Filed under English literature

Executions on Newcastle Moor

Newcastle had a temporary gallows built on the Town Moor, near the barracks of This is a list of the people who were despatched there. It is a varied and pretty comprehensive list of the types of crime that were designated capital offences at the time. It is also interesting how few there were for … Continue reading

Messing with Hogarth

The Royal Society for Public Health has commissioned an update of Hogarth’s famous cartoon ‘Gin Lane’ to publicise the problems of public health. This is from the I paper: Hogarth’s satirical cartoon, published in 1751, blamed excessive consumption of gin for child neglect, disease, prostitution and debauchery. Thomas Moore’s Gin Lane 2016, commissioned by the … Continue reading

How Old and Ugly Were Witches?

I have always worried at the bad images we have of witches, especially those who were punished for their ‘crimes’. The image of an ugly, isolated old woman just doesn’t seem to fit many of the cases, in particular the famous Pendle witches. The old hags seem more cartoon characters. Many pamphlets and ballads were … Continue reading

A Witch Discovered

This was told by an old Berkshire woman at the start of the 20th century. This has many of the elements of a classic witch tale, the wise local overcoming the witch who was hurting his friend, but leaves us wondering what happened next. This is from Tales of Old Berkshire by Cecilia Millson: Two … Continue reading

Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House

This country house at Twickenham is often mentioned in literature of 18th century England, but I thought it had been lost long ago. Incredibly, it has been rescued and is now open to the public. This gem was built by Horace Walpole, youngest son of Britain’s first Prime Minister. It was the first modern gothic … Continue reading

Philomena Cunk on Shakespeare

Apparently Ms Cunk is a regular arts correspondent on Charlie Booker’s Weekly wipe, and now I’m going to hunt out her work, because she was brilliant in a one off special last week, interviewing experts on the Bard. She knew nothing about Shakespeare’s childhood, but he must have had one, and his education must have been … Continue reading

Fairy Travel

This is another piece from Hobgoblin & Sweet Puck Fairy Names & Natures by Gillian Edwards. It seems to explain the origin of riding a broomstick. The fairies did occasionally ride horses, either their own or those they stole from mortals, or make themselves mounts out of straws from the fields, but chiefly as a pastime … Continue reading

A Woman Not to be Messed With

Our female ancestors are often seen as oppressed and controlled by men, but I defy anyone to try to steer this woman. This is from Addison, in his Spectator magazine, 1711: I have, very frequently the opportunity of seeing a rural Andromache, [he seems to be referring to the Amazon leader rather than Hector’s wife] … Continue reading

Animals, Cinema & Supernatural

Animals, Cinema & Supernatural

This is an intriguing piece from  Why Look at Animals by the brilliant art historian, John Berger. HIs mention of the supernatural seems out of character, but he writes a lot about crossing boundaries in art, which gives him an edge on most of us. We live our daily lives in a constant exchange with the … Continue reading

Naming Supernatural Beasts

This is a fine selection of strange beasts, from 1584. How many names can you recognise? Odd they are called ‘bugs’. This is from Hobgoblin & Sweet Puck Fairy Names & Natures by Gillian Edwards Our mother’s maids have so frayed us with Bull-beggars, Spirits, Witches, Urchins, Elves, Hags, Faeries, Satyrs, Pans, Faunes, Sylens, Kit-wi-the-Canstick, Tritons, … Continue reading