Cholera scrapbook – drinking on Christmas Day, 1831

Door No. 19

Newspaper cutting and handwritten account of the Cholera outbreak, 1831 from ‘Collection relative to the cholera at Gateshead, in the county of Durham Vol I (Rare Books, RB 616.932 BEL)

This page from the Cholera scrapbook details circumstances around George Foster Smith, who sold some of his spirits to people on Christmas Day. It explains that nearly all of those that consumed the liquor from Smith’s establishment were those with whom Cholera first broke out in Gateshead. The Cholera outbreak occurred in Gateshead and lasted from 1831-2.

See another page from Cholera scrapbook Volume I, in Door No. 9 of the Special Collections Christmas Calendar.

Transcription reads;

George Foster Smith, then a considerable linen draper NoG(?)4. side, Newcastle with his spare cash began a cheap spirit shop in Tyne Bridge End Buildings in the last week of November 1831. – to gain custom with cheap spirit drinkers he gave to a number of persons some of his spirits, particularly on Christmas day, and strange to say the whole or very nearly the whole of the persons with whom the Cholera first broke out in Gateshead were proved to have been at, and partaken of this cheap spirit, the day before. – he and his spirits were much blamed. – the expected great trade of the spirit shop became nought, and his large linen drapery concern dwindled down to a Haberdashery shop, when he took himself drinking and died at his house in Leazes Terrace the 22. September 1846 aged 57 years

Find out more about our Cholera scrapbooks here.

The scrapbooks are part of the Rare Books Collections. Find out more about it here.

Outbreak of Cholera in Gateshead, 1831

Door No. 9

Letter describing the outbreak of Cholera in Gateshead, 1832 from ‘Collection relative to the cholera at Gateshead, in the county of Durham Vol I (Rare Books, RB 616.932 BEL)

This letter is contained within the first of two scrapbook volumes containing information about the outbreak of cholera in Gateshead in 1831-2. It was written on Boxing Day, 26th December 1831. It details that Cholera had broken out in Gateshead, with the death of 6 persons in Beggars entry, 2 in Hillgate, 1 in Jacksons Chair and several more falling ill in Gateshead.

Cholera is a bacterial infection caused by contaminated water or food, but at the time of this outbreak people didn’t know that! Throughout the 1831-2 outbreak, no cure was found, nor would it be until the English physician, John Snow, proved that it was a water borne disease caused by infected water during an 1854 Cholera outbreak in London.

Find out more about our Cholera scrapbooks here.

The scrapbooks are part of the Rare Books Collections. Find out more about it here.

Beauties in Strains Seldom Heard: The Famous Tune – January 2017

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.


Vestiges of old Newcastle and Gateshead – June 2011

Illustration of The Weavers or Carliol Tower and The Mechanics Institute
Illustration of The Weavers or Carliol Tower and The Mechanics Institute, 1878 from from Boyle, J.R. Vestiges of old Newcastle and Gateshead. 2 vols.
(Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Andrew Reid; London: Elliot Stock, 1890)
(Rare Books Collection, RB 942.82 BOY Quarto

In 1769 James Granger’s Biographical History of England was published with deliberately blank pages for the purchaser to customise. Thus grangerised entered rare books terminology. Extra-illustrated is a more user-friendly term which has come to be commonly used today. Typically, book owners have customised copies by adding engraved portraits and topographical prints but sometimes autograph letters, drawings, watercolours and other documents have been pasted in and this is exactly what W.B. Bond has done with his copy of J.R. Boyle’s Vestiges of old Newcastle and Gateshead (1890).

The publication is not as scarce as some other titles held in the Philip Robinson Library’s Special Collections: twelve other institutions are listed on COPAC as holding copies, from the National Library of Scotland, to the British Library and Trinity College Dublin. What make our copy unique are the two hundred and thirty engravings, watercolours and autographs which have been added. These include: autograph letters from historians and antiquaries John Hodgson, John Collingwood Bruce, W.H. Longstaffe, and Richard Welford; engraved portraits of King Charles II and Oliver Cromwell; a bookplate taken from a copy of Il Decamerone (1727), the title page of which had borne the inscription of musician Charles Avison; engravings of local views and landmarks, such as Alnwick Castle, Sunderland harbour, and Jesmond cemetery; and original watercolours depicting the Holy Jesus Hospital, an old house in Low Friar Street, almshouses in Westgate Street, Thomas Bewick’s workshop at St. Nicholas’ church yard, and more.

Two local watercolours have been chosen to illustrate this ‘treasure’: The Weavers or Carliol Tower and The Mechanics Institute, 1878 and The Temporary Bridge over the Tyne – August 17th 1875, both signed by W.B. Bond.

The Weavers or Carliol Tower and The Mechanics Institute, 1878 (above):
Newcastle was fortified in the Thirteenth Century and Carliol Tower, named after the De Carleiol family, was one of the seventeen towers which were features of the town wall. The discovery, by workmen in 1824, of a cannonball is evidence that it came under fire when the Scots stormed Newcastle in 1644. Less than twenty years after the violence of the English Revolution, or Civil War, the Weaver’s Company appropriated the tower as a meeting house. The tower was repaired and enlarged in 1821 but, like many of the town’s defensive towers, was demolished in the late Nineteenth Century. The foundation stone for The Mechanic’s Institute which adjoined Carliol Tower, on New Bridge Street, had been laid on 19th April, 1865. From 1866, it housed a library and was a venue for lectures on industrial developments and for delivering engineering classes. In 1880, The Mechanics’ Institute became part of the new City Library.

The Temporary Bridge over the Tyne – August 17th 1875 (below):
Bond has not specified the location of this temporary bridge over the Tyne. However, a temporary bridge existed whilst the Swing Bridge was being constructed and it is possible that this is what Bond painted, looking across the river towards Gateshead and St. Mary’s Church. The Roman Pons Aelius had first spanned the Tyne but it had been replaced by a mediaeval stone bridge. When this was destroyed by the flood of 1771, a new stone bridge was built in its place. Increased shipping resulted in that bridge being removed in 1866 and it wasn’t until 1876 that the Swing Bridge was opened. Thus, it is possible that the watercolour depicts the temporary wooden bridge at time when it had almost run the course of its usefulness and with the construction of the Swing Bridge glimpsed immediately behind it.

According to a manuscript annotation on a front endpaper, Bond inserted the additional engravings, watercolours and autographs whilst in San Sebastiano, Venice, 1913 and two items which had been addressed to him there are tipped in at the end of the second volume.

Illustration of The Temporary Bridge over the Tyne
Illustration of The Temporary Bridge over the Tyne – August 17th 1875 from Boyle, J.R. Vestiges of old Newcastle and Gateshead. 2 vols.
(Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Andrew Reid; London: Elliot Stock, 1890)
(Rare Books Collection, RB 942.82 BOY Quarto

A Cholera Patient – June 2008

Image of a political cartoon, depicting a cholera patient siting on the words 'starvation' with a table next to him with the words'Board of Health' with a vial saying 'Emetic' and 'The dose to be repeated' and a box of 'Blue Pills'
Collections relative to the Cholera at Gateshead, in the County of Durham, 1831
(Rare Books, RB616.932 BEL)

This gruesome cartoon is by the caricaturist and portrait painter Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856). It reflects the generally negative feeling that people in this country harboured towards doctors during the cholera outbreak of 1831-32. The cartoon contains many references to death, reflecting the lack of knowledge amongst doctors the world over about the cause and cure of cholera. It also highlights the ineffectiveness of the newly created Board of Health in preventing the spread of cholera.

The cartoon is part of a collection of broadsides, cartoons and other archival material relating to the cholera epidemic of 1831-32 in Gateshead, where two hundred and twenty people lost their lives to this horrific disease. Along with other sources from Special Collections, it is currently being used as part of Newcastle University Library’s education project, which aims to promote Special Collections materials to teachers and school children through visits, structured learning activities and the development of online learning resources using original sources. This particular source will feature in an online cholera-based resource which will tell the story of the cholera outbreak – from how it got here to the grisly symptoms, from ineffective quarantines to praying for miracle cures – through primary sources, interactive games, audio and much more.