Newsletter – July 2015

Welcome to our summer newsletter.

We will be exhibiting at the Shrewsbury Flower Show again this year on 14-15 August in the Home & Crafts marquee. Do come and see us.

signatures and sealsScurrilous letters

If I ever encounter a whiff of scandal in the course of my research, I am on the case before you can say ‘Chancery proceedings’. One of my most recently discovered lawsuits involved an elderly cleric who thought it would be a good idea to write ‘scurrilous’ letters anonymously to prominent members of Shropshire society. This was not a light-hearted prank, and even that would hardly be commensurate with the expected behaviour of a church minister, but what his defending counsel described as ‘scandalous and malignant atrocity of the libels‘. The prosecution’s case for defamation of character was successful and the defendant was fined £1,000 (about £92,000 today). He later admitted that ‘there was not the least foundation for what he had written and asked for the public’s pardon.

flourA case of missing flour money

In a similar vein, any document that begins ‘The prisoner …‘ immediately engages my attention. This was the carter working at the old water mill I’m researching who delivered flour to customers in the village. On this occasion he collected payment for the goods, gave the customer a receipt, then headed to the local pub and ‘got in a little beer amongst a lot of company‘. His employer was unimpressed and summoned the local constable and they both confronted the man at his lodgings. He admitted embezzling £8 5s (about £700 today) and said he was sorry. This carried no truck in 1876 and he was tried, convicted, and imprisoned for six months with hard labour. His criminal record included stealing a spade for which he had previously served 21 days in jail.

Five a day

Inventories are great news for house historians, especially when they involve a room-by-room tour of the house listing all the furniture and contents that really bring the property to life. However I had never come across one that included such great detail of the contents of the garden before, and this one left me wondering about the diet of the occupants of this old vicarage.

vegetablesFixtures in the garden included a melon and cucumber pit with hot water apparatus, and a potato pit; trellis work in front of the house, and 107 yards of iron fencing. In the Pool Garden were 4.5 rows of potatoes and 2 rows of beans. In the Lower Garden were 4 beds of onions, 3 of carrots, 1 of beetroot and 1 of salsify; 9 rows of peas, 3 of beans, 11 of French beans and sundry potatoes. There were more beans, potatoes, and peas in the upper garden as well as celery; and a greenhouse. All of this for the vicar and his wife and half a dozen servants.

From the archives

Illustrated Times, 9 June 1866:

crownShrewsbury Show
This ancient pageant took place at Shrewsbury on Monday. Originally a solemn fast day, it became after the Reformation a day on which the various guilds of tradesmen walked through the town in procession to Kingsland and there feasted themselves and their friends.

When these guilds were broken up the managers of the show sought to perpetuate their memory by arranging in a procession a number of fantastically-dressed persons who assumed characters that have from time immemorial been locally accepted as types of the various trades – though why the guild of bricklayers and builders should be typified by King Henry VIII and wherefore the Black Prince should precede the combined guilds of hatters and cabinetmakers are among the things not generally known.

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