Sunday, 30 July 2017

More Human Life

In 1901 Charles Mackie collected together some of the most interesting articles published in The Norfolk Chronicle between 1801 and 1900 and published them in two books The Norfolk Annals vol I and II. We recently looked at a few choice items from Volume I which many readers seemed to enjoy, so now I'll treat you to another small selection, this time from Volume II.

A pauper named John Rowland, who had had a remarkable career, died at Lynn Workhouse.  He was educated at Eton, and was afterwards a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.  Ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Horsley, he officiated at St. James’s, Westminster, and went out to St. Petersburg as chaplain to the Embassy.  Subsequently he either threw off his gown or had it taken from him, and became a blacksmith and coach-spring maker in Norfolk Street, Lynn.  He was apprehended, tried, and transported for stealing iron, the property of Mr. Bottomley, of South Gates, in that town.  At the expiration of his term of transportation he returned to Lynn, made a settlement in the town, and was for several years an inmate of the Workhouse.  He died at the advanced age of 78 years. May 4 1851

Mr. S. C. Marsh and Capt. Pearson (the retiring Mayor) were nominated for the Mayoralty of Yarmouth. The voting being equal, Capt. Pearson gave the casting-vote in his own favour, and declared himself duly elected. Nov 10 1851 

Died at Letheringsett, Johnson Jex, originally a blacksmith and afterwards a manufacturer of watches. He was born at Billingford in or about the year 1778.  After the death of his mother, in about 1830, he led a life of complete solitude, and became a scientific anchorite.  “The first watch ever constructed by Jex was made after he had settled at Letheringsett, for his friend the Rev. T. Munnings, of Gorgate Hall, near East Dereham.  Every part of this watch, including the silver face, and every tool employed in its construction, was of Jex’s own making.” Jan 5 1852 

A requisition, signed by one thousand persons, was presented to Mr. T. O. Springfield, soliciting him to offer himself as a candidate for the representation of Norwich.  Mr. Springfield declined the request, on the ground that Parliamentary duties would tend to the shortening of his life. Mar 2 1852 

A miraculous escape was recorded at Swaffham.  A drunken man named Edward Horsepool went into the yard of the Angel public-house, at three o’clock in the morning, with the intention of lying down in a shed.  By mistake he opened the door of the covering of a disused well, and stepping in, fell to the bottom, a depth of 117 feet.  A homeless man sleeping in the shed was awakened by the man’s cries, and gave an alarm.  Mr. William Laxon, collar maker, procured ropes, and Horsepool was rescued uninjured, after having been half an hour in 20 feet of water.  Jan 13 1853 

There were no prisoners in Lynn gaol.  To celebrate the unique circumstance the prison doors were thrown open, and the Mayor entertained the whole of the police force and borough officials to a dinner, served within the building. May 20 1853 

A servant girl, named Belinda Wilson, aged 18, was charged at the County Police Station, Norwich, with stealing, on January 3rd the sum of £90, in bank notes, the property of her master, Mr. William Claxton, farmer, of Stoke Holy Cross.  After taking the money, Wilson attired herself in the clothes of a manservant, and starting from Flordon railway station, proceeded to Edinburgh, where she had some difficulty in obtaining change, as English notes were not in general circulation there.  She obtained a new suit of clothes of sporting cut, and travelled from place to place “like a fast young man.”  At the end of January she was again in the Eastern Counties, and took up her abode at Yarmouth.  During a visit to Wombwell’s Menagerie, she was recognised by an old schoolfellow, through whom information was given to the police, who apprehended her at the Waterloo Tavern, St. Peter’s Road, where she was posing as “a lively-looking youth, and smoking a cigar.”  She gave the name of James Smith.  The prisoner was committed for trial, and at the Norfolk Quarter Sessions in March pleaded guilty, and was sentenced by Sir Willoughby Jones to two years’ imprisonment, with hard labour. Feb 4 1857

“Within the last few days a stone has been placed in the churchyard at East Dereham, in memory of Jean de Narde, a French prisoner of war, who, in the year 1796 while en route from Yarmouth to Norman Cross prison, was lodged in the lower chamber of the bell tower of the church, and escaped therefrom.  He was pursued by the guard, and, after some search, was espied in a tree on the Scarning Road, and when summoned by a soldier to descend and surrender he did not comply.  His non-compliance forfeited his life, for he was shot off it like a crow.  The stone was erected by the vicar and two other gentlemen.” Mar 6 1858

The Christmas pantomime at Norwich Theatre was written by Mr. J. B. Buckstone, and entitled, “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, or Harlequin and the Spiteful Ogress and the Seven Fairy Godmothers from the Realm of Golden Flowers"Dec 27 1858 

Died at Hempnall, John Holmes, aged 104.  “The deceased leaves behind him a son, Thomas, aged 87 years, and a grandson, aged 60 years, the latter himself being a great-grandfather, thus presenting the remarkable fact of a man living to witness the sixth generation, and to see his great-grandson become a grandfather.” Mar 25 1858 

Charles Dickens gave a reading, at St. Andrew’s Hall, of the “Christmas Carol” and the trial scene from “The Pickwick Papers”.  “The reception of Mr. Dickens was cordial and enthusiastic.  His voice was far from powerful, but he had remarkable expression and the power of exhibiting this in face as well as in voice.  As a pecuniary speculation, it must have been highly profitable to Mr. Dickens.” Oct 11 1859  

A terrible gale raged throughout the country.  Great damage was done to buildings, trees were uprooted, and “locomotion was extremely difficult and laborious, and, indeed, quite out of the question to those of the fair sex whose fashionable expanded dresses, assuming the properties of parachutes, compelled them to undertake a species of aerial voyage for a distance of a few yards.” Feb 28 1860 

Take care


  1. Interesting info about Dickens. His voice was not as I imagined!

  2. Some wonderful names here: Edward Horsepool, Mr Bottomley, Wombwell's Menagerie and Johnson Jex.
    And I love the story about the Mayor of Lynn throwing a big party for the whole police force in the empty gaol.

  3. Imagine going and hearing Dickens read out loud! But the one that capture my attention, or rather my funny bone was Horsepool...what a wake up that would be! I bet he was cold by the time he was out of that well!

    Also really impressed with Jex, the watchmaker.

  4. Interesting bits of history!

  5. Hi John - amazing tales from the Chronicles - definitely stories that could be elaborated on for short stories, or longer novels. But an incredible range of interesting facets of life in the 1800s ... loved reading about them - cheers Hilary

  6. Some wonderful tibits of the old days, very enjoyable to read.

  7. Just as interesting as Vol. 1. I love the description of Dickens reading his own work.

  8. I would be ignoring everything to read these entries! It always fascinates me what was considered 'important' in times past.

  9. Edward Horsepool was not meant to die that night 😀 Tres enjoyable tales John.

  10. I could spend days reading these snippets! Thanks for posting some.

  11. Such an interesting reading... and wonderful flowers in your previous post.
    I hope you and your mother are well and can enjoy the beauty of autumn.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).