Mercuriosities

Bottom of the Yard?

On a visit to the Cottesmore Hunt, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) encountered an old aquaintance at Oakham Station.

“THE PRINCE AT OAKHAM

A Handshake for Insp. Bottom.

Following a day’s hunting with the Cottesmore on Wednesday, the Prince of Wales motored to Burrough Court, the residence of Lord Furness, where he had been staying for a few days, and where he changed his clothes, and then returned to Oakham to catch the 3.43 p.m. train to London.

Among those on the platform at the station was Insp. J.B. Bottom, of Oakham, who is well known to his Royal Highness, and the Prince, greeting the Inspector with a smile, inquired: ‘Well, and how is my old friend, Bottom?’ telling him that he was pleased to see him once again.

He inquired after the Inspector’s health and shook hands with him on his departure.”

Stamford Mercury, 8th January, 1932.

 

What it means to be unmarried

A rather whimsical item about being a bachelor received a sharp, witty response from a spinster.  Could this be the beginning of the dating agency?

“THE OLD BATCHELOR’S PETITION.

‘I wish I had been married thirty years ago; I wish a wife and half a score children would now start up around me, and bring along with them all that affection which we should have had for each other by being earlier acquainted.'”

Stamford Mercury, 18th May, 1804.


Petition

“THE OLD MAID’S PETITION.

[In reply to ‘The Old Batchelor’s Petition’, in this paper of May 18.]

‘I wish I was married, that I might be free from the chagrin and neglect with which an Old Maid is in general treated.’

ANONIMOUS.”

Stamford Mercury, 1st June, 1804.

Unrest among the Uniforms

It seems the Duke of Wellington allowed ‘fancy dress’ among his troops fighting in the Peninsula War.  This was not appreciated by their new Commander in Canada.

“A general order issued by Sir G. Prevost, shortly after the landing of the British Army, from Bordeaux, in Canada, has excited much comment and dissatisfaction.  It notices ‘the fanciful variety of dress, which the Commander of the Forces has observed in the troops which have lately arrived from under the command of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington,’ and desires ‘that the troops will in future confine themselves in their dress to the late Order issued to the Garrison.’ – The Heroes of the Peninsula, hurt at any thing implying a reflection upon their Chief, have expressed themselves in strong terms upon the introduction of his name in this way, considering it invidious and unnecessary. – Lord Wellington, we believe, indulged his troops in considerable licence, with regard to their dress, but all the world must allow that he fought them well.”

Stamford Mercury, 28th October, 1814.

 

Two epitaphs in Elton

It is amazing what one finds in churchyards.  This reader was so struck by two quirky epitaphs, that he asked the Mercury to publish them.

“To the PRINTERS of the STAMFORD, &c. MERCURY.

SIRS,

As passing through Elton church-yard lately, I saw the two following epitaphs, which I copied as to letters, words, and lines, which by inserting in your Mercury, you’ll oblige,

A CONSTANT READER.

Wansford, Dec. 28, 1789.

Aflicted Sorre Long i Boar fishans *

Trid in Vain But Now i Gon to

Endless Rest Christs Favour to

Obtain and We Hope our

Los Will Be Hur Gain.


Life Is a fable and things Show

It I Thort Sow Wonce But Now

I Now It.” #

Stamford Mercury 8th January, 1790.

 

*It is unclear what this word is.  We wonder if it is a corruption of ‘visions’.  Readers, please let us know if you can enlighten us!

#Similar to John Gaye’s ‘My Own Epitaph’ (1732): “Life is a jest; and all things show it.  I thought so once; and now I know it”

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.

Pig

 

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

TURKEYS, POULTRY, GEESE and RABBITS

(ALL ENGLISH)

for a perfect

CHRISTMAS FEAST.”

Stamford Mercury, 5th December, 1947.