Beauties in Strains Seldom Heard: The Famous Tune

Image from ‘An Introduction to Harmony by William Shield’ (18th Century Collection 780 SHI)

Image from ‘An Introduction to Harmony by William Shield’ (18th Century Collection 780 SHI)

25th January, Burns’ Night, has just passed for 2017. The day (and evening!) celebrates the birth, life, and work of famous Scot Robert (‘Rabbie’) Burns (1759-1796). Regarded as the national poet of Scotland, Burns composed many folk songs. He also collected songs and adapted them for his own use.

To many, he is best-known for his anthem ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which is often sung (in Scotland and throughout the world) at New Year. Burns ‘wrote’ the words for ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in about 1788 and sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark,

“The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”

Some of the lyrics were indeed “collected” rather than composed by the poet; the ballad “Old Long Syne” printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same “old song”.

25 January also marks the anniversary of composer William Shield, who died on the same day in 1829. Shield was born in Swalwell, Gateshead, on 5 March 1748 and was taught music by his father before becoming an apprentice shipbuilder in South Shields following the death of his mother. He continued studying music with Charles Avison, church organist at St John’s Church in Newcastle, and moved to London in 1772 to play violin in the opera at Covent Garden (later the Royal Opera House). He met Joseph Haydn and, in 1817, was appointed Master of the King’s Musick.

Like Burns, Shield was a great plunderer of folk tunes, often incorporating them into his own compositions. He is often cited as being the composer of the tune of Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’.  In 1998, John Treherne, Gateshead’s Head of Schools’ Music Service, studied Shield’s score for his operetta Rosina (1782):

“I started to copy out the score and hummed the tune as I was writing it down. I was coming to the end when I realised the tune floating through my head was Auld Lang Syne.”

Had Burns ‘stolen’ the tune from Shield and taken credit for it? It’s more likely that Shield knew the tune of a traditional Scottish folk song and used it in Rosina to convey a Scottish atmosphere. The same could probably be said of Burns: he may have ‘stolen’ the tune from Rosina, but it’ more likely that he borrowed from a traditional Scottish tune that he’d heard somewhere. The debate has raged on for years, with north-of-England folk song traditionalists claiming that it was their local lad who composed the tune to one of the most-performed songs ever.

Shield’s ‘An Introduction to Harmony by William Shield’ (18th Century Collection 780 SHI) was published in 1800. This comprehensive treatise on the elements of harmony shows Shield’s encyclopedic knowledge of local and more ‘exotic music’ by using (unnamed) excerpts of existing music as exercises and examples. Shield’s ‘Introduction’ is, in fact, composed of an anthology drawn from music in his own library, including obscure pieces never reproduced before.

A second edition appeared in 1817. In the preface to Part the Second, Shield explains his reasons for using excerpts of existing music:

“. . . it has appeared to me the most liberal plan to let every musical illustrative example recommend itself by its own intrinsic merit, and not by the name of its author.”

Is this what Shield possibly felt when he first heard the theme he adapted in Rosina? Or what Burns experienced when he heard the tune he appropriated an obscure air for ‘Auld Lang Syne’?

Shield’s ‘Introduction’ met with varying reviews on its publication. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, although acknowledging Shield’s genius and popularity, dismissively stated:

“This work has proved serviceable by enticing grown-up lady-performers to acquire some knowledge of musical theory.”

 Robert Burns, 25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796. William Shield, 5 March 1748 – 25 January 1829.

 

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s Handwritten Poetry Collection

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Note written by Lucy Violet Holdsworth to accompany Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts 56)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge was born on 23 September 1861, and she grew up surrounded by literary and artistic talent. She was the great-grand-niece of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and her family friends included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, and Robert Browning. During her lifetime, she became best known for her essays, reviews and her five published novels. These included ‘The King with Two Faces’ which she received the substantial sum of £900 for in 1897.

However, posthumously it is her poetry which has taken centre stage. Our first Treasure of the Month for 2017 is a fair copy of Mary Coleridge’s first poetry collection, ‘Fancy’s Following’, which was handwritten by the poet for her friend, Lucy Violet Holdsworth.

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Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)

 

 

 

 

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Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)

The copy was made before it was later issued privately by Daniel Press in 1896, and in fact, it was this small white book which led to the publication. Holdsworth’s cousin, Monica Bridges (nee. Waterhouse) was married to the Robert Seymour Bridges, Britain’s poet laureate from 1913 – 1930. Holdsworth planned for the book to be left out for Bridges to take notice and when he did, he asked to meet Mary to encourage her to publish her work. Coleridge agreed, but with the stipulation that it was published under the pseudonym ‘Anodos’ in order not to disgrace her family name by acknowledging she was the author. It wasn’t until four months after her death in 1907 that a book of two hundred and thirty-seven of her poems was finally published under her real name, and by that time, it proved so popular that it was reprinted four times in just six months.

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The score for ‘The Blue Bird’, a poem by Mary Coleridge set to Music by Charles Villiers Stanford. (Stanford Collection, Op.119.3.)

 

‘A Blue Bird’, which appeared in ‘Fancy’s Following’, was one of eight of Mary Coleridge’s poems which was set to music by Charles Villiers Stanford. The score can be found in our Stanford (Charles Villiers) Collection, and you can listen to a performance of it below.

The Haunted House at Willington

Title page from the ‘Authentic account of a visit to the haunted house at Willington near Newcastle-upon-Tyne’ (W159.9612252 RIC), published 1842

Title page from the ‘Authentic account of a visit to the haunted house at Willington near Newcastle-upon-Tyne’ (W159.9612252 RIC), published 1842

“I have about 30 witnesses to various things which cannot be satisfactorily accounted for, on any other principle than spiritual agency” pg. 6.

When mysterious circumstances occur out of the corner of your eye, where unknown noises are heard and items disappear from shelves and reappear on another. Lurking in the Special Collections and Archives stores is a wealth of material that tells of haunted castles, superstitions, witchcraft, mythical tales and ghost stories. Some of the material is often frightening, others delightful, intriguing and often sinister. Whether stories of the supernatural are viewed with scepticism or disbelief, there is often a curiosity and interest in occurrences of this nature.

The story that is about to be told is therefore left to the reader to draw their own conclusion on the subject. Retrieved from a cold, dark corner of the Robert White Collection is the pamphlet; an ‘Authentic account of a visit to the haunted house at Willington‘ (W159.9612252 RIC) published in 1842.

Image of The Haunted Mill in Willington in 1887, taken from ‘The Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend, 1887’ (Edwin Clarke Local Collection 2066)

Image of The Haunted Mill in Willington in 1887, taken from ‘The Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend, 1887’ (Edwin Clarke Local Collection 2066)

Willington Mill near Wallsend in North Tyneside was owned by two Quaker cousins, George Unthank and Joseph Procter, and was the first steam-powered mill in the North East. During the 19th century it gained reputation as being haunted; said to be swamped by spectres, which included the ghost of a woman called Kitty who died during a terrible accident that occurred there. However, from about 1840, it is the haunting of the adjoining house that was occupied by Joseph Procter and his family that attracted the greatest amount of public notice. Bizarre noises, haunting apparitions and poltergeist activity shrouded the house and there were different attempts to solve the mystery. Perhaps the most famous endeavour was that of a young surgeon called Mr. E. Drury.

On the 3rd July, Drury arrived at the house to spend a night with his companion, Mr. Thomas Hudson (a chemist of South Shields). The house was locked up and every corner was searched and examined. Drury and Hudson were satisfied that there was no one else in the house apart from themselves, Mr Procter and the servant.

What followed has been recorded in the account; a noise was heard at approx. 11:50pm, a few minutes afterwards both Drury and Hudson heard a noise as if footsetaps were walking across the floor. A few minutes after, a knocking noise was heard followed immediately by a hollow cough from which the apparition proceeded from. The following events are further described in a letter from Mr. Drury dated Sunderland, July 13 1840, addressed to Mr. Procter;

“I took up a note which I had accidentally dropped, and began to read it; after which I took out my watch to ascertain the time, and found that it wanted ten minutes to one. In taking my eyes from the watch they became riveted upon a closet door, which I distinctly saw open, and also saw the figure of a female, attired in greyish garments, with the head inclined downwards, and one hand pressed upon the chest as if in pain, and the other, viz., the right hand, extended towards the floor, with the index finger pointing downwards. It advanced with an apparently cautious step across the floor towards me; immediately as it approached my friend, who was slumbering, its right hand extended towards him. I then rushed at it, giving at the time, as Mr. Procter states, a most awful yell; but, instead of grasping it, I fell upon my friend – and I recollected nothing distinctly for nearly three hours afterwards. I have since learnt that I was carried downstairs in an agony of fear and terror” pg. 7.

Further activity following this account was recorded This included a case of an apparition seen in the window of the house from the outside by four witnesses (a lady with connections to the Procter family, a man employed by the mill, his wife and daughter). This account is detailed below:

Extract taken from pg. 8 of the ‘Authentic account of a visit to the haunted house at Willington near Newcastle-upon-Tyne’ (W159.9612252 RIC), published 1842

Extract taken from pg. 8 of the ‘Authentic account of a visit to the haunted house at Willington near Newcastle-upon-Tyne’ (W159.9612252 RIC), published 1842

In 1847, the Procter family vacated the house after 11 years. After the Procters had moved, local residents continued to experience hauntings. By 1890 the mill was closed and converted into a warehouse and the house was divided into apartments. The house was later torn down and for many years after there were still reportings of paranormal activity from workers at the mill.

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see this pamphlet and others from the collection…

# This item is held in the Robert White Collection (Ref Code W159.9612252 RIC).

# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be ‘W159.9612252 RIC – Authentic account of a visit to the haunted house at Willington’.

Showing the Way to Wallington

Exhibition can be seen on Level 2 Exhibition Space, Philip Robinson Library, until October 2016

The lives of Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan and Molly Trevelyan, as shown through their family photograph and ephemera albums, from the Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive.

‘Showing the Way to Wallington’ gives a unique insight into the family life of Charles Philips Trevelyan and Mary Katherine Bell, who in 1928 made Wallington Hall their home until it was gifted to the nation in 1941. The images and articles showcased in the exhibition covering areas such as Arts, Politics and War, and come from the family photograph albums which Charles and Mary (better-known as Molly), compiled themselves in scrapbook form.

As part of an ongoing project, 39 Volumes are being digitised and converted into an accessible online virtual book format called ‘Turning The Pages’ by Karen Atkinson, our digitisation assistant in Special Collections. This exhibition contains some favourite and striking images along with interesting facts discovered in the course of her work.exhib banner

The panel above is the first of 6 display cabinets and features a preserved ‘perfect, six-bloomed Sweet Pea’, which was pressed between the pages of Volume 10 of the Trevelyan family albums in 1922.

Volume 10 front cover (CPT/PA/9)

Volume 10 front cover (CPT/PA/9)

Here’s how the sweet pea stem looks in the album

Sweet pea stem in the album

Sweet pea stem in the album (CPT/PA/9)

Page 49 of the same Volume (image below) contains a newspaper clipping (see left) dated November 1923 and written about a gathering at the Village Hall in Cambo to honour the outgoing needlework Exhibition Secretary, Mr. Edward Keith, on his retirement. Apart from his other talents such as wood-carving and bee-keeping, Mr. Keith was also a well-respected gardener at Wallington Hall. The article pasted into Volume 10 reads, “His work is excellent and artistic. His sweet peas are famous nationally. The Wallington garden is one of the best in our country.”

Found on page 49 of Volume 10, Newspaper cutting, Mr Edward Keith, November 1923

Sweet peas and the beauty of Wallington are also mentioned in ‘Wallington’ by Sir Charles Trevelyan – Its’ History and Treasures [6th ed.] published in 1950 (Edwin Clarke Local, Clarke 631).

Page 38 in the Out of Doors section in Its History and Treasures:

“In summer the place is gay with flowers. Wallington is famous for its sweet peas, and near the house they often grow in a great profusion of colour.”

Page 39 in The Garden section:

“Below may be found beds of roses, lilies, gladioli, etc, but above all sweet peas, which two generations of Wallington gardeners have made famous.”

Shew’s the Way to Wallington
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The exhibition title was inspired by a border pipe version of a tune called “Shew’s the Way to Wallington”, the manuscript of which is dated 1830, and was written by Robert Elliot Bewick, son of the famous naturalist and engraver Thomas Bewick (1753-1828).

'Shew’s the Way to Wallington, from a manuscript date 1830, written by Robert Elliot Bewick

Below are the words to the song, found on page 3 of TREV/CET/76:

The Songster, found on page 3, TREV/CET/76

The Wallington Songster, found on page 3, TREV/CET/76

Chevalier Blondin – the greatest funambulist – June 2016

On 30th June, 1859, Jean François Gravelet made his name as ‘Chevalier Blondin’ when he became the first person to walk across the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope suspended 160 feet (50 metres) above the water, watched by 10,000 people. This impressive yet foolhardy feat is one that he would go on to perform 17 times, each time becoming more daring.

The American Falls Daguerréotype, Niagara (DAG/2)

The American Falls Daguerréotype, Niagara (DAG/2)

Blondin’s career began at just six years old when he was sent to the École de Gymnase in Lyon and performed, from age nine, under the name ‘The Little Wonder’. Later, he would take the name ‘Blondin’ from the owner of the circus, owing to his fair hair and skin. Travelling with the Ravel family of acrobats he toured in Europe before arriving in the USA and appeared in New York, in Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth. It was a visit to Niagara as a tourist that gave him the ambition to cross the waters and his exploit made him a sensation. Capitalising on his new-found fame he toured Europe during the winter of 1859-60.

He made his first UK appearance on Saturday 1st June, 1861, at the Crystal Palace, dressed in a light-coloured, tight-fitting costume that was ornamented with beads and a large cap bedecked with a plume of ostrich feathers.  This time, his rope stretched the whole length of the central transept, 180 feet (55 metres) above the concrete floor. He used a balance pole that was 28 feet (8.5 metres) long and weighed 60 pounds (27 kilograms). The incline on which he made his descent was about 1 in 15 and Blondin looked a bit shaky at first. Soon, he gained confidence and practically ran across the rope only to retrace his steps, backwards. He held a series of elegant poses and turned various somersaults, sat sideways and then astride the rope, rising on one leg. The Illustrated London News reported that at one point he was blindfolded and had a bag put over his head that reached down to his knees. On attempting to walk the tightrope his left foot slipped after a few paces. He recovered his balance. Then, his right foot slipped and there was great apprehension in the crowd but this was nothing more than “feints” to build up dramatic tension. At the end of the show “the universal verdict was that the performance was the most extraordinary and exciting of the kind that had ever been witnessed in London”.

Blondin and the rope he needed for performances at the Crystal Palace from: Illustrated London News, June 8, 1861

Blondin and the rope he needed for performances at the Crystal Palace from: Illustrated London News, June 8, 1861

By this time, Blondin was handsomely paid and guaranteed to draw audiences (half-expectant of imminent accident or death). He was paid £1,200 for 12 performances at the Crystal Palace – roughly speaking, £52,000 in today’s spending worth.

Advertisement for Blondin’s shows at the Crystal Palace from: Illustrated London News, September 14, 1861

Advertisement for Blondin’s shows at the Crystal Palace from: Illustrated London News, September 14, 1861

He went on to tour in the UK and continued to perform until his death (at home, in bed), aged 72.

Blondin was emulated by other funambulists: ‘The Great Farini’ carried a washerwoman along a tightrope across Niagara Falls in 1860; Maria Spelterini was the first woman to walk a tightrope across the gorge, in 1876; some others sadly died in their attempts. In August 1860, Selina Young, walked along a 600 metre- (1968 feet-) long tightrope above the River Thames, from Battersea to Cremorne. Selina was dubbed ‘The Female Blondin’.

The Female Blondin crossing the Thames from Battersea to Cremorne on a tight rope from: Illustrated London News, August 24, 1861

The Female Blondin crossing the Thames from Battersea to Cremorne on a tight rope from: Illustrated London News, August 24, 1861

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see volumes from Illustrated London News and others from the collection…

# Images seen within this blog are held within Illustrated London News as part of the 19th Century Collection with reference code 19TH C. Coll 030 ILL

# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be 19th C. Coll 030 ILL – Illustrated London News (followed by a volume number)

The OTC and the Plight of Jones

“The Boys of the OTC”


What is an OTC?

The OTC, or Officer Training Corps, was established in 1908 to ‘attract’ young men into the British army.  The Corps also laid the foundation for these young men to become fully commissioned officers, which the Army sorely needed.  The OTCs operated throughout the war and were vital in providing officer candidates for selection.  In fact, these training corps became so critical that in 1916 new military instruction was implemented which stated that temporary commissions could only be granted if a man had been through an Officer Cadet unit.

But how did the Corps come to be?

A committee under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Ward, then permanent under secretary of state for war, was tasked with reviewing the issue of low officer recruitment numbers.  He and the committee then presented a report to the British government with the following proposals:

(a) To create a system of military instruction for prospective officers, existing School 11 and University Corps should be reorganized into an “Officers Training Corps.”

(b) A selected staff should be created in the department of the War Office to supervise the organization, instruction, and examination for certificates of the Officers Training Corps.

According to Edward M. Spiers, author of COMEC OCCASIONAL PAPER. No 4: ‘The corps was to be divided into a Junior Division for public schools and a Senior Division for universities.’ These programmes trained cadets to for Certificate A and B examinations; however, only university cadets could take the latter.  The examinations were divided into written and theoretical parts.  Exam B was much more rigorous, with compulsory papers in elementary tactics, military law and administration as well as practical and written papers in special-to-arms training.  There was also an optional paper in military history and strategy. The requirements to take Certificate B were also much more rigorous.  Cadets could only take the examination if they had proved their efficiency over a two year period with mandatory attendance of special events and training camps.  Possession of a Certificate B was the rough equivalent of 6 months’ residence at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst.

Was the OTC successful?

Initially, no. While thousands of University students participated, relatively few went on to earn their Certificate B status.  Even fewer went on to become fully commissioned officers in the British Army.

It wasn’t until 1914 that the OTC had a measurable impact.  An appeal from the British government, (published on 10 August), urgently requested for 2,000 young men to come forward and take temporary commissions in the regular army. This appeal was directed specifically towards men who were, or had been, cadets in the ‘University Training Corps’.  In 1914, the university students knew what was expected of them patriotically and allegedly volunteered in such numbers that the Army struggled to find them all commissions.

Spiers claimed that ‘the military contribution of the Universities’ OTCs can be assessed as 2,298 officers gazetted as officers, including regular officers, before the outbreak of war; 9,402 commissioned from August 1914 to February 1915; and another 3,278 serving in the ranks during this period.’

Newcastle Gazette - Vol. XV, February 1915, no. 2

University Archives – Newcastle Gazette – Vol. XV, February 1915, no. 2

The Sad Plight of Jones caught my eye while I was scanning archived copies of Newcastle University’s magazines for the WWI archival project.  While humorous, it seemed to me that the cartoon could be interpreted in a rather dark manner given the date of this particular issue.

A far cry from the boyish, carefree attitude of the OTC’s beginnings, the OTC of 1915 would have likely been suffused with feelings of the impending realities of service on the front lines.  The cartoon takes the reader on a quick journey through Jones and his ‘plight’:  a young man sees a beautiful woman on the arm of a uniformed soldier and thus joins the OTC.  As a cadet, he is expected to ‘swot’ or study hard for his examinations, but is ‘haunted’ by visions of being shelled.

If we assume the shelling is freak mishap of a summer training camp scenario gone wrong, the cartoon is rather funny indeed.  But if instead it is a reference to Cadet Jones being distracted from pretty young women and his studies by visions of being shelled on the front lines of a world war… the cartoon becomes quite bleak.  As a student at Newcastle University myself, I can’t help but consider my own worries in a different perspective if the latter theory is true.

How disconnected and separate must these cadets have felt from their other university peers?  It certainly leads one to wonder at the degree of patriotic duty these young men must have felt to have still continued with their cadet training despite these misgivings.  I feel it is important to stress that the OTC in 1915 was not contractual.  Once these cadets joined, there was no legal obligation to continue… yet thousands did.

Jessica Thomas is a student at Newcastle University and a volunteer on the ‘Universities at War’ project within the Newcastle University Robinson Library Archives.

Shakespeare at the old Theatre Royal

Shakespeare performed by Children

May 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Newcastle has played host to the bard’s plays ever since – in more recent times, the Royal Shakespeare Company performed almost annually at the Theatre Royal by the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1977. Unfortunately, they will not be returning in 2016.

Our Theatre Royal Playbills (RB 792 (4282) – NEW) feature many notices for performances of Shakespeare at the old Theatre Royal on Mosley Street between 1770 and 1820, including this one by a Georgian/Victorian theatre sensation and her two sisters.

King Richard The Third playbilll (RB 792 (4282)–NEW).

King Richard The Third playbilll (RB 792 (4282)–NEW).

Clara Fisher (b.14 July 1811, London, died 12 November 1898, Jersey, U.S.) was an Anglo-American actress who inspired an enormous following in the United States. She made her stage debut in 1817, at the age of six, in a children’s adaptation of David Garrick’s Lilliput at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Her performance in that and in excerpts from Richard III captivated the audience. She then began a 10-year period of touring up and down Great Britain, winning popular acclaim in a variety of child’s and adult’s roles.

By the time she and her sisters Amelia and Caroline started their three-night engagement at the Newcastle Theatre Royal on 17 May 1819, Clara would have been only seven years old. On the opening night, she played the leading role in  ‘Shakespeare’s Historical Tragedy, called KING RICHARD THE THIRD; Or, The Battle of Bosworth Field. Clara was known for her ‘breeches parts’ (men’s roles), including Hamlet on at least one occasion. At the Theatre Royal, her sister Amelia was Henry VI, and Henry, Earl of Richmond, was played by Caroline Fisher.

On the second night, she played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and then, on a lighter note, performed ‘A COMIC SONG. (IN CHARACTER)’.

The third, and supposedly final, night was Shakespeare-free.

Such was the success of the Fisher girls’ engagement that they were held over for an extra performance on Friday 21 May, 1819, performing ‘some of the best scenes from the most popular Plays . . .’. This included acts four and five of King Richard the Third, with the sisters reprising their ‘breeches parts’ of the previous Monday.

Fisher went to the United States in 1827 and made her debut in New York City that same year. She was a sensation – her name was given to babies, racehorses, stagecoaches, and steamboats – and she was regarded as America’s leading stage actress. Her last performance was in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1889.

This performance, and about 240 others, is promoted by notices in one volume of our Theatre Royal Playbills collection, a bound collection of ‘posters’ for the ‘old’ Newcastle Theatre Royal in Mosley Street. The bills were printed in 1819 and 1820, and are typical of the early nineteenth century –  i.e. very small compared to the modern-day concept of ‘posters’ –  and utilising revolutionary display typefaces which had begun to be manufactured in about 1810 for advertising.

Fittingly, the bill was printed by Edward Humble, at the Shakespeare Press. Humble was a respected local printer, and a proprietor of the County Durham Advertiser.

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see playbill and others from the collection…

# This item is held within a volume of our Theatre Royal Playbills (Ref Code RB792(4282) NEW.

# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be RB 792 (4282) – NEW – Theatre Royal Playbills.’

The Turbina Steamship and a mystery in the archives …

I’ve always found this letter fascinating.  If anyone fancies doing some further research on this letter, do let us know what your results are!

This letter of reference is an intriguing insight into the mathematics behind the construction of Newcastle’s famous ‘Turbinia’ steamship, which can still be seen in the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne.  Who is this (female) mathematician, who seems to get little mention in the history of the Turbinia?  Perhaps as a sign of the times, this letter, which appears to be a reference, is addressed to her father and does not refer personally to her by name at all.  Dr G Johnstone Stoney had three daughters (who led fascinating lives in their own right in the fields of science and medicine), I would love to know which one came to Newcastle and made such an important contribution to this part of North East history.

GB186/MSA/2/22

GB186/MSA/2/22

The Turbina was an experimental vessel built by Charles Parsons to demonstrate the benefits of his revolutionary new design of steam turbines.  Built by the firm of Brown and Hood, based at Wallsend on Tyne it started to undergo speed trials in 1896 and the results were pretty spectacular.  By December an average speed of 29.6 knots had been reached over the measured mile whilst, with further improved propellers, 32.76 knots was achieved by April of the following year.  Eventually, maximum speeds of over 34 knots were recorded.  At the time it was easily the fastest ship in the world.

Obviously with a great eye for publicity, Parsons caused quite a stir when the Turbina appeared at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Naval Review at Spithead, apparently racing between the two lines of navy ships and steaming up and down in front of the crowd.  Popular legend had her appearance as unannounced; it would seem that Parsons did have permission, although perhaps the organisers did not expect such a dramatic entry!

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see this letter …
# This item is held within the Manuscript Album (Ref Code GB186/MSA).
# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be ‘GB186/MSA/2/22 Letter from Charles Algernon Parsons to George Johnstone Stoney concerning mathematical work undertaken by one of Stoney’s daughters.’

To see the ship (and its turbines!) and much more …
The Discovery Museum is close to Newcastle upon Tyne rail station and has many gems https://discoverymuseum.org.uk/

Thanks to the Discovery Museum for providing the backstory of the Turbina, http://www.webcitation.org/5xujimKGb

‘The Scenery of our Native North- The Collieries’: The Art and Legacy of Thomas Hair

‘The characteristic appearance of no district in the world is more strikingly marked than is that of the North of England, the peculiar features of which are its collieries and their necessary adjuncts. The face of the country is thickly studded with the engine -houses and coal-heaps attached to respective pits… The fields and roads are crossed are crossed and intersected in every direction by the “waggon-ways” connecting the pits with their respective places of shipment… The margins of our noble rivers are fringed with the staiths and machinery, often constructed on a gigantic scale, necessary for effecting for effecting the shipment of the jetty treasure… The sea itself is blackened with our fleets of colliers, bearing the precious source of warmth and comfort to distant districts and countries, and thus diffusing wealth and happiness around…’.

Part of the opening remarks of M. Ross’ ‘Preliminary Essay on Coal and the Coal Trade’, in T.H. Hair’s A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (1844). The quote from the title comes from the same.

Old Pit, Burdon Main, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Old Pit, Burdon Main, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

The art of Thomas Hair provides a valuable and unique visual record of the region’s mining history. Although the landscape remains scarred by the industry, and other physical remnants of the pits have survived, much more has been lost due to the process of industrialisation and the passage of time. Hair’s work affords us a contemporary view of the pits that shaped our communities and the lives of those dependant on them.

Little is known about Hair’s life. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne around 1810, and his working life began when he trained with local engraver and lithographer Mark Lambert. Hair moved to London at some time in the late 1830s, and exhibited his work at the Suffolk Street Gallery from 1838, and several times at the Royal Academy during the 1840s. Although based in London, Hair maintained a strong affinity with the North East and continued to produce work inspired by the region during his time in the capital.

Percy Pit, Percy Main Colliery, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Percy Pit, Percy Main Colliery, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Hair travelled the ‘Great Northern Coalfield’ of Durham and Northumberland during the early nineteenth century, sketching and painting many of the different scenes of mining life. The paintings were then taken back to his studio, where they could be turned into etched engravings, either by Hair himself or another engraver he was associated with. Much of his work relating to the coalfield was published in Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham; A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham, in 1844. Frank Atkinson, who wrote the ‘Preface’ to the 1969 edition of Hair’s Sketches and Views, has commented on the technical accuracy of Hair’s depictions, as well as his ability to pick up the small details that capture the essence of the scene.

The B Pit, Fawdon Colliery, 1848, by Thomas Hair.

The B Pit, Fawdon Colliery, 1848, by Thomas Hair.

If a criticism can be made of Hair’s work, it is that it does not reflect the struggles and ‘everyday life’ of the miners and their communities. As Hair scholar Douglas Glendinning has noted, although miners are often pictured outside in Hair’s panoramic views of the pits, few of his depictions show the hazardous working conditions and danger involved in coal mining. However, Glendinning emphasises that many other artists also ignored the grim reality of the Industrial Revolution in order for their art to sell. Hair should therefore not be judged on this, and his work appreciated for the scenes it does portray.

Crane for Loading the Rollies, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown. This is one of the few illustrations by Hair that shows the subterranean conditions of the pit.

Crane for Loading the Rollies, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown. This is one of the few illustrations by Hair that shows the subterranean conditions of the pit.

Although Hair had already published his artwork in Scenes and Views, his illustrations were pirated by William Fordyce, who had produced his own survey on the region’s mining industry. Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, published in 1860, used Hair’s work extensively with no credit given to the artist. Some of the illustrations were also altered to make them accurately reflect technological advances in the industry since Hair’s time. This is most obviously seen in Fordyce’s Bottom of Pit Shaft, which is a clearly altered version of Hair’s Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery.

Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery, 1844, by Thomas Hair.

Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery, 1844, by Thomas Hair.

Bottom of Pit Shaft, from Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, 1860. Note the addition of a cage on the left hand side, which replaced the corves in Hair’s original. Most prominent is the removal of the rollies and their replacement with the wheeled tubs carrying coal.

Bottom of Pit Shaft, from Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, 1860. Note the addition of a cage on the left hand side, which replaced the corves in Hair’s original. Most prominent is the removal of the rollies and their replacement with the wheeled tubs carrying coal.

Hair died in Newcastle on 11 August 1875, and was buried in an unmarked grave in All Saints Cemetery. Although we know little about the artist himself, his art gives us an invaluable insight into the ‘The Scenery of our Native North’.

The Hair Prints- Special Collections. The prints have been digitised and can be viewed on our Collections Captured portal.

The above images have been digitised from the Hair Prints and are currently uncatalogued. Please contact lib-specenq@ncl.ac.uk for further details.

 

Further Reading 

T.H. Hair and M. Ross, Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham (1839)- Special Collections Rare Books (RB 622.09428 HAI )

T.H. Hair and M. Ross (with an introduction by Frank Atkinson), Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham; A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (1969)- Special Collections Edwin Clarke Local (Clarke 1999)

William Fordyce, Coal and Iron (1860)- Special Collections Robert White (W622.33 FOR Folio)

Douglas Glendinning, The Art of Mining; Thomas Hair’s Watercolours of the Great Northern Coalfield (Newcastle: Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2000)- Robinson Library 709.42HAI (Gle)