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Friday, 1 December 2017

A Georgian Heroine: Eleanor Coade

Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.

Today I'd like to welcome back fellow Pen & Sword authors Joanne Major and Sarah Murden to my blog! They have a fascinating new book out, which you can order here!

Here's Sarah and Joanne's blog post:

Eleanor Coade (1733-1821)

Eleanor Coade was an extremely successful businesswoman during the Georgian era, something which was highly unusual. It seems likely that she inherited her business acumen from her grandmother, Sarah Enchmarch, a formidable woman from Tiverton, Devon who took over the running of the family textile business for some twenty-five years following the death of her husband, Thomas in 1735.

Coade Stone Factory yard on Narrow Wall Lambeth c.1800 by Shepherd.
On reading Sarah Enchmarch’s will (proved in 1760), it is clear that as well as providing for her sons, she wanted to ensure that her six daughters were well provided for and that the legacies they received were to be for their use, exclusive of their husbands or future husbands. Sarah also left a legacy of five hundred pounds for her two Coade granddaughters, money that would be invaluable to Eleanor when she came to establishing her own business. 
Eleanor is noted for the invention of a product known as Coade Stone, also called Lithodipyra; the secret of its manufacture endures to this day. She ran her very successful manufacturing operation for over fifty years by the King’s Arms Stairs on Narrow Wall in Lambeth, having taken over the ailing artificial stone business of a Daniel Pincot in 1769.

You rather get the impression that Eleanor was not a woman to be trifled with and she certainly stood her ground, as shown in the Public Advertiser of September 1771, when she wanted to make it very clear that Daniel Pincot was certainly not the owner of the business, despite rumours to the contrary.

Eleanor Coade trade card
Whereas Mr Daniel Pincot has represented himself as a partner in the Manufactory conducted by him, ELEANOR COADE, the real proprietor, finds it needful to inform the public that the said Mr Pincot is no other than a servant to her and that no contracts, or agreements, discharges or receipts will be allowed by her, unless signed by herself.

The product Eleanor developed was described in a sales brochure for her showroom which opened in 1799, as giving ‘durability resembling Jasper and Porphyry. Frost and Damps have no effect upon it, consequently it retains a sharpness not to be diminished by the changes of climate’.
View of Westminster Bridge, from Kings Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall, Lambeth - YBA

Every piece of stone sent out had the name COADE indented on it, effectively copyrighting Eleanor’s work. She was certainly not backward in coming forward in promoting her product and the brochure listed numerous places across Britain where you could see examples of her work and Coade stone was exported around the world, everywhere from Philadelphia to Poland. Eleanor opened a gallery to which the public were admitted between 10am and 4pm for one shilling per person, so she even managed to make money by charging people to see her work, let alone sell it – what a businesswoman she was!

Coade stone statue of George III, now in the grounds of Lincoln Castle. © Joanne Major

Another example of her strong character was evident in 1774. She was annoyed that, as a result of a hard frost, a number of pieces made from artificial stone were damaged and so again took to the newspapers to make it crystal clear that such damaged pieces were an inferior product and not from her factory.

Eleanor Coade was a neighbour of the subject of our latest biography, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. Charlotte, as she preferred to be known, was the daughter of a Welshman who relocated to Lambeth when she was still a child. The Williams family took a house on Narrow Wall (where the Festival Hall complex is now situated) just a few doors away from Eleanor’s artificial stone manufactory. Eleanor Coade was probably aware of the gossip surrounding Charlotte’s torment in her late teens by a ‘libertine, half mad and half fool’, a man who owned one of the timber yards on the Lambeth shoreline and whose mother also lived on Narrow Wall.
If you’d like to discover more about Charlotte and her Lambeth neighbours, all is revealed in A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later single-handedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?

In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

Sources Used
Public Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, 11th September 1771
Coade’s Gallery, or, exhibition in artificial stone, Westminster Bridge Road 1799
National Archives PROB 11/860/509
Tiverton Parish Registers

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Manchester's Coaching Days

Pickford's Royal Fly-van.
Before the mid-eighteenth century, Manchester merchants who wished to move goods like textiles faced considerable obstacles. The region’s roads were extremely poor. Covered waggons and saddle-horses struggled over ‘roads’ pitted with huge ruts which rain turned into dangerous traps for the unwary traveller.  Most goods were moved using packhorses; obviously animals could not carry large quantities at once.
Even in central Manchester, the roads were so bad that no business person or well-to-do family kept their own carriage until Madame Drake, of Long Millgate, set up her carriage in 1758.

Turnpikes became a popular method of upgrading roads locally. The road to Stockport was probably the first in the Manchester area to be turnpiked, by the Manchester and Buxton Turnpike Trust in 1725. A quarter of a century later, however, a ‘flying coach’ still took four and a half days to reach London from Manchester.
Last days of the Manchester Defiance. 

In 1760, Manchester got its first stagecoach service, when John Hanforth and his partners set up regular runs from London to Manchester and Liverpool to Manchester. Merchants and traders could now reach the capital in three days, ‘if God permit’. By the late 1770s, Pickford’s flying coach took two days to reach London.

And during Britain’s lengthy war with France, when news broke of the Peace of Amiens in 1802, the Defiance and Telegraph coaches brought the longed-for tidings from the capital to Manchester within twenty-four hours (usually the run took thirty hours).
But it was the Canal Age which put Manchester at the forefront of the transport revolution, as we shall see.

Monday, 14 August 2017

The Birth of Cottonopolis

Manchester in the 1740s.
Although Manchester  became synonymous with the cotton industry, in medieval times, it was known for woollens and linens. Tradition has it that Edward II invited skilled Flemish weavers to settle in north-west England during the 1330s. The term Manchester ‘cottons’ was in use as early as the sixteenth century, but these ‘cottons’ were made of wool.

By the early 1640s the area’s textile industries were firmly established. Cotton yarn (imported via Ireland) was woven with linen yarn made from flax to make sturdy ‘fustian’ cloth.
Families like the Chethams, Mosleys and Tippings became very wealthy buying and selling woollen cloths, linens, cotton yarn, and fustians. The wholesalers and master-manufacturers of Manchester became famous.  As these ‘Manchester men’ became richer they built fine homes and large warehouses for their goods.
In the early 1700s pretty, light all-cotton calicoes imported from India and the East threatened to wipe out Britain’s woollen industry. An act of 1721 banned the wearing of, weaving or selling of any printed all-cotton ‘stuffs’ or ‘calicoes’ whether imported or made in Britain. However, ‘fustians’ were exempted, to protect Manchester’s workers.  Woollen and worsted weavers petitioned parliament to ban fustians, too, but the ‘Manchester Act’ of 1736 upheld the exemption. All-cotton printed goods remained banned, however.
Handloom weaving.

During the 1740s, Manchester merchants bought the warps and raw cotton and gave the materials to weavers who worked in their own homes aided by their families. The raw cotton was carded (the fibres were straightened to form a long, fluffy ‘roving’), the rovings were spun into yarn, the yarn was wound onto bobbins, and finally woven into cloth on a loom.

John Kay’s flying shuttle (1733) made hand-weaving easier. Then several key inventions speeded up first the spinning, then weaving of cotton. Lewis Paul and John Wyatt had the idea of thinning out cotton fibre using rollers, and James Hargreaves’s machine, the ‘spinning jenny,’ patented in 1770, revolutionised spinning.
Hargreaves' spinning jenny at North Mill, Belper

Arkwright's water frame at North Mill, Belper.
Preston barber Richard Arkwright built on the work of Lewis Paul and Thomas Highs and created a spinning machine called a ‘water-frame’. Richard Arkwright petitioned parliament to get the ban on all-cotton cloths repealed in 1774. This gave a huge boost to the cotton industry. Then Samuel Crompton’s spinning ‘mule’ (1779) made strong yarn fine enough for weaving all-cotton cloth (calico) and delicate muslin.

Mule spinning room
Mr Gartside’s weaving establishment, opened in 1765, may have been one of the earliest factories in Manchester. (This factory appears to have used an early type of automated ribbon loom, a ‘swivel loom’. Each loom was tended by one weaver). By the 1780s there were two mills in Manchester; Richard Arkwright and partners had one near Angel Meadow, and Mr Thackeray had one at Granby Row.

The big breakthrough for mechanized weaving came when Edmund Cartwright patented a powered loom in 1785. In a future blog post, I’ll look at how steam power affected Manchester during the industrial revolution.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Manchester and Salford Burials

Monuments at St Ann's church, Manchester.
Today I'm looking at a grave subject - finding burials for your Manchester and Salford ancestors. Your first stop should be the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS) website which has got useful guides on finding burialsburial grounds in the area, another list of graveyards, and a searchable database of memorial inscriptions.

It's very worthwhile joining the MLFHS as you will then have full access to their online databases.

Manchester City Council has a burial search facility for Blackley Crematorium, and Blackley, Gorton, Philips Park, Southern, and Manchester General cemeteries (fee payable to see the full details).

Sadly few grave monuments survive in Manchester city centre itself except for those outside St. Ann's church  (above left).

The Lancashire OPC free website is also very useful for baptisms and burials in the area, and new transcriptions are being added all the time.

Church and chapel registers can also be accessed at Manchester Central Library, and details are available here.
Salford Local History Library has excellent local and family history collections, too.

Image (right): a receipt for grave 237, Salford Brough Cemetery, 23 September 1879 for Jos. Gartell( or Garlett?). Author's collection.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Fenian Fever

Today I'm very pleased to welcome fab author Angela Buckley to my blog! Angela has a new book out - a true-life Manchester murder mystery.

Fenian Fever
Angela Buckley

Smithfield Market.
On 11 September 1867, a vigilant police constable spotted two suspicious-looking men hanging around Smithfield Market in central Manchester. The officer suspected them of planning to burgle a shop, and when one of the men pulled out a gun, he arrested them. The prisoners, who gave false names, were charged with loitering. During their detention, communication between the police in Manchester and the Irish authorities revealed the two men’s true identities: Colonel Thomas Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who were wanted on suspicion of terrorism. Both veterans of the American Civil War, they had come to England to take part in actions against the British government to force the issue of home rule.

A week later, the prisoners were to be transferred to Belle Vue Gaol, at the edge of the city.
Charles Brett's memorial.
Travelling in a horse-drawn Black Maria with other offenders, including women, Kelly and Deasy were accompanied by Sergeant Charles Brett, who was locked inside the van with them. Several more officers followed behind. As the convoy passed under a bridge at Ardwick Green, a volley of stones hit the van forcing it to stop. The police were then quickly surrounded by armed men, who shot both the horses and wounded at least two officers. Unable to enter the locked Black Maria, the assailants screamed through the ventilation slot for the keys, which were held by Sergeant Brett. In a desperate attempt to protect the prisoners on board, especially the women, the young police officer refused to hand over the keys. A gunman poked his rifle through the slot and shot Sergeant Brett through the head. The bullet passed through his skull and lodged in his helmet.

'Manchester Martyrs'. 
Once they were released, Colonel Kelly and Captain Deasy fled the scene. Within three days of the incident, the police had arrested some 50 Irish men, 26 of whom were charged. Later that year, on 25 November 1867, William Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien were hanged for Sergeant Brett’s murder - they became known as the ‘Manchester Martyrs’. Following the death of Sergeant Brett, ‘Fenian fever’ had spread like wildfire throughout Britain, causing the Victorians to fear the very real threat of Irish nationalists and their deadly campaign. This deep-seated terror would have a dramatic impact on three Irish brothers who also stood trial for murder in Manchester, a decade later. 
Memorial to Manchester Martyrs, Moston.
On 1 August 1876, PC Nicholas Cock was walking his beat at midnight in the township of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, about four miles from Manchester city centre. The young officer had stopped at the junction of West Point, where three main thoroughfares converge, to chat with one of his colleagues and a passing law student. The three men went their separate ways and, a few minutes later, two shots rang out in the dark. PC James Beanland and student John Massey Simpson ran back to the junction to find PC Cock lying on the ground in a pool of blood - he had been shot. When Nicholas Cock later died of his injuries, a manhunt began.

On hearing the terrible news, PC Cock’s superior, Superintendent James Bent, knew instantly who the culprits were and he arrested three local Irish labourers soon after. The Habron brothers had crossed the path of PC Cock many times and he had been responsible for their being charged with drunkenness on at least two occasions. Residents of Chorlton had even overheard the brothers threatening to do away with PC Cock. Despite the circumstantial nature of the evidence against them, which was based on boot prints found near the scene of the crime, Superintendent Bent managed to secure a conviction against the youngest brother William, aged 18, who received the death sentence. It is likely that this was only possible due to the prejudice towards the Irish community which was still prevalent at all levels of Victorian society. The conviction was followed by a desperate race to spare William Habron from the gallows. Three years later, a startling confession by a notorious career criminal finally revealed the truth about who killed Constable Cock.
Who Killed Constable Cock? by Angela Buckley is out now in ebook and paperback. You can find out more about Angela’s work on her website, and on her Facebook page Victorian Supersleuth.


1. Smithfield Market, Manchester. Copyright free - from author’s collection. 

2. The memorial to Sergeant Charles Brett, St Ann’s church, Manchester. © A Buckley. 

3. Poster commemorating the Manchester Martyrs. Source: Wikicommons. 

4. Memorial to the Manchester Martyrs at Moston Cemetery. Source: Wikicommons, 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Regency Manchester Guest Post

From J. Aston's Picture of Manchester, 1826, courtesy Google Books.
Visit the fabulous All Things Georgian blog by fellow Pen and Sword authors Joanne Major and Sarah Murder to read my guest post on Regency Manchester!