Crime in the Broadsides – March 2020

At a time when newspapers were taxed, broadsides were vehicles for popular culture which were just affordable by the working class (the average cost of a broadside was a penny, with some ballads costing a ha’penny.) Typically, broadsides were single sheets, printed on one side only. Some communicated public information; many were printed for entertainment. They were ephemeral – cheaply printed for distribution among the lower and middle classes by chapmen, hawkers and street criers, or, for pasting onto walls by way of reaching wider audiences. In the Nineteenth Century, machine-press printing helped to bring about a proliferation of this street literature. It is remarkable that any broadsides have survived and yet almost 850 have been catalogued and digitised from Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections.

One of the many themes to be treated in broadsides, is crime. The end of the Eighteenth Century/beginning of the Nineteenth Century saw increases in both crime and poverty, with the majority of criminal acts being property offences. More goals were being built but there was also a move away from harsh punishment, with transportation replacing execution for some serious crimes and more lenient sentences, with attempts at rehabilitation, replacing harsh sentences for petty crimes. The first police force was introduced in 1829 and there would not be an organised police force until 1856 and so it was that prosecutions were usually brought about by private individuals; usually the victims of the crimes. Prosecution associations were community organizations whose members were citizens that paid dues to cover the costs of private prosecutions. Sometimes, they provided a form of crime insurance. Broadsides 5/1/35 5 Guineas Reward is evidence that these prosecuting associations also covered the costs around soliciting information: printing reward notices and contributing reward money.

Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections has several reward posters that were printed under the auspices of the North Shields and Tynemouth Association for Prosecuting Felons. Like the hanging ballads, these reward posters were formulaic, made use of stock woodcuts and were cheaply printed. They were moralistic, casting criminals as “evil disposed” persons that carried out their deeds “maliciously” even though the crime might have been the theft of food to feed the family.

In this example from 1818, Monkseaton farmer John Crawford has suffered criminal damage to a gate, two ploughs and a railing. He has put up three guineas (roughly £180.90 today) as a reward for information leading to successful prosecution and the prosecution association has increased the reward by two guineas (roughly £120.60 today).

Calendars of Prisoners, like Broadsides 5/3/1, are lists of prisoners awaiting trail. They are formal documents, typically providing the names, ages, trades and offences of the accused as well as the names of the Magistrates that committed them.

This example lists the prisoners awaiting trial in Newcastle, in August 1825. The prisoners range from Mary Simpson (age 17) who was accused of stealing fabric, pillow cases, books and brooches to Robert Scope (age 80) accused of assault and theft. Some of the printed entries have been annotated by hand to record the verdict after trial. There is also a section for convicts at the end of the document: those prisoners to have been found guilty at trial and which have now been sentenced. They include Mary Ferguson (age 71) who was sentenced to gaol and given four months’ hard labour, such as working the treadmill.

Broadsides 5/2/12 Execution of George Vass, is an example of a hanging ballad, or execution ballad. In the Nineteenth Century, public executions attracted large crowds of spectators and one of the ways in which people experienced public executions was through broadsides and ballads. Hanging ballads would be sung at executions and the ballad sheets sold by the singers. They were formulaic but combined news from local reports with sensational, moralistic accounts of the crimes committed. The audience could expect to learn about the crime, the behaviour of the prisoner, an account of his/her last words, a description of the execution and a warning against leading a similarly criminal life lest the audience end their days at the gallows too.

George Vass was 19 years old when he became the last person to be executed by public hanging in the Carliol Square gaol, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 08:00 on 14th March 1863. He had been found guilty of the rape and murder of Margaret Docherty on New Year’s Eve 1862. Margaret lies in the cemetery of All Saints Church.

In the Nineteenth Century, crime was never far from the common people and, through broadsides and other publications, knowledge of criminals and their crimes became well-known; often sensationalized.

You can find many more digitised images from our Broadsides Collection online on CollectionsCaptured.

You can also find out more about another Broadside from a previous Treasure of the Month for A reward poster concerning the breaking into the shop of Messrs Wigham and Prior in the Fish Market, North Shields and subsequent theft of part of a side of bee (1817) on our blog.

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s Handwritten Poetry Collection – December 2016

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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.

Skating and Sliding – December 2010

Front cover of Skating and Sliding
Front cover of Wood, J.G. Skating and Sliding
(London: Routledge, 1872) (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 796.91 WOO)

In the mid Nineteenth Century, increasing literacy levels and the industrialisation of printing and book-making combined to create a demand for cheap publications. This demand was well-met by ‘yellowbacks’: low-priced octavos with strawboard boards covered with yellow paper and often block-printed with pictures. Yellowbacks were ubiquitous in the 1870s and 1880s and George Routledge dominated the field. His publishing house started to experiment with non-fiction and with educational handbooks and thus the series Routledge’s Sixpenny Handbooks was born.

Illustration Skating from Skating and Sliding
Illustration of ‘Skating’ from Wood, J.G. Skating and Sliding
(London: Routledge, 1872) (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 796.91 WOO)

Skating and Sliding by the Reverend J.G. Wood and other writers is an example of the series which also treated such subjects as cricket, manly exercises, fireworks, swimming and conjuring. This particular manual takes learners through the history of skating, putting skates on, how to start from the inside edge and progresses to various skating figures, such as the Dutch Roll and the Figure of Three. It quotes three maxims attributed to renowned skater Robert Ferguson: “Throw fear to the dogs”, “Put on your skates securely” and “Keep your balance”!

Extract from with a description of 'the Dutch Roll' from Skating and Sliding
Extract from Wood, J.G. Skating and Sliding
(London: Routledge, 1872) (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 796.91 WOO)

From 1607 to 1814 a frost fair was held on the River Thames and into the early- Nineteenth Century rivers and canals froze sufficiently to support skating. The Skating Club was founded in London, 1830 and in 1876, the first artificial ice-rink (the Glaciarium) opened in Chelsea.

John George Wood (1827-1889), having worked in the anatomical museum, Oxford and having made a name for himself delivering illustrated lectures on zoology, was best known as a writer on natural history. However, he also wrote books on gymnastics and other sports and even edited The Boys Own Magazine.

Christmas at Wycoller Hall – December 2009

Illustration of Wycoller Hall with people in the room, and sat round a large table at the front
‘Christmas in the Olden Time’ engraving of Wycoller Hall from Fisher’s drawing room scrap-book, 1836. With poetical illustrations by L. E. L. (London, 1835)
(19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 820.5 FIS)

This engraving is one of a series featured in Fisher’s drawing room scrap-book (1835). Captioned Christmas in the Olden Time, the Victorian image portrays a whimsical and romantic view of festive celebrations as they might have taken place at Wycoller Hall, Lancashire, in 1650.

Keeping scrap books was a popular past-time for the middle classes in the nineteenth century. Many types of medium were considered worthy of being kept in scrap books, including newspaper clippings, engraved pictures and “scraps” themselves, which were printed pieces of paper carrying ornate designs in relief, often depicting childhood scenes, flora or fauna.

The mid-nineteenth century saw the publication of ornate leather-bound albums containing pre-printed pages on a variety of themes; some included pockets in which to put photographs or blank pages on which to sketch or paint, as in the case of Fisher’s scrap-book, which contains engravings and poetry interspersed with blank pages.

The poetry in Fisher’s scrap-book was composed by Letitia Elizabeth Landon (often known as “L.E.L.”) who composed her pieces to complement the engraved images which were submitted for inclusion in the publication.

As for Wycoller Hall, the building still stands, but in a ruinous state. Home to the Cunliffe family, it was built in the late sixteenth century but gradually fell into disrepair after being passed to the creditors of Henry Owen Cunliffe in 1818 after his death. The hall is widely believed to have been the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, as the Brontë family lived in the nearby village of Haworth and eye-witness accounts gathered in 1901 from elderly residents of the surrounding Wycoller Village recollected the Brontë sisters visiting the area.

Landon composed a poem entitled Christmas in the Olden Time to accompany this engraving, and she prefaced her poem with the following quotation – allegedly from a Cunliffe family manuscript – describing a festive feast:

At Wycoller Hall the family usually kept open house the twelve days at Christmas. Their entertainment was a large hall of curious ashlar work, a long table, plenty of furmenty like new milk, in a morning, made of husked wheat, boiled and roasted beef, with a fat goose, and a pudding, with plenty of good beer for dinner.”