Newspapers in Suffolk: Part 4
from 1851 ~ 1875
During the period covered by this volume, the longer- established Suffolk newspapers found they now had a great deal of competition. Papers began to emerge serving some of the smaller towns, offering that familiar mix of local, national and international stories, designed to appeal to a growing readership. As a result, this volume has been put together with reference to nearly 20 different publications. By 1875, papers had become cheaper, and in many cases, expanded from the standard four-page spread to eight or more pages, often with a supplement attached. This made room for more adverts, but also some wonderful stories.
A duel was recently fought between an Englishman and a Russian in a darkened room in San Francisco. The Englishman, not wishing to have blood on his hands, fired his pistol up the chimney, and, to his horror, down came the Russian.
Bury Free Press (No 2): July 28th 1855
TAKING IT COOLLY - On Monday week, a man named Barnard had his thumb accidentally cut off at Mr. Wood’s saw mill. Very shortly after the accident, he entered a hairdresser’s shop, and throwing a small parcel on the counter, exclaimed, “there’s the damn thumb!” The astonished hairdresser’s blood, and that of a customer who was in the shop at the time, ran colder than that which was seen flowing from the thumb, when the paper in which it was wrapped opened of its own accord, and displayed its horrible contents.
Suffolk & Essex Free Press: Jan. 14th 1858
A laughable hoax was played upon about 50 young gentlemen of Norwich, who at a certain hour met under the Post Office clock in response to a passionate love appeal. Fifty Lotharios met at the trysting-place at the proper time wearing a white rosette, which they were requested to do, to the no small amusement of many who were in the secret.
Ipswich Journal: March 5th 1864
Mrs Watson, the wife of a dyer at Leeds, has been killed by swallowing four false teeth in her sleep.
Ipswich & Colchester Times: April 15th 1859
BICYCLING - Mr. Arthur Packard, son of the Mayor of Ipswich travelled from Lowestoft to Ipswich, a distance of nearly 50 miles on a bicycle in 6 hours last Wednesday. The young gentleman had travelled 35 & 23 miles respectively on the two previous days with the thermometer at 75 degrees in the shade.
Stowmarket Courier: Sept. 2nd 1869
MICE POWER - A gentleman in Kirkaldy, Scotland has trained a couple of mice, and invented machinery to enable them to spin cotton yarn. Each mouse twists and reels from 100 to 126 threads per day. The net profit obtained annually by each mouse will be six shillings. The inventor contemplates taking the lease of an old empty house, which will hold 10,000 mouse mills.
Bury Post: February 5th 1851
Great national events were well covered, especially where a local angle could be identified.
The great talking point throughout the nation in 1851 had to be the Great Exhibition...
…Its magnitude, its multifariousness, its splendour and its originality are such as no powers of the pen can present in a compendious form and no journal could exhibit it in detail... Never before was so vast a multitude collected together… honest English workmen in their round fustian jackets… strange looking foreigners… coroneted carriages… all that was visible was a sea of heads, hats and bonnets.
Bury Post: May 7th 1851
Adverts appeared as much as a year beforehand inviting exhibitors to take part. At the grand opening in May 1851, Suffolk industry was well represented.
Ransomes showed their new Iron drop Drill and Roller Mill, Garrets showed their Thrashing Machine and Horse Hoe. Burrell’s of Thetford took an array of Steam Engines. Turners of Ipswich exhibited their own four horse-power steam engine and their improved corn and linseed crusher. Other Suffolk machines on display were a crushing and grinding mill
manufactured by Woods of Stowmarket, a clover threshing machine from Sargent of Long Melford, a universal self-adjusting cultivator from Bendall of Woodbridge and a model of a tipping wagon from Swan of Boxford.
People were drawn in their thousands, the new railways bringing them from all corners, especially as the price of entry was reduced by the end of May to just one shilling. The weird, the wonderful and the downright bizarre were there for all the world to see. The Bury Post for May 14th 1851 described the following items - A pair of cuffs made from French Poodle-dogs’ hair, a wooden leg with a spring in it to take away the jerk in walking, an ‘alarum’ bed capable of waking the soundest sleeper; even a mechanical leech.
Treasures from an expanding Empire also had their place, though Victorian inventiveness had to extend to new forms of security to protect those most valuable items.
Near the throne, on the eastern side, is the far famed Koh-I-Noor, or Mountain of Light Diamond, the spoil of our recent triumphs in India, the destinies of which country it has followed for ages. This precious gem is of the purest water, weighs 186 carats, and is about an inch and a half in length by one inch in breadth... A gilded cage protects it, and at night, an ingenious contrivance by Mr. Chubb lowers it into a strong iron box.
Bury Post: May 7th 1851
However, there can have been little to match one American contribution…
“…an air-exhausted metal coffin, in which a human body can be preserved for ages without undergoing the slightest change towards decomposition. It contains a bouquet of flowers, which is as fresh as when first placed there.”
Of course, the real star of the show was Joseph Paxton’s amazing building. Ironically, this vast glasshouse would finally be destroyed by fire in 1936. Even stranger is the fact it was predicted in 1851.
THE CRYSTAL PALACE IN DANGER - what if this vast collection was destroyed by fire? Many cities might be burnt to the ground without causing such a sensation as that would. Yet to that risk the Crystal Palace was for a moment exposed yesterday morning. The flue attached to a gas stove in one of the offices of the contractors became heated, and ignited a piece of wood with bunting, which rested upon or touched it. A piece of the burning cloth fell into a small open cask of Indian corn… the drapery of the counter concealed what had happened, and it was only when the smoke began to break forth, that an alarm was raised. Fortunately... there were no less than a dozen large fire engines within the building, besides an ample supply of water... It will, we trust, warn all parties connected with the building to be on the alert and to trust nothing to chance.
Bury Post: May 14th 1851
The other highlight of 1851 was the Australian Gold-rush. It was a three-month journey to Australia by ship, and this was old news by the time it was published.
THE GOLD FEVER IN AUSTRALIA
A complete mental madness appears to have seized almost every member of the community, and, as a natural consequence, there has been a universal rush to the diggings. People of all trades, callings, and pursuits, were quickly transformed into miners, and many a hand which had been trained to kid gloves or accustomed to wield nothing heavier than the grey goose-quill, became nervous to clutch the pick and crowbar… Scores have rushed from their homes, provided with a blanket and a pick or grubbing-hoe, full of hope that a day or two's labour would fill their pockets with the precious metal. There are also several magistrates plying their picks and cradles most laboriously, but we have not heard with what success.
Bury Post: September 10th 1851
The following week’s Bury Post claimed there were nearly 20,000 at work, from all classes of society. Desertions from all other occupations were continually going on. It was reported that two visitors to the Blue Mountains had brought back gold to the value of £1000 including one lump weighing 46 ounces.
For most people in Suffolk, Australia was still associated with the transportation of convicts, a practice that dwindled on until 1868. Perhaps it had its intended result. By mid-century, crime had been much reduced.
GRATIFYING DECREASE IN CRIME
Up to the present time, there is not a single prisoner for trial at the sessions for the Ipswich Division of the County and only one for the division of Woodbridge. In the Borough also, we are glad to state that there is but one prisoner for trial.
Ipswich & Colchester Times: December 24th 1858
Punishment for those convicted could still be very harsh, however…
Edward Parmenter (12) was found guilty of stealing a silver spoon from his employer, Mr. Simon Smee of Halsted. He was committed for one month’s hard labour and to be once whipped.
Suffolk & Essex Free Press: Jan. 1858
FLOGGING IN THE ARMY - A return has just been published showing that in the Army and Militia of Great Britain and Ireland 518 men received 23,668 lashes in 1863. In 1865, 1,502 men were branded with the letter D, and 90 with the letters B.C.
Norwich Mercury: September 5th 1866
Throughout the nineteenth century, reforms were underway in the justice system. Parish constables were replaced by a county police force, which many people believed was inferior to what they had before.
TO THE EDITOR
SIR - the practical jokes played off nightly in this town of late, [Stowmarket] may be very agreeable to “acting parties,” but to those upon whom they have been pleased to bestow a visit, such follies, prove quite the reverse… on the morning of the 2nd inst., doors of the establishments of opulent individuals [were] fastened next the street, hurdles suspended from gas lamps and inn signs, our venerable fabric the town pump, enclosed with hurdles, a large quantity of massive clay brick removed and uniformly placed on the high road of one of the principal entrances to the town… and depositing a certain vehicle in our canal… surely the perpetration of these acts will lead our learned in the law to the consideration of the necessity for establishing a police force in this place.
Yours respectfully, RARA FIDES.
Bury Post: September 13th 1854
At the usual monthly meeting of the Improvement Commissioners on Thursday last… a memorial was read by the Chairman from the occupiers and owners of houses near the Battery Green [Lowestoft], complaining of the nuisance caused by the indecent language of the boys on the green - Mr. James Fisher thought that a policeman should be stationed on the green every night... the clerk said that the policemen were always loitering about, and gossiping by the hour together. If they were ordered to walk over the green at different times, they might do a great deal of good.
Bury Post: August 8th 1855
It was still popular for ladies to fill the public gallery of the County Court when the Assizes were in session. However, there were cases when the sensitivities of the female gender had to be considered, especially when details of a most delicate nature were being discussed.
George Norris (23) was charged at the Suffolk Lent Assizes with having taken Caroline Fairweather out of the possession and against the will of John Fairweather, her father - the said Caroline Fairweather being unmarried and under the age of sixteen years.
A number of witnesses were called to testify to the fact that just before Christmas 1851, George Norris had abducted this young girl, taking her from her home in Debenham to a “brothel in Ipswich” and “debauching her and depriving her of her innocence.” The real problem came when the girl herself began to describe, in some detail, her ordeal.
He swore that I should undress. I refused to do so. He took hold of my shawl in front and threw it open; the pin flew out, and the shawl came off my shoulders. He tore my dress trying to get it off me, and I tore his shirt and a gold stud off his front. He put the candle out. I fainted. When I came to myself I found he was treating me very ill. I was on the bed. My frock was off. The defendant was undressed. I cried out and said, “my character!” He put his hand over my mouth, saying, “Hold your tongue!”
The Judge: If I had been aware of the nature of this case, I should have desired all the females to withdraw.
Suffolk Chronicle: March 1852
Which, of course, is exactly what he did. George Norris, at the end of what was a particularly bawdy case, was found guilty and ‘imprisoned in the House of Correction for 18 months.’
Partly because of the strong anti-hanging movement, and also because of a drop in serious crime, there were far fewer hangings in this period than in any previous twenty-five years. Only four were hanged at Ipswich between 1851 and 1875, and fewer at Bury. This period saw the last few public hangings in this county. These included the unfortunate Mary Emily Cage of Stonham Aspal. At the Summer Assize of 1851, she was…
Charged with having murdered [her husband] James Cage by administering to him a quantity of deadly poison, called arsenic. The woman who was short in stature was dressed in a coloured faded shawl and black bonnet; there was nothing repulsive in her countenance, which was one of an ordinary description, though a somewhat drowsy appearance gave indications that the prisoner was an opium eater.
Suffolk Chronicle: August 1851
The jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to death, in spite of the fact she had suffered years of violent abuse from her husband. Her execution had to be delayed a week as the executioner, Mr. Calcraft, was unable to be present. Finally, as the hanging was arranged for early in the morning, an unusually small crowd of only about five hundred turned up early to claim the best viewing points; the majority of these being young girls and children. By the appointed time, however, the area in front of the gaol had become ‘a seething mass of human beings.’
According to the Suffolk Chronicle...
Very few respectably dressed persons were to be seen and most of the houses within view had their blinds drawn down or the shutters closed. The railing around the scaffold was covered to the height of five feet with black drapery, so as to leave only the drop visible. This arrangement, while serving to conceal from the crowd below the appearance of the culprit until the final moment, was well calculated to add to the sombre and repulsive look of the structure.
Suffolk Chronicle: August 1851
A lengthy account described how, during her final days, Mary Cage had said her last farewell to her friends and six of her children, presenting them with Bibles and Prayer Books…
The demeanour of the crowd, with a few exceptions where individuals lighted and smoked their pipes, was on the whole, orderly and decorous. The only instance of heartless brutality was that of a fellow who, the very moment the drop fell, struck up some song of the gallows. He was very properly hooted by those within hearing. Members of the Young Men’s Peace League stationed themselves in the various thoroughfares leading to the gaol, and distributed tracts to passers-by entitled: ‘A Few Reasons for the Abolition of Capital Punishment.’
For all that, the death penalty continued to be imposed, for all cases of what came to be known as first-degree murder, for another hundred years or more. One case, however, did not result in the anticipated hanging.
On a cold, bleak December afternoon in 1869, James Rutterford and David Heffer were poaching at Eriswell on part of the Elveden Estate.
A 19 year-old gamekeeper, John Hight was beaten to death with the barrel of a shotgun. Rutterford and Heffer were arrested the following day. Reports appeared in several newspapers of two unsuccessful attempts made by James Rutterford to escape from Bury Gaol…
Our readers will remember that on the occasion of his former attempt to escape, his plan was to tamper with the brickwork… He was then removed to a cell, the interior of which was boarded a certain distance up the walls. Suspicion arose on discovering that the wire running round the top of the tin in which some of his food was supplied had been removed, and on examination of his cell, it was found that some of the panelling had been displaced… the attempt clearly shows that the prisoner is a most desperate character.
Diss Express: March 4th 1870
Eventually, when the case came to court, Heffer testified against his colleague, who was found guilty of the murder. In condemning him to death, the judge said...
“You must prepare to follow your victim into the other world. I trust you will pay attention to that religious instruction which you will now receive, for only so can you expect to meet your Maker with any degree of tranquillity, resignation or hope.”
Bury Free Press: April 9th 1870
When examined by doctors John Kilner, Thomas Coe and Robert Macnab, the killer James Rutterford was found to have a malformation of the neck, so that there would be…”great difficulty in hanging him without risk of failure or prolonged suffering.” His sentence was commuted to one of imprisonment for life. He died in Pentonville Gaol. There were those who said, of course, “If Rutterford is not hanged, then hanging must be abolished altogether.”
Not everybody agreed with what constituted entertainment. Though prize fights and freak shows continued to be reported, these, along with other diversions, did not meet with universal approval.
At Bury Fair, which has sunk to the very lowest depth of squalor and wretchedness, the police prohibited the exhibition of “the living skeleton,” a young man 24 years of age weighing only three stones.
Ipswich Journal: October 24th 1863
The Diss Express of May 6th 1870 referred to ‘the death of a giant, George Page of Newbourne near Ipswich.’ The deceased and his brother, Meadows Page used to travel in company in Whiting’s Exhibition and were described in the show bills as the ‘Suffolk Giants.’ The deceased was 26 years of age, and was seven feet four inches in height, one inch taller than his brother.
The most famous ‘freak’ of all was ‘General Tom Thumb’ who continued to attract crowds when he visited East Anglia.
Newspapers of the time carried adverts for his appearances.
MILDENHALL PRIZE FIGHT - Another of these most degrading exhibitions (being the second within three months) took place near this town on Tuesday. Two men, Paddock and Poulson, tried their skill in the pugilistic art for 100 pounds a side and after two hours severe contest, the former was declared to be the conqueror. The quietude of the town was but little disturbed on this occasion, compared with what it has been… and it is gratifying to relate that but very few indeed of our townspeople were witnesses of the disgraceful proceedings.
Bury Post: August 1854
For some evenings past our ears have been saluted with the sounds of music of not the most harmonious nature, proceeding from a low- priced theatre stationed in the Fleece Close and to which there has been a general rush of the juvenile population, as well as the adult of both sexes to witness the absurd proceedings and gesticulations of “Merry Andrew” on the outside, previous to the commencement of the play. We wonder the authorities should have allowed it at a place within the bounds of the borough to entice and tempt the poor to spend their hard earnings at this dear time of provisions, unnecessarily; thereby promoting distress and want in many families, to say nothing of vice and immorality: for we presume it to be the duty of Governors to protect the people from evils arising from any source whatever.
Bury Free Press: 1870
The Ipswich and Colchester Times began life in the mid eighteen-fifties. Later to be known as the Ipswich Daily Times, and subsequently the East Anglian Daily Times, obscure items appeared in its pages from time to time.
In April 1859, the paper reported an accident to Mr. Wombwell’s menagerie. This touring zoo had long been known to readers in Suffolk. Book 2 of this series includes an advertisement from 1818, and Book 3 refers to how George Wombwell disposed of those animals that failed to survive a life on the road.
This time, four human lives were lost when a gale blew down the canvas roof and caravans containing animals in Maes-y-dre in Flintshire. Clearly this unfortunate event did not stop the Wombwells from continuing to tour with their animals. We came across this announcement.
This collection of wild animals with the capital brass band came to Stowmarket yesterday and was very extensively patronised in the afternoon and evening.
Bury Post: September 12th 1871
Touring entertainments were not always received with so much enthusiasm…
This horsemanship company visited our town [Stowmarket] on Friday and gave great dissatisfaction to a large company who filled the marquee in the evening. The equestrian feats were wretched, but the greatest piece of humbug was the ghost, which instead of being the ‘sensation’ ghost of Professor Pepper’s invention, was a man dressed in a sheet.
Suffolk Chronicle: October 24th 1863
Some reports could be downright tongue-in-cheek…
By bills, we see that the inhabitants of this town will have the moral and elevating influences of donkey-racing and other truly enobling and dignifying sports on Whit-Monday.
Framlingham Weekly News: May 26th 1860
THE WIDER WORLD
Wonders of the modern world fascinated readers at the time. Descriptions of Niagara Falls had appeared in earlier years. In 1841, the Bury Post had been hoaxed into publishing an announcement of the destruction of the falls, only to have to apologise a week later.
The Diss Express of October 15th 1869 described how dangerous it could be visiting popular tourist spots like Niagara Falls. On this occasion, there was… “a melancholy accident, whereby four ladies viewing the falls in their carriage were carried down a steep bank, when the horses started and their carriage plummeted over the edge, killing two of them.”
The Ipswich and Colchester Times in April 1859 related, in some detail, an account of the crossing of the Niagara River on stilts by Andrew Greenleaf, ‘better known as Signor Gaspa Morelli.’
But the most remarkable performer of his age was Blondin. In May 1873, an advert was published, announcing that the great man would be appearing in Ipswich. In June 1859, he had made his first crossing of Niagara on a tightrope, a distance of 1,100 feet, balanced 170ft. above the water, in front of a crowd of 50,000 astonished onlookers. The Suffolk Chronicle, in anticipation of his arrival in Ipswich, reminded its readers of some of his other incredible feats.
On the 4th July, 1859, he crossed, [Niagara] his body being enveloped in a heavy sack, made of blankets, his eyes being consequently blindfolded. He went on without accident, and his steps seemed as sure and steady as when he had his eyes. On the 13th July 1859, at the Buffalo Theatre, he carried a man heavier than himself on an inclined rope from the stage to the third tier of the house and down again.
On the 16th July, he again crossed Niagara, wheeling a wheelbarrow. On the 5th August he crossed again, turning somersaults and performing extraordinary gymnastics on the rope. On the 19th August he performed the unprecedented feat of carrying a man across the Niagara River on his back, thousands of spectators looking on, and momentarily expecting the death of one or both of the daring men. On the 27th August he went over as a Siberian Slave in shackles. On the 2nd September he crossed at night, and stood on his head amid a blaze of fireworks…the last performance at Niagara was given before H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. On this occasion, Blondin put the climax to all his other achievements by crossing the rope on stilts.
Suffolk Chronicle: May 24th 1873
The report of his Ipswich appearance described how, dressed in a fireproof suit, Blondin drove his wheelbarrow across the rope with fireworks exploding all around him, some even attached to the wheeelbarrow and his balancing pole.
As regards the strange and exotic, nothing quite rivalled the appearance in Suffolk of Dhuleep Singh. Exiled from his homeland in the Punjab, and forced to spend most of his declining years at Elveden in Suffolk, he was the toast of fashionable society throughout Europe and a favourite of Queen Victoria. His movements were well documented by the local press.
Amongst the recent departures from town is that of his Highness the Maharajah Dhuleep Singh for Bombay. The passage of his Highness through Paris excited the greatest curiosity and interest. The ladies of a certain world were all abroad at the first signal of his approach, running hither and thither on the highway of chance… to catch a glimpse of the Maharajah’s eye as he passed in and out of his hotel, attired in his splendid Eastern Costume, and followed by his dusky attendants.
Ipswich Journal: Feb. 6th 1864
Another story that fed the public’s fascination with travel and exploration was the long running saga of the disappearance of Doctor David Livingstone. His letters and reports appeared regularly in our local newspapers.
SAFETY OF DOCTOR LIVINGSTONE
A missionary who has landed here (Falmouth) today brings important intelligence concerning the safety of Doctor Livingstone. He states that letters have been received, dated February 1869. At that time, Livingstone was well, but short of provisions. He had been deserted by all the Europeans that had accompanied him, and was then living on rice and fruits, supplied by Arabs.
Diss Express: October 8th 1869
When Dr. David Livingstone set off in search of the source of the Nile, and reports dried up, headlines like “DOCTOR LIVINGSTONE NOT YET DESPAIRED OF” continued to appear. (Bury Free Press: May 28th 1870)
Another despatch dated: Zanzibar, May 3rd, stated...
Doctor Livingstone has reached Unyanyembe. At Ujiji he was met by Mr. Stanley, who is expected daily at Zanzibar, having in his hands a large case of correspondence that will fully explain Dr. Livingstone’s recent travels, embracing the North End of the Tanganyika lake and solving the Nile’s problem.
Bury and Suffolk Standard: July 9th 1872
Quoting from the New York Herald, the Bury and Suffolk Standard reported…
The mission undertaken by Dr. Livingstone in the cause of science, in which he has been so long engaged, was and is the discovery of the sources of the Nile; but his self-appointed work in all his African explorations has been and is the work of Christianity. His heart is in this work, and hence, if he can be instrumental in the abolition of the horrible Eastern African slave trade, he will esteem it a greater glory than that of the discovery of all the sources of the Nile.
Bury and Suffolk Standard: August 13th 1872
GOOD LOCAL STORIES
More local papers were starting to appear, serving the smaller market towns of Suffolk. This encouraged the established papers too to allow more space for even the most trivial and parochial of items.
THE COMBS TANNERY
On Friday morning, the employees of Messrs. Webb and Son went by special train to Lowestoft to spend a day by the seaside. They were accompanied by Mr. Joseph V. Webb, as well as several friends of the firm. Ten hours were allotted to the stay at Lowestoft, and at dusk the return journey was made, taking only a few minutes over two hours, the route being via Ipswich.
Ipswich Times: September 11th 1874
SOUTHWOLD MONSTER CRAB - On Thursday the 12th inst., an enormous crab, with claws measuring five feet was caught on the beach in this town. It was found with a long rope attached to it, and was conveyed in a cart (having previously had its claws detached) to the Town Hall, where it may be viewed by the curious of crustacean research.
Halesworth Times: September 1857
A DUCKING - A man named Woods, in the employ of Mr. J. Gooding was a few days ago fetching water from a pond with a water cart. When near the pond, the horse gave a sudden start, and Woods was immediately immersed. We are happy to be able to add that he now survives the calamity; and we trust that he may be spared to narrate his adventures to his children and children's children, unto the third and fourth generation.
Framlingham Weekly News: May 7th 1864
CODDENHAM: DEATH OF A MISER -
On the 23rd ult., J.E. Sparrowe, Esq., held an inquest at Coddenham, touching the death of George Bird, aged about 60 of that parish. - Robert Vincent, the rural postman, said he had lived with him. He (Vincent) used to cook his victuals. Deceased was very dirty in his habits, and had been unwell for some time past... it was stated, when he consulted Mr. Bloomfield, the surgeon, sometime since, that gentleman had told him it was no use giving him medicine; he only wanted nourishing food. Deceased had ample means for a man in his station, but seemed to have loved his money more than himself. The jury returned a verdict of ‘found dead,’ at the same time adding that he died from debility and exhaustion, produced by his extremely penurious and filthy habits, and by denying himself the common necessities of life.
Suffolk & Essex Free Press: Nov. 4th 1858
BILDESTON FOOT RACES - On Friday last, a hurdle race for £5 between W. Green, son of Mr. Green, farmer, Hitcham, and Mr. Diss of West Bergholt, Essex, took place in a meadow belonging to S.B. White Esquire, the competitors had to leap 100 hurdles, placed five yards apart. Diss being much the tallest and strongest man, the betting was very much in his favour. Diss took the lead at starting, Green being about one hurdle behind, and they continued in this order till the first 25 had been cleared, when Green fell. He was, however, soon assisted up, and proceeded in pursuit of his rival, who shortly afterwards came to grief, and, falling at three hurdles in succession, he was overtaken and passed by Green. Diss was evidently quite exhausted, and finding himself beaten, he resorted to the cowardly trick of throwing down the hurdles with his hands. This however, was soon stopped, and Green finished the race at his leisure, clearing the last 50 hurdles in splendid style, without touching one. He was loudly cheered, having performed one of the severest tasks in jumping ever known to be accomplished.
Diss Express: May 6th 1870
IPSWICH - A MONSTROSITY - The wife of a labourer named Basket, living in Station Street, Stoke, a few days ago, gave birth to a child with two heads, and the unfortunate little creature is still living, and as it takes food freely, it is to be feared that it will continue to exist, a source of pain and distress to its parents. The child is a female; its body is well developed and apparently healthy, its limbs and extremities natural with the exception of the right hand, three of the fingers of which are wanting. The chin and mouth have no unusual appearance, but in the place of the nose is a mass of flesh, above which the second head, as it may be called, for that is what is resembles in shape, appears to grow. In the lower head is one sightless eye, over which the second head at times lies. The poor little creature is a painful instance of the freaks in which nature occasionally indulges.
Bury Free Press: October 19th 1867
An interesting discovery was reported from Helmingham, which attracted much attention. Some excavations were made about two feet deep in that part of the Rectory garden called the Wilderness, when the gardeners came upon a number of skeletons, which upon further investigation appeared to have been laid in a kind of trench. Some of the skeletons were of great size, and it was supposed from the number of them found (24) there must have been a massacre of the males of an early settlement or tribe in the neighbourhood, as the skeletons were all males and included even little children. Many of them were much mutilated, as if caused in self-defence.
Ipswich Journal: March 26th 1864
WITCHCRAFT IN 1855
In the parish of Norton - celebrated for its fine oak tree - there lives a famous old woman, of the name of Osborn - a very unprepossessing personage, of low stature, blear-eyed, old yet active, and by trade a pedlar. This however is said to be merely a mask, to disguise her real profession - that of a fortune-teller; and she is also said to have the powers of a witch. Indeed, many persons are so terrified at the sight of her that they flee from her presence, and believe that to offend her in any way, or to refuse to buy of her goods, would bring upon them some dreadful visitation of either body or mind.
This lengthy item goes on to explain that her powers were of hereditary origin, ‘her mother old Mrs Talbot of Cotton having left her her imps.’ Amongst the doings of Mrs Osborn, are recounted the following…
A poor man’s wife at Ashfield bought a small looking glass of her, but neglecting to pay for it, the old woman became offended - and lo! When, one day, poor Mrs W. was standing in her yard admiring the beauties of nature, she became suddenly covered with white lice. This was no less than a revengeful trick of Mrs. Osborn.
Poor Mrs.___, she derided the old woman, defied her powers, but no sooner did she marry, than strife arose between her husband and herself, and now they are parted, one is gone into the workhouse and the other to service; and the old woman said they should not live together. You see it is all true - she can do it!
Bury Post: August 8th 1855
DEBENHAM - GIVE THE POOR DOG A BONE - a little girl was on Sunday morning conveying to the bake office the family dinner, which, she incautiously placed upon the ground in order to rest her arms. A dog, which happened to be passing at the time, quietly selected the best joint to satisfy the cravings of his personal appetite. ’Tis generally supposed that the dog in question disapproves of Sunday baking!
Framlingham Weekly News: May 7th 1864
Thornham Hall, near Eye, the seat of the Right Hon. Lord Henniker, M.P. for the Eastern Division of the county, was the scene of great festivities, in celebration of the coming of age of the son and heir. Flags were hoisted at Stoke [Ash] and [at] Mellis station and all along the route from thence to the Hall.
The festivities consisted of a dinner to the tenants, presided over by his Lordship, a dinner to the cottage tenants with sports, a grand ball attended by the nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood, besides a ball to the trades men and servants. Tenants from over 20 villages were invited. The Hall, gardens, park, and triumphal arches were brilliantly illuminated every evening, and the admirable arrangements throughout the festivities, the unbounded supply of the choicest viands, wines, etc. and the marked condescension of Lord and Lady Henniker, who seemed to vie with each other in promoting the comfort of their numerous guests during the week, can better be imagined than described, and must have been gratifying to all those who had the honour of being present on the occasion.
Ipswich Journal: November 21st 1863
A Couple of Veterans
There are, singularly enough, in the Union House in this town, two men named Robert Cook and James Ribbans, who fought in the same ship together as the immortal Nelson, at the Battle of Copenhagen. The former, who is in his 93rd year, also served under Admiral Duncan, and was at the Mutiny at the Nore in June 1797, when, it will be recollected, Parker, the mutineer, was hanged. He afterwards fought under Duncan when the Dutch Fleet were defeated. The latter, who served under Nelson also at the Battle of the Nile, is in his 85th year. Both men are still in the enjoyment of good health, and able to take good walking exercise.
Ipswich Journal: October 31st 1863.
A CLERGYMAN BOUND OVER TO KEEP THE PEACE
The Rev. W. Barlee, curate in charge of Stonham Aspal, Suffolk was summoned before the Needham bench of Magistrates on Wednesday to show cause why he should not be bound over to keep the peace for six months. The complainant was a farm bailiff named Thomas Berry, who, it appeared, did not attend the defendant’s church because he did not approve of the conduct of the latter. Defendant met the complainant last month, and, according to the evidence, became in a great rage with him, frothing at the mouth, and calling him a bad man and the father of liars, and saying he was going to hell, and that the door only need open to admit him. Mr. Barlee was bound over in the sum of fifty pounds and two sureties of twenty-five pound each, to be of good behaviour for three months... there appears to be considerable ill feeling against the defendant in the neighbourhood.
Lowestoft Weekly Journal: January 1874
This continued to be a major topic for reporters working for our local newspapers. These are just a few of the countless stories published that involved the weather.
A terrific gale raged in the neighbourhood of Ipswich that took the appearance of a whirlwind, clearing everything before it. At Wherstead Park, the ground covered by one of these storms appeared to be about 50 yards in width, and extended right through the park. Nothing appeared strong enough to resist the violence of the storm at this point. An immense oak, containing about 200 loads of timber, was blown down, and 15 dead rooks were picked up near the tree.
Ipswich Journal: November 7th 1863
SPEECH RESTORED BY THUNDER AND LIGHTNING
About eighteen years ago, a family of the name of Goodwin, living at the village of Wittenham near Oxford, fell sick with fever. One of the daughters named Mary was deprived of her speech by the direful malady; till a short time since, when a heavy storm of thunder and lightning passed over the village: which gave the system of the young woman such a shock that her speech was restored to her, and she is now able to articulate with fluency, after being speechless 18 years.
Ipswich & Colchester Times: January 21st 1859
During the month of December 1863, gales around the coast caused the loss of two Ipswich ships, the Richard and the Plover. The crew of the former was saved, but the mate of the latter, named Stopher was washed overboard and drowned.
A long advertisement appeared in the Ipswich Journal for January 9th 1864 appealing for subscriptions to mitigate the distress of 60 widows and 104 orphans of those who perished in the late gale. The Journal for January 23rd acknowledged handsome subscriptions including a sympathetic letter, enclosing a cheque for £100 from Her Majesty the Queen.
The Halesworth Times of June 9th 1857 carried an advert inviting farmers to protect their crops from extreme weather by insuring against it. The Royal Farmers’ Fire, Life and Hail Insurance Company stated…
On the 1st September last year a terrific hail storm passed over a considerable part of East Suffolk, doing immense damage and inflicting great loss on many farmers and others, few of whom had wisely insured against it, while the greater majority were entirely unprotected. In the parishes of Shotley, Ramsholt, Trimley, Falkenham, Stutton and Walton, many farmers were sufferers to the amount of £200 and £300 each. In the vicinities of Lowestoft and Beccles, great mischief was done.
DO MENTION THE WAR!
Conflict was never far away at this time. The Crimean War, the American Civil War and uprisings in India were just a few of the military confrontations that came into this period. It is interesting to see how our local papers reported military events that have now passed into legend. Take, for example, the Charge of the Light Brigade.
On the heights of Balaklava the Russians had there established themselves in great strength. A battery of nine guns had been drawn up breasting the valley. Another battery had been mounted to the left, whilst the right was commanded by the guns of the one redoubt not evacuated by the Russians… A little after nine o'clock, Captain Nolan, of the 15th Hussars, aide-de-camp to Brigadier-General Airie, arrived at full gallop before Lord Lucan, and handed him a written order to attack the enemy. The Earl of Lucan, it is now said, hesitated at the madness of the instructions given to him; but certain it is orders were given by him to his Brigadier, the Earl of Cardigan, to prepare the charge. This, it is also said, was obeyed, under protest by the gallant Earl. The whole brigade then charged onwards towards the battery of nine guns, which breasted the valley. These guns opened a fearful discharge of grape upon the gallant fellows, whilst the batteries upon the right and left poured in volleys of round shot and shell. Undaunted by this murderous fire, the British cavalry pushed on without once hesitating, and dashed into the nine-gun battery. Not one of the gunners escaped the sabre, and the nine cannon were in the possession of our cavalry… how a single man could have escaped is really marvellous! At length, the bleeding remnants of the light cavalry brigade re-entered the British lines and mustered, some hours later, 185 sabres. Since then, wounded men have crawled in… but now the fine brilliant light cavalry brigade cannot count above 230 efficient men… this, out of a number of 800.
Bury Post: November 15th 1854
Amongst the many confrontations of the time, what came to be known as the Indian Mutiny was widely reported. The Halesworth Times described the massacre at Cawnpore in the following conflicting words…
…the force at Cawnpore accepted the offer of safety made by Na Saheb and the mutineers. The treacherous miscreant, however, whose hands were already stained with the blood of the luckless fugitives from Futtyghur opened fire on the boats in which the party were allowed to enter and destroyed them all. Other accounts state that the wives and children of the officers and soldiers were taken into Cawnpore and sold by public auction, when, after being treated with the highest indignities they were barbarously slaughtered by the inhabitants.
Halesworth Times: September 8th 1857
As regards the American Civil War, recently established steam -ship and telegraph communications meant that information from America was published much quicker than it had been. The Framlingham Weekly News of August 1861 reported ‘the rout of the Federal Army at Bull Run,’ just twenty days after the battle. In July 1863, the Suffolk Chronicle described ‘The Great Battle at Gettysburg,’ where ‘the Confederates, after one of the most severe conflicts of the war, were repulsed at all points’. The report had taken just nine days, arriving courtesy of the Steamer ‘Canada.’ Some of the descriptions published gave graphic details of the horrors of the battlefields, as well as an insight into the way war was still expected to be conducted.
We are told of the bad effect of allowing the soldiers to kneel down to avoid the fire. Orders were given to the men to lie upon their faces when not in motion and menaced by the artillery. However proper this precaution may have been at the time, it afterwards turned out to be one of the most fatal causes of the demoralisation of the division... I saw an entire company grovel in the dust at the accidental snapping of a percussion cap of one of their own rifles.
Framlingham Weekly News: August 17th 1861
Closer to home, even in times of peace, the threat of war was never very far away…
It is reported that it is the intention of Government to fortify this town by sending down a supply of heavy guns for the forts and the towers.
However, just to make sure they didn't disturb the tourists, the same item continued…
We are happy to state that our town is now well filled with visitors and wears the aspect of a most fashionable watering place. The view of the sea from the terrace will amply repay a few hour’s drive. Excursionists continue to visit us by hundreds every Monday and our streets on such occasions, present admirable pictures.
Framlingham Weekly News: September 8th 1860
There is nothing like a local newspaper for amassing strange and amusing tales. Of the countless ones we’ve read, these particularly amused us.
CAVENDISH - EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES
Nearly seven years ago, Mr. George Thompson, boot-maker of this place, accidentally lodged a four-penny piece in his throat, and, in spite of his efforts to eject it, it remained there till a few days back. During all this time, he experienced great pain and difficulty in swallowing his food, and often was nearly suffocated from being unable to breathe so freely as he required, being frequently obliged to start up out of his sleep and struggle and gasp for breath. For two or three months, indeed, he was so seriously ill that his recovery was almost despaired of. Last Tuesday, as he was at work, he was seized with a severe fit of coughing, and to his joyful surprise, the violent effort brought up the obstinate groat, which is eaten away considerably, and, when ejected, was covered with flesh. Mr. Thompson states that the place where it lay is very tender, but he feels a considerable deal better than when it was there.
Suffolk & Essex Free Press: March 17th 1859
STRANGER THAN FICTION - At a lecture delivered the other day at Boston by Doctor Willett, the lecturer mentioned a disagreeable incident which occurred to him respecting an owl. It seems that Doctor Willett is a connoisseur in bird stuffing, and is in the habit of criticising other people's bird-stuffing severely. Walking one day with a gentleman, he stopped at a window where a gigantic owl was exhibited. 'You see,' said the Doctor to his friend, 'that there is a magnificent bird utterly ruined by unskilful stuffing. Notice the mounting. Execrable, isn’t it? No living owl ever rested in that position. And the eyes are fully a third larger than any owl ever possessed.’ At this moment, the stuffed bird raised one foot and solemnly blinked at his critic, who said very little more respecting stuffed owls that afternoon.
Suffolk Chronicle: February 22nd 1873
A MISSING SWAIN - On Thursday last, a lady experienced great disappointment by not being united in the bonds of Hymen, according to previous arrangement, in consequence of the absence of her fickle admirer; and on Monday afternoon, the crier was sent round with the following announcement which was duly made in St. Mary’s Parish. [Bury St Edmunds]
LOST, …last Wednesday night week, a man about 5ft 6in. in height, dark complexion, bald head, small whiskers, lost some of his front teeth, round shouldered, and dressed in a black hat and brown coat; should have made his appearance last Thursday, but was not forthcoming. Whoever has found the said individual, and will bring him to the crier, shall be handsomely rewarded and all reasonable expenses paid.
Suffolk & Essex Free Press: March 17th 1859
A HUNDRED PIGS BURNT AS FUEL
The Rosetta, a large and powerful steamer belonging to the Bristol Steam Navigation Company…encountered the full brunt of a westerly gale last week and was consequently detained. Her bulwarks were carried away and her coals ran short, and the crew were under the necessity of burning about a hundred pigs out of a cargo that was on board to keep the fires up to enable the steamer to reach Ilfracombe, which she did with considerable difficulty.
Bury Free Press: Jan. 22nd 1870
It was common for newspapers of the time to borrow items from the national dailies and comic magazines like Punch. These two items were typical.
People who like the bagpipes.
People who like getting up early in the morning.
People who have more money than they know what to do with.
People who have the ice broken to enable them to bathe in the Serpentine in winter.
People who send conscience money to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Critics who are satisfied with the hanging of the Royal Academy.
People who lavish their money on the heathen abroad and leave the heathens at home to take care of themselves.
First ruffian: Wot was I hup for, and wot ’ave I got? Well, I floor’d a woman and took her watch, and I’ve got two years and a floggin’.
Second ruffian: Ha! I flung a woman out o’ the top floor winder; and I’ve on’y got three months.
First ruffian: Ah, but then she was yer wife.
These were both from the Lowestoft Observer: April 27th 1872
On October 13th 1874, two weekly papers, the Ipswich Express and the Ipswich & Colchester Times combined to give birth to Suffolk’s first Morning Daily paper, the East Anglian Daily Times, which in its first statement to readers promised to be...
‘Everyday what the Ipswich Journal had hitherto been every week - the best paper in Ipswich and the Eastern Counties... The East Anglian Daily Times will be independent of party and representative of none… [It] will pursue an impartial and independent course. It will report everything that occurs in the district faithfully and fairly, leaving good arguments to produce their just effect without editorial advice, or, as is too often the case, editorial misrepresentation.’
Daily newspapers require the most up to date technology. The Ipswich & Colchester Times Times had proudly published a picture of their new printing press only two months earlier.
The coming of the age of steam enabled people to travel quickly and cheaply in a way that had never been possible before, but it brought with it a new set of problems. Safety was fast becoming an issue. Deaths on the rail from accidents and suicides were reported almost weekly, and train crashes were all too common.
APPALLING RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT THORPE
On Thursday night, one of the most fearful Railway accidents that has ever taken place in Norwich or its neighbourhood, occurred at Thorpe, by which at least fifteen persons were killed and 30 or 40 wounded.
It appears that at 8.40, the mail train from Yarmouth left that town for Norwich, and at Reedham was joined by the train from Lowestoft, and from thence proceeded on its way to this city. At 9.10, the express train from Norwich to Yarmouth and Lowestoft was despatched, as far as we can learn, a few minutes after the 8.40 train had left Brundall… The train from Norwich was said to be a heavy one and as it was express at the time of the accident, it must have acquired a speed of at least twenty miles an hour.
On the train for Yarmouth and Lowestoft reaching Mr. Steven Field’s boathouse, situate almost opposite the well known Thorpe Gardens, the train from Norwich dashed into it at fearful velocity, the terrible force of the collision causing in a moment of time a scene of wreck and confusion such as has seldom been witnessed at the most horrible of the railway accidents that have taken place of late years in this country.
Bury Free Press: September 1874
This account went on to describe in detail how the engines and carriages reared up into an almost perpendicular position, and how difficult it was to extricate the victims, distinguished by their ‘blood-smeared faces and heart-rending cries.’
This was not the end of the story. Alfred Cooper and John Robson, two officials of the Great Eastern Railway, were, in April 1875, charged with manslaughter. According to the report in the East Anglian Daily Times, a confusion of messages, passed between these men, had led to the disaster. Though both men were described as being of respectable character, a measure of blame was attributed to them. Robson was acquitted and released. Cooper, for his negligence served eight months imprisonment. He was found guilty of manslaughter, but recommended to mercy. A month later, the East Anglian reported two claims that had been submitted on behalf of victims of the accident for four-figure sums.
Railways were certainly dangerous places...
FATAL ACCIDENT AT IPSWICH STATION - On Wednesday an inquest was held by Mr. Jackaman, Coroner for Ipswich, touching the death of Albert William Chapman, aged 22, one of the porters at the Ipswich passenger station... The Ipswich station is situated within a couple of hundred yards of a tunnel; between the mouth of the tunnel and the platform of the station is a turntable, and it was part of Chapman's duty to assist in turning engines there. He was engaged with three other porters shortly after six o’clock on Tuesday evening in turning two engines, when the whistle of an approaching train in the tunnel was sounded twice, indicating that it was the train which left London at 3.45 p.m. Two of the porters who were at the turn-table ran across the line to the platform, to be ready to attend to their duty on the arrival of the train, and the third called out to Chapman, who stood with one foot over the metals of the down line, “Look out, the passenger train is coming through the tunnel!” Chapman said to the two men who were running across the line, “Never mind the train, we must turn the engine.” At that moment, the train emerged from the tunnel, going at about four or five miles an hour. One of the buffers of the engine struck the unfortunate young man on the back and hurled him forward three or four yards. He fell across the metals, and the whole train passed over him, cutting his body completely in two, just above the hips, so that when the train had passed, the trunk lay on other side of the line and the lower part of the body and legs on the other. He, of course, died immediately.
Bury & Suffolk Standard: October 22nd 1872
Charles Nunn (10) and William Weavers (9) were charged at Yoxford Petty Sessions with having, at Bramfield, thrown stones at the railway carriages so as to endanger life. They were reprimanded, locked up for a week and had to pay costs.
Framlingham Weekly News: September 7th 1861
MIRACULOUS ESCAPE - A very extraordinary incident occurred …on Saturday morning. As the train which left Nuneaton at 10.10 a.m. was approaching Narborough, the driver observed something between the metals, and at once took means to stop his train, but was unable to do so until it had proceeded some 300 yards beyond the object which attracted his attention. When he had stopped his train, he went down the line, accompanied by the guard and several of the passengers, when they discovered a ‘navvy’ lying between the metals, helplessly drunk and fast asleep. It took the united efforts of the men to rouse him from his perilous slumber. Although the whole of the train had passed over him, he was perfectly uninjured, and was quite unconscious of the danger to which he had exposed himself. He abused the men for disturbing him, and, making a desperate resistance, declared that he would not move from the spot. Ultimately, a trolley, which was in use on the line was procured, the foolish fellow was laid upon it and with great difficulty conveyed to the train, and thence to Leicester, where he was locked up in a cell at the Police Station, and kept there to recover his senses.
Suffolk Chronicle: February 22nd 1868
The Railways caused a number of other forms of aggravation. Local newspapers reported a succession of cases where level crossings were a focus of anger and frustration.
‘THE STOWMARKET LEVEL CROSSING AGAIN’
Under this heading it was described how a number of leading landowners took the Great Eastern Railway Company to court because they…
Did on 19th October 1874 then and there allow the tracks of a certain goods train to stand across the level crossing situate.
It was pointed out that it was… illegal to allow a train in shunting to stand on the crossing, something which appeared to be common practice where level crossings were close to sidings. Though the company considered they were being harassed, the Magistrates took the view that the case was wholly justified.
Lowestoft Weekly Journal: Nov. 1874
FIRE - A haystack at Barham belonging to Mr. S. Palmer of the Sorrell Horse was destroyed by fire on Friday. The fire originated from the engine of a passing train, setting fire to broom by the side of the railway. The flames spread with great rapidity until they reached the stack of hay, about twenty tons. There was an abundant supply of water from the Gipping, and efforts were made, and successfully, in saving another stack in close proximity.
Lowestoft Weekly Journal: August 8th 1874
The Plague of the time appears to have been Cholera. Lowestoft, with its shallow wells and transient population was subject to a succession of epidemics. But few towns escaped the disease entirely.
Woodbridge - we regret to announce that three cases of Asiatic Cholera have occurred in this town during this week all of which resulted in death, one patient surviving the dreadful attack only ten hours. It is satisfactory however to notice that the malady broke out in one of the lowest and filthiest courts of the place and has been, providentially, confined to that locality.
Bury Post: August 30th 1854
Not all cases afflicted the poor - the same paper announced the death of the cricketer Lillywhite from Cholera in Islington.
On September the 5th of the same year, and for several weeks after, cases were being reported from across Norfolk & Suffolk, though they tended to be people who had returned to the county from London, such as a ‘Mr. Morley of Lakenheath.’ Far more afflicted was the Black Sea Fleet, which had recently sailed for the Crimea.
All manner of cures was practised. The Bury Post of September 6th 1864 warned against dissolving camphor in Brandy, a popular practice at the time. “Taken incautiously [it] is a most dangerous medicine, acting most rapidly upon the nerves of the brain.” Again, the disease took its toll.
During the week there have been seven or more cases of Cholera at Ipswich… no fewer than nine persons of all ages have fallen victims at Blakeney near Wells, where the disease has peculiar virulence... At Wisbech, upwards of fifty cases have come under the town surgeons.
Bury Post: September 13th 1864
In spite of the availability of vaccination, smallpox continued to take its toll.
IXWORTH - Fourteen cases of small-pox have recently occurred in this village, two of which have terminated fatally. Eight of the cases are now fully recovered, and the remainder are convalescent.
Bury Post: December 1871
MILDENHALL - refusal of vaccination - Thomas Payne of Lakenheath appeared at Mildenhall petty sessions under a summons for refusing to have his child vaccinated. He was fined 5 shillings. Bury Post: August 1854
But for many of the population, for most diseases, patent remedies were the only medication they could afford, hence the number of adverts like this...
ADVICE TO MOTHERS - MRS WINSLOW’S SOOTHING SYRUP is perfectly harmless, relieves the child from pain so the little cherub wakes as bright as a button.
Bury Free Press: April 9th 1870
The health of the Royal Family was reported almost as much as the health of the local population. The death of Prince Albert in 1861 from typhoid sent the whole country into mourning.
When, 11 years later, the Prince of Wales went down with the same disease, the worst was feared. His eventual recovery was the subject of official rejoicing. However, 11 years of mourning on the part of the Queen had not done a lot for her popularity, as this following comment shows.
BECCLES - the occasion of the national thanksgiving for the recovery of the Prince of Wales was marked by no special religious services in Beccles. The demonstrations of loyalists were confined to the hoisting of the flag on the church tower and the ringing of the bells. Lowestoft Observer: March 9th 1872
Modern advances in medicine came at a price. Anaesthetics proved dangerous in the early years of their use. There were those who were sceptical about the use of chloroform. The following operation provoked a rash of letters to the paper accusing the doctors of carrying out an unnecessary operation to further their own careers.
BRUNDISH - SURGICAL OPERATION - On Monday the 3rd inst., Mrs Smith, Brundish, underwent entire extirpation of the right breast in consequence of cancer, under the influence of chloroform by Mr. Harry Pedgrift, assisted by C.S. Pedgrift Esq. The breast weighed 15½ ounces and measured 9½ by 8½ inches. She is progressing favourably.
Framlingham Weekly News: September 7th 1861
She appears to have recovered. No adult female by the name of Smith was buried in Brundish in 1861 or 1862.
DID YOU KNOW?
When the new Palace of Westminster was built, the clock tower became universally known as Big Ben, as that was the name given to the bell that was intended to be hung there...
However, just as it was about to be put in its proper place, it was found to be cracked, which involved the tedious task of recasting the fine specimen of campanology. The new bell, more successful than the first was renamed ‘Victoria,’ and weighed two tons less than Big Ben as substantial amounts of metal were lost in the recasting.
(Ipswich Advertiser: July 1858)
How to dry wet boots
When the boots are taken off, fill them quite full with dry oats. This grain has a great fondness for damp, and will rapidly absorb the last vestige of it from wet leather. As it takes up the moisture, it swells and fills the boot with a tightly fitting last, keeping its form good, and drying the leather without hardening it. In the morning, shake out the oats and hang them in a bag near the fire to dry, ready for the next wet night; Draw on the boots and go happily about the day’s work.
Bury Free Press: September 12th 1874
The Bury Free Press for May 28th 1870 reported the death of a famous parrot, ‘Jacko’ of the Paris War Office. Apparently the bird had lived there for forty years and was famous for his cry of “VIVE LE ROI!”. Much loved, Jacko died, appropriately enough, on the anniversary of the death of Napoleon.
It was a matter of concern regarding public decency when two men named Boulton and Park were arrested for “parading the town in drag.” Though they were actors, used to playing female roles, they were vilified by the press at the time.
The existence of such a scandal is a social misfortune… that there should be in English society in an association of young men with ramifications not yet defined, some of the members of which are accused of the most hateful immorality, while the relations of most of them to each other are supposed to have been familiar and indelicate beyond expression, is a thing of which we can not help being ashamed.
Bury Free Press: June 4th 1870
DISASTER AFTER DISASTER
The Ipswich Journal for May 28th 1864 reported that… “The terrible explosion of Gun Cotton at Stowmarket occurred on Tuesday.” This article contains a detailed description of the industrial areas of Stowmarket at the time. The Gun Cotton Factory actually lay in Stowupland, near to the parish of Combs, as the boundaries were then.
This was a new company, founded by Prentice and Co. The dangers of manufacturing explosives became immediately apparent. Four girls were working together in a building when an explosion filled the building with flame. They all ran out with their clothes alight. Men working nearby came to their aid, plunging them into the river to extinguish the flames. Fifteen year-old Fanny Burrows was dead at the scene. Betsy Barnard died shortly after. Sarah Welham and Amy Cunnold were badly burnt. Though also burned, foreman Michael Miles Cobb was able to give evidence at the inquest held at the Fox Hotel. The Coroner recommended that this accident needed further investigation, to ensure nothing like it ever happened again.
The following headline appeared in the Bury Post on August 15th 1871.
TERRIBLE EXPLOSION AT THE
STOWMARKET GUN COTTON WORKS
NINETY PERSONS KILLED AND INJURED
Though it was now renamed the New Safety Gun Cotton Works, an even fiercer series of explosions rocked the town of Stowmarket. When the inquest was convened, thirteen of the dead were named. Also, there were two other males and four females unidentified at the time. One of those named was Edward Prentice but William Prentice’s name did not appear on the list, as no identifiable part of his body had been recovered. At the time the inquest was in session, the decomposed body of a boy called Frank Mayhew was discovered in the debris of the works. He had worked there for three weeks and earned 3s.6d. a week. He was just 14.
The factory was rebuilt, and back in production within a year.
AWFUL CATASTROPHE AT SOUTHWOLD
Under this headline, the Ipswich Journal for March 1858 described how, undergoing trials, the Southwold lifeboat had capsized. The fourteen crew, wearing life-jackets, were saved. Three of their sponsors, Mr. J.H. Ord, George Ellis & Rev. Robert Hodges, Curate of Wangford, on board at the time, had declined to wear them and, as a result, were drowned.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL REFORM
There was increasing demand for reform of all kinds. In order to be elected, both Conservatives and Whigs were forced to include moderate reform in their manifestos. However, there were those whose radical beliefs invited ridicule from the local press. At the Ipswich election of 1859, John King stood against three more traditional candidates. Amongst other things, he was in favour of the introduction of a secret ballot.
The Ipswich and Colchester Times published this snipe at John King and his radical beliefs.
LITTLE LESSONS FOR LITTLE POLITICIANS - Dedicated without permission, to the Ipswich Reform Association.
There was once a bad boy and his name was John. He said he would be king of the Rads, and now and then he would cry out for the moon. So his nurse said to him, “Do be still you bad lad, you know the moon is not for you. And if you are king of the Rads what can they do for you?” Then he said, “the Rads will take me to the Poll, and they will stir up a big Whig there, and they will poke him out and poke me in, and I shall go to a great place where boys not so big as I am make the laws and sit and talk all day long and a good part of the night.”
“But,” the nurse said, “you know, John, you can’t talk much, so what use would you be there? Come, be a good child and stop at home, and do write things to please your friends, the Rads, as you used to do. Oh, that will be so nice!”
Then this rude, rough boy flew in a great rage, and he said he would kick his nurse if she tried to hum him with such bosh. He would go to the Poll and fight the Whigs, that he would; and folks that did not like it might be so good as to lump it! He did not care a bit if they said he was like the dog that could not eat it, and yet would not let the ox eat it. He would go to the Poll, and stick to the Poll, and smash all sorts of things with the poll; so the Whigs might put on their specs and look out for squalls at once! Now, don’t you think that John was, oh, such a bad boy?
The election result was as follows:
J.C. Cobbold 918
H.J. Selwin 842
J. King 388
The widespread bribery and corruption mentioned in Volume 3 of these books that had plagued Ipswich and Sudbury continued to be par for the course in Great Yarmouth where, in 1866, yet another inquiry was in session. One agent gave in a list of 236 voters who had been ‘canvassed’ to the tune of £3,922. This testimony from Henry Crucknell, musician, was typical…
I believe the total I received at the last election was £35... I received ten pounds from Lane’s son, fifteen pounds at the Army & Navy, and ten pounds more from Mr. Edwards. I voted for Brogden & Vanderbyl.
Norwich Mercury: September 29th 1866
Meanwhile, the Teetotal Movement was gathering pace. The Lowestoft Weekly Journal reported a large meeting at Beccles in February 1874, which had gathered to debate… ‘denunciation of drunkenness as the curse, and likely to be the ruin of the country, if not strenuously opposed.’ This meeting terminated with a dialogue entitled “The Drunkard’s mistake.”
SUNDAY DRINKING IN IPSWICH - TO THE EDITOR
SIR - As I was passing a public house in St. Georges Street at 2.35, last Sunday afternoon, I heard the sound of men’s voices from within; and jumping so as to clear the lower blind, I plainly saw a company of soldiers. Without hinting at the drink they were consuming, this case of ‘harbouring’ was carried on without the slightest attempt at concealment; there was not even the usual crow in the street; and if a policeman was close by, he was not within view.
My object in calling attention to this matter is to ask if this is a solitary case, or is it not continually done in Ipswich without the least reserve? And is it possible that in the midst of so much assumed morality and religion, such demoralising work should continue?
East Anglian Daily Times: May 29th 1875
Under the heading ‘a repentant brewer at a temperance meeting,’ Mr F.N. Charrington of the brewers of the same name was reported as having spoken at a meeting, ‘crowded to overflowing’, about his shame, having been partly responsible for the inebriation of the nation.
(Suffolk Chronicle: February 22nd 1873)
Whole newspapers at the time were devoted to the teetotal cause. One such was the Ipswich Advertiser. The sound moral tone of the Advertiser was underlined by its use of page headings such as ‘Untainted Honour is a Jewel above all Price.’
To many though, the teetotallers and their rigid beliefs were one big joke…
A teetotaller gave a lecture to a confirmed lover of fire-water, and told an anecdote of a terrible accident in which an inebriate, in blowing out a candle was killed by the flames igniting the alcoholic fumes of his breath. The drinker, an Irishman, was much terrified, and, to the comfort of the Quaker, commenced a solemn asseveration, bemoaning the fact that he was bringing himself to ruin. He then swore that never again so long as he lived would he attempt to blow out a candle.
Lowestoft Observer: March 30th 1872
JUST TO PROVE THAT NOTHING'S NEW
The Bury Post for November 28th 1855 included letters explaining how decimal coinage might be introduced.
Mr. Sanders Trotman of Stowmarket delivered a lecture to the young men’s society at the new lecture room on the “Practicability of a channel railway between England and France.” (Bury Free Press: January 1st 1870)
On Friday evening last, a public meeting was held in the Alliance Lecture Room (Beccles) Marketplace when a paper was read by Mr. J.A. Colman. Subject: “The political unenfranchisement of women, unjust and inexpedient.”
THE RECENT ELECTIONS
The member elected for Staffordshire… is a child… a mere heir of a brewing firm, unable to make a speech, without an idea on politics… with no distinctive opinion but a wrong one.
Supplement to Suffolk Chronicle: August 16th 1873
And just to prove that the 60s’ hippies did not think of it first…
SUN WORSHIPPERS IN ENGLAND - It appears from a letter sent to the Times by Mr. William Beck, that the age of pilgrimages has not yet died out in England. He says:-
“Unless bad weather prevails, a group of visitors, more or less numerous, is sure to assemble at three o’clock a.m. on every 21st of June, on Salisbury Plain, there to watch for the rising sun. As the hour approaches, they gather to the circles of Stonehenge, from the centre of which, looking north-east, a block of stone, set at some distance from the ruin, is so seen as that its top coincides with the line of the horizon, and, if no mist or cloud prevent, the sun as it rises on this, the morning of the longest day in the year, will be seen coming up exactly over the centre of the stone, known, from this circumstance, as the Pointer. Our group of watchers this year numbered some thirty- five, assembled chiefly from the neighbouring towns - four of them, however, from London, who had walked from Salisbury through the night for the chance of seeing this interesting proof of the solar arrangement of the circles of Stonehenge. As one who has now on several occasions been present and seen the sun thus come up over the Pointer, and strike its first rays through the central entrance on to the so-called Altar-Stone of the ruin, I commend this obvious proof of solar worship in its constructors to those recent theorists who see in Stonehenge only a memorial of a battle or a victory. Let a visitor, also, on any day at noon, look at this Pointer, and see if the huge stone be not set at such a particular inclination as to be like the gnomon of a sundial.”
Bury and Suffolk Standard: July 2nd 1872
The Suffolk Chronicle of 1856, carried a number of letters and articles concerning the adulteration of food and drink with unwelcome additives.
Fashion drove people to accept no small measure of discomfort, even being prepared to put their lives in danger.
Women had taken to wearing vast hooped dresses, filled out with crinolines. To cartoonists of the day, these were objects of ridicule. They could also be a hazard. We came across a number of cases like that of Mrs. Brodhurst (32) of London who was “burned to death when her crinolines caught fire. Every effort was made to roll rugs round her and to beat the flames with cushions but to no avail.”
(Framlingham Weekly News: August 10th 1860)
NIGHT SCENE IN A LADY’S BEDCHAMBER
Last Tuesday night which will be remembered as one of the warmest of the season a young lady at the West end was excessively frightened at a little circumstance which transpired about the hour of midnight. The young lady whose beauty is only equalled by her modesty and whose eyes’ dark charm has caused more than one waistcoat to palpitate, had retired to her chamber, when, after laying aside the greater portion of her wearing apparel, she committed herself to the tender embraces of Morpheus, whose soothing influences were aided by the cooling breath of Zephyr who came in at the open window and fanned her cheeks with his feathery wings. In a word, she was snoozing finely. It was about midnight, when the young lady was roused from her delicious slumber by hearing a noise at the window. Half unclosing her eyes, she was startled by the sight of a corpulent form, apparently struggling to gain admission to her chamber through the open window. It struck her at once that the intruder had been caught by the rear of his unmentionables by a nail or some other sharp instrument, as he seemed to be struggling with a stern determination to enter. Her first thought was to faint, her second to give the fellow a push, her third to jump out of the window as soon as he jumped in, her fourth to scream, which was immediately carried into effect. The whistle of the locomotive on the Iron Mountain Road, when it gave its first snort on the 4th of July, was but a whisper to the scream of the young girl. The whole house and half the neighbourhood were awakened by the cry. The old folks, three female servants and two big brothers, rushed to the rescue, and broomsticks, mop handles, and boot jacks flashed in the gaslight as the household entered the chamber of the frightened beauty. An examination of the figure in the window dispelled the fears of all, and changed the screams of the young lady into shouts of laughter. The imaginary fat man was only her own darling hooped skirt, which she had hung on a hook near the window and which the wind had inflated and set in motion.
Suffolk Chronicle: September 6th 1856
This was a time for men and women from all levels of society to attempt to improve themselves by joining some club or organisation. We encountered many in the newspapers of the 1850s, 1860s & 1870s. Here is a selection...
The Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews
Lavenham Society of Ringers
Long Melford Archery Troop
Bungay Religious Tract Society
Brandon Mutual Improvement Society
Leiston Amateur Harmonic Society
The Pride of the Valley Lodge of Ancient Shepherds
The West Suffolk branch of The Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals (founded: November 1875)
In 1865, the cattle plague (Foot & Mouth) hit Eastern England. Familiar measures were put in place. The Bury Post reported that:
Fairs, markets and sales were prohibited
No stock was to enter or leave the afflicted areas
No hides or offal were to be removed
No movement was permitted locally or further afield
without the authorisation of two Magistrates.
Over the course of a year, ten thousand cattle died or were destroyed in East Anglia. The rejoicing felt as the disease finally ran its course was displayed in the form of ‘Days of Humiliation,’ with Church Services of Thanksgiving held at Diss, Melford, Yarmouth & Sudbury (Bury Post: March 1866)
Almost by way of a reward for their suffering, the following year, the farmers of Suffolk were delighted to be asked to stage the Royal Agricultural Show of England, on land between Eastgate St. and the railway in Bury St. Edmunds.
The Bury & Norwich Post, always a weekly paper, published editions daily, in order to take advantage of a windfall in advertising revenue.
For a few brief days in July 1867, Bury St. Edmunds drew crowds well in excess of its native population. Travelling mainly by rail, thousands came from all over Britain and Europe. It must have been some event!
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