Tag Archives: Random History

A Bath, Some Militia, And An Ode To Japan Blacking

As we enter the year 2020, everything in the news is far too depressing to dwell upon. I am therefore taking refuge in the news of the past – if for no other reason, than to confirm that things were just as depressing in the past.

Today I am returning 200 years to the 3 January 1820, and my newspaper of choice is the splendidly named Leeds Intelligencer And Yorkshire General Advertiser.

Let us start with a look at education (for the privileged classes) two hundred years ago; and an announcement from Mrs Wilks of Parsonage House, Thornhill, near Wakefield. Mrs Wilks “takes a limited number of young ladies into her house for the purpose of instruction”. Yorkshire parents will have been pleased to learn that they “may rely on every attention being paid to (their daughters) health, morals and general improvement”. The pricing structure looks a little complicated – there appears to be a flat rate for accommodation, extra for tuition, not to mention an additional fifteen shillings a quarter for washing (although whether that is for the child or their clothes isn’t stated). The most delightful sentence in the entire announcement is undoubtedly the penultimate one: – “The Young Ladies are accommodated with Cold and Warm Baths”!

Page two contains a piece that possibly deserves a three-year PhD thesis. It is a public announcement from the officers of the Halifax Regiment of the Local Militia which regrets that the Commanding Officer of Regiment has resigned his commission at a time when “sedition and disloyalty are so notoriously abroad”. Context is everything in understanding this somewhat strange announcement by the Halifax militia officers: the battle of Waterloo was less than five years in the past, and the massacre at Peterloo took place only the previous August. The officers proclaim in their statement that “until it is formally intimated to us, that our services, as a body, are no longer needed, we shall be found at our post, ready for such service, as we may consistently be called upon to perform”. Before we all give the Halifax officers a resounding cheer, it must be remembered that the perceived enemy at the gates was not a foreign army, but the impoverished and disenfranchised English working man and woman.

Let us finish on a more light-hearted note, with an advertisement from Richard Turner, the manufacturer of “Real Japan Blacking”. Japan blacking was a varnish used to coat iron and steel and was very popular in the early nineteenth century. At a time of the year when we have all had a surfeit of mindless television commercial jingles, it is worth remember that the genre is not all that new. All together now ….

“Turner, it is to thee we oweThis all resplendent beauteous glow”

Random History : Mr and Mrs Kirby Get The Job

HALIFAX BOARD OF GUARDIANS – Yesterday, an ordinary meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians was held, presided over by Mr John Taylor, the chairman. The minutes and reports of the various committees were approved; and the number of paupers in the home was stated to be 391. The treasurer’s account showed a balance in the bank of £761 5s 10d. The number of outdoor recipients of relief was 2052, and their cost for the preceding week £163 6s 11d. In the corresponding week of last year the number was 2165, and the amount of relief £175 13s 1d. For the positions of master and matron of the Workhouse there have been fifty applications, and these had been reduced by a sub-committee to seven, who, it was resolved should be requested to attend before the Board at an adjourned meeting, to be held next Wednesday; second-class railway fare being allowed to those travelling. These seven are – Mr and Mrs Griffiths, Nantwich; Mr and Mrs Roach, Cheltenham; Mr and Mrs Hope, Kidderminster; Mr and Mrs Simmons, Truro; Mr and Mrs Glaister, North Aylesforth; Mr and Mrs Kirby, Loughborough; and Mr and Mrs Whelen, of Halifax.

Our random number generating time machine directs us this week to the year 1875, where we drop in on a meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians. The workhouse was built in 1841 and occupied a site between Gibbet Street and Hanson Lane. 25 years after this report the workhouse changed its name to St John’s Hospital, but its main function of providing relief for the poor of the Borough continued right the way through until the introduction of the Welfare State in the 1940s. From 1948 until 1970 it was a hospital specialising in geriatric care, but I can still remember the reluctance of older people to be admitted to the building they still saw as the workhouse. Geriatric care was eventually moved to Northowram Hospital in 1970.

In addition to providing rudimentary shelter and work within the workhouse itself, the Board of Guardians were also responsible for what was known as “outdoor relief” – small weekly sums for families in need, living outside the workhouse. During the week in question, £163 had been spent of outdoor relief for the support of 2052 recipients; which works out at about 1/6d (8 pence) per person per week.

By searching the 1881 census records we can discover who was successful in being appointed as the master and matron of the workhouse: it was John and Annie Kirby of Loughborough.

Random News : Hope For The Sick In Bradford

Bradford Daily Telegraph : 22 February 1906

Our random number generated time machine may be a little shaky this week because it is suffering from a dose of electro-vibration. We are back in 1906 and attending the Medical-Electro Vibration Institute in Manningham, Bradford, and they are about to cure us of all our aches, pains and ailments. They offer a “free consultation and examination by the X-Rays high tell to a certainty what your ailment is”! And that ailment could be: “Rheumatism, Gout, Stomach Diseases, Indigestion, Flatulency, Sluggish Liver, Lumbago, Sciatica, Infantile Paralysis, Locomotor Ataxy, Bronchitis, Heart Disease, Nervous Disease, Consumption, Asthma, Deafness, Neuralgia, Sprains, Venritis, Synovitis, Varicose Veins …. and that well known disease recognised by quack doctors the world over, “etc”. I don’t know about you, but I have just done a quick check of that list and I suspect I suffer from at least 80% of them.

And what a range of treatments they have available: – Non-Electrical vibration, Electrical Vibration, the Static Spray, static Breeze Cathaporic and ozone inhalation treatment, the Electric Wave, Lynden Jar and Start Treatment, Treatment by the Violent Antinlight as used in cases of Consumption, Cancer, Lupus and various Skin Diseases. And to top it all off, “Psychological Medicine is used in mental derangement and habits”

Mr J Chance of 15, Bridge Street, Halifax went to the Institute with a knee that he had been unable to bend for 20 years, and after a course of perfectly painless treatment he was amazed to find that he could bend the said knee.  Why, indeed, should we continue to suffer?

Random History : Giving Way To The Enjoyment Of The Conservative Ball

This week, our random-number-driven time machine takes us back to the year 1893 and to Huddersfield, where someone has been giving way to the enjoyment of the Conservative Ball. It resulted in ten bob fine plus expenses! Serves him right is all I can say.

OBSTRUCTING A POLICE OFFICER AT THE CONSERVATIVE BALL : Joseph Crow Taylor, innkeeper, Crosland Moor, was charged with having, on the 26th inst., obstructed a police-officer whilst he was in the execution of his duty. Defendant did not appear. The Chief Constable (Mr. Ward) said that on the morning, which would be stated by the officer, in accordance with orders, the officer went to the Town Hall, where the Conservative Ball was being held, to see that proper order was being kept and that the sale of drink had been stopped at the hour fixed by the license. The officer was met by the defendant, who said he should not go up. He said he should, and the defendant used bad language, and tried to prevent him going up. This was not the first time that sort of thing had occurred at balls. The defendant had been to see him and said he was very sorry, and that he had given way to the enjoyment of the evening more than he should have done, and that, perhaps. caused him to do what he did. But it was his (Mr. Ward’s) duty to protect his men, and to see that the orders of the magistrates were carried out. Police-sergeant Jagger proved time facts as stated by Mr. Ward, and the Bench inflicted a fine of 10s. and the expenses.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner 6th February 1893

A Telephone Call Interrupts A Night At Huddersfield’s Microscopical Soiree

This description of a meeting of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society’s “Microscopical Soiree” is taken from a copy of the Huddersfield Chronicle of the 9th January 1879 – 140 years ago. Old newspaper articles can paint pictures just as well as any art school graduate, and as you read through the list of microscopic treats on offer – spores of a truffle, trout’s ova, section through a coal miners’ lung – you begin to picture a body of frock-coated, heavy bearded Victorian gents fussing over the specimens and speculating about the future of mankind. The youngsters are deriving considerable amusement from Mr Wood’s patent atmospheric stereoscope, and the women – one presumes – are at home supervising the scullery maid.

But history has a habit of catching you out and challenging your perceptions, because in walks Mr Dammann and what has he got with him but a telephone! Logic tells me he has somehow got lost in the time warp that exists near Ainley Top and arrived fifty years too early. Old newspapers, however, never lie …. unlike their modern counterparts!

Random History : The Highly Gratified Poor

Today, our random time machine takes us back to 1873 and up the valley to Heptonstall. Ah, the good old days when Victorian values were paramount and if you gave someone from the poorhouse an orange they would be “highly gratified”.

“TREAT TO THE POOR – On New Year’s Day (through the kindness and liberality of a lady resident in Heptonstall township), the inmates of Blackshawhead poorhouse were served with a good substantial tea at the house of Mr Ogden, grocer: a quantity of oranges and other “luxuries” were distributed afterwards, and the company was highly gratified”

A Mesmeric Tea Party

There will be a slight change of format for my Random History posts this year. The random number generator will still pick the year (any year between 1850 and 1999), but the date will be as close as possible to the actual calendar date of the post. For the 1st of January we are going to a rather strange tea party in Bradford ….. in 1881.

Bradford Daily Telegraph Saturday 1st January 1881

If you were in Bradford on New Year’s Day in 1881 you could have entertained yourself by going to the Mechanic’s Institute to a “Mesmeric Tea Party”, courtesy of Professor Kershaw, Electrician, of Southport. “Mesmeric entertainments” used a combination of hypnotism, psychic demonstrations, and new-fangled electric tricks to entertain the general public. Performers such as Professors Kershaw, Smalley and others of their like used pseudo-science to entertain the general public.