Tuesday 29 May 2018

The Castle Inn Fire

On 2nd November 1838.chambermaid Mary Gardner, cook Harriet Bonner, waitress Mary Ann Rooth, barmaid Caroline Smith and kitchen maids Mary Chatterton and Harriet Buswell had all retired to bed by 1:30am on the Friday morning. About two hours later the alarm cry went up when someone called out FIRE! Landlords Mr and Mrs Webb awoke and, on opening the door to the passage, discovered their path was blocked by the smoke and the great heat. On returning to their bedroom they escaped via the rear window, having attracted the attention of those below.

Initially the proprietors were assured the girls were safe. However, it soon became clear they were most likely still inside. A ladder was found and a search discovered the bodies of the girls. Five of the girls had died as a result of asphyxiation, barmaid Caroline Smith discovered at the top of the stairs with her hands and face badly burned. At the inquest a verdict of accidental death was recorded. The cause has never been understood.  

Four days later one of the most elaborate of public funerals ever seen in Tamworth took place. All the shops closed at 4pm as a mark of respect and to allow the funeral procession to come from the Kings Arms to the churchyard of St Editha's. The streets were thronged with mourners and, despite the vast numbers, all was completely silent. All six were buried in a communal grave, later topped by a memorial paid for by public subscription. The massive funeral costs were covered by their employer, Frederick Webb of the Castle Inn. 

In the 1960s the remains were removed and reburied at Wigginton Cemetery. Close to one corner of the church lies a headstone to William Smith and, as inscribed on that headstone, nearby the remains of his daughter, Caroline.

Sunday 20 May 2018

Guinea Biseau Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Resuming the alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Guinea Biseau's settlements.

Bissau, a city named from the island on which the original settlement began, itself probably from the tribe who lived here, and who were named from their former chief. Alternatively it may be a corruption of Bijago, the name of the ethnic group inhabiting this region.

Cacheu is in the region of the Papel people and is a name of Baunuk origin in meaning 'the place where we rest'.

Farim took its name from the title of the local Mandinka people's ruler. Earlier it had been known as Tubabodaga 'the ville of the whites'.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

Sunday 13 May 2018

Horse Play

On the evening of May 1st 1839, 12-year-old William Dicks had been apprenticed to Stephen Ingram, a surgeon of Stowe in Stafford. Dicks was in the stable bedding one of the mares when Ingram passed and heard the mare plunge. He entered to find Dicks lying on his side about five feet away from the horse's heels. The boy pleaded with him to help him up, saying he was frightened of the horse. Ingram, however, had watched the boy closely and replied "You rascal, you have been teasing the mare several times today".

However he took Dicks into his home and examined him. Clearly from the marks he had been kicked in the belly and had an impact mark on his head, likely from the resulting fall. He undressed the patient, put a poultice on his belly and dressed the head wound before putting him to bed. Later he bled the patient and also gave him a laxative - all perfectly reasonable treatments in early Victorian England. The boy was asleep by 8pm that night and awoke at 4am on the Friday morning when he reported having no pain in either belly or head. Ingram had slept in that same room to watch over him, he gave him more medicine on the Friday morning.

Ingram was out all day but returned at 5pm to find Dicks once again complaining of pains in his belly. He gave him more medicine before going to meet his mother who lived just 600 yards away, bringing her to see her son at about 6pm. In the intervening hour Dicks had moved and was found lying on his side under a hayrick. He maintained Ingram had placed him there despite the belly pains and had been there so long he was cold and very thirsty. He also said Ingram had said he deserved it as it had been his own fault.

Sarah Dicks was, as would be expected, a concerned mother and asked to take her son home with her. Ingram advised against it, so she summoned a Doctor Knight from Chartley who ordered young William be taken straight away to the infirmary. He arrived on the Saturday morning but, despite their care, died on the Monday morning. Post mortem revealed a severe wound to the head but deemed it was the lacerated bowel which had been the cause of death. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by the mare but censured Ingram saying he had not acted in any degree of professionalism or humanity considering his position.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Sir Francis Lyttleton Holyoaks Goodricke

On Saturday 30th May 1835 outside the Guildhall in Lichfield, Mr W Hand, the Under Sheriff, announced Sir Francis Lyttleton Holyoaks Goodricke had been elected MP for Staffordshire South. This was greeted by cheers which drowned out much of the hisses (note, no booing). The victor spoke of his thanks and reiterated his proposals on which he had been elected. He was then placed on a handsomely decorated chair on which Sir Francis would be transported to a celebratory reception at the Swan Hotel.

Things did not go quite to plan, for almost as soon as he was seated and the seat lifted the crowd's mood changed. Hooting began and accompanied by a rain of apparently rotten eggs. Worse followed when stones were thrown and, when one hit and cut his cheek, he vacated the seat before further injuries followed. The chair carried on its ceremonial route but the new MP and his party arrived at the Swan Hotel by a different route.

Just what gripe the crowd had was never recorded, although perhaps it was something to do with the count - for he had recorded a majority of just 24 votes over his opponent Colonel Anson.