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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Toll Gates and Toll Charges

The roads in Britain were so bad that the Government empowered the Turnpike Trusts to set up toll roads, the tolls collected to be used for the maintenance of the roads. This started in the 17th century but had no real impact until the 18th century when most of the trusts were set up. The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman, as recorded by hosier Richard Hall records how the travel by 1800 at the end of his long life had improved over earlier periods.
Journal of a Georgian Gentleman

The tolls were of course resented and there were always arguments over the tolls and attempts to avoid them, written of amusingly by Georgette Heyer in her Regency novel ‘The Toll Gate’.
The Toll-Gate

Certain people were exempt; churchgoers, and those not going beyond 100 yards of the gate.
The wages of a toll keeper could vary from the badly paid on infrequently used roads at 8/- a week up to 25/- on a heavily used road that might expect to take £14 to £19 every week in tolls.
Sometimes the toll fee would open one or more extra toll gates along the way; the ticket issued to prove payment of toll could be shown to do so. It was the traveller’s bad luck if he was not going so far!
Note that the narrower the wheels the more damage would be done to the road and the fee therefore concomitantly higher.

Person/carriage/livestock passing
For every horse, mule, ass or other beast except dogs drawing any coach, landau, barouche, chariot, chaise, chair, horse gig, curricle, whisky, cart, wagon, wain, timberframe, cart frame, drag or other vehicle when drawn by more than one horse or other beast, such a carriage having wheels less than 4½ inches
4½d per horse
As above when drawn by one horse or other beast only
As above when drawn by more than one horse or other beast with wheels 6 inches or upwards
3d per horse
As above when drawn by one horse or other beast
As above with wheels between 4 ½ inches and 6 inches with more than one beast
3¾d per horse
As above  but only one beast
For every horse, mule, ass or other beast drawing any cart with wheels of every breadth when drawn by any such animal
NB 2 oxen or neat cattle drawing count as one horse

For every dog drawing any truck, barrow or other carriage for the pace of 100 yards or upwards

For every horse, mule, ass or other beast laden or unladen and not drawing
For every carriage moved or propelled by steam or machinery or by any other power than animal power
1/- per wheel
For every score of oxen, cows or neat cattle and so in proportion for any greater or less number
10d [ie ½d per beast]
For every score of calves, sheep, lambs or swine and so in proportion
5d [ie ¼d per beast]
For every ridden horse

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Some more Renaissance Pastimes

Many pastimes were Medieval in origin or even older; various forms of games with skittles were played, including Claish, or Closh which involved hoops and skittles and some form of stick and ball action.  It may have been a forerunner of croquet.  Bowls is the oldest game in this group of throwing or knocking a ball towards a target.  Skittles were known as kyles [Scotland] or kayles [England] from the Frenche quilles.  Skyttel meaning shuttle is a Scandinavian name and was not recorded for the game before 1630 when the version of ninepins more familiar to us today was formalised.  Earlier versions often used a cylinder or ‘cheese’ to bowl rather than a ball for greater challenge. 
Another stick and ball game is Billiards which was played on the ground but had come indoors in the late 15th century.  It would not be generally played on a table until the last part of the 16th century though Louis XI of France [1461-83] had a billiards table.  A short mallet was used to strike the balls, but the tail of it was often used for more precision strokes, from whence the word cue from the French queue meaning ‘tail’. 

Shuffleboard was a version of shove ha’penny; for pure board games there was Fox and Geese, Chess, and Draughts all of which are pretty much identical to the games as we know them today.  Tables  is now known as Backgammon.

Gambling was common with dice and cards alike.
Dice players had to be careful because of the various tricks professional cheats might use, from the simple loaded die – called fulhams -  with a piece of lead or drop of mercury in one side, for the cruder and more obvious version, or in the corner for the more sophisticated cheat who wanted a small edge without it being as obvious; whiskers protruding from the sides of dice [remember these games probably took place in a badly lit tavern which would be dark and smoky even in daylight] to prevent it rolling on to one side.  A cheat well versed in legerdemain could change fair dice and cheating dice by sleight of hand at will to have ‘highs’ or ‘lows’ to roll as he desired.
This might have been particularly useful for Raffle which required for a win to roll three dice the same number; Hazard required more skill when cheating, being not unlike the modern game of craps.

Card Games like Cent were popular: Cent was a favourite of Henry VIII. The court cards of the time were King, Queen and Jester, the princely Jack of later packs retaining something of the roguish nature of the Jester.  Cent is similar to piquet and requires a lot of counting to play well.  It is played with a pack of 36 cards, all cards under 6 discarded, and ace counting high [counting like the other picture cards as 10].

Betting on horse racing was also very popular; many towns had horse races, effectively steeple chases, on Whitsun or at Easter.  Local horse owners would enter in hopes of the purse that was put up for winners; side bets were also rife.

The less pleasant pastimes from our point of view were things like cock fighting  and bear baiting.  Betting took place on cock fighting naturally, and too on how long a bear might last, whether it killed any of the dogs set to bait it and so on. I suspect it is and English characteristic to bet on anything. 

Children’s Games
 children playing from a book of heraldry, showing a ball and a hobby horse
and some mechanical toy

Children played at skittles too, and similar games, and with balls, often home made from scraps of fabric or leather.  The bladder of the slaughtered pig blown up was a great toy to play with, nowadays simulated in latex as a balloon. 

Marbles were originally made of marble, but poor children used nuts or clay balls to play, and would doubtless be familiar with many modern variants of shooting at a rival’s marble, or at some ‘goal’ or the miniature version of bowls where marbles are shot into a circle scored in the dust to knock another marble out of it. 

Hopscotch was another simple game that could have the playing ground scored in the dust; and running and chasing games have been played since there have been children.

Boys and girls alike might play at diabolo – a game revived in the Victorian era and briefly again in the 1980’s – where a dumbbell shaped wooden toy was tossed from a string between two sticks, run up and down the stick and made to perform tricks by the most skilled. 
Diabolo: image from 'Antique toys and games' by Constance King

We would also recognise whipping tops and cup-and-ball though the latter was initially an adult toy and fascinated Henry III of France so much  he carried it with him everywhere. 
Hobby horses too were ridden by boys and girls alike; often these were no more than sticks held between the legs and ‘ridden’ and the horse’s head pure imagination.
Peter Bruegel gives lively images of leapfrog and pick-a-back games in his painting ‘Children’s games’; though he was painting after the period I describe it seems likely that the games of peasant children had not changed significantly.

For boys alone there was the game of bandy as described in my previous post ‘Pastime with or without good company’; or bowling hoops which might be bowled along the ground or tossed in the air and kept there with the controlling stick; or jump-rope.  Skipping did not become the preserve of girls for many a century and was in the Renaissance an exclusively male preserve.  Boys would also wrestle and compete in throwing the bar in emulation of their elders. 
A German manuscript of 1405 tells a boy how he might construct a kite and suggesting flying it from horseback as the most effective way of playing with it.

Girls had their poppets, or dolls; early room boxes might make a home for the very early Grodenthal type jointed wooden dolls from Nurenburg made their appearance in the early 15th century.  I’ve seen a late 15th century woodcut of a chapman with such dolls in his tray. Toy utensils were made, often of tin or wood, for playing with dolls and would be considered good training in housewifery for a little girl too.  
Dollmakers in Germany, images from the 'Hortus Saniatus' 1491

 Stump doll, later than my period being 1600 but doubtless similar to earlier examples
Another slightly later doll alleged to belong to Alicia Boleyn, cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn
this and above from 'Dolls' by Antonia Fraser

Boys and girls alike might play with puppets – a word derived from poppets – but usually at the time called mammets or mawmets, often clever kinetic toys that might be knights who jousted or acrobats who tumbled as well as simplified versions of the sorts of puppets professional puppet players used to put on a variety of plays mimicking the tastes of the time with live actors.   
 the best image I could find is this late 12th century one from the 'Hortus deliciarum'

Clay, wood and metal figures of horses and other animals including mythical ones were made as toys.  Sometimes the horses had riders.
Little girls might also play at crèche cradle – nowadays cat’s cradle – with a length of twine or wool. Clapping games were also played.

Children also gamed; the idea that it was an adult pastime was still in the future.  Indeed the future Henry VIII won half a mark from his father when he was seven years old. 
This despite laws against gaming passed by Henry VII.  Hmmm.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The food of Nelson’s Navy

Celebrating Trafalgar day in my usual off the wall fashion, which is why I'm posting a day earlier than usual.
Thanks to Dudley Pope ‘Life in Nelson’s Navy’ and Brian Lavery ‘Nelson’s Navy, the ships, men and organisation 1793-1815’

Seaman’s mess, showing the men sitting on sea chests, with their bags behind them and a rack for the mess cutlery and crockery. From the ‘Log Book’ 1830 but no very great difference to messes of the earlier period.

When on a long voyage, the food provided was of necessity such as could keep; and that meant, on the whole, a rather tedious and not particularly pleasant diet. 
Salt pork and salt beef in barrels were the staple food, and the opportunities to make a profit on this unappetising fare was considerable for the chandlers and pursers who provided it.  For one thing, a purser’s pound had only 14 ounces in it, not the standard 16; for another, as the meat was sealed in barrels it was not uncommon to provide poor or even rotting meat.  When each barrel was opened, the number of pieces of was recorded, ‘of which [so many] rotten’ being commonly recorded.  One of the complaints of the men at the Mutiny of the Nore was that they wanted 16 ounces to the pound.

This meat was boiled by the ship’s cook in huge vats as a stew, and the ‘slush’ or fat skimmed from the top.  The slush was used to grease blocks so they did not seize, but it was also a perk of the cook’s mate, often called ‘Slushy’ for this reason, to sell slush to the men to make the notorious ship’s biscuit more palatable.

The biscuit, officially called bread, was also called Hardtack.  It was very hard at first but as a voyage went on it became soft and crumbly, partly due to the weevils that ate it and lived within it.  It was customary to tap the biscuit hard to stun the weevils before eating.
Being made of unleavened flour with nothing but salt and water to make the dough, and baked slowly, they were a challenge to eat for their very hardness when fresh.  Dipped in the stew they would have softened somewhat and take on the flavour of it too, but a sailor with bad teeth would not have had an easy time of eating them. Hardtack came in with the Tudors when long voyages were first really commonplace.
The slush really made a difference in softening them.

The stew would have peas added to it – dried peas of course for the journey, probably the type of peas called Carlin peas which may still be purchased in the North of England in a poke with vinegar rather than the yellow split peas with which we are more familiar today – and oatmeal to thicken it. Oatmeal would also be used to make gruel/porridge for breakfast.

To prevent scurvy, a source of vegetables was imperative, and the usual solution to this from a conscientious captain was sauerkraut.  Pickled cabbage was cheap, kept well and was good for the men but was not popular.  I understand that opening a new barrel smelled rather like cat pee, which is understandably off-putting – and I LIKE sauerkraut in moderate quantities.  In port, the purser was directed to purchase fresh vegetables ‘when they can be procured and not at any time exceeding the peas saved, at the purser’s credit price.’ Carlin peas do retain more vitamin C than yellow split peas so they were of some help against scurvy. [Lloyd and Coulter, Medicine and the Navy vol III quoting regulations quoted in Lavery]
Lemons were issued in 1795, later substituted for limes for economy as an anti-scorbutic but many captains purchased extra provisions like sauerkraut or citrus fruit.
When my father was in the Merchant Marine for his National Service he recalled that lime juice was reckoned about the best way to clean the tables which it bleached clean.  He was not alone in being mildly concerned about what it might do to his stomach lining if it was so miraculous a bleach….. I wonder if the sailors of Nelson’s time felt the same.

Some ships had henhouses to give the men a source of fresh eggs, generally either these ended up on the Wardroom table for the officers or would be issued as buttered eggs, possibly without the butter however if it had gone rancid….!  We would nowadays call it scrambled eggs.

Daily Rations – In theory
Every day each man was supposed to have:
1lb ship’s biscuit
4 lb beef
2 lb pork
2 lb peas
1½ lb oatmeal
6 oz sugar
6 oz butter
And over the week spread out, 12 oz cheese.
Other provisions could be substituted when necessary, ie on a foreign station when ‘normal’ rations were not available; replacing flour and raisins for beef would probably have been a matter of some discontent, even more than replacing biscuit with rice.
In port too, fresh beef could replace salt when available. 

Each county was supposed to provide a certain amount of cheese for the navy as a levy, but the sailors always hated to receive Suffolk cheese which was reckoned so hard the only use of it was to carve buttons from it. 

The men ate in messes of usually 8 -12 men who had their own mess utensils.  It was the sign of an unhappy ship if there were frequent requests to change mess as this generally indicative of bullying and poor discipline.  Attitudes often come from the top but a wise captain, noting such requests, might be able to track down the source of trouble either in a particular mess or in one of his officers or petty officers failing to keep good discipline or encouraging bad discipline in favouritism or unfairness.  A seaman could generally request a change of mess once a month; choosing mess mates was one of the few freedoms aboard ship.  Each man served his turn as cook of the mess, collecting the ration for his mess from the steward to take to the cook, collect it to feed his mates, and see to washing the utensils the mess used and keeping them in good order.

Casked water tends to taste foul after it has been stored for any length of time, but when surrounded by the non-potable briny it was the only option.  A cask on deck, the scuttle butt, was generally free to all, and chatter around this led to the term ‘scuttlebutt’ for the spread of gossip.  Where water was short rationing would be instituted and a sentry posted to prevent any man having more than his share.  Generally beer was preferred [and kept better] and was issued at a rate of one gallon per man per day, though usually only in home waters.  As a substitute each man would be allowed ‘a pint of wine, or half a pint of rum, brandy or other spirits’ [Admiralty regulations and instructions] the spirits being diluted one part spirit to two parts water to be mixed on deck for issue. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Conspiracy theory for fun

The mystery surrounding the little Princes in the Tower is well known – and generally the libel by Shakespeare concerning Richard III’s hand in the matter has been debunked. After all, Richard had already had them declared illegitimate since Edward IV had been through a previous form of marriage ceremony before marrying Elizabeth Woodville, which was at least attested to, whether true or not. He had no need to kill his nephews – and it is notable that it was many years before the claim that he had done so was first made, a suspicious note in a king trying to establish his legitimacy like Henry VII not to declare right away that the princes had been done away with – if they had. After all, would he not be concerned about the fates of his wife’s brothers? Apparently not very.

Personally I am inclined to think they may have died of natural causes in Henry’s custodianship which gave him the idea to claim them murdered by their uncle, but there is no proof as to whether that happened or whether indeed Henry thought sons of the House of York, however legitimate or otherwise, too inconvenient to be allowed to live. Or if one died the other was, as you might say, pushed….. And poor old Tyrell who ‘confessed’ under torture showing once again that the tortured tell their interrogators what they want to know.

 the Millais painting was really the only pic available...
typically romanticised in the Victorian fashion when belief in the
wicked uncle was the only accepted theory

It is however interesting to note that they were not the only convenient deaths to aid Henry in his dynastic pretensions.  Margaret Drummond was the mistress, sweetheart, and said by some to be the secret wife of James IV of Scotland; she had a daughter by him, Margaret Stewart.  In 1501 she and her sisters Eupheme [probably known in the Scots fashion as Pymma] and  Sibylla succumbed to some form of poisoning.  It may well have been food poisoning – hygiene was not always well practised in the era – and they did all eat the same meal.  However in a case of food poisoning it’s not that common for everyone who ate the same thing to die as different people do react differently. 
Her death came shortly after Henry VII lit upon the idea of potentially controlling Scotland by marrying his daughter Margaret to James IV.
Interesting that.
James prayed for the souls of his mistress and her sisters all his life, and maintained their daughter; somehow I find it hard to see him being implicated in a murder to clear the way for marrying into the family of more politically powerful England.
Henry on the other hand was a shrewd and canny operator who could think in the long term.  And if nothing else a dynastic marriage meant a better likelihood of truces being kept [well that one went down the tubes] and therefore no expenditure on border war.  Henry VII was a very thrifty man.
He had motive.
He had means – a long purse.
And a skilled poisoner could always find opportunity.
Have I any proof?  Not a jot.  It’s just a conspiracy theory based on the idea of convenient deaths and a monarch with a sufficiently tenuous claim to need security.

 James IV of Scotland courtesy Wiki

The upshot of this was that Henry sent his 12 year old daughter to a cold foreign land and a husband more than twice her age for his ambition.  The little Scottish Queen was not happy with the bargain and her husband always mourned his lost love. 
Real Politik.  Don’t you just love it.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Starboard and Larboard

Nowadays we talk about Port and Starboard, but Larboard is the older term for Port and was certainly used at the time of Nelson’s navy. The change to the word Port came in the middle of the 19th century.
So where do these odd terms come from?

Starboard is easy; it is merely a corruption of ‘steerboard’.  Early ships were steered by a rudder that was like a whopping great oar over the side – the steerboard side – which was the other side to that customarily brought alongside a dock.  Docking onto the rudder could of course break it; and there were reasons the other side was laid against a staithe. The side to place the steerboard was a decision based on the fact that the majority of the population are right handed, and to have it on the right was more convenient.

The move to a central rudder or centreboard began in the 13th Century; the earliest depiction of a ship with a central rudder board is on the Great Seal of Ipswich, which is extremely early since King John presented the Charter to the town in 1200. This innovation meant that ships could be built larger and were more manoeuvrable

So why Larboard?
This is a bit more of a corruption than its counterpart, coming from the old word ‘laddebord’ or ‘load side’. The word corrupted to rhyme with starboard because it doubtless seemed more logical to sailors once the old word had become obsolete.  Ships had a large loading port on this side which would be the side presented to any dockside when dockside was present.  It was not uncommon to heel a ship over in the mud at low tide to load it, a doubtless smelly and messy business carrying goods across tidal mud. 
The ‘Kraek’ picture of a carrack shows the loading port quite clearly.

Oh, why port? Because it has the loading port in it.  The reason for changing the name was probably something to do with how easy Starboard and Larboard are to get mixed up when listening to orders in a howling gale.

Note the old word ‘bord’ for ‘side’ persists in naval and boating terminology in such words as ‘inboard’ to bring something inside as it were, and the ‘outboard’ or external motor. The etymology of the word gives us the word ‘border’ as well, a delineating region.  There is no relation to the word that gave us board, a plank, table and other words deriving thereof.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Snuffboxes and the materials that made them

Many thanks to Daniel Bexfield of Daniel Bexfield Antiques who has given me permission to use his photographs of snuff boxes; do go look at his wonderful antiques.  Apart from the Japanning picture all the photos are his.

Gold and enamelled snuff box, 18th century

Much has been written about snuffboxes and their history on other sites; what I wanted to share was the wide variety of shapes and more particularly the variety of materials from which they were made.
My researches at the Old Bailey Online prompted this when I found myself marvelling over the wide gulf between those of tin or paper [papier-mâché one assumes] valued at a penny and the gold snuffbox set with two rows of diamonds valued at £400.  Or in real terms, five times the yearly salary of a clerk.  This was in 1800 and 1801.  The very great variation does however bring home that snuff taking was a universal pleasure/vice and was enjoyed by the poor man too.  Such ephemera rarely survive the rough and tumble of time, unlike the works of art that were used by the wealthy, so alas I have no pictures to offer of them; however here’s a rather fancy gold piece. 

Four colour gold , French, 18th century c 1780

Though paper snuff boxes may have come as cheap penny or tuppence boxes is not to say that papier-mâché snuffboxes might not also be moderately costly if skilfully made and painted; I found a ‘paper machee’ snuffbox of 1790 valued at £10.  I wonder what decoration it had that made it so valuable.  A painting by a well known portrait painter of the owner’s wife perhaps?  Or maybe, the time being what it was, a saucy and salacious scene.  Another papier-mâché snuffbox was mounted with gold so was plainly an object of vertu to be so mounted.
Paintings could be added to other materials

George II tortoiseshell and silver with handpainted miniature

These are the materials I found; I was truly astounded by the variety.  

China   a wide variety painted with scenes and portraits; the one described at the Old Bailey in 1775 was an ‘oval Saxon China snuffbox set in gold, with the figure of a dog in the top, with two brilliant diamonds for the eyes, value £20’. The one valued at 6d in 1784 was likely plain however….

China enamelled  I am not entirely sure what was meant by this; but I doubt there was anything like cloisonné enamelling as the one thus described was valued in 1775 at four bob, not worthy of any serious craftsmanship.

Gold  Which like silver may be chased, plain, inset with stones, enamelled and otherwise decorated or left to stand on its own merits; or make use of the different colours of gold like the French snuff box further up this post. .

Horn A useful organic material, and freely available when cattle were slaughtered.  Horn can be steamed flat and may be shaped to some extent.  It can be fine enough to let the light through – after all the windows in lanterns were made often of horn.  One horn snuff box was set with gold so not a material to be despised apparently for its availability.

Iron I shouldn’t much like to think of the flavour of snuff kept in iron unless it was lined.  Possibly the product of the local blacksmith: it was valued at a penny in 1779.

Ivory The tusks of the elephant form this much sort after and beautiful material, which carves finely and is beautiful in its own right.  It is more beautiful on the elephant but it is hard not to be impressed by a fine piece of ivory.  Any tusk will make ivory but elephant ivory is most sought after. One of the snuffboxes mentioned in the Old Bailey records was ivory let in with diamonds, valued in 1796 at £50.  Another in 1784 is described ‘ivory mounted with gold set with two pictures on the lid £8 one of a lady in orange’

Elephant Ivory and silver lined with tortoiseshell c 1820

Japanned  Japanning was generally on tin, and involved a heavy resinous varnish, usually black, to imitate Japanese lacquer work.  Wolverhampton and Bilston were the centres of Japanning in the era [at Bilston from 1719]. Typically gold and other coloured designs were laid on the black background.
The picture below gives some idea of Japanning though may not be a snuff box.

More information about the book can be found at:

Leather  Would have to be a fairly heavy leather; and might or might not be tooled, ie patterned by the use of a patterned die into the leather when wet, that would dry with the pattern set. 

Leather covered with skin I’m guessing here that the skin would be the same as the chicken skin that was painted to make fans.

Mocoa  The one instance I found of this was set with gold; I believe it is an exotic wood, but could be moss agate which was known at the time as Mocha stone having been brought, like coffee, from Mocha on the Red Sea.

Papier-mâché/paper Papier-mâché was used for many applications, mostly small in this era, it being the Victorians who took it to the extent of making furniture.  It dried as hard as wood and could be decorated in a wide variety of ways.

Semi-precious stone  The inventories included snuff boxes of amber, agate, lapis lazuli and bloodstone; some were doubtless hollowed out from a whole piece like the modern small soapstone boxes that are popular tourist pieces from places like India; but I’m guessing some would have been made from slices of stone joined. 

Silver and agate, George II

Gold and agate c 1820

Shagreen [for an excellent article on shagreen see Kathryn Kane’s Regency Redingote here:  Basically it’s a nubbly leather made of rawhide  of the wild ass or from ray skin.  I’m more familiar with it as a covering for sword hilts and telescopes for a decorative finish with a good grip for Naval officers.


Though I did not find any cowrie mentioned on the Old Bailey records, from the collection of Daniel Bexfield I found some very novel cowrie shell ones, and one incorporating shell: The two cowrie ones are George III, the shell an earlier one George II and perhaps a little early but I could not resist it…..

Silver and shell George II

George III 1814 made by John Parkes of Birmingham, an ingenious combination.

George III c 1790

Silver  which may be plain, chased, set with stones

1808 made by Matthew Linwood: the inscription is Recordanza or ‘remembrance’

Dutch silver snuffbox

George III silver

Tin base metal, probably stamped by the Regency period.

Tortoiseshell  Tortoiseshell is not actually tortoise shell but from the hawkbilled turtle. It is a beautiful material that can be easily shaped and bent and like Ivory is beautiful enough to endanger the unfortunate creature who has been killed to make objects of beauty.  In the Georgian era they were at least probably eating the turtle as well so at least it was a by product.  As well as the picture below see above for a more mottled tortoiseshell. 

George II Silver and tortoiseshell

Varnished  This intrigues me; is this varnished treen or laquer work? Wooden snuff boxes may not be mentioned but one may speculate that if lined or even varnished within treen would be an acceptable small box.

 Other ingenious additions might be made to the snuffbox; one of those mentioned at the Old Bailey was musical, valued at £50 in 1813.  The workings must have been meticulously small. 
From the collection of Daniel Bexfield I have also come across some other most ingenious designs: below is a four-hinged snuff box which opens towards you whichever way you are holding it:

Georgian 4-hinge snuff box

And then the William IV squeeze action one, which opens by squeezing it between forefinger and thumb as shown in the photo.  Out of the Georgian/Regency era but I could not resist this.  A handy piece of kit for those gents who could not manage the insouciant flip with one hand to open their snuff box. This too is perhaps a safer way for a Naval officer to open his snuffbox where a flip disrupted by a sudden wave might precipitate all his snuff into the briny: and perhaps appropriate that this is from the reign of the sailor king.

William IV squeeze action snuff box.

I have to say I learned a lot in poking around this subject and enjoyed looking at some very beautiful pieces of bijouterie.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The mysteries of sleeves and a few other arcane terms in Regency dress.

The terms by which sleeve types were described through the Regency era – which term I am using very loosely – were not always very precise or consistent.  I’ve tried to make a walk through their mysteries as clear as possible.  Not least confusing is the fact that one name is used in one period but its meaning changes in another.  Mameluke sleeves in the 1810’s are not the same thing 20 years later, when Turkish sleeves have become Mameluke sleeves and Mameluke, aka virago aka Marie sleeves are no longer in fashion…..
Just read it and weep.

The Circassian Sleeve  So, starting with the hardest to pin down…..
This appears  to be a bit of a mystery, seeming on its odd mentions to refer to two at least very different sleeve shapes; however if one traces it back to the first use in the 1790’s, it is possible to see that it referred then to a three quarter length sleeve and so it may be postulated that it referred initially to a sleeve shorter than full length – which was a new departure. The latest I have found it is in 1807 referring to a child’s dress in the October issue of ‘La Belle Assemblée’ which has ‘Circassian sleeve very short’; a sleeve which though fairly full does not look on the plate to be a puff but to be straight.  
However as early as 1794 in the ‘Gallery of Fashion’ [May] ‘short loose sleeves’ are mentioned.  Circassian sleeves are mentioned on a ‘polonoise’ [sic] in April 1795 and they are unquestionably tight, and elbow length. This tallies with the definition given by the Circassian foundation of ‘a sleeve extending from the shoulder to the elbow’. This is the only definition I have come across online or in fashion dictionaries so I’m going to concur as this fits with the few fashion plates that show it – save for that anomalous  1807 one.  Which did emphasise the sleeves were very short.  Then again in June,1813, Ackermann’s Repository describes a gown with short Circassian sleeves which I should rather describe as puckered sleeves. They may have started out as straight sleeves shaped with drawing up, and that could be where the description came from?  One of life’s little mysteries. 

Spanish Sleeves  A sleeve that is slashed.
Ackermann’s Repository September 1810 describes a long Spanish slashed sleeve appliquéd with white satin and edged with silver cord; antiqued laced cuffs.  The picture shows a long slashed sleeve tied at intervals.  The Spanish part of it is the slashing,. It is tied at the elbow and between the elbow and the sleeve head; lower arm and cuff details are impossible to see as a child’s figure interposes. Ackermann’s Repository April 1812 shows a Spanish slash sleeve embellished with white crape foldings; the short sleeve has crape ruffles applied down the length of the fabric puffing through the slashed sleeve.

Andalusian Sleeves
A long sleeve, with a puff at the top, which may be slashed with contrast fabric showing through, very gothic.  Written as ‘x colour Andalusian sleeve let in with y colour’.
NOTE: the use of slashed short sleeves appears in 1809 in Ackermann’s repository, March but there is no mention made of them in the description.  The following month has the description  ‘long sleeves slashed at the top’  so not yet described as Andalusian.   Presumably as slashed sleeves are Spanish this is a variant.
Sleeves with a puff at the top and no slashing may also be called Juliet Sleeves

Short sleeve with full half sleeve The Gallery of Fashion August 1794 – elbow length sleeve with the upper half puffed.
Short full sleeve is a puffed sleeve.

Keyhole sleeve and Open Sleeve  Ladies Monthly Museum April 1803 shows a keyhole sleeve – the short, full sleeve appears to have been slashed three quarters of the way up the outer arm and hemmed and gathered to leave an open circular hole which may or may not be filled with an insert.  The illustration in the LMM appears to be lace. In Ackermann’s Repository June 1809 appears a child whose over tunic is described as having short, open sleeves; the opening of a sleeve on the outer side of the arm could be embellished with buttons to draw it together, and this might be worn over an undergown with long sleeves. In Ackermann’s Repository April 1810 a long open sleeve caught at five points is worn over a muslin undersleeve.  In 1813, a similar sleeve is referred to as a full slashed sleeve
Note, a cut-away open sleeve might show a sleeve beneath that might be short or long the same colour as the petticoat which might or might not also match the bodice.  December 1815  shows a ball gown in Ackermann's Repository with such a sleeve over a short straight sleeve the colour of the petticoat which shows some 6” below the bottom of the gown. The same magazine in April 1816 shows a gown where the bodice is in the same fabric as a short open sleeve over a long sleeve in the same satin as the rest of the gown.  
Melon sleeve Ackermann’s Repository October 1809 mentions a full melon sleeve nowadays called a beret sleeve; a short sleeve often used on evening dresses made from two circles of fabric seamed at the outer edges with holes cut in the centres for the arm to pass through and usually lined to stand stiffly.  Normally found after 1820 so this early instance would be interesting……  HOWEVER , I am doubtful that this was actually a melon sleeve at all! The illustration shows a short sleeve slashed and let in with a puff of a sleeve below! From which I conclude that early use of the word melon [which was an archaic word for pumpkin] referred to a puff sleeve with divisions like a pumpkin made by a slashed over sleeve.

French Sleeves In Ackermann’s Repository September 1809 the mourning dress is described as having short French sleeves.  This refers to sleeves set in with the method perhaps more familiar as raglan, ie a sleeve that extends to the neckline set in with seams slanting from underarm front and back.

Bishop sleeve Ackermann’s Repository September 1811 shows a bishop sleeve on a walking dress, a wide, long sleeve gathered at the cuff. 

Turkish sleeve probably the same as what is later called  a Mamaluke sleeve, a full sleeve finished with a large cuff of thin fabric; particularly used in day time dresses of the late 1820’s, but mameluke sleeves are mentioned in 1816 and Ackermann's Repository September 1811 describes a full Turkish long sleeve.  See below…..

Mameluke Sleeve at this period is a long sleeve of repeating puffs down its length, banded between the puffs.  This style was another copy of a gothic style which was originally called a virago sleeve. It was also known as the Marie sleeve in the Regency just to be awkward. In Ackermann’s repository September 1812 the sleeves are clearly of this kind but are described as long full sleeves, gathered at regular distances, and ornamented with simple bows of ribbon. These sleeves are not however as extravagantly puffed as some described as mameluke and therefore are considered outside the description.  These multiple puffs were very popular in 1815.

Puckered Sleeves this appears to be a gathering to the sleeve so that it puckers in horizontal lines, ie a gathering stitch is run the length of the sleeve.  This may be done to emphasise the upper sleeve or over all of it.  The full puckered sleeves, of white satin in Ackermann’s repository December 1812 shows puckering over the whole sleeve. 

1815 saw a lot of decoration on sleeves, trimming with lace, several layers overlapping being one conceit, or a couple of layers of lace at the cuffs of long sleeves.  Ruched or goffered or pleated [called plaited] trim was de rigeur on various parts of the gown.

Interestingly, although there was a puff iron for ironing puff sleeves, all puff sleeves seem to be referred to as ‘full short sleeves’. 
The method of making a pattern for a puff sleeve is very easy; after having measured the wearer and drawn up an ordinary sleeve head, the paper pattern is slashed two or three inches down at regular intervals around the sleeve head, excluding the convex curve for the front armpit. It is then laid on fresh pattern paper, the lower end pinned in place and the slashes gently eased apart and pinned, the new shape being drawn around this mutilated pattern.  The more slashes the greater the change to the sleeve head and therefore the larger the puff. Great care must be taken with gathering and setting in the sleeve to make sure it goes in evenly.  Basting is definitely recommended.

Note: apart from the French Sleeve, most sleeves were easily detatched, so that they might be exchanged with others to refurbish a gown, or change its use from half-dress, perhaps, with long or elbow length sleeves, to full-dress with short sleeves; or to accommodate new kicks of fashion.  Equally the embellishment of an oversleeve might be removed to render a gown less decorated.  For a full sleeve, one presumes that it would be set into a band that was then added to a gown so that the fullness was dispersed evenly. 

Further mysteries examined

Vandykes and vandyked

A fancy way of saying V-shaped.  Vandyke stitch is still a recognised embroidery stitch.  It may refer to lace made with v-shaped edging, or to the way a ruffle is caught around the base of a gown to add interest.  Also appliquéd fabric as a decoration.

Round gown

This is exactly what it says on the label – a gown that goes round the body and fastens, either at the back or down one side. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Renaissance Pastimes, with or without good company.

The Not-so-Beautiful Game…   
 Football was not the formalised game as we know it today.  It was generally played by the youth of one parish against the youth of another and the goalposts could be two or three miles apart, the game lasting until one side scored a goal.  There were no set number of players or even a requirement that the opposing teams have the same number of players.  Women who played football were rare and frowned upon as hoydenish.  The game was a free for all and the ball could be transported in any way, including carrying.  It was not done to carry edged weapons.  Death and serious injury were quite common; the game was banned regularly by successive monarchs to little avail.  Frankly, I’d back any group of late medieval London apprentices to take on our modern football hooligans any time.  
      Football and the like could distract people from the serious business of archery, still compulsory after High Mass every Sunday for every male age seven and up, unless excused by reason of infirmity.  Every boy had to be provided with a bow by his parent or guardian; and every man over sixteen had to own his own bow.  Firearms were becoming more common but had not replaced the English clothyard arrow yet. Legislation of 1515 placed property qualification on the use of crossbows or firearms.

The Sport of Kings, many of whom could out-McEnroe McEnroe
      The game of Real or Royal Tennis is the progenitor of lawn tennis, and is played within an enclosed court.  The rules are extremely complex and outside the scope of such a brief treatise as this.  The service always took place from the same end, the players swapping ends; the opposite end was known as the Hazard end, and scoring took place by setting up a Chase, in which the ball had to bounce in a certain places for a score to be recorded.  If score was made by the server, it was a service chase; if by the receiver, a hazard chase.  Similar scoring points were used as in lawn tennis today.  For more details see Wikipedia here:
There are similarities to a street game dating back to Imperial Rome that is called Pallone, and is particularly associated with Florence.  The ball is hit with wrist braces and is a kind of cross between tennis, football and intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Variants of this hand tennis were played by youngsters in most places with some variation or other. 

Bandy, forerunner of many games
Also popular was Bandy – known by other names, but this being the Suffolk name I make no apology for it – which was a forerunner of hockey, ice hockey, and had links to golf, shinty, lacrosse and hurley. The team sizes may have been more regular that for football; but the goals were probably as variable.This is a game in which a ball is hit by a stick, with intent to get the ball into a goal.  Bandy is the English equivalent to Hurley and Shinty and derives from an Icelandic game brought by the Vikings.  The Dutch had a game with some similarities called Kolv but this seems to have been more akin to a form of golf on ice. Bandy, shinty and hurley have all had their ice counterparts but until the mini-ice age era the grass form dominated.   There are also references to a game called goff which may be more related to kolv and may have become golf.  The earliest record of this or a similar game is depicted in a stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral where a boy with a curved stick and a ball is shown.  Shakespeare mentions it in Romeo and Juliet: “The Prince expressly hath forbidden bandying in the Verona streets” showing it to be a known sport by this time – one incidence where Wiki slips up in dating it to the 1814 frost fair.
The modern game of bandy is an ice sport and is also known as Russian Hockey

Children’s games
      Children played games with balls and other games which would be familiar today – badminton was then called battledore and shuttlecock; hoodman blind is now blind man’s buff, hide-and-go seek requires no translation.  Marbles were played by boys, who also enjoyed skipping, or jump-rope that no mere girl would be allowed to play (besides, skirts); and boys also bowled hoops along.  The game of Conquers became conkers and gave its name to the horse chestnut fruit when that became more common to use than the hazelnut of the original game.  Tilting at the quintain is not a game we would recognise now, but was essential training for a youth that would wish to be a knight.  A version of this was also popular at fairs, often involving a sack of sand or flour that would swing round to buffet anyone who did not hit the quintain squarely.  A ring was sometimes used instead.  Those who succeeded at a fair  might win a prize.

Indoor games
     Adults played cards, more widespread with the ability to print them on pasteboard; and chanced with dice.  Gambling was common.  The intelligentsia played chess; there was also draughts, shuffleboard (shove ha’penny) and fox and geese.  Billiards was also played and games that would develop into bowls and skittles.  Many liked the so called sports of cockfighting and bear baiting. The wealthy hunted, hawking and coursing, and read, as books became more common.

  Women of all estates amused themselves with sewing, starting on their dower chest from their earliest years; all women made their husband’s shirts for them, whatever else they may have paid to have made up or bought second hand. The wealthy embroidered. 
Patchwork was not as we know it now; appliqué work was long known from the crusades, and quilting too, but patchwork was crazy patchwork sewn willy nilly to use up scraps. (Ann Hathaway’s famous quilt is sewn thus, even that late). Incidentally the term patchwork had not then been coined; nor indeed had appliqué.  The art arose from appliquéd designs the Moors used, the idea brought back by the crusaders, so that by the 15th century appliqué decoration on bed curtains and other household linen instead of or as well as crewel work.  The overall climate change from the beginning of the fifteenth century also increased the need for warm bad clothes; when the art of applying scraps of left over fabric to old worn blankets to prolong their life began is uncertain.  This random patching was not however intended to be as decorative as the fad for crazy patchwork that was revived by the Victorians, but more to create a warm and practical item and make sure that left over scraps were not wasted.  Anne Hathaway’s quilt – or as it would be known, a ‘coverpointe’ later ‘counterpane’  has strange long strips that are not aesthetically pleasing to the eye but used fabric without waste.  A scrap of velvet might be next to a bit of common nettlecloth, according to how the shapes of the scraps, and what came to hand, fitted next to each other.  Commonly the piece was started at one end and pieces were added across to the other, overlapping or butting up as seemed appropriate.  Bear in mind that this was a vernacular craft and no kin to the beautiful quilting including trapunto done by and for wealthy women, which was not patched at all but was from whole pieces of silk.

The great age of play going had not started in Felicia and Robin’s time; miracle, morality and mystery plays were the main forms of drama.  Miracle plays, to be banned by Henry VIII in the mid 16th century were developed by the church and depicted the lives and miracles of saints with more or less fiction involved.  Mystery dramas were vernacular dramas typically performed by various guilds to celebrate various saint days, but mostly the entire cycle taking place on Corpus Cristi, the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday in June or early July.  Guild mysteries tended to to show Biblical scenes appropriate to their guild, such that the building of the Ark was performed by shipwrights.  Some ingenious contrivances were invented to display miraculous events.
Morality plays were allegories to make a point; Everyman of 1500 is the best known in which the character Everyman is called upon by Death to account for his actions in life.
Plays might also be performed by puppets and puppeteers.

The wealthy would hold hunting parties which would probably culminate in feasting and dancing to the music of professional musicians.  Less wealthy must content themselves with village celebrations, such as weddings, where the village waits would make music as best they might, with perhaps a rebec player [a kind of fiddle] and a pipe-and-tabor player being the only members.  Pipe and tabor involved playing a three-holed pipe with one hand and banging the tabor or small drum with the other.  Considerable skill was needed to get an excess of notes by overblowing on the three-hole pipe.
And of course making music was a pastime that cut across the whole of society, though the level of musical training was obviously greater for the wealthy, and the choice of instruments. Lutes were not exactly cheap, but simple fipple flutes – what we now call recorders – might be afforded by many more.