Tuesday, 27 December 2011
Introducing Helen Lashbrook, historian with particular interest in the Second World War, who as a Heyer fan kindly agreed to write a piece about one of those places so dear to Heyer, Austen and anyone who is interested in the Regency. Her excellent potted history takes us from Bath’s inception to its place in England today showing that though the reasons for visiting it might change, Bath has attracted visitors through the ages! Helen’s own blogspot about Edda Mussolini may be found at http://wolfgang20.blogspot.com/ .
Bath – A City for all Ages
Bath is placed on the edge of the scarp slope on the southern end of the Cotswolds. It lies on a ridge of blue Lias clay, surrounded on three sides by the river Avon. The springs that caused the birth of the city rise up through a fault line in the underlying Carboniferous limestone. There is archaeological evidence for settlements around the site of the city in prehistory; flints & barrows are found across the surrounding hills. Between the 8th & 6th centuries BC there was a communal settlement at Bathhampton about 3 miles from Bath itself. North of the city, at Sion Hill, there is evidence of an Iron Age settlement, with findings of Celtic-style pottery.
Although there is very little evidence to show ritual use of the springs before the arrival of the Romans it is interesting to note that the Roman name for Bath – Aquae Sulis (Waters of Sulis) - was honouring a Celtic goddess, Sulis. This goddess was later transformed into Minerva Sulis, thus conjoining the Celtic goddess with a major deity from the Roman pantheon of gods. Minerva Sulis was viewed as an life-giving mother & as effective agent for curses.
Gilt bronze head of Minerva Sulis found in 1727 – source Wikimedia Commons
When the Romans arrived in England in AD43 they soon decided to create a frontier line guarding the lands they had already subjugated. To link the frontier forts the Fosse Way was built by the Imperial engineers. The Fosse Way crossed the Avon near Bath. There is some evidence to suggest that Acquae Sulis may have originally been a military town, supplied by a military cemetery containing bodies of men, who appear to have died on active service. When the military moved on to new front lines, further north, the settlement remained. Following the Boudicca rebellion in AD60 work began on the creation of the Temple of Sulis Minerva, with baths where pilgrims could bathe in the sacred waters.
Part of hypocaust system
The temple complex was gradually added to over the years, but major modifications were made circa 300AD. The original spring was now roofed over & the complex renovated. Aquae Sulis was a rich town benefitting from the pilgrims from all over Europe, resulting in the building of large domestic dwellings as evidenced by the mosaic floors found during excavations.
In 380AD Emperor Theodosius had proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the empire, while in 313AD Emperor Constantine had given Christians permission to worship as they chose. How much effect this had on pilgrims attending the shrine of Minerva Sulis is unknown.
But the 4th century AD also saw a defensive wall built around the town as the Roman empire began its period of decline. In 410AD the Emperor Honorarius, in response to a request for help, told the Roman Britons to see to their own defences. The town wall may well have been a response to the Emperor’s inability to defend the outer edges of his empire, but is likely to have been built earlier during the internecine squabbles that tore the empire apart.
The loss of the Roman military, withdrawing to support the heart of the empire, meant the collapse of economic, social & political systems that had been in place for nearly five centuries. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles make mention of the Battle of Dyrham in 577AD leaving Bath, Cirencester & Gloucester in the hands of the Saxons. The temple precinct was kept repaired during the 4th century but it would appear that the buildings stood for some hundreds of years, notwithstanding the probable removal of stone & brick for building private dwellings.
Later in the Chronicle we are informed of the sack of Bath by Robert de Mobray, in his rebellion against William Rufus in 1088. After the stamping out of de Mobray’s rebellion William Rufus made John of Tours Bishop of Wells. John of Tours was the driving force behind the new Cathedral started in circa 1091. It was probably built of wood & suffered two fires in the 12th century. It was rebuilt/repaired by Bishop Robert of Lewes. Bishop John, known for his interest in medicine & science, was possibly also responsible for the renovation of the King’s Bath. By 1379 328 persons were listed as living in the city.
The building of the current abbey church was circa 1495- 1503. Queen Elizabeth visited the city twice in 1574 & 1591.
18th Century bath
In the 18th century Bath was still contained within its medieval walls with just over 2000 inhabitants, but within one hundred years the city had changed beyond recognition & new buildings now climbed the hill behind the city. The city population showed a dramatic increase to 28,000.
17th century doctors, eager for business, had touted the benefits of the waters. Princess Anne’s 1692 visit followed in the footsteps of her royal predecessors, who visited Bath seven times during the century. She returned again, as queen, twice in the early years of the new century & in her wake came Richard, Beau Nash who was to create an attraction that brought society to Bath. The main season ran from September to May. In 1746 The Bath Journal records 50 noteworthy visitors, by 1800 that number had increased to 5,341. As the city had lodgings for 12,000 in 1749 the assumption must be that there were many, many more non-notables visiting as well.
Assembly Rooms Bath – source Wikimedia Commons
The Assembly Rooms, as we know them today, were completed in 1771. The original Assembly Room (or Harrison’s Rooms as they were known) was built with a tea room & card room, soon to be joined by a ballroom in 1720.
In 1725, following the news of a scheme to improve navigation along the Avon between Bristol & Bath, the architect John Wood designed a plan to improve Bath. Among various jobs he worked on, prior to the commencement of his grand design, was the plans of a new Assembly Room, opposite Harrison’s Rooms, called Lindsey’s Rooms.
John Wood started his development of Queen’s Square in 1728, finished in 1735. Wood followed this with Kingsmead Square & Beaufort Buildings & three streets. In 1739 he began a development in the curve of the Avon. North Parade & South Parade were part of this development, behind the Abbey. By the time of his death in 1754 Wood had designed the Circus, which was built by his son John Wood the younger and completed in 1758.
Royal Crescent – source Wikimedia Commons
In 1771, the same year as the new Assembly Rooms were completed, Royal Crescent was being finished. At the end of Brock Street, which leads off the Circus, it was designed by John Wood the younger, as an integral part of the Upper Town, with splendid views across the town & valley.
Pulteney Bridge, built by Sir Richard Pulteney, was built between 1769 & 1774. The far side of the river was open land, but Sir Richard’s bridge led to his Bathwick estate centring on Great Pulteney Street & Laura Place. The bridge was based on the design of the Ponte Vecchio & is bordered by shops on either side.
The new Pump Room, including the baths complex, was finished in 1796 by John Palmer, as the city was declining in popularity. They replaced the Pump Room built in 1706 by local builder John Harvey.
The depression of 1793 caused a crash in Bath’s popularity, as banks failed & businesses ran out of capital. The attractions of sea bathing, as practised by the Royal Family, brought seaside towns like Weymouth to public attention. The Prince of Wales built his Royal pavilion in what was a small fishing village called Brighthelmstone & the re-named Brighton became somewhere to spend the summer season.
In 1814 rich visitors started flocking to enjoy the pleasures of abroad, interrupted for only a short time by the escape of Napoleon from Elba. The wealthy British had been forced to holiday at home by a French blockade starting in 1793. Now only the unfashionable were staying at home .
Much of Regency Bath was destroyed in the 1960’s & soulless buildings replaced the Georgian classical houses. It is fortunate that some of the battles for Bath’s heritage were won, leaving Bath a World Heritage Site.
Bath today is a thriving tourist town & host to, not only Bath University founded in 1966 by Royal Charter, but also the much newer Bath Spa University founded in 2005. The Assembly Rooms now house a Museum of Costume & the Pump Room & Roman Baths are the heart of the tourist industry.
The mineral baths were closed in 1978 as the water became infected with amoebic protozoa, which lead to amoebic meningitis, causing the tragic death of a young girl. In the late 1990s funding was given by the Millennium Commission to re-create a spa in Bath, using the mineral rich waters that gave rise to the Roman complex.
The City of Bath – Barry Cunliffe, Alan Sutton 1986
AA Book of British Towns Drive Publications 1982
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles translated by Anne Savage Colour Library Books 1995
All photographs unless otherwise attributed courtesy of JD Lashbrook
Saturday, 24 December 2011
The holiday season of Yule called for many boisterous games to be played amongst the adults, when for the twelve days of Christmas, in an echo of the Roman Saternalia, the positions of the high and the low were to some extent reversed. A King of Misrule called King Bean was chosen by the expedient of baking a bean into one of the loaves of bread; whoever found it was King Bean, crowned with a crown of bread, and in charge of organising entertainment. Little work might be done in the holiday season in any case as the fields lay fallow; it was too early to marl and fertilise them and the majority of animals had been killed. It was a time to relax and this was recognised as a way to keep the peasants happy and ready to go to work on Plough Monday, the first Monday after Epiphany.
Many villages also had a tradition of mummers at the solstice with Morris – ie, Moorish – dances, in which some variant of the Moor, representing Winter, was killed by some variant of Jack-in-the-green, otherwise the Green Man, often as a nod to Christianity renamed St George. Other characters tended to be the Hobby, a comic horse, The fool, with a bladder on a stick and rather broad capers and jokes, and Betty, a later addition to the cast, a cross-dressed youth with outrageous skirts whose role was to throw those skirts over village maidens. It was sometimes considered lucky to pass between the legs of Betty but I suspect the whole business may have been rather intimidating to the younger girls. This is one of the origins of the Morris dancing we know today. The mummers tended to come from a small number of families and were also responsible for any May Day mummeries too.
Yule was celebrated first by dragging the Yule Log into the Great Hall of the village’s squire, this was burned every night and was chosen to last until Twelfth Night.
Drinking games were common. Other games included,
Nowadays we should recognise this as Blind Man’s Buff and would consider it a game for children’s parties. With adult players it became a lot more boisterous and could involve a lot of groping that was normally considered improper as the hooded one sought to catch a victim.
Turn the Trencher
There is an excellent description of this in Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit series, showing it to be a game played up to the early 19th century at least. There are a number of variants but the simplest is that someone spins a wooden trencher in the same way as one would spin a coin, calling out a name. The named person must catch the trencher before its spin finishes and it falls or be subject to a forfeit. Forfeits can be simple and innocent [as in Alison Uttley’s example to cry in one corner, laugh in another, sing in another and dance in another] or might involve drinking a whole tankard in one breath, or kissing, or other more boisterous pursuits.
In addition there would be a lot of dancing and the obligatory feasts provided by the Lord of the Manor including mince pies – made of real minced meat and a lot of sugar and spices, including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to represent the three gifts of the Magi, and baked in a crib-shaped pie. Frumenty, cracked wheat cooked in, if available, milk [or for the rich, almond milk] or water with dried fruit added was the forerunner to our Christmas pudding; traditionally it was also served with venison. The low table, King Bean or no, probably saw a lot less venison than the High Table.
Wassail comes in two forms, the singing of songs, usually a traditional Wassail song around from door to door, the forerunner of our modern custom of carolling [bearing in mind that in the Renaissance and Medieval periods a carol was a dance] as a respectable form of begging for the young folk of the village; and the older pagan custom, still often extant, of wassailing the apple trees on the eve of Twelfth Night, and pouring a libation of the previous year’s cider to make them fruitful. Courting behaviour in the orchards was also considered to encourage the trees to be fruitful though I suspect that the best form of contraception for enthusiastic and tipsy Wassailers was probably the cold.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Pictures and information taken from ‘Antique toys and dolls’ by Constance E. King Antique Toys and Dolls
Reflecting on the number and complexities of toys that many children will receive this Christmas, I wonder how many of them will be appreciated and enjoyed as much as the simpler and fewer toys of Jane Austen’s time!
One of the more sophisticated would be a brand new thing in 1817 – the kaleidoscope, invented by Sir David Brewster. More about him and his invention here:
Many of the less sophisticated toys and games would be familiar to us today – though we might be surprised to find that skipping ropes were still, as in the Medieval era, confined to the use of boys, as it was considered unhealthy for girls to take such strenuous exercise. It was now known as a skipping rope however; though the old term ‘jump rope’ continued in America. I have seen a French print however in which the clothes appear to be around 1818-1820 where young girls are skipping; but one has to recall that the French Revolution was supposed to be for more egalité for women too! Possibly by the later period of the Regency attitudes were changing. Hoops and whipping tops were also popular.
There were definitely boys’ toys and girls’ toys as one might surmise; boys played with toy soldiers and girls with dolls. Boys also might wear miniature uniforms to pretend to be soldiers, and when very young perhaps would do so to ride on a horse like this:
Horses of this era are more slender in body than the chunkier ones of later years. Rocking horses were also popular, and one may be seen in the nursery picture at the top of the page.
Most toy soldiers were made in Russia, Germany, Prussia or Turkey, and were flat engraved pewter figures stamped out and painted. French made lead soldiers had been known from the sixteenth century, but they were more expensive and consequently less popular as most small boys could not build up so grand an army. The ‘flats’ were sold by the pound. The same techniques were used for civilian figures such as skaters and circus figures, perhaps inspired by Astley’s Amphitheatre.
All right, I’m not going to pretend, it’s the dolls and dolls’ houses that are my real love. Baby houses started life as toys for adults with costly miniatures [funny how that’s come full circle in many ways] though little girls had long been encouraged to learn the skills of housewifery with miniatures. By 1800 however the splendid cabinet houses of the previous couple of centuries had largely disappeared in favour of the baby house for the education and edification of little girls. As today they varied from the simple to the complex. A small house may be seen in the print at the top of this page. The picture below shows the fine façade of a house built around 1810:
|Front-opening baby house, English, c. 1810, width 48" Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood|
|Kitchen of 18th century baby house, dresser, grate and spit rack are original. Pedlar doll, unusually small, c1824, maid 1840, width of room 15"|
I’ve always found kitchens particularly fascinating so here’s a close up of one dating originally from the eighteenth century though the figures are later. They do not differ greatly from the Grödnertal type figures, also known as Dutch dolls, of the Regency period, similar to those dressed so lovingly by the future Queen Victoria. Larger versions as more easily held dolls were made, carved in wood like the one in the print at the top of the page; few little girls would own anything as exquisite as the eighteenth century ivory doll below:
Though papier-mâché was a fairly new material and some dolls were made of that as this eighteenth century example is:
|papier-mache doll dating to about 1780|
More common were the wooden Grödnerthal dolls.
|this example has an unusual swivel neck and is a large doll 23.5" tall. Only larger dolls had such features as carved ears. c.1820|
Wax and Parian were still largely employed only for those dolls portraying the latest fashions; and fashion dolls really deserve their own post.
Larger furniture than that for baby houses was made for dolls, a doll’s cradle may be seen in the foreground of the picture at the top of the page, and below find a day bed and a writing desk:
|Earlier than our period being late 17th century but I couldn't resist. Beechwood. Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood|
|oak veneered with walnut inlaid with boxwood, late 18th century, 9" high. Bethnal Green museum of childhood|
Toy theatres had grown from nativity scenes, and hours of fun might be had with a miniature pasteboard and wood stage and characters printed from various plays to be coloured in and cut out and mounted on spills to move onto stage from the wings to act out the plays. Probably the more creative children made up their own plays and maybe drew and coloured their own characters. Doubtless these plays were used to entertain the whole family in an era when families had to make their own entertainment and a thespian excursion was a change from a musical evening. Games of cards, spillikins, and board games like fox and geese also entertained a whole family. Mother-of-pearl or bone fish were used as betting counters. Or perhaps they might play ‘The Newly Invented Musical Game, By His Majesties Royal Letters Patent, Dedicater by Permission to H.R.H. Princess Charlotte of Wales’ [c. 1801]. The picture below shows the game. Anyone who knows how to play this, do please let me know!
It may not have been usual for young ladies to prefer reading to cards, but children did now have their own books. The print at the top shows an alphabet book, though many alphabet books had rhymes to help remember the letters. Charles and Mary Lamb had re-written the tales of Shakespeare, bowdlerised [if one may use the anachronistic word] and simplified, for children and published in 1807; later Charles Lamb wrote in verse a translation of the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fully illustrated. Lamb actually named the beast as ‘Orasmyn’. This was an age in which books were produced especially for children, although only the very wealthy would be likely to own them as paper was extremely expensive and books were all hand bound.
Friday, 9 December 2011
|from Frederick II of Hohenstaufen's book, de arti venandi cum avibus|
As we move towards the Christmas feast I thought I’d look at the ways some delicacies made their way to the table.
Hawks, were kept for two purposes – pleasure, and the table. Indeed hawking became by the end of the Medieval period a craze such as we would understand it in the modern era, the must-be-seen-doing sport. Much care was lavished on the birds and many noblemen had lavish mews that were better kept than the houses of their tenants, but almost everyone except the poorest owned some kind of bird at the zenith of the craze.
I do not propose to go into a great deal of detail as there are excellent sites available dedicated to this subject, but I plan to draw together a brief outline of the art of falconry with some information about the birds used.
There are two subdivisions of falconry, that using hawks, trained by ostringers [aka austringers] and the more prestigious falco species trained by falconers. Falconers were more prestigious and commanded higher wages. Ostringers also flew eagles and owls as well as the accipitor species.
The ‘Boke of St Albans’ by Dame Juliana Barnes, prioress, was published in 1486 and lays down in detail all that was needed to care for birds including the list of who was permitted to own which bird. It was an offence to own a bird pertaining to a social estate above one’s own that was punishable by cutting off the hand. It was also an offence to harm a bird’s nest, eggs or young, tough on a peasant whose young animals might be predated by a wild falcon!
Female falcons tend to be larger and more prestigious.
There are lists of precedence and the hawks permitted, I have chosen to list the hawks and add those permitted to use them which means that there is not a strict order of precedence owing to the more prestigious nature of the female of the species.
Gyrfalcon: owned by a king, who might have male or female of the species. The male is known as a Gerkin, the female as a gyrfalcon.
Peregrine Falcon: owned by a prince. The male is called a tiercel the female is a falcon. An Earl may own a tiercel. A peregrine will live to 15½ years in the wild, conceivably longer in captivity. There is a marked difference in size between males and females, males weighing from 0.44 – 0.75 kg, the females 0.9 to 1.5 kg. Peregrines are particularly good at catching birds.
Rock Falcon: owned by a duke; this is a subspecies of the peregrine.
Buzzard aka Bastarde Hawk: this was the permitted bird of a baron. Buzzards are not good at manoeuvring. They can reach 1.3 kg.
Saker: permitted for a knight, this is one of the largest falcon species, related to the gyrfalcon and weighing in at 1.25kg. It lives 5-7 years in the wild and has been recorded at up to 25 years in captivity. It is not used for river quarry. It will take small to medium sized rodents eg rabbit.
Lanner: permitted for the use of a squire [someone who has a coat of arms but has not been knighted sometimes esquire]. The male is called a lanneret. It is a fast flying bird ideal for catching birds and is known to catch bats. It will take ground dwelling prey and is happy to take river quarry. Partridge, heron and hare would be its quarry at the fist.
Merlin: a lady would use a female merlin; I have not found an instance of the male bird being assigned. Merlins live typically 3 years only, though have been known to survive to 13. By its appearance, flight habits and behaviour it is said to be like a miniature peregrine. It is a bold hunter and capable of taking species bigger than itself, but prefers birds such as larks, pipits, finches, wheatears etc [all medieval delicacies] and will also take waders such as snipe. It chases rather than stooping.
Goshawk: A hawk of the fist and trained by an ostringer, this was one of the permitted birds of a yeoman. Goshawks are not always hooded. They are ill-tempered birds but very efficient at providing food for the table, taking partridge, pheasant and hares. Like the peregrine the male is considerably smaller, weighing in at well under a kilogram, the female can be over 2kg. It is almost as large as the buzzard to which it is related. Goshawks live typically 7 years in the wild and may live to a maximum of 18 years, providing also a reasonable working life as well as efficiency.
Hobby: also permitted to the yeoman. It is one of the few birds capable of out flying the swift. It is a pretty bird but its preferred diet is insects though it will take small birds in mid flight. It was a bird often used to teach young noblemen how to hawk.
Sparrowhawk: the female was permitted to a priest, the male, known as a musket to a holy water clerk. It was also a bird permitted to ladies as an alternative to the Merlin. Typical lifespan in the wild is three years though up to twenty years have been recorded in captivity. Typically the sparrowhawk would be flown at partridges and pheasants. It can be an unpredictable bird and also is known to keel over and die for no apparent reason. The trainer of a sparrowhawk is a specialist called a sparviter. Males hunt more in woodland, females more in fields and open areas.
Kestrel: the bird of knaves, servants and children. Lives typically 4 years in the wild or up to a maximum of 16 in captivity. The smallest hawk it catches only small rodents which might however be used to feed other birds in the mews. I wondered why a peasant might bother with this, fashion or no, but deterring rodents by catching them would have been important for maintaining stores and contributing to the better health of livestock.
Here’s a site with clickable info sheets with great pictures
Sunday, 4 December 2011
This is by no means a comprehensive list but covers the terms used in the first two stories about William Price.
|sloop of war under fighting canvas S.J. Waldock BA|
This is by no means a comprehensive list but covers the terms used in these first two stories about William Price.
Accommodation ladder A portable flight of steps down a ship's side
Aloft: In the rigging of a sailing ship.
Amidships aka midships: In the middle portion of ship, along the line of the keel.
Anchor: metal object with hook like arms to engage with the seabed and prevent drift attached by a line or chain raised and lowered by the capstan
Anchor’s aweigh: the anchor has cleared the sea bed
Articles of War: the regulations. Read by the Captain when first coming aboard as part of ‘reading himself in’ and to be read out every Sunday to remind the crew. Article 36 ‘…and any other crime not covered……’ was known as ‘the captain’s cloak’, there to cover the more ingenious mischief of the British sailor, but could be abused.
Astern: towards the stern (rear) of a vessel, behind a vessel.
Athwart: At right angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a ship
Avast: Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done.
Aweigh: Position of an anchor just clear of the bottom – ie its weight on the cable not resting.
Back and fill: To use the advantage of the tide being with you when the wind is not.
Beam: the width of the vessel.
Beating aka Tacking: sailing as close to the wind as possible on a zig zag course in order to sail essentially into the wind.
Beat to quarters: to beat the signal on the drum to go to quarters, ie to be in position to fight the ship.
Belay:  To make fast a line around a fitting, usually a cleat or belaying pin.  or to secure a climbing person with a line.  An order to halt a current activity or to countermand an order previously given.
Bight: A loop in a rope.
Binnacle Where the compass is situated.
Bitter End: the last part of a loose cable or rope. The anchor cable is tied to the Bitt, a post at the bow, and when all the cable is paid out the bitter end has then been reached.
Block: a pulley.
Bosun aka Boatswain: warrant officer in charge of ropes, sails, rigging and boats who uses a pipe to send commands to the men and may ‘start’ or hit them with a cane if they are not fast enough.
Bow: the front end. [‘the pointy end’]
Bow chaser: a gun pointing forward for use in pursuit.
Bowsprit: Spar extending forward from the bow used to secure the forestay and other rigging
Bulwark: The part of the ship’s side extending above the upper deck generally to about waist height of a man.
Cable: A heavy rope.
Cable length: a tenth of a nautical mile.
Capstan: A winch operated by capstan bars that fit into it that sailors may push against walking round the capstan to lift the anchor or winch other heavy objects. In small vessels floggings usually took place with the offender lashed to the capstan.
Cat o’ nine tails: the nine ended whip used for flogging. Each was made for an individual punishment and placed in a red baize bag, leading to the sayings ‘to let the cat out of the bag’ and ‘not room to swing a cat’.
Caulk: driving oakum into the ship’s seams which is then covered in tar to ensure that she is watertight.
Close hauled: sailing close to the wind, ie with the wind on the quarter [side] of the ship and the sails adjusted to get some modicum of forward motion from it.
Course: Lower or main sail
Dunnage: personal baggage
Figurehead: The identifying carving set at the bow beneath the bowsprit representing the name of the ship.
First Rate: the largest 3-masted ships of the line with more than 100 guns and a crew of more than 800.
First Lieutenant: the position of the lieutenants was decided purely on the date of their commission, ie when they had passed as lieutenant. The first lieutenant was the senior officer under the captain and his right hand man.
Fish: repairing a mast or spar with a fillet of wood which may then be woolded, wrapped with cordage for extra strength.
Forestay: long cable from the bow to masthead to hold the mast
Furl: To roll or gather a sail against its mast or spar.
Gaff: spar holding the upper edge of a fore-and-aft rigged sail
Go about aka tacking aka come about: to change direction from one tack to another by going through the wind
Gunwale: upper edge of the hull
Gybe: To change from one tack to the other away from the wind, with the stern of the vessel turning through the wind. The command ‘gybe oh’ is given.
Hardtack aka Ship’s biscuit/bread: the unpalatable staple hard and long lasting biscuit
Hawse [hole]: the hole in the side of the bow through which the anchor cable passes.
Heaving to: stopping a sailing vessel by the expedient of using the helm and setting the sails in opposition to each other to stay as stationary as possible.
Helm: the wheel used to steer the ship.
Holystone: the chunk of sandstone used to scrub the decks, named partly for its size and shape that was similar to a church Bible, and partly for the kneeling position in which it was used by the sailors as though in prayer.
Junk: old cordage past its useful life. Picked over for oakum to caulk [seal] the ship’s seams.
Jury rig: verb or noun, to rig a temporary repair of a mast or spar and sails when the original is damaged, to use to sail to a place a proper repair can be effected, refers too to that temporary rig.
Kiss the gunner’s daughter: slang for bending a boy over a gun for a caning
Larboard: obsolete term for port, the left side of the ship, used for such things as the larboard watch.
Lee: the side in the shadow of the wind
Lee Shore: a shore towards which the wind is blowing, ie it is risky to manoeuvre close to it for fear of being blown onto the shore unless the vessel handles well to windward.
Leeward: the direction towards which the wind is blowing.
Letter of Marque [and reprisal]: a document awarded to a privateer to condone certain acts of piracy as acts of reprisal against enemy vessels
Lubber's hole: Space between the head of the lower mast and the inner edge of the top. An alternate route into the top of the futtock shrouds for the timid climber rather than climbing over the edge of the top using the shrouds. It was considered unseamanlike to use it.
Mainmast: the tallest mast.
Mainsail: the lowest and largest sail on the mainmast.
Mainsheet: control line that most controls the trim of the mainsail.
Master: captain of a commercial vessel, or when Sailing Master the highest warranted rank on board ship in charge of navigation and day to day running of the ship.
Master and Commander: an obsolete position still used in colloquial description of a lieutenant commanding a ship. On board he is ‘the captain’ but his rank is still ‘Lieutenant’. By the time of William Price the appointment was just ‘commander’; like commodore it was an appointment not a formal rank.
Masthead: a small platform part way up the mast just above the main yard, where a lookout is posted whence men working on the main yard will gather and thence go about their duties. Being mastheaded – sent to the masthead – was a minor punishment for midshipmen, less for any danger or unpleasantness as for being banished for a while and probably missing a meal. In cold weather one would get cold and stiff.
Mess: a group of crewmen who eat together; also the place were they eat.
Mizzen Mast: the hindermost mast on the ship. [technically the third mast but this was often the third]
Nipper: short length of rope used to attach a cable, that is too large to be itself by the capstan, to the ‘messenger’ or rope moved by the capstan, to draw the cable along with it. The job of attaching this rope was in the purview of the ships’ boys, hence the term ‘nipper’ for a small lad.
Orlop Deck: the lowest deck above the hold, it is below the waterline. Here the surgeon performed any necessary operations.
Port: Lefthand side.
Prow: the pointy end aka bow.
Purser aka pusser: warrant officer in charge of victualling and other supplies. His perks were the buying and selling of slops [clothing] and luxuries like tobacco at a profit. Pursers had a reputation for corruption and some certainly provisioned with poor goods in order to pocket the difference between the permitted cost and what they actually paid.
Quarterdeck: the aftermost deck, the preserve of the officers.
Quarter Gallery: toilets for the use of the officers.
Rates: the means by which fighting ships were classified. A first rater had over 100 guns and 800+ crew; a frigate would be a fifth rater, 36 guns, 300 men; the smallest war ships were sixth raters, a dozen or so guns and about 40 men.
Ratlines: rope ladders permanently rigged between bulwarks and tops to permit access to tops and yards.
Rigging: the system of masts and lines permitting the manipulation of the sails.
Scarfed aka scarphed: a joint to wood when jury rigging to extend a broken spar, in which both pieces are partially cut back to be lapped together.
Scuppers: drainage pipes and channels to channel any water coming inboard out through holes in the bulwarks.
Scuttlebutt: the barrel with a hole cut in the lid for a dipper, set at the foot of the mainmast where water was freely available to the men [except in times of water shortage]; that the men would hang around gossiping gave the name ‘scuttlebutt’ to rumour and speculation.
Sextant: an instrument used to measure latitude.
Sheet: a rope used to control a sail in relation to catching the wind.
Shrouds: standing rigging from the masts to the ship’s sides.
Sloop: A small warship, sixth rater. Very difficult to define as the Navy Board seemed to define by the work it undertook more than any particular configuration.
Slush: the grease scooped off the top when cooking the meat. First call on it was from the Master and bosun for greasing blocks and parts of the running rigging, any surplus was the cook’s perks to sell or barter. Essentially it is dripping; and made the ship’s biscuit less unpalatable if spread on it.
Sounding: checking the depth of the water with a sounding line weighted with a lead weight. Sounding leads had a hole in which wax could be inserted to bring up a sample of the bottom to check what comprised the sea bed.
Spar: the wooden pole used to support the sails and various rigging.
Starboard: the right-hand side.
Stern: the back, or blunt end, of a ship.
Sternlights: the large windows across the rear of a ship generally giving onto the maindeck giving light to the captain’s cabin.
Swinging the lead: Skiving. when sounding, the lead needed a good heave to get it to go a decent distance, but this being tiring work, someone who was just swinging the lead was skiving.
Tack: to move on a zig-zag course to enable some progress against the direction of the wind.
Under way: moving in a controlled manner.
Vang: a rope holding the boom from riding up on a fore-and-aft rigged sail, or a rope securing the gaff to the ship’s rail.
Watch: a period of the day during which a part of the ship’s company are on duty; watch also refers to the division of men, generally being known as the starboard watch and the larboard watch.
Wearing Ship: tacking by turning away from the wind.
Weather gauge: Favourable position over the enemy sailing vessel with respect to the wind; having the opportunity to get the jump on them.
Woold: more a carpentry term, the use of old [stretched] cordage to wrap around a fished or scarfed joint to strengthen it in jury rigging.
Yard: the horizontal spar from which a square sail is suspended.
Yardarm: the end of the yard.