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

Heavenly Visitors and the Credulous in the 1700s

Heavenly Visitors in the 1700s: Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna
Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna, 1482. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The belief in heavenly visitors in the 1700s resulted in one credulous 62-year-old woman coming face-to-face with Saint Paul and the angel Gabriel. It all began because the widow had an incredible devotion to the gospel and such unshakeable faith in Saint Paul that she would spend several hours each day at an altar dedicated to Saint Paul. Because she came so frequently and so regularly, two villains observed her, and as they knew she was rich, they decided to take advantage of her believing and gullible nature.

One day, about the time of her devotions, one of the villains hid behind the altar. When the widow arrived and when she was not looking, he threw a letter out that she assumed had dropped from Heaven as it was signed, “Paul, the apostle.”

In the letter the widow was praised for her devotion and for the many prayers she offered up to the saintly apostle. Moreover, she was told that because of her remarkable faith and devotion, the apostle and the angel Gabriel would come from Heaven and sup with her that very evening at 8pm. 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

Execution of the Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino

Effigies of Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino With a Scene of the Execution, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Images of Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino with a scene of their execution. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock and Arthur Elphinstone, 6th Lord Balmerino were taken prisoners at the Battle of Culloden, the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Both men were tried and sentenced to death for treason. Their executions were carried out at Tower Hill on 18 August 1746.

The event began at six o’clock, when “a troop of life-guards, one of horse-grenadiers, and 1000 of the foot-guards … marched from the parade in St James’s park thro’ the city to Tower-Hill.” Around eight o’clock, the sheriffs of London arrived, along with others, as well as the executioner. They then dined together at the Mitre tavern on Fenchurch-Street before being conducted to the scaffold, which was about thirty yards away from the tavern.

Preparations at the scaffold began at ten o’clock when a “blocked was fixed on the stage, and covered with black cloth, and several sacks of sawdust … were brought … to strew on it; soon after their coffins were brought, covered with black cloth, ornamented with gilt nails.” Each coffin had a plate with the appropriate person’s name inscribed and an image of their coronet: Guilelmus Comes de Kilmarnock and Arthurus Dominus de Balmerino.

Fifteen minutes later, the sheriffs left in a procession to the outward gate of the Tower. There they knocked and requested possession of the Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino. The men were then delivered into their possession, and, soon after, the procession moved in a slow and solemn manner in the following order: Continue reading

Georgian Era Surnames: Names Expressing Contradictions

Definition of the Word "Surnames," Courtesy of Google
Definition of the Word “Surnames.” Courtesy of Google.

Everyone likely knows that in the Georgian era surnames such as Butcher, Tailor, or Miller referred to a person’s occupation and that a surname of Lewes, York, or Surrey was likely given to a foundling by a parish officer tasked with naming them. However, some of the more interesting surnames in use in the Georgian Era were often contradictory and expressed the reverse of a person’s actual character or qualities. One writer decided contradictory surnames were interesting enough that he wrote a short piece and identified some contradictory surnames. Here it is verbatim: Continue reading

Menu for George IV’s Coronation Dinner on 19 July 1821

Coronation Crown of George IV. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

George IV became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover following the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820. George IV’s coronation occurred about a year and half later on 19 July 1821. It was a grand costly affair, estimated to have been about £243,000 (approximately £19,970,000 in 2017). One great expense was the innovative gold and silver frame crown that had been specifically created for the King by Philip Liebart of Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. It was a tall crown with a dark blue cap and encrusted with 12,314 diamonds that were said to make the King appear to be a “gorgeous bird of the east.” Yet, the crown was not the only costly thing George IV wore: Continue reading

Elizabeth Armistead: Courtesan to Charles James Fox

Elizabeth Armistead. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Elizabeth Armistead was born Elizabeth Bridget Cane on 11 July 1750. Little is known about her early years and what is known is debated. Some people say that Elizabeth was born in a cellar, her father was a cheese-and-bacon vendor, and her mother “addicted herself to the culling and vending of simples.” Elizabeth supposedly first began working in London as a model for a hairdresser and then later became a dresser to the English actress Mary Robinson, who was known as “the English Sappho” and who earned the nickname “Perdita” for her role as Perdita.

By the time Elizabeth was twenty-one, she was known as Elizabeth Armistead (or Armstead) and was working at a bawdy house. It was during this time that she met the famous British Whig statesman, Charles James Fox. The meeting occurred when Fox and some friends escorted a visiting Frenchman to a bawdy house. Upon learning that another male friend, Frederick St. John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke was being entertained by a woman in a room, Fox and his friends kicked the door open. The woman entertaining Bolingbroke was Elizabeth. Continue reading

A Georgian Footman’s Guide to Opening the Door and Announcing Names

Footman. Author’s Collection.

The Georgian footman’s job was to open the door and announce names, and this task began when someone knocked at the door. The footman was to go immediately to the door, and, if for some reason he was unavailable to answer the door, he was to arrange with a fellow-servant to perform the task because it was considered improper and unpleasant to keep someone waiting. Footmen were advised that

“A little time is of great consequence to some persons, and particularly to tradespeople who may have another appointment to attend to; consider also that whenever you delay unnecessarily going to the door, or answering the bell, you are off your duty and culpable for being so.”

If a double knock occurred at the street door, the footman was to inquiry as to who was on the other side of the door. However, before doing so, the footman was to have already inquired within the family whether they were willing to see anyone. If they were willing to see someone, there was to be no confusion when the footman asked the question as to who was at the door. When opening the street door to a visitor, the door was to be thrown wide open but not so wide or hard as to damage the door handle or the wall. The footman was then to stand with the door open at the sill of the door and receive the visitor or answer any message delivered. Continue reading

Margaret Dickson was Executed, Survived, and Pardoned

Margaret Dickson was Executed, Survived, and Pardoned: Margaret Dickson
Margaret Dickson Rising From Her Coffin. Public Domain.

Margaret Dickson was executed, survived, and pardoned, and because of it she was nicknamed “ill hangit Maggy Dickson.” Her story begins with her birth in Musselburgh, Scotland, near Edinburgh in 1702. When she was an adult, she married a fisherman and together they had several children. However, Dickson found herself practically single because her husband was impressed and went to sea aboard a warship.

In Scotland, at the time, any woman who committed fornication was punished publicly. The punishment occurred over three Sundays with the fornicator seated in the most conspicuous place in church and receiving a public rebuke from the minister. This spectacle resulted in people attending church who never attended just so that they could see offenders shamed. Female offenders found the punishment so embarrassing, some “destroyed the fruits of their amours, rather than be made a spectacle to all the inhabitants of the parish.” Continue reading

Standen Versus Standen: 18th Century Man Attempts to Bastardize His Own Son

Standen Versus StandenOn 5 June 1789, at Westminster-Hall, a case was brought by a son against his father in Standen versus Standen. If the son did not prevail, his father’s marriage to his mother would be discredited and the son would be “ruined and undone.” The case began when the son, Charles, produced the registry and showed that the entry of marriage had been made and signed by the clergyman. Continue reading