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1 July, 2007

In the news

It's interesting to note that a certain S.Gregson¹ wrote to the Lancaster Guardian in order to introduce himself to the electorate of Kendal as their prospective MP with policies including reallocation of church funding into education, 'abstainance from interference in the internal affairs of other nations' and clearer separation of church and state by removing Bishops from the House of Lords.  It's even more interesting that he said all this in 1837.

The Lancaster Guardian is 170 years old, and my local fish & chip shop celebrated by wrapping orders in a reprint of that first front page. It's a fascinating document, both in terms of content and in phrasing: extremely mannered, but often with an edge, as if containing subtle digs at past critics. Much of the material would only be meaningful to locals (for example, the River Lune seemed to be interchangeably called the 'Loyne' in 1837), but a few points stand out as of more widespread interest.

  • Thomas Bond and Son Beg leave to inform their Friends and the Public, that they have succeeded to the business of Captain Hawthornthwaite; and have constantly on hand choice Stocks of Main, Arley, King, and Habergham coal; Cannel Slack, &c, to which their attention is respectfully invited.
    Coal? All that mannered circumlocution for coal?
  • Thomas Alderson, Hosier, thanks the public for their support. Oh, very funny.
  • George Jackson, wine and spirit merchant, and also agent for (big breath...) Royal Exchange Assurance Of Houses And Goods From Fire, London (Established by Royal Charter In the Reign of King George the First) offers fire insurance for livestock. Imagine visiting a modern off-licence to insure your sheep against fire.
  • Apart from that purveyor of flammable intoxicants and fire insurance, there are a couple of other odd combined professions. James Milner² was a plumber and glazier. Are they naturally related trades?
    Robert Speight was a whitesmith and bell-hanger (who begged to inform his friends and the public that he had also secured the services of a blacksmith).
  • There's only one actual news story on the entire page, occupying the final third of the final column (of six). It reports a severe 'flu epidemic in London, with totally full hospitals and queues of coffins outside cemeteries.
  • Apart from the crest of the Royal Exchange Assurance, etc., the only illustration on the page is a printing press, advertised by Messrs. Clymer & Dixon – printers of the Lancaster Guardian. Coincidentally. They:
    have the pleasure to inform their Friends and the Profession that they continue to manufacture the PATENT COLUMBIAN PRINTING PRESSES in the same way as heretofore... notwithstanding the various attempts to supercede them.
    See what I mean about subtle digs? I'm sure there's a story behind that comment.
  • Another advertisement in the adjacent column is for Richard Batt's Academy, a school in Meeting-House Lane, providing a full list of fees and requirements of pupils (it would cost 15 shillings for a child between 7 and 9 years of age to attend for a term, for example, plus a further 2s. 6d. for the use of School Books and Stationery and as a contribution to heating costs, plus a Reading Book, a Grammar Book, an Arithmetic Book and a bible, all to be provided by the pupil's 'friends').
    However, the longest item on the entire page, accounting for ¾ of a column, is a collection of reviews of Richard Batt's book 'Gleanings In Poetry' (7s. 6d., 670 pages, with notes & illustrations). The Christian Advocate feels that "the notes are large, yet full of instruction, and interesting without any mixture of fiction... the work is well printed, on good paper, and in an excellent type" (Messrs. Clymer & Dixon again, perhaps?). The Kendal Mercury "can confidently bear our testimony to its cheapness." I think that's supposed to be complimentary.
  • Mr. Decimus Woodhouse republishes a note from St. James's Palace in which Major-General Sir Henry Wheatley, keeper of the Privy Purse is "honoured with the King's commands to express his Majesty's sense of your polite attention in sending the two bottles of Essence of Ginger". That's Woodhouse's Æthereal Essence of Ginger, 'certain in affording instant relief in Cholera and oppression after Meals'.
    Don't ask about Woodhouse's Balsam of Spermaceti. Just don't ask.

    [Update 26/01/08: one of Woodhouse's descendents tells me his potions didn't help him, as he died in 1841, aged 31.]

¹ : I think this was Samuel Gregson (Senior), father of Samuel Gregson (Junior), himself Mayor of Lancaster, MP, co-founder of the Natural History Museum and partially responsible for the word 'dinosaur', and of Henry Gregson, also Mayor and in whose memory the Gregson Arts & Community Centre was built.

² : who:

in returning his sincere thanks to his numerous friends for the very liberal encouragement he has received for upwards of thirty years, begs to inform them and the public, that he has taken his Son into partnership, and they hope, by strict attention, excellence of workmanship, and reasonable charges, still to merit a share of public patronage.
Could you imagine such an advert from a plumber in 2007?

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