10 to 16 August – Saints, Mines,Charlotte Bronre, Glorious 12th, Rugby, Beauty Contests and a ‘Massacre

10 August is the Feast day of St Lawrence – the patron saint of cooks. This link comes about because Lawrence’s martyrdom involved him being grilled over a slow fire. His emblem is a Gridiron. Burghley House has, in the Ante-Chapel, a painting by Filippo Laure (1623-94) of the Martyrdom of St Lawrence.

Wednesday 10 August 1842 saw the Mines Act come into force in the UK. In parallel with their aims to improve the working conditions in factories, mills and workshops, Victorian legislators also responded to concerns about working conditions in coal mines, especially the employment of women and children. A Royal Commission Report on ‘The Employment of Women and Children in Mines’ caused widespread public dismay at the depths of human degradation that were revealed. The report brought into focus how owners showed a critical lack of concern or responsibility for the welfare of their workers. It was common for children aged eight to be employed, but they were often younger. In mines in the east of Scotland girls as well as boys were put to work. In order to reinforce its message to MPs, the Commissioners’ Report was graphically illustrated with images of women and children at their work. As a result of this the 1842 Mines Act, driven in no small way by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Lord Ashley later 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, was enacted and came into force today. The Act stated that no female of any age, and no boy under 10 years was to be employed underground. However, Parish apprentices between the ages of 10 and 18 could continue to work in the mines. Also there were no clauses relating to hours of work, and inspection could only take place on the basis of checking the ‘condition of the workers’ but not the actual working environment. Ironically, many women were annoyed that they could no longer earn the much needed money. Further legislation in 1850 addressed the frequency of accidents in mines. The Coal Mines Inspection Act introduced the appointment of inspectors of coal mines, setting out their powers and duties, and placed them under the supervision of the Home Office. The Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1860 improved safety rules and raised the age limit for boys from 10 to 12. However, by 1870 over 1,000 lives were still being lost in mining accidents each year.

 11 August 1836 – Charlotte Bronte’s entry in her journal today provides us with a very descriptive view from her window – and her reaction to an unwanted interruption: ‘ The dew was not yet dried off the field, the early shadows were stretching cool and dim from the haystack and the roots of the grand old oaks and thorns scattered along the sunk fence. I flung up the sash, an uncertain sound of inexpressible sweetness came as a drying gale from the south. I looked in that direction – Huddesfield and the hills beyond it were all veiled in blue mist; the woods of Hopton and Heaton lodge were clouding the water-edge and the Calder, silent but bright, was shooting among them like a silver arrow … I shut the window and went back to my seat. Then came on me, rushing impetuously, all the mighty phantasm that we had conjured from nothing, to a system as strong as a religious creed. I longed to write. If I had had time to indulge it I felt that these vague sensations would have settled down into a narrative better than anything I had produced before. But just then a Dolt came up with a lesson. I thought I should have vomited.’ I don’t think Charlotte ended this in a good mood!

12 August is the Glorious Twelfth – a term used to refer to the start of the shooting season for Red Grouse and Ptarmigan across Britain. It can be one of the busiest days in the shooting season, with large amounts of game being shot. The date itself is traditional, with the Game Act of 1831 enshrining it into a tradition. British law says that the start of the season cannot fall on a Sunday so the start has to be delayed – and the Glorious Twelfth becomes the ‘not so glorious’ 13th! The grouse are not, and never have been, reared to any extent for the shooting. In some seasons where certain moors are hit by low numbers of grouse, shooting may not occur at all or be over by September. Not all game, as defined by that Game Act, has the same start to their open seasons – most begin on 1 September, with 1 October being the start of the Woodcock and Pheasant season.  P.S. The term ‘The Twelfth’ also applies to ‘Orangemen’s Day’ celebrations in Ulster on 12 July each year.

 12 August 1944:- In researching these snapshots of the past it has become glaringly obvious that what you read is not necessarily the real truth. It’s pretty much like that old ‘joke’ from the past of ‘Send re-enforcements we are going to advance’ becoming ‘Send three and four pence we are going to a dance.’ The story I am telling here started with a reference in the Independent newspaper of 12 August 1991 which said:- ‘This was the day PLUTO – the ‘Pipe Line Under The Ocean’ – started supplying petrol across the English Channel from Shanklin Chine on the Isle of Wight to the allied forces in France. It was a combined operation by British engineers, oil companies and armed forces using a scheme developed by Arthur Hartley, a chief engineer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. At this time the Allied forces in Europe needed a tremendous amount of fuel and were dependent on oil tankers, which could be slowed by bad weather and were susceptible to submarine attack.

Then I found a different information source – pipelinesinternational.com which reports that construction of Operation PLUTO began on 12 August 1944. Two Hais pipes and two Hamel pipes (subtly different pipes each named after their developer) were laid during the following weeks. Petrol was initially pumped across from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, but the Allied Armies’ rapid advance along the French Coast made it necessary to concentrate all efforts on the Dungeness crossing, and the Cherbourg lines were shut down. The Dungeness lines were run to a beach inside the outer harbour of Boulogne, in order to save the time required to clear the heavily mined beach at Ambleteuse, which had previously been chosen. This involved a longer run and a more difficult approach, but the first was laid in October 1944 and after the technique had been perfected for laying the main lengths of Hais pipe, further lines were laid and commissioned with certainty and without incident.

Whatever are the true facts, I am confident that something significant happened on this day that took skill and dedication and saved many lives. Any views / comments / information / stories on the PLUTO project would be gratefully received.

13 August 1904 saw the British Isles rugby union team play their first Test Match in New Zealand, the only one on this part of their tour down-under. Played in Wellington in front of a crowd of some 25,000 they lost 9-3. After their successful tour of Australia, where they had won all three tests, it was a major let-down. To make matters worse they also lost to Auckland and – in an unofficial match – to a Maori 15. It was a warning for things to come because in the 1904/05 home international championships they lost all three matches to Wales, Scotland & Ireland by a total of 50 points to 3!

Friday 14 August 1908 was one of those dates that I have fun with. One of my Chambers’ information sources tells me that this day saw ‘The first International Beauty Contest in Britain – it was held at the Pier Hippodrome at Folkestone in Kent.’ I could find nothing about it apart from the fact that this source said it happened! But – I dug deeper to another potential source and this told me that ‘Felixstowe held the first international beauty contest on 14 August 1908. Entries were said to include six English girls, three French, one Irish, one Austrian and ‘a number of fishergirls from Boulogne’ – and nothing more. I will not name this source for the reasons that follow because I looked deeper and found that the Sheffield Evening Telegraph of Monday 17 August 1908 had reported that ‘Miss Nellie Jarman had been acclaimed the winner of a successful beauty show held at Folkstone. The decision was by the vote of the audience’. It included a picture of the lady but no further details. I needed more so the search continued and found ‘The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser’ on this same Monday telling me more. This is what it said: ‘Folkestone Beauty Show: A crowded audience assembled at the Pier Pavilion on Friday evening in connection with the final of the International Ladies’ Beauty Show. Three visitors and three residents had been selected by the votes of the audience to compete against a selection of foreign beauties – representatives from Paris, Boulogne, Vienna and America. The English visitors all came from London. They were Miss Nellie Jarman from East Molesey; Miss Lever from Maida-vale and Miss Winnie Pickworth of Chelsea – who were adjudged first, second and third respectively at the preliminary adjudication. The former lady is an accomplished long-distance swimmer. The prizes were a grand cottage piano, a lady’s cycle and a gold watch. The Mayors of Folkstone, Hythe and Maidstone superintended the voting on Friday in which the audience took part. Whilst the counting process went on the ladies sat in full view of the audience. Amidst a scene of great enthusiasm the Mayor announced the winners as follows: 1 – Miss Nellie Jarman, East Molesey 470 votes; 2 – Miss Asta Fleming, Vienna 346 votes; 3 Miss Winnie Osborn, Folkestone 209 votes. Each of the losers was presented with a souvenir medal’.

15 August 1837 – On this day – less than two months after Victoria had become Queen – John Croker, an MP from 1808 to 1832 – wrote to Robert Peel: “Those who are personally interested in the young Queen complain that she is overworked, and teased with needless details. They (thoughtless people) send her all manner of things in the various official boxes for signature, and she, not yet knowing what is substance, and what form, reads all. It is suspected that this is done to give her a deep disgust for business. I don’t suspect any such deep design; but certainly the proper way would be that once or twice a week one of the Secretaries of State should attend her with papers that require her signature, and explain what is important. Lord Melbourne sees her every day, and his situation is certainly the most dictatorial, the most despotic, that the world has ever seen. Wolsey and Walpole were straight waistcoats compared to him …”

16 August 1819 saw an event in St Peter’s Fields Manchester that was later described as the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ – the large meeting held there was petitioning for Parliamentary reform and was violently dispersed by the Army. But what was the reality of the event?

The modern day – Wikipedia – version tells us that: The Peterloo Massacre (or Battle of Peterloo) occurred at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 had resulted in periods of famine and chronic unemployment, exacerbated by the introduction of the first of the Corn Laws. (See more on this on my William Harrison blog of 11 June.) By the beginning of 1819, the pressure generated by poor economic conditions, coupled with the relative lack of suffrage in Northern England, had enhanced the appeal of political radicalism. In response, the Manchester Patriotic Union, a group agitating for parliamentary reform, organised a demonstration to be addressed by the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt. Shortly after the meeting began local magistrates called on the military authorities to arrest Hunt and several others on the hustings with him, and to disperse the crowd. Cavalry charged into the crowd with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in an ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier. Historian Robert Poole has called the Peterloo Massacre one of the defining moments of its age. In its own time, the London and national papers shared the horror felt in the Manchester region, but Peterloo’s immediate effect was to cause the government to crack down on reform, with the passing of what became known as the Six Acts. It also led directly to the foundation of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian), but had little other effect on the pace of reform. In a survey conducted by The Guardian in 2006, Peterloo came second to the Putney Debates as the event from British history that most deserved a proper monument or a memorial. Peterloo is commemorated by a plaque close to the site, a replacement for an earlier one that was criticised as being inadequate as it did not reflect the scale of the massacre

We can now turn to the report from the Cheltenham Chronicle of Thursday 19 August 1819 which tells us of a:- DREADFUL RIOT AT MANCHESTER

We hasten to lay before our readers an extract from a letter this day received from Manchester – it is written by a gentleman attached to the Manchester Yeomanry, and who was on the scene of action during the whole affair: “Manchester Monday August 16th 1819 – The meeting consisted of NINETY THOUSAND people, and the flag displayed bore not the motto of Reform, but of REVOLUTION!!  The Magistrates declared their opinion that the peace of the town was endangered, and the Military was in consequence called out. The Manchester Yeomanry was the first corps in attendance, and made a charge in the centre of the Hustings. The 15th Hussars next came up and made a most spirited charge to the left, bringing in prisoners, HUNT, Johnston, Saxton, Mrs Johnston, and a woman who carried the Female Union Flag. The Prince Regent’s Cheshire Yeomany made a charge to the right, clearing the whole ground. I lament to say, there were six killed, (amongst them some respectable young men of the Yeomanry) and thirty wounded on the field. The Military are at this instant clearing the streets. Hunt, Johnson, Johnson’s wife, Saxton and the other woman are confined in the New Bailey, where there is a proper guard attending them.”** see below At last the Champions of Reform have thrown aside the mask, and their diabolical purpose is no longer concealed. Revolution!! Gracious God! from what a state of dreadful anarchy and destruction, may we not probably be preserved by this timely discovery. Now then the Mob-Orator stands displayed in his true colours – and we trust to the insulted laws of our country, to requite his labours seven-fold. The bitter execrations of a betrayed and deluded people, cannot fail to perpetuate the infamy of his memory.

** Extract from another Letter just received, dated Monday Night – “Several of the constables are dead, by wounds inflicted with stones and pikes; and numbers of the mob have been carried to the Infirmary, and are not expected to survive. The mob came with sticks in their hands, and pikes in their pockets, ready to fasten together, which shows their intentions to have been desperate. The Black Flag was displayed with “Liberty or Death”.

BUT – The Caledonian Mercury of Saturday 21 August 1819 has the following view: ‘Our last issue contained some account of the proceedings which took place in Manchester, and of the deplorable consequences which attended the meeting of the 16th. These consequences cannot be contemplated without a feeling of great regret. In our subsequent columns we have collected all the particulars regarding this scene of riot and confusion. The different accounts are somewhat confused, and clash with each other in some points. But they seem generally to agree in this, that there was no actual disturbance – no riot or outrage previous to the attack of the multitude by the military force assembled, and it is on this part of the transaction that we have heard doubts generally expressed as to the conduct of the magistrates. They were amply provided with troops to check the least appearance of riot and the question is, whether they would not have displayed equal prudence in waiting the result of the meeting. It is possible that the multitude might have dispersed quietly, as they did in the metropolis, in which case there would have been no loss of lives, nor any disturbance of the public tranquillity, farther than the alarm created by such a turbulent assemblage. Of the pernicious tendency of these riotous meetings of discontented workmen there can be but one opinion. They are sure to lead to evil, and they cannot possible be productive of good; and if by apprehension and punishment of the leaders, such as Hunt &c. who are far more criminal than the general mass, they could be prevented, it would certainly be doing the country an essential service. It is a strong measure, however, to attack an unarmed multitude with cavalry; and certainly the mode of conduct followed by the Magistrates in the metropolis on a similar emergency, if it could have been safely adopted, would have been preferable. According to the latest accounts from Manchester all was quiet, the multitude being completely overawed by the great military force concentrated in the town.

I leave these words with you: any comments/thoughts you may have are welcome on talkinghistory@msn.com

In compiling these Blogs I use a wide range of sources. For many, as I have done this week, I can realistically record the source used. However, for others I often use multiple sources to create a composite piece. In these cases it is not practical to include sources. If you do have any queries please do feel free to e-mail me as above.

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