Even More Nuggets from NorfolkOn April 8, 2020 by Elyse
Unless you literally live under a rock, you know there’s nothing remotely funny in the news these days. Fortunately, thanks to the digitization efforts of the fine folks at the Foxearth and District Local History Society, we can laugh at someone else’s.
While no era has a monopoly on tragedy, the 18th century gives any other a run for its money in pettiness, oddity and unintentional hilarity, at least as far as its media is concerned. Longtime readers will recall—hopefully, fondly—the Norfolk Chronicle, which reported on daily life in eastern England in the late 1700s. (And if you don’t, I’m happy to refresh your memory: Insults from Ipswich and Nuggets from Norfolk.)
Between a dry catalogue of marriages, deaths, judicial proceedings and the occasional humiliating public apology, the newspaper printed accounts of sea monsters, two-headed heifers and a surprisingly delicious flu cure. Seriously.
I don’t know about you, but this is the news I need right now. If you too have had enough of the 21st century, take a break, and enjoy a bizarre slice of life from a bygone era.
The secret to long life, revealed at last:
Thursday. . . died at Wortham. . . in the 103d year of his age, Mr Benjamin Parker, and was attended to the grave by a number of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
He was a strong, healthy man, and till within a few days of his death drank three pints of strong beer a day; he was never known to drink spirituous liquors, or tea, nor to smoak, take snuff, or chew tobacco; when pressed to take any of these idle things, as he called them, his saying was, “Snuff, nor tobacco, gin, nor tea, A Pot of good beer is the liquor for me.”– The Norfolk Chronicle, February 16, 1782
Beer drinkers, rejoice! Those 20th-century advertisers were right after all; beer is, in fact, “a true health food.”
Does anyone else suspect His Lordship of dabbling in ghostwriting?
Last week the deputies from the different manufacturing counties and towns in England had the honour of a conference with Lord North, at his Lordship’s house, in Downing Street. . . They were received by his Lordship in the most polite and friendly manner. . . his Lordship made many excellent and judicious remarks, promising his most serious attention to a question of such great magnitude, should the Lincolnshire Gentlemen persist in their intentions of bringing it [proposal that the export of wool be permitted] into Parliament.
Complimentary fashion advice, or Lord North sending a message to would-be copycats? You decide:
A correspondent thinks, that the most effectual means to serve the wool counties, would be to confine the wearing of silks to the Nobility, or even by some other exemplary law. At this time even the men wear silks and sattins, and yet it is certain, a suit of superfine broad cloth has a more manly, and to the full as elegant an appearance.– The Norfolk Chronicle, February 23, 1782
So this is what people watched before “Tiger King” was streaming on Netflix.
To the Nobility, Gentry, and the Admirers of the wonderful productions of Nature.
Just arrived, and to be seen alive. . . The surprizing Worcestershire Heifer, three years old, being the most curious production of nature ever exhibited in this kingdom. This very surprizing creature has two heads, four horns, four eyes, four ears, four nostrils, through each of which it breaths, etc and what is still more surprizing, it takes its sustenance with both mouths at the same time. One of the heads, together with the horns, represents that of a bull, and the other a cow.
This Heifer has had the inspection of the Royal Society, and the principal gentlemen of the faculty in London, and by them universally allowed to be the most astonishing living phaenomenon in nature. . .
Ladies and Gentlemen 1 shilling. Tradesmen 6 pence. Servants, etc 3 pence.– The Norfolk Chronicle, December 28, 1782
That sliding scale sounds like a much better deal than any streaming video service subscription.
Speaking of fantastic beasts:
Friday morning, the 1st instant, came ashore, during a severe storm, at Waxham, in this county, a large fish of a species not yet described by the naturalists. It is about five feet ten inches long, and four feet in circumference, and has four legs and paws, the two hinder of which have a joint; from which circumstance it is thought it occasionally sits upright, like the baboon. Its head is round and large and of a sandy colour. The back is broad, and belly prominent, and, on the whole, resembles a porpus, more than any sea production we have seen.– The Norfolk Chronicle, November 16, 1782
Even if my artistic abilities did not start and end at stick figures, you’d still have to use your imaginations for this one.
Some people have too much time on their hands:
We are credibly informed that a wager for a considerable sum is laid between two gentlemen who live in the neighbourhood of Norwich, and to be performed any time within two months, that a waggon, with a last of barley on it, shall be drawn from Buxton to Coltishall, the distance about five miles and a half, by twenty men, in fifteen hours; they are not to touch the wheels, nor fix any draft further back than the shafts.– The Norfolk Chronicle, February 16, 1782
An innovative solution to the gun violence epidemic:
Whereas the Woods of Barwick, in this County, have lately been much infested with Poachers, and Guns have been heard several Evenings, very near the House, and a great Deal of Game destroyed, especially on the eleventh of this Month; This is to give Notice, that Steel Traps are set in the aforesaid Woods, Gardens, and Places adjacent, and will continue to be set during the remainder of the Winter Season.– The Norfolk Chronicle, December 31, 1781
It starts out like a standard lost item notice:
Lost in the great Road between Wroxham and Norwich, on Monday, the eighth of April, between eight and nine in the Morning, a Bundle, containing a black Silk Cloak trimmed with Lace, the Hood lined with white, a Pair of Cotton Stockings, a Pair of plated Buckles, two Muslin Aprons, one flower’d the other strip’d, a Muslin Handkerchief, a small read and white ditto, a Pair of white Linen Gloves, all done up in a large red and white Cotton Handkerchief, marked M.L.S. If any Person will bring the above-mentioned Things to Mr AGAS, at the Lamb, in the Market-place, Norwich, they shall receive Half a Guinea Reward.
Wait for it:
The above Articles were the Property of a Servant, on which Account no greater Reward will be offered, nor advertised any more.– The Norfolk Chronicle, April 13, 1782
Something tells me that bundle was never seen again. Finders keepers, losers weepers—at least if they’re servants.
I’d volunteer for this clinical trial:
The present alarming influenza being now so universally afflictive, the following remedy has been given by an eminent physician with repeated success. Take a slice of bread, and toast it well on both sides till it is very brown, then spread on it some the best virgin honey, and take it night and morning regularly. This has been known to cure four or five in a family in three days.– The Norfolk Chronicle, June 22, 1782
Congratulations to the happy couple:
Last week was married at Wroxham, Mr Thomas Church, jun., surgeon, of Coltishall, to Miss Rachel Johnston.– The Norfolk Chronicle, June 29, 1782
. . . Just kidding. The 18th century had as much fake news as any other, but at least the media acknowledged it.
The marriage of Mr Thomas Church, jun. surgeon, of Coltishall, to Miss Rachel Johnson, inserted in our paper of last week, we can assure our readers, is void of foundation. Several articles of a like kind having lately been attempted to be imposed on the printer, the public are therefore informed, that in future no marriage or death will be inserted in this paper without being properly authenticated.– The Norfolk Chronicle, July 6, 1782
Age discrimination is rude, no matter the century. American Civil Liberties Union, I have another case for you:
Wanted by Mr Whiting, at Leiston, Suffolk, a Journeyman Chandler. No Person far advanced in Years need apply.– The Norfolk Chronicle, October 12, 1782
I’m more amused by the practice of printing the content of private correspondence than by this particular letter. However, in a serendipitous coincidence, it features our old friend Sir Joseph Banks—and the opportunity to shamelessly plug last year’s post is too good to pass up.
He may sound scholarly and dignified below, but never forget this is the same guy who was caught with his pants down—literally—in a canoe in Tahiti.
Sir Joseph Banks has written a polite letter to Mr C. Bryant, of this city, author of the Historical Account of two Species of Lycoperdon, just published, in which Sir Joseph much commends the performance, and thanks Mr Bryant for the great pains he has taken to fix the true specific differences of these plants, as they had eluded the strictest examination of all former botanists.– The Norfolk Chronicle, November 16, 1782
Want even more head-scratching snippets of 18th-century life? It’s your lucky day: Check out Insults from Ipswich and Nuggets from Norfolk.
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Disclaimer: The modern era is far from the first to grapple with rampant “fake news.” As I am neither a historian nor journalist, I make no claims about the accuracy or lack thereof of the above sources. I assert only that they make for a good story.
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.
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