Consequences of Female Curiosity

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.

A Grisly Find in Cheapside

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.

Grass Snake Killed at Morcott

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.

Pontick . . ?

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.

The Power of Orthography and Punctuation

This piece shows how bad spelling and punctuation can cause confusion (and hilarity!).

“The husband of a pious woman, having occasion to make a voyage, his wife sent a written request to the parson of the parish; which, instead of spelling and pointing properly, viz:

“A person having gone to sea, his wife desires the prayers of the congregation;”

She spelt and pointed as follows:-

“A person having gone to see his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation.”

The parson (who had not examined the contents of the paper) gave it out accordingly.”

Stamford Mercury 17th May, 1805.


Thirty-two pints and happy ever after.

A husband takes advantage of his wife’s absence by consuming thirty-two pints of porter!  Early porters were strong beers by modern standards.

“A journeyman bookbinder, of Norwich (whilst his wife was from home last week), being determined to be happy for one day in his life, actually drank thirty-two pints of Norwich porter (4 gallons), viz. 17 pints before dinner and 15 after it.”

Stamford Mercury 31st December, 1802.

A Lady Turned to Stone

The Mercury often picked up stories from around the country, such as this one about some country girls’ day out at the International Exhibition.

“A gentleman, residing in Clifton, who has some unsophisticated country girls for servants, sent them to London to see the International Exhibition just before it closed.  They expressed themselves very much pleased with their trip on their return., and on being asked what they liked best amongst the collection, they said it was all very beautiful, but “the poor lady, sir, who was turned to stone from eating cod and dumplings was the most curious.”  “A lady turned to stone from eating cod and dumplings?” naturally asked their master, with much surprise.  “Oh yes, Sir,” they replied, “’twas very sad, to be sure, but curious.”

The Tinted Venus by John Gibson.
The Tinted Venus by John Gibson.

After a little he discovered they were alluding to the tinted Venus, and inquired how they came to hear it was a lady turned to stone by such strange diet. “Please, Sir, it was the policeman at the Exhibition as told us,” was their answer; “he said he did not know the young lady himself, but he had a friend as knew the young lady’s mother uncommon well, and it was all quite true,” so that we suspect some of the Cockney police must have often amused themselves by practising on the credulity or simplicity of country folks.”

Stamford Mercury 26th December, 1862.