Having fun with history.

Nothing to do with dogs but, nonetheless, a neat way to finish the week.

I was looking at a recent George Monbiot essay and getting myself all wound up about it, thinking that it should be today’s post. Then I thought, “Come on, Paul, end the week on a gentle tone.”

So with that in mind, let me offer you an item on British history that Su sent me a week ago. I can’t authenticate the details but my instinct is that everything mentioned is correct.

ooOOoo

There is an old Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a “fair” trial of course) to be hanged. The horse-drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ”ONE LAST DRINK.” If he said YES, it was referred to as ONE FOR THE ROAD. If he declined, that prisoner was ON THE WAGON.

So there you go … On with some more history.

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then once a day the pot was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were “piss poor”, but worse than that were the really poor folk, who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot, they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low. The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Here are some more facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bridal bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all came the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high on the rafters, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.” There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.

This posed a real problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with four big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than a dirt floor. Hence the saying, “dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance. Hence: a threshold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: ”Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old.” Sometimes they could get pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off.

It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “Bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with their guests and would all sit around talking and ”chew the fat.”

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or ”The Upper Crust.”

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ”Holding a Wake.”

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people, so they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house and reuse the grave site. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it out through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the a bell; thus someone could be, ”Saved by the Bell ”or was considered a ”Dead Ringer.” And that’s the truth.

Now, whoever said history was boring ! ! !
So ….. get out there and educate someone!

ooOOoo

Just out of curiosity, I did a web search on that Pub in Marble Arch. Quickly came across this, from which I quote, in part:

The site of the Tyburn Tree is said to be at what is now Marble Arch, at the north-east corner of Hyde Park. Some historians give a more precise location as slightly to the north-west at Connaught Square. In fact, many bodies were found there when the square was being built in the 1820s, so it’s possible that some Tyburn victims were buried right where they died.

Mass executions took place on Mondays, when prisoners were transported from Newgate Prison to Tyburn in an open wagon, often in their finest clothes. The procession, which was watched by a large and enthusiastic crowd, wound down Snow Hill, across Holborn Bridge into Holborn, down Broad St Giles into Oxford Street and on to Tyburn.

And it was but a moment to find a photograph of the place.

Tyburn

 You all have a wonderful, relaxing week-end and don’t lose your head over anything!

16 thoughts on “Having fun with history.

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