WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sweet Heart

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sweet Heart

Love comes in all stages of life. It’s cute when we see the tiny ringer bearer and flower girl peck each other’s cheeks with kisses at the wedding. It’s heartwarming to see the elderly lady and gentleman holding hands at the nursing home.

Sweet Heart (noun)

Late 13th Century, as a form of address. By the 1570s, as a synonym for “loved one.” From sweet (adjective) and heart (noun).
Slang. A term applicable to either the masculine or feminine gender, signifying a girl’s lover, or a man’s mistress: derived from a sweet cake in the shape of a heart.

Some historical Sweet Hearts.

Le Parapluie Officieux, Le Bon Genre No. 40, circa 1820.

Le Parapluie Officieux, Le Bon Genre No. 40, circa 1820.

A Kiss In The Kitchen by Thomas Rowlandson

A Kiss In The Kitchen by Thomas Rowlandson

Forgiving Lovers, Thomas Rowlandson, 1798.

Forgiving Lovers, Thomas Rowlandson, 1798.

Aged Lovers, Thomas Rowlandson, 1798.

Aged Lovers, Thomas Rowlandson, 1798.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical definition from The Online Etymological Dictionary. Slang definition from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

February.

It’s still cold, still wet, and still winter … but love is in the air.

Nug (noun)

An endearing word: as, My dear nug; my dear love.

Oh! Listen to the Voice of Love, James Gillray, 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Oh! Listen to the Voice of Love, James Gillray, 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

One’s dearest nug … at least prior to marriage.

Harmony Before Matrimony, James Gillray, 1805, British Museum.

Harmony Before Matrimony, James Gillray, 1805, British Museum.

Slang term definitions from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hangman’s Wages

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hangman’s Wages

This week’s term is a perfect example of slang – taking something known to a group of people and using it for a broader, informal cultural reference.

Hangman’s Wages (noun)

By proclamation of James I, the fee allowed for an execution was thirteen pence halfpenny: one shilling for the executioner and three halfpence for the rope. As slang for the present day (late 18th and early 19th centuries), it represents the raised prices charged by the hangman of Newgate, to include the monetary fee and confiscated considerations from the condemned.

Scenes in the Life of Calcraft the Hangman

William Calcraft, executioner from 1829-1872, was paid one guinea per week as retainer and an extra one guinea per hanging. He also received a half crown for each flogging. He further supplemented his earnings by charging higher fees for executions performed at other prisons across England.

Hangmen were also allowed to keep the clothes and personal effects of the condemned. Calcraft was known to sell items to Madame Tussaud’s for use in their Chamber of Horrors. Other executioners would sell souvenir pieces of the rope and noose. The strangest procured wage came from the selling of chances to come in contact with the recently hanged; sufferers of skin diseases paid to touch the body of the still-hanging corpse on the belief that it would cure the ailment.

Slang definition taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Information about Hangman’s Wages discovered at The English Hangmen from 1750 to 1964 and The British Execution: 1500-1964.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sheriff’s Journeyman

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sheriff’s Journeyman

Sheriff’s Journeyman (noun)

The hangman.

The hangman carried out the execution order for those condemned to die for their crimes. The Sheriff’s Journeyman was protected from a charge of murder by order of a writ of execution issued by the court. When executions were moved from Tyburn to Newgate, the principal executioner, Edward Dennis, moved as well. On Tuesday, 9 December 1783, he and his understudy, William Brunskill, carried out the execution by hanging of nine men and one woman.

The New Gallows in the Old Bailey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Criminals were executed side-by-side on the “New Drop” in the “Sheriff’s Picture Frame,” a portable gallows set up in front of the Debtor’s Door or simply outside Newgate in The Old Bailey. The gallows consisted of two parallel beams from which twelve criminals could be hanged at once. It was ten feet long by eight feet wide, and the platform opened by releasing a pin underneath the panels. Criminals only dropped two feet, a “Short Drop,” so death was slow, agonizing strangulation rather than the breaking of the neck. This method would not be changed until 1872. Over 200 felonies were punishable by death under the “Bloody Code;” the concept of prison as punishment in and of itself would not occur until after 1840. Thus the hangman – the Sheriff’s Journeyman – was kept steadily busy.

gallows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Botting, Sheriff’s Journeyman from 1817-1819, was paid one guinea per week and one guinea per execution; he boasted to have hanged 175 criminals during his brief tenure. He was succeeded by James Foxton (sometimes Foxen), who executed 207 men and six women, many for the crime of high treason. In May of 1820, five of the Cato Street Conspirators – the group who plotted the murder of Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, and all his cabinet ministers – were hanged then beheaded (the other five were transported).

The Execution of Thistlewood Ings Brunt Davidson and Tidd for High Treason in Forming of a plot to assassinate his Majestys Ministers whilst at a cabinet Dinner

I enlarged the caption for easier reading.

caption

Mr. Foxton also carried out the execution of the Red Barn Murderer, William Corder. Corder had agreed to marry his pregnant lover, Maria Marten, at the suggestion of her parents. He arranged to meet Maria at the Red Barn, but she was never seen alive again. Her remains were found upon digging up the floor of the Red Barn.

confession and execution of william corder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Timothy Haydn compiled a list of some of the more notable executions undertaken at Newgate, published in London in 1865 as Haydn’s Dictionary of Dates. The list is by no means exhaustive: between 1783 and 1902, some 1,169 criminals were executed, representing 1,120 men and 49 women. Haydn’s list was meant as an example on the importance of record-keeping, and shows the name of the criminal, the date of and for execution, and the location of the trial. Prisoner Christian Murphy was a forger, a crime considered to be high treason; because she was female, her method of execution for this crime burning at the stake. The male punishment for high treason, such as was experienced by Sir Edward Crosbie and the Misters Sheares listed below, was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Mr. Haydn did consider the Cato Street Conspirators worthy of mention in his list, at least.

list of executed at newgate

 

Further study of the Bloody Code – Georgian England’s system of criminal justice – can be found at the National Archives and The Old Bailey Online. Information on the names of executioners and their efforts can be found at A History of London’s Newgate Prison. Learn more about the plotting and scheming of the Cato Street Conspirators at A Web of English History, and the Red Barn Murder from Regina Jeffers at English Historical Fiction Authors. As always, definitions for the vulgar terms can be found at 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nubbing

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nubbing

Newgate was the final stop for most criminals. Literally.

By the Georgian era, Newgate was in need of overhaul and expansion. The designs of George Dance were chosen and construction began in 1770. The Gordon Riots of 1780 all but destroyed the prison, but reconstruction was finally complete in 1782. The style was architecture terrible, a French-based design that was supposed to render prison so repulsive as to deter criminal behavior. Newgate was basically a large, hulking rectangle of thick, reinforced walls, with few windows, with its interior subdivided into three sections built around central courtyards. Accommodations were available for 300 men, with separate quarters for 100 debtors and 60 women. Prison reform advocate John Howard was initially impressed:

john howard quote

In reality, the new design, with its Common area for the poor and State area for the wealthy, was further subdivided into various chambers and cellars to house debtors and felons, both male and female. Basic incarceration was free in the Common area at Newgate, but that came with a hidden cost: infrequent food, appalling sanitation, and rampant over-crowding. Doctors refused to visit the ill unless mandated by court or paid handsomely. Wealthy prisoners, however, were limited in comfort only by their purses.

“Political prisoners and wealthy felons were expected to pay exorbitantly for food, wine and fuel but enjoyed unlimited visits and other privileges. One of them married twice during his forty years awaiting trial and sired ten children.”

It took little time to realize the positive outlook desired by Howard was nowhere near the reality of Newgate. Because the prisoners were allowed to essentially manage themselves. they developed their own methods of provoking sympathy from visitors in the form of food, drink, and even money. The more enterprising developed methods to collaborate in court in pursuit of favorable verdicts and sentences: forgers drafted appeal notices and petitions for financial support from the Bank of England, and those in danger of transport conspired and refused the Royal Pardon that would send them to Australia.

Multiple reforms were attempted but met with little success. Acts in 1774, 1784, and 1791 established rules for cleanliness and adequate ventillation, classification of prisoners, and regular visitation and inspection of prisons, respectively. All were unenforced. Reformer Elizabeth Fry wrote in an 1813 letter:

“I have lately been twice to Newgate to see after the poor prisoners who had poor little infants without clothing, or with very little and I think if you saw how small a piece of bread they are each allowed a day you would be very sorry.”

But few were sorry. Few concerned themselves with what went on behind the monstrous walls. That is, until the public executions occurred. Those evoked a macabre interest in the public, and unfortunately, the end result for most housed in the Common area was rarely freedom; it was more often death, whether by disease or nubbing, from the nubbing cove manning the nubbing cheat.

An Execution Outside Newgate Prison, 19th century, by Thomas Rowlandson, ca. 1805-1810, via Museum of London.

An Execution Outside Newgate Prison, 19th century, by Thomas Rowlandson, ca. 1805-1810, via Museum of London.

Nubbing (verb)

Hanging.
Nubbing cheat: the gallows.
Nubbing cove: the hangman.

 

The Story of John Howard Prison Reformer yields bounteous information on prison conditions.
•The quote about political and wealthy prisoners was by Stanley Jackson in his book, The Old Bailey.
•Elizabeth Fry can be studied through her own words, in the Memoir of the Life of Elizabeth Fry.
•Fascinating information on English prisons, and Newgate specifically for this post, can be found at London Lives.
•Slang definitions from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ The Old Start

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ The Old Start

The Old Start (noun)

Newgate. “He is gone to The Old Start.” Also sometimes shortened to The Start. Cant.

Symptoms of the Finish of Some Sorts of Life in London - Tom, Jerry, and Logic in the Press Yard at Newgate, by Pierce Egan, 1823, courtesy British Library.

Symptoms of the Finish of Some Sorts of Life in London – Tom, Jerry, and Logic in the Press Yard at Newgate, by Pierce Egan, 1823, courtesy British Library.

Built in 1188 and demolished in 1904, Newgate stood at the intersection of Newgate Street at Old Bailey. It was the prison where all felons languished in some manner or other while awaiting trial: the filthier Common area for the poor and the State area for those who could afford to spend their incarceration in varying degrees of comfort.

Rioters burn down Newgate Prison during the 1780 Gordon Riots.

Rioters burn down Newgate Prison during the 1780 Gordon Riots.

The prison was badly damaged in the Gordon Riots of 1780, where followers and supporters of The Protestant Association of London protested the lessening of restrictions of Catholics under the new Papist Act of 1778. What began as a march on Parliament – the source of the hated Act – quickly grew to encompass foreign embassies with Catholic chapels and the Moorfields section of London, inhabited by poor Irish Catholics. As tempers flared further and restraint was wholly abandoned, the mob moved its attack to Newgate Prison, The Bank of England, The Fleet, and even the home of Lord Chief Justice, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. According to the message scrawled on the outer wall of Newgate, the inmates had been freed (many never to be recaptured) by “His Majesty, King Mob.”

George Dance was commissioned to redesign and fix the damage, which was completed in 1782. The new Common and State areas were further divided into areas for debtors and felons, and men and women/children. The gallows were moved from Tyburn to Newgate at this time as well, making the prison the final destination for those headed for the noose.

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Cant term and definition for The Old Start taken from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
Further information of the Gordon Riots can be found here.
Information about Newgate Prison culled from Knowledge of London.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The New Yearright

“A good New Year, with many blessings in it!”
Once more go forth the kindly wish and word.
A good New Year! and may we all begin it
With hearts by noble thought and purpose stirred.

The Old Year’s over, with its joy and sadness;
The path before us is untried and dim;
But let us take it with the step of gladness,
For God is there, and we can trust in Him.

What of the buried hopes that lie behind us!
Their graves may yet grow flowers, so let them rest.
To-day is ours, and it must find us
Prepared to hope afresh and do our best.

God knows what finite wisdom only guesses;
Not here from our dim eyes the mist will roll.
What we call failures, He may deem successes
Who sees in broken parts the perfect whole.

And if we miss some dear familiar faces,
Passed on before us to the Home above,
Even while we count, through tears, their vacant places,
He heals our sorrows with His balm of Love.

No human lot is free from cares and crosses,
Each passing year will bring both shine and shower;
Yet, though on troubled seas life’s vessel tosses,
The storms of earth endure but for an hour.

And should the river of our happy laughter
Flow ‘neath a sky no cloud yet overcasts,
We will not fear the shadows coming after,
But make the most of sunshine while it lasts.

A good New Year! Oh, let us all begin it
With cheerful faces turning to the light!
A good New Year, which will have blessings in it
If we but persevere and do aright.

—E. Matheson

left down

From Yule-Tide in Many Lands by Mary P. Pringle and Clara A. Urann (a Project Gutenberg ebook).