Introducing “The Dark Days of Georgian Britain”

My book is above. The blog contains different material to the book; if you like the blog you will like the book. It is available  now in most of the world and in February 2018 in the USA.

This is how the book came about.In 2014 I retired from teaching History at the relatively young age of 55 and wanted to continue my interest. In the autumn of that year I attended a WEA ( Workers’ Educational Association)  course on great law cases in British History. This was the work of a remarkable tutor called Peter Blood who made it look effortless. One week the subject was Crim. Con.( adultery)  cases from late Georgian England. The era of the Regency attracted me immensely I was hooked. Although always a history enthusiast, the late Georgian period had passed me by- until that point.

I started a blog on WordPress ( hi!)  and regarded it as a  lovely hobby, with a bit of third-party validation as people read my blog.  Two of the blogs-adultery and bodysnatching felt like they were chapters of a social history of Regency England. I did nothing for a year, except read about the Regency and write about it. After that year, my wife reminded me that somebody famous once said that only a fool writes for free and suggested that I send my work to a publisher.

Much to my surprise it was accepted.  I had found one of those elusive gaps in the market that people look for when they are trying to make a success of any venture.I am just sorry I waited a year. If you are in the same situation as me and you are wavering; I suggest that you do it. What can you lose?

The blog contains different material to the book; if you like the blog you will like the book. If you want a copy of the book, try here.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Dark-Days-of-Georgian-Britain-Hardback/p/14191

The book is biased in favour of the poor, and is an attempt to seek out their stories. This is difficult; newspapers are by definition “establishment”. However, there is a radical press at the time of the Regency and there is the skill of “reading between the lines” of the more traditional media.  You cannot talk about the poor without referencing the rich, so their selfish behaviour runs through the book. Here are the main chapters

THE DARK DAYS OF GEORGIAN BRITAIN

Chapter 1- The Darkness Years

This is an overview of the problems of the period 1811-1820. It was a time of austerity, climate change and poverty, with all the major institutions of the government being rotten and in need of reform. Sound familiar?

Chapter 2- The Poor Weavers

This chapter looks at examples of real people – Thomas Holden of Bolton, the Luddites and their refusal to accept that they should starve to death as industrialisation and the new attitudes of employers made their life miserable. Sound familiar ?

Chapter 3- Making Life Worse

The Tory government made life worse for the poor after 1815 because of their political beliefs. This chapter deals with the rich avoiding income tax, high prices for bread and scandalous National Lottery which took money from the poor and gave it to the rich. We meet MP William ” Billy Biscuit” Curtis, who made a fortune for himself but tried to cut benefits for the poor. Thank heavens that kind of thing doesn’t happen now!

Chapter 4-Why People Rioted

This deals with the rioting of 1816. Some of it was old style rioting that had been common for centuries…but there were new developments.

Chapter 5- Bread and Potatoes

Three thousand words on bread and potatoes? Remember that was a large proportion of the diet of the poor…and it is an interesting story. You will be amazed at how much bread people ate, and how many ways you could justify other people not eating much.

Chapter 6-The Poor Law

The British had a quite a generous benefit system before the Poor Law was made harsher in 1834- that’s the Poor Law people study at school. The system is explained here, with lots of examples of the poor suffering. One family are evicted by having their roof removed and their house flooded with excrement…and yes, the landlord did get away with it!

Chapter 7- Cold Charity

The rich loved to help the poor…but with huge strings attached. I remain unimpressed throughout this chapter.. hence the title ! You will see William Wilberforce in a new light when you read what he thought was acceptable treatment of Britain’s war heroes.

Chapter 8- Old Corruption- The General Election, 1818

The 1818 General Election is covered in some detail the corruption the collusion, the rioting, the bribery and the intimidation.  And it was regarded at the time as a better than average election.

Chapter 9- All About The Money

This chapter shows that in order to achieve anything in the  Regency you needed money. Most things were for sale- parishes, army ranks, seats in parliament, everything. You will met a lot of rich people who took taxpayers money for imaginary jobs.

Chapter 10- The Disgusting Prince Regent?

What were the main personal failings of the Prince Regent? Its all in this chapter, which therefore has to be quite long . He also represented a rotten system. He did not know the meaning of money, as it all came from the poor taxpayer. When he died in 1830, they found £10,000 hidden in pockets and notebooks, money that he had simply forgotten about. That’s the same amount of money Mr Darcy had for a year, and he was a rich man!

Chapter 11- Arthur Thistlewood- The Gentlemen Revolutionary

Arthur was born a minor gentlemen  and ended up being hanged for trying to assassinate the cabinet. This chapter tells the story of him and his revolutionary friends in the Regency. He may have planned to parade the streets of London with the Home Secretary’s ‘s head in a bag, but you may still like him, albeit  as a very flawed human being.

Chapter 12- The New Revolt of the Peasants

In 1817, the poor tried new ways of overthrowing their oppressors, that scared the establishment more because they were “political” riots. So the punishments were more severe.

Chapter 13-Who Killed Joseph Lees?

Joseph Lees died after being beaten up at the mass meeting at St Peter’s Field ( Peterloo). However the government were able to prove “otherwise”. This chapter looks at the victims of Peterloo, how they were treated by the government that was not going to take responsibility for the poor or the actions of their own soldiers.

Chapter 14-The Women of Peterloo

What’s more frightening that a radical? A women radical! Despite the difficulty in finding evidence, here we have the story of Alice Kitchen,  Nancy Prestwick and Mary Fildes and others This is my favourite chapter of the book.

Chapter 15- The Freeborn Englishmen?

Britain was freer than most, but in the Regency that was put under great strain. People were imprisoned without trial. We meet William Ogden , 74, manacled in goal without charge for months with a 30 pound weight. His crime- wanting a reform of Parliament.

Chapter 16-The Punishment Didn’t Fit the Crime

This is a well-known regency topic. In my version, real people suffer at the hands of a floundering system that was at the end of its time. Reform did come- just not then. We meet Horace Cotton, who worked at Newgate with those condemned to die. He was a real charmer.

Chapter 17- Retribution

Fancy a trip to Newgate or a Prison hulk? We meet the poor in prison, including one man in gaol for stealing a cucumber.

Chapter 18- Child Labour

Traditionally, this is mostly about textile factories, but there were other, possibly worse jobs. Chimney Sweeping for example, and coal mining. However, people’s attitudes to child labour may surprise you.

Chapter 19- Currency Crisis

The Regency government did little to help people, but when the money and coinage went into crisis, they were happy to get things done. Never have banknotes and old coins been made so interesting!

Chapter 20- Adultery

If your wife  had sex with another man, you could go to court and claim compensation. The amount of money depended on how posh you were and how many salacious details you could provide. The newspapers loved it, and so will you.

Chapter 21- Regency Body Snatchers

It was not against the law to steal dead bodies from their graves, as long as you left behind their shroud and personal belongings. That’s why its called body snatching, not grave robbery. Lots of people made a living from it, and some of the best examples are in this chapter.

Chapter 22- Being Irish

The Irish were treated as second class citizens both in Britain and in Ireland. There are lots of examples here, and the prejudice has not gone away. The chapter features the famous brewery flood of 1814, when the press lied about the behaviour and hardly any money was raised for the victims, but the government reimbursed the brewery for their loss…

Chapter 23- A Rash and Melancholy Act?

This is about suicide- how traditional harsh attitudes to suicide where changing into something more humane, but it was still more sympathetic to the rich than the poor.

 

That’s it.

Best

James

 

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Dying with “perfect resignation” in the Regency

 

When famous deists  and atheists died in the past, the vultures would circle in the hope of seeing an undignified death. This would prove to their satisfaction that the prospect of death could not be countenanced with the consolation of Christianity.
Jesuits claimed that Voltaire died fearfully; Dr Johnson went to visit the atheist David Hume with the incorrect belief that an atheist could not die without falling apart at the prospect of his imminent extinction. When Thomas Paine, a radical and deist who rejected formal religion and its constructs, was regaled by Christians during his last days. When, a few days before he died, a member of the New Jerusalemites knocked on his door and told Paine that the sect has rediscovered the keys to the true faith that had been lost for 4000 years, Paine replied that “they must be very rusty”.
Regency Obituary pages are formulaic, but the choice of formula tells you a great deal. When people died in great pain and suffering, there is a real hierarchy of phrase. In nearly every case, there is ” resignation” and on occasions there is “perfect resignation”. There difference is unclear; it may just be the ability to pay for an extra word. “Composure” is much more common than “calmness”-perhaps the former contains more acceptance, and implies preparing for death. These words were very powerful- even Thomas Paine uses them. His will says that he dies “in perfect and resignation to the will of my creator God”
There are few references to heaven or immortality in Regency obituaries-perhaps this was too obvious or a little presumptuous? Many people declared their obedience to the will of the Creator- especially if they had suffered before their death. It was not death that they resigned themselves to, but suffering as God’s will. Mrs Pascoe (wife of Mr Pascoe, Surgeon) died in Tregoney, Cornwall aged 59 of a “protracted and severe affliction”. She was happy to attribute this to divine will without bitterness. “Throughout the whole time she evinced perfect composure and resignation. It was also made clear that during this time she maintained “benevolence”.
Six other people’s deaths are recorded in the Royal Cornwall Gazette on the same day. Thomas Parry was 102 and rose early until the day of his death. He was a poor labourer who would not have made it into the paper if he had died at 51. Eleanor Litcher was 76- a devoted servant. James Pinney and Thomas Hornblower’s death was regretted by the friends. There were trophies for all in this case.
Sometimes you needed a lot of patient resignation. Mrs Amos of Deal has been suffering with an affliction- not named- for 7 years before her calm death aged 73. Perfect resignation seemed to be more about the quality of life rather than the age of death.
Sir William Rule died with perfect resignation in December 1815- as he was our first man, we have his first name. About 50% of women mentioned in Regency obituaries are given a first name. He was a former surveyor of the British Navy and there is no mention of the cause of death, or that it was long and lingering. That is the only one I can find
Elizabeth Carrick of Bristol died with resignation and fortitude, as “befitted her worth and unaffected piety”- she was modest in her acceptance of her painful illness. Although acceptance of the divine will was not mentioned in this case, it is clear that it was not considered appropriate to try to fight the illness- perhaps the exact opposite of our attitude today. Sarah Dew died in the same newspaper after a long illness also.
Not everybody died with perfect resignation if they died of something horrible. In Hull, December 1816, Mrs Nesfeld of Scarborough died aged 26 without resignation and William Tootal of Wakefield aged 28 died “with”

Sometimes illnesses are often described as “hopeless”, presumably to emphasize the degree of achievement in dying well. This is Mrs Bulwer of Norfolk had 21 lines in the Norfolk Chronicle in 1810. It is not clear at what point that she discovered Christian patience, but we can be charitable and assume it was at the beginning. Here are some of her virtues;

image002

Most prolonged illnesses seemed to be measured in months or years. But Sarah Yeatman of Bristol had been ill for only six days before she died in July 1812, and she did it with perfect resignation. Most of those who died with perfect resignation were relatively old for their time; there are fewer young people who died with resignation, but are some, Mary Colmar of Hotwells was 15 and died a lingering death, and she managed resignation, but there was no suggestion that this was enhanced because of her age. Causes of death never seem to be mentioned
Dying vicars had a higher bar. They had to continue their role as examples to others even to the death-bed. Henry Crowe, Rector of Wolferton, Norfolk (and two other parishes; clearly he was less accomplished in the greed department) died “the death of the righteous”- this was clearly a set of things that he did, a process, not merely a righteous person dying. Another rector in Norfolk was said to have “taught his parishioners how to die”

Perfect resignation was not about death; it was about accepting fate, even when they involved immense suffering before death. The other group of people who were said to “evince perfect resignation” were criminals about to be executed. Indeed this was a more widespread use of the expression than in obituaries. Criminals had not suffered pain or illness, so it was not that experience they resigned themselves to; it was the will of God.

More about perfect resignation amongst those about to be hanged here
https://about1816.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/a-regency-guide-to-your-behaviour-when-being-hanged-1818/

My new book. This contains different material to the blog. Out in November 2017.

 

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Dark-Days-of-Georgian-Britain-Hardback/p/14191

http://www.socialbookco.com/book/9781526702548/dark-days-of-georgian-britain

TWITTER- @about1816

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A Regency guide to your behaviour when being hanged; 1818

Criminals sentenced to death by the bloody code of Regency Britain still had a soul; indeed as the rope was put around their neck, their heads covered and their hands pinioned, the hope of immortality was all they had left, and it was absolutely vital that they died well.
Charlotte Newman, aged about 30, died well. She was at Newgate, a place that excelled in the full ritual of execution. She was found guilty of a crime against property- forging banknotes. If she had starved her child to death, she would have had suffered two years in prison. Creating and passing fake notes was easy, too tempting for the poor and led to a capital punishment.

Q Page8. Top. Hone Protest banknote.

Execution was a public ceremony outside the Debtor’s Door and the criminal that was about to be launched into “eternity” was supposed to play their part to produce a meaningful lesson for the audience. In Charlotte’s case, this involved a solemn procession from her cell which started an agonising 40 minutes before her execution. As Charlotte was being held in Newgate, she would have been privileged to have the Reverend Horace Cotton lead the line, along with the other condemned Mary Ann James (forgery), John Attel (forgery) and William Hatchman (robbery and burglary).The newspapers reported that the “ two women were respectability dressed in black, with white caps and frills”. They also scored highly as the newspapers reported that their sleep had been unsettled; the two men had sleep well and had, according to the newspapers, a tolerably hearty breakfast. That was acceptable, but not as convincing.
This was an excellent start for the two women, and it would not have been the first ceremony they would have enjoyed. The Reverend Horace Salusbury Cotton was four years into his job as the Ordinary of Newgate, but he was already famous for his “ fire and brimstone” Condemned Sermon in which those about to die were confronted an open coffin. It was a public, ticketed event and part of the ritual of state justice. All four of the condemned would have gone through this, and their reaction would have been part of the judgement made about them
Charlotte was a forger, not a murderer, so the level of contrition needed was moderate. As she saw the public hangman holding the rope, she fainted away a little and had to be held while the rope was put around her neck. This was still a reasonable performance- reluctance to be hanged in this case was regarded as contrition; fainting away was an acknowledgement of the punishment; struggling with the hangman would have been unacceptable as it would indicate either cowardice or a refusal to accept the justice of her execution. Weeping bitterly would have been acceptable, as long as it was not caused by self pity. Charlotte did weep bitterly; but it was the right type of weeping. She needed two men to get here to the scaffold but she was being guided and supported, not dragged.
All four were prepared for death and were to be dropped at the same time. There were prayers and handshakes and no recriminations or cowardice. However she did not receive full marks for her efforts. She did ask the mercy of the almighty and confessed to her sins, but made the mistake of claiming that she had been induced into the crime by others- she knew the other two forgers on the scaffold- in order to be transported to Botany Bay and be reunited with her criminal husband.
By the Regency period, an efficient hanging was one of the public expectations. It seems that the rope slipped from the ear of all four victims and ended up under their chin, vastly increasing the agony. Hatchman particularly and one of the other three suffered great agonies as the rope did not break their necks when the platform dropped away. The crowd booed and hissed on two occasions, and some members of the audience fainted away. They would have been an intimidating audience- two women hanged at the same time was a novelty, and the crowd was huge.
At least the audience was reasonably respectable up to that point. Two week later, Horace Cotton presided over the execution of wife murderer David Evans. On the whole he died as well as Charlotte. Most of the respectable checklist was achieved; reconciliation with his 15 year old son, three hours unsettled sleep; acknowledgment of his guilt; melancholia but with fervent prayers; some help needed to reach the scaffold and his appeal to save his soul. He did, however, claim that his wife Elizabeth had been unfaithful to him. You were meant to accept your guilt unconditionally, not search for mitigation. He also had to suffer an audience of London lighterman (bargemen) who had popped over after a nights work to jeer at the victim.
It was Horace Cotton himself he gave the single for the drop, with an appropriate Biblical reference. Evans died immediately; largely because of the outrage at the bungled execution of Newman and the rest by the same hangman earlier that month. Jack Ketch- the nickname for the public hangmen- had got his act together. Evans dangled for the legally stipulated hour and then his body was sent to St Bartholomew’s for dissection.
It did not always go so well. In 1818, the murderer Francis Losch ‘went hard’ into eternity. He stabbed his wife to death, disembowelling her when she refused to continue to work as a prostitute for him. He was truculent and unapologetic at the scaffold. His only regret was that he was being hanged and he refused to admit to his real motives, claiming his wife’s actions had made him jealous. He did not go meekly to the scaffold, requiring wine to quieten him and two people to forcibly point him in the right direction. He was insufficient penitent and resigned and did not accept the justice of his punishment.

After writing this, I found this excellent article by Naomi Clifford
http://www.naomiclifford.com/charlotte-newman-mary-ann-james/
My approach is slightly different, but Naomi provides excellent background research and a different perspective.

More about the legal system in Georgian Britain in my book, out on November 30th 2017For the best price see

http://www.socialbookco.com/book/9781526702548/dark-days-of-georgian-britain

I shall be buying this when it is published in November 2017.

WOMEN AND THE GALLOWS jckt.indd

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-Gallows-1797-1837-Unfortunate/dp/1473863341/

Black People in Regency Britain – the murder of Dilly Jerome, 1815

There were “persons of colour” in Regency Britain. They congregated around ports and were the lowest deckhands in the Royal Navy; they were manservants to young gentlemen or plantation owners living in Britain. But most of all, they were sailors. Many had a very hard time; none more so than Dilly Jerome.

Dilly Jerome was a deck hand on a Royal Navy ship and was found naked with his throat cut on Southsea beach, near the Castle, on Wednesday 16th August 1815. He had a reputation of being generous to his comrades to the point of being a little vulnerable to exploitation. When the ship arrived at Portsmouth, Dilly, a man of Caribbean descent was robbed and murdered by three ship mates- Joseph , Antonio and Philip Pique- all Africans. All four men were “people of colour” The three Piques were described by the newspapers as African and Jerome as “not African”- he may well have been from the Caribbean. The Georgian Navy was very multi-racial and so this would not have been a surprise; and the papers, while horrified at the murders, did not seem to suggest that their ethnic origin was significant. It was a violent world everywhere, and everybody knew it.

The Piques were not brothers; indeed not related in any way. They were given their shared surname by the captain of their ship, the HMS Pique. This was rather indicative of the degree of respect the men received. The Ship itself had been captured from the French in 1800 and was originally called the Pallas, and like the seaman, had been given a name that suited the new owner- only one step above a slave name, arguably.

In August 1815 they were discharged from their ship and three days later they had spent all their money and with no prospect of employment, decided to rob Dilly Jerome and murder him if he resisted.

They confronted him on Southsea Common at 4o’clock in the afternoon and proceeded to attack him in broad daylight. Philip Pique held his legs so he could be robbed, but when he resisted, Antonio cut his throat, and severed his head with a small clasp knife. Philip desposed in court that Dilly’s clothing hid the wound; but would not have hidden the blood that gushed out so badly that the three men had to bathe in the sea to wash it off. Philip was believed, and later turned evidence against the other two and was the only one that was not hanged; so it seemed that the head had not come off completely, as Philip might have noticed that.

In any case, Jerome was soon naked and pushed into a sluice near the Castle. There was a desultory attempt to cover the dead man with shingle from the beach. Finding nothing of value in his pockets, they sold his clothes to a slopman- a second-hand clothes dealer – at the Hard in Portsea for 14 shillings, which they shared between them. As the purchaser was Jewish, the papers did not hesitate to say so and make it part of the story. The fence/ clothes dealer was suspicious that the clothes were wet; and the fact that they might have tried to wash the blood off them was one of the first suspicions he had, which tells you a lot about life in Portsmouth at the time. The three managed to convince the intermediary that the clothes had become wet through falling into the sea when being transported.

Philip was found first because he did not seem to be hiding; this fact was to help him later. Antonio was picked up after a raid on Portsmouth public houses and was asleep at the Market House in a rich man’s coat that he had clearly stole. Joseph was also apprehended and they were all sent to Winchester gaol.

There were two other incidents in Portsmouth in the same week over demobilized sailors who were persons of colour and a panic set in; the magistrates in Gosport combed the streets and public houses to find former sailors who had no livelihood and oblige them to leave the country, chartering ships to do so.

In March 1816, Antonio and Joseph Pique were two of 19 prisoners sentenced to death at Winchester. Only three actually hanged; the two Piques and John Goddard, a child rapist. It was a ludicrous system where far more people were condemned than actually hanged. One third of those committed to hang were pardoned, giving significant power to the Crown to use or withhold a royal pardon. In 1817, for example, the total number of executions was 115, although 1,300 received the death sentence. It was a random and capricious system although it has to be said that the investigation into Jerome’s murder was taken as seriously and the murder of other, native, people.
The Piques died well and in the approved state of mind. This really mattered to public opinion. The two Piques were contrite at the end, despite being (rightly) portrayed as monsters earlier;image002

 

The Piques were ideal candidates for the anatomists. In theory, all murderer’s corpses could be used but their families moved heaven and earth to prevent it. The Piques, whatever their real names were, had no-one to speak for them.

If you liked this blog, please consider my book

Available from November 30th 2017

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Days-Georgian-Britain-Rethinking/dp/1526702541/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501671771&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+days+of+georgian+britain