The Shrievalty

 

 

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The Shrievalty1770-1778

John WilkesWILKES’S first task after leaving prison was to find a suitable residence for his daughter and himself.  Having £4000 in ready cash and a yearly income of nearly £1400, there was no reason why he should remain in his old lodgings at Mrs. Henley’s.  A few days after his release, with characteristic unselfishness, he allowed Polly to pay a visit to Paris, at the invitation of Madame de Chantereine, in order that she might see the Dauphin’s wedding, so his house-hunting had to be done alone.  Wishing to live near his old home, he secured a lease of No. 7 Prince’s Court, the last house at the end of Great George Street, by Storey’s Gate, with its windows facing Birdcage Walk, paying the moderate rent of fifty guineas a year.  At the same time, deeming it necessary to have a country cottage during the summer months, he took a furnished villa in Elysium Row, Fulham.

For a short period he hesitated to devote himself seriously to civic affairs, feeling instinctively that he would be out of his element.  “I am determined not to be sheriff unless Parliament be dissolved before midsummer,”  he informed his daughter soon after he had made his debut in the Guildhall, wisely regarding the shrievalty as a matter of minor consequence.  At that moment, however, there was no other career to occupy his restless energy, and it seemed probable that the Government would remain in office for another five years.  Fearing, perhaps, that he might fall into obscurity, he allowed his new friends to persuade him to join in the struggle against the court party in the city.  It was a fall as stupendous as that of Lucifer!  In descending from imperial to local politics, Wilkes found himself involved in a hundred petty squabbles and ignoble jealousies with which he need have had no concern.  Men like Sawbridge, Townsend, and Oliver, to whom he was immeasurably superior in wisdom and intelligence, would have accepted him as their political leader without question instead of regarding him as an unwelcome rival, had he not invaded their own special domain.  It was a tactical error of the greatest magnitude and the only one that Wilkes ever made.

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 15 The Shrievalty

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Further Reading and External Links

The National Archives – The second half of the 18th century saw a flowering of ideas concerning popular rights. In the 1760s, many of these concern John Wilkes MP.

Remember John Wilkes
The radical, journalist and politician, John Wilkes, is remembered by a statue on Fetter Lane in the City of London.

John Wilkes on Google Books

Social Change and Newspapers

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Newspapers and Social Changes in the 19th Century

An Early Newspaper Printing PressUntil the reign of William IV London alone had daily newspapers. The Government imposed a tax of fourpence on each sheet of a newspaper, and three shillings and sixpence on each advertisement.  In return, newspapers received a Government stamp, insuring free carriage in the post; but the cost to subscribers of a daily so heavily taxed was about £10 a year. The tax was reduced in [1836] to a  penny a sheet, and eightpence on advertisements and from that time the newspaper grew steadily cheaper.  In [1855], when the public was eager to get news of the war in the Crimea, the special tax was wholly abolished.  Before long London had penny newspapers, and now the halfpenny paper is common.  The newspaper, while it grew cheaper, increased also in efficiency as a record of the world’s doings.  In [1814] the Times was first printed by steam-power, and henceforth newspapers could be produced much more promptly and rapidly.  There was still great need of improvement in the quality of the news.  That from abroad long came in sailing vessels, that at home by post or special courier, and it was a great feat when couriers covered the distance from Glasgow to London in little more than twenty-four hours.  But the telegraph changed all this.  The first public telegraph was set up in England in [1844]; by [1850] the invention was in general use, and upon it the newspapers soon began to rely for news.  In [1866], when a cable was at last laid from Britain to America, the chief political and commercial centres were brought into immediate touch with each other, and now daily news of the occurrences in all parts of the world has become almost a necessity. 

Excerpt from The British Nation by George McKinnon Wrong – 1903

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Further Reading and External Links

A Brief History of Newspapers

A Newspaper Timeline from World Association of Newspapers

Newspaper: The History

Social Change and Steam

The Great Western off New YorkThe First Trans-Atlantic Steamer

“In [1818] a steamship plied from New York to New Orleans as a packet, touching at Charlestown and the Havana.” (P. 269.)

(In [1819] the “Savannah” crossed in twenty-six days from New York to Liverpool, and afterwards went to St. Petersburg, using sail only during the greater part of the time.  Her voyage is too well known to be further noticed here, except to emphasize the fact that from St. Petersburg she returned to her port of departure in the United States.)

“During the year [1819] a vessel rigged as a ship, but furnished also with a steam-engine, was built at New York for the purpose of plying as a packet between that port and Charlestown, Cuba, and New Orleans.  Nothing was wanting except sufficient tonnage to have enabled this vessel to cross the Atlantic in a time as short as that employed by the steamships ‘Great Western’ and ‘Liverpool’ (P. 272.).

In [1820] steam packets were established between Holyhead and Dublin.  The regularity and safety with which the passages between Holyhead and Dublin were performed, established the fact of the superior safety of steamers in storms and dangerous seas.  Communications by lines of packets were speedily established between different points of the British Isles and from Great Britain to the Continent and have long existed to Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Calais, and Havre; and there are numerous steam packets plying between different parts of England and Ireland.  The most important line is that between London and Leith, in which the largest steam vessels built before those intended for the navy or crossing the Atlantic were employed.”

Excerpt from The First Trans-Atlantic Steamer by James Walker – 1898

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Further Reading and External Links

Learn more about the British Steamship on Wikipedia

 

A Holiday in Prison

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A HOLIDAY IN PRISON – 1768-1770

Mr Sargeant Glynn, John Wilkes, The Rev John HorneDURING the many hundred years that the famous gaol existed in St. George’s Fields no human being ever served a term of imprisonment within its walls under such happy conditions as John Wilkes.  From first to last it must have been evident to him that he continued to be the most popular man in England.  Any number of friends were allowed to visit him whenever they desired.  His board was sumptuous, his lodging the best that the prison could provide.  And, greatest solace of all, he was able to pursue his crusade on behalf of “Liberty” without hindrance, being permitted to write and publish whatever he chose, and to take counsel with the most militant of his supporters.  Except that he was prohibited from leaving the gaol he was as much his own master as if he were living in his own house.

Anticipating a long imprisonment, his first consideration was to provide a home for his daughter, not wishing her to remain any longer in “the dismal dungeon of St. Sepulchre’s.”  Polly Wilkes was now in her eighteenth year, a merry amiable girl with much charm of manner, and the grace and elegance of the well-bred Parisienne.  In spite, however, of her sparkling black eyes she was inordinately plain, almost ugly, resembling her father in nearly every feature.  The bond of sympathy between the two had become even stronger and closer still since their frequent partings, and she was more attentive than ever to his slightest wish, seeming to have no other thought but to give him pleasure.  In her estimation he was the greatest hero and the noblest martyr that the world had ever seen.  Few women have shown so perfect an example of filial affection as the daughter of John Wilkes.

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 14  A Holiday in Prison

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Further Reading and External Links

John Wilkes on Spartacus Educational

John Wilkes on Google Books

John Wilkes on Wikipedia

Social Change and the Telegraph

 

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The Telegraph and Social Changes in the 19th Century

In [1829] Morse paid another visit to Europe, and spent over three years in the principal art centres of the continent.  He had already lectured on the fine arts at the New York Athenaeum, and during his absence in Europe was appointed professor of the literature of the arts of design in the University of New York City.

On his return voyage to the United States, in [1832], Morse first essayed a practical application of the principles of the telegraph. A fellow-passenger, Dr. Charles T. Jackson, who had studied in the laboratories of Paris, described an experiment by which electricity had been instantaneously transmitted over a long length of wire.  Morse then suggested that messages could be thus transmitted by electricity.  Before the end of the voyage Morse had sketched a complete set of apparatus, and was laboring to formulate an alphabet.  After arriving in New York he continued his experiments, and by the end of that year had a great part of the necessary apparatus constructed.  But it was not till [1835] that he completed his first model of a recording instrument.  He was now able to show a telegraph in full operation over half a mile of wire stretched round a room.  Parts of the great scheme were due to the suggestions of others.  The inventor sought information from every available source.

Morse gave an exhibition of his apparatus to the students in the University of New York City.  Among those present was Alfred Vail, who invited Morse to Speedwell.  Vail’s father promised to assist with money in perfecting the invention.  It was estimated that a sum of two thousand dollars would be necessary to secure the patent and construct the required apparatus.  Morse had devised a system of leaden types, by which signals were recorded; but Vail constructed an instrument on a different principle, involving the lever or “point,” which produced dots and dashes.  His next step was to devise an alphabetical code.  This led to the production of the dot and dash alphabet known as the “Morse.”  In January, [1838], the completion of the machine was announced.  Judge Vail went into the operating room, and found his son at one end of a three-mile wire, stretched round the walls, and Morse at the other.  He wrote on paper, “A patient waiter is no loser,” and handing it to his son, said, “If you can dispatch this from one end, and Morse can read it at the other, then I shall be convinced.”  This was immediately done.  

General operating room at Western UnionIn [1837] Morse had filed his first caveat in the Patent Office, Washington, and asked Congress for an appropriation to build a telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore.

 

Excerpt from The Library of Historic Characters and Famous Events of All Nations and All Ages by John P Lamberton – 1900

 

 

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Further Reading and External Links

A full size replica of first Samuel F.B. Morse’s demonstration model of 1837

The Invention of the Telegraph

1st Formal message sent – World Cuture Pictorial

 

The Second Parliamentary War

 

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The Second Parliamentary War – 1768-1769

John WilkesEVER since the Middlesex election there had been rumours that Wilkes would be expelled from Parliament, but the Government observed the greatest secrecy with regard to its plans.  Although George the Third, exasperated by the persistency with which his enemy tried to extenuate “No. 45,” had declared that “the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes appears to be very essential and must be effected,” there was much difference of opinion among the ministers.  Most of the Cabinet were disposed to oblige the king, but Camden was wholly averse to such a drastic measure, deeming it more politic to let matters rest where they were.  Eventually the will of the great lawyer prevailed.  Grafton, a political dilettante grown weary of his hobby, was glad to procrastinate, having no inclination to incite the Wilkites to begin window smashing once more.

The Premier was bearing a heavy weight of unpopularity already.  Accepting office originally because his adherence was necessary in order that Pitt might come into power, he had been robbed by illness of the services of his colleague for many months, besides sharing the odium which the Great Commoner had incurred through the acceptance of a peerage.

While the mob hated him because he had not obtained a pardon for Wilkes, the upper classes were indignant at his want of firmness during the riots.  For the poverty and distress that had increased so much in recent years his Government was held responsible.  With the American colonists, too, it was becoming more detested every day owing to the imposition of new import duties.  In the Cabinet, since Chatham had ceased to preside over its councils, there was little unanimity.  A heterogeneous medley of Whig and Tory, they were bound together merely by love of place, which, though possibly one of the strongest of political bonds, is apt to be productive of fierce jealousies.  Naturally Grafton, who had never regarded Wilkes as a grievous sinner, was loath to increase his own embarrassments by trying to deprive the demagogue of his seat.  So the summer passed by, and the Government took no steps to gratify the king.  Instead, a sort of tacit compact seems to have been arranged, the ministers being content to allow Wilkes to remain a member of Parliament as long as he submitted to his punishment quietly.

 

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 13 The Second Parliamentary War

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Further Reading and External Links

The National ArchivesThe second half of the 18th century saw a flowering of ideas concerning popular rights. In the 1760s, many of these concern John Wilkes MP.

Remember John Wilkes
The radical, journalist and politician, John Wilkes, is remembered by a statue on Fetter Lane in the City of London.

 

Social Change and Railways

 

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Railways & Social Changes in the 19th Century

The First Railway CoachTHE steamship, the railway-train, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, and cheap postage (all occupied with facilitating travel or the interchange of commodities and ideas) have influenced modern life probably more than any other agencies. 

The steamboat Clermont was plying in America on the Hudson, in [1807], but not until [1812], when Henry Bell launched the Comet on the Clyde, did Britain’s course in steam navigation begin, and it was only in [1838] that a ship crossed the Atlantic by steam-power alone, a feat that had been declared impossible.  In [1814] George Stephenson constructed an engine, nicknamed Puffing Billy, from its noise, and showed that the steam locomotive was possible; by [1825] the Stockton and Darlington Railway was carrying both passengers and goods, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in [1830].  Stephenson boasted that it should be cheaper for a workman to ride in a coach than to wear out energy and shoeleather in walking, and he kept his word; it was not long before a network of railways made travel easy.  Henceforth bulky articles were readily carried both by land and sea; commerce expanded, and Britain became more than ever the workshop of the world.

 

Excerpt from The British Nation by George McKinnon Wrong – 1903

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Further Reading and External Links

Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum for more on Social Changes in the 19th Century

Find out more about the British Railway Network

History of Rail Transport on Wikipedia

History Learning Site and Railway History

The Origin of the Name ‘Pipe Roll’

 

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The Pipe Roll Society

The National Archives

The Origin of the Name ‘Pipe Roll’

King Henry II – on the throne at the time of the early Pipe RolsTHE origin and meaning of the name Pipe Roll as applied to the sheriffs’ accounts of the landed and feudal revenues of the Crown seems to have escaped notice.  In fact the name should be ‘Roll of Pipes’ as the pipes were not the Roll itself, but the individual membranes of which the Roll consisted.  This comes out clearly from passages in certain ordinances of the Exchequer issued by  Edward II on 14 June anno sexto decimo (1323), and printed in the Red Book of the Exchequer, iii. 858, where we have the following direction given,

Quant (?Que) le Grant Roule soit escrit saunz rascure et les Pipes annuelement examinez;

while further on the officials are more explicitly directed to see that

soient desore annuelment tutes les pipes de tutz les accomptes renduz en lan bien et pleynement examinez avant qe eles soient mises ensemble, et roule fait de eles.

Each ‘pipe’ of the Roll must be examined before they are put together and the Roll made up.  So again on p.860 we have the ‘pipes’ of the Foreign Accounts as well as those of the sheriffs’ accounts.  From these passages we also learn that the proper name of the series was Le Grant Roule or Magnus Rotulus, but we also find it spoken of as Le roule annal; but it soon came to be known as La Pipe (Rot. Pari., ii. 101, A.D. 1348).  The ‘pipes’ or membranes of which each Roll consists are strips of parchment about 6 feet long, sewn together at one end, and not continuously, as the Patent and Pell Rolls are.  Each strip bears at its head the name of the county whose account it contains, as EBOR.  If one strip does not suffice the supplementary strip is headed ITEM EBOR , and if a third is requisite then it will be ADHUC ITEM EBOR, and so on.  That the ‘pipes’ are the individual membranes, and not the accounts, as suggested in the Oxford Dictionary, seems clear: further, as they were flat strips of parchment, in seeking for the meaning and etymology we may keep clear of the notion of anything tubular and cylindrical on which previous suggestions have run.

Excerpt taken from The English Historical Review Volume 26 – 1911

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Further Reading and External Links

The Pipe Roll Society:  Rolls for 8 Richard I and 3 John have been printed in full by the Pipe Roll Society.  The earliest record dates from 1129-30, and then continue in an almost unbroken series from 1155 until 1833.

The National Archives:  The Pipe Rolls are the oldest series of English governmental documents, and were created by the most ancient department of the English government, the Exchequer, which existed by 1110. The earliest survivor dates from the reign of Henry I, and is second only to Domesday Book itself in its antiquity as a public record. They were created principally to record the accounts of the sheriffs of the counties of England, which they made annually before the barons of the Exchequer, but came also to include the accounts of other officials.  The National Archives have extensive information on the Pipe Rolls.  Visit their website to find out more

Pipe Rolls on Wikipedia

Pipe Rolls on Google Books

The Middlesex Election

 

 

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The Middlesex Election – 1767-1768

John WilkesAlthough Wilkes foresaw that necessity was driving him back to England he would have returned home voluntarily in any case.  With his usual political sagacity he had perceived how events were shaping themselves in his favour, and he was prepared to submit himself to whatever punishment his persecutors might dare to inflict.  One thing only – a seat in Parliament – was needful for his salvation, necessary both as a permanent protection against his creditors and a means of conducting his mission to the people.  Under the provisions of the Septennial Act a general election was due in the spring, and the demagogue began to look for a constituency that might be relied upon to elect him as its member. 

In this respect there was much difference of opinion among his friends.  With characteristic vanity his own inclinations favoured the City of London, and as early as July he was discussing the matter with Arthur Beardmore.  Most of his advisers laughed at the idea, but a month later, in spite of their ridicule, he allowed the Public Advertiser to print a paragraph, announcing on “good authority” that his candidature was certain.  It was, suggested by Cotes that he should stand for Westminster, since John Churchill, the apothecary, a brother of the poet, had enormous influence with the electors, and was one of the most virulent of Wilkites.  The faithful Heaton, with fraternal admiration, believed that “half of the counties or boroughs” might be invaded successfully.  Others suggested that Lord Temple should nominate the patriot for “some borough of his own.”  Unfortunately Wilkes and his patron were not at this moment on the best of terms.  The earl had been annoyed by some references to himself in the Grafton philippic, and became still more incensed by the publication of the letter written to him by Wilkes five years previously, in which the Bagshot duel was so wittily described.  For it nearly involved him in a battle too, Lord Talbot suspecting that he had sent the letter to the newspapers, but the culprit was the demagogue himself, who was vain of this particular composition, although with many evasions and no little mendacity he sought to shift the blame upon another.  Sometimes, when it seemed necessary in the sacred cause of “Wilkes and Liberty,” he did not scruple to tell a lie.

Fearing that he would be imprisoned for debt the exile hastened his departure from Paris, leaving with his daughter for Calais on the 22nd of November.  Crossing the Channel on the 3rd of December, he hastened to London, but having consulted with his friends, he departed to Harwich in a few days.  Sailing to the Hague on the 10th of the month, he determined to wait in Flanders until the eve of a dissolution of Parliament.  Finding that he was not safe, however, from his French creditors even here, he hurried on to Leyden and entered himself once more as a student of the university, thus securing immunity from arrest.

Further Reading and External Links

John Wilkes on Google Books

John Wilkes on Wikipedia

John Wilkes on Spartacus Educational

 

 

Witches of Warboys

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The Witches of Warboys – 1592

Popular idea of the general meeting of witchesThe second wife of sir Henry Cromwell of Hitchenbrook Huntingdonshire died of a lingering illness about July [1592]; this was ascribed to witchcraft.  John Samwell, his wife Alice, and their daughter Agnes, inhabitants of Warboys, were charged with having killed lady Cromwell, and were imprisoned.  The mother who was old and decrepit, was so tortured in prison, that at last she confessed every thing that was dictated to her, and she was tried in April 1593 before Mr Justice Fenner and convicted of bewitching not only lady Cromwell, but also many other persons.  She was then hanged, as were also her husband and her daughter.  Their goods, of the value of £40, were forfeited to sir Henry as lord of the manor of Warboys, but he gave them to the corporation of Huntingdon, on condition that they procured from Queens’ college Cambridge a doctor or bachelor of divinity to preach every year on Ladyday a sermon against the sin of witchcraft in one of the churches of Huntingdon, and distributed 10s. yearly to the poor. (Cooper, Ath. ii 367, 368.).  Sir Henry and lady Cromwell were buried in All Saints church Huntingdon (Carruther’s Hunt. 262).

The whole account is to be found in a book entitled ‘The most strange and admirable discoverie of the three witches of  Warboys, arraigned, convicted, and executed at the last assizes at Huntingdon for the bewitching of the five daughters of Robert Throckmorton, esquire, and divers other persons, with sundrie Divellish and grievous Torments: and also for the Bewitching to Death of the Lady Crumwell, the like has not been heard of in this age.’

Excerpt from The Coins, Tokens and Medals by The Cambridge Antiquarian Society – 1871

 

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Further Reading & External Links

Witches of Warboys on Wikipedia

Witches of Warboys on Google Books

Witches of Warboys on Information Britain

iTunesU – FREE Video – Early Modern England: Politics, Religion and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts – 14 – Witchcraft and Magic