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

‘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'.


Apprentices and the Puritan Parliament

17th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture, Occupations & Trades No Comments »

In 1644 Parliament ordered the burning of all copies of the 'Book of Sports', withdrawing the right to engage in recreational activities on a Sunday. However apprentices, scholars and servants benefited from the following Ordinance of 1647:

An Additionall Ordinance of the Lords and Commons Assembled in Parliament concerning Dayes of Recreation allowed unto Schollers, Apprentices and other Servants1647 Ordinance

'No Master shall wilfully detaine or with-hold his Apprentice or other Servant within doores or from his Recreation, unless Market daies, Faire daies, or other extraordinary occasion; yet so as such Master shall allow unto such Apprentice or other Servant one other day instead of such day employed in the service of his Master.'

The Parliament decreed that every second Tuesday of the month was to be a day's holiday, when all shops, warehouses, etc. were to be closed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Ordinance was prompted by a petition from the London apprentices presented on 22nd June and passed by Parliament on 28th June.They recognized that by abolishing the holy days of the church, the opportunities for recreational activities had been reduced


The suffering apprentice

18th Century Digressions, Occupations & Trades No Comments »

During the 18th century, it was commonplace for apprentices to suffer at the hands of their masters. What follows is a particularly nasty example from The Universal Chronicle dated 1759:

Thomas Jenkins, a pin-maker, was tried and found guilty, for assaulting and cruelly using Ann Townsend his apprentice, by running pins into her cheeks, arms, thighs, &c. confining her in a cold garret, and feeding her on bread and cold water, &c. The Court deferred passing sentence till the adjournment of the session, which will be on the 7th February.

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