Chloroform; Lady Chatterley; Gas Works and Victoria + Albert; Bull Running and Hemp followed by 19th century Assurance

Tuesday 9th November 1847 saw the birth of baby Wilhelmina Carstairs in Edinburgh. Nothing unusual about that you might think but – young Wilhelmina was the first child born to a mother who was being treated by Dr James Young Simpson’s new anaesthetic – chloroform.
Doctor – later Sir – James Young Simpson was a baker’s son born in Bathgate near Edinburgh in 1811, educated locally and then at Edinburgh University. At age 28 he became Professor of Midwifery, a post he held for over 30 years. In 1847 he challenged the firmly held convictions of the medical profession of the time that a woman could be safely relieved of the pains of difficult and traumatic labour by the administration of ether as a general anaesthetic. Dr Simpson introduced chloroform on November 8th 1847, describing its use in a pamphlet entitled ‘Account of a new anaesthetic agent.’ Within weeks of its publication the use of ether had been almost completely replaced by chloroform. None the less he was ‘attacked’ for using chloroform to relieve pain in childbirth and it was not until Dr John Snow administered chloroform to Queen Victoria that the use of anaesthetic drugs in this way became respectable.
Dr Simpson was also a pioneering figure in the battle against hospital acquired infections and his contribution to medicine made him one of the most famous men of his time. He was a President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and in 1866 Queen Victoria made him a Baronet “for his professional merits particularly the introduction of Chloroform”. The day of his funeral was declared a day of public mourning in Edinburgh and two thousand people followed his hearse through streets lined by over 30,000 mourners.

Thursday 10th November 1960 was the day that ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was first legally published in its entirety in the UK. The first edition had been printed privately in Florence in 1928 but, because of its descriptive sexual content, it was banned from publication in Britain. Times and attitudes changed; the war-time children were becoming young adults – the ‘swinging 60s’ was beginning to emerge, and, on 27th October 1960 a six-day trial began at the Old Bailey to establish the acceptability or not of the book in question. It gripped the nation and filled the newspapers. The defence produced 35 witnesses, including Bishops and leading literary figures, to support the case for publication. The prosecution was unable to make a substantial case against the novel. At one point prosecuting Counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones bemused the jury by asking them: “Is it a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?” A strong case can be made that this was the question that cleared the way for ‘Lady Chatterley’ to be approved.
It was on this day – Thursday 10th November 1960 – that it became legal to buy, and read all about, Lady Chatterley and her lover. The first print run was said to be 200,000 copies – in paperback and priced at 3/6 (3 shillings & 6 pence). All copies had been sold by the end of the day; in fact Foyle’s in London sold its’ 300 copies in 15 minutes and, by the end of the day, had orders for 3,000 more. Apparently when the shop opened that morning there were 400 people – mostly men – waiting to buy the book! Hatchards in Piccadilly sold out in 40 minutes with hundreds of orders pending while Selfridges sold 250 copies in minutes. A Selfridges’ spokesman told the Times newspaper, “Its bedlam here. We could have sold 10,000 copies if we had had them.” ‘Lady C’, as it soon became known, generated the same level of interest in the Midlands and the North where demand was being described as “terrific”.

It was on Monday 11th November 1867 that Peterborough solicitors Gates& Percival and Dyson & Co., Parliamentary Agents of 24 Parliament Street, Westminster present the following for discussion in the 1867/8 session of Parliament: ‘Notice is hereby given that application is intended to be made to Parliament in the ensuing Session for leave to bring in a bill for the following purposes, or some of them, that is to say: ‘To incorporate a company, and to enable them to purchase and hold the gasworks, lands, pipes and apparatus belonging to James Sawyer, of Peterborough, in the county of Northampton, gas proprietor, by which gasworks the city of Peterborough and the neighbourhood thereof are now supplied with gas, and also to carry into effect all or any of the powers and provisions of the said bill.’ It goes on to say ‘Printed copies of the intended bill will, on or before 23rd day of December next, be deposited in the Private Bill office of the House of Commons’.
Victorian Peterborough – as many other cities across the country – was responding to the impact of the railways, which were now significant employers in Peterborough, and its resultant increase in manufacturing and population growth in the City.

On Tuesday 12th November 1844 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set out from the Palace to visit the 2nd Marquess of Exeter at Burghley House near Stamford. They travelled in a carriage and four, escorted by a party of Lancers, to the Euston Square terminus of the London to Birmingham railway. They left the train at Weedon station and then went, in an open carriage, from Northampton through Kettering and Duddington to Stamford. As they arrived at Stamford they passed through an ‘evergreen arch’ topped by flags. Because of the crowds there had been delays all the way through the journey from Weedon, so when they reached their Stamford stop – a ‘pavilion’ with room for 1,000 people – only about 700 were still there waiting. It was late and dark when the Queen and Prince reached Burghley House – but, fortunately no entertainment had been arranged for their first night there! The next two days would be busy before the visitors departed from the house quite early on day four of the visitation.

Staying with Stamford – Monday 13th November 1837 was the last year in which a traditional Bull-Running through the town was successfully carried out. For centuries this day of the year had seen a bull turned loose in the streets to chase, and be chased by, the young men of Stamford.
Over the years the festival had become more and more controversial – there are disapproving descriptions of it dating from the late eighteenth century. By 1837 it had become political. The Tories (flourishing red ribbons) heartily supported the bull-running while the Whigs (in blue) were doing their best to oppose it. Richard Newcomb, the proprietor of the influential Stamford Mercury also campaigned against the tradition.
As the day approached, the magistrates swore-in a large number of special constables. A Collyweston farmer, Richard Stevens, supplird a young bull which was brought to the town in a cart, released and, “followed by an immense concourse of yelling persons”, set off into the town. The crowds were driven back over the river and, in St. Martin’s near the nunnery, there was “a very sharp collision in the lane behind the George Inn” between Captain Harvey, his Dragoons and the police and the mob. The bull was recaptured, and the police and soldiers were “violently pelted with stones”!
In 1838, the Home Secretary was determined to put down the custom and, several days before the 13th, a troop of the 14th Dragoons and a strong force of metropolitan police, were sent to Stamford. A considerable body of special constables were also sworn in. The 13th arrived and, though the streets were crowded with ‘bullards’, the authorities were perfectly at their ease. They had everything under control! However, when the bell of St. Mary’s tolled the last stroke of its time-honoured bull-warning their fancied security was rudely dissipated by the well-known shouts of ‘Hoy! Bull! Hoy’ from a thousand voices and a bull appeared, as if by magic. A contemporary report says that: ‘The wild excitement of the scene was enhanced by the bewildered dragoons galloping thither and hither, in vain attempts to secure the animal’. The metropolitan police, with greater valour than discretion, then formed a compact phalanx on the bridge; but the bull, followed by the ‘bullards’, dashed through them ‘as an eagle might through a cobweb’. After a run of some hours, the bull came to bay in the river, and was then captured by the authorities.
In 1839, a stronger force of military and police was sent to Stamford; every precaution was taken, yet someone smuggled a ‘young and docile bull’ into the town, and the ‘bullards’ had their last, but not very exciting, run.
In 1840, as bull-running day drew near, the people of Stamford began to count the cost of their amusement. The military, the metropolitan police and special constables of the two previous years had cost them more than £600. The townsmen forwarded a memorial to the mayor, to be laid before the Home Secretary, pledging themselves that, if no extraneous force of military or police were brought into the town, nor expense incurred by appointing special constables, they, the subscribers, would prevent bull-running from taking place in Stamford during that year. The townsmen were wisely taken at their word, and there never has been a bull-run in Stamford since that time.

Monday 14th November 1768 saw an advertisement in the Northampton Mercury that provides us with a very different view of the Peterborough ‘pictured’ in the 11th November entry above. This is 100 years earlier when Peterborough was still quite small – less than 3,000 population – but with a significant rural hinterland. The adverisement reads:
‘To all Dealers in HEMP and FLAX; ROBERT MUGLISTON & Co. beg leave to acquaint them, that they have lay’d in a large Assortment of HEMP and FLAX, both of Foreign and Home Growths, and the Produce of Lincolnshire and the Isle of Ely, at their Warehouse in Bridge Street, Peterborough; where all Dealers therein may be served wholesale, upon the lowest Terms, by Their humble Servants, ROBERRT MUGLISTON and Co.
N.B. Will also undertake to procure Heckles (combs used for dressing hemp and flax) of any Size to any Degree of Fineness, and such as are allowed by experienced Judges to be complete-made Tools as any in England, and at moderate Prices.’
Bailey’s British Directory of 1784 has listed the Peterborough firm of Muggleston (sic) & Baldwin as ‘Hemp and Flax Merchants, and Drapers’. The Bridge Street mentioned is what is now called ‘Lower Bridge Street’ and is/was close to the River Nene. In the 18th century this area had wharfs and was a local centre of agricultural and similar trading.

15th November, it would appear, became an important date in the business of the Standard Life Assurance Company in the 19th century. On Saturday 7th March 1840 the Carlisle Journal carried this ‘Special Notice’. ‘An Investigation of the affairs of this Company is about to be instituted, with reference to the Second Periodical Division of Profits to be made.’
It then provided the following list of planned actions – all to happen on the appropriate 15th November:
‘At 15th November 1840, in that Division, all existing Policies to which Additions were declared at 15th November 1835 will receive a further Bonus. All Policies opened since that date in the Participation Class will have additions according to the date and amount. And all Policies opened before the closing of the Books at that date of Balance, will in like manner receive a share of the Division.
At 15th November 1845 a Third Investigation will be made; and as every Participating Policy is ranked at each Division according to its amount and the number of years it has existed. Assurances opened before 15th November, 1840, besides securing a share of profits at that date, also secure one year’s additional claim for Profits at this Investigation.
At 15th November 1850 a Fourth Investigation will be made, and so on, quinquennially; the advance of one year’s additional claim being in like manner secured to all Assurances in force at these periods, which may be opened before 15th November in the present year.
The Mode of Division is similar to that originally pursued by the Equitable Society of London, and the Standard Life Assurance Company is the only Scottish Office which has divided Profits among its policy holders upon this system.
                                                WILL. THOS. THOMPSON, Manager
The following additional information is provided:-
Tables of Rates, Forms of Proposal, and every other information can be obtained (gratis) by application at the Head Office, 3, George Street, Edinburgh, and can be forwarded by Post to any part of the Kingdom. The same information can be obtained by application at any of the Company’s Agencies, which have been established in all the principal Towns of Scotland, England, and Ireland.
AGENTS IN CARLISLE. Messrs. S. and J. DAUL (it’s the Carlisle Journal that’s carrying this update)!

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