Many of us have heard of the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851. It was suggested by Prince Albert the husband of Queen Victoria as a way to show what was great about Great Britain and the colonies.
The exhibition included all the best produce manufactured in Great Britain. It had machinery, including several full sized steam locomotives. It also had exhibits from the colonies including huge diamonds, guns, historic artefacts, new technologies such as the jacquard loom which used punch cards to make intricate patterns in fabrics, scientific instruments including telescopes and even the first pay toilets (1p a pee, which in today’s terms is over £9, which makes the 20p they charge today cheap). In total there were around 13000 exhibits as well as fountains and fully grown trees.
The Great Exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria on the 1st May 1851 and ran until the 11th October 1851. During this time it is estimated that around 6 million people visited the exhibition. In the 6 months it was opened the exhibition actually turned a profit of £186,000. This money was used to build the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.
The idea to hold the Great Exhibition was announced in 1850 with hundreds of designs being put forward. The winning entry was submitted by the head gardener of the Duke of Devonshire’s home Chatsworth House. Joseph Paxton drew his idea on some blotting paper and submitted it to the committee. It was chosen due to its unique design and the speed it could be built in. His design drew much on his previous works at Chatsworth. In 1836 Paxton had designed and built a fully heated glass building for growing bananas especially the Cavendish banana which is the most grown banana still today. Paxton also designed the Emperor fountain in 1844. This fountain is fed by gravity from a huge lake above Chatsworth House. The pressure built up on the way to the fountain allows the jet to reach 90m at full pressure.
Work started on the Crystal Palace in 1850. At its height there were over 5000 men working on the construction with up to 2000 onsite per day. One individual managed to install over 100 panes of glass in one day. The building itself was immense. When completed it was 3 times larger than St Paul’s Cathedral. During the construction over 1000 iron girders were used as well as over 5500m2 of timber, 293,000 panes of glass, 30 miles of guttering and 4000 tonnes of iron. The building was 563m long, 124m wide and 33m high with 2 floors. In total the building cost £79,800 which in today’s terms is £7,510,700, and took 8 months to complete.
The building stood in Hyde Park until 1852. After the exhibition ended it was unsure what was to become of the building. It was decided that the building would be dismantled and moved to Sydenham Hill in London where it was used as an exhibition centre of sorts and held concerts and even a circus. The new crystal palace was not exactly the same as the original and it eventually reopened by Queen Victoria in June 1854. Over the years the palace declined and was not well maintained and eventually the owners were declared bankrupt. In the 1920’s the new owners set about restoring the building and bringing it back to its former glory.
The new palace met with an untimely end on the 30th November 1936. A small fire started after what was believed to be an explosion in the ladies toilets. The fire tore through the building fuelled by the wood in the construction and a gusting wind. There were over 400 firemen and 89 fire engines in the battle to save the building but it was a battle which was lost. The site was eventually cleared and the grounds have been used as a motor racing circuit and the site for a transmitter. Today is an open space which has been used for open air concerts and a park.
There has been talk over the years about rebuilding the Crystal Palace and having another Great Exhibition. I don’t think it would work, but just seeing the building would be fantastic, a true glimpse into the past.
These days were bombarded by adverts from products. There in the newspapers, on TV every 20 minutes, on our tablets and phones and posters around our towns and cities and we even get them emailed to us. We simply can’t get away from them but to our ancestors they were revolutionary as they had never seen before.
The first adverts were found in newspapers in the early 1700’s but they became most common in the Victorian ear. They advertised new and exciting products that had claims to aid their lives and their health. Many adverts were for medicines which may or may not have worked.
I’m interested in medicine advertising as 2 of my 5 times great uncles ran a druggist store in Hudson, New York State. They left Leek in Staffordshire in the 1840’s with their father Hugh Wardle. Hugh had been a druggist in Leek and when he left his second wife and her children he set up with his sons in the USA. Now I like to believe they were a reputable druggist store as they were in Hudson for many years with the store passing to their sons but not all druggists were. Also one of the brothers graduated from Columbia University as a physician and he was a Reverend.
There were the quacks who sold drugs and devices which claimed to cure ailment with bizarre methods. Some of my favourites were the adverts for cigarettes which claimed to aid asthmatics, which as we know probably did more harm than good. But because the advert said it would help people believed them. Also the adverts for vibration and electrical devices to help those of a nervous disposition that were nothing more than devices for intimate areas.
Another of my favourite remedies was for constipation. You could have an antimony ball which you swallowed, it went through you and cleaned you out and then you fished it out of you stools and washed it and put it back in the box for next time. The entire family could use it. Not dangerous at all!
It wasn’t just the things they were selling but it was what was in them. Some of the ingredients were just damned right dangerous. If they were putting plaster of paris and chalk in bread to bulk out the dough for bread, then what was in the quack medicines.
Can you imagine having a toothache and taking cocaine tablets for it? No wonder the pain went, you were high. Also cocaine is highly addictive so if the toothache went on for long enough you could end up addicted to them. The advert implies the drops are safe for children. Giving cocaine to children! Can you imagine these days if this was suggested as a cure for toothache in children, everyone involved would be struck off and closed down and probably shipped off to prison and the child taken into care.
Another advert promoting cocaine was as a hair tonic to get rid of dandruff and make you hair shine. Makes the modern shampoo adverts seem boring.
What gets me the most is that many of these medicines were not available in the shops. In the case of the cocaine drops they were but many it was just send off for them out of the paper. You had no information as to whether they were safe or what the ingredients were or even if they did what they said they did. We rely on stringent safety laws to make sure our medications are safe but in the Victorian and Edwardian periods there was no such thing. Further back in history the pills you got could contain fatal ingredients. Also who’s to say that once you sent off for you medicines that you would ever get them. You probably couldn’t complain to the newspaper as they just published the adverts.
Taking all of this into account our ancestors were taking a huge risk by purchasing and using a lot of the drugs sold via newspaper advert, at best they were harmless and may have had a placebo effect but they could kill you. It was probably best to stick to the druggists as hopefully they had training in medicines.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was a powerful woman who had influence of much of France and England in her lifetime. She was the wife of 2 kings and the mother to 2 kings. She was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right. She participated in the Crusades in the Holy Land, was regent of England while her son was on the Crusades and in captivity and raised the ransom for him. But what of her genealogy?
Bit of background first.
Eleanor was born around 1122 in France (probably Aquitaine) to William X Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Chatelleraut. Her first marriage was to Louis the Younger of France, son of Louis VI of France. He became Louis VII of France a few days after the marriage. The couple married on the 25th July 1137 at Bordeaux Cathedral, France. The couple had their marriage annulled in 1152 due to consanguinity, most likely as Louis was desperate for a son but was also celibate (unless his doctors told him not to be) and Eleanor’s eye had be caught by another and was a strong woman and the King was not as strong, as well as many other factors.
Eleanor secondly married Henry II, Duke of Normandy the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and the Empress Matilda of England (the daughter of King Henry I) in May 1152. Henry became King of England in 1154 after the death of his Uncle Stephen. During this marriage the couple had a love hate relationship with Eleanor and her sons fighting against the King. This lead to Eleanor spending 19 years imprisoned on and off until the King died.
Eleanor had 10 children by her 2 husbands.
By King Louis she had:
1. Marie of France born in 1145 in France. She married Henry I, Count of Champagne in 1164 and had 4 children. Marie was Countess of Champagne. She died in 1198 in Champagne, France.
2. Alix of France born in 1150 in France. She married Theobald V, Count of Blois in 1164 and had 7 children. She was Countess of Blois. She died in 1197/98 in France.
By King Henry she had:
1. William IX, Count of Poitiers who was born in Normandy in 1153. He died in 1156 at Wallingford Castle and was buried in Reading Cathedral.
2. Henry the Young King. He was born in 1155 at Bermondsey Palace, London. In 1172 he married Margaret of France in Winchester Cathedral. She was the half-sister of his half-sisters Marie and Alix. They had 1 son who died when he was a few days old. Henry died in France in 1183 after a siege. He was buried in Rouen Cathedral.
3. Matilda of England was born in 1156 at Windsor Castle. In 1168 she married Henry Duke of Saxony at Minden Cathedral and the couple had 5 children. Matilda was Duchess of Saxony. She died in 1189 at Brunswick, Saxony.
4. Richard I King of England (3/9/1189 – 6/4/1199). Richard was born in 1157 at Beaumont Palace in Oxfordshire. He was King of England, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine and Nantes (thank goodness he didn’t have all that on a business card). Richard married Berengaria of Navarre, daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre in 1191 in Limassol, Cyprus. The couple had no children. Richard died from an arrow wound in 1199 in Chalus, Aquitaine and was buried at Fontevrault Abbey at his father’s feet, except his heart which is in Rouen Cathedral.
5. Geoffrey II Duke of Brittany was born in 1158 in England. In 1181 he married Constance of Brittany the daughter of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany and they had 3 children. Geoffrey died in 1186 in Paris.
6. Eleanor of England, Queen Consort of Castile was born in 1611 in Normandy. She married in 1170 or 1177 King Alfonso VIII of Castile in Burgos, Castile and they had 12 children. Eleanor died in Burgos in 1214 and was buried there.
7. Joan of England, Queen Consort of Sicily and Countess of Toulouse. Joan was born in 1165 in Anjou and married firstly King William II of Sicily in 1177. She married Raymond VI Count of Toulouse in 1196 and they had 3 children. Joan died in Rouen in 1199 and was buried in Fontevrault Abbey at her father’s head.
8. John, King of England (27/5/1199 – 19/10/1216). John was born in 1166 at Beaumont Palace, Oxfordshire. He married firstly in 1189 at Marlborough Castle, Wiltshire to Isabella Countess of Gloucester but the marriage was annulled in 1199 on the grounds of consanguinity. He then married in 1200 Isabella Countess of Angouleme in Angouleme and they had 5 children. John died at Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire in 1216.
Eleanor died on the 1st April 1204 at Fontevraud Abbey where she had become a nun. She was buried alongside her husband Henry II and son Richard I.
So Eleanor was the Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen Consort of France, Queen Consort of the Franks, Queen Consort of England and Regent of England. She was mother of Kings, Queens consorts, Dukes, Duchesses, Counts and Countesses. She had 10 children and 40 grandchildren. She is the 21 times great Grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II and thus 24 time great Grandmother of youngest members of the Royal Family.
Haddon Hall is one of the gems of Derbyshire. Nestled in the beautiful scenery of the Peak District national park Haddon Hall is built beside the River Wye just 3 miles from the town of Bakewell.
The hall is often overshadowed by its larger neighbour Chatsworth House built by Bess of Hardwick, but to me the mediaeval Haddon Hall is much the better as it has a much friendlier family feel about it and it has the magnificent mediaeval and Tudor architecture.
Haddon Hall’s origins date from the Norman Conquest in 1066. The earliest parts of the hall were built by Sir William Pevril in the late 11th century. These include some of the chapel and the Pevril Tower. Sir William Pevril gained much land in Derbyshire and in the village of Castleton some 16 miles away is Pevril Castle which dates from this time. The Avenell family obtained the hall from the crown in the 1100’s.
The hall passed to the ownership of the Vernon family in the 12th century when Alice Avenall married Sir Richard de Vernon. The Vernon family added much to the hall over the years. The hall remained with the Vernon’s until the mid 1500’s when Sir George Vernon, the MP for Derbyshire, daughter Dorothy married Sir John Manners. Sir John was the second son of the 1st Earl of Rutland. This branch of the Manners family added the long gallery.
In 1703 the ancestor of Sir John and Dorothy Manners, Sir John Manners was created the 1st Duke of Rutland and the Marquess of Granby by Queen Anne. From this point on the family’s main home became Belvoir castle in Leicestershire and Haddon Hall became a hunting lodge for them.
It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the family began to use the hall again and the 9th Duke of Rutland began to restore the gardens and make the house habitable again.
Haddon Hall is built around 2 main courtyards with the kitchens and great hall dating from the 1300’s. These can be seen in the documentary A Tudor Feast at Christmas which can be viewed on YouTube. In this show the archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands and the historian Ruth Goodman recreate a Tudor feast in the mediaeval kitchens using the techniques and ingredients of the day.
One of the greatest features of the hall in my opinion is the long gallery. The room has walls of windows letting in light and has an ornately plastered celling and stained glass. The room was designed so that the family could take exercise even on the most inclement of days. When I visited my first thought was I wonder how fast you could get sliding along the floor in your socks and my second thought was would a skateboard be more fun. I have to say though as this would have been difficult as like much of the hall the floors are uneven due to their great age. Today the long gallery can be hired as a wedding venue.
The hall although restored has been done sympathetically with the building retaining the original features. It’s a very much up and down building with 1 or 2 steps into and out of rooms and uneven stone floors. There are stained glass windows, tapestries and original furniture. The entire hall gives a great insight into how the higher ranking families have lived since the 12th century.
Many of us will have seen the hall on TV as it has been used in many period dramas such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. It has also been the setting for adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays staring the likes of Dame Judy Dench.
So for most Haddon Hall is a fantastic day out but for those who have a passion for Mediaeval and Tudor history it is a must.
Anyone interested in genealogy has probably come across death certificates and found out what their ancestors died from. But this only shows what one individual died from. What was the general population at whole dying from?
This thinking all started a couple of weeks ago when there was a programme on about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. My family was always led to believe that my Great Grandma died in this flu outbreak in 1918. She didn’t she died of an appendicitis, so why her daughter was told this I don’t know. It got me thinking what were the major causes of our ancestor’s deaths throughout England and Wales (I only use the 2 countries as they were the statistics I found).
Well let’s start in the 20th century. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the most common causes of death in adults over 25 from 1915 to 1945 was infection (such as pneumonia and TB), cancer and heart conditions. All conditions we are unfortunately familiar with today. When the under 25’s are considered it was infections which took most lives, but by 1945 motor vehicles became a factor.
If we look back from 1900 we find our ancestors were dying from different things. It should be noted that the ONS figures don’t give exact illness but rather lumped similar illnesses together.
The first ones on the list from 1900 back until 1851 is smallpox followed by measles and scarlet fever. Some of the other illnesses on the list are things that these days we wouldn’t even think of dying from like diarrhoea, you may wish for it but tablets can stop it thankfully!
Other conditions caused the world around our ancestors to change. For example cholera. It was during the outbreaks of this condition that it was begun to be believed that there was a link between contaminated water and the outbreaks of the disease. This lead to the installation of water pipes going into individual homes with the water coming from reservoirs rather than the rivers which were running with sewage. It seems so obvious to us that if you drink the water full of poop then you will be ill, but it took until the 1850’s for John Snow to find the link in London.
Other surprising conditions which were causing death included whooping cough. I’d had whooping cough and I have to say I quiet enjoyed it at times. I’m not making light of the condition and I can understand how people who were weak and not getting enough food could become exhausted and die. I was 11/12 years old when I had the illness. I didn’t do PE at school for 6 months as I used to start coughing and the teacher would think it was best to sit it out for today, success! I hated PE. It also gave the family a great anecdote. In Derbyshire there is a cycle track called the Tissington Trail which is the path of a disused railway. Me and my family went for a day out and hired bikes. I started coughing so bad I was sick. Now being me I continued to ride my bike and just threw up to the side. I had to come home wrapped in my Mum’s coat as I got it everywhere. Such fun!
There were other causes of death on the list that you might expect such as childbirth, fever and lung disease. All these condition may have been made worse by poor living condition and not enough food, if you’re already week and have a bad child birthing then it becomes more dangerous to both mother and child. For example one of my 3 times great grandfathers ended up in jail (for contempt of court) and he left with TB due to the living conditions which killed him within 9 months of his release. In the case of lung disease the person’s employment could make the condition worse or even cause it. One of my other 3 times great grandfather died from asthma and he was a stone mason.
So we could say that as our living conditions improved we stopped dying of preventable diseases such as TB and cholera and went on to disease we still may have got but we may cause ourselves to be more susceptible to such as cancer and heart disease.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!