Postcards from the edge of time – York Press – March 2017
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A snapshot of Hartlepool’s fishing history is captured in a new book of bygone scenes.
Hartlepool: The Postcard Collection, by Stan Laundon and Paul Chrystal, features dozens of historical facts and figures, as well as over 200 vintage photos.
Among the many topics covered is Hartlepool’s early fishing history – when fishmongers and curers lined the streets, and hundreds made a living as fishermen.
“At the beginning of the 19th century Hartlepool had a population of 1,400 – most of whom were engaged in the fishing industry,” said Stan.
“Eventually, after the founding of West Hartlepool in 1847, fishing gave way to shipbuilding – but it remained very important well into the 20th century.”
Today we take a final peek at a new book about old Hartlepool.
Hartlepool: The Postcard Collection, by Stan Laundon and Paul Chrystal, features 200 vintage snaps – including several bygone stores.
Staff from Boots the Chemist pose outside the Lynn Street shop in 1924. The store had another entrance in Lambton Street.
“One of those we’ve included is Sages, of 6 Lynn Street, which was a stationer, printer and bookseller,” said Stan.
“Our photo shows the staff promoting a concert with a marvellously decorated car in around 1910.”
Also featured are photos of general dealers Gallons, of Northgate, as well as Boots the Chemist – which had entrances in Lynn Street and Lambton Street.
Perhaps one of the most interesting, however, is A. Wood – a “spectacle specialist” who operated from 27 Church Street.
TEA has changed the way we work and relax, and even our history. Why do we drink so much of it? A new book reveals all.
Britain enjoys an intimate love affair with tea – just look at the facts. On average we each drink 3½ cups of tea a day, or 130,000 tonnes in a year, 96 per cent of which are from tea bags. As a nation we drink 165 million cups per day or 62 billion cups per year; 70 per cent of the population (over the age of 10) drank tea yesterday; over 25 per cent of all the milk consumed in the UK goes in your cups of tea.
In the two minutes or so it has taken to type these two paragraphs, the tea-ometer on the Tea Council UK website has clocked up a staggering 191,000 cups of tea drunk in the UK; 70 million cups will have been made today by 11am.
Tea has become quintessentially British. It slowly but surely insinuated itself into our culture, language and society. Tea is everywhere: afternoon tea, high tea, tea gowns, tea cakes, tea towels, tea gardens, tea dances, Lyons tea houses, tea-time, tea services, tea breaks, tea for two, storms in tea cups, builders’ tea, more tea vicar? – all are everyday names and phrases.
Our loss of the American colonies (think the Boston Tea Party), votes for women, victory in the two world wars – all owe something to a nice cup of tea. Tea has also fuelled one of our most enduring controversies: do you put in the milk first or not?
Our culture is infused with tea and tea-time, from the Boy George quote that he preferred a cup of tea to sex to the children’s favourite story book, The Tiger Who Came To Tea. The Beatles wooed Lovely Rita Meter Maid with it; for The Kinks “It’s a cure for hepatitis, it’s a cure for chronic insomnia, it’s a cure for tonsillitis and for water on the knee” in the group’s song Have A Cuppa Tea.
One of the Rolling Stones’ “nasty habits” was taking “tea at three” in their song Live With Me. The wartime weepie Brief Encounter would have been much briefer had it not been for those romantic cups of tea between its stars Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.
The author George Orwell (an obsessive tea drinker as later was Tony Benn) identified 11 rules for perfect tea-making, rules from which nobody should dare depart, he insisted. Orwell said that tea – one of the “mainstays of civilisation” in his opinion – is ruined by sweetening and that anyone fl outing this diktat on shunning the sugar bowl could not be called “a true tea-lover”.
It was not long before tea was implicated in sex and scandal, soon after the introduction of tea receptions by Victoria’s Lady of the Bedchamber, the Duchess of Bedford. One of the great benefits of the fashionable tea gown was that it could be worn without corsets, thus providing liberation for women to complement the newfound freedom of receiving guests for afternoon tea, or going out for tea by themselves. For some women the tea gown offered even greater freedoms: with no tiresome corset there was no need for an equally tiresome maid to help in dressing; the tea gown soon gave rise to the French phrase “cinq à sept” – the time, between 5 and 7pm when lovers were received in the boudoir and there was no nosy maid to witness the assignation…
How did it all start? Once upon a time, when the emperor Shen Nung was travelling to a far-fl ung province, he and his entourage stopped for a break, the world’s very fi rst tea break as it turned out. Shen Nung , a scientist, knew how important it was to boil all drinking water; accordingly, the servants began to boil the water as they sat in a grove of camellia sinensis trees. The place was central China, the date was 2737BC, around the same time as the Egyptians started work on the pyramids of Giza.
That day, however, was to be very special: a gentle breeze blew some leaves from the camellia sinensis into the emperor’s cauldron of water; Shen Nung then took a sip of what was to be the world’s first cup of tea. He liked it, it caught on, took the name “tea” and has become one of the most celebrated and serendipitous discoveries the world has known.
But it was not just the trajectory of the breeze-blown leaves that was fortuitous; Shen Nung happened to be a noted herbalist. A bit of a workaholic, he personally tested thousands of medicinal herbs, some of which were poisonous.
He went on to use his newly discovered tea as an antidote to 70 or so toxic herbs. But tea could not save him from the life-limiting consequences of his final experiment: one herb turned out to be particularly nasty: he ate it and his stomach exploded, according to legend. Shen Nung is today revered as the father of Chinese medicine and the discoverer of tea.
We have Catherine of Braganza, Charles II’s Portuguese bride, to thank for the introduction of tea to British shores, in 1662. Catherine’s tea arrived in chests as part of a dowry which also included Tangier and Bombay. Legend has it that when the princess landed at Portsmouth she asked for a calming cup of tea after her somewhat stormy crossing; there was no tea to be had anywhere so she was given a glass of beer instead.
And what of the humble tea bag? In 1908, New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan hit on the idea of sending samples of tea out in small silk bags. Some recipients believed that these worked like his metal infusers and so immersed the bags into the pot, rather than emptying out the contents, as intended. Result: the tea bag.
The story of our intimate relationship with tea is in effect the social history of Britain. Tea: Like the noted 18th-century man of letters and compiler of the English language’s first dictionary Samuel Johnson, we just can’t get enough of it: “You cannot make tea so fast as I can gulp it down,” he once said. So put the kettle on, put your feet up and have that nice cup of tea. As the Chinese proverb goes: “A day without tea is a day without joy.”
Legend has it that coffee was discovered by a lonely goat herder in 9th-century Ethiopia when he saw members of his herd becoming stimulated after eating some berries.
Another account attributes the discovery of coffee to an Ethiopian holy man called Omar.
There the starving Omar chewed berries from shrubs only to find them bitter.
He roasted them to improve the flavour but they became hard.
He then resorted to boiling them to soften them.
Upon drinking the resulting fragrant brown liquid Omar was revitalised and sustained for days.
As stories of his “miracle drug” reached Mocha Omar was asked to return and was made a saint.
When coffee was first brought to Europe in the 16th century it was greeted with great suspicion as it was the drink of choice of the Muslim world with which the Christian West had been at war for centuries.
Pope Clement VIII sampled it, however, and allegedly declared: “This devil’s drink is delicious.
“We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”
While Europe’s first coffee house opened up in Venice in 1645, thanks largely to the efforts of the Dutch and British East India Companies, the “devil’s drink” soon became popular in England.
The country’s first coffee house opened in Oxford in 1650.
Within 25 years the total number of coffee houses in the country had risen to 3,000 and they had become socially important places where the news, politics and gossip of the day were discussed and exaggerated.
Charles II tried unsuccessfully to ban them as hotbeds of sedition.
There have also been world-record attempts for:
The word “coffee” comes from the Ottoman Turkish “kahve” via the Italian “caffe”.
The term “cappuccino” comes from the shade of the Capuchin friars’ habits, which resembles the colour of the foam on the coffee.
Espresso is Italian for “forced” or “rushed through”.
The Thais are nothing if not ingenious when it comes to coffee.
In order to remove the bitterness from coffee beans they feed them to elephants.
As the beans pass through the animals’ digestive system their bitterness is removed by enzymes.
The beans are then retrieved from the dung and sold as Black Ivory, the most expensive blend in the world.
Kopi Luwak is made in a similar way but using cat-sized creatures called Asian palm civets instead of elephants.
In 1657 London advertisements for coffee promoted it as a cure for scurvy, gout and other complaints.
However modern science indicates that there is no conclusive, research-based evidence that coffee drinking is especially good for you, helps you to live longer or banishes your hangover.
It may help keep you awake as you drive on the motorway at night but the caffeine in coffee may also exacerbate migraines, arrhythmias and sleep problems.
SINCE the time of the Aztecs, we’ve been hooked – and we’d sooner give up alcohol or sex! BRITONS will scoff a staggering 90 million Easter eggs this weekend – on top of the 150 chocolate bars each of us eats on average every year.
So great is our desire that one in four of us claims it’s harder to give up chocolate than alcohol, caffeine or sex, according to a recent survey by the British Heart Foundation. But did you know that the beans used to make chocolate were once regarded as a valuable currency, that it was used in Aztec sacrificial rituals or that in the past chocolate was used to cure impotency? In my numerous books on chocolate, I’ve traced the amazing history of our favourite treat.
In the beginning cacoa beans were sun-dried and the kernels were roasted, shelled and crushed into a paste called cacao liquor and then made into cakes. These were then crumbled and immersed in water to form liquid chocolate.The Mayans cultivated, manufactured, spent as a currency and consumed chocolate on a large scale from around AD 600, in a bitter liquid form they called xocloatl.
Money does grow on trees
The Mayans and Aztecs traded with cacao; forgeries made from clay were a problem in the first century BC with fake beans made from clay in circulation. Our phrases “bean counters” and “not worth a bean” are derived from these early transactions.
A porter’s daily pay amounted to about 100 beans, a fresh avocado cost three beans, a rabbit cost eight beans, a turkey or a slave cost 100 beans and a feather cape 1,000. In 1526 in his Chronicle of America reported that “there are women that give their bodies for a price…those who wanted [these women] for their libidinous use gave 8 to 10 cacao beans.”
Cacao was an essential thing to take with you on the journey to the next life.
But it was Montezuma II (reigned AD 1502AD to 1520) who really exploited the fiscal power of chocolate: he adopted cacao as currency in place of gold, established a bean bank and allowed taxes to be paid in beans.
Montezuma – the 50 cup a day man
He must have been ricocheting off the walls: Montezuma reputedly drank 50 cups of chocolate every day believing it to be an effective aphrodisiac and helping to establish chocolate’s pseudo-medical and sexual reputation. Apart from a latter day Viagra it was commonly used for fevers and dysentery. Cacao was an essential thing to take with you on the journey to the next life.
Rip your heart out for a cup of chocolate
Before the 1600s Nicaraguans routinely abstained from sex for 13 days before beginning the cacao tree planting season in the belief it would make the gods look favourably on their crop. The Aztecs gave sacrificial victims a cup of chocolate to drink just before ripping out their hearts – the heart-shaped cacoa bean symbolising the human heart.
A secret cure for impotence and a long life
Physician to the Tuscan court Giovanni Batiste Felici though, writing in 1728, was not a fan: to him, chocolate was one of the “many disorders which Mankind has introduced to shorten their lives,” it changes normally quiet people into chatterboxes, can make some people angry and children become hyperactive.
Paul Chrystal has written extensively on the city’s history, and his latest books include Confectionery in York and York Industries Through Time. We interviewed him about his books and thoughts on York’s history.
Your latest book is on the history of chocolate in York, how important has confectionery been to the economy of the city?
It has been central to the commercial history of the city; with the railways and Thomas Cooke it was one of the first industries here. The industrial revolution passed York by, but confectionery—in the shape of Rowntree, Craven and Terry—provided a unique source of employment and business. The only remotely similar situations in the UK were at Bristol and Bournville.
Do you think that confectionery still play an important part in the city’s future?
Yes, both Nestle and Tangerine Confectionery are showing growth and expanding. Nestle are also continuing to invest heavily in the city.
How important were Quaker families in the establishment of the chocolate industry?
They were crucial. Quaker families set up companies such as Cadbury, Fry, Rowntree and Thornes of Leeds. Rowntree was also friendly with Reckitts of Hull, who was another Quaker.
Did the social reforms for employees introduced by some of the companies, such as Rowntree’s and Terry’s, lead to national changes for workers?
Very much so, in industrial relations generally, in pensions and in medical provision. In some cases they anticipated legislation by many years, such as insurance, shorter hours and company doctors, which were all pioneered by Rowntree.
You’ve also written a book on the history of industry in the city, why did York not expand more during the Industrial Revolution?
It was the high cost of importing coal to and from the West Riding of Yorkshire which was one of the main reasons. Other factors were the residual power and influence of the City Guilds and the City Corporation.
How did you first become interest in history?
It began when my history teacher refused to allow me to drop it at O-Level, and I thought then that I’d better make a go of it. I consider myself mainly as a classicist though.
Which were the major archives that you’ve consulted whilst researching your books and do you have a favourite?
There have been a large number, including the Borthwick Institute, the University of Leeds, the University of York, York City Library and Archives, the British Library at Boston Spa and also the Nestle archives. However, I like the Borthwick Institute the best, as it’s so well run.
Do you have a favourite street in York?
I’d choose Fossgate, it has a great pub, great restaurants, great bookshops, a great pen shop as well as the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. What more could you want?
If you could return to any period in York’s history, which would you want to go back to?The Roman period, as in some ways they’re still miles ahead of us.
Are you working on more books about the city or Yorkshire?
I’m working on a number, the following are currently in press:
A-Z of York History (published in 2013), The Rowntree Family (published in 2013), York Places of Care, Correction and Worship Through Time (published in 2013), Lifeboat Stations of the North East Through Time – Sunderland to the Humber (published in 2012), Selby and Goole Through Time (published in 2012), Easingwold Past and Present (published in 2012) and Industrial Model Villages Through Time (published in 2012), which includes New Earswick.
THE adulteration of food and drink has been around for ever.
Recent cases of horses pretending to be cows are nothing new. The famous scandal of 1948 saw thousands of unsuspecting Briton eating equine meat when they thought they were eating beef.
More than 750,000 horses – not just old nags but foals too which were served up as veal – ended up on three million plates up and down the country, although half the diners would have put their money on it being beef. Eight out of 10 horses were a sure bet for the slaughterhouse.
In ancient Rome, water and wine was inadvertently adulterated. Lead poisoning was a chronic problem caused by their lead water pipes and utensils. It was made even worse by the use of lead in some medicinal potions. Our word for a plumber is derived from the Latin word for lead, plumbum.
Wine was often preserved with a syrup called sapa which was stored in lead containers. This would give a regular drinker 20mg of lead per litre of wine consumed – 40 times the chronic toxicity level. It went down like the proverbial balloon.
By the 18th century adulteration was happening on an industrial scale. Bakers were at it: they used chalk and alum (more commonly found today in deodorants and medications used in the treatment of piles) to whiten bread. And potatoes, plaster of Paris, clay and sawdust helped to bulk up their buns and loaves.
Brewers were at it too. Apart from the time-honoured use of water for diluting, poisons such as strychnine (rat poison) were also often introduced to give that lovely hoppy, bitter taste and to reduce the hop bill.
Cocoa manufacturers mixed in arrowroot, potato starch, sago flour and powdered seashells to reduce the required cocoa content. Iron rust, red lead or brick dust were used to give that rich brown colour and to ensure a good night’s sleep. Grocers even coloured their cheeses with lead.
Not everyone minded, it seems. In 1771 poet Tobias Smollet reported in The Expedition Of Humphry Clinker that London bread was “a deleterious paste, mixed up with… bone ashes, insipid to the taste and destructive to the constitution.
“The good people,” he said, “are not ignorant of this adulteration but they prefer it to wholesome bread because it is whiter than the meal of corn. Thus they sacrifice their taste and their health.”
In 1820 it took a visiting German chemist and laboratory assistant to the inventor Humphry Davy, Frederick Accum, to do anything about it. He identified numerous toxic additives within many foods and drinks.
The title page of his bestselling book featured a skull and an ominous quotation from the Old Testament: “There is death in the pot.” Accum’s argument, quite reasonably, was that: “The man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the highway is sentenced to death but he who distributes a slow poison to the whole community escapes unpunished.”
Accum may have liked a pint because he noticed the adulteration of English beer. Taste notwithstanding, his analyses uncovered evidence of ferrous sulphate; extracts of cocculus indicus, a poisonous plant used to stun fish and which is sometimes used in the treatment of vertigo (so that’s why we feel dizzy, sick and fall over after a pint or three); quassia, liquorice juice; ground coriander and nux vomica (a source of strychnine).
Jellies and sweets – and therefore children – did not escape: the bright colourants were found to contain lead, copper or mercury. All this, of course, annoyed the food manufacturers, particularly when Accum published the names of the companies and traders which had been prosecuted for adulteration. They, in turn, discredited him by alleging that he had wilfully damaged books in the Royal Institution library. Accum returned to Germany and all his good work was wasted while the foul trade simply went on.
Adulteration was eventually made illegal under The Food and Drugs Act 1860 and The Adulteration of Food Act 1872 and 1875 after publication of a Lancet study in 1850 by Dr Arthur Hassall in which he reported more than half of all the chocolate he sampled was found to contain brick dust.
He and his editor Thomas Wakley had also identified gamboge pigment (a violent purgative and irritant) as well as lead, copper and mercury in various sweets. Even the brightly coloured wrappers were polluted with the same toxins. Hassall tested 2,500 products making use of the microscope for food analysis for the first time. After he published his findings in the medical journal he wrote a book, naming those responsible.
His work was even mentioned by Charles Kingsley in the Water-Babies of 1863 which referred to those who “invent poisons for little children and sell them at wakes, fairs and tuck shops… Dr Hassall cannot catch them…”, highlighting the ubiquity of food adulteration.
The horsemeat scandal is nothing new. Throughout history the food we consume has not always been what it seemed
Karl Marx described “the incredible adulteration of bread” in Das Kapital.
And a tragic, inadvertent, adulteration took place in Bradford in 1858 when William Hardaker, known locally as Humbug Billy, sold peppermint humbugs laced with arsenic.
In sweet making, sugar was routinely replaced by adulterants (know in the trade as “daft”) such as plaster of Paris, powdered limestone and lime sulphate.
Arsenic got mixed up with Billy’s supply of “daft” and 20 people died with 200 more made seriously ill.
It could have been much worse as each humbug contained enough arsenic to kill two people and enough were sold to kill 2,000 people. The case led to the 1868 Pharmacy Act which regulated the sale of medicines.
Coffee and tea were all the rage in Britain but they were expensive.
No problem. Tea could be cheapened by using tea leaves that had already been used.
They were boiled up with ferrous sulphate and sheeps’ droppings then coloured with Prussian blue, verdigris, tannin, or carbon black before resale. Some teas sold contained no tea at all and were made instead from the dried leaves of other plants.
A similar fraud was visited on coffee with the use of old coffee grounds. These were mixed with sand, gravel, and chicory and dandelions. Chicory was often polluted by roasted carrots and turnips – for the aroma – with a sprinkling of “black jack” (burnt sugar) to give it a rich coffee colour.
In America adulteration was so prevalent in the early 20th century that a journalist on New York’s Evening Post was inspired to compose these lines which have an eerie resonance today:
Mary had a little lamb,
And when she saw it sicken,
She shipped it off to Packingtown,
And now it’s labelled chicken.
The lesser-known aspects of Knaresborough’s past are explored in a new book which claims to offer an intriguing insight into the town.
‘Secret Knaresborough’ is author Paul Chrystal’s attempt to reveal stories and facts that wouldn’t usually be found in an ordinary history book of the area.
Paul said: “There’s a lot that people either don’t know about or have forgotten.” Paul, a broadcaster on BBC local radio and the BBC World Service who has written more than 25 books, owned a book shop on Knaresborough High Street until about four years ago.
Following the death of local historian Arnold Kellett in 2009, Paul was asked to write the first of two history books about Knaresborough as part of publisher Amberley’s local history series.
He said: “My first two books of Knaresborough were a pretty standard description of the town’s history, probably well-known by a number of people. But with this book I tried to delve a bit deeper. It’s more probing, more in-depth – and hopefully more interesting for it.”
Some of Paul’s favourite ‘secret’ tales include:
Paul added he would like to compile an up-to-date history of Knaresborough, to follow on from the well-known ‘Historic Knaresborough’ book by Arnold Kellett, which was published nearly 25 years ago.