Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Slavery, Lions, And Public Humiliation In The Press

The way things are with News International in this country, I suspect that you can get a lot more truth by reading old newspapers than by reading new ones. So let us take another dip into the past by looking at the Leeds Mercury of July 13th 1811 - exactly 200 years ago today. The three short items I have chosen appeared next to each other on page 3 of the issue. I have provided the best transcription I can of what were rather faded scans.

Whereas George Shaw, apprentice to Joseph Bottomly of Farnley Tyas, Clothier, did on the latter end of May, abscond from the service of his said Master, this is to give  notice that whoever harbours or employs the said apprentice will be prosecuted as the law dictates. He is about 14 years of age, near five feet high, dark complexion, with light brown hair. Had on a drap mixture coat, corbeau waistcoat and leather breeches.

What can be said, other than that this particular piece appeared in a British newspaper in 1811, some 76 years after that stirring anthem Rule Britannia was first sung. You may recall the chorus : "Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons never, never, never, shall be slaves"

Under the patronage of their Majesties, The Royal Menagerie, from Exeter 'Change, London. begs leave to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen and the public of this town and its environs, that he will avail himself of this opportunity of offering his Grand Exhibition of Living Curiosities for the last day in this town, the largest menagerie that ever traveled this Kingdom. Admittance to see the whole of the Grand Menagerie - Ladies and Gentleman 1 Shilling, Children half price. Feeding hours from eight to nine o'clock in the evening; 2s.

The Royal Menagerie was founded by King John at the end of the 12th century and was normally based at the Tower of London. It was eventually closed down by the then Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, in 1835 and the remaining animals were transferred to form the basis of the London Zoo. Lions and bears were known to feature prominently in the Royal Menagerie collection and in 2005 two lion skulls were unearthed during excavations in the grounds of the Tower of London.

We, the undersigned, did on Tuesday morning, July 2nd 1811, willfully break the windows of Thomas Barnard of Hunslet, in the Parish of Leeds, and break down the wall etc of John Good of Hunslet in the parish aforesaid, for which they have threatened a prosecution against us, but on consideration of us asking them pardon, and promising not to offend in like manner, paying the expenses already incurred, and inserting this our Pardon once in the Leeds Mercury, they have agreed to stay all further proceedings against us. Now we do therefore hereby ask pardon of the said Thomas Barnard and John Good and thank them for their lenity towards us. As witness our hands this 8th day of July 1811.
JOHN BOOTH, Sowlane-Head., ABRAHAM KEIGHLEY, Bell Isle., JAMES TINSDILL, His Mark, Hunslet Carr, WILLIAM HIRST, His Mark, Sowlane-Head, JAMES BOOTH, His Mark, ROBERT FOSTARD, His Mark, Bell Isle, JOHN HALL, His Mark. ......?

An interesting way of delivering justice without the cost of trials, investigations and prison sentences. One has to think that there might be many a good argument for reintroducing this kind of arrangement for dealing with what we now term anti-social behavior. Above and beyond anything else, the payment for such adverts would provide a useful source of revenue to a press that is under financial pressure. But how would we deal with the situation when it was the newspaper itself that was asking our pardon - and for offences far more serious than breaking a window


  1. I like the fancy language they used back then. Papers today have plenty of errors.....

  2. Hmmmm... Regarding that final item - Given what gets broadcast on "reality TV" shows these days, people are no longer embarrassed by public humiliation. In fact, they expect to become rich from it!

  3. Wow, brilliant post! Too many good points to list just a few. (I liked the kicker at the end, too!) Even your titles have an extra sparkle lately. And, being the owner of a lot of books, magazines, and newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, I've loved the old newspapers you've used lately for source material.

  4. Me Thinks Mr Murdoch Is Like Mercury....I.E. Very Difficult To Handle !
    I Love Old Newspaper Archives.Have You Visited Calderdale's Online Archives Here ?

  5. Tony : Yes, I access the same service via Kirklees Library. An excellent service.

  6. I agree with The Silver Fox, a brilliant post and I love your latest titles.

  7. I am a little nervous about the promixity of the childrens' fare to the feeding times for the lions. Aren't you?

  8. I have every sympathy with the young absconder in the first piece. Had such a grim day at work that I nearly did the same.

  9. I have an old apprentices agreement from the King James era. Oddly it's worth only about $800 because so many of them were written. It's quite beautiful, on vellum and with a broken but clear seal. Gives us an idea of how hard life is, my nephew had three master tradesmen before he finished his electrical apprenticeship, just bunny hopped from one to another.


Not Seeing The Moores For The Trees

This family photograph from the 1930s perfectly captures a marriage of style and elegance. It also captures a marriage between two people, b...