The forerunner to Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors was La Caverne des Grands Voleurs (The Cavern of the Great Thieves), founded by Madame Tussaud’s uncle and mentor, Philippe Mathé Curtius. At his Caverne visitors could linger and scrutinize the morbid and bloody details related to a murder, or they could view all the associated gruesomeness at the execution of the murderer.
In 1802, Madame Tussaud took several provocative wax figures of those condemned during the revolution and created a smaller version of Curtius’s Caverne in England. She then displayed these figures (such as the radical Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre) in the same room as Britain’s King George III. Some British visitors were offended, and “accordingly Madame Tussaud took the precaution of installing The Separate Room to which she could consign those who were not comfortably compatible with the portraits of the establishment – but were none the less interesting.”Continue reading →
The silhouette artist and prosopographus inventor Charles Samuel Hervé II (hereafter referred to as Hervé) was christened on 28 February 1785 at the All Hallows London Wall. His father was a British-born French Huguenot merchant named Peter Daniel Hervé and his mother Margaret Russel. They had several sons Peter (born 1779), Henry (born 1783), Francis (born 1787) and Hervé, who was the youngest. Continue reading →
The idea that a woman would pretend to be a male was considered shocking in the Regency Era. One woman who perpetrated such a hoax was commonly known as James Allen. Allen’s situation came to light when Allen, who was 42 years old and a sawyer, was fatally struck in the head by a piece of timber while in a saw pit. Allen had been married for twenty-one years and the marriage had been solemnized at Camberwell Church on 13 December 1808. According to Allen’s wife, Abigail Mary (whose maiden name was Naylor), she had no idea Allen was female until the astonishing fact was discovered at St. Thomas’s Hospital when doctors undressed Allen.
According to Abigail Mary, more commonly known as Mary, their courtship began while they were in the service of a Mr. Ward of Camberwell Terrace and Mary was working as a housemaid and Allen as a groom. Allen, who was a native of Yarmouth and described as “reserved, sober, and industrious,” began to pay attention to Mary near the end of his service with Ward. The attention paid off and they married. It was then reported after “the matrimonial alliance took place … they retired together to the Bull, in Grey-in-lane.” Continue reading →
During the winter of 1813-1814, a thick fog rolled into London. It was followed by a terrible frost and one of the coldest periods on record occurred from January to March. One newspaper reported it was “the heaviest mist and thickest fog ever remembered … [which] produced the thickest and most beautiful hoar frost that ever decorated the branches and tendrils of Britain’s vegetation.” Moreover, the thickness and density of the fog was made worse by the “smoke of the city; so much so that it produce a very sensible effect on the eyes, and the coal tar vapour [was] … distinctly perceived by the smell.” Continue reading →
During Regency times, people generally married for love. Arranged marriages usually did not occur unless you were royalty. Apparently, however, sometimes Regency people found to their surprise they were engaged. This happened because of mistakes or misunderstanding, but such mistakes or misunderstandings could be devastating or even ruinous to an innocent party. One nineteenth-century monthly periodical devoted to literature, art, and religion decided to write about betrothals. They presented the article in their 15 November 1836 issue. The article expressed five points that the writer claimed showed what constituted and what did not constitute a Regency betrothal.
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 →
Similar to other people, fishermen had superstitious beliefs and believed certain things caused good or back luck. For instance, fishermen superstitions resulted in seafarers’s claiming a newborn’s caul would secure its wearer from drowning. There was also a belief that breaking up an old boat would bring bad luck and that those engaged in such a task were “sure to come to grief in some way or other.” Northern fisherman claimed it was positively “dangerous” to mention the word “horse” when at sea because bad luck would follow.
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 the flood 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. Eventually, however, in 1809, Henry Meux and his partners acquired it under the name of Henry Meux and Company. Continue reading →
Police received a tip about the “rendezvous of a society of miscreants of a detestable description.” These rendezvous involved homosexuals and had been occurring for six months at the White Swan. Based on tips, police raided a public house on Sunday, 8 July 1810. It was located on Vere-street and when officers proceeded to search it, police netted 26 people, “the whole of whom, together with the landlord of the house, they apprehended, and lodged for the night in the watch-house of St. Clement’s parish.” Continue reading →
Paris, called by some people the sphere of the world, was a popular tourist destination in the Regency Era. Part of the reason for its popularity had to do with the wide range of sights and activities available there. Regency travelers could visit the Louvre, drink coffee at one of the many cafes in the Palais-Royal, or stroll through the Tuileries Gardens. They could also attend a horse race, listen to an opera, enjoy a carnival, attend the theatre, or spend time shopping. Because Regency travelers were so prevalent, one nineteenth century writer published thirteen tips to help the continental travelers avoid problems and enjoy their time in Paris. Here they are (almost) verbatim: Continue reading →