So as we move into August we start to think about sunny days, warm weather, the sound of leather on willow and lazy days. It’s Britain so let’s amend that to cloudy days, mild weather and the sound of rain on covers or sky’s so blue it’s unbelievable and it’s too hot to move. All this means its holiday season. Jetting off to far of places or staying in the UK, although this year it is most likely staying at home, annoying perhaps but if it gets rid of the Rona then it will be 100% worth it. Which ever you do it will be really different from the holidays of our ancestors.
Let’s start off with the obvious. May of our ancestors will never have had a holiday in their lives. They probably only had Sundays as a day of rest, but probably worked at home on this day.
So off to the seaside then. The main places to develop in the Victorian era as holiday places were Blackpool, Scarborough, Ramsgate and Brighton. Llandudno and Rhyl were the places to go in Wales.
Now we don our short and t shirts for a beach outing but think of our ancestor. They wore their everyday clothes or even their Sunday best. Men in 3 piece suits and women in so many layers they could virtually stand up without needing their legs. Can you imagine how hot they were?
They may have worn a straw bonnet instead of the normal hat but that would have been the only nod to the beach.
So they needed to cool down. What better way than an ice cream. No cone and lovely flavours for our ancestors though. You got a penny lick. Now this was a solid glass which had a small indentation on the top which would hold a small amount of ice cream. You paid your penny, ate your ice cream and gave the glass back. If you were really lucky the glass may have been rinsed before you got it, but not always. Think of it like hundreds of people sharing a spoon, gross.
Perhaps a donkey ride across the beach? These rides began in the Victorian era and continue to this day at Blackpool amongst others. The wind in their hair as the donkey trotted (well slowly walked) along the sand.
The best way to cool off was probably a dip in the sea. What better way. Not for me, seaweed, crabs, fish no thank you. Apparently you’re not supposed to squeal and run out of the sea claiming something touched your foot! Why? But not just a normal dip in the sea for our ancestors there was etiquette to consider. You had to be correctly dressed.
Ladies wore full length dresses to begin with made from a non transparent fabric and weighted at the hem so it wouldn’t float up and show an ankle, the horror! Later into the Victorian era women began to wear a pair of bloomers with a short dress over the top. Modesty at all times. Men began by wearing what looked like woollen long johns from ankle to wrist. Over time these became shorter and looked more like a modern ladies racing swimsuit. I’ve got a photo somewhere of my Grandpa in a thigh length bathing suit that when it got wet stretched out of all shape.
But I hear you cry how did they change? Well the answer was one of two ways. There was the bathing machine. This was effectively a garden shed on wheels. You went inside and got changed and then stepped out in you bathing attire. Some were wheeled from the promenade to the sea so you stepped out into the sea and then when you were done you were returned to dry land. It was usually only the rich who were taken into the sea. You could also use a sort of beach tent thing. We had one. It was like a huge towel with a hole in the top for your head. You simply got changed underneath it. Surfers use them these days to get out of wetsuits. Another way ladies got around the need for a changing room was to use the bell dress type thing.
I’ll be honest it looks more like a drowning aid than a swimming dress.
So this summer when you’re lying on the beach in your chosen attire think of your Victorian ancestors and be grateful no to have to wear a suit or crinoline.
Today we live more in a throwaway society and if something is damaged or broken it goes. At the moment though we may be more inclined to repair or upcycle things or maybe even modify. But our ancestors would have had no choice but to keep mending and reusing things until they had no life left in the item.
I’m sure we’ve all done it. We get a garment that gets a hole in it and so it goes. But what would our ancestors have done. Well this would have depended on the damage. So for clothes they would have mended them if they could. Socks would be darned and holes would be stitched up.
How many of us would have thrown these jeans away? Our ancestors would never have done this. They would have carefully stitched over the area until the mend would nearly have been invisible. If the damage was too great then the garment would probably have be reused in another way. In the case of a pair of trousers that were damaged on the bottom they could be shortened and given to a younger member of the family. If this wasn’t possible then the garment could be turned into something else. So for example if a pair of curtains was ripped on the top and couldn’t be mended then the fabric could be recycled into clothes for someone.
But if the fabric was beyond use for being turned into new clothes then it still had a use. Cleaning in the home was a very time consuming chore for the lady of the house. Everything had to be done by hand. So having rags was essential. Old clothes could be used for washing floors and dusting and even for use as washing cloths and towels for the family. They could even be used to make a rag rug by attaching rags to a hessian sack to keep the cold from their feet.
But what when the rags were beyond use for that. Well they could be used in the garden. They could be strung over the garden to keep the birds off the crops. If they weren’t even fit for this they would be sold to a rag and bone man who would then sell the rags to shoddy makers. These were factories that recycled the rags into yarn to make new cloth.
But what else did our ancestors make do and mend. Well obviously scraps of material could be used to make toys for children such as balls and rag dolls. Also old furniture could be reused after its functional life was over. So if a chair had a broken leg then the leg could possibly be mended by a new piece of wood being attached but if all the legs were damaged by rot at the foot then the legs could just be cut down to make a child’s chair. Or if the whole set of chairs and the table had rot then the whole lot could be shortened.
Pieces of wood could be collected and used in a variety of ways. In rural areas wood could be used to mend fencing and mend holes in buildings and even to build new items such as storage boxes to pack vegetables and flowers to send them to market. In the towns wood could also be used for covering windows instead of curtains or even making pallet beds to sleep on.
Today there is a mass market for selling crafting products and we can make so many different things from our own clothes to our own furniture. We make our own Christmas decorations and gift for one another, but in reality our ancestors had been doing this for as long as time can remember with the bits and pieces they had in their homes as nothing was wasted, everything was used until it couldn’t be used anymore or made into something else and then they would perhaps have been able to get a few penny’s for them.
A while ago I looked at the lives of the Mother’s in Law of King Henry VIII. I thought it was about time I considered his Father’s in Law.
Henry’s first Father in Law was King Ferdinand II of Aragon, the father of Catherine of Aragon. When Henry and Catherine married in 1509 Ferdinand was the King of Aragon, Majorca, Sardinia, Valencia, Sicily, Naples and Navarre. He was also Count of Barcelona. Whilst his wife Queen Isabella of Castile was alive he was King of Castile as well. Ferdinand was born in Aragon on the 10th March 1452. He was the son of King John II of Aragaon and his wife Juana Enriquez. When he married Infanta Isabella of Castile the heir to the throne of Castile Ferdinand was only King of Sicily. Ferdinand is probably best known as being one of the monarchs to introduce the Spanish Inquisition of Spain. It was used to expel the non-Catholic people from Spain or force them to convert to Catholicism. After Isabella’s death in 1504 Ferdinand continued to have a role in Castille when his daughter inherited the throne. Due to her metal state after her husband’s death Ferdinand acted as regent for his grandson the future King Charles I of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. The King remarried after Isabella died. He married the 18 year old niece of King Louis XII of France in an attempt to a male heir to inherit the throne of Aragon. Ferdinand was 54 and the marriage did produce a son but he died young, thus the throne of Aragon went to his daughter Joanna I. Ferdinand died in 1516 in Spain and was buried in the Royal Chapel of Granada alongside his first wife Isabella of Castile. Through his children he was the father in law of the King of Portugal through his daughters Isabella and Maria who both married King Emanuel I of Portugal and King Henry I of Portugal through his daughter Maria as well as Henry VII.
Henry’s second father in law was Thomas Boleyn the father of Anne Boleyn. Thomas was born around 1477 in Norfolk to Sir William Boleyn a wealthy merchant and his wife Lady Margaret Butler. He married Lady Elizabeth Howard around 1499. She was the daughter of Thomas Howard the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. The couple had 3 surviving children in Mary, Anne and George. As Anne’s favour grew at court so did Thomas. He was an envoy and ambassador for the King in Europe. He was made Viscount Rochford by the King and later Henry interceded on his behalf in a dispute over the titles of the Earldoms of Ormond and Wiltshire which both were granted to Thomas. Thomas was made a Knight of the Garter and was Lord Privy Seal (he was responsible for looking after the Kings personal seal). As Anne and George fell from favour so too did Thomas. After the execution of his children which Thomas accepted without fighting Thomas lost his positions and titles. He died at his home Hever Castle in Kent in 1539. He was survived by his wife and daughter Mary Stafford.
Father in Law number 3 for the King was Sir John Seymour, the father of Jane Seymour. He was a prominent member of court and society before his daughter’s marriage to the King. He was knighted by King Henry VII for his role in helping end the Cornish uprising in 1497. Other positions he held included Sheriff of several counties in the West Country, a Knight and Groom of the Bedchamber. This made him close to the King. John married Margery Wentworth in 1494 and they had 10 children. His son Edward became the 1st Earl of Hertford and then Duke of Somerset and the Lord Protector during the early reign of his nephew King Edward VI. Thomas Seymour married the widow of King Henry VIII, Catherine Parr and was an influence, not necessarily for the good, in the young life of Princess Elizabeth Tudor. John and Margery’s daughter Lady Elizabeth Seymour married the son of Sir Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII right hand man. The couple survived Sir Thomas Cromwell’s fall from grace and had a comfortable life and of course Jane became Queen Consort. Sir John Seymour lived long enough to see his daughter become Queen in May 1536 but he died in December of the same year.
So there is a brief overview of Henry’s first 3 father’s in law. Coming soon will be father’s in law 4-6.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!