Category Archives: Nineteenth Century

Wellingtonia on the doorstep.

Scotland_Forever!I’ve gone a bit off my usual tangent with this post in the spirit of waste not, want not.  I recently contacted a regional newspaper in the hope that they would want a regular history columnist.  It’s surprising the number of papers that do have a history slot including my favourite regional paper The Cumberland News which wins prizes on a regular basis.  What follows is my sample article which didn’t even merit a response from the editor several weeks ago – obviously I’m not doing something right.  So back to the drawing board and try again.

The two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo has sailed by. But who would have thought that Derbyshire had so many links with the Napoleonic Wars?

In Chesterfield a plaque bearing the legend 1816 above a scruffy looking red brick building marks the remnants of Griffin Foundry. It produced shot that was fired during the Napoleonic Wars, the way some local Chesterfield books tell it they produced the cannon shells that tore into the French forces on Sunday 18 June 1815.

In Ashbourne, French prisoners-of-war married local girls and provided the town with a recipe for very tasty gingerbread that’s still being made today in the same bakery where it was first produced.  The black and white Tudor building on St John’s Street has been a bakery for more than two hundred and fifty years.  By now the smell of newly baked bread must have seeped into the joists.

Both Chesterfield and Ashbourne parish churches contain the graves of French prisoners-of-war who didn’t make it home as well as a few British officers who did.  Elsewhere in Derbyshire there are tales of men who refused to be conscripted into Wellington’s army.

Along the A517 at Holbrook, William Leeke was once the vicar. There’s a window to him inside the church. His headstone, in the graveyard, reveals not only that he died aged eighty-one but also that in 1815 he carried his company colours into the battle. At the time he was seventeen-years-old. He served with the 52nd Regiment. As luck would have it he recorded his experiences but they are not always in accord with the official version of events. He was firmly of the opinion that it was the 52nd Regiment who beat off Napoleon’s Imperial Guards rather than the 1st British Guards. His account has caused a fair amount of controversy amongst historians over the years.

E.M. Wrench was another ex-soldier. In 1866, Doctor Wrench, raised the ten-foot high cross that stands on Baslow Edge, it’s outline stark against the sky and a magnet for walkers. Other monuments to the battle and its hero are rather leafier. There’s a Wellington Oak at Renishaw Hall.

EXHIBITION USE ONLY npg.896.1337Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1815-16 NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY MARKS 200th ANNIVERSARY OF WATERLOO WITH THE FIRST EXHIBITION ON THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington will open at the National Portrait Gallery, to mark the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015. APSLEY HOUSE, London. "Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington" c.1815 by Sir Thomas LAWRENCE (1769-1830). WM 1567-1948.

EXHIBITION USE ONLY
npg.896.1337 Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1815-16
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY MARKS 200th ANNIVERSARY OF WATERLOO WITH THE FIRST EXHIBITION ON THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington will open at the National Portrait Gallery, to mark the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015. APSLEY HOUSE, London. “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington” c.1815 by Sir Thomas LAWRENCE (1769-1830). WM 1567-1948.

Wellington died at Walmer Castle in Kent in1852. William Lobb introduced the following year a tree, native of Sierra Nevada, California into Britain. It’s become rather an unusual monument to the man who avoided the unnecessary bloodshed of his troops where possible  and said of his men, “I don’t know what they effect they have on the enemy but by God they terrify me.”  John Lindley of the Horticultural Society was given the job of naming the tree. The Americans wanted to call it after Washington but Lindley called it after the Iron Duke, the hero of Waterloo. The tree became the Wellingtonia. We also call them giant sequoia or giant redwood. Sequoia are the largest trees in the world. Wellingtonia can be found in stately homes from Chatsworth to Kedleston. These towering conifers with their furrowed rusty red trunks are babies. They’ll still be growing on the 2,000th anniversary of Waterloo.

There’s even a Wellingtonia Society  called Redwood World. Why not visit the site to find out if there’s one near you, or you may know of one that’s not on their list http://www.redwoodworld.co.uk/locations.htm.

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Filed under Local History links, Napoleonic Wars, Nineteenth Century

Resurrection Men in Carlisle

st cuthThe story begins with the Liverpool coach on the 6th September 1823.  Sadly it overturned and badly injured a little boy.  His right leg was amputated at the knee.  The child died on the 1st November and was buried in the graveyard of St Cuthbert’s Church.

The body-snatchers Burke and Hare were up to no good in Edinburgh this time exhuming bodies and selling them to the medical world for dissection. Accounts of graves being robbed of their occupants featured in all the newspapers.  There was concern that a grave had been tampered with in Stanwix.  Before long suspicion focused on ‘two strangers’ who’d hired a room in Long Island.  The trail led to the offices of the Edinburgh Carriers where a stoutly corded box to be delivered to Lieutenant Todd in Edinburgh had already been dispatched. Suspicion excited, the box was stopped and opened at Hawick.  Inside were the bodies of three children.  Another, rather heavier box, had already been refused transportation.

Meanwhile on the 8th of December, another interment was about to occur in St Cuthbert’s.  The mourners may have been rather alarmed at what was discovered.  The body of a Botchergate Blacksmith wash discovered with cord tied around its feet.  He was carefully reburied and a search of the graveyard made.  The little boy, killed in the coach accident, was missing as was the body of a cotton spinner.

 

A twenty guinea reward was offered for the capture of the resurrection men but they disappeared as swiftly as they had arrived.  By 1828 body-snatching had reached such a pitch  that the Government of the day needed to legalize dissection.

 

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Filed under Carlisle, Nineteenth Century

St Cuthbert’s Church, Carlisle.

st cuthSt Cuthbert’s Church in Carlisle has had a chequered history.  These days its easy to miss tucked away as it is down a side lane between the House of Fraser and the Crown and Mitre.  St Cuthbert preached in Carlisle but it didn’t stop the Vikings destroying the church that stood on the spot.  It was William Rufus who ordered that the church should be rebuilt and it escaped the worst of the great fire of 1292 as well as the attentions of assorted besieging Scots.  In 1644 when the Parliamentarians closed the cathedral and the parish church of St Mary’s which lays inside the cathedral the mayor made St Cuthbert’s the city’s Civic Church.  It remains so to this day.

However, in 1777 it was decided that the church should be rebuilt, though the opening of the new church was delayed by a particularly bad storm in 1778 it took only two years to raise the money for the building and fitting out of the new church.   Nothing remains of the medieval church apart from some fragments of glass.  

The churchyard is an oasis of green in a city environment.  Headstones have been placed against the churchyard walls so there is no indication of the spot where executed felons and Jacobites were laid to rest.  There’s a further link to Carlisle’s troubled past as the last town besieged in England inside the church in the form of the royal coat of arms which were placed there in the aftermath of 1745 to remind the citizens of Carlisle where their loyalty lay.

  Back outside, the graveyard is the final resting place for members of the Royalist garrison who died during the siege of 1644. The guide-book also makes reference to a highwayman and if that weren’t lively enough in December 1823 the body snatchers came calling in Carlisle.  Graves were tampered with, two bodies went missing and one was discovered parcelled up ready for transportation.

Who would have thought there was so much history lurking in such a peaceful spot?

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Filed under Carlisle, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century