And so to bed (2) – 10th April 2017

Another inventory, another new term – what is a ‘Millpuff bed’?  One worthy Bristol merchant appeared to have several of them in his house.

A millpuff bed is a mattress stuffed with ‘millpuff’, which is a coarse type of wool ‘flock’.

It would seem that 18th century mill owners suffered from theft by their employees of scraps of yarn and waste fibres, and occasionally some better quality yarn, which were smuggled out of the mills and sold to ‘flockers’ who used these scraps to stuff flock beds. In many mill towns shops close to the mills would ‘swap’ with child mill workers, offering an apple for scraps of fibre.

wool flock 1

One of the sources of this waste fibre was the ‘millpuff’ created by the gigmill.  A gigmill was a mechanised carding machine that would raise the cloth to produce a nap.  It was a development that took the place of hand carding done originally with teasel seed heads and later with metal combs, and consisted of a main roller with several others gathered around it.  The mill would tease out the ends of the fibres to produce a nap, which would then be sheared or cut to the required height.  Originally only wool was raised, but now flannelette and cotton are raised, giving us the soft and comfortable brushed cotton of sheets, quilts and nightwear.

 

 

see https://annaworden.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/

https://goo.gl/JGjdpD

and http://www.blacksheepmattress.com/

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One brass hearth & creepers, brass slice and tongs”….. – 5th March 2017

“One brass hearth & Creepers brass Slice and Tongs  –     £01      01s        00d”

While working on transcription of an inventory recently I found myself wondering ‘what is a creeper’ in relation to a hearth?  It was not a word I am aware of having seen before, so set me off in search of information.

I discovered that Google Books have scanned and made available a work dating from 1845 with the wonderfully snappy title ‘On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Buildings – By open fires, hypocausts, German, Dutch, Russian, and Swedish stoves, steam, hot water, heated air, heat of animals and other methods:  with notices of the progress of personal and fireside comfort, and of the management of fuel.  Illustrated by two hundred and forty figures of apparatus’ by Walter Bernan, Civil Engineer, Volume 1 [231 pages].  How could I resist?

Now I’m not sure I will ever get around to reading the whole volume, however I have found the information on page 160 to be very interesting, and I think worthy of sharing with you.  So, allowing Mr Bernan to educate us, we read:

“The ancient andiron, as has been stated, was composed of two standards, connected by a rod of iron, or billet bar, as shown in Fig. XXVIII.,

andirons

which is a sketch of the andirons that stood on the floor of the hall at Penshurst.  But when the fire was made in a recess that was very wide and deep, each standard was fixed into the back of the fireplace by a lateral bar, Fig. XXIX and Fig. XXX

penshurst-hearthside-view-hearth

that show the andirons in the hall at Vicar’s Close, Wells; c, c, are the standards, i the billet bar, and a the reredos, or hob that in deep recesses brings the fire more into the room.  When the fireplace was of moderate dimension, the andiron was moveable.

In the kitchen, where large fires were made, and large pieces of wood laid on, the standards and billet bars were proportionably massive and strong, but usually plain with very little ornament.  In the hall, that ancient seat of hospitality, they were also strong and massive to sustain the weight of the logs of the “glorious Christmas fire”.  These were more ornamental by the standards being polished and kept bright, or ornamented with brass rings, knobs, rosettes, heads and feet of animals, and a variety of fantastic and grotesque forms.  As it name imports, the implement, in kitchens and in the rooms of common houses, was wholly made of iron, sometimes the billet bar and foot only was of this metal, and the stem and ornaments were of copper as at Hengrave, or the standard was wholly of brass, like those in the long drawing room at Haddon Hall.  Others were highly gilt and enamelled with beautiful flowers in various colours, and disposed with great art and elegance.

Sometimes they were fashioned of more costly materials.  When Carr, Earl of Somerset, was married to Frances Howard, they received valuable presents from the court-favour hunters.  Among others, Sir Robert Mansel and Sir Robert Carey, each gave fire tongs, fire shovel, and creepers (andirons), and all the furniture of a chimney in silver; another cringer laid at their feet a “cradell of silver to burne sea cole in”.  Sir Charles Wilmot’s offering was a warming pan of gold; and at a feast made for the unworthy pair by the city of London, Sir Robert Ingram presented them will all the implements of a kitchen in silver.

The andirons, “like knights with their squires, were often attended by a pair of younger brothers far superior to, and therefore not to be degraded by the humble name of creepers” that are given to them in the Hengrave Inventory.  Indeed they often carried their necks half as high as their proud elders.  “I have a pair,” says a correspondent in the “Gentleman’s Magazine,” “in my hall, that are 2 feet 6 inches high, and much ornamented at the bottom; but there is something singular belonging to them, they have each a kind of round pan, about 4 inches diameter and 1 inch deep, hanging loose, whether designed for use or ornament I know not, but when I was a boy, they served me, and have done my children since, to make a noise with.”

These round plates at the top of andirons were a common ornament, and were almost as nicely polished as a convex mirror.  A pair at Wombwell Hall had armorial bearings figured on their discs.  The common sort of creepers had no standards, or very low ones, and their feet were connected by the billet bar.  The office of the creeper was the same as that of the andiron, to keep the ends of the brands from the hearth, and in order to produce a brisker combustion.  Andirons and creepers are still in use in many old mansions, in woodland districts where wood continues used for fuel.”

So with many thanks to Mr Berners I now have a clear idea of what creepers are, but what about that ‘slice’?

Well, my ever-handy “Words from Wills” by Stuart A. Raymond tells me a slice is a fire shovel, used particularly for taking ashes out of bread oven.  Its end was shaped like a spade or paddle.

I have also found at www.yourdictionary.com/slice

that a slice is defined (among other things) as:

A plate of iron with a handle, forming a kind of chisel, or a spadelike implement, variously proportioned, and used for various purposes, as for stripping the planking from a vessel’s side, for cutting blubber from a whale, or for stirring a fire of coals; a slice bar; a peel; a fire shovel.
And in “The Age of Cunard: A Transatlantic History 1839 – 2003” by Daniel Allen Butler we are told:

“A stoker’s first task was to break up the large lumps of coal brought by the trimmers into something more manageable, so using their shovels and slice bars, they would reduce the larger pieces into fragments roughly the size of a man’s fist.  Next, timing his movements to the pitch of the ship, the stoker would swing open the door to a firebox and quickly thrust home his slice bar along the fire-grate, working it back and forth four times, once for each track of the grate, to improve the draft across the burning coals by breakins ashes and clinkers loose.  These were quickly raked into the pit below the firebos and the fire-door swung closed again.”

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Time for ….. tea, coffee, chocolate? – 12th March 2017

I have recently come across several inventories that tell me that in the kitchen are to be found a coffee pot and a chocolate pot, as well as the tea kettle.  I have tea pots and coffee pots in my own kitchen, but what is the difference between a coffee pot and a chocolate pot?

Well, it seems each pot is designed to increase the flavour and improve the delivery of the particular drink they contain.

Tea pots tend to be short and bulbous, thus allowing more space for the tea leaves to move in the pot, promoting the flavour of the tea leaves in the water.  Tea arrived in the UK in the 17th century, and was made in pots that at the time were indistinguishable from a wine ewer.  In 1694 the British East India Company directed that teapots made for them in China must have “a grate… before the spout”.  This was in essence a small sieve to strain out the tea leaves when the tea was poured.  The spout of a tea pot is always in the centre of the pot, and is generally short in length, presumably to make it easier to clear out those tea leaves that escape the strainer and clog up the spout.

 

 

Coffee pots are more slender than tea pots, to help the heat stay in the brew.  The spout of a coffee pot is usually at the bottom of the pot, which also helps the liquid to retain its heat.  The pot has a long spout, which makes pouring the dark liquid more easily controlled, and less likely to splash the fine clothing of the lady of the house.  Coffee pots sometimes share the ‘grate’/ strainer of the tea pot at the entry to the spout.

 

Chocolate, as it was originally made, was a more labour intensive operation that either tea or coffee making.  First the cocoa beans are roasted, shelled and crushed in a large mixing bowl.  The crushed cocoa beans are then transferred to a heated grinding stone, where using a rolling pin the beans are ground until they melt, and the liquid is poured into a container where spices, and at a later date sugar, are added.

grinding cocoa beans

The chocolate was harder to dissolve, and would settle to the bottom, and needed to be stirred, or frothed up, before pouring into the drinking cup.  For this reason chocolate pots tend to be tall and straight and the lid has a hole in it, or a removable finial, so that a swizzle stick (or molinet) can be inserted, which would be frequently turned to keep the chocolate well mixed.  The spout of a chocolate pot tends to be close to the top of the pot (though not always), and it can be quite wide, to allow the unimpeded pouring of the frothy loveliness that is a cup of real hot chocolate.  In the 17th and 18th centuries chocolate pots were mostly made of silver or porcelain, two valuable materials.  Chocolate was a rare commodity, exotic and expensive, and so was associated with luxury and was delivered in a suitably luxurious pot.

 

 

 

https://backgarage.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/object-lesson-coffee-or-chocolate-pot/

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/hot-chocolate-18th-19th-century-style/

http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/articles/detail/chocolate-pots

http://www.waxantiques.com/coffee-pot-chocolate-pot

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Huckaback or Harateen? 19th March 2017

Inventories often feel to me like someone opening wide their front door and inviting me in to their homes, to have a good old nose around.  They can bring  to life the social history of different periods, give you a real sense of how people lived, and what was of value in their homes.  Walking with the appraisers from room to room, seeing in your imagination the room in front of you is much more satisfying if you have some clue as to what the unusual or obsolete terms mean.

The types of fabric used about the household are often specified, some of which are less familiar than others.  In this post I am putting together a list of fabric types, some I had heard of, others were new to me, which hopefully will add depth to the picture, fill in some of the gaps, and make the inventories clearer.  This list is far from exhaustive, but these are some words that I have come across in recent work.

buckram Buckram – fine linen or cotton; subsequently coarse linen stiffened with paste or gum.

stiffened buckram
– – –

 

Cambric, camerick – a type of fine white linen, originally made at Cambrai in France.  The term was also applied to a hand-spun cotton imitation.

cambric     – – –

camletCamlet – a fine, light linen made from a combination of wool, silk and hair, and especially from the wool of angora goats.  It is said to have originally been made from camel hair in the Middle East, but this is uncertain.  Frequently used for bed hangings, upholstery, and womens’ clothing

camlet gown

– – –

Cheyney – a printed woollen or worsted fabric, sometimes used for curtains

cheyney

– – –

Damask – a rich silk fabric, woven with elaborate designs, originally from Damascus.  Later, a twilled table linen, with an elaborate design woven in, seen by the reflection of light; the term was subsequently applied to any fabric woven in this way.

damask
– – –

Diaper – twilled white linen cloth woven with geometric patterns, used as towels, or napkins for drying hands during meals; also as table cloths.  Originally made in Ypres, Belgium, hence the name d’Ypresdiaper

– – –

Dowlas – a coarse linen or calico used by the poor for sheets, skirts, smockes etc..   Originally from Adoules or Doulas in Brittanydowlas-Linen

– – –

Drugget – a coarse woollen material, or perhaps mixed with linen or silk, felted or woven, sometimes printed on one side, and used for wearing apparel, or for table or floor coveringsDrugget Rug

– – –

Fustian – a coarse fabric made from a mixture of cotton and linen, with a silky finish, used for furnishings and heavy clothes; conjecturally originating in Fostat, Egyptfustian

– – –

Harrateen – a linen fabric used for bed curtains

harrateen backing of stitched work chair

– – –

Huckaback, huggaback – strong linen fabric with a roughened surface, used for towellinghuckaback towels

– – –

Turkey, turkey work – cross-stitched woollen carpet on a canvas backing, with a deep pile, woven from richly coloured yarn in the Turkish fashion, used as a covering for chairs, cushions, etc.turkey work

– – –

Twill – a coarse linen fabric in which the weft passes alternately over one warp thread and then under two or more threads, producing a lined effect; often used for bed coverings

twill

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In the kitchen, one dog wheel – 12th February 2017

A 1732 Bristol merchant’s inventory has

‘In the Kitchen’

“One Dogg wheel in a frame” – valued at 6 shillings.

Knowing that there are ‘fire dogs’, metal bars for resting logs on in the hearth, I began by assuming that a ‘dogg wheel’ was something of the same nature, a metal wheel with some purpose in the kitchen.  And it is indeed a wheel, but a far more literal description than I had expected.

Since medieval times, and before the development of closed ovens, in larger houses, inns and palaces meat would be cooked over an open fire.  To make sure that the meat was evenly cooked, and not spoiled, it was necessary to keep the spit turning more or less constantly, and usually this was the job of the lowliest of kitchen servants, the ‘spit boy’.

meat_on_spit

This poor lad would sit by the blazing fire, sometimes protected from the worst of the heat by a wet hay bale, or a metal screen, turning the spit for hour after weary hour.

manual-turning-spit

At some stage someone invented the dog wheel, replacing the poor, over-heated lad as a source of power with something resembling a modern day hamster wheel, powered by a dog.

4-turnspit-dog_dogwheel-at-st-briarvel-s-castle_wide-dd427ff1208e53a40d237cf72e2a569695a4a94d-s800-c85

This wheel would be set up somewhere in the kitchen, linked to the spit by a chain, and as the dog ran around in the wheel so the spit would turn, and the meat would be cooked evenly.

 

 

Over time a breed of dog was developed purely for this task, a heavy dog with a long back and short powerful legs.

2-300px-turnspitdog-1862

The ‘turnespete’ is first documented in Arthur Fleming’s Of English Dogs (1576), which is a translation of John Caius’s De Canibus Anglicis, where it is said that turnspit dogs “so diligently look to their business that no drudge nor scullion can do the feat more cunningly.” These dogs had other names including ‘vernepator’ [Latin for spit turner], and Canis vertigus [literally ‘dizzy dog’ because it was constantly going round and round].

FOT1224852

 

For a large joint, that needed many hours of cooking, the job of running in the wheel would be shared by two dogs, taking turns at the hard work.

 

Training of the dogs was often not a gentle process, with tales of hot coals being put in the wheel with the dog to ‘encourage’ it to keep running, or be burnt on its back legs.  In various descriptions the dogs are noted to have ‘unhappy’ faces, small wonder when they spend so many hours forced to constantly run without getting anywhere, with the smell of roasting meat that they could not reach.

They feature in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, where Dromio of Syracuse says “She had transform’d me to a curtal dog and made me turn i’ the wheel.”  Charles Darwin used turnspit dogs as an example of genetic engineering, saying ‘Look at the spit dog. That’s an example of how people can breed animals to suit particular needs.’

For some turnspits Sunday brought a short interlude of rest, when they were taken to church as foot warmers.  It is said that during service at a church in Bath, the Bishop of Gloucester gave a sermon and uttered the line “It was then that Ezekiel saw the wheel…”. At the mention of the word “wheel” several turnspit dogs, who had been brought to church as foot warmers, ran for the door. [Coren, Stanley (2002). The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events. Simon and Schuster.]

Queen Victoria kept three turnspits as pets, though they don’t seem to have been generally adopted as family pets, and when mechanical methods were invented to do the job of turning the spit the dogs were no longer needed, and as a breed they are now extinct.

Images:

Illustrations taken from Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales, published in 1800, showing a dog at work.  By Henry Wigstead – Henry Wigstead (1799) Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales: in the year 1797, No, 40 Charing Cross, London: W. Wigstead

The Illustrated Natural History (Mammalia), published in 1853 showing the conformation of a Turnspit Dog.

The dog wheel circa 1890, drawn in E.F. King’s Ten Thousand Wonderful Things.

 Annals of Bath, from the Year 1800 to the Passing of the New Municipal Act – Rowland Mainwaring, Mary Meyler and son, 1838 – Bath (England)

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How many kilderkins in a hogshead – 5th February 2017

Inventories frequently throw up unusual words.

You may well have heard of hogsheads, but do you know now many kilderkins equate to a hogshead?  Or how many firkins in a kilderkin?  I didn’t, so thought I should find out.

It would seem that the original and largest container for beer, ale and wine was the tun.  Given the relative sizes of smaller vessels it would seem logical to imply that originally the tun must have held 256 gallons.  However, by 1347 it had already been accepted as 252 for a so long that ‘King’s commissioners could not explain the loss of the 4 gallons’ [https://sizes.com/units/barrel_alebeer.htm] In 1347 King Edward III was campaigning in France, and winning a decisive victory over the French at Crecy, so one wonders how interested he was in the missing 4 gallons at the time.  However this was just four years before the creation of the Statute of Labourers in 1351, designed to suppress the labour force by prohibiting increases in wages and prohibiting the movement of workers from their home areas in search of improved conditions, so perhaps the standardisation of units of measurement was felt important within that context.

The standardised measurements continued to be the subject of later statutes.  In 1423 an Act of Parliament first standardised the hogshead, though the volume varied by locality and content. By 28 Henry VIII, cap. 14 it is re-enacted that the tun of wine should contain 252 gallons, a butt of Malmsey 126 gallons, a pipe 126 gallons, a tercian or puncheon 84 gallons, a hogshead 63 gallons, a tierce 41 gallons, a barrel 31.5 gallons, a rundlet 18.5 gallons.

So half a tun is a butt, or perhaps a pipe; a third of a tun is a tercian, or puncheon; quarter of a tun is a hogshead; a barrel is an eighth.  Who knows how a tierce (at just a little more than a sixth) or a rundlet (at nearly a thirteenth) came to be decided on.

Apart from the tierce and rundlet that all seems nice and clear and straightforward.  Wrong!  For some reason unfathomable to me these volumes apply only to wine, in fact to a liquid measure called a wine-gallon, as fixed by that English statute of 1423, where one hogshead of 63 wine-gallons is actually equal to 52 1/2 imperial gallons.  However, for other liquids the volume of your hogshead could be up to 140 gallons!  A hogshead of molasses was declared to be 100 gallons by  a statute of 22 George II.  Formerly the London hogshead of beer was 54 beer-gallons, and the London hogshead of ale was 48 ale-gallons.  The ale- and beer-hogshead for the rest of England was 51 gallons!

Let’s not forget that a 1897 edition of Whitaker’s Almanack specified the number of gallons of wine in a hogshead varies by type of wine.  A hogshead of claret holding 46 imperial gallons, one of port being 57 imperial gallons, sherry 54 imperial gallons and madeira 46 imperial gallons.

The origins of the term ‘hogshead’ are unclear, but there seems to be a suggestion that it refers to a mark on the barrel which resembled a hog’s head.  In some European countries the term ‘ox-head’ is used.

A barrel can be further sub-divided into kilderkins (from the Dutch for “small cask”).  This is equal to half a barrel.  The kilderkin is still currently used, and is the unit of choice of the Campaign for Real Ale [CAMRA] for calculating beer quantities for beer festivals in the UK.

Half a kilderkin is a firkin, a fourth part of a barrel, but varying, naturally enough, according to contents.  The word ‘firkin’ dates back to the late 14th century, apparently from Middle Dutch *vierdekijn, diminutive of vierde, literally “fourth, fourth part”.  The English ale and beer firkin are now 9 imperial gallons, but when ale and beer measures were distinct a firkin of beer was 9 gallons and of ale was only 8 gallons.  Historically the terms beer and ale referred to distinct brews.  The term beer was reserved for beer brewed with hops whilst ale referred to beer brewed without hops.   In 1688 the ale hogshead was redefined to be 51 ale or beer gallons (1 William and Mary, chap 24. sec 4).  It wasn’t until 1803 (43 George II, chap. 69, sec. 12) that the ale hogshead was again redefined to be 54 ale or beer gallons, making it the equivalent of the beer hogshead.

Most English beer is bought by pubs in firkins, which hold 72 pints.

A firkin of honey was also 8 gallons, by statute of 1581, and a firkin of butter is 56 pounds (36 George III).  A firkin of soap is 64 pounds or 8 gallons.  And I can’t resist throwing in that an Irish firkin was half a barrel, or 100 pounds !

A pin is equal to half a firkin (4.5 imperial gallons).

On https://sizes.com/library/British_law/23_henry_viii_chapter_4.htm you will find a transcript of an act of parliament under Henry VIII which stated that no brewer of beer or ale was allowed to produce his own barrels, but these must be made by a cooper, so that standard sizes could be ensured, and ‘the greate hurte, prejudice and damage of the Kinges liege people’ should be avoided by brewers selling their wares in short measures ‘for thir owne singular lucre profitte and gayne’.

So to answer the question of my heading, there are 4 kilderkins in a hogshead, however how much liquid you actually get would depend on when, where and what you’re measuring.

Sources:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=hogshead

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hogshead

http://www.finedictionary.com/hogshead.html

https://sizes.com/units/barrel_alebeer.htm

https://sizes.com/library/British_law/23_henry_viii_chapter_4.htm

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Sir Henry Brown Hayes 1762 – 1st February 2017

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I shall begin.  Once upon a time there was a wild young man who lived in a beautiful manor house near the city of Cork in Ireland, the son of a wealthy and respectable man.    Henry lived life to the full, and according to some stories had three children by three different women before he reached the age of 21.  With the help of his father and his family connections he was made a Freeman of Cork City at the age of 21, and by the age of 27 he was elected as Sheriff of the city.  In anticipation of a visit from the Lord Lieutenant he was tasked with organising a banquet.  The food and wine, all paid for by the Corporation, and therefore the tax payer, were of excellent quality, and the evening an outstanding success.  The organisers were rewarded with a knighthood, though he was the only one to accept the honour.

The following year the task of overseeing the first transport of Irish convicts to New South Wales fell to Henry.  Convicts from all over the country were brought down to Cork, whence they set sail in the Queen, 133 male and 22 female convicts, four of them with young children.  The journey was an awful one, the Captain having skimmed off a healthy profit from the funds provided to pay for food for the convicts, so all suffered from short rations and poor quality.  The ships officers and the soldiers there to guard the convicts had to share the disgusting fare, and many complaints were made to senior officers.  Another serious oversight was that a copy of the manifest for the ship to carry was overlooked, so on arrival at the penal colony there was no record of who the prisoners were or how long their sentences.  A copy did eventually reach Australia, eight years later, by which time those sentenced to seven years had already endured an extra two.

In 1783, Henry married Elizabeth, heiress to a sizeable fortune, but by the time of her death in 1794 Henry had managed to spend the majority of his wife’s fortune on costly furnishings and decorations of his home, including painted ceilings, doors and walls.

He cut a fine figure in the uniform of the South Cork militia, commissioned as a lieutenant in the 1793, the year the regiment was created, and attaining the rank of Captain.

Image result for South Cork Militia[Lieutenant Lucas Webber (South Cork Light Militia) by Hugh Douglas]

Dr. Caulfield of Cork wrote that ‘When he was a captain in the South Cork Militia, he usually encamped under a tent covered with silk and was otherwise equally extravagant.’  Caulfield also tells us that he “gave us splendid dinners at his country villa, which was a world to see, the most perfect piece of ingenious design and workmanship for elegant and comfortable retirement that could be seen in any part of the Kingdom.”

On his wife’s death, with a young family, and finding himself with large debts and no way to pay them off Henry determined to marry himself another heiress.  His fancy lighted on a young Quaker heiress, Mary Pike.  One can only suppose that this gentle young girl was not enchanted at the prospect, for Henry carried her off at gun point, and took her back to his mansion, where a man in priestly garb married them, very much against her will.  In fact Mary refused to accept that the marriage was valid.  She was presently rescued from her abductor, but sadly poor Mary never recovered from her ordeal, never married and ended her days in an asylum.

But what of our blackguard, for he can hardly be termed a hero?  He ran, with a price on his head, £1000 offered for his capture.  For two years he evaded capture, until he eventually surrendered himself at the establishment of an acquaintance, declaring that if someone was to receive a reward it may as well be one of his friends.  He was duly tried in June 1800, and was sentenced to hang, however his influential friends managed to get the sentence commuted to transportation for life to the penal colony at Botany Bay.

Trial advert for Henry Hayes        Trial advert for Henry Hayes

In 1801 Henry was on board the Atlas on his journey to the colony.  A bribe persuaded the captain to allow Henry to mess with him, and to bring with him his servant.  No doubt he also made sure to provide additional provisions to make the journey more bearable.  Even in this position Henry could not toe the line, and on arrival at Sydney was sentenced to an additional six months imprisonment ‘for his threatening and improper conduct’ towards the surgeon on board, Mr Thomas Jamieson.

Image result for Atlas convict ship

Henry was indeed fortunate to be able to afford these privileges, for on arrival at Sydney it was found that of the 151 male and 28 female convicts taken on board at Cork, 63 males and 2 females died on the passage, as did two soldiers and a sergeant’s wife.  Surgeon Jamieson felt it necessary to write a detailed letter of complaint about the Captain to Lord Hobart in which, among other things he stated: “The principal matter of complaint I have to enter into against Mr. Richard Brooks Master of the Atlas (and whence originates various causes of accusation), is that he shipped on board said vessel under his command a far greater quantity of goods and merchandize for his own private trade than could be possible warranted by the usage of the Service he was engaged in. By such conduct the ship was so deeply laden that it became necessary to keep the air scuttles in general closed, and the deadlights frequently shut in…….The usual modes of preserving health and cleanliness on shipboard was seldom attended to, even the Hammocks and bedding were as permanent fixtures and salutary custom of airing them upon deck being generally omitted. From the above circumstances and the humidity created by the confined state of the convicts the air became noxious to such a degree as to extinguish the candles burning the cabin…..

The just observation that foul air and filth generate disease was verified in the Atlas. A dangerous fever and dysentery appeared amongst the convicts, to which numbers fell victims; nor were the necessary means adopted to check the progress of this destroying Malady used; on the contrary it should see, from the conduct pursued, that it was intended to aid the baneful influence of this harbinger of Death, for one half the hospital was occupied as a sail room, and by this arrangement the Sick were some of them obliged to sleep in the prison with other prisoners who were in health. The prevailing disease being contagious in its kind, the infection extended from the cause above recited, and the malady became almost general I have further to remark upon the above head that when the ship lay at Rio, the prisoners being kept on shore presented a favourable opportunity to expel infection from on board by washing and fumigation; but the Surgeon could do neither to effect, the prison being almost filled with sundry kinds of lumber, principally Mr. Brooks private property”

Convicts on Deck the Atlas 1 1802 – (C) Brian Ahern                                       Image result for Convict Ship Atlas

Ashore Henry continued to make a nuisance of himself, consorting with the wilder elements of the Irish convicts and attempting to establish a freemason’s lodge.  When troubles between Governor Bligh and the military began Henry backed the wrong side, and ended up being sent to work in the coal mines in Newcastle.  In 1812 Henry was pardoned by Governor Macquarie and he set sail once more in the Isabella to return to the country of his birth.  The passage home was far from uneventful, and he survived a shipwreck of the Isabella at the Falkland Islands.  One of his fellow passengers, Joseph Holt, wrote an account of their experience.

After all the adventures of his life, Henry lived quietly on his return to Ireland, for nearly twenty years, dying in 1832 at the age of 70.

If this was a piece of fiction, or a film, it would be hardly credible, but ‘tis neither, but perhaps one day someone will see the potential.  Now who to cast in the title role?

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