Category Archives: 1700s

The first man to fly up, then fly down – and live.

It was on Sunday 22nd October 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin carried out the first known parachute descent with a silk parachute at Parc Monceau, Paris.  Before he began his ascent the parachute resembled a closed umbrella with a pole running down its centre with a rope running through a tube in the pole that connected it to the balloon.  He rode in a basket attached to the bottom of the parachute.

At a height of around 3,000 feet (1,000 m), he cut the rope that connected his parachute to the balloon. The balloon continued its flight skyward while Garnerin, with his basket and parachute, went in the opposite direction!   As it fell the basket swung violently.  Then it landed – bumping and scraping as it did.  Then the basket stopped and out climbed Andre-Jacques Garnerin – the first man to descend safely and climb out uninjured!

This was just a beginning and Garnerin went on to stage regular tests and demonstrations at Parc Monceau in Paris. In 1798 he announced that his next flight would include a woman as a passenger. Although the public and press were in favour, he was forced to appear in front of officials of the Central Bureau of Police to justify his project.  They were concerned about the effect that reduced air pressure might have on the organs of the delicate female body and loss of consciousness, plus the moral implications of flying in such close proximity.

However – after further consultation with both the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of the Police – the injunction was overturned on the grounds that “there was no more scandal in seeing two people of different sexes ascend in a balloon than it is to see them jump into a carriage.” They also agreed that the decision of the woman showed proof of her confidence in the experiment and a degree of personal intrepidity.

We’ll come back to the result of that next year!

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A king that changed England

Anne became Queen of England on Wednesday 8th March 1702 and, on Sunday 1st May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain.  Seven years later, on Wednesday 1st August 1714, she died in Kensington Palace in London.

Let us roll forward now to Saturday 20st October 1714.  By the terms of the Act of Settlement, at her death Queen Anne, who had no surviving children, was to be succeeded by her second cousin; George, Elector of Hanover who was to be crowned King George I on this day in Westminster Abbey.  However, the service was less than smooth!

George could not speak much English so the ceremonies had to be conducted mostly in Latin as his ministers could speak no German!

He was also not a choice of most people in the country and, on the Coronation day, banners mocking the new king were displayed throughout the country. When loyalists celebrated the Coronation they were disrupted by rioters in over twenty towns in the south and west of England. In addition to this, the Tory aristocrats and gentry absented themselves from the Coronation, and in some towns they arrived with their supporters to disrupt the Hanoverian proceedings.

Things were happening across parts of Britain on the night before the coronation.

In Taunton one Francis Sherry said that “on the morrow we must take up Arms against the King”.

In Birmingham a local rioter, John Hargrave, said they must “pull down this King and Sett up a King of our own”.

In Dorchester rioters attempted to rescue an effigy of the Catholic James Stuart, who had a strong claim to the throne, that was to be burnt by Dissenters and asked: “Who dares disown the Pretender?”.

The Anglican clergy mainly kept a low profile but at Newton Abbot the minister removed the bell-clappers so that the bells could not be rung in celebration of the Coronation.  All in all it was a very unusual Coronation.

During George’s reign however, the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a prime minister. Towards the end of his reign, actual political power was held by Robert Walpole, now recognised as Britain’s first de facto prime minister.

George died of a stroke on a trip to his native Hanover, where he was buried.

The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797

August 21st 1796

Up yester morn att 4 off the clocke, and carters wife cumming we to the washing; getting all reddie for the hangeing out before breakefuste.

John in to saye Dollie the red cow be sicke, so me to make a drink for her good, it bein chill.  I did warme sum milk, to which I do put a spoon full of breesed appel pips and 2 egges, all shook upp with a glass of brandie, which John do give her.  Later she much better, and John did give her milk to the calfs.

2017 version
I was up yesterday morning at 4 o’clock because the carter’s wife was coming. We were going to do the washing so that it was all ready to hang out before breakfast.
Dollie, the red cow, was sick and John asked me to make a drink for her.  Being chill I warmed some milk and added a spoon full of breezed apple pips and 2 eggs, all shook up with a glass of brandy, which John gave her.  Later she was much better, and John gave her milk to the calves.

The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797

This is a lovely book that does just what it says.  Anne Hughes is that Farmer’s Wife and she prefaced her book with these words:

‘Anne Hughes, her boke in whiche I write what I doe, when I hav thee tyme, and beginnen wyth this daye, Feb ye 6 1796.’

These are Anne’s words as we see her story of 20th August 1796:

This be the first time I hav writ in my book for three dayes, bein bussie.
It hav bin a verrie hot day and we to church at night, after the milking be don and the pigges fed.
The passon was new, and did preche a verrie prosie surmon,so I nearly aslepe, and did jump much at the last himm singeing. I was glad to be out once more, and John bidden the passon to sup with us we back home, where Sarah cumming in, we did put the supper reddie in the best kitchen.

In 2017 words this might read:

This is the first time I have written in my book for the past three days because I’ve been busy.  It’s been a very hot day and, after the cows had been milked and the pigs fed, we went to church.   We’ve a new parson and he preached a very prosy sermon, so much so that I nearly went to sleep – so much so that I jumped when they started singing the last hymn. I was glad when the service ended and we were outside. John, my husband, invited the parson to come to supper with us.  Sarah, our maid, was ready and we put the supper ready in the best kitchen.