Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 1809 - snow, floods, frozen birds and the Duke of Cambridge in full song

Digging through my stash of original 19thc newspapers I found several copies of The Globe for January 1809 and discovered that the weather that month was at least as bad as we are experiencing now.

On January 6th, under the heading "Severity of the Weather", there are accounts of numerous accidents and lucky escapes. A young manservant to Mr Ashton, near Haydon-bridge was rescued from a swollen river into which he had fallen, when drunk. "A servant-girl of the family was unable to rest until she had prevailed upon one of the menservants to accompany her to look for him... they heard a faint cry from the river below the ford and, heroically plunging in, oft times to her middle, found the object of her search up to his neck in water...He was reanimated and hopes are entertained of a complete recovery."

"A more severe night than that of the 17th inst. has not been experienced on the coast of Yorkshire within the last twenty years, nor has a larger quantity of snow ever been known to have fallen within the same period of time; for several miles in the parish of Esington, near Whitby, the snow lay from four to eight feet deep; thus completely interrupting the communications between the villages in that neighbourhood, till the roads were cut - an operation that cost the parish alone not less than forty pounds."

"A boy in the service of a miller at Leybourne, near Malling, Kent, went into a field of his master's and saw a number of rooks on the ground, very close together...he threw snowballs at them, to make them rise, but still they remained..he went in amongst them, and actually took up 27 rooks; he also picked up 93 larks, 1 pheasant and a bustard. The cause was that thing of rare occurance in this climate, a heavy rain fell on Thursday afternoon, which freezing as it came down, so completely glazed over the birds that they were fettered to the ground. Several of the larks were dead, having perished from the severity of the cold. The bustard being strong, struggled hard for his liberty, broke his icy fetters, and effected his escape."

By the end of the month the snow had melted and the problem was flood. On 27th January it was reported that:
"The principal part of Chelsea was under water during Wednesday night; and yesterday there was no passing but by boats and carts, to take persons to their homes...at Anderson's brewhouse, near the College, the horses and pigs were taken out for fear of their being drowned."
And in "Dorset-street, Portman-square, a considerable part of the pavement has been washed away by the rapidity of the common sewer which runs through that part of the town on its way from Hampstead to the Thames." - one of the tributaries of Tyburn Brook making itself felt again, no doubt!

But despite the weather London society was continuing as normal. At the Theatre Royal, Haymarket one could see De La Peruse or, the Desolate Island, the cast including Grimaldi the clown and Master Oscar Byrne as Champanzee [sic] ("an Animal of the Desolate Island"). The Duke of Cambridge visited Lady Charlotte Finch, but "We are sorry to say her Ladyship was considered worse today." (One does hope he did not sing to her - see below). The guards around St James's Palace had to be moved from their usual stations because parts of the building were in a "dangerous and tottering state." The Lord Chamberlain rode off to Windsor to discuss repairs with the king.
The highlight of the week was apparently a dinner given by the Lord Mayor for the Duke of Cambridge and "a numerous party of distinguished persons." After dinner the Lady Mayoress, "who has obtained great proficiency in the musical science, played several charming pieces...His Highness the Duke of Cambridge, who is a great admirer of glee music, as usual, in the most affable manner, joined in the glees that were sung, and took part in a very difficult duet."

I will leave you with a chilly view of skaters in St James's Park with Buckingham House (later Palace) in the background.
Louise Allen


Amanda Grange said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amanda Grange said...

For some reason, when I tried to post before it came out with odd spacings, so I'll try again!

Louise, I love old newspapers, they're fascinating, and don't the stories just leap out at you? Why was the maidservant so keen to rescue this particular manservant? There's a story there!

Fenella Miller said...

I shall keep these interesting items to use in my next winter book. I am sticking to summer settings at the moment.

Louise Allen said...

I wondered about that too, Amanda! I've visions of them being lovers, having a spat, he goes off and gets drunk, she's sitting up in bed shivering and worrying...

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I just loved this - any one of the little episodes would be a great jumping off point for a story.

Interestingly, in the Frost Fair of 1814, birds also fell frozen from the sky, poor things.