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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged 17th century:

Guy Fawkes’ Post-Torture Signature

Guy Fawkes, or Guido Fawkes, was a member of a group of English Catholics who plotted to blow up parliament and kill the King in 1605. Fawkes was charged with the job of lighting the gunpowder the group had secretly stored in the cellars below parliament. I made a more detailed post on this last year and, conscious of repeating myself, I thought I’d dedicate this year’s post the Fawkes’ torture specifically.

After being apprehended by guards who had been previously tipped-off about the plot, Fawkes was first interrogated but, as he remained defiant and refused to give the names of his co-conspirators, the King ordered that he should be tortured. Fawkes was transferred to the Tower of London where a confession was eventually pulled from him through various means of torture. The King dictated that these tortures should begin with the most ‘gentle’, perhaps manacling the prisoner, and by degrees get worse, for example the rack.

It is unknown precisely what methods of torture Fawkes was subjected to, however, the worsening state of the signatures obtained on his confessions (images 2 and 3, which were written a day apart. Image 1 is an example of Fawkes’ signature before torture) suggest the horrors he endured. Fawkes made his third and final confession on the 9th November, three days after his capture. Fawkes was executed for high treason. He was dragged behind a horse and carriage before being hung, drawn and quartered. His body parts were then distributed to the four corners of the kingdom to be displayed as a warning to others.

[Sources: Wikipedia]

Dummy Boards

Dummy boards were life-sized wooden cut outs painted to resemble various figures found in upper-class homes between the 17th and 19th centuries. They would be stood in the corner of rooms and on darkened stairways to surprise unsuspecting guests.

[Sources: Images: 1-3 and 6, 4, 5, | V&A]

Entertainment at Bedlam

you find yourself in a long and wide gallery, on either side of which are a large number of little cells where lunatics of every description are shut up, and you can get a sight of these poor creatures, little windows being let into the doors … On the second floor is a corridor [and] this is the part reserved for dangerous maniacs, most of them being chained and terrible to behold. On holidays numerous persons of both sexes … visit this hospital and amuse themselves watching these unfortunate wretches, who often give them cause for laughter. - Saussure’s account of Bethlem during his 1725 tour of London.

Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, also known as Bedlam, is Europe’s oldest institution for the treatment of the mentally ill. Currently an NHS run hospital the facility has become synonymous with ‘the worse excesses of asylums in the era of lunacy reform’, and a major contributing factor to this legacy is the hospital’s visiting policies during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Visits by friends and relatives were allowed, however Bethlem is famous for having also allowed, for a small ‘donation’, members of the public access to the wards to have a good old gawp at the patients within. Records suggest that as early as 1610 Lord Percy paid 10 shillings to have a look around, then, following the relocation of the hospital around 1681, the governors observed a noticeable increase in the ‘quantity of persons that come daily to see the said Lunatickes’. The hospital became an especially popular attraction during public holidays with ‘one hundred people at least’ visiting during one Easter week during the mid-18th century. The governors attracted the wealthy and well-bred particularly and would present the most sorry patients to them in an attempt to procure handsome donations, though it is likely that most of these donations found their way into the hands of staff.
The spectacle also provided a kind of moral instruction to visitors who could see first-hand the supposed outcome of giving in to one’s vices, as one mid-18th century commentator wrote: ‘[there is no] better lesson [to] be taught us in any part of the globe than in this school of misery. Here we may see the mighty reasoners of the earth, below even the insects that crawl upon it; and from so humbling a sight we may … to keep those passions within bounds, which if too much indulged, would drive reason from her seat’.
Ultimately, however, Bethlem served merely as entertainment similar to that of the Victorian freakshow. Alongside other popular London attractions, Bethlem became a must-see feature on the tourist trail.
[Sources: Image: William Hogarth’s ‘The Madhouse’ from A Rake’s Progress, 1733 | Bethlem Royal Hospital]

Entertainment at Bedlam

you find yourself in a long and wide gallery, on either side of which are a large number of little cells where lunatics of every description are shut up, and you can get a sight of these poor creatures, little windows being let into the doors … On the second floor is a corridor [and] this is the part reserved for dangerous maniacs, most of them being chained and terrible to behold. On holidays numerous persons of both sexes … visit this hospital and amuse themselves watching these unfortunate wretches, who often give them cause for laughter.Saussure’s account of Bethlem during his 1725 tour of London.

Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, also known as Bedlam, is Europe’s oldest institution for the treatment of the mentally ill. Currently an NHS run hospital the facility has become synonymous with ‘the worse excesses of asylums in the era of lunacy reform’, and a major contributing factor to this legacy is the hospital’s visiting policies during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Visits by friends and relatives were allowed, however Bethlem is famous for having also allowed, for a small ‘donation’, members of the public access to the wards to have a good old gawp at the patients within. Records suggest that as early as 1610 Lord Percy paid 10 shillings to have a look around, then, following the relocation of the hospital around 1681, the governors observed a noticeable increase in the ‘quantity of persons that come daily to see the said Lunatickes’. The hospital became an especially popular attraction during public holidays with ‘one hundred people at least’ visiting during one Easter week during the mid-18th century. The governors attracted the wealthy and well-bred particularly and would present the most sorry patients to them in an attempt to procure handsome donations, though it is likely that most of these donations found their way into the hands of staff.

The spectacle also provided a kind of moral instruction to visitors who could see first-hand the supposed outcome of giving in to one’s vices, as one mid-18th century commentator wrote: ‘[there is no] better lesson [to] be taught us in any part of the globe than in this school of misery. Here we may see the mighty reasoners of the earth, below even the insects that crawl upon it; and from so humbling a sight we may … to keep those passions within bounds, which if too much indulged, would drive reason from her seat’.

Ultimately, however, Bethlem served merely as entertainment similar to that of the Victorian freakshow. Alongside other popular London attractions, Bethlem became a must-see feature on the tourist trail.

[Sources: Image: William Hogarth’s ‘The Madhouse’ from A Rake’s Progress, 1733 | Bethlem Royal Hospital]

The Witchfinder General
In 1644 a witch-hunter by the name of Matthew Hopkins bestowed upon himself the title of Witchfinder General. Over a three year period he was responsible for the deaths by hanging of 300 people accused of witchcraft, more than had been hanged for the crime in England in the previous 100 years. 
Accompanied by an associate, John Stearne, and a group of women who performed the pricking, Hopkins’ terrorised the East of England, falsely claiming to have been commissioned by parliament. Hopkins was paid a large sum of ‘twenty shillings a town’, though records from Stowmarket suggest the town was forced to scrape together the equivalent of £6600 in today’s money and Ipswich had to increase the local tax rate to pay him.
Hopkins employed dirty tactics to win confessions. He would often deprive his victims of sleep; cut them with a blunt knife and if they did not bleed they were a witch; tie them to chairs and throw them into water, if they floated they were a witch, if they sank they weren’t but would inevitably drown anyway; he would also look for the Devil’s Mark on their skin. 
Hopkins died in 1647 having acquired something of a negative reputation.
[Sources: Image | Wikipedia]

The Witchfinder General

In 1644 a witch-hunter by the name of Matthew Hopkins bestowed upon himself the title of Witchfinder General. Over a three year period he was responsible for the deaths by hanging of 300 people accused of witchcraft, more than had been hanged for the crime in England in the previous 100 years. 

Accompanied by an associate, John Stearne, and a group of women who performed the pricking, Hopkins’ terrorised the East of England, falsely claiming to have been commissioned by parliament. Hopkins was paid a large sum of ‘twenty shillings a town’, though records from Stowmarket suggest the town was forced to scrape together the equivalent of £6600 in today’s money and Ipswich had to increase the local tax rate to pay him.

Hopkins employed dirty tactics to win confessions. He would often deprive his victims of sleep; cut them with a blunt knife and if they did not bleed they were a witch; tie them to chairs and throw them into water, if they floated they were a witch, if they sank they weren’t but would inevitably drown anyway; he would also look for the Devil’s Mark on their skin. 

Hopkins died in 1647 having acquired something of a negative reputation.

[Sources: Image | Wikipedia]

Witch Pricking
Witch Pricking was an activity rife at the height of the witch trials in the 16th and 17th century. It was believed that all witches carried the Devil’s Mark, a permanent mark left by the Devil on his initiates skin. Such marks could be used as evidence at witch trials but moles and birthmarks were often mistaken for the Devil’s Mark and, in the absence of such marks, Pricking would be used to create one. 
It was also believed that witches would neither bleed nor feel pain when pricked. Specially adapted Pricking devices have been left over from the time of the trials. Some of these had hollow handles so that that the blade would retract into the empty space when pressed against the victim’s flesh. This would give the impression that they had been stabbed without feeling pain. Others have been found with both a sharp end and a blunt end: the sharp end would be demonstrated first, drawing blood and causing pain, and then, through slight of hand, the blunt end would be used on the ‘witch’ to apparently prove that they felt no pain and did not bleed when cut.
[Source]

Witch Pricking

Witch Pricking was an activity rife at the height of the witch trials in the 16th and 17th century. It was believed that all witches carried the Devil’s Mark, a permanent mark left by the Devil on his initiates skin. Such marks could be used as evidence at witch trials but moles and birthmarks were often mistaken for the Devil’s Mark and, in the absence of such marks, Pricking would be used to create one.

It was also believed that witches would neither bleed nor feel pain when pricked. Specially adapted Pricking devices have been left over from the time of the trials. Some of these had hollow handles so that that the blade would retract into the empty space when pressed against the victim’s flesh. This would give the impression that they had been stabbed without feeling pain. Others have been found with both a sharp end and a blunt end: the sharp end would be demonstrated first, drawing blood and causing pain, and then, through slight of hand, the blunt end would be used on the ‘witch’ to apparently prove that they felt no pain and did not bleed when cut.

[Source]

The Mistress of the Fairy King
Karin Svensdotter was a 17th century Swedish woman who claimed to have had seven children by a man who identified himself to her as The King of the Fairies. According to Svensdotter, she had met the most beautiful man clad in golden clothes and they had danced an sung together on a mountain called Green Hill. He presented her with various gifts and then had intercourse with her. Svensdotter was adamant that she had given birth during some of the attacks and fits to which she was prone, and each time the child had been taken away to the land of the fairies. In court her employer testified that they had heard Svensdotter roaming the woods, searching for her fairy children.
In the 17th century the existence of mythical creatures was acknowledged as fact, and cavorting with them was seen as a grave crime, however, there was some debate amongst authorities as to how to deal with Svensdotter’s case. There were no laws against having sexual relationships with mythical creatures, however, those purporting to have engaged in such an act might be prosecuted for bestiality as the creatures were considered non-human. Indeed, there were two previous cases of men having confessed to having had sex with various types of elemental nymphs and had been sentenced to death.
Fortunately, Svensdotter was diagnosed as insane and her congregation were ordered to pray for her recovery, whilst her family gave her a silver cross for protection. Svensdotter received no more visits from the Fairy King.
[Sources: Image: “The Arrival of the King and Queen of the Fairies” | Wikipedia]

The Mistress of the Fairy King

Karin Svensdotter was a 17th century Swedish woman who claimed to have had seven children by a man who identified himself to her as The King of the Fairies. According to Svensdotter, she had met the most beautiful man clad in golden clothes and they had danced an sung together on a mountain called Green Hill. He presented her with various gifts and then had intercourse with her. Svensdotter was adamant that she had given birth during some of the attacks and fits to which she was prone, and each time the child had been taken away to the land of the fairies. In court her employer testified that they had heard Svensdotter roaming the woods, searching for her fairy children.

In the 17th century the existence of mythical creatures was acknowledged as fact, and cavorting with them was seen as a grave crime, however, there was some debate amongst authorities as to how to deal with Svensdotter’s case. There were no laws against having sexual relationships with mythical creatures, however, those purporting to have engaged in such an act might be prosecuted for bestiality as the creatures were considered non-human. Indeed, there were two previous cases of men having confessed to having had sex with various types of elemental nymphs and had been sentenced to death.

Fortunately, Svensdotter was diagnosed as insane and her congregation were ordered to pray for her recovery, whilst her family gave her a silver cross for protection. Svensdotter received no more visits from the Fairy King.

[Sources: Image: “The Arrival of the King and Queen of the Fairies” | Wikipedia]

Royalist Army Deserter Hand Brand

Branding tools were sometimes used to permanently stamp or tattoo army deserters or criminals. This hand-shaped example was made by the British Army during the English Civil War (1641-1651). The branding tool bears the initials ‘CR’ surrounding a crown. This is presumed to refer to ‘Carolus Rex’ - King Charles I. He was beheaded in 1649 for treason, after which England briefly became a republic after a decade of civil war.
This tool would have been used to mark ‘ownership’ of Royalist army deserters. The metal spikes on the hand are blunt. Perhaps they are dulled through use or perhaps it is deliberate to inflict more pain. However, they were likely heated first to burn the imprint in. Branding was abolished in 1829 with the exception of army deserters. The mark was then tattooed on the body, not branded with irons. The practice was totally abandoned in 1879.
[Sources: Science Museum | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things (Facebook)]

Royalist Army Deserter Hand Brand

Branding tools were sometimes used to permanently stamp or tattoo army deserters or criminals. This hand-shaped example was made by the British Army during the English Civil War (1641-1651). The branding tool bears the initials ‘CR’ surrounding a crown. This is presumed to refer to ‘Carolus Rex’ - King Charles I. He was beheaded in 1649 for treason, after which England briefly became a republic after a decade of civil war.

This tool would have been used to mark ‘ownership’ of Royalist army deserters. The metal spikes on the hand are blunt. Perhaps they are dulled through use or perhaps it is deliberate to inflict more pain. However, they were likely heated first to burn the imprint in. Branding was abolished in 1829 with the exception of army deserters. The mark was then tattooed on the body, not branded with irons. The practice was totally abandoned in 1879.

[Sources: Science Museum | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things (Facebook)]

Burying in Woollen Acts
Following a decline in the wool industry, c.1660s, the English government, in a bid to boost sales, made it law that the dead be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of all other textiles.
As the document above shows, an oath had to be made by a member of the deceased’s family confirming that the ‘lately deceased, was not put in, wrapt, or wound up, or buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud, made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or other than what is made of sheep’s wool’. The same went for the lining of the coffin.
The legislation was in force until the 1810s, however, it went mostly ignored after 1770 by people who could afford to pay the £5 fine for noncompliance.
[Sources: Burying in the Woollen Acts | Needleprint Blogspot]

Burying in Woollen Acts

Following a decline in the wool industry, c.1660s, the English government, in a bid to boost sales, made it law that the dead be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of all other textiles.

As the document above shows, an oath had to be made by a member of the deceased’s family confirming that the ‘lately deceased, was not put in, wrapt, or wound up, or buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud, made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or other than what is made of sheep’s wool’. The same went for the lining of the coffin.

The legislation was in force until the 1810s, however, it went mostly ignored after 1770 by people who could afford to pay the £5 fine for noncompliance.

[Sources: Burying in the Woollen Acts | Needleprint Blogspot]

Plague Village

In order to satisfy our morbid curiosity my friend and I visited Eyam plague village today. It has quite a fascinating story:

Eyam is a small village in DerbyshireEngland, also know as the “plague village” which chose to completely isolate itself when the plague was discovered there in 1665.

The plague was brought to the village in a flea-infested bundle of cloth delivered from London to the tailor, George Viccars. Within a week, he was dead. Within two months 28 others also died. It was suggested that the villagers flee to the nearby city of Sheffield, however the rector, Rev. Mompesson, feared that they would spread the disease to the North of England which had, for the most part, escaped the plague.

Instead, the village decided to cut themselves off completely from the outside world, introducing a number of precautions to prevent the spread of illness, for instance, people were to bury their own dead and church services were moved from the local church to field area called Cucklett Delph, which meant villagers could separate themselves.

The village was supplied with food by [outsiders]. People brought supplies and left them at the [boundary stone] that marked the start of Eyam. The villagers left money in a water trough filled with vinegar to steralise the coins … In this way, Eyam was not left to starve to death [and] Those who supplied the food did not come into contact with the villagers.

The plague raged in the village for 14 months and when the first outsiders visited Eyam a year later, they found that around a quarter of the village had survived the plague. The church in Eyam has a record of 273 individuals who were victims of the plague.

Images: [1-3 are my own] 1: Plague Cottages: This was where the plague began, the righthand cottage was where the tailor, Viccars, lived. 2: The Riley Graves: Situated in a field just outside Eyam (in order to prevent the spread of infection) these are the graves of the Hancock family. Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children within eight days of one another but survived the plague herself. 3: Shows what is inside the walls in image two. 4: [Source] The boundary stone where food was left for the villagers.

Thomas Blood and a Plot to Pilfer the Crown Jewels
As a Roundhead, Thomas Blood was inevitably keen to demonstrate his displeasure following the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, and, it was with a desire to express this discontentment that, in 1671, he plotted to pilfer the Crown Jewels from The Tower of London.

The Jewels could be viewed at the tower and it was under this pretence that Blood, dressed as a parson and accompanied by a woman pretending to be his wife, first observed them. Here, Blood’s “wife” feigned a stomach complaint and begged the Master of the Jewel House, Talbot Edwards, to fetch some spirits. Edwards’ wife invited them upstairs to their apartment to recover. Returning later with a gift of thanks, Blood became gradually ingratiated into the family and eventually an offer was made for a fictitious nephew of Blood’s to marry the Edwardses’ daughter.

On May 9th, Blood convinced Edwards to show him, his ‘nephew’, and two companions, the Jewels. Concealing rapier blades and pistols Blood and two fellow conspirators followed Edwards into the Jewel House, where the Jewels were kept behind a metal grille, whilst the other conspirator stood watch outside. As they entered the room a cloak was thrown over Edwards before he was struck, knocked to the floor, bound, gagged and stabbed, in an attempt to subdue him.

After removing the metal grille, Blood used a mallet to flatten out St. Edward’s Crown so he could hide it beneath his coat. The Sceptre with the Cross was cut in two to fit in their bag, while the Sovereign’s Orb was stuffed down one man’s trousers. Possibly, the disturbance caused by Edwards’ struggle raised the alarm, however, popular reports describe the fortuitous return of Edwards’ son, Wythe, who happened upon the theft and confronted the look-out, who alerted his fellow conspirators to their having been discovered. Ungagged, Edwards was able to sound the alarm with his cries of “Treason! Murder! The crown is stolen!”

As Blood and his gang fled it is said they joined the calls for alarm to confuse the guards. They dropped the sceptre and fired on the warders who eventually succeeded in capturing them. Having fallen from his cloak, the crown was found while Blood refused to give up. The orb was recovered, although several stones were missing and others were loose.

Blood refused to answer to anyone but the king so was taken to the palace, bound in chains, and questioned by King Charles and other members of the royal family. He was not only pardoned, but also given land. The reasons for the pardon are unknown though historians have speculated that the king may have feared a revengeful uprising by Blood’s followers, or that the king had a fondness for audacious scoundrels and was amused by Blood’s revelation that he had previously intended to kill the king as he bathed in the Thames but had changed his mind having found himself in “awe of majesty”. Following his pardon Blood became a familiar figure in London and made frequent appearances at Court, where he was employed to advocate in the claims of suitors to the Crown.

Thomas Blood and a Plot to Pilfer the Crown Jewels

As a Roundhead, Thomas Blood was inevitably keen to demonstrate his displeasure following the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, and, it was with a desire to express this discontentment that, in 1671, he plotted to pilfer the Crown Jewels from The Tower of London.

The Jewels could be viewed at the tower and it was under this pretence that Blood, dressed as a parson and accompanied by a woman pretending to be his wife, first observed them. Here, Blood’s “wife” feigned a stomach complaint and begged the Master of the Jewel House, Talbot Edwards, to fetch some spirits. Edwards’ wife invited them upstairs to their apartment to recover. Returning later with a gift of thanks, Blood became gradually ingratiated into the family and eventually an offer was made for a fictitious nephew of Blood’s to marry the Edwardses’ daughter.

On May 9th, Blood convinced Edwards to show him, his ‘nephew’, and two companions, the Jewels. Concealing rapier blades and pistols Blood and two fellow conspirators followed Edwards into the Jewel House, where the Jewels were kept behind a metal grille, whilst the other conspirator stood watch outside. As they entered the room a cloak was thrown over Edwards before he was struck, knocked to the floor, bound, gagged and stabbed, in an attempt to subdue him.

After removing the metal grille, Blood used a mallet to flatten out St. Edward’s Crown so he could hide it beneath his coat. The Sceptre with the Cross was cut in two to fit in their bag, while the Sovereign’s Orb was stuffed down one man’s trousers. Possibly, the disturbance caused by Edwards’ struggle raised the alarm, however, popular reports describe the fortuitous return of Edwards’ son, Wythe, who happened upon the theft and confronted the look-out, who alerted his fellow conspirators to their having been discovered. Ungagged, Edwards was able to sound the alarm with his cries of “Treason! Murder! The crown is stolen!”

As Blood and his gang fled it is said they joined the calls for alarm to confuse the guards. They dropped the sceptre and fired on the warders who eventually succeeded in capturing them. Having fallen from his cloak, the crown was found while Blood refused to give up. The orb was recovered, although several stones were missing and others were loose.

Blood refused to answer to anyone but the king so was taken to the palace, bound in chains, and questioned by King Charles and other members of the royal family. He was not only pardoned, but also given land. The reasons for the pardon are unknown though historians have speculated that the king may have feared a revengeful uprising by Blood’s followers, or that the king had a fondness for audacious scoundrels and was amused by Blood’s revelation that he had previously intended to kill the king as he bathed in the Thames but had changed his mind having found himself in “awe of majesty”. Following his pardon Blood became a familiar figure in London and made frequent appearances at Court, where he was employed to advocate in the claims of suitors to the Crown.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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