The Swan Circle

A story of Georgian networking

The harmful vogue of Chinoiserie

18th Century Digressions, Occupations & Trades, The Georgian Home 1 Comment »


 'Chinese Baubles'

The growth of my passion for all things to do with the eighteenth century coincided with the success of retailers such as Past Times. Leafing through their gift catalogues whilst sipping from a glass of Pinot Grigio became a happy distraction and a moment to slip away from the present. The displays of decorative arts or chinoiserie wallpaper helped complete a fantasy that I could have my entire home ornamented in a vogue that reached its peak between 1750 to 1765.
   For many an eighteenth century wife, the style seemed to become a de rigeur home accessory for the fashionable much to the frustration of one commentator: 


Through the ignorant taste of the present times, ornamental China has become a universal fashion, and the veriest tradesman's wife within the weekly bills, would look down upon herself a downright Tramontane, unless she had an urn or a Mandarin on her chimney-piece. This pernicious custom has been a great loss to our carvers and dealers in looking-glass, who formerly supplied the ornamental part of our chimneys, and by that article alone, employed a prodigious number of hands, whose labour was extremely serviceable to the community; this circumstance, therefore is a fresh reason why the East India Company should be laid under some immediate and salutary restraints, as nothing can justify our allowing any set of adventurers an exclusive right to prejudice any manufacture of the kingdom”.
London Chronicle

 The writer continued to express his concern that thousands of pounds derived from the sale of such objects would go east to the Indian Princes, who would “acquire millions to squander on some European instrument of tyranny and murder”, while our industries are oppressed for the importation of “Chinese baubles”.
   These words were written as the fashion began to wane and décorative styles moved towards neoclassicism. The chinoiserie vogue faded and the impetus for the great British industrial engine was about to move up a gear and place these islands at the centre of new modes of manufacturing.

Catherine Palace

Leveller’s ‘Robin Hood’ Campaign of Terror 1670

17th Century Digressions, Society and Politics No Comments »


Jan 12. 1671
Thomas Twittey to Colonel Samuel Sandys, M.P. There being of late a sort of rude and dissolute people in the parishes of Severnstoke, Kempsey, and Pyrton, called Levellers, the principal of them being one Nicholas Fowler, who is called, and calls himself Robin Hood, having two brothers, Thomas and William, one of them called Little John, they associated with others of the neighbourhood, have become nightwalkers, and do many exploits of villainy and roguery in the country, viz. to steal geese, hens, and ducks, &c., to cut men's corn, before it is ripe, to unthatch men's houses, barns, &c., to cut and shear the manes and tails of men's horses, and cut in pieces their gears, ploughs, carts, burn their hurdles and sheep pens, set open and break down their gates and fences, exposing their grounds to the cattle of the commons, scatter hay ricks, carry muck and dung out of men's foldyards, break into men's houses, beat and wound divers people, steal away, break and spoil hives of bees, and particularly breaking into a smith's shop in the night time and taking thence four dozen of horseshoes, and cutting in pieces his bellows, and casting his anvil in the well, and putting the whole county in fear and terror; did several times in the night beset and assault the house of one Richard Addington with guns and fire-arms, and killed one Butler that was in the house in the assistance of Addington, by shooting him in the head with a brace of bullets.

This being the case, upon 23 December the justices of the peace, viz. Sir Francis Russell, Thomas Street, and Thomas Vernon, Esqs., met at Severnstoke, the headquarters of the Levellers, where I also attended, and whither the country people came in great numbers, with guns, bills, &c., and there we took many information upon oath of all their pranks (although I confess many of them were acted so occultly that the evidence against their persons was but circumstantial), and warrants were made for their aprehension…the grand inquest, being duly encouraged hereunto by the Court, have presented, and 'tis ordered that the apprehenders of Robin Hood shall have 10L, out of country stock, and the apprehenders of William and Thomas Fowler and one William Parker 5L. a-piece. The case and sufferings of Addington and one Mascall were taken into consideration by the Court, being but poor men who had done much in these disorders, and they had recompense towards the same given them by order of the Court, so that the country has received good satisfaction and encouragement, and the thoughts of these rewards has so influences the zeal of many, that 'tis hoped they will be suddenly apprehended, but it is believed the knot is broke, and they utterley dispersed, the death of Butler having much quailed and daunted their spirits. (SP. Dom., Car. II. 287, No. 62 [New Ref.: SP29])

The Brentford Whitsuntide Ale

17th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture, The Swan Circle, West Family 1650-1700 No Comments »

    At a vestry held at Brentford in 1621, several articles were agreed upon with regard to the management of the parish stock by the chapel-wardens. The preamble states, "that the inhabitants had for many years been accustomed to have meetings at Whitsontide, in their churchhouse and other places there, in friendly manner, to eat and drink together, and liberally to spend their monies, to the end neighbourly society might be maintained; and also a common stock raised for the repairs of the church, maintaining of orphans, placing poor children in service, and defraying other charges;" which stock not having been properly applied, it was ordered, that a particular account should be given from year to year of their gains at those times, and the manner of the expenditure. In "the, accompts for the Whitsontide ale, 1624," the gains are thus discriminated: 

  £. s. d
Imprimis, cleared by the pigeon holes 4 19 0
__________________________by hocking 7 3   7
__________________________by riffeling 2 0   0
__________________________by victualling 8 0   2
  22 2   9

"The hocking occurs almost every year till 1640, when it appears to have been dropped. It was collected at Whitsuntide."
"1618, gained with hocking at Whitsuntide 16 12 3 "
The other games were continued two years later. Riffeling is synonimous with raffling."



  £. s. d
"1621, paid for a beast for the parish use 2  6  8
______given to the French chapel by consent 1  0  0
1625, for a coffin to draw the infected corpses 0  8  8
1633, given to a knts. son in Devonshire,  
    being out of meanes                                           0  0  6
 ______paid for a book of sporting allowed on Sundaies 0  0  6
1634, paid Robt Warden, the constable, which  
   he disbursed for conveying away the witches       0 11 0
1688, paid for a declaration of liberty of conscience 0 1   0
1688, paid for a form of prayer for the Dutch not landing 0 1   0
——— for a thanksgiving for deliverance from Popery 0 1   0
The two last entries immediately follow each other."  


‘For the good of the poor’: the Frome Riots of 1754

18th Century Digressions, Occupations & Trades, Society and Politics No Comments »

Old Bakery

During the mid eighteenth century, the rising cost of 'white' flour led to unrest amongst the populace. In Huntingdonshire, a mill and its flour reserves were set on fire by an angry villager; whilst in Frome four men were killed as a result of a miller trying to protecting his property.
   An account of the riots at Frome, was anonymously sent to the editor of The London Chronicle in 1754:

'THE following Facts relating to the Riot at Froome in the County of Somerset having come to my Knowledge, I send them to you that you may publish them for the Information and Benefit of the Public, if you think fit. Yours. S.S.

'ABOUT six Weeks ago it was rumoured that the Mendip Colliers would come and pull down the Flour Mills in and about Froome; and in a few Days after a considerable Number of them, from the Parish of Kilmerdon, Mells, and other Places near adjoining (about four Miles from Froome) came to the Mill of Joseph Richards, standing about half a Mile out of Froome Town; and a great Number of the poorer Sort of People from Froome flocked to them; and the Colliers having broke into the Mill, and threatening to pull it down, Mr. Richards expostulated with them, and told them, it would be of no Advantage to them to destroy the Mill and ruin him, and rather than they should do so he would give them some Money; and after some Parly about the Sum, it was agreed that Mr, Richards should give them (the Colliers) twenty Pounds, and that they mould protect him and the Mill against the rest of ihe Mob; and Mr. Richards was obliged to borrow the Money and pay the twenty Pounds to one of the Colliers. But while this was in Debate and transacting, many of the Pilferers got into the House and MP, and carried off a considerable Quantity of Wheat and Flour and some of the Household Goods.

'When they had done this they went away to the Mill of one Joseph Naish, about half a Mile, from Richards's, and broke in there; and he being from Home, his Wife compounded with them for four Guineas, not to pull down their Mill; which Money they likewise had: And then went to several Publick Houses in their Way Home, and lay about drunk for several Days and Nights till the Money was spent.

'On the 16th of May last, the same Colliers came again with Sledges, Pickaxes, and Iron Bars, first to Mr. Naish's Mill; and many hiving joined them upon the Road with Bludgeons and Bags to carry away what they could meet with, they pulled down that Mill, beat the Mill Stones to Pieces with iheir Sledges, cut the Water-Wheels, Cog-Wheels, and all the Harness, and Wood-work of the Mill and Dressing Mill to Pieces; pull'd down the Walls, and filled up the Thorough with the Stones, and took what was worth carrying away. A Baker

'When they had done this for Mr. Naish, they went to Mr. Richards's Mill, which, as before observed, is about half a Mile off; and it having been rumoured about for some Days before, that the Colliers intended to come again, Mr. Richards had made Provision of Fire-Arms, in Hopes to deter them, or to oppose them if they persisted, and had got three Soldiers, in the House for the same Purpose, and strongly barricaded the Doors and Windows; and as soon as the Ringleaders came within Call, they within asked them, What they came for? To which they answered, To pull down the Mill for the Good of the Poor. Mr. Richards's Son (the old Man not being at Home) told them (as the Truth was) that his Father had bought no Wheat since they were there before, and had but three Sacks in the Mill, which was a Baker's, brought there to be ground; and if they disbelieved him, he would let two or three of them in, to search the House and the Mill, if that would content them; but if not, and they offered Violence, they were provided for them, and would shoot every one of them that should attempt to injure the Mill, or any Thing belonging to it. To which they answered, that they would not leave one Stone ot the Mill upon another; and if they so much as offered to make Resistance, they would kill every one of them that was within; and pushed on, some of them endeavouring to break open the Doors, some the Windows, some to make a Breach in the Walls, and others to draw the Hatches to let the Water off in Order to get in at the Mill-Thorough, and beset the House and Mill on every Side: Whereupon one of the Persons within shot off a Gun into the Tops of the Trees that stood by, in Hopes that would frighten them; but that only enraged them, saying, They had charged with Powder only, and durst not charge with any Thing else; so that they found it absolutely necessary for their own Safety to do every Thing in their Power in Defence of themselves, and their Property, and prevent being ruined at least, if not murthered: They did therefore shoot off several Guns with Slugs, and thereby killed two upon the Spot, and wounded several others, two of which are since dead of their Wounds, but it is believed no more will die.

'The two being killed, the Coroner was sent for to take an Inquisition upon the Bodies, and on the 27th of May last he came and impanelled and swore a Jury. One of the Depositions, by Way of Sample, being uncommon, and therefore curious, I here present you with.

'"J- D- of the Parish of K- , in the County of Somerset, Coalminer, maketh Oath, that on Yesterday Morning, this Deponent was called by some of his Neighbours to go and pull down Mr. Naish's Mill; on which a Body of twenty People from the said Parish, and this Deponent, came for that Purpose to the said Naish's; and being increased by a great Number of more People, they accordingly destroyed the said Naish's, Mill; and afterwards proceeded to a Mill belonging to Joseph Richards, with an Intent to destroy the same also for the Good of the Poor; and being asked by two Soldiers in the Mill, who had Firelocks and Bayonets fixed on them, What they came for? Some of the Mob answered, To pull down the Mill for the Good of the Poor. Whereupon a Man in Soldier's Cloaths in the Millhouse fired at this Deponent, and shot him in the Back; and then this Deponent going to the Pigstye, heard a Gun fired from the said Richard's House, and saw the Deceased, James Maggs, thereby immediately killed, but by Whom this Deponent knows not"'.

'There are other Depositions of the Colliers to the same Purpose, and nearly in the same Words so not necessary to be inserted; nor do I think it necessary to transcribe the Verdict brought in by the Jury upon this Evidence, because the Coroner's Warrant will sufficiently shew that, and is as follows.

'"To the Constable of Froome, &c. to execute and convey, and to the
Keeper of His Majesty's Gaol or Brideswell of Shepton Mallet, in
the said County, to receive an obey.

'"WHEREAS on an Inquisition this Day taken before me one of His Majesty's Coroners of the said County, upon the View of the Bodies of James Maggs and Richard Moore, the Jury hath presented and found, that eight Persons (naming them, three of them the Sons of Mr. Richards; his Servant, and three Soldiers that were in the House) have lately, in defending themselves, wilfully killed the said James Maggs and Richard Moore: These are therefore, on Sight hereof, to command you to apprehend and convey the said eight Persons [naming them] to his Majesty's Gaol or Bridewell of Shepton Mallet, and deliver them to the Keeper thereof: And you, the said Keeper, are hereby required, in His Majesty's Name, to receive them into your Custody, and them safely there to detain, until &c"'.

'Upon this Warrant, one of Mr. Richards's Sons has been so unfortunate as to be taken and carried to Goal, and there loaded with Irons; the whole Family dispersed, and his Business intirely stopped, and he himself, though not at Home when this happened, cannot appear in the Streets of Froome, but the Mob insults and abuses him.

'Several Gentlemen met in the Evening of the Day this happened, and subscribed a Crown a-piece for the Subsistence ot the Riotters, and four of them have lived publickly in Froome ever since. There is one more of them dead since and the Finding of the Jury upon that is more extraordinary still, being upon the like Evidence as the former, and which Finding is as follows, viz. "An Inquisition taken before me, one of the Coroners for the County of Somerset, upon View of the Body of Richard Singer, lying dead; the Jury present that the same eight Persons, (naming them) not having the Fear of God before their Eyes, but being moved and seduced by the Instigation of the Devil, the said Richard Singer, in the Peace of God, and of our Sovereign Lord the King, then and there being, feloniously, and of their Malice aforethought, with certain Blunderbusses, Guns, Pistols, and other Fire-Arms, did shoot the said Richard Singer, giving him one mortal Wound in the Back, of which he languished till, &c. and then of the said Wound died". And so the Jurors, upon their Oaths say, that the said eight Persons (naming them) feloniously, voluntarily, and of their Malice aforethought, him the said Richard Singer did kill and murther, against the Peace, &c'.


17th Century Horse Race

17th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture No Comments »

Seven years after Charles II instituted the Newcastle Town Plate in 1664, the London Gazette announced that a horse race would take place in the Spring of 1671. The chosen venue would be an excellent course on the outskirts of Liverpool.

It is tempting to imagine that such an event, created to occur annually, might be the initial footprint for the greatest of all races, the Grand National; however the origins of the Grand National date from 1829.

Unfortunately, the Gazette makes no further mention of the race or its outcome, but the following announcement is a reminder of a society emerging from a period of restricted access to recreation.

“These are to give notice, that the Right Honourable Charles Earl of Derby, with many other Gentleman of Quality within the two Counties of Lancaster and Chester, together with the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of Liverpooles have set forth near the said Town, a five miles course for a Horse Race, which is intended to be run upon the eighteenth day of March next, and so for ever yearly at the same time; and as it is one of the finest grounds for the length in England, so it will be for one of the most considerable Plates in the Nation; and whoever intends to put a Horse in for the same (Horses of all sizes being allowed) must have them kept within the Liberties of Liverpool, three weeks before the day, and if he be no Contributer, must pay five pounds towards the next Plate.”

12 Feb 1671

A century later, the 12th Earl of Derby Edward Smith-Stanley gave his name to the famous Epsom Derby horse race.

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