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.

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.”