The sorry tale of a husband convicted of poisoning his new, young wife.
“On the 28th June an inquest was held before Sam. Smith, gent. Coroner, at Boddington, in Northamptonshire, upon view of the body of Mary Haynes, who died on the Tuesday preceding, from the effect of poison, as appeared in evidence upon the inquest; but owing to some very material investigations necessary to be make, to the illucidation of the case, the Court was adjourned until Friday last, when a verdict was returned of wilful murder against the husband, for administering the poison. – This couple had only been married about ten weeks, were both young, and placed in opulent circumstances.”
Stamford Mercury 19th July, 1805.
A delightful regency episode observed at a society card game. 20 guineas was a large amount of money and its equivalent in gold would have weighed 166 g (about 6 oz.).
“At a fashionable whist party, a few evenings since, considerable merriment was excited by the following repartee:
“A lady, having won a rubber of 20 guineas, the gentleman who was her opponent pulled out his pocket-book and tendered 21l in bank notes. The fair gamester observed, with a disdainful toss of her head, ‘in the great houses which I frequent, Sir, we always use gold.’ – ‘That may be, Madam,’ replied the gentleman, ‘but in the little houses which I frequent we always use paper.'”
Stamford Mercury 28th November, 1806.
It is hard for us to imagine cooking potatoes for over one hour, but kitchen equipment was much less efficient in the 19th century and who knows what varieties of potato there were? The Mercury clearly felt the need to explain this recipe in detail, despite the fact that potatoes had been in Britain for over 230 years.
“When washed or brushed clean, put them in the tin, iron, or earthen pot, and afterwards pour or pump in cold water to nearly cover them; they give out much liquid in boiling. If the potatoes be well sized, as soon as they simmer, or begin to boil, throw in some cold water, and if the root be large, repeat this till the potatoes be boiled to the core, which will take, according to their size from 30 minutes to an hour and a quarter. Without this care, they will crack and break before they are boiled through. To throw in a little salt while boiling is an improvement, and practised in Ireland; but with us salt is too dear for this use generally. To boil them slowly is the proper manner; when boiled, pour off the water, and put them again on, or by the fire, with the cover off, to evaporate the moisture; this makes them dry, floury, or mealy, and exquisite; they should be brought to table in their skins, in a cloth or damask napkin, and used at dinner as bread; at well furnished tables, a separate small potatoe plate is a neat and convenient addition.”
Stamford Mercury 3rd January, 1817.
An amusing account of a wedding journey in Sussex shows the extent of the Mercury’s news-gathering. Note the use of the long ‘s’.
“Last week a very extraordinary Wedding was celebrated at Maerfield in Sussex, where the Ages of the Bride, Bridegroom, and the Horse they rode upon to be married; amounted to 214 Years, the Man was 96, the Woman 94, and the Horse 24. As they did not care to be married where they were known, they set out, secretly for a Church at some Distance from their Habitation, and in their way thither, the Bridegroom fell off his Horse, but by the help of a friendly Gate, made shift to mount again. As they were coming back, the Bride had the Misfortune to slip off the Pilion behind, and the Bridegroom’s Senses not being very perfect, he never miss’d her till he had jogg’d on some Miles, and was at last forced to return, with Assistance, to bring her home.”
Stamford Mercury 2 September, 1736.
This item picked by the Mercury from the Journal de Paris is a fine example of Napoleon Buonaparte’s propaganda machine. It was not for another fifty years that England began to move its town-centre church graveyards to purpose built cemeteries on the outskirts of settlements, owing to fears of cholera and itinerant tramps.
“The King of Spain has followed the examples of all other enlightened sovereigns. No persons can in future be buried in churches in Spain, and all church-yards are in future to be at some distance from cities, towns, or villages. England is now the only country in Europe, where the barbarous usage still continues of burying persons in churches and in church-yards, situate in the middle of the most populous streets, and where the dead have the privilege to infect and poison the living. This is another evidence of the vilisation* of the nation of boxing shop-keepers.”
Stamford Mercury 24 August, 1804.
*presumably this is a ‘dig’ at our ci-vilisation!
Leafing through the archives the other day I came across this most entertaining article which gives an ideal example of the complexities of parliamentary language.
“By the resolution of the House of Commons expressed on Tuesday night, a great part of the interesting plan of Mr. Whitbread for the amelioration of the condition of the poor is rendered nugatory*. The great object of compelling the establishment of parochial schools being defeated, we are left, of course, just where we hitherto have been in that particular. To pass and Act of Parliament to allow vestries to do, if they think fit, what they have been at no time prevented from doing, is really absurd, or too refined for vulgar comprehension! It is surely strange, that on the occasion of a debate and division on so widely operative and generally interesting a measure, no more than 47 members of the House of Commons should be found in their places – seven more than are necessary for forming a House to pass an inclosure bill!”
Stamford Mercury 24th July, 1807.
* nugatory = of no value
A woman’s fall at Uffington is an extreme example of the come-uppance of eaves-droppers.
“An extraordinary case of this kind occurred at Uffington, near Stamford, on Friday last, very early in the morning. A married woman, about 35 years of age, the wife of a labourer named Stanton, was indulging in very attentive observation of the proceedings in a neighbouring house, when, leaning too far out of a window in her earnestness to see all that could be seen, she lost her hold, and was precipitated heavily to the ground from a height of about 15 feet. Her fall being upon a hard pavement, she fractured her right collar-bone, three or four of her ribs, her breast-bone, and her left arm, besides dreadfully bruising herself in other parts of the body. The poor woman was brought to the Stamford Infirmary, where she now lies in a precarious state.”
Stamford Mercury 3rd April, 1840.
In the eighteenth century, the Mercury did not shy away from reporting gruesome news, as this report of a dead child shows.
“On Monday Morning an Infant was found dead in the Church yard near the End of Wood-street, Cheapside; and though it was wrapt in a Piece of Blanket, the Raven kept in that Place had pick’t out its Eyes, and Part of the Entrails.”
Stamford Mercury 3rd March, 1723.
Another great example of local reporting is this article following the death of a grass snake in Morcott, Rutland. One has to remember that war is imminent!
“A GRASS SNAKE, only two inches short of a yard in length, was killed in the washhouse of Lindsey House, Morcott, by Mr. Plumb, on Tuesday.
The reptile was first noticed by Mr. Plumb’s daughter, Mrs. Philips, who saw it crawling along the path to the outhouse with its head held high.
The body is being preserved in methylated spirits at the village school for exhibition during nature study lessons.”
Stamford Mercury 4th August, 1939.
Smart society was surprised when a well-dressed lady was found to be not all she seemed.
“A very smart and very condescending female made her appearance lately at H……..d, where she outshone most of the country belles in her display of fashionable dress, and her rank in life not being generally known, she was admitted into the genteelest circles. One day in company she exhibited a hat of peculiar taste, which, equally excited the envy and curiosity of her companions; and being strongly solicited for the name of this novelty, she replied, “that is was a PONTICK Hat” – she soon afterwards quitted the town, when, to the mortification of many tradesmen and milliners, whom she had favoured with her custom, it was discovered that Miss has spoken truth, and that not only her hat, but most of her wardrobe, had literally been obtained upon tick!”
Stamford Mercury 18th July, 1806.