hart buck – spirit merchant – 1833

My last post on this blog was 11 months ago!

I have been busy elsewhere, organising the Wyong District Pioneers Association centenary celebrations. But still, I am quite surprised I have not been able to find the time or energy to write about my own family history in nearly a year.

To rectify the situation, I am posting this snippet which raises more questions than answers. 

Hart Buck Spirit Merchant advertisement [Stamford Mercury 28 June 1833]

Hart Buck Spirit Merchant advertisement [Stamford Mercury 28 June 1833]

HART BUCK, Spirit Merchant, Grantham, returns thanks to his friends and the public for the very liberal support, he has experienced for many years in the above business, and begs to announce to them that he has removed to a house in the High-street, opposite the Post-office, where he intends carrying on the same, and to serve his friends with an article of the best quality at moderate prices.

This advert, printed in the Stamford Mercury on 28 June 1833, popped up while I was searching The British Newspaper Archive website for great-great-grandfather Hart BUCK who was a draper and cloth merchant in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

It was a surprise to find he was also a spirit merchant. During the 19th century it was common for British wine and spirit merchants to buy their stock by the barrel and bottle it themselves.

Old rum bottles, Stage-coach and Tavern Days, by Alice Morse Earle,1900 [Project Gutenberg]

Old spirit and rum bottles of the nineteenth century came in many shapes and sizes.

Hart BUCK reports he has moved to “a house in the High-street“, not a shop, so I am wondering if his customers came to buy bottles to drink at home or maybe one of the front rooms in the house was set up as a tap room and folks stayed to enjoy a glass or two?

A Hart & Hound Tavern Jug which would not have been out of place in Hart Buck's establishment.

This stag & hound tavern jug would not have looked out-of-place in Hart Buck’s establishment.

This discovery definitely deserves further investigation. Happy National Family History Month cousins!

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Sources:The British Newspaper Archive website; images Stage-coach and Tavern Days, by Alice Morse Earle, 1900 [Project Gutenberg Ebook #37272]


susanah’s journal – letter from mrs smith

The copy of the letter which Mrs Smith wrote to the young ladies of Mrs Eason’s school on the receival of the piece of plate which they gave her, December 18th 1833.

My dear young friends

I have waited only for your reassembling to express to you the grateful pleasure with which I accepted the piece of plate, the testimony of your affection towards me and be assured whatever were the feelings of tenderness which prompted its bestowment, they did not surpass those with which it was received.

Wherever my future life may be passed, to hear of your welfare will always afford me sincere delight, to hear not only that you are becoming useful and lovely characters for this world, but that you are ‘redeeming your time’ as having to give an account of it to God himself; and that you are submitting every proud and unamiable feeling to the discipline of that Saviour who was ‘meek and lowly in heart’. May I hear these things of you all! May I see their evidences if ever we meet again on earth! – and should this not be permitted, may it be my happiness to greet you where those who meet in joy shall never part in sorrow! Believe me my dear young friends,

Your sincerely affectionate friend,
Martha Smith

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Ralph Stevenson & Sons ‘Millenium’ transferware plate made between 1810-1835. The design features the bible open at Isaiah's prophesy of a thousand years of peace on earth under the rule of God. Images include the Dove of Peace and the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

Ralph Stevenson & Sons ‘Millenium’ transferware plate made between 1810-1835. The design features the bible open at Isaiah’s prophesy of a thousand years of peace on earth under the rule of God. Images include the Dove of Peace and the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

The letter from Mrs SMITH was written in January 1834 when the young ladies of Mrs EASON’s school in Yeovil, Somerset returned to their lessons after the Christmas holidays. I assume Mrs SMITH was a teacher at the school.

"Wolf in Sheeps's Clothing’ Staffordshire plate from 1833 depicts Aesop's fable ‘Wolf in sheep's clothing’

This Staffordshire transferware plate from 1833 depicts Aesop’s fable of the ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.’ The moral of the story – appearances are deceptive.

She was Miss Martha ROWLES before she married James SMITH on 5 March 1832 at the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Yeovil. Martha most likely resigned from teaching at the end of 1833 to attend to her husband and to raise a family.

Josiah Spode 'Willow Pattern' octagonal platter

In the late 1700s, Josiah Spode developed a new range of porcelain based on the blue and white tea sets imported from China. The ‘Willow Pattern’ design was adapted by other manufacturers and is still fashionable in households today.

Martha SMITH wrote a fine letter to thank the students for their kind sentiments and the china plate they gave her upon her departure from the school. She let them know she was sincerely happy to continue correspondence and hear how they grow and become “useful and lovely characters for this world”. Fourteen-year-old Susanah WELLINGTON certainly felt the sentiments in the letter were worth transcribing in her journal. The “piece of plate” may have been similar to one of these transferware patterns which were popular in Britain at the time.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyJournal transcription by Terry HASTINGS; Blue and White Transferware: 1780 to 1840, by A. W. Coysh.

susanah’s journal – papyrus and paper

An extract from the journal of Miss Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah attended Mrs Eason’s School in Yeovil, she was 14 years old when she transcribed the following lesson into her notebook.

Susanah's lesson on the origins of paper.

Susanah Wellington’s lesson on the origins of paper (1833).

Lesson Notes

The most ancient kind of paper was made from the Papyrus, a species of reed growing on the banks of the Nile, from whence our name paper. Leaves also were employed at a very early age for the purpose of preserving & transmitting the opinions and experiences of mankind; hence originated the word folio, folium being the Latin for leaf & also the meaning of leaves as applied to a book. The use of bark succeeded that of leaves, generally the bark of the lime tree: it was called by the Romans liber & they gave the name of liber to a book & we have adopted the term library for a number of books. For the convenience of carrying, this substance was rolled up, and in this form it was denominated volumen from which is clearly derived our volume. Our Saxon ancestors employed the bark of the birch, which they termed boc & which we have transferred to our book.

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Detail from the Ebers Papyrus (C1550 BCE) from Ancient Egypt.

Detail from the Ebers Papyrus (circa 1550 BC) from Ancient Egypt. [Wikimedia Commons]

As a graphic designer and typographer, I find this lesson from 1833 very interesting. I remember learning about this in the first year of my composition and typography apprenticeship in 1983.


Following on from Susanah’s lesson, I’m including some printing and bookbinding terms.

A sheet of paper is known as a leaf. One side of a leaf is a page. A sheet of paper folded in half is a folio (4 pages). Several folios collected together for stitching as part of the bookbinding process make up a signature. The signature is formed from a printed sheet of paper that has been folded in half, quarters or eighths to create a set of pages in proper order for reading. Multiple signatures that are folded, collated and trimmed make up a book.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney.

diseases and remedies of the 1800s

This quote by Francis Bacon (1561–1626), English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, often rang true in the 19th Century.

This quote by Francis Bacon (1561–1626), English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, often proved true of those poor souls who were unfortunate enough to pick up a tummy bug or a fever during the 19th century.

A novel side-track on the road to researching my family tree is the amazing first person information I have found. Letters and journals which give a personal narrative of the social and cultural world my ancestors inhabited. I believe it’s called Historiography – studying the social history on a personal level rather than on abstract and analytical circumstances.

If you have read my blog you will know a bit about my 3 times-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON and his large family who lived in Somerset between 1780 and 1850. I have written about sad letters George wrote to his daughter in 1840 which give an insight into his family life. I am also sharing his daughter Susanah’s journal entries and examining the social and cultural aspects of her life from her diary.


Given George WELLINGTON’s profession as an apothecary and druggist and his knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants and inorganic elements, you would think he and his family might have had a life expectancy over and above the national average. You’d be mistaken.

The last article I posted, susanah’s journal – births, deaths and marriages, got me thinking that maybe George’s profession was not so beneficial to the health and well-being of his family.

  1. Was the frequency that George Wellington come in contact with sick people a risk to his health and the health of other members of his family.
  2. Were the remedies doctors and druggists prescribed to their patients in 1833 worse than the diseases they were treating?

George WELLINGTON and his first wife Elizabeth EDWARDS had eight children: two died soon after birth; four died aged between 29 and 36 years; Elizabeth EDWARDS died giving birth at the age of 43 years. George and his second wife Elizabeth SAMSON had eleven children: three died as infants; and one died at the age of 18 years. Was a 25% infant mortality-rate normal for the time?

There were some very serious diseases floating around in the early 19th Century. Smallpox was beginning to be controlled by the new practice of vaccination. But, outbreaks of influenza, measles, scarlet fever, typhus and whooping cough still regularly took the lives of tens of thousands people – young and old.

In the 1830s and 1840s there were three massive waves of contagious disease. The first, from 1831 to 1833, included two influenza epidemics and the first appearance of cholera which spread from India up through Europe to the British Isles and through trade routes to the rest of the world. Before it ran its course the disease had claimed over 52,000 lives. The second and third waves brought rolling epidemics of typhus, influenza, smallpox and scarlet fever in 1837-38 and 1846-47.

L0006579 Engraving: 'Monster Soup..." by William

A woman drops her teacup upon seeing the monsters swimming around in a drop of Thames water. During the 19th century, sewage and waste contaminated the rivers, making them a prime source of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Etching by William Heath, London, 1828. [www.wellcome.ac.uk]

Cholera was spread by contaminated water, so it affected mainly the poorer and crowded neighbourhoods where public water sources were easily fouled with effluent. Influenza had no economic or social barriers and was spread through close contact with those already infected. A steady stream of coughing and sneezing customers seeking a remedy from their local chemist might increase the spread of infection to other members of his family. But a large family group socialising with their neighbours and gathering in church each week is just as likely to lead to contact with these serious diseases.

Three of the WELLINGTON children who died as infants may have contracted whooping cough, measles typhus or influenza. A solid dose of the flu would undoubtedly kill a small child if left untreated. It is the most probable cause of death of Alexander Samson WELLINGTON who was laid to rest on 10 May 1833 aged just 1 year and 8 months.

The symptoms of the influenza are set out in a pamphlet entitled Rules for the Successful Treatment and Prevention of the Influenza the Prevailing Epidemic which I found in the Wellcome Trust’s online library. In 1833, doctors could not agree on how people contracted the disease, but opinion was that it was propagated by an air-borne contagion.

Some of the symptoms are listed as follows:

The disease commences with the usual symptoms of the common cold, in conjunction with others that are distressing to the patient and alarming to the physician; such as great languor, lowness and oppression, anxiety, with frequent sighing, and violent headache. The pulse is peculiarly quick and irregular, and at night there is often delirium. Sometimes there are severe muscular pains, both general and local.

 The pamphlet goes on to describe the best way to treat the disease:

… our principle object is to clear out the bowels, to promote a determination to the surface of the body, to support the strength of the patient, and to alleviate the hoarseness, cough and oppression at the chest which usually accompanies this complaint.

Extract from a pamphlet on treatments for influenza in 1833 [wellcomecollection.org]

Detail from a pamphlet on treatments for influenza in 1833. Many of the ingredients are quite toxic to humans.  [wellcomecollection.org]

Ingredients such as acetate of ammonia and powdered rhubarb are purgatives which will bring on diarrhea. Sweet spirits of nitre or nitric acid is a highly corrosive mineral acid. Camphor when applied to the skin acts as a vapour rub and as a steam vapour can be beneficial, but if taken orally is poisonous in large doses. Calomel is mercury chloride, which when taken internally is a laxative and disinfectant. Calomel was an ingredient in teething powders in Britain until 1950 and caused widespread mercury poisoning in infants. It was also widely used until the early 20th century to treat syphillis, and was administered to patients in such toxic quantities that their hair and teeth fell out.

If flu symptoms persisted and signs of inflammation of the lungs showed themselves, it was recommended that a course of four or five leeches, or a blister be applied to the chest to relieve the oversupply of blood in the body; bearing in mind to keep the bowels completely open. These don’t seem to me to be treatments designed to support the strength of a patient already weak with infection and fever; and who is now suffering from dehydration, a serious case of diarrhea and mild anemia.

Sick Infants and toddlers did not really stand a chance. They were treated with syrup of squills, an extract from a bulb that grows in the mediterranean area. It was prescribed to babies with whooping cough and croup to induce vomiting. In order to prevent too much inflammation to the stomach, it was frequently combined with a potion of opium or syrup of poppies. Opium was the universal pain-killer of the early nineteenth century. It was used as readily as we use aspirin or ibuprofen today. 

I’m starting to see how disease made such an impact on the lives of families living in the early 1800s. In his book The Healthy Body and Victorian Culture, Bruce Haley sites:

A Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Gt. Britain, by Edwin Chadwick included figures to show that in 1839 for every person who died of old age or violence, eight died of specific diseases. This helps explain why during the second and third decades of the 19th century nearly one infant in three in England failed to reach the age of five. Taken together, measles and whooping cough accounted for 50,000 deaths in England and Wales between 1838 and 1840, and about a quarter of all deaths during this general period have been attributed to tuberculosis or consumption.

The statistics now add up. I am not surprised that only nine of the nineteen WELLINGTON children born between 1799 and 1840 survived into their 50s, 60s and 70s. Five children died as infants; a daughter Mary died aged 33 during child birth; the eldest son George died of heart disease at 36; his brother William died of consumption aged 36; Sophia aged 29 and Susanah aged 18 also died of consumption or pulmonary tuberculosis.

It may be said the accepted medical treatments prescribed by doctors and druggists in the 1800s were harsh and often hurried patients to their deaths. The secret to living through this era was “being strong enough to survive the disease and the remedy”.

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Sources: The Victorian WebThe Healthy Body and Victorian Culture, Bruce Haley; you can view a PDF of the Rules for the Treatment and Prevention of the Influenza pamphlet as well as other library resources and images at the Wellcome Trust websiteSusanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney.

susanah’s journal – births, deaths and marriages

An extract from the journal of Miss Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah was almost 14 years old when she transcribed the following family register into her notebook.

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Susanah's account of her family births, deaths and marriages was most likely transcribed from the front of a family bible.

Susanah’s account of her family births, deaths and marriages was most likely transcribed from the front of the family bible.

The family register begins with the birth dates of Susanah’s parents as well as the date of their marriage:

George Wellington born 26th Jany 1781.

Elizabeth Samson born 7th March 1794.

George Wellington & Elizabeth Samson married
22nd Septr 1817.

It is interesting to note that Susanah spells her mother’s maiden name SAMSON and not SAMPSON, which is the more common spelling I have found in the parish registers and GRO records. Presumably Susanah transcribed these word-for-word from a record her father and mother kept in their family bible.

Elizabeth SAMSON’s death on 28th June 1865, has been added at a later date by Susanah’s sister Jane Penelope WELLINGTON who is the first born child listed:

Jane Penelope Wellington born 6th July 1818,
½ past eight A.M.

Susanah Wellington born 20th Augt 1819,
20 minutes before 2 o’clock A.Noon.

Jane has also added the date she married William Henry SUTTON on 23rd December 1842.

The recorded entries follow with a son, Richard who was born to George and Elizabeth in 1820. Sadly he died three months after his first birthday.

Richard George Wellington born 30th Novr 1820,
¼ before 7 O’C A.M. and Died the 1st March 1822, at Eight O’C P.M.

The Wellington family register also includes the time of day of births and deaths.

The Wellington family register also includes the time of day of most births and deaths. A detail I have not seen before in the front of old family bibles.

The family continued to grow, year after year:

Frances Elizabeth Wellington born 28th Febr 1822, at 7 o’clock in the morning.

Rosa Wellington born 16th May 1823, 10 o’clock P.M.

Frederick George Noble Wellington born 30th Novr 1824, ¼ to 10 P.M.

Lucy Wellington born 13th May 1826, ¼ past six P.M.

And then, two more sons die in their infancy:

Richard Wellington born 2nd Augt 1827, ½ past 6 P.M. and died the 5th Jany 1828, at 5 O’C in the evening.

Alexander Samson Wellington born 24th Augt 1831,¼ past one A.Noon & died 10th May 1833, at a ¼ past five o’clock in the morning.

Little Alexander’s death in May 1833, at the age of 20 months, is the reason Susanah has taken the time to record these details. After Alexander’s funeral, the family would have added his date of death to the register in the front of their family bible and I can imagine Susanah would want to take a copy of her family tree to keep for herself and pass on to future generations.

Susanah left space between entries so she would have room to update the records in her journal with marriages and deaths. I think the entry of Rebecca’s birth was written by Susanah two years later, added to the bottom of the page.

Rebekah[cca] Wellington born August 11th 1834, 10 minutes after three P.M.

Ellen Marianna Wellington born Febry 1st 1840.

The correction to the spelling of Rebecca’s name and recording of Ellen’s birth was done by her sister Jane after the death of Susanah from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) on 6 June 1838, aged eighteen years and ten months. I find it strange that Jane did not add Susanah’s date of death to the journal as she did when her mother died.

This is not a very uplifting story – it’s quite tragic that Susanah did not live long enough to marry and have children of her own. But, she was loved by her family and friends, and her little journal is helping us to learn about her short life and the life and times of our ancestors.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney. You can read other post on members of the WELLINGTON family here: george wellington’s lettersthe chemist shop that time forgot;

susanah’s journal – letter to miss lyndall

An extract from the journal of Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset.


The copy of a letter which I wrote to congratulate Miss Lyndall on her marriage, she married Mr E Whitby, she was married of a Shrove Tuesday the 19th of February 1833, she went to Bath for the wedding excursion.

Yeovil Feby 23rd 1833

My dear Friend I received the news of your marriage with great delight, and I hope that the sincerity with which I wish your happiness may excuse the liberty I take in writing to congratulate you on your altered situation. Mrs Eason very kindly gave us a half holiday on Tuesday and we went for a walk with the boarders to the grotto at Barwick and also about the grounds. Miss Waugh and Miss Fryer were very much pleased as they had never seen it before. Please to present my kind respects to Mr Whitby and accepting yourself the sincere love of Your affectionate friend S Wellington

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In my last post from susanah’s journal – token of affection, I wrote about Susanah’s interest in the sentiments expressed in the note her sister Jane received from an ‘affectionate friend’. The very next entry in the notebook is a letter Susanah had occasion to send to one of her own friends, and it appears she may have drawn on Jane’s correspondance for some writing tips.


Yeovil parish records show Miss Hannah LYNDALL married Mr Elias WHITBY Jr on 19 February 1833. Hannah was twenty-five years old and Elias was married on his twenty-third birthday.

The Whitby family worshipped in the newly built Baptist Church in South Street, and Elias WHITBY the elder was a Deacon of the church for sixty-four years. He and his son were successful glove manufacturers and wool dealers in Yeovil.

The WELLINGTONs and the WHITBYs most likely had a similar social standing. Susanah’s father George WELLINGTON was the portreeve and then a burgess of the Yeovil Union, from 1813 until his death in 1847. The Union was the “old corporation” that governed the market town and Elias WHITBY Jr was the clerk of the Union during the 1840s and early 1850s.

Yeovil was made a municipal borough in 1853 by Act of Parliament and Royal Assent, and Elias WHITBY was elected Mayor of Yeovil between 1862-1864 and again for 1872-1873. Hannah and Elias’ son Elias Lyndall WHITBY was also Mayor of Yeovil 1878-1879.

The latest fashion for 1833 [Wikimedia Commons: University of Washington fashion plate collection]

The latest fashion evening and day wear for 1833 [Wikimedia Commons: University of Washington fashion plate collection]

Hannah LYNDALL was eleven years older than Susanah WELLINGTON who was only thirteen and a half when she wrote to congratulate her friend on her marriage. I have found that Hannah was born in London and her family came from Yorkshire. It appears she had no family in Yeovil until her marriage. Maybe Hannah had been a teacher at Mrs Eason’s School which Susanah and Jane attended.

After Susanah congratulates Hannah on her ‘altered situation’ she goes on to tell her that Mrs Eason allowed the students a half-holiday on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Tuesday), the day preceding Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent. The students and boarders spent the afternoon on a long walk to see the local curiosities at Barwick, a village lying about 3 kms (1.8 miles) to the south of Yeovil.

Barwick House is famous for the four follies and the grotto within its parkland. It’s thought the odd garden features were built between 1770–1790, possibly by unemployed farm labourers on the estate.

Three Follies: Jack The Treacle Eater, Messiter's Cone and The Fish Tower, at Barwick Park near Yeovil, Somerset [photos by Rupert Fleetingly, Jeff Tomlinson and Andy Jenkins Wikimedia Commons]

Barwick follies – Jack The Treacle Eater, Messiter’s Cone and the Fish Tower near Yeovil, Somerset [photos by Rupert Fleetingly, Jeff Tomlinson and Andy Jenkins – Wikimedia Commons]

Of the four follies, none is more odd than the tiny tower on top of a jagged rocky arch which is called Jack The Treacle Eater. It is named after a famous local runner who trained on a diet of treacle. Jack needed the glucose rush to keep up his stamina on his 110-mile sprint to London to deliver mail for the Messiter family, who owned Barwick House. The figure on top of the tower is supposedly the running figure of Jack The Treacle Eater. It looks to me like a classical statue of the Greek messenger god Hermes or his Roman counterpart Mercury.


Jack the Treacle Eater, one of the odd follies at Barwick [photo by David Ward – Wikimedia Commons]

A grotto at the western end of the lake contains three subterranean chambers. The circular domed chamber contains a pool with a path around it, there are niches which hold Greek statues and at the top of the dome is an oculus which radiates beams of light. The follies and grotto are now owned by South Somerset District Council, who snapped them all up for just £5 when the estate was sold in the early 1990s. After major restoration work, Barwick and its follies are again a popular attraction with ramblers and tourists.


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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyJournal transcription by Terry HASTINGS; From Portreeve to Mayor: the growth of Yeovil 1750-1854 by L C Hayward; www.yeoviltown.comwww.oldukphotos.com; Britain’s Top 10 Follies.