Mercuriosities

Swans Work for Lord Burghley

Lord Burghley had replaced three men, who had been paid to clean his water from weeds, with four swans who work free of charge.

“One of the communications of the Marquis of Exeter to the editor of a periodical publication, which we lately noticed, is a discovery that swans will keep water perfectly free from weeds. At his Lordship’s seat at Burghley, a piece of water, which used to employ three men for six months in a year to keep it tolerably clean, is now kept completely so by two pair of swans.”

Stamford Mercury, 11th November 1803.

Recipe for a Fortune

A fortune could be made in a Lottery which was due to be drawn on St. Valentine’s Day, 1810.  A ‘Sixteenth’ was the smallest stake available and cost £1-13-0 (equal to £1.65 today).

“Recipe to make a Fortune.-Take a Sixteenth and buy it;-when it produces (and why should it not?) a Share of a Capital Prize, lay the amount out in Whole Tickets.  Having succeeded to your wish, in the event of these being fortunate, you have only to purchase a neat house in town for winter, and a snug summer retreat in the country; let these be embellished by the girl of your heart; let family be added, quantum suff* and if you do not think the Lottery has done you justice, try again.”

* as much as suffices.

Stamford Mercury, 26th January, 1810.

A Grave Error

The Mercury committed a Grave error by misreading a note sent to it conveying the information of two deaths.

” We misread the note of a correspondent at Spilsby last week, and committed an error which carries with it an air of levity, for which we feel real concern.  Instead of Mr. Thomas Raiderstone, of Halton Holegate, being married to Miss Jessop, of Burgh in the Marsh, we should have stated that both those parties are dead.”

Stamford Mercury, 9th September, 1807.

Woman Sprouts Horse Radish

A woman who regularly ate some horse radish baffled doctors who thought she had worms.  It was found to be horse radish sprouts.

” A NEW BED OF HORSE-RADISH.- The Boston Gazette of Tuesday has the following strange account:- ‘A young women, servant in a very respectable family in this town, has been, ever since the autumn of 1814, afflicted with a singular complaint, which baffled medical staff. According to report, she had for a length of time voided long strips of matter supposed to be worms, but which proved to be sprouts of horse-radish! Her health has late much improved, but her amendment is said to have been preceded by the extraordinary circumstance of two pieces of the ends of horse-radish, of the natural appearance, and about half an inch each in length, having come from her! The affair is accounted for by the young women’s confession that she has been in the practice, when she had horse-radish given her to scrape, or swallowing large pieces of it.’ ”

Stamford Mercury, 24th May, 1816.

A Notice to Unmarried Women

A wealthy man, who owned a small estate, sent out a notice to any unmarried women containing the description of what would make this man’s perfect wife.

” Notice to UNMARRIED Women.

A man in Edinburghshire, who never was married, being near thirty years of age, has above 900l. with a small estate. In sincerity he wants a women to be his spouse that is truly pious, and has a taste for cleanliness. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a women that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.-Prov.xxxi.50.                                                                           Any young women whom this may suit, will please address to A.B. to be left at the Printing-office, and the Advertiser will wait on her.                                        O virtuous female, think no shame,                                                                  To take the pen and write your name;                                                              I shall the subject secret handle,                                                                      And keep you free from any scandal.”

Stamford Mercury, 13th January, 1809.

Postal Improvements

In our days of instant communication, it might appear odd that over a century ago, the Royal Mail was very much NOT ‘snail mail’!

“Commencing on Monday next, 6th inst., there will be on week-days four deliveries of letters and parcels throughout the town instead of three only as hitherto, these will be made at 7.0 and 10.0 a.m., and at 3.0 and 8.0 p.m. A great advantage will be gained inasmuch as the letters now delivered at 12 will be received two hours earlier, and four-fifths of those formerly delivered at 7.0 p.m. will, under the new arrangement, be dealt with at 3.0 p.m. and the delivery at 8.0 p.m. will include all letters posted in the afternoon in the Rural districts served by Stamford, such letters have in the past been delayed until the following morning.  It is estimated that not less than 6000 letters a week will be appreciably accelerated.  The collections also from the various town boxes will be made more frequently, and will fit in more closely with the different despatches from the Head Office.  The first collection will be made between 4.30 and 5.30 a.m., and correspondence will fall into the morning delivery in the Stamford Town and Rural districts an the first despatches to Peterborough and London.”

Stamford Mercury, 3rd April, 1908.

Serjeant Severe on Recruit

A severe ‘serjeant’ at Volunteer Corps shouted at a recruit after he grumbled during a drill and began to speak when he shouldn’t have.

” A serjeant drilling a Volunteer Corps a few days ago, was peculiarly severe on a gentleman, whom he did not fail to tax as amazingly stupid and aukward. The recruit grumbled, and was beginning to reply, when Kile stopped him by exclaiming, Hold your tongue, Sir; a soldier is only allowed to open his mouth twice in the ranks; once when his name is called, and again to bite off the end of his cartridge.”

Stamford Mercury, 16th September 1803

Man-mountain to serve in militia.

Man-mountain, Daniel Lambert had been been drafted to serve in the Leicestershire militia – how many men will he be worth?

” The celebrated Mr. Daniel Lambert has been balloted to serve in the militia for the county of Leicester! It is supposed this man-mountain will serve by substitute; but how many men in buckram should in fairness grow out of this one, who is in himself a host, is a matter that the Deputy-Lieutenants have not yet determined upon.”

Stamford Mercury, 6th November 1807.

Dumb Insolence.

Stories of people being suddenly struck dumb by divine intervention were not as uncommon as this piece suggests, but here it is used as a salutary lesson for blasphemers.

“An awful instance of divine correction, of a nature which cannot fail to be admonitorily applied by all who hear of it, was experienced by a young man in this town on Monday last.  Whilst giving reins to a vehemence of passion, and impiously uttering the most blasphemous expressions, he was, by visitation of Providence, suddenly struck dumb!  Under this affliction, and in a state of mind, from remorse and contrition, the most deplorable, the unhappy young man, has remained ever since his intemperate and wicked behaviour and the infliction of this signal mark of divine displeasure.  Amongst the light and incongruous materials of a newspaper, relations of a tenor so solemn as this so rarely occur, that we hope it will make a lasting and useful impression upon the profane, whether from principle or inadvertency.”

Stamford Mercury, 14th June, 1805.

Two Items from the London News

London news was generally serious items from Parliament and the Court, but, just as today we have ‘and finally’ items in news broadcasts, there were often amusing snippets reported at the end:

“A few days since, a gentleman very gravely wrote to another – ‘Sir, you have deprived me of the very best friend I had on my back.”  Upon examination, it appeared that the latter had neglected to return a borrowed Great Coat.

“A woman, lately brought before a Country Magistrate, and behaving with much confidence, was told by his worship that she had brass enough in her face to make a five-gallon kettle.  ‘Yes,’ answered she, ‘and there is sap enough in your head to fill it!’ ”

Stamford Mercury 2nd December, 1808.