Death in Low Spirits.

A liking for spirits and a disregard for fire-safety ended in disaster for two excisemen.

“On Tuesday evening died, in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Cotton, the excise officer, who was burnt on Monday night at Mr. Wright’s, distiller, in White Friars – The following is the fact relative to that terrible accident: On Monday night, about eleven o’clock the above officer came to relieve  another Excise officer then on duty, when they agreed together to go down into a vat that the spirits work into every day from the still, and which is every night pumped up into the store vats, and had been done for that night, that nothing remained but what the pump would not draw up, and some dirt which there generally is at the bottom of such vats, which are in constant use; however, the little spirit that did remain and was not fit for a person to drink, they agreed to get out to mix with some water; but when the man, who is since dead, was getting down into the vat with a candle in his hand, that ladder by which he was getting down flipped , and he tumbled into the vat, which was about five feet deep and the candle immediately set fire to it, he being in the midst of the flames; however, the other Exciseman got him out alive, and Cotton told the whole affair, with this expression, that, as dying man, what is related is the fact; upon which Mr. Wright immediately send him to hospital, and the other Officer to the Compter*.”

Stamford Mercury, 21st August, 1766.

* Compter (or  counter): a small English prison for civil cases, controlled by a sheriff.

The Lord’s Day

Over a century before the Defence of the Realm Act introduced country-wide pub. opening hours, local bye-laws governed sales of alcohol on the Lord’s Day.

“The Town or Borough of STAMFORD, in the county of Lincoln } JAMES BATSON, Esq. MAYOR.

At a Meeting of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Justices of the Peace in & for the said Borough, at the Town-Hall there, on Saturday the 13th Day of this instant October,

It was ordered, That all publicans within the said town shall be prohibited from receiving or permitting guests to be or remain in their houses, on the Lord’s Day (except strangers travelling to or through the town), only between the hours of Five and Ten in the evening; and that they shall not be permitted to sell ale or other liquors out of their houses, except between the hours of Twelve and Two at noon, and Six and Nine in the evening.

And it is further ordered, That no tradesman or shopkeeper shall be allowed to keep open their shops, for the purpose of selling or exposing to sale any goods or articles whatsoever, after the hour of Ten o’clock in the morning on the Lord’s Day.

And it is further ordered, That the Chief Constable shall cause the foregoing orders to be advertised in the Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury, for the information and government of all the publicans, tradesmen, and shopkeepers of the said borough.

THOMAS BOTT, Chief Constable.

Stamford, 14th October, 1804.”

Stamford Mercury, 2nd November, 1804.

The Learned Pig

Travelling entertainments were common in the late eighteenth century.  This one featured an amazing pig which, picking numbers and letters depicted on cards, could spell names and tell the time!

“Among the infinite number of curiosities hitherto offered to the inspection and attention of the Public, there are none which lay so great a claim to our attention and approbation, as the wonderful and astonishing performance of the

L E A R N E D   P I G,

Now exhibiting at the George and Angel Inn, in this place.

This most singular Phaenomenon is one of the many surprising instances of the ingenuity of Mr NICHOLSON, a man who is possessed of an exclusive and peculiar power over the most irrational part of animated nature. – Many of the first personages in the three kingdoms have been witnesses to his persevering temper and patience in the tuition of Beasts, Birds, &c. in a degree that has seldom fallen to the lot of human infirmity; to evince this, we need only mention his having in his life taught a TURTLE to fetch and carry; his overcoming the timidity of a HARE by making her beat a drum; his perfecting six TURKEY COCKS in a regular country dance; his compleating a small BIRD in the performance of many surprising feats; his having taught three CATS to strike several tunes on the dulcimer with their paws, and to imitate the Italian manner of singing; but above all, his conquering the natural obstinacy and stupidity of a PIG. by teaching him to unite the letters of any person’s name, the number of persons in the room, the hour and minutes by any watch, &c. &c.

This singular creature may justly be deemed the greatest curiosity in the kingdom; and the Proprieter make no doubt but he will give that satisfaction, and receive that approbation from the Ladies and Gentlemen of this town, &c. which he has done in London and Edinburgh.”

Stamford Mercury, 8th February, 1788.



Pepper and Salt.

This little section of amusing snippets appeared regularly in the 1930s.  This one contained appropriate seasonal stories about hens and turkeys.

“‘As a piece if furniture,’ writes an expert, ‘ a piano fills a room.’  And as a musical instrument it empties it.

*          *           *

‘Three Hens and a Cock’ for everyone would solve the new laid egg problem. – Letter to Press.

And also the early rising problem.

*       *         *

An elephant appearing in a London circus is called Mae West.  Symbolic of the broadness of her humour?

*       *          *

There are 750,000 turkeys in England and Wales this season – Market report.

What about a complimentary Sausage Census?

*         *      *

An attempt is to be made at a precise definition of ‘new-laid’ eggs.  Our belief is that only the hen really knows.”

The Stamford Mercury, 25th December, 1936.





Bread Prosecution

In 1917, wheat and other cereals were suffering from severe shortages; supplies were affected by poor harvest, reduced imports as a result of enemy action and lack of manpower.  The supply of bread became a major concern.  The Ministry of Food introduced The Bread Order which made it illegal to sell a loaf until 12 hours after it had been baked.  According to The Times, the government realised that stale bread was ‘more nutritious’ and would be consumed 5% less than fresh.  This was not popular!

“BREAD PROSECUTION. – Before the Bourne Bench on 19th Inst., John Henry Vaux, of Langtoft, was summoned for selling bread under 12 hours old at Langtoft on July 4th.  Mr. H. Kelham defended, and defendant pleaded not guilty, and denied selling a new loaf.  The Bench dismissed the case, the Chairman saying he would refrain from passing any comments which he felt very much inclined to do.”

Stamford Mercury, 27th July, 1917.


A Christmas Feast

One of many examples of a pre-Christmas advertisement.  This one is from a local butcher and features the image of an elegant family Christmas feast.

“Place your order now




for a perfect


Stamford Mercury, 5th December, 1947.



Never on Sunday

This old rhyme, resurrected in 1965, warns about cuttings one’s nails on a Sunday.   All the other days, bar Friday, seem preferable!

“Country customs have changed, and go on changing, but many of the ‘old wives’ ‘ tales still linger.  One I heard the other day refers to nail cutting, and goes like this:

‘Cut ’em on Monday, you cut ’em for health;

Cut ’em on Tuesday, you cut ’em for wealth;

Cut ’em on Wednesday, you cut ’em for news;

Cut ’em on Thursday, a new pair of shoes;

Cut ’em on Friday, you cut ’em for sorrow;

Cut ’em on Saturday, you’ll see true love tomorrow;

Cut ’em on Sunday, and you’ll have the devil with you all week.'”

Stamford Mercury, 29th October, 1965.

The Burghley Elephant

Traction engines were a fairly new innovation in the 1860s and the Marquis of Exeter was keen to keep up to date by having his own built, nicknamed the Burghley Elephant, but with unfortunate results.

“The ponderous traction engine, built by Messrs. Ashby and Jeffery, of Stamford, for the Marquis of Exeter, for the purpose of drawing heavy loads, and facetiously called the ‘Burghley Elephant’, has not behaved in a very tractable manner on its first appearance in public.  On Tuesday it was used for the first time for fetching coal from the Midland station-yard, and its first freak on entering the yard was partly to displace a large stack of coal.  With a great amount of management or mismanagement, backing &c., however, it steamed out of the yard with a little over four tons of coal behind it, in something between a railway truck and a stone waggon, without further mischief.  It proceeded all right then until it got near Miss Roberton’s, coach builder, where it again became unmanageable, and ran over a man and a vehicle standing in front of Miss Robertson’s shop : the latter was completely smashed, and the man, we are informed, received considerable injury.  It had a pilot in advance.”

Stamford Mercury, 20th September, 1867.

Not yet in harness.

Was harness maker Fred Gardner out on his stag night or purloining poultry?

“A Wedding Postponed. – Fred. Gardner, harness -maker, is in custody at Stamford on a charge of stealing five fowls, the property of Mr T. Croshaw, of the Bull and Swan inn, St. Martin’s.  The alleged robbery took place on Wednesday night last, and the accused was to have been married next morning.”

Stamford Mercury,  20th September, 1867.

Fecundity in Dublin.

A sad little story at first glance, but one that goes on to reveal the incredible family of Thomas Bentley, living near Dublin.

“BIRTH.]  Lately, at Drumcondra, near Dublin, the wife of Thomas Bentley, of a son, who died the next day.  This man is now in the 103rd year of his age, and attends the Dublin markets weekly with vegetables from his garden; his eldest son is 76 years of age, and his youngest in its fourth year.”

Stamford Mercury 16th October, 1807.