed through several owners, but, eventually, in 1809, Henry Meux and his partners acquired it under the name of Henry Meux and Company. Continue reading

Five Unfortunate Accidents of 1843

Carriage Accident in the Victorian Era, Public Domain
Carriage Accident in the Victorian Era, Public Domain

Accidents were common events in 1843. Besides carriage accidents, drownings, and frequent fires, people experienced other types of Victorian accidents that ranged from property damage to death. Among the unfortunate accidents that occurred in 1843 are the following: First, a story about a snake; second, a thunder and lightning storm; third, the unfortunate collapse of an embankment; fourth, a railway accident; and, fifth, the sad tale of two inquisitive children and a distillery. Continue reading

Two Men Suffocated in One Grave

St. Botolph's Aldgate, Courtesy of Wikipedia
St. Botolph’s Aldgate, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1838, an inquest was held in the parish of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate. It was held because of a horrible accident that involved 53-year-old Thomas Oakes, a gravedigger, and a 20-year-old passerby, who was also a fish dealer and the father of two children, named Edward Luddett.

It began after Oakes arrived at work. He opened a trap door covering a grave and descended into the grave. Shortly after his descent, the sexton’s daughter went to look for him and found Oakes insensible at the bottom of the grave. She screamed for help and her screams drew numerous bystanders. In addition, Oakes’s condition was passed to police constables who hastened to the spot, removed the trap door, and discovered Oakes lying on his back apparently dead. They called for a ladder to remove Oakes from the grave. Continue reading

Accidents Involving Animals in 1843

Cattle from a Victorian Print and Animal Accidents
Cattle from a Victorian Print, Author’s Collection

Accidents were common events in the Victorian Era. Many accidents involved animals partly because animals were an integral part of Victorian people’s lives. Stories of these animal accidents were publicized in local newspapers. Among the stories told, are five interesting ones from 1843. The first story involves a horse in Northern Ireland, the second story talks about an infuriated cow, the third, an out-of-control bull, the fourth, a ghastly accident related to a horse, and lastly there is a story that involves man’s best friend, the dog. Continue reading