Abduction or elopement? The disappearance of Maria Glenn

Posted on May 3rd, 2016 by BNA

Naomi Clifford chanced on the subject of her book The Disappearance of Maria Glenn (published by Pen & Sword in April) while browsing the British Newspaper Archive. She blogs about aspects of Georgian life at www.naomiclifford.com and is currently researching the women executed in England and Wales between 1797 and 1837.

maria glenn x 1000 (556x800)

In 1829 a young man received an anonymous letter telling him that an heiress was willing to marry him if only he would only rescue her from a large house on the Clapham Road in south London, where she was being treated cruelly by her uncle. All he needed was a friend, a ladder and a gun.

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 It was a set-up. There was no heiress and the would-be bridegroom and his helper were promptly arrested. The target of the mischief-making was probably Mr Hedger, an unpopular and harsh magistrate who lived at the address. He also had received an anonymous letter.

London Standard 31 December 1829 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

London Standard 31 December 1829 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I found this strange interlude when researching historical events near my home, but it set me thinking about the neglected subject of elopement. Soon I was avidly searching the Archive for stories of runaway marriages for a possible book. Of course, not all were straightforward tales of illicit love. Quite the opposite: many were alarming cases of coercion.

Hereford Journal 23 April 1794 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Hereford Journal 23 April 1794 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I settled on one major scandalous elopement, which had caused an almighty row, much of it played out in the press. One night in September 1817, 16-year-old Maria Glenn, said to be an heiress, left her home in Taunton in the company of the Bowditches, a local farming family. She later said she had been threatened with death and went with them only because she was terrified. On the contrary, said the young man who had bought a marriage licence in preparation for their wedding, it was all her idea.

The Taunton Courier was the first to print the story.

Taunton Courier 25 September 1817 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Taunton Courier 25 September 1817 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The words were probably written by James Scarlett, who was employed as a printer at the paper and just happened to be married to a member of the Bowditch family. The story was shot through with inaccuracies.

George Lowman Tuckett, a barrister, who was Maria’s uncle (and guardian) wrote a heart-felt objection.

Taunton Courier 2 October 1817 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Taunton Courier 2 October 1817 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The editor of the paper, John William Marriott, then decided to support Maria but later shifted his weight to the growing campaign against her. Like many others, he was having doubts about her version of events. Marriott was an old friend of (and related by marriage to) the Hunt brothers, Leigh and John, publishers of the radical weekly The Examiner, which also took the Bowditches’ side against Maria and her uncle.

Examiner 22 February 1819 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Examiner 22 February 1819 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

After numerous court cases and a dramatic twist, Tuckett responded with two extraordinary pamphlets in his niece’s defence, each containing shocking allegations of conspiracy.

Bristol Mirror 13 October 1821 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Bristol Mirror 13 October 1821 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Was Maria telling the truth? For that, I turned to sources beyond the press, but it was the Archive that opened a window into a forgotten corner of history and guided me through the ups and downs of her amazing story.

 

The ultimate wedding planner, thanks to the historic newspapers

Posted on April 27th, 2016 by BNA

There are many good reasons to search the newspaper archives, such as when you’re looking for your ancestors or researching a local area or historical event.

But sometimes it’s nice to just have a browse through the articles. More often than not, you’ll turn up some articles you would never have thought to search for…

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…like these articles which provide some sound advice for anyone planning their big day.

Don’t forget the banns

Don’t drop the ring

Keep the registers safe. But not THAT safe

Do a background check

Prepare for all weather

It’s an oldie: Never give up

The show must go on

Tie up any loose ends…

 

“Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” Shakespeare’s missing men of 1916

Posted on April 22nd, 2016 by BNA

Countless celebrations are taking place across the country to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Wherever you live, you’ll find parades, talks and performances of all kinds paying homage to the Bard’s work, but it was a very different story 100 years ago.

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On the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 1916, Britain had found itself in the middle of one of the most horrific battles in history. While the odd commemorative event took place in larger cities, one reader of the Sheffield Evening Telegraph sent a heart-breaking letter explaining one very practical reason why celebrations could not be as vibrant as previously hoped.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Monday 21 February 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph – Monday 21 February 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“Sir,- I was glad to see the letter signed “A Lover’s Complaint” in your issue of Friday, together with the one in the “Sheffield Daily Telegraph” of Thursday morning, referring to the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death.

It was hoped that great things would be done throughout the British Empire, to celebrate this rare occasion, but the terrible war has called for sacrifices in a way that will make it impossible to do anything worthy of so great an event.

In Sheffield, no less than other places, we had expected doing something worthy, and, had hoped that Shakespeare was now sufficiently appreciated here, that it would be worth while giving a week’s plays by the amalgamation of the different amateurs who had played in Shakespeare’s plays.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Monday 21 February 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph – Monday 21 February 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

We found, however that we had, very reluctantly, to abandon our usual annual performance, because so many of our young men have valiantly answered the call of their country, as to make it impossible to get together a cast. I am writing now without the list of our members who have joined the forces, but, I believe I am right in stating, that at least 17 of the young men who have taken part in our productions, one way or another, are now serving.

Whilst we regret very much our not being able to do our duty to the memory of the great bard this year, we are proud that so many of his students have answered their country’s call, as indeed, no real lover of his, who was able, could have failed to do.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Monday 21 February 1916

Sheffield Evening Telegraph – Monday 21 February 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

We all anxiously hope that all our young friends may have the good fortune to return safely, and, when this bitter and terrible war is over we may do something worthy of a great memory, and at the same time celebrate a great and lasting peace. – Yours, etc.

February 19, 1916. W.S. Jackson”

– Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Monday 21 February 1916

The Illustrated Police News: “The worst newspaper in England”

Posted on April 19th, 2016 by BNA

The British Newspaper Archive is packed with weird and wonderful stories of every description.

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However, of all the historic titles in this collection, no publication reported the bizarre and the shocking in quite the same way as The Illustrated Police News.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Illustrated Police News was one of Britain’s very first tabloids and one of the first periodicals to tap into the British public’s morbid appetite for crime and sensation. The paper was founded in 1843 and was partly inspired by the success of The Illustrated London News. The ILN had been launched in 1842 and its success had revealed the public’s appetite for illustrated news reports.

Early editions of The Illustrated Police News consisted of one pictorial page and three text pages in folio. It was originally priced at one penny and did remarkably well with a weekly circulation of around 175,000 copies, most sold in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Gruesome and grisly news stories from around the UK

The Illustrated Police News reporters would scour through vast quantities of newsprint from across the Empire, Europe and the United States in order to bring their readers news of the latest assaults, outrages, tragedies and murders. All of which were delightfully described in lurid detail with vivid illustrations to match.

It was considered a workingman’s newspaper and was frequently condemned for appealing to lowbrow tastes yet it was not the stories printed that attracted the most criticism, it was the lewd and graphic illustrations of blood spurting from wounds, women’s faces twisted in terror as they were attacked by cruel husbands and hosts of scantily clad sleepwalkers who always happened to be attractive young ladies.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

In fact, an 1886 article found in our collection of historic newspapers reveals that The Illustrated Police News was once voted the ‘worst newspaper in England’ by readers of the Pall Mall Gazette. In this article, a gazette reporter describes visiting the IPN’s proprietor, a Mr George Purkiss, at his office in the ‘neck’ of the Strand in London. Purkiss was described as a “stout, comfortable- looking man of middle age, medium height, and dark complexion.”

Mr Purkis claimed to have half a dozen accomplished artists on his permanent staff in London and somewhere between 70 and 100 free-lance artists spread out across the country who provided “the best portraits published by any journal, not excluding The Illustrated London News and The Graphic“. Accuracy was of high importance and Purkiss described how artists would be deployed to the scene of “terrible murder or extraordinary incident” the second news reached the London Office.

Purkiss appeared unfazed at being voted the worst newspaper in England and “received the verdict of the jury with great good temper, not to say complacency” and answered the complaints made against him. Chief amongst these was that The Illustrated Police News was “a bad paper, which encourages the commission of crime, and generally tends to the demoralization of the people into whose hands it falls.”

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“I acknowledge it to be a sensational newspaper,” said Mr. Purkess, but he insisted that “barring the sensational illustrations, there is nothing in the paper to which objection can reasonably be taken.” He argued that rather than glorifying crime, his paper prevented it by warning of its horrors and terrible consequences. He even argued his paper may act “as an encouragement to a good life” and explained how criminals would go to great lengths to prevent their likeness appearing in its pages.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“I know what people say,” concluded Mr. Purkess, ‘but as I replied to a friend who asked me why I did not produce some other paper than the Police News, ‘We can’t all have Timeses and Telegraphs, and if we can’t have the Telegraph or the Times, we must put up with the Police News.'”

Purkiss died of Tuberculosis in 1892 but The IPN continued reporting on the strange and grotesque until 1938.

 

“Liner collides with iceberg. Passengers safe” : The Titanic, in our newspapers

Posted on April 14th, 2016 by BNA

At 11:40pm on the 14th of April 1912, the RMS Titanic, which had been transporting 2,208 people from Southampton to New York, hit an iceberg while crossing the North Atlantic ocean.

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Over the course of the next few days the British press was littered with conflicting news and information, with statements claiming that all passengers were safe and the “unsinkable” ship had started making its way to Halifax.

Western Times - Tuesday 16 April 1912 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Western Times – Tuesday 16 April 1912 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Western Times had quite a job keeping up with the latest reports. A lengthy article published on the 16th of April makes for fascinating reading, as the story changes in nearly every paragraph as new information is received.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

One report apparently stated that “the “Titanic” was still afloat at half-past eight, and her engines were working. She is crawling slowly in the direction of Halifax, and towards the “Virginian… the women and children aboard are in the lifeboats, which are ready to be lowered at a moment’s notice, but this will not be done until it is certain that the vessel is actually sinking.”

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Vice-President of the International Mercantile Marine issued a statement which read “We have nothing direct from the ‘Titanic’, but are perfectly satisfied that the vessel is unsinkable. The fact that the Marconi messages have ceased means nothing; it may be due to atmospherical conditions, the coming up of the ships, or something of that sort. We are not worried over the possible loss of the ship, as she will not go down, but we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to the travelling public.”

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

At one point “It is reported that all the passengers are saved”, though quite where this report came from is unclear.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The serious nature of the collision soon becomes all too clear though, and the headlines turn to the worst.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Officials from White Star Line, the British shipping company which owned the RMS Titanic, issued one last statement ensuring the safety of all on board, however this was soon superseded by a second statement admitting that “lives have been lost”.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

By 2.20am on the 15th of April, the ship had completely submerged, causing the death of over 1,500 people.

We found history’s most heroic hounds in celebration of National Pet Day

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by BNA

In celebration of National Pet Day, the world’s first holiday dedicated to man’s best friend, we have been searching through the archive for examples of incredible canines throughout history.

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From daring rescuers to lovable rogues, we have put together a selection of magnificent mutts whose remarkable stories are guaranteed to warm the hearts of even the most determined cat lovers.

Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack was a black retriever with a longish coat who lived with his owner, William Thomas, near the River Tawe in Swansea during the 1930s. One day, Jack saw a small boy drowning in the river and ran in, pulling the boy to shore by the scruff of his neck. This first rescue went unreported but, a few weeks later, Jack rescued a drowning swimmer from the docks in front of a large crowd. His photograph appeared in the local paper and the local council awarded him a silver collar. In 1936, he was awarded the prestigious ‘Bravest Dog of the Year’ award by the London Star newspaper in London and, over the course of the next decade, he went on to an incredible 27 people from one of the most dangerous rivers in Wales.

Barry the mountain dog

Barry the St Bernard was born in Switzerland in the year 1800. Barry and his ancestors had been specifically bred by the Monks of Saint Bernard Pass, a dangerous snowy divide between Switzerland and Italy, to rescue lost travelers buried in the snow. Barry worked as a search and rescue dog at The Great St Bernard Hospice in the Penine Alps and saved the lives of 40 desperate travelers during his 12 year career.

Just Nuisance

Able Seaman ‘Just Nuisance’ was the only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. Ship’s dogs had been used by the Navy for centuries but were never considered full members of the crew. Just Nuisance was a South African Great Dane who got his name as a pup by wagging his injured tail so enthusiastically that everyone was covered in blood spatters. Nuisance grew to be more than six and a half feet (two meters) standing up and spent his time in Cape Town’s many dockyards and naval bases. He made friends with many sailors and began following them around and even catching trains with them. Despite the seamen’s attempts to conceal him, conductors would throw him off as soon as he was discovered and officials of the State-owned railway company eventually warned that Nuisance would be put down unless he was prevented from boarding any more trains. This prompted concerned sailors and locals to write to the Navy, pleading for something to be done.

 

The Easter Rising: As documented in the British newspapers, 1916

Posted on March 22nd, 2016 by Abigail Rieley

Next month sees the marking of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Irish nationalists headed a campaign to end British rule in Ireland during a time when the outcome of World War 1 was uncertain. We take a look at how the events of 1916 were documented in the British press at the time.

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News of the Rising started to filter through to the British newspapers on Tuesday April 25th 1916. A smattering of local papers managed to squeeze in the late news that at least 12 lives had already been lost, and that Irish rebels were in control of parts of the city. By the weekend, eyewitnesses had been found and the papers were full of vivid accounts of the unfolding events which sound like something straight out of Rebellion. On the Saturday, the Aberdeen Evening Expressannounced “Women Assist Rebels – 19 persons killed”.

In a piece drawing largely on accounts in the Belfast Telegraph they described the attack on Dublin Castle that formed a pivotal and controversial moment in Rebellion, the shooting dead of an unarmed police officer.

What have you discovered in the newspaper archive? Let us know in the comments below…

No milk for the baby: Lent, from the historic Irish newspapers

Posted on March 16th, 2016 by BNA

The end of Lent is nearly in sight, so for those of you who’ve managed to abstain from a chocolate bar or cheeky tipple, here’s some inspiration to help you through the final days…

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As a predominantly Roman Catholic country, Lent has been of national significance in Ireland for hundreds of years. As the Waterford Chronicle reported on 25 February 1860, “The Chapels of our city were densely crowded with the Faithful, anxious to commence the Holy Season of Lent by participating in the religious ceremony of the distribution of the Blessed Ashes.”

So began almost six weeks of strict abstinence. This was no private nod to the calendar, newspapers even printed Lenten regulations. Everyone had to abide, and the call went far beyond declining a treat or two.

According to tradition, children older than seven were not allowed milk during Lent. Younger children had only a little, and babies were to cry “three times” before they received any milk on fast days. Even the babes were tougher than your average adult today.

Examples of these regulations can be gleaned from a number of late 19thcentury Irish publications, which published the dictates of Paul Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, &c., Primate of Ireland as a matter of course.

This has been abbreviated from lists printed with various adaptations in the Cork Examiner and Dublin Courier (in 1859 and 1870 respectively) – though it appeared in myriad publications over those decades:

  • Persons bound to fast are allowed to take only one full meal, of meagre fare.

(You were also allowed a small snack, but you had to remain hungry at all times).

  • We grant permission to use flesh meat in Lent at one principal meal only, on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays.
  • As secret societies are the cause of great evils, tend to promote impiety and infidelity, and are injurious to the public good, the Roman Pontiffs have excommunicated* all who engage in them
  • Drunkenness, a vice degrading in itself, and the occasion of innumerable evils, the reading of lascivious poetry and romances, immodest representation in degraded theatres, improper dances, so repugnant to the purity of the Christian morals, are to be avoided, not only during Lent, but at all times.
  • Eggs are prohibited on all Fridays and the first and last Wednesdays in Lent; on all other days they are allowed to those who are bound to fast, at the one principal meal.
  • Fish and flesh meat cannot be used in the same meal on any day during Lent.
  • Persons under their twenty-first year, or broken down by old age, or suffering from sickness, or engaged in hard labour &c. are exempted from fasting. Such as require a dispensation, can apply to any of the parish priests, provided there be just reasons for doing so.
  • Dispensations obtained without proper cause are to no avail.

(So unless you actively opted out, you were in for the ride)

  • The faithful are exhorted to sanctify this holy season by prayer… For forty hours.
  • The faithful are exhorted to pray for the welfare of the Pope, now a prisoner in Rome, and to beg of God to deliver him from the hands of his sacrilegious enemies.
  • (The faithful were also required to pray for France.)
  • The faithful are commanded, under the threat of excommunication, to receive, each in his own parish church, the Holy Eucharist.
  • During Lent works of piety and charity are to be performed… such as providing Catholic education for Catholic children, thus preserving them from the immeasurable evils of mixed schools.

Sounds doable, right?

Apprentice saves drowning man: A curious trend in the newspaper archive

Posted on February 26th, 2016 by BNA

Sometimes a search through the archive turns up some  baffling search results. In this case, it was the incredible regularity of instances where apprentices have been heralded for their bravery in rescuing drowning people.

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This frequency begs the question: what makes an apprentice such a good person to have around treacherous waters? Let us know your theory in the comments below…

Hull Daily Mail - Wednesday 27 October 1926

Hull Daily Mail – Wednesday 27 October 1926 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Monday 07 November 1910

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Monday 07 November 1910

Dundee Courier - Wednesday 13 June 1945

Dundee Courier – Wednesday 13 June 1945 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 05 June 1928

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Tuesday 05 June 1928 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 14 September 1894

Chelmsford Chronicle – Friday 14 September 1894 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Dundee Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 09 February 1916

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Wednesday 09 February 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 11 May 1927

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Wednesday 11 May 1927 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

How to be loved: Life lessons from The Athlone Sentinel

Posted on February 23rd, 2016 by BNA

There’s a lot to be learned from history. Thankfully, the newspapers are one way that those who came before us were able to record their advice to future generations.

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One title in particular caught our eye. The Athlone Sentinel offered a wealth of advice on everything from being a man to the importance of white hands.

The value of energy

“He who, by any intellectual and moral energy, awakens kindred energy in others touches springs of infinite power, gives impulse to faculties to which no bound can be described- begins an action which will never end.

“One great and kindling thought from a retired and obscure person, may live when thrones are fallen, and memory of those who filled them obliterated: and, like an undying fire may illuminate and quicken all future generations.”

12 June 1840

Advice to the ladies

“Let then the ladies in the morning use pure water as a preparatory ablution; after which they must abstain from all sudden gusts of passion, and particularly eschew envy, as that gives the skin a sallow paleness.”

How to be loved

“When this child, about six years old, was asked what made everybody love her? she replied “I don’t know, indeed, papa, unless it is because I love everybody.”

12 June 1840

Advice to men in debt

“Beware of feelings of despondency. Give not place for an hour to useless and enervating melancholy. Be a man.”

12 June 1840

Advice to unmarried ladies

“If you sing indifferently, hesitate not a moment when you are asked; for few persons are competent judges of singing, but everyone is sensible of a desire to please.”

Actually, they had quite a wealth of guidance for the spinsters among us…