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Founded in 1884 by Louth Naturalists',
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Ruth's Blog 2015

Welcome to Ruth's 2015 Blog, where I'll tell you about what we have in Louth Museum. You can also read and discover more from last year's blog.

17th November 2015

'An awful catastrophe happened in Louth yesterday'

Written by 15 year old Elizabeth Velacourt on Sunday 30th May 1920

The Louth FloodWe have recently been given the following account of the Louth Flood in 1920. It was written by 15-year-old Elizabeth Velacourt who was a boarder at King Edward Grammar School for Girls, and was living in The Limes in Westgate. The following extracts are from Elizabeth’s weekly letter to her parents written on Sunday 30th May the day after the flood. We are very grateful to Mrs Margaret Boston of Cockerington for donating this item to Louth Museum. Elizabeth Velacourt later became a close friend of Ian Boston’s family.

“I’ve got some news this week! An awful catastrophe happened in Louth yesterday. I’m not going to exaggerate a bit, so you can believe every word I say.

It began with a terrible thunderstorm which started at 2.00 pm yesterday and lasted till late evening. The river burst its banks, and as Louth is in a hollow, the lower parts are swamped with dirty water. In most streets the water is or rather was (it’s gone now) up to the bedroom windows. Chairs and tables went floating down the streets. And sometimes a chair, floating about inside a room would break the glass and sail out. The water came within 50 yards of The Limes. We stand on a little rise so we were all right.

A very brave man, Dr Lanthorn-Smith, found an old canoe which would hold only one person and, paddling with a shovel, tried to rescue people from the houses. But the current was terribly terribly terribly strong, and he couldn’t control the boat properly. And he couldn’t even swim! Wasn’t he awfully brave. His kids come to our school.

The worst of it is that nothing at all could be done. Because there were no boats in the town, the river being only a small one, so people could only watch and wait. When the flood went down, a thick coating, inches thick, of dirty shiny black mud covered everything; the homeless people were housed in houses which had escaped, and all our mistresses were trotting round taking dry clothing and food to the poor people.

We thought we never should get to sleep last night, somehow we were so wide awake, and we couldn’t help thinking of all the poor people without any homes. It is still raining but not much, and I expect the water will mostly have gone now.”

5th September 2015

'The Scarificator'

Written by Heidi Tanton, student working at Louth Museum

A ScarificatorIn the Town Gallery of Louth Museum is a Scarificator, which is a bloodletting device that was used in the early Victorian period and was thought to cure many illnesses. The local physician would have come to your home, he would ask you your symptoms and would use the blades and let blood.

The Scarificator is made up of three main parts. The button releases the spring, activating the blades, which then cut into a main artery to let blood. Our Scarificator has 16 blades. For each illness there were specific places on the body where blood would be taken, and recommendations as to how much blood needed to be taken.

There was a special bowl that the physician used to collect the blood. This bowl was either decorated or just plain. It would have numbers marked on so the physician could measure the blood.

This method of blood letting often caused disease and blood poisoning because the blades were not properly sterilised. This is because not much was known about bacteria in this era. Germ theory was not fully developed until the 1870's, and the physician would often just wipe the blades clean or rinse them under cold water.

17th August 2015

'Burditts and Bluestone Corner'

Burditts and Bluestone CornerThere used to be two printers in Mercer Row. Gouldings had the bow-window shop next to Pawnshop Passage, and Burditts were at the junction of Mercer Row and Upgate, next to what is now Co-Jo’s. Burditt’s premises were demolished in the early 20th century.

A few days ago David Robinson donated this picture to the museum. It shows Burditt’s shop at No 2 Mercer Row with its two bow windows fronting Mercer Row. To the right is Upgate looking south. Burditt’s premises stretched back along Upgate towards Kidgate. The picture was painted in 1912 shortly before the building was demolished. The reason for demolition was that Upgate was very narrow as can be seen from the picture, and needed to be widened to accommodate the increasing volume of traffic in the town.

The bollard on the corner outside the shop was there to protect the building from damage by turning vehicles. Until about 1830 the boulder standing there had been the enormous “blue stone” which is now on display outside Louth Museum in Broadbank. That's why this corner was and sometimes still is known as “Bluestone Corner”.

17th July 2015

'The Flea Trap'

Written by Lydia Rouse

Flea TrapMy name is Lydia and I have been doing two weeks work experience at Louth museum and as part of my work experience I was asked to pick an exhibit from the museum and write this blog. So I picked the flea trap because of its connection to everyday life and because it is weird and wonderful.

The flea trap is about 7 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. It is made from ivory and has a carefully carved pattern on it; the reason for this was because it was designed to hang around a woman’s neck and so it had to look fashionable and match their clothing. Through research I have found flea traps from all over the world and I have found smaller traps made from nuts with carvings as well.

The trap would have had blood, fat or sometimes jam or honey in it so it would attract the fleas into the trap where they could not escape. These traps would be worn around the neck and in the dress, so many people could have been walking around Louth with dead fleas around their necks and in their dresses.

We are not sure of the date for this particular trap but we do know that flea traps have been used for hundreds of years, especially in the Georgian era when lice and fleas were common in their large wigs.

10th July 2015

'Belgium Revolver'

Written by Bailey Kersey

Belgium revolverI am undertaking work experience in Louth Museum and I was told to find an object in the museum that I liked, and I found a 12mm pinfire revolver. It is in the gun cabinet in the panorama gallery.

The revolver is a 12mm pinfire gun with a 6-shot cylinder. I looked on the internet and I found that the estimated price of the gun is around £130 to £195 which is very expensive as the gun is very old and was made between 1850 and 1870.

This gun was manufactured in Belgium.

The impact of the hammer would cause the gunpowder within the pin to ignite setting off the main charge and firing the bullet at a very fast speed. The gun has a very accurate iron sight which can help with aiming to shoot the target. The gun has high recoil which means if the gun is accurate or when it shoots it goes off to the side as it fires the bullet. The 12mm revolver is very powerful and it would cause lots of damage to its target.

3rd July 2015

'Bowl of clay pipe'

Bowl of clay pipeWhen I came into the Museum last week, I found a neat little package awaiting me. It contained the bowl of a clay pipe, and information about how it was found buried beneath a hedge in Little Grimsby.

The size of the bowl and nature of the clay help us to date this pipe. The maximum diameter of the pipe bowl is 15 mm, and its height is height 35 mm. This makes it a relatively large bowl.

Clay tobacco pipes were first made in England in the 16th Century shortly after the introduction of tobacco from North America. Because tobacco was so expensive only a very small quantity of tobacco was smoked in each pipe, and for this reason the first pipe bowls were tiny with a diameter of only 7 or 8 mm. As tobacco became more widely available, the size of pipe bowls increased.

Our pipe bowl is made from pure white clay, probably originating in Devon. In the 19th Century white clay was being used, and not the duller yellower clay typical of earlier pipes. Also our bowl does not have a little “heel” or “spur” beneath the bowl, a feature of earlier pipes.

During the late 19th Century cigarettes, cigars and the more robust meerschaum and briar pipes became common. By 1914 the clay pipe industry had largely disappeared at the local level and only a few large manufacturers continued.

I am definitely not a fan of smoking, but I find clay pipes interesting. If you are knowledgeable about clay pipes, and by looking at the decoration or other detail on the bowl can give a more accurate dating than “19th Century”, or a place of manufacture, we would love to hear from you!

3rd June 2015

'The Stote Manby Case'

Stote Manby NewspaperI became aware of the "Stote Manby Case" when I was researching the family of Betsy Panton, the little girl in Louth Workhouse whose mother was Elizabeth Manby. In the 1850s details of the Stote Manby legal case were reported at length in the national newspapers.

The Stote Manby story begins in the 17th Century. Ann Stote, daughter of Rev Cuthbert Stote, Rector of Tollerton in Nottinghamshire, was at a boarding school. She formed an "unsuitable" relationship with William Manby, a miller and baker; in 1682 they eloped and were married. Ann and William lived in Louth and then in Keddington, and were estranged from Ann's family roots.

Stote Manby, grandson of Ann and William Manby, was born in 1717. According to newspaper reports, at the age of 24 he was kicked by a horse and this affected his brain to such an extent as to reduce him to a state of mental imbecility, so that his family descended into abject poverty. Stote Manby's son William was described as "gardener of Kiln Yard Louth, a man in a most humble walk in life".

Meanwhile Mrs Dorothy Windsor, who was the last surviving daughter of Ann Stote's uncle, Sir Richard Stote of Jesmond, had substantial property in Northumberland. Dorothy died intestate in 1756 and, as she had no children, her estates should have been inherited by her cousin Ann Stote or her descendants. However, Stote Manby in Louth (who had been kicked by the horse) was unaware of this.

After Dorothy Windsor died her tenants Sir Robert Berwicke and John Craster retained possession of her property, well knowing they had no right or title. Upon their deaths, they were succeeded by Calverley Berwicke and Daniel Craster. In 1780 this unlawful possession being of public notoriety in Northumberland, Thomas Harvey an attorney in Newcastle sought out the Stote Manby family in Louth and informed them of their rights. Two writs were brought by Harvey on behalf of Stote Manby against Berwicke and Craster. The first of these was tried at the Newcastle assizes and a verdict was obtained in favour of Stote Manby. However, before the second action on the next day, Harvey was bribed by Berwicke and Craster and the court ordered Stote Manby and his sons to convey the property to the tenants, and in return £300 per year should be paid to Stote Manby and his heirs for ever. Stote Manby's son William who was representing the family in Newcastle did not agree to this, but an indenture of bargain was later alleged to have been made assuring the property to Berwicke and Craster. Thomas Harvey the attorney allegedly received £1,500, but the Stote Manby family got nothing.

Seventy-five years later William Stote Manby (born 1805 and grandfather of Betsy Panton) became aware that his family had been fraudulently kept out of property in Northumberland. So he brought a legal action of ejectment against Berwicke and Craster, which was tried at Newcastle in 1855. This case eventually failed as it was ruled that the defendants had acquired rights by more than 40 years of possession. And so the Stote Manby family remained in disadvantaged circumstances.

23th May 2015

'Betsy Panton (1852-1901)'

A working class girl who endured two stays in the workhouse and became a baker’s wife

Louth Browns Panorama Work HouseIn any history it is easy to focus on the more prosperous and successful members of society; to redress this I decided to examine the life of someone less fortunate. I chose at random from the inmates of Louth Workhouse listed in the census.

Eight-year-old Betsy Panton was in Louth Workhouse in 1861 along with her two older sisters – why was she there, and what happened to her afterwards?

Betsy had been born on 26th December 1852, and was christened “Elizabeth Stote Panton” in St James’ Church. Her parents were Elizabeth and John Panton, and they lived in a small cottage in Cisterngate off Broadbank. John was an agricultural labourer.

By the time Betsy was 8 years old, there were six children in the family: Mary, Charlotte, Betsy, Frances, John and Eliza. It was then that tragedy struck – mother died (she was only 29) and the household disintegrated.

The three eldest girls, Mary, Charlotte and Betsy were sent to the workhouse, six-year-old Frances lived with her father, four-year-old John went to live with his grandparents, and two-year-old Eliza was boarded out with another family.

Probably when she was fourteen Betsy left the workhouse and entered into domestic service. At the age of 18 she was the living-in servant with the family of house-painter Thomas Ward Markham in Eastgate, in what is now part of the All Seasons Apartments.

Betsy became pregnant before she was married, as had her mother a generation earlier. For unmarried mothers without family support, the workhouse was the only place they could go during and after the birth of their child. So Betsy had to go back to Louth Workhouse for the birth of her baby, who she called Tom.

A year later in 1874, 21-year-old Betsy married 22-year-old Thomas Joseph Waltham in Louth. He was a baker, born in Grimsby. Marriage gave Betsy a home and some respectability.

Betsy and Thomas Waltham had a large number of children, probably fifteen, of whom six died in infancy. The family lived in several places – Hartlepool in County Durham, Grimsby, Louth and Skegness – before settling in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Thomas became a successful baker with his own business, and Betsy was described as a confectioner.

There are few other details of the lives of Betsy and Thomas Waltham. The only relevant newspaper report informs us that in 1885 Thomas Joseph Waltham of Skegness was fined five shillings for not sending his children to school. This was not uncommon. In 1880 school attendance became compulsory for children until they were 12 years old. Many families resisted schooling as they had to pay a small fee for each child, and also older children were needed to help at home or to undertake employment to assist family finances.

Betsy died in Wisbech in 1901. Her youngest surviving child, Sidney, was then 8 years old and, presumably because there were older children to maintain the household, the family did not split up. At least three of Betsy’s sons followed their father’s trade and became bakers.

24th April 2015

'The Fleece Inn, Louth - 1775'

Louth Fleece InnOut of the blue we had an email from a gentleman in Devon asking if we would like an Indenture relating to Louth. A few days later we received though the post this wonderful Indenture hand-written on vellum.

The indenture is dated 1775 and relates to the sale of Louth’s Fleece Inn. In a large number of complex words, it documents the sale of the Fleece Inn in Louth Market Place from Alexander and Freshney Gunniss to John Elvin and Robert Lee.

The Golden Fleece Inn was on the Market Place in 1775. But in 1936 the inn relocated to its present location in the former inn yard, and the Market Place frontage was sold and converted into Woolworth’s store. It is now “Bargain Buys”.

Another historical document in Louth Museum also mentions property-owner Robert Lee, and we speculate that Lee Street took its name from him.

The donor of the indenture, Mr Varley, told us that the document had belonged to an elderly relative who had worked for a property agent in London. It is thanks to people like our munificent donor that Louth Museum has such a rich heritage of treasures.

17th March 2015

'10,000th item added to Louth Museum's Database!'

Warren Farm Horses - Flower, Captain and Barker

Warren Farm HorsesSlowly and steadily we are adding items, in the Museum, to the computer database, and we have just added our 10,000th item. (I remember the feeling of achievement when we added the 100th item, way back in 2008!) The database is now substantial and enables us to quickly search for information about any topic. Shortly this facility will be available online, via the Louth Museum website.

As an example of the varied collection of items, let me tell you about the 10,000th item. It is a notebook from the estate agent Dickinson Davy & Markham (now known as DDM), which records the inventory of Mr and Mrs Stubbs’ farm in Welton-le-Wold in 1934. This was the time before tractors, when power was provided by horses.

Mr and Mrs Stubbs at Warren Farm had ten horses and a pony – each is individually listed in the inventory – “Flower” was 12-year-old brown mare, “Captain” was a 12-year-old black gelding, “Barker” was a 9-year-old brown gelding, and so on. I get the feeling that the horses were greatly valued members of the farm community.

On a more intellectual note, this and other similar notebooks reminds us how much farming has changed over the past 80 years.

3rd February 2015

'The Malt Kiln - Louth’s Concrete Cathedral'

Louth malt kiln interior in 1950In 1950 a new Malt Kiln was built in Louth to replace the previous one which had been destroyed by bombing in 1943. It was a good location, as the surrounding farms produced barley, and the location at the railway station allowed easy transport of both the barley and the end products of malting.

Malting is the first step in turning barley into beer. In malting, barley is soaked in water to make it germinate, and then germination is stopped by drying with hot air. This process develops enzymes in the grains which turn the starches into sugars.

The 1950 Malt Kiln was large and modern, and constructed from concrete. The interior was state-of-the art. Some admired it, but many thought that the “Concrete Cathedral” was a blot on Louth’s landscape.

The current demolition of the Malt Kiln is drawing spectators of all ages who are mesmerised as the great machine appears to eat the structure, and crawls on the growing pile of debris.

Louth has lost its Concrete Cathedral, but has regained a view of the façade of the Railway Station.

15th January 2015

'What did Andreas Kalvos really look like?'

Is This Andreas KalvosAndreas Kalvos is the national poet of Greece. From 1865 to his death in 1869 he lived in Louth, and his wife Charlotte ran a school for girls in what is now known as High Holme Road. You can read about them on the “Andreas Kalvos” page of this website, and also see a photo of Charlotte.

On the memorial to Andreas Kalvos in Greece is this picture of him. You might assume this is a realistic image, but you would be wrong. It is merely an artist’s fantasy and bears no resemblance to reality.

The photo of Mrs Charlotte Kalvos was taken by photographer William Plumtree of Ramsgate Louth sometime between 1865 and 1870. It is likely that a photo of her husband was taken at the same time but none has been identified. Might it be lurking in an old photo album in your house?

An account of Andreas’ appearance by Miss Ethel Sharpley who, along with her sister, had been pupils at the school, in her later years, remembered that Kalvos “walked about Louth in a skull cap” and that Charlotte appeared to the young Ethel to be “a very old lady”!

Ruth's blog 2014


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