Thursday, 12 February 2009
Those Good Old Times (The Countryman again)
One of the delicacies at a commercial travellers' festivity at the King's Arms Hotel, Kendal (Cumbria) on Christmas Eve, 1840, was a pie which 'contained two fat geese, two large turkeys, four fowls, two pheasants, four grouse, two hens, four prize rabbits, three tongues and eight pounds of beefsteak and ham. Its circumference measured seven feet, it was ten inches in depth, and weighed 5 stone 8 pounds.'
In the exercise book of 'Master George Howse' of Over Norton, dated 1818 and written in his schoolmaster's best copperplate, two addition sums involve items of ten marks, and a moidore, which is valued at £1. 7shillings. There are two queries as to the amounts payable by the neighbouring parishes, assessed (for £30. 15shillings 6 pence in one case) in respect of a 'robbery committed on the highway', and a final question is, 'What sum did that gentleman receive in dowry with his wife whose fortune was her wedding suit, her petticoat having two rows of furbelows each furbelow 87 quills and in each quill 21 guineas?' Answers on a postcard please . . .
Below is the first paragraph of a manumission of serfs document on the fly-leaf of an Anglo-Saxon Gospel Book in Bath Abbey: Here is declared on this Christ's book that Leofnoth the son of Aegnelnoth of Korstune (Corston) hath brought him and his offspring from Aelfsig the Abbot and all the brotherhood at Bath for five ora and 12 head of sheep. Witness the port reeve Kuscilla and all the citizens of Bath. May Christ blind him that ever upsets this.
An ora was the eighth of a mark and the mark is said to have equalled 13 shillings and 4 pence. The phrase 'May Christ blind him that ever upsets this' occurs again and, in the Anglo-Saxon, rhymes. The document deals with the freeing by purchase of, in all, five persons and their offspring.
The rule of the Blewbury Friendly Society, dated 1794, include the proviso: 'Every member shall provide himself with a Hat-band and Gloves to attend the funeral of any brother member at his own expence, or forfeit two shillings and sixpence.'
From the 'New Universal Parish Officer' of 1771: 'And whereas women wandering and begging are often delivered of children in parishes to which they do not belong, whereby they become chargeable to the same, it shall be lawful for the churchwardens to detain such woman until they can safely convey her to some justice of the peace who shall examine her and commit her to the house of correction, until the next sessions, who may (if they see convenient) order her to by publickly whipt.' There is a form of warrant to a constable 'to command you to strip from the middle upwards a rogue and vagabond found wandering and begging and to whip him or cause him to be whipt at the common whiippping-post in your said parish.'
A little book found at Bishop's Waltham, a village in Hampshire (not far from where I grew up in Southampton) records a bachelor's purchases from March 1739 to September 1747. Tea cost six shillings a pound, coal about eleven shillings a ton. 'Idle' expenses include:
March 11th, 1741 Lost at Cockfighting and cards .. .. 17 shillings 4 pence
March 15th Lost at cards 2 shillings, spent 6d 2 6
March 18th Lost at cards .. .. .. 18 0
Memo Not to play in a Publick House more.
April 9th Lost at cards .. .. .. 2 3
April 15th Spent (cards) .. .. .. 2 10
May 4th Lost at coits (quoits) .. .. .. 1 4
The diary then jumps to October 1742. Four pounds of beef cost a shilling; a duck ninepence; a chicken tenpence; 'half a hundred oysters' threepence; lobsters ninepence each; asparagus one-and-sixpence a hundred. Then:
Sept. 12th, 1742 Lost at cards 4 shillings at Baynes's.
Promised to pay a gallon of beer when I play again.
Sept. 24th Mind never more to drink or call for half-a-pint at Baynes's.
But alas for human nature: November 29th, 1743: Mind never to play at cards any more at Baynes's nor drenk by half-pints.'
Here is a quotation from the 'Peterborough Advertiser' about the annual meeting of the Court Leet at Godmanchester: You shall swear as Swanherd of this Borough (is the wording of the oath which is administered) you shall if any stray swan come within this Borough be careful to save for the town's use, and if you shall find any swan foul marked or foxed you shall seize them for the town. You shall watch in winter time for them that set lime twigs or lay panters or snares where swans frequent in the high stream or elsewhere, within this Borough, and take them up and show them to Mr Bailiffs that the offenders be punished; and other things belonging to your office you shall do the best of your power. So help you God.'