Tasty History: Chocolate

Hello guys! It has been a really long time since we have had time to write a proper blog entry. But now hat we have got the podcast up and running and the team is reconfigured, it is time to deliver. And, our first topic since the formation fof Nu History couldn’t be more delicious: Chocolate! Whether you like it dark, with milk, hot, cold, as a bar or a drink, I believe there is a chocolate for every kind of person. So, today I will give you an insight into how chocolate came to be. For this, we must first travel thousands of years into the past to one of my favourite historical areas: pre-Hispanic Meso America.

The Origins of Cacao

Just to clarify; chocolate is a product derivate from cacao or cocoa beans. The actual word for chocolate comes from the Aztec xocolatl, which meant bitter water. However, cacao was used way before the Aztecs to create indeed bitter tasting beverages made with cocoa and often used for either ritual or medicinal purposes. In a recent study (2018) published by Sonia Zarillo et al. trace back the earliest recorded used of cacao to 5300 years ago, in the area of Santa Ana, (Ecuador). Coe and Coe also state that the Olmecs had domesticated cacao plants and used its produce for medicinal purposes and religious rituals, and we have ample evidence of this from the area of Veracruz (1900–900 BCE). But the most extensive knowledge of Meso-American culture that we have regarding cacao comes from the Mayan culture, (500-800CE) where there is an abundance of ceramics that depicts its varied uses. It is also the Mayans from who we get the word cacao as kakaw. Kakaw was essentially a gloop of cacao made into a drink and the most renown discovery of this type of product is found at Rio Azul. This is the site where in the 90s the scientists from Hershey Corporation first identified the original chemical signature of cacao. By the time the Aztec empire took control of most of Meso America, things had changed. It seems that the Aztecs didn’t actually grow their own cacao already by the 1400s, and instead they used to obtain it as an import, often paid as a tax from areas they conquered. They also started drinking it cold and branching its uses, so that in Aztec culture cacao was an aphrodisiac according to Szogyi.

Cocoa Beans Comes to Europe

The beans were brought back to Europe by the cargo ships from the Americas. It was in fact Columbus who originally shipped them to Spain, however they got little interest from the public until much later when chocolate was introduced to the Spanish court. Despite it being first found by the Spaniards, the success of cocoa and chocolate in Europe would come from other nations, two main rivals of Spain in fact: the English and the Dutch. Cocoa was prominently imported during the reign of Charles I and during the 16th century, it was actually used as a drug to solve tooth decay and dysentery. Moreover, one of the physicians for Queen Anne, Hans Sloane, seemingly saw Jamaican workers during his visit to the island back in 1680 mixing cocoa powder with breast milk as a form drink, so he decided to borrow the concept (but with cow’s milk) for medicinal purposes once more. At this stage, the history of chocolate takes a dark turn as during the early modern period many African slaves were used in the cocoa plantations that the English, Dutch and French had in the transatlantic colonies. And so, with cheap labour and the invention of the first mechanic cocoa grinder in Bristol (1729) the European obsession with chocolate – and slavery – continued all the way to the 19th century when things changed once again.

Dutch Production, English Consumerism: Cocoa in the 19th Century

The transformation of cacao into the product that we could recognise nowadays only happened in the 19th century thanks to a clever Dutch chemist. Coenrad van Houten came up with the idea of removing cacao butter and added baking powder to the mix all successfully achieved by his creation: the cocoa press (1828). He had previously invented a alkaline solution that made chocolate less bitter to the taste, so the “Dutch Cocoa” invention made it a lot more marketable. Interestingly most the cocoa consumed in the UK during the 19th century was produced in the Netherlands, making this a very profitable industry for the Dutch. In Victorian Britain the first chocolate houses opened in the area of Mayfair and the concept drove English society into an absolute craze. In fact, at the royal apartments in Hampton Court we know that Willian III, as well as George I and II had a dedicated chocolate kitchen. Lizzie Collingham argues however that during this period much of the cocoa powder used in these establishments was heavily adultered with other products. Amongst these feature things like lentils or tapioca, which actually made what they served more similar to a cocoa soup rather than a cocoa drink.  However by then, the price of cocoa dropped becoming more affordable and an easily available product in many houses. Cadbury’s chocolate in the UK was a great conduit for this phenomenon. Still popular today, the first shop was opened in Birmingham in 1824 by John Cadbury. Collingham again adds that the most influential brand that contributed to the popularisation of cocoa amongst the working clasess was not Cadbury, but the now forgotten Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa. Vi-Cocoa distributed a blend of cocoa, kola nut, malt and hops that made it incredibly popular between 1895 and 1910. In her book The Hungry Empire, she says that Cadbury’s target audience would have most likely been middle classes women, whilst Vi-Cocoa was targeting the working class man with an alternative to tea.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Daniel Peters enhanced Victorian chocolate by using powdered milk in the beverages and therefore creating milk chocolate, and instant national favourite. Dutch cocoa balanced bitterness reached a new height when the Swiss chocolatier Rodolpe Lindt (1879) used his conching machine to turn cocoa butter into an improved product, with better texture and flavour. The manufacturing advances of the time also allowed for Lindt’s product to be easier to distribute and reach new markets, so Lindt was a key player in changing chocolate into a food item rather than a drink. Meanwhile in America? Cacao beans were also used as a currency up until the 19th century in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Brazil. Funnily enough, these were easy to fake: empty casks were often filled with soil to pretend they were ripe cacao beans.

So as you can see the journey of cacao, cocoa, and chocolate is a varied and multicultural one. From its origins in America to its developments in Europe kakaw has adopted many forms and purposes. And, although I certainly believe most of us don’t use it as a medicine for tooth decay…I think we can probably agree it is a medicine for the soul and, as recent scientific research confirms, good for our mental health. With this history of chocolate, and the many more to come articles and podcasts regarding food history, I am trying to send a message of hope and unity. I truly believe that food brings people together, and in this day an age of conflict and division, humans and human history could do more with interconnectivity and hope.

I hope you join us on the next one 🙂

Spring of Water Rises: A history of Orpington before 1900

I recently moved to Orpington, part of the London Borough of Bromley, on the border of London and Kent. Despite only becoming part of London in 1965, Orpington has a long and interesting history which has meant my original idea for this blog post has changed several times. Therefore this post only covers the history of Orpington up until 1900, I hope to at some point in the future to blog about the history of Orpington post 1900. The name Orpington comes from a bastardized version of Dorpentune which means ‘where the head or spring of water rises’.

Tools from the Stone Age, pottery from the Bronze Age and a farmstead from the Iron Age show that Orpington has been settled since early human history, however our first concrete history of Orpington comes from the Crofton Roman villa. It is thought to have been occupied from around 140 AD to 400 AD. The villa was the centre of a 500 acre farming estate overlooking the River Cray. The villa underwent various changes during its 240 year existence, possibly containing around twenty rooms with at least sixteen found during its excavation. By 400 AD it was abandoned and eventually due to the remains of the buildings being taken or lost under soil washing from the slopes above, the villa was lost until 1926 when it was found during construction work. Ten of the rooms are now preserved in the Crofton Roman villa museum.

The next records of Orpington appeared in 862 AD in a charter under King Ethelbert of Wessex. It then appears again in 1032 when King Cnut’s chaplain gave his estate to the Christ Church Priory in Canterbury.  Four years later the area was first recorded as Orpedingetune. Ten years before the Domesday Book in in 1076, there were disputes within the church about the lands around Orpington. The Domesday Book however is our best source of information for Orpington as it records its population as around 75-100 people detailing their possessions and livelihoods. It also included who owned what parts of Orpington. The largest manor belonged to the Monks of Christchurch Canterbury, as had been given to them in 1032. There was a second manor, known as ‘Little Orpington’ which belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but not the monastery.

The first major secular records begin in 1111, with the construction of the first manor house in Oprington, built by the de Rokesle family who then let the manor to Philip de Malevil. By 1281 the house reverted back to de Rokesle family, who had risen to prominence with Gregory de Rokesle holding the position of Lord Mayor of London. However the residence of such a prominent figure seems to have done little for Orpington. By 1363 on the death of John de Rokesle, his lands including the manor house were sold to Sir John Peche.

Upon the dissolution of the monasteries the Priory was given to Sir Percival Hart. In 1554 Hart built on the Priory land, retaining some of the existing buildings. In 1573 Elizabeth I as part of her Royal Progress visited Orpington staying at the property known as Bart Hart. She spent three days in Orpington before moving on to her own property in Knolle. The manor and land would remain in the Hart family until 1671.

The seventeenth century saw the beginning of recorded industry. The Colegates Mill was constructed on the River Cray in 1634. This mill would remain until at least the nineteenth century. In 1654, the Hodgson Brothers built their foundry also on the Cray, where not only did they cast bells for the local St Mary’s Church but also the famous Bow Bells for St Mary Le Bow of Cheapside in central London. Those born in the sound of the bells are considered ‘true’ cockneys. As industry spread so did the need for better transport links with the turn-piking of the London to Tunbridge Wells’s road being completed in 1750 which Orpington was situated on. By the early nineteenth century two paper mills were established which would remain until the Great Depressions in the 1930s. Fox and Sons also established a large brewery in Orpington in 1836. They would later build housing in the area for their employees.

Such development of industry lead to the building of train stations in the area. St Mary Cray Station predated Orpington by ten years arriving in 1858, this helped development around the river Cray. The railway helped Orpington gain links not just with the surrounding areas of Kent but also with London. At this time Orpington was still mostly an agricultural area along with the industry around the Cray. The Vinson family for instance who were the largest soft fruit producers in England invested heavily in the area. However Orpington was growing, with its population increasing from 754 in 1841 to around 4000 in 1900.

By 1900 Orpington had developed from a tiny village to the beginnings of a growing town. Despite its small population until the mid-nineteenth century, Orpington had a rich history dating from the Roman period. It began to develop more into what the town appears as today, although much of the events of the twentieth century would truly form it.

The Irish Potato Famine: Genocide?

The Irish potato famine of 1845-1849 is often seen as a turning point in Irish history with many Irish historians referring to Irish history as pre-famine and post-famine. The famine killed almost 1 million and a further 2 million emigrated to escape the lack of food and lack of work. Not only did it led to a significant decrease of the population (estimated around 25%) but it has also been seen as a prominent factor in the desire for Irish independence. While it was a strain of Phytophthora infestans that caused the potato blight, destroying the crops that much of the Irish population relied on, the British government has often been held responsible for the horrific consequences that followed. Without a doubt, the British government was responsible for worsening the conditions of the famine, with their refusal to stop food exports and the slow move to repeal the Corn Laws which kept the price of bread artificially high. This left many Irish people to starve despite the fact there was food being produced in the country and surplus food was leaving the country. With the fall of Peel’s Conservative government, the new Whig Government’s laissez-faire policies worsened the situation; limiting food relief and scrapping work programs in favour for far more limited work programs and placing strict and often unworkable rules on food relief. But can these actions actually be labelled as a case of genocide against the Irish people?

The major issue with labelling the Irish potato famine genocide is dependent on the definition of the term genocide. Definitions of genocide are another debate entirely. The UN definition is as follows:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

The British government did not directly kill Irish citizens nor were there direct attempts at preventing births or forcing Irish children away from their families. However types of acts b and c are more complicated. The British government did not cause the famine; therefore it is arguable that they did not cause either harm or inflict conditions of life to destroy the population. However the lack of aid and the commandeering of Irish resources (the lack of land in Irish hands which caused many to lose their homes when they became unable to pay their rent and also resources produced by the Irish such as corn which continued to be exported) could be seen as acts of both b and c.

The other issue with this definition, and many other definitions, is that of intent. Did the British government actually intend to destroy the Irish? There certainly is no clear evidence, such as with the Holocaust, that there was an actual intention to fully wipe out the Irish population. Cormac Ó Gráda has argued that because of this it was not genocide but neglect. However the British government must have known such actions could, if not would (as they did), cause starvation, poverty, disease and death. Therefore it could be argued that the British government’s actions can be seen as intent.

The genocide question will always be hard to determine unless clearer parameters are set over the definition of genocide, as currently the focus is heavily on that of intent. Regardless of whether the Irish Potato famine was genocide or not, the role of the British government in the outcome of the famine did cost far more lives than the famine would have alone.

Winchester’s Forgotten Train Station

The city of Winchester has a very rich history full of changes. As you know we have done a walk-about of Winchester, exploring its development through different centuries. Well, I thought I hadn’t talked about lovely Winchester much for a while and I remembered I spent a few hours at the records office (a few years back) investigating some of the cities properties for a university assignment. To my surprise, here I found that for being such a quaint little town, once we actually had two train stations! This was in the area nowadays occupied by the Chesil Street multi-storey car park. The reason why I would like to share this story with you is because I think it represents the changes that many British cities suffered since the industrial revolution. Moreover, it shows how crucial rail networks were, and how this kept the country going in more than one ways. So, for you only, here I present you Winchester’s forgotten train station.

One of the first evidence that are found about this station is that in Bridge Street there was a place called Railway Coffee Tavern, named after the opening of the station in 1885. The company Didcot and Newbury was then involved in the project of establishing rail connections in the south of England. Winchester was chosen as a stop in their line due to its history. Didcot and Newbury made a deal with another company to proceed with the project, and found a partner in the Great Western Railway. With their support the trains could run to Shawford and link with Southampton. Nonetheless, things did not go particularly well for this little enterprise. There was a strong rivalry between the G.W.R and the South Railway, therefore they had to swap trains and locomotives before arriving the station.

Nevertheless, the line did well, and in fact played a crucial role in the transport of military troops. The book Winchester Voices records the memories of Austin Laverty who remembered seen the men coming from the Boer Wars using the line that stopped in Chesil’s station. During the Great War, the train line experienced higher transit as a larger number of soldiers needed to be dispatched. However, this service stated to fall into decay with the nationalisation of British railways, which impacted negatively the businesses of the G.W.R. Cancellations of daytime services started to become something common until March 1960 when the station closed to the public. Eventually it would be used for minor services, especially in summers to help reducing the congestion of the diesel service of the Southampton line. After its definitive closure in 1968, the order of demolition was declared in 1972.

But what this shows to us about Winchester, the fluctuation of the economy and, in general, what was happening in Hampshire and the country? I believe the Old Chesil Station is a product of the Victorian revival, not only of the country as a whole, but particularly of Winchester as the city had been run down, pretty much since the English Civil War. There was a big growth in population and a period of prosperity. The railway was spreading quickly everywhere; tourism increased, and as Winchester was such an attractive place for tourists due to its history, there was a need for better connection with different places.  Even the decadence of the railway is giving valuable information of economic development and competition amongst similar business such as the G.WR and the South Railway.  And, almost in a poetic way, I think the decline of this line, and the decrease of train usage in general, links in with the current use of this plot of land: a car park necessary for the current preferred method of transport.

So, I hope you have enjoyed exploring this often forgotten site of Winchester, and that next time you see a car park, you think to yourself: “it’s likely that, underneath that structure there are the forgotten bones of an English king…or perhaps an old railway station”


P.S: If you are desperate to know more about local railways, check some of the works that helped me with my research:

Robertson, K., The Railways of Winchester (1988).

Oppitz, L., Lost Railways of Hampshire (2001).

W/G1/1223 (Contract for demolition of Chesil Station, Cowdrey Lodge Hotel, Gladstone Arms, 1-17 Gladstone Street, Winchester; letter only) – archived at the Hampshire Record Office

or check https://davidturnerrailway.wordpress.com/ – David Turner is great, he knows loads about trains, and posts some very interesting things in his blog and twitter account –  we know this because we have been reading his stuff since 2010!!

Angel in the castle? Queen Victoria and female sexuality in the nineteenth century.

‘How repressed were the Victorians?’ asks a recent article for The British Library. Writing a convincing case for a reassessment of Victorian sexuality, Dr Holly Furneaux challenges our assumptions about Victorian attitudes to sex, while considering the many ways in which theorists such as Michel Foucault have provided ‘new ways of understanding sex and sexuality in the period.’

‘Not so long ago,’ writes Furneaux in her fascinating article for The British Library, ‘it might have come as a surprise to see Queen Victoria described as “Britain’s sexiest Royal,”’ (quote taken from an Empire review of The Young Victoria). However, ‘Now,’ she suggests, ‘It seems we no longer only think of “straitlaced patriarchs making their wives and children miserable […], whaleboned women shrouding the piano legs for decency’s sake, then lying back and thinking of England.”’ (Matthew Sweet, ix). She goes on to write that such stereotypes of high prudery were famously critiqued by Michel Foucault as the ‘repressive hypothesis: the idea that Victorians could not mention sex.’ Foucault points out that, far from being silenced, sex was discussed everywhere in the 19th century in a wide range of contexts. Including, though not limited to, the law, medicine, religion, and education. Furneaux also goes on to write that ‘Much academic and popular work since has considered the many ways in which Victorians did experience and speak of desire.’

Queen Victoria herself, for instance, is known to have doted on her ‘dearest Albert’s’ physical perfections in her journal:

 ‘11th October, 1839

Albert really is quite charming, and so excessively handsome, such beautiful blue eyes, an exquisite nose, and such a pretty mouth with delicate moustachios and slight but very slight whiskers; a beautiful figure, broad in the shoulders and a fine waist.’

Angel in the Castle?: Queen Victoria and the 'quite charming' Prince Albert, 1854.
Angel in the Castle? Queen Victoria and the ‘quite charming’ Prince Albert, 1854.

‘Victoria’s frank expression of her desire cuts across another received view of the period;’ writes Furneaux, ‘that the enjoyment of sex was an exclusively male prerogative.’ One proponent of such a belief was William Acton, a gynaecological doctor. He wrote in his The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1857) that ‘The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled by sexual feelings of any king.’ Though Furneaux writes that Acton’s beliefs were so extreme that they ‘cannot be taken as representative,’ she acknowledges that similar views are ‘Almost certainly discernible in the virginal ideal of the “Angel in the House,” a term inaugurated by Coventry Patmore in his 1854 poem of that name.’ The poem which laid out the model of the domestic goddess, who apparently retained her chastity even as a wife and mother. Paraphrasing John Ruskin, Furneaux writes that ‘In her purity and capacity for “sweet ordering” […] the angel in the house was to sanctify the home as a refuge for her menfolk from the trouble of public life.’

The Male Gaze: A man pretends to be reading as a woman looks for books. Image taken from The Exquisite.

Furthermore, Furneaux poses that ‘Gendered ideals of the sexual purity of the respectable woman, though never unchallenged, helped to enshrine a sexual double-standard.’ She believes that this ‘double-standard’ is all too apparent in the legislation of the time, with the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 infamous for having set in law that women could only be divorced on the grounds of their adultery alone. In contrast, it had to be proved that men had ‘exacerbated adultery with other offences.’  Similarly, Furneaux offers the further example of the Contagious Diseases Act of the 1860s. The act has become somewhat notorious as it aimed to deal with the rife spread of sexually transmitted infections through the forcible medical examination of female prostitutes in garrison towns, yet made no suggestion of examining the male sufferers.

Furneaux also explores the cultural fascination with the opposite of the ‘angel in the house’, the ‘fallen woman.’ In the Victorian era, this was a broad term, which encompassed any woman who had, or appeared to have had, sexual experience outside of marriage, including adulteresses and prostitutes. The archetype of the ‘fallen woman’ appears as a common trope in so much Victorian literature and art. Furneaux writes that ‘Advice literature presented a woman’s “moral influence” as a result of her “natural and instinctive habits,” but then was forced to lay out these supposedly innate characteristics.’ She offers an example by Peter Gaskell, writing in 1833 that ‘Her love, her tenderness, her affectionate solicitude for his [her husband’s] comfort and enjoyment, her devotedness, her unwearyingly care.’ Furneaux responds, ‘All the energy that went into writing conduct books telling women how to behave shows that “proper” feminine behaviour was far from natural, and had to be taught.’

fallen woman
The Fallen Woman: A client is entertained in a brothel, 1849.

However, Furneaux believes that while recent work may have done a lot to complicate overly simplistic views of Victorian purity, ‘The idea of Victorian sexual repression lingers.’ She writes that this has ‘powerful roots’ in the prominently anti-Victorianist stance of Modernist writers, most notably Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf. Strachey, for instance, sought in Eminent Victorians (1918) to ‘liberate’ his generation from the ‘Perceived reticence and ignorance, especially in sexual matters, of their pre-Freudian fathers and grandfathers.’ While similarly, Steven Marcus’s The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth Century England (1966), he elaborates on the views of Strachey by presenting the Victorians as ‘Sexual hypocrites, maintaining a veneer of respectability over an underbelly of prostitution and pornography.’ Furneaux dismisses the views of Strachey and Marcus, instead adhering to the belief Foucault sets out in The History of Sexuality (1976). That is to say that ‘Far from silencing sex as a taboo subject, the Victorians inaugurated many of the discourses- legal, medical and sexological […] that allowed sex to become a legitimate subject for investigation and discussion.’

The Victorian period was, after all, a key moment in the history of sexuality. Furneaux writes that ‘It is the era in which the modern terminologies we use to structure the ways we think and talk about sexuality were invented.’ She examines the roles of sexologists during the fin de siècle, where pioneers such as Richard von Kraft-Ebind and Havelock Ellis analysed and categorised human sexuality. They created terms such as ‘homosexual,’ ‘heterosexual’ and ‘nymphomaniac.’ An advancement which Furneaux believes was ‘valuable to the history of female sexuality.’ This is not to say, however, that she views the Victorian era as being entirely tolerant towards female or hetero-divergent sexuality. Indeed, she goes to great pains to remark upon the limitations of accommodation; seen most clearly perhaps with the trials and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde in 1895. Furneaux also comments upon the lack of discussion regarding lesbian relationships in the Victorian era, and sides with literary scholar Terry Castle in her hostility to the suggestion that there were ‘No lesbians before 1900.’ Instead she acknowledges that while the Victorian era was tolerant of female sexuality in many ways, arguably more so than is often thought, there were undoubtedly limitations to this tolerance, limitations which are most visible in Victorian interactions with the Other- whether queer, sex worker or another form of ‘fallen woman.’

Dr Holly Furneaux’s article on gender and sexuality in the Victorian era may be read in full here. Further articles by this author may be found here.

The Basingstoke Riots- Did the Salvation Army go too far! 

As part of my dissertation research into the football in Basingstoke in the late nineteenth century, I look at an event which perhaps has gone massively unnoticed in the modern era, but shook the walls of not only the Basingstoke local governance, but a problem for parliament as well.

An image of the old Basingstoke Town Hall in 1841

Basingstoke for those of you that do not know, is a town 19 miles from Basingstoke, but unlike its town brother, has nowhere near as much history. The Basingstoke market was mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086, but other than that people never state Basingstoke of being a historic place of interest. So how did such a quiet town, go to making headlines in London such as: “About midway between London and Salisbury there is a benighted little town which appears to be inhabited chiefly by a race of barbarians. Can nothing be done for Barbarous Basingstoke?”  (The [London evening] Echo, 15 March 1882) People must have been wondering whether this was The Basingstoke that they were talking about, the one which was only famous for burying a woman, Mrs Bluden, alive twice.

Image of some of the damage of the Massaganians

Basingstoke to the outside world was a town of drunks, with many breweries within the town having a lot of public houses, 50 to be precise. So in 1880 when General Booth, leader of the Salvation Army, ordered in two female officers to sort out the town, who knew the true impact this would have upon the market town. What followed would be disruption for over three years, with the Salvation Army not being welcomed with open arms. The Massagainians, led by the breweries were not so welcoming to the Salvation Army, not accepting the terms of the Salvation Army.

William Booth, leader of the Salvation Army

What followed over the next three years was a series of demonstrations and riots, with the Massaganians doing everything in their power to disrupt these demonstrations; demonstrations from the Salvation Army trying to spread the “word of god”, trying to “cure” the men who had been drinking, and trying to impose a lot of rule upon the people of Basingstoke. As shown earlier, stones were thrown, and in the picture there was damage to the Gazette building, which posted a lot of support for the army. It is no surprise that alcohol was the reasoning behind such actions, with the man who smashed the Gazette building benefiting from a supply of the liquid gold. But through December 1880, it would only be drunken antics which caused rioting amongst the Army corps. Then again, who can blame them for fighting back against the army. Who were they to decide that God’s will was to be their true purpose, that they would act against the drunkards of Basingstoke. Only a small number of the people of Basingstoke respected the army, and near the end of the rioting a lot thought they had outstayed their welcome.

A Pint of Ale, the Reward for the Massagainians, and the reasoning behind the rioting

The worst of the Massaganian attacks upon the Salvation Army came on the Sunday 20th March 1881, when 200 of the dodgy characters in town gathered to harass the Army’s usual Sunday meeting, with numbers gathering to 1000. Though there was a police presence which headed the army, once the onlookers hurled stones, and the Salvation Army ranks had been broken, the police and the mayor- W.B. Blatch the brewer stood back and did nothing. It illustrates just how much of a negative feeling there was towards the Salvation Army, with the town full of brewers, a town that benefited from the brewing industry, did not appreciate the Salvation Army telling them what to do, trying to change the lift that was not so bad.

This march led to the police calling to the mayor to recruit more forces, with 100 extra cops recruited for when the Army marched again on the 27th March. However after this morning, a number of the constables turned up at town hall stating that they would no longer be supporting the hypocritical Army on their  next march. Later in the afternoon, the mayor would not allow the Army to leave their base at the Silk Mill, for fear that the 3000 odd protestors would ruin their march and the peace. This in turn led to the mayor reading the Riot Act, something that was extremely unheard of, and the Royal Horse Artillery, who were rather conveniently visiting at the same time were called in to clear the crowds.

A Group of the Royal Horse Artillery

On 30th August, 20 people appeared at the magistrates, charged with assault and abduction. This was just a small number compared to the people jailed/fined in the 3 year period between 1880 and 1883. After this set of people were charged, a number of the Massaganians had assembled outside the court, creating disruption and harassing a member of the magistrates, leading to 10 rioters jailed. However once these prisoners were released from Winchester, they were greeted to a heroes welcome, being paraded through the streets. It highlighted the fact that the Salvation Army had perhaps outstayed their welcome in Basingstoke. This is further emphasised by the fact that over the next few years, it was still mainly drunken antics that got the riots going, rather than a large number of people doing so. Though the army did stay, can we count their actions as a success? Only a few people were converted to Christianity, and though after a few changes both in the local government and calls from Parliament, there was no real big changes to enforce acts. So whether or not the Salvation Army’s motives can be classed as a success, then you cannot answer.


Chocolate and the Quakers: Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry

The nineteenth century saw the rise of the three famous cocoa refining companies: Cadbury; J. S. Fry & Sons and Rowntree. What were unique about these companies were their Quaker roots. All three were run during this period by Quaker families although by the twentieth century these companies moved out of Quaker control. So why did Quakers come to dominate the British cocoa industry?

Quakers, as Protestant dissenters, were a marginalised group up until the early nineteenth century, including being barred from universities. This meant that a highly educated and motivated group in society were left to pursue business. While a number of famous British companies such as Clarks and Barclays Bank were set up by Quakers, in the nineteenth century Quakers like other Protestant groups such as Salvationists, were concerned about the effects of alcohol abuse. Quakers were a leading group in the temperance movement and saw drinking cocoa as an alternative for alcohol. Cocoa was seen as a good substitute, as not only was it cheap but the requirement to boil water to make the drink meant that it was safer than drinking just water, therefore it was suitable for consumption from those from all social classes.

Fry was the first of the companies beginning chocolate production in 1759. By 1822 the company was the largest commercial producer of chocolate in Britain and had introduced several factory techniques to improve chocolate production. Fry was followed by Cadbury in 1824. After initial success including a royal warrant the company went into decline in the 1850s until Richard and George Cadbury took over in 1861 who turned the company profitable within three years by moving the company’s focus solely onto cocoa products rather than tea and coffee. In 1862 Rowntree was founded and the three Quaker companies began to coexist.

So why were the three companies so successful? Their Quaker roots certainly were a major factor as Quaker businesses were widely seen by the public as reliable and fair who were not out to rip off consumers with unfair prices like non-Quaker businesses. They were also seen as good employers who were socially conscious, again due to being Quakers. They provided decent working conditions, housing, healthcare and education for both staff and their families. Cadbury and Rowntree in particular pioneered socially conscious working conditions such as the five-day week, sick pay and pensions. These two companies are also particularly famous for their model villages built for their workers. Cadbury designed the famous Bournville village in Birmingham for their workers, with superior housing stock and facilities for their workers. Rowntree produced a similar village known as New Earswick in York. As Quakers the signature community pub however was missing in conjunction with Quaker views on alcohol.

However while these may seem morally enlightened, some aspects were outdated, such as the fact women were not allowed to continue working after marriage. Fry who did practise fair practices towards their workers were let down by their refusal to move from their cramped premises which meant that Fry’s employees worked and lived in worse conditions than their Cadbury and Rowntree counterparts.

By the early twentieth century Cadbury began to dominate. During the nineteenth century the three companies had managed to coexist in the market. For example Fry had produced the first chocolate Easter egg in 1873, which Cadbury followed in 1875. These Easter eggs were different from those produced today made out of a much more bitter dark chocolate and were hand decorated, which meant they were seen as a luxury item. However the creation and popularity of the brand’s staple Dairy Milk in 1905 propelled Cadbury to become the leader in the market while Fry’s and Rowntree’s attempts could not match up to the quality of Dairy Milk. Rowntree was let down by the belief of its owner Joseph Rowntree who mistakenly branded milk chocolate as a fad. Fry on the other hand was let down by its premises once again, which did not allow the transportation of fresh milk in the quantities needed for quality production, instead they used dried milk which led to an inferior product.
While Rowntree managed to maintain some level of competition with Cadbury, Fry was plagued by problems. They failed in advertising, which meant that Cadbury and Rowntree managed to gain more of their market share. The final blow was upon the death of Joseph Storrs Fry when the company fell into the hands of squabbling family members who would only communicate via letter. As a result Fry merged with Cadbury in 1919.

By the second half of the twentieth century both Cadbury and Rowntree had both moved on from their Quaker roots and were run in a more typically capitalist fashion, with Cadbury merging with Schweppes in 1969 and Rowntree taken over by Nestlé in 1988.
For British readers, especially, Cadbury and Rowntree are part of our daily life. We recognise and have purchased products bearing these brand names since childhood. In some respects they are a fundamental part and symbol of British life. While in their current capitalist itineration it is easy to forget their impact on British history. Firstly their impact on chocolate becoming such a valued and popular food in Britain and secondly how as companies they helped revolutionise working conditions in Britain, helping make their historical impact twofold.

Winchester in the 19th Century

While Winchester’s population grew dramatically in size during the 19th century, it also marked the decline that had gripped the city for the past several centuries. While the likes of London had soared past Winchester during the 12th and 13th centuries, its closest neighbour Southampton had not exceeded Winchester’s size. In 1801, both Winchester and Southampton had similar size populations, however by the 1851 census Southampton had four times the population of Winchester. Even though Southampton now dwarfed Winchester, it was because of the expansion of Southampton that Winchester had a significant population increase. Winchester Railway Station was built as a result of the line between Southampton and London in 1839, like many other cities during the 19th century the railway is seen as a major factor in population expansion. The expansion of railways also increased tourism to the city especially during the latter end of the century which can be seen in trade directories and newspapers from the time.

Of course this was not the only factor as Winchester’s population had seen a 45% increase between the 1801 and 1831 censuses. Enclosure Acts in 1780 and 1830, pushed rural poor around the city into the city limits as many saw the complete disappearance of common land and even further reliance on wage labour than in previous centuries. However because of the progress of the Industrial Revolution, there was simply not the demand for labour that there had been previously. Many were forced to leave agricultural labour.

Overall the censuses of Winchester over the 19th century show a steady increase in population. The 1801 census recorded 6019 residents. Twenty years later on the eve of a Cholera outbreak in the city, there was 9212 residents. By 1851 it was 12402. The 1871 census which has had a great deal of research done examining it showed the population had reached 17301. Near the eve of the end of the century the 1891 census recorded 19670 inhabitants.

The census of 1871 gives us an interesting look into what Winchester’s demographics were like in the 19th century. The two largest occupations in Winchester were soldiers and servants. The 46th Foot South Devonshire Regiment (consisting of 800 men) and the Hampshire militiamen (170 men) were stationed in Winchester on census night. It was thanks to the use of the barracks that the gender split in the city was somewhat equal with 98 men to 100 women. It was because of the other large occupation in Winchester, domestic workers, which gave Winchester such a large female population. Without the barracks the ratio would change to 87 men to 100 women. Servants made up the majority of women in Winchester, with 55% of women working in this role. Fewer than 5% of men on the other hand worked as servants. After servants and soldiers, teaching was the next largest occupation with 147 employed in the profession, followed by 94 who worked in a religious occupation. These four occupations give us an idea of what Winchester was like during the period. It had a strong military presence, and was a religious and education centre with its institutions and residents supported by a large number of servants. Not everyone worked however at the time of the census, patients within the hospital reached 90 on census night, while there were 160 people within the workhouse, 347 prisoners and 326 pupils at Winchester College which highlight how well used these institutions were. The place of birth of Winchester’s residents is also interesting, giving an insight into migration into the area. 44 people claimed to not know their birthplace. 67% of Winchester’s population had been born in Hampshire, 37% of these had been born in Winchester. 10% of Winchester’s residents had been born in the counties bordering Hampshire and 4% from London. 250 residents were born abroad, 120 of who were from India and the ‘East Indies’. Thanks to the barracks, 3% of residents were from Ireland.

While the heart of Winchester may still be very medieval, moving further out of the core of the city, several of Winchester’s landmarks on or near the Romsey Road were built during this period. The Royal Hampshire County Hospital was built by William Butterfield. It admitted its first 16 in-patients in 1868. A new prison was also built in 1849, admitting its first prisoners in 1850 via transfer from the existing prison in Jewry Street at the top of the High Street (The Governor’s House, part of the prison is now the local Wetherspoons Pub) along with other prisoners around Hampshire. The Winchester Training College (now the University of Winchester) was granted a new building on what is now part of the University of Winchester’s King Alfred campus (which is located behind the Royal Hampshire County Hospital) on land given by the Cathedral and the building was funded by public donations. This building still exists today and is now known as the Main Building on campus, housing mostly non-teaching services to students. The College had been set up originally in 1840 as the Winchester Diocesan Training School to train male elementary teachers. Its first premises had been on St Swithuns Street before moving to Bishops Palace at Wolvesey in 1847. Other Victorian buildings which now belong to the University of Winchester include Medecroft on Sparkford Road which was built in 1868 and used to be a private property but now houses the university’s history department. Part of the West Downs’ campus was also built in 1880 originally for the Winchester Modern School, but by 1897 the school was gone and taken over by Lionel Herbert who opened the West Downs School, a private prep school for boys which over the 20th century would go onto educate a large number of the aristocracy and the notorious fascist Oswald Mosley, until it closed in 1988.

One of Winchester’s most famous connections, and certainly what it is often most noted for during the 19th century is its connection with Jane Austen. The writer lived in Hampshire most of her life, during much of her career she lived in the village of Chawton, not far from Winchester. Austen went to Winchester to receive medical treatment and stayed at a house in College Street near Winchester College but she died in this house on the 18th July 1817. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral. However Austen was not the only writer who visited Winchester, the romantic poet John Keats wrote several of his poems in 1819 while visiting the city.

Winchester during the 19th century was never going to reach the heights of significance it had enjoyed during the Middle Ages, in fact this century confirmed its fall as other cities such as Southampton overtook it in importance thanks to the Industrial Revolution. However that does not mean it was not an interesting time for the city. Much of what Winchester is today began in the 19th century. Institutions such as the hospital, the university and the prison are major parts of the city. The construction of the railway has led to Winchester becoming a home to commuters to London and elsewhere in the South, invigorating the suburbs that sprung up around Winchester during the 19th century. While Winchester may no longer be home to the significant military presence it once did, the Peninsula Barracks (while not built during the 19th century) now house 5 military museums. And of course Jane Austen’s connection to Winchester is still well remembered by local residents and visitors today.


James ,T.B., Winchester: From Prehistory to the Present (Gloucestershire, 2007).

Rutter, A., Winchester: Heart of a City (Winchester, 2009).

‘Our History’, The University of Winchester, 4th August 2014, http://www.winchester.ac.uk/aboutus/Pages/Ourhistory.aspx

‘A Brief History of West Downs School, Winchester’, The Old West Downs Society, 18th October 2010, http://www.westdowns.com/owd_schl.htm

‘Winchester Prison’, Weeke Local History, 29th June 2011, http://www.weekehistory.co.uk/weeke/other/prison.htm

Edward Oxford, the man who almost killed Queen Victoria

As Britain longest reigning monarch, who would have thought that Queen Victoria’s life could have been ended so early in her reign in 1840? Only three years before had she been announced Queen on the turn of her eighteenth birthday, freeing herself from the control of her Controller of her household Sir John Conway. However one event in 1840 brought the prospect of an early death to Queen Victoria as this was the year that the first of eight assassination attempts was put on her life.

The assassination attempt that I am going to look at in this blog update is the attempt by Edward Oxford (later known as John Freeman) conducted on 10 June 1840. The main focus of this update is to look at the man at the centre of the event, Edward Oxford and understand why he did it and what happened next.

Edward came from a family where there were problems in the family dynamic. Born in 1822, Edward was born in Birmingham and was the third of seven children. His mother was Hannah Marklew, a daughter of a respectable family from the Midlands, whilst his father George Oxford was from less known roots. George Oxford was employed as a gold-chaser, one of the best according to the sources and in 1818 married Hannah. The issue was that he convinced Hannah to marry him by saying that he would shoot himself if she didn’t. They married in secret and had their first child soon after. However, like his father John, George was prone to fits of anger and spent the family’s money whenever he wanted including a four-month trip to Dublin where he wasted his money in pubs. Edwards father died in 1829, leaving Edward in the care of his maternal grandfather, though he was back with his mother soon enough. He moved about a lot during his childhood, often changing schools in succession as teachers grew more frustrated with his behaviour. It was also at this point that he began displaying the same mood swings as his father and grandfather, particularly in regard to his attitude towards life. Some historians have commented that this attitude and his belief that people saw him as less than others contributed to him attempting to assassinate the Queen. One possible reason for the attempt is believed to be to so that he could gain attention for himself, which he certainly did, and to become a person whom society would remember.

The attempt on Victoria’s life ended as soon as it began. Edward fired two shots, both which missed the Queen and Prince Albert whilst they were travelling through Constitution Hill near Hyde Park and had been disarmed immediately, surrendering to the police to face the consequence of his actions. After multiple interviews, while also uncovering his place in a secret society called the ‘Young England’, Edward was to be tried under the Treason Act of 1351. His trial was set for 9 July 1840 with Edwards’s defence being led by Mr Sydney Taylor with the aim of defeating the treason charge. After much deliberation and witness interviewing, the jury found Edward not guilty on the grounds of insanity. On 18 July Edward was moved from Newgate Gaol to Bethlem Hospital in Southwark and secured in the criminally insane wing, which at the time had around 400 inmates. Whilst the conditions were poor by today’s standards, Edward quickly understood his environment and set out to make the most of it. He took opportunities to learn new languages and skills that would serve him well in his later life. However, when the criminal wing in Bethlem was closed in 1864 Edward was moved to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in Berkshire.

The next stage of his life began three years later when Edward was released on the condition that he never return to England and live out the rest of his days in the colonies. Arriving in Melbourne, Australia in February 1868, Edward changed his name to John Freeman and quickly set about making a new life for himself. Using the skills learnt at Bethlem, Edward began as a house painter though shortly rose within the ranks of society taking every new opportunity for better jobs and meeting in the process many important friends. Edward married a young woman in 1881, Miss Jane Bowen and together they lived in multiple classy homes in some of the best areas of Melbourne. During this time Edwards learning skills also improved and as a result of this, his wrote a book Lights and Shadows of Melbourne Life in 1888. John Freeman died in 1900 at the age of 78, with no one the wiser as to whom he really was and what he had almost done.

To summarise, Edward Oxford’s attempt on Queen Victoria’s life was to first of many assassination attempt and like the rest failed to kill the monarch. Barrie Charles concludes that Edward was a genius in the way that he managed to cleverly do the things he did and survive to live a relatively good life in Australia. I think that though Edwards’s upbringing certainly played a part in the affair, it seems that Edward knew what he was doing and knew the consequences for himself had he succeeded.


Barrie Charles., Kill the Queen!, The Eight Assassination Attempts on Queen Victoria (2012)
Antonia Fraser., The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England (2000).