susanah’s journal – rev jukes & the jews

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire.

SW_DIARY_p4&5

Poor Wm Etheridge died on the 2nd of November 1836 his funeral sermon was preached by Mr Jukes at his chapel on Sunday Evening Novr 13th 1836.

January 1st 1837. Mr Ewald and Mr Davis preached two sermons in behalf of the Jews 30 pounds were collected at the doors. 2nd The Jews Meeting was held at the Mermaid Inn.  When we returned we found quite a large party assembled in our dining room from Martock.  Sophia Vining was with us.

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I found a notice in the Salisbury & Winchester Journal, Monday 14 November 1836:

Died, at Yeovil, on Wednesday, the 2nd inst., aged 18 years, after a few days’ illness, of effusion on the brain, William, fourth son of Mr. H. Etheridge, auctioneer. He was a very promising youth, and much and deservedly respected in the circle in which he moved.

William’s parents were Henry and Ann. Henry ETHERIDGE was a surveyer, auctioneer, real estate and insurance agent. William ETHERIDGE was born 24 June 1818 and christened in an Independent Chapel in Yeovil on 26 July 1819.

Auction of dwellings by Mr Etheridge, Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 02 June 1834.

Auction of dwellings by Mr Henry Etheridge, Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 02 June 1834.

Mr John JUKES was a protestant non-conformist minister of the Independent Chapel in Yeovil, aligned with the Baptists. Mr JUKES served on the Yeovil Board of Health during the 1830s, along with Dr John PENKIVIL and chemist George WELLINGTON. Rev JUKES ran a school in Yeovil until 1835 when he resigned from teaching to concentrate on his ministry.

Rev John Jukes relinquished his school in Yeovil at the end of 1835, probably to concentrate on his ministry. Sherbourne & Yeovil Mercury, 19 October 1835

Rev John Jukes relinquished his school in Yeovil at the end of 1835.  Sherbourne & Yeovil Mercury, 19 October 1835.

Susanah mentions that on the first day of 1837 there were two sermons preached and 30 pounds collected “on behalf of the Jews”. When I first read this journal entry I wondered if the sermons and donations were in aid of Jews that were persecuted and displaced from their homelands in Europe. Not so.

It appears from this advert in the Sherbourne & Yeovil Mercury, the Christian congregation were on a mission of conversion rather than of aid or charity. The meeting of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews was held at the Mermaid Inn and Mr EWALD and Mr DAVIS were in attendance.

A notice for a meeting similar to the one Susanah mentions in her Journal. Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 26 December 1836.

A newspaper notice for the meeting Susanah Wellington mentions in her journal. Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 26 December 1836.

This 1839 painting of High Street, Yeovil by Henry Burn (1807–1884) shows the Mermaid Inn archway and large overhanging sign on the left. The building on the other side of the street is a “Chemist, Grocer, Druggist” shop.

This 1839 painting of High Street, Yeovil by Henry Burn (1807–1884) shows the Mermaid Inn archway and large overhanging sign on the left.

After the family returned home from their meeting, they found “quite a large party from Martock” in their dining room. Not much to go on here but they were most likely cousins – John WELLINGTON (1774-1845) and his wife Ann MARTIN (1774-1852) and their children. John WELLINGTON was a chemist and the elder brother of George WELLINGTON, chemist of Yeovil – Susanah’s father.

Sofia VINING was the youngest sister of James Tally VINING who was married to Mary Webb WELLINGTON. Sofia/Sophia VINING (1824-1848) was 12 years old, around the same age as Susanah’s sister Rosa WELLINGTON (1823-1889).

It has taken me quite a long time to research and identify all the players in this journal entry, but it is amazing the resources now available online at the British Newspaper Archives.

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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. British Newspaper Archives

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frederick george noble wellington

This post is follow-up research on Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887), Chemist of South Petherton. You may like to read some of my earlier posts:

Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). Chemist of South Petherton, Somerset, England

Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). Chemist of South Petherton, Somerset, England

As Susanah WELLINGTON notes in her journal, her younger brother Frederick went to boarding school at Sherborne in July 1836, a few months before his 12th birthday.

Frederick was 15 years old when he left school in 1839 and went to work as a chemist’s apprentice. Frederick took over the chemist business in St. James Street, South Petherton after his half-brother William Edwards WELLINGTON‘s death in 1850.

Frederick married Mary ADAMS in 1850 and he became an active and valued member of the South Petherton community. He sat on many parish committees and was a churchwarden for many years.

I made contact with Liz Randall of the South Petherton Local History Group which holds the archive of White’s pharmacy and general store. Liz was very helpful and sent me a copy of a bill of sale which dates back to the 1880s then Frederick WELLINGTON owned the business.

The old stationery appears to have been reused as scrap paper or as a sales journal by the White family in September 1918, during WWI, when paper was scarce in England.

Invoice stationery of FGN Wellington, Chemist of South Petherton between 1850 and 1887.

Bill of Sale header of FGN Wellington, Pharmaceutical Chemist of South Petherton between 1850 and 1887. [photo source South Petherton Local History Group]

Frederick WELLINGTON sold the business to William Charles WHITE in late 1886 or early 1887. I found a news article dated April 1887 which mentioned Frederick had recently left South Petherton so they held an election for a new churchwarden.

News report from the South Petherton Church vestry meeting notes that Frederick Welligntong had recently left town. [Western Gazette, 22 April 1887]

News report from the South Petherton Church vestry meeting notes that Frederick Wellignton had recently left the town. [Western Gazette, 22 April 1887]

Declining health may have been the reason Frederick retired and sold the business. The Western Gazette reported the sudden death of FGN Wellington on Wednesday 25 May 1887 at the age of 62, in Bristol.

Notice of the sudden death of Frederick GN Wellington in Bristol. [Western Gazette, 27 May 1887]

Notice of the sudden death of Frederick GN Wellington in Bristol. [Western Gazette, 27 May 1887]

The following article is a very detailed account of the funeral of Mr WELLINGTON in South Petherton. It appears he was very well respected and much loved by the people of the town. Among the family mourners were his children: Louisa Mary WELLINGTON (1851); Rev George WELLINGTON (1852), Assistant Curate of Whitechurch Canonicorum, Dorset; and Frederick WELLINGTON (1857), Chemist of Taunton, Somerset.

1887-06-03_Western Flying Post_Wellington FGN_Funeral

Account of the funeral of Frederick George Noble Wellington held in South Petherton on Saturday 28 May 1887. [Western Flying Post, 3 June, 1887]

The report mentions that Frederick was buried in the grounds at the north-east side of the chapel, close to his wife Mary who died 6 June 1884. Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON has a memorial in one of the beautiful stained glass windows of South Petherton Church, Somerset, England.

Thank you to Liz Randall and the South Petherton Local History Group for the wonderful work you are doing to bring the history and heritage of your town to life.

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Sources: http://www.southpethertoninformation.org.ukSouth Petherton Local History GroupBritish Newspaper ArchiveWellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; GRO Indexes and documents, Pigot’s Directories of Somerset and Dorset 1830 to 1885.

susanah’s journal – wild beast show

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire.

SW_DIARY_p4a

Frederick went to Sherborne School July 1836. In October 1836 there was a wild beast show here the animals were very good though the collection was small.

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Susanah’s younger brother Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887), was sent to boarding school at Sherborne in July 1836, a few months before his 12th birthday.

A short history on the school’s website tells us Sherborne School was founded in the mid-16th century under the auspices of the monastery at Sherborne, and survived the Reformation to become established as a Free Grammar School during the 17th and 18th centuries. The school took on its current form as a boys’ boarding school in the early 19th century.

Rachel Hassall, Archivist at Sherborne School provided me with information she had from the school registers:

  • Frederick George Wellington, son of G. Wellington, Yeovil. Arrived 1836 – left 1839.
  • William Wellington, son of George Wellington, Yeovil. Arrived ? – left 1830.

William Edwards WELLINGTON (1813-1850) was Frederick’s elder half-brother. William was 17 when he finished his education at Sherborne. We went to work in his father George’s chemist shop in Yeovil and took over his uncle John WELLINGTON’s (1774-1845) chemist and grocery businesses in South Petherton and Martock in 1845.

Frederick was 15 years old when he left school and was apprenticed to his father and half-brother William. Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON took over the business in South Petherton after William’s death in 1850. You can read more on Frederick here.

Watercolour of Sherborne School by Walter Tyndale

Watercolour of Sherborne School by Walter Tyndale (1855–1943).

What a shame Frederick missed the wild beast show in Yeovil in 1836. I wonder what animals they had on exhibition?

The University of Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive has a wealth of information on the history of fairs, circuses and travelling menageries, here are some of the highlights:

The travelling menagerie evolved at the town fairs. A canvas was usually erected on poles with the animal cages or trailers lining the sides. The public paid for admission to view the exotic species. Most visitors to these wild beast shows would never have the opportunity to see such animals in their daily lives so their arrival in a town would cause great excitement.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century there were several menageries travelling – amongst the better known are Polito, Ballard, Pidcock, Miles and Wombwell.

Animal_Bear

Thomas Frost, in The Old Showmen, and the Old London Fairs (1875) cites the following example from 1743:

This is to give notice to all Gentlemen, Ladies, and others, that Mr Perry’s Grand Collection of Living Wild Beasts is come to the White Horse Inn, Fleet Street, consisting of a large he-lion, a he-tiger, a leopard, a panther, two hyenas, a civet cat, a jackal, or lion’s provider, and several other rarities too tedious to mention. To be seen at any time of the day, without any loss of time. Note: This is the only tiger in England.

Animal_Tiger

As colonial expansion brought further and more regular contact with remote regions, birds and animals unseen in Europe arrived at the ports. Collectors encouraged sailors to return with animals from the exotic ports they visited. It is believed George Wombwell started his menagerie with two snakes bought from a sailor at the Port of London.

Animal_Reptiles

There is an interesting advert in the Bristol Mercury and Universal Advertiser from September 1807:

Extraordinary Reptiles
Amongst the Number of Natural Curiosities arrived in this City, there seems none to equal or rival the Two wonderful Siboya Serpents. Those Ladies and Gentlemen who have already seen these extraordinary Reptiles, are so highly gratified with the sight of them, that the Proprietor flatters himself, from their high Recommendation that all ranks of people will gratify their curiosity, as they are undoubtedly the only ones of the Kind ever exhibited in the kingdom alive. To be seen at a commodious room at the White Swan, St. James’s Back. N.B. The Proprietor gives the utmost value for Foreign Birds and curious animals.

Animal_Parrots

As the trade in exotic animals developed they were stocked in dealers’ yards forming the basis for permanent animal exhibitions in zoological gardens. The exhibition of new and bizarre animals was seen as both entertaining and educational. Scientists and naturalists found that observing live animals was a much better way to classify the variety in the natural world than studying long-dead and stuffed specimens. This gave impetus and respectability to the menageries.

Animal_Kangaroo

The exhibition practices of the menageries changed over time, as the population grew more accustomed to the species on display, a variety of extraordinary gimmicks and tricks were required to draw the crowds. Entertainments such as the following were reported in the Clifton Chronicle and Directory of 3-6-1868:

Musical Prodigy
Of all Modern Prodigies certainly the most prodigious is the Royal Modern Musical Elephant at Wombwell’s which plays several popular airs and polkas, by Handel, not known to be by that immortal composer, a fact which beats “Creation” or any other Oratorio – or Menagerie.

Animal_Elephant

By 1850 the travelling menageries, with their big cats, trumpet-playing elephants, dancing stallions and boxing kangaroos, were amalgamating with acrobats, strong men, bearded ladies and clowns from fairground sideshows. They formed the big top circuses such as Astley’s Amphitheatre in England, Barnam & Bailey in the United States and Ashton’s Circus in Australia which began in Tasmania in 1847.

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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.  Rachel Hassall, Archivist, Sherborne School Archives. Transcript of travelling menageries is taken from The University of Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive websiteThe nineteenth century animal illustrations are from Designs of Nature, Pepin Press, 1997.

You may also like to read:

two penny worth of arsenic

the runaway apprentice

the chemist shop that time forgot

oxalic acid poisoning – 1835

While searching the British Newspaper Archive, I found an interesting bit of WELLINGTON family history linked to the sad death of a 46 year old shoemaker called Edward PINKARD, as reported in The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835.

YEOVIL. – Last week an inquest was held by Mr. Caines at Lymington, on the body of Edward Pinkard, and from the evidence it appeared that the deceased having felt unwell the previous night, desired his wife to get some salts in the morning; and she taking what she considered to be a paper of salts from the cupboard, mixed it with water, and gave it to him, the greater part of which he swallowed, and complained of a burning in his throat. He then exclaimed he had taken poison, on which the wife immediately sent for a surgeon, but before he could arrive he was a corpse. The man, who was a shoemaker, had been in the habit of keeping oxalic acid for the purpose of his business, and which was given him by his wife in mistake. Not the slightest blame could be attached to any one, as it is probable that the paper in which the acid had been kept must have been changed, which led to the sad catastrophe. A very malicious report was circulated of the salts having been purchased, without a label, of Mr. Wellington; but the wife fully proved that the acid had been in the house a long time, and was not bought in Yeovil at all. – Verdict, “Accidental Death.” – An Advertisement of Mr. Wellington’s refuting this malevolent rumour will be found in our first page.

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Public notices and statutory declarations by George Wellington, Mary Pinkard and George Edwards Wellington stating that the late Edward Pinkard “didn't buy it from us!” . [The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835]

Statutory declarations by George Wellington, Mary Pinkard and George Edwards Wellington stating that the late Edward Pinkard “didn’t buy it from us!” . [The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835]

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TO THE PUBLIC

A Report having been industriously circulated, that Edward Pinkard, who died at Lymington, on the 19th instant, from taking Oxalic Acid, had purchased such Acid at my Shop for Epsom Salts, the Saturday previous, I beg to state that the said Edward Pinkard did not purchase at my Shop any Salts or Oxalic Acid at the time stated, and that no mistake can possibly arise from the purchase of either of those articles at my Shop, because Epsom Salts are invariably weighed up in large quantities at a time, in white paper, bearing the following copper-plate label: – “Purified Epsom Salts, from G. Wellington, Chemist and Druggist, Yeovil;” whilst Oxalic Acid is invariably sold in blue paper, and a plain label: – “Oxalic Acid Poison” affixed to it. In order to remove all unpleasant impressions that such a wilfully malicious report might have occasioned, I beg to call the attention of my Friends and the Public to the Certificates underneath, which must at once convince all reasonable and unprejudiced persons that the mistake, so much to be deplored, did not in any way originate with me or at my Shop. The Original Certificates may be seen at my Shop.
GEO. WELLINGTON. Yeovil, 25th May, 1835.

_________

This is to certify, – That my late husband, Edward Pinkard, who died on the 19th instant, from taking Oxalic Acid, or some other Poison, by mistake, did not purchase the same at the Shop of Mr. George Wellington, Druggist, Yeovil, when he was there in the Saturday previous, as has been reported; nor did he say, nor do I know, that he bought it at Mr. Wellington’s Shop at any other time, the same having been in the house several weeks previous to my husband’s death, and he being in the habit of buying drugs at several shops. That the paper containing the poison taken by my husband has no label on it; that I have frequently seen Salts in the house which my husband purchased at Mr. Wellington’s Shop, and that the same was always labelled with a printed label.
Dated this 25th day of May, 1835. MARY PINKARD.
Witness JAMES MILLS, Lymington.

__________

This is to certify – That Edward Pinkard, late of Lymington, who died on the 19th instant, came to the Shop of Mr. George Wellington, Druggist, Yeovil, on the 16th instant; that I then served him with the articles he wanted, and that the only goods he purchased were some Hair Oil, for the use of his daughter, who had lost her hair, and some Garden Seeds.
Dated this 25th day of May, 1835. G. E. WELLINGTON.

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Oxalic Acid in solid form is a fine white crystal that dissolves in water to a colourless solution. It is mainly used as a cleaning agent, especially for the removal of rust. It is also used as a bleach and dyeing agent for leather and cloth, and is most likely what the shoemaker used it for. Oral consumption, inhalation or prolonged skin contact of Oxalic Acid causes burns, coughing, wheezing and inflammation and oedema of the larynx and stomach. A lethal oral dose can be as low as 15 to 30 grams.

Oxalic-Acid-comparison-Epsom-Salts

Oxalic Acid has a similar crystal form to Epson Salts (Magnesium Sulphate).

Magnesium Sulphate, commonly known as Epsom Salts, can be safely used externally and internally. A 1% solution of Epsom Salts is a safe and easy way to increase sulphate and magnesium levels in the body as it aids in the treatment of aches and pains.

As the images above show, it would be quite easy for Mary PINKARD to mistake a packet of Oxalic Acid for Epson Salts if it were not clearly labelled as “Poison”. The poor man must have suffered an agonising death.

Speculation and rumour would have been rampant upon the news of the poisoning of Edward PINKARD. A malicious rumour was circulated in the district that the poison was bought from my great-great-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON’s chemist shop; and that he or one of his staff had supplied the wrong product, or had failed to label the packet correctly.

We all know how quickly rumours spread and I can imagine someone jumped at the chance to tarnish the reputation of a successful business rival with malicious gossip. George WELLINGTON must have felt the damage to his reputation and business keenly in the two weeks following Edward PINKARD’s death. He wrote and had published statutory declarations from himself, his son George Edwards WELLINGTON and from the shoemaker’s widow Mary PINKARD repudiating the malevolent rumours.

There is one other person mentioned in this tragic affair who you have to feel very sorry for. What of the reputation of Edward PINKARD’s unfortunate daughter?

…the only goods he purchased were some Hair Oil, for the use of his daughter, who had lost her hair, …

Was it absolutely necessary for George Edwards WELLINGTON to go into so much detail in his declaration? The poor girl had just lost her father and now the whole of Yeovil knew she is bald under her bonnet. It was very inconsiderate of George to include that fact in his statement as he knew first-hand how damaging rumours and gossip could be.

You may also like to read:

two penny worth of arsenic

diseases and remedies of the 1800s

the chemist shop that time forgot

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Sources: British Newspaper Archive; Wikipedia Magnesium Sulphate, Oxalic Acid.

susanah’s journal – yeovil 1835

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire. Her diary includes copies of letters and a record of the last few years of her life.

Susanah's beautifully neat copperplate writing is still readable after 180 years.

Susanah’s beautifully neat copperplate writing is still readable after 180 years.

We left the house at the shop early in September 1835 which was the same summer as I left school and commenced teaching.

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Susanah turned sixteen in the summer of 1835, she had finished her schooling and began teaching music lessons in Yeovil with her sister Jane. They taught the pianoforte and most likely music composition, harmony and voice accompaniment.

1835_paris_couture

The latest fashions for young ladies in 1835.

Pigot’s Trade Directory of Somerset 1830 lists George WELLINGTON, – Chymist and Druggist, Borough, Yeovil. Susanah’s father had a chemist shop in the Borough, which was in the centre of the market town. The family must have lived in the second and third storeys above the shop.

A pencil sketch from about 1810 of the Borough, Yeovil showing the Market House and Shambles. The artist is standing roughly where King George Street meets High Street today. Above the sign of the Greyhound Inn on the right can be seen a sign for a Grocer, Chemist, Druggist.

A pencil sketch from about 1810 of the Borough, Yeovil by G E Madeley, shows the Shambles on the left and the Market House to the right. George Wellington’s ‘Chymist and Druggist’ shop was situated in the Medical Hall visible behind the old Market House and the sign of the Greyhound Inn on the far right.

Susanah doesn’t tell us where in Yeovil the family moved to in 1835. They probably relocated to a larger house to accommodate their growing family.

Between 1835 and 1845 George WELLINGTON was expanding his business. He was in partnership with his eldest son, George Edwards WELLINGTON, and they opened a second shop in Glastonbury in about 1838. The General Directory for the County of Somerset 1840 lists George WELLINGTON & Son, Chemists & Druggists and also Grocers & Dealers in Sundries, with businesses in High Street, Glastonbury and the Borough, Yeovil.

High Street,Yeovil, Somerset - showing the Mermaid Inn and Fleur-de-Lys Hotels - 1839 by Henry Burn. On the far right is a Chemist, Grocer, Druggist shop.

This 1839 painting of High Street, Yeovil by Henry Burn (1807–1884) shows the Mermaid Inn archway and large overhanging sign on the left. The building on the other side of the street is Granger’s chemist and druggist shop.

The Wellington family relocated to Glastonbury for a few years in the late 1830s. Susanah developed consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) and died there in June 1838.

The 1841 UK Census records the Wellington family living back in High Street, Yeovil. The household listed George WELLINGTON with six of his children – Jane, Fanny, Rosa, Lucy, Rebecca and Ellen. His wife Elizabeth was vacationing in Weymouth with her ladies maid, and his youngest son Frederick was away at boarding school. Also listed in the household were staff and servants – a druggist’s apprentice, three young shop hands and a ten year old female servant.

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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. Pigot’s Directory – Somersetshire 1830; General Directory for the County of Somerset 1840; UK Census OnlineThe History of Yeovil’s Pubs by Bob Osborn.

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.

TRADE_Apothecary_01

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;

the chemist shop that time forgot

There has been a chemist shop at South Petherton, Somerset since the early 1800s. It belonged to an apothecary and grocer named John Wellington (1774-1845), son of John WELLINGTON (1747-1827), chemist of Chard, and a brother of my great-great-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON (1781-1847), chemist of Yeovil.

John WELLINGTON Jnr married Ann MARTIN in 1807 and had four children. Their three daughters Mary, Sarah Jane and Ann; and a son George William who also became a chemist in Taunton. John was a member of the South Petherton town council and ran a successful business until his death in 1845 at the age of 71.

The business in St. James Street, South Petherton passed to John’s brother George’s son William Edwards WELLINGTON (1813-1850) and then to another son Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). They were qualified druggists and apothecaries and also sold groceries, tea, wine and spirits in their shop. They had a second business in the nearby town of Martock.

Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). Chemist of South Petherton, Somerset, England

Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). Chemist of South Petherton, Somerset, England

When Frederick retired he sold the shop and all its stock to William Charles WHITE in about 1887. W. C. WHITE practiced as a chemist until 1909 and when he died the business passed to his son Charles Edger who was a grocer but not qualified to dispense medicines. The chemist department was abandoned and boarded up behind a locked door, complete with the dispensary and its contents.

Charles WHITE continued as a grocer for several decades, the business then passed to his unmarried daughters Margaret and Eveline who, with the change to decimal currency in 1971, gave up the struggle and upon the death of the surviving sister in 1987 the whole shop came up for sale.

When the door was unlocked an amazing time capsule was discovered. The dispensary, complete with its old balances and scales, medicine jars, bottles and ancient cures, gave a unique glimpse into the life of a Victorian pharmacy.

Mr White's chemist shop as it was found when the door was unlocked in 1987.

White’s chemist shop in South Petherton, as it was found when the door was unlocked in 1987.

The complete contents and fittings of the apothecaries shop was purchased at auction by Flambards Amusement Park in Cornwall and re-assembled in their Victorian Village as close as possible to how it appeared 70 years earlier – with the dust and cobwebs, but without the poisons and more dangerous compounds which were confiscated by the British Home Office.

W. C. Whites Chemist Shop recreated in the Victorian Village at Fambard's Amusement Park in Cornwall.

W. C. White’s chemist shop recreated in the Victorian Village at Flambards Amusement Park in Helston, Cornwall. Photo by John King on http://www.flickr.com

The South Petherton Local History Group owns the archive of accounts and records of White’s pharmacy and general store. I have written to the group asking if they have any documents dating back to when the WELLINGTON family owned the business.

ADDENDUM: I have made contact with the South Petherton Local History Group – you can read more about the life of chemist Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON here.

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Notes: William Edwards WELLINGTON and Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON were the sons of George WELLINGTON, chemist of Yeovil; and brothers to Jane and Susanah WELLINGTON.

Sources: http://www.southpethertoninformation.org.uk, South Petherton Local History Group, Wellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; GRO Indexes and documents, Pigot’s Directories of Somerset and Dorset 1830 to 1885. Flambards Amusement Park. You can see and listen to the story of apothecary William White’s lost time capsule at Flambards at this Youtube link.

george wellington’s letters

A transcript of sad correspondence from George WELLINGTON (1781-1847), Chemist of Yeovil to his eldest daughter Mrs Elizabeth Blackaller GROVES at Blandford Forum. 

You can click on the image to enlarge it for reading.

Wellington_George_Letters_1839

1 – Bessie is Elizabeth Wellington GROVES, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Blackaller WELLINGTON and Simon GROVES, Chemist of Blandford Forum, Dorset. Bessie died Tuesday, 30 April 1839, aged 12 years, cause of death ‘effusion of water on the brain’ or Hydrocephalus.

2 – Lucy is Lucy WELLINGTON the seventh child of George WELLINGTON and his second wife Elizabeth SAMSON. She was 13 years old in May 1839 and she may have been away at boarding school when she fell ill with seizures caused by ‘water on the brain’ and was brought home to her family in Yeovil.

3Leeches and blood-letting were common procedures in 19th Century medical care. The theory followed that fevers, apoplexy and headaches resulted from an excessive build-up of blood. As a chemist in 1839, George WELLINGTON would most likely have administered medicines and the two courses of leeches to his daughter. Remarkably, Lucy actually recovered, she remained single, worked as a fancy needleworker and a draper, lived a long life and died in 1899 aged 73.

TRADE_Surgeon_Leech_01

4 & 7 – Mary’s dear babe is Mary Matilda VINING, the eldest daughter of Mary Webb WELLINGTON and James Tally VINING, Solicitor of Yeovil. Mary Matilda Vining died on 18 May 1839, aged 1 year. There is a large obelisk on a plinth in the grounds of Yeovil Parish Church of St John the Baptist with the inscriptions very worn. The monument was erected by James Tally VINING in memory of his wife Mary, the daughter of George WELLINGTON. She died 21 August 1842, aged 33 years. In the same vault are deposited the remains of Mary Matilda and William Richard, the infant children of James and Mary.

5 – Grandma would be Mary EDWARDS, the mother of George WELLINGTON’s first wife, Elizabeth EDWARDS who died in 1815. Grandma EDWARDS most likely travelled from her home in Shepton Mallet, Somerset to visit her family.

6 – George is George Edwards WELLINGTON, the eldest son of George WELLINGTON and Elizabeth EDWARDS. He was a Druggist and Chemist in Yeovil, in partnership with his father, and aged 31 at the time of these letters. George had married Sarah SANDER in May 1838, but fate dealt them a rotten hand, as they had only 5 years and 5 months together. George died of ‘heart disease’, most likely a heart attack, in 1843, aged 36 years at Creech St Michael, Somerset while travelling on business. Sarah died in 1852, aged 33 years. There is a monument to George and his wife Sarah inside the Yeovil Parish Church, you can view it here.

TRADE_Druggist_01

Sources: Wellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; GRO Indexes and documents, UK Census 1941 (HO107/0958  Folio 11/8 Page 8), Pigot’s Directories of Somerset and Dorset 1830 to 1840.