Monday, March 5, 2018

Commercial Schools--The Industrial Revolution and Education

At the beginning of the Regency era, in 1811, there were relatively few schools in Britain. Some dame schools existed, where lucky infants learned their letters. There were some Church of England primary schools, and some grammar schools. Across the country there were governesses and vicars with varying degrees of expertise teaching children a variety of subjects including the classics (for boys), needlework (for girls), a smattering of languages, a little deportment, and some history and religion.

For the gentry and nobility, there were boarding schools for both sexes. At these the girls were taught essentials of display and the basics of reading and writing. The boys were taught Latin, Greek and the gamut of classical literature and history.

For the lower classes, there was vocational training for both male and female children. There were apprenticeships with harsh taskmasters, and there was the household school of 'service' with equally grim butlers and housekeepers as teachers.

None of this education addressed the needs of the new industrial society. The Industrial Revolution was creating a new middle class. This middle class had money, a desire for standing among its peers, and a need for the tools which would help them succeed in business. A new sort of school grew up to fill this need--the commercial school. These schools flourished and multiplied right from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Monday 11 July 1803
Hampshire Chronicle - Monday 15 July 1805
A telling sentence in the advertisement below makes clear the school's objectives:
"Its principal object is the qualifying youth for business."
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Friday 17 January 1806
Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 22 June 1807
The objective of the above school is made very clear in its advertisement.

The sort of books from which the new subjects were taught are listed in this advertisment, below:
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 07 October 1809
Hampshire Chronicle - Monday 22 July 1811
As the decades advance, the word 'mathematics' becomes more prominent as above. This was the subject the new world of business most required.
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 09 January 1813
This school above attempted to be all things to all people (well, boys and young men, at least).

This advertisement below lists instruction in practical subjects at 24 guineas per annum and classical subjects at 4 guineas each per annum. The classics have become 'add-ons'.
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 17 July 1819
This is a brave new world indeed; a world of industry and business.

'Til next time,



Monday, February 5, 2018

The Serpentine - Hyde Park's River/Lake

Hyde Park once contained a river--the Westbourne--which formed ponds (originally possibly monastic fish ponds) in the Park. In 1730 Queen Caroline ordered that the Westbourne be dammed to create a long, narrow artificial lake as part of the Park redevelopment.
Detail of the 1746 Rocque map showing the newly constructed Serpentine. (Wikipedia)

The Serpentine quickly became a focal point for the Park and a centre, during the Regency, of newsworthy activity. At the beginning of the century the news was all bad.

Morning Chronicle - Saturday 30 May 1801
Saunders's News-Letter - Friday 03 December 1802

Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 05 December 1807
 Skaters on the Serpentine in Hyde Park by Julius Caesar Ibbitson (1786)

 In 1808, however, some pleasant stories about the Serpentine appeared.
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal - Friday 15 April 1808

Globe - Tuesday 27 December 1808
View of the Serpentine River, Hyde Park, looking from Kensington Gardens 1787
 The Serpentine's walk was the site of sporting events
Morning Post - Thursday 17 June 1813
 And research was aiming to make the Serpentine and other urban bodies of water safer places.
Bury and Norwich Post - Wednesday 08 December 1813
 Frost was always a problem and the lure of ice skating and sliding created many issues in 
Morning Post - Saturday 03 February 1816
Morning Chronicle - Monday 23 December 1816
The great tragedy of the Serpentine was its use as a method of suicide. The desperate, too often young women, chose drowning as their escape from their troubles. 
Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 25 June 1814

Sussex Advertiser - Monday 04 April 1814
In December 1816 Harriet Westbrook, the pregnant wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was found drowned in the Serpentine. I cannot discover that the newspapers had anything to say about that event.

Despite its checkered past, the Serpentine is still a lovely feature of Hyde Park and a tribute to the vision of our Georgian forebearers.

'Til next time,


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Patent Medicine -- Regency universal remedies

During the Regency era medical treatment, as we know it, was in its infancy. Establishments like the Medical Society of London and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh were beginning to disseminate medical information and train doctors, but it would be later in the 19th century before significant medical strides were made. Until then the care of those requiring medical aid was in the hands of the hard-to-find trained physicians and the under-educated barber-surgeons. Those who did not have access to these practitioners relied upon apothecaries and wise-women educated in herbal lore and experiential healing.
The Book of English Trades: And Library of the Useful Arts by John Souter
The dearth of knowledge in the field of medicine led to the development of a huge quantity of 'patent' medicines, that is, herbal and alcoholic concoctions whose efficacy had no factual basis. Of course, patent medicines still thrive today, but at least we have agencies overseeing their ingredients, their claims, and their use.

During the Regency, there was no oversight. Patent medicines and the shops in which they were sold flourished.

Stamford Mercury - Friday 16 September 1803
Bell's Monthly Compendium of Advertisements for August 1807
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 28 April 1810
Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 09 September 1800
Birmingham Chronicle - Thursday 02 December 1819
Likely there were among the patent medicines some innocuous remedies that provided relief for some conditions. But too often they were adulterated, and worse, they were reliant on additives like alcohol, opium, and cocaine. These concoctions could have deadly results. This tragedy (below) occurred as a result of the use of an 'imitation' of a well-known cure-all "Godfrey's Cordial".
Aris's Birmingham Gazette - Monday 22 February 1808
It was common knowledge that patent medicines were dubious science. Even the cartoonists lampooned them:
T. Rowlandson and G. Woodward, 1801 (Credit Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images)
But the ultimate in chicanery came from one Dr. Sibly. The claims for his product were numerous, and culminated in an assertion that it could reanimate a person on the verge of death.
Chester Chronicle - Friday 06 November 1818
Leeds Mercury - Saturday 26 October 1816
 The sheer quantity of advertisements for patent medicines in publications of the Regency era indicates their availability, and their popularity. I just hope they helped more people than they injured.

'Til next time,



Monday, December 4, 2017

Merry Christmas - 1806

The Christmas Plum Pudding from an old print-Published in the book
Christmas: Its Origin and Associations, by William Francis Dawson 

          As last year at this time we looked at Christmas in 1805, I thought that this year we might look at 1806.  Christmas Day was a Thursday, and it was an unusually warm December.
 Bury and Norwich Post Wednesday December 24, 1806
 The retailers were prepared for the season, and the advertisements were tempting:
Morning Chronicle - Friday 19 December 1806
Stamford Mercury - Friday 19 December 1806
The festivities of the season were well described by the newspapers:
Oxford Journal - Saturday 18 January 1806
Bury and Norwich Post - Wednesday 31 December 1806
from Christmas: Its Origin and Associations, by William Francis Dawson
There were sad occurrences as well, in the Christmas season. It never seems quite right to me that sadness or evil should occur at that joyous time, but life of course goes on with its good and bad events.

Hereford Journal - Wednesday 31 December 1806
Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 27 December 1806
After Christmas, New Year's loomed large, and this advertisement below offered a lottery 'share' as gift and, as we are still lottery lovers, the emotions it engenders are ones we understand very well.
Morning Advertiser - Monday 29 December 1806
 But parties, then as now, were the main focus of New Year celebrations, and 1806 was no different:

Evening Mail - Friday 03 January 1806
Finally I leave you with a delightful contemporary imagining of a Regency Christmas.
Mrs. Hurst's Christmas by Pauline Baynes  1996
If you repost this picture, please keep the credits with it--the artist deserves the recognition.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all!

'Til next time,



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Who Doesn't Love a Library?

During the Regency era, circulating libraries in England were popular, both for the lending of books, and the safe sociability of their venues.
Lackington's Circulating Library, London
 Construction of a new library was noteworthy as these clips from the book "Local Records; or Historical register of remarkable events....Northumberland and Durham" indicate:

For a subscription fee, the client could borrow books for a designated period. They could also browse the additional items which the shop offered, everything from stationery to perfumes and patent medicines.
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Thursday 09 February 1815

Gloucester Journal - Monday 21 July 1800
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette - Saturday 10 January 1807
Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties - Friday 17 April 1818
In this last item, it can be seen that return of library books was a concern two hundred years ago, as it is today.

La Belle Assemblee, the popular ladies' journal, carried advertisements for circulating libraries:
The Gentleman's Magazine of 1808 carried criticism of such libraries:
Specialty circulating libraries were likewise popular. This one in Bath must have been of great service to many people:
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 11 April 1816
Scotland was not behind in its establishment of lending libraries, in fact that library established by Allan Ramsey in 1725 was one of the earliest of all libraries:
The Scotsman - Saturday 11 November 1820
Circulating libraries have appeared in many Regency novels, including my own. They were an important adjunct to the social life of the Beau Monde and a delightful place for an assignation or a chance meeting.

Having to pay a fee for library services seems odd to many of us, though we do pay for our lending privileges with our taxes. It is interesting to reflect that we share the tradition of borrowing books with our Regency ancestors.

'Til next time,