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  • Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday June 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday

    Sergeant Monday was a festival in the north-western English town of Kendal for the installation of a new mayor. Basically this was a Saturnalia for the children of the town: and by ancient convention any students in school would be ‘battered out’ by older boys, who would intimidate teachers into silence. Hundreds of kids would then […]

    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live? June 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live?

    Life expectancy is a tricky thing. Every demographer knows that, in the modern world, the difference between a national life expectancy of 40 in country A and 70 in country B is predominantly about how many children die in their early years of life. If you look at life expectancy for fifteen year olds then […]

    Wolfe and the Seargent June 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wolfe and the Seargent

    This little snippet comes from 1827 and Hone’s Table Book. It describes, of course, the death of that great British hero, James Wolfe, just outside Quebec, in 1759, one of the most famous moments of the march of Empire. But it adds a detail that most Wolfe’s biographers have ignored… It is related of this […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: A Sexual Misunderstanding June 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: A Sexual Misunderstanding

    Beach has long searched for erotic or sexually-charged Victorian urban legends in vain. It is not, of course, that the Victorians didn’t tell them. The problem is that the Victorians seem to have been averse to putting them into print. Only the wrong bed sometimes emerges. But what about this: ‘the kiss-me misunderstanding’? As the […]

    More Men in the Moon June 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    More Men in the Moon

    Franz von Gruithuisen (obit 1854) is a bizarrist’s hero. Here is a brief summary of his published work on the inhabitants of the moon in 1824. A few years ago, professor Gruithausen, of Munich, wrote an essay to show that there are many plain indications of inhabitants in the moon. In answer to certain questions, […]

    All the Fun of the Fair June 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    All the Fun of the Fair

    This is an early nineteenth-century list (1826) of the things that folk got up to in a fair at Hungerford. It sounds so much better than those fairs that appear on the edges of American films, or the dreadful ‘carnivals’ that Beach was dragged to as a child. The writer comes back, time and time, […]

    The Headless Bear and the Woman Who Became a Hoop June 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Headless Bear and the Woman Who Became a Hoop

    Headless bears must be one of the strangest of all British bogeys. Where do they come from, what do they mean? This is a question for another day. But here is the single most detailed account of an encounter with one. The events described too place 9 May 1584 in the house of one Stephen […]

    The Victorian Ancestor of an Internet Scam June 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Victorian Ancestor of an Internet Scam

    Here is a nineteenth-century version of a modern internet scam. The gentry who have more brains than money, and less honesty than either, are now, it seems, calling in the services of the telegraph to promote their purposes. A gentleman writes to the Times showing the modus operandi, which appears to be altogether new. The […]

    The Man Who Lived with the Fairies? June 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Man Who Lived with the Fairies?

    Here is a fairy reference that is worth spending some time over. In 1919 a northwestern English scholar published this short note. In academic terms it translates into, ‘look I don’t have time for this nonsense but somewhere out there someone will be interested and, God knows, this is out of the ordinary’. No one […]

    Index Biography #30: Prize a book May 31, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Index Biography #30: Prize a book

    ***BT got it scroll down for the result*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We […]

    Forgotten Kingdoms: Africa Town May 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Forgotten Kingdoms: Africa Town

    This blog described, a month ago, the horrific experience of a group of African slaves, brought to Alabama (illegally) in 1860. In that post, Beach concentrated on the experience of slavery, remembered by men and women some seventy years later. But not the least incredible part of their experience was their decision to build a […]

    Watchers of the Sky: The Modern UFO Cult May 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Watchers of the Sky: The Modern UFO Cult

    The sky was not a big thing in the supernatural before the early modern period. Yes, there were the odd wild hunts, some dragon flights (aurora borealis?) and some airy elementals. But there was no sense that the heavens were worth watching for the supernatural in their own right. Then the modern age begins: Protestantism, […]

    Lost Sounds #2: London Street Cries, c. 1700 May 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lost Sounds #2: London Street Cries, c. 1700

    Beach offers the second in his series of lost sounds: the noises that were familiar to our ancestors but that have now for ever vanished and that we struggle to reconstruct. Last time, the Lancashire clog charge, this time the criers of early eighteenth-century London. The idea of London street criers, perhaps particularly from Victorian […]

    Regency Love Signs May 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Regency Love Signs

    These were some interesting love tips from early nineteenth-century Britain. The sources is included, below, with apologies and joy, it is terribly wonderful. The good and bad signs are mixed naturally. If the maid has the first and last letters of her forename the same as the first and last letters of gentleman’s surname this […]

    Irish Horse Whispering in Co. Cork May 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish Horse Whispering in Co. Cork

    A lovely story from New Market in Co Cork in the wild west of Ireland and another episode from the series on horse charming. Not least interesting is the fact that this seems to be the origin of the modern phrase ‘horse whispering’. Among the curiosities of this district [New Market, 1810] may be properly included […]

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