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Ruth's Blog 2018

Welcome to Ruth's 2018 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.

13th December 2018

'Parcels in the Post Office'

Parcels in the Post OfficeIn Louth Museum we have thousands of photos. One of the more unusual is this photo of Louth Sorting office during the pre-Christmas rush in December 1992. The photo was taken by postman Tim Broughton, and kindly donated to the museum by the late Harold Jackson.

Did you know that Louth’s first Post Office was established in 1822 on the corner of Eastgate and Vickers Lane, where the shop ‘Heron’ is now? This was in the era before pre-paid postage stamps were introduced in 1840. In the 1880s the Post Office moved to the Market Place, and then in 1929 to Little Eastgate. Now, of course, the Post Office operates from Northgate, opposite Vickers Lane, with the Royal Mail Delivery Office remaining in Little Eastgate.

27th November 2018

'After the war ended in 1918'

After the war ended in 1918The fighting stopped in November 1918, but returning servicemen and the civilian population continued to face appalling problems, notably mental illness, influenza and unemployment.

An entry written earlier this year in the museum’s Remembrance Book reads, “John James Rooney from Louth enlisted in Lincolnshire Regiment in 1915, discharged 1917 medically unfit (shell shock) and sent to Bracebridge Heath Mental Hospital. Stayed there until his death in 1974. Buried in Louth”. Born in 1891, John was the son of an agricultural gang master who lived in Spital Hill. In 1911 John was working as a porter for P A Kelly & Sons, general dealers in Eastgate. His life can be summarised as 24 years in Louth, two years in the war, and 57 years in the mental hospital.

Influenza, colloquially known as Spanish flu, infected people around the world between 1918 and 1920 and, according to Wikipedia, resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million. Most flu outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients; in contrast, the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed young adults. It is thought that the virus was not especially aggressive, but that the prevailing malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene promoted lethal secondary bacterial infections. To maintain morale, censors minimized reports of flu in Germany, the UK, France, and the USA, but the papers were able to report the epidemic in neutral Spain which created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, thereby giving rise to the name, "Spanish Flu".

After a brief post-war boom, UK unemployment rose sharply and stayed high until the Second World War. The unemployment problem was particularly depressing for returning servicemen.

31st October 2018

'Edwin Whitworth and the self-binding reaper'

Self-binding reaperThe recent talk given to the Ants and Nats by Jean Howard on the topic of "Lesser known Lincolnshire poets" included Laura Annie Whitworth, also known as Laura Dudding. Laura lived in Theddlethorpe with her husband Edwin Whitworth – he was an agricultural engineer who deserves more recognition.

Edwin Whitworth (1846-1926) invented the knot-tying mechanism which allowed corn reapers to bind corn into sheaves. These reapers were known as "binders". From about 1810 to 1870 several people had been trying to achieve this. Edwin perfected the knot-tying mechanism, but he lacked funds to protect his patent and so never became very wealthy.

A newspaper report in October 1881 tells us about the significant developments made by Edwin Whitworth:
"This patent self-binding reaper has been working on different farms in the neighbourhood, and has given general satisfaction. The Binder is now looked upon as a decided and important success of mechanical skill, and there is no doubt that the machine will be extensively purchased by farmers for next harvest."

"On Wednesday the machine cut and bound a good crop of barley belonging to Mr W B Pearson. The quantity to be cut was four acres, which the machine accomplished in less than four hours, to the entire satisfaction of Mr Pearson. The cutting and binding were all that could be desired; the knot is a perfect one, and the sheaves were large and bound in the middle – not too tight – the delivery of them being excellent. Another good feature in this machine is that it leaves no loose grain on the ground."

The photo shows reaper-binders arriving in Louth Railway Station, probably about 1890.

27th September 2018

'Keith Fytche in Larders'

Loaded PistolsWe have recently been given this photo of Keith Fytche behind the counter in Larders grocery shop. Many residents of Louth will remember Keith, who for several years ran this well-known delicatessen and grocery. In 1983 Keith took over Larders in Mercer Row from Harold Larder. The popular shop moved to Little Butcher Lane in 1988, Keith retired from the business in 2003, and he sadly died in 2006.

Keith who was born in Louth in 1927 worked as an architect after returning from the army in 1948, and had his own practice in New Street. He was a long-serving member of Louth Playgoers and he designed and built the Playgoers theatre in Newmarket. He also built his home in Stewton Lane.

Several generations of Keith’s ancestors had lived in Louth. His parents had a grocery shop in Charles Street. In the 1870s his great-great grandparents William and Jane Fytche ran the Raven Inn on Eastfield Road at the boundary with Louth Park. This inn, which is now a private house, catered largely for workers and sailors on the nearby Louth canal.

30th August 2018

'Loaded Pistols'

Loaded PistolsWe have recently been given some images and documents relating to the Lincolnshire Gun Company which was located in “Cromwell’s House”, now the Helal Tandoori Restaurant at the junction of Upgate and Mercer Row. This building is reputed to be one of the three oldest buildings in Louth – the others being the White Swan Inn and the Wheatsheaf Inn. Among the items given to us are indentures dating back as far as 1729.

My eye was caught by a relatively recent, 1976, newspaper cutting about three nineteenth century pistols that had been found in the Midland Bank in the Cornmarket, now HSBC. The predecessor of the Midland Bank was the Lincoln & Lindsey Bank, founded in 1833, and the pistols which date from this era were presumably used by the bank guards. In the twentieth century the pistols were on display in the Midland Bank for many years, and in June 1975 they were sent to and returned from the Head Office of Midland Bank. Subsequently, according to the newspaper report, they “were taken to the Lincolnshire Gun Company where Mr Frederick W O Read the proprietor, took the pistols from the case and found to his astonishment that all three pistols were loaded with powder and ball and had been for over 100 years.” The picture shows Frederick Read (right) with two of the bank staff, Rosemary Drinkel and Peter Wright.

The pistols are now on display in the Panorama Gallery of Louth Museum, and needless to say, they are no longer loaded!

1st August 2018

'The Mansion House in 1848'

Mansion House PosterIt is great to see the Mansion House, 12 Upgate, being renovated and restored to its former dignity. It is a Grade II listed building with a long history. Many people remember when it housed Louth Public Library in the second half of the twentieth Century, but it had other roles before that.

The Mansion House was built about 1750 by the Louth Old Corporation as the Assembly Rooms, and it became the centre of civic life for the gentry; then from 1853 until 1956 it was the Louth Mechanics' Institute - Mechanics' Institutes were educational establishments aimed towards working men.

In Louth Museum, we have a copy of a poster advertising a Grand Concert in the Mansion House on 13 December 1848. The concert was organised by Richard Hubbard, an "engraver and professor of music", who at that time lived in New Street, Louth. Richard's older brother was the well-known portrait painter Bennett Hubbard.

The following week, the Stamford Mercury newspaper dated 22 December, printed a very positive report of the concert, concluding, "Mr Hubbard received the most flattering evidence of appreciated native skill in getting up for the public so brilliant an entertainment".

27th June 2018

'Anglo-Saxon Cremation Urns at Louth Museum'

A Potted History - written by Charlotte Ottaway

excavation of an urn at South ElkingtonIn light of the recent exhibition on the Anglo-Saxon site excavated at Little Carlton, those whose interest has been piqued and wish to dig a little deeper may be interested to hear about another important local excavation. In 1946, over 200 Anglo-Saxon cremation urns along with some items of Romano-British pottery were found at Acthorpe Top in South Elkington. Seven of the urns discovered here are can be seen in the Ludalinks Gallery at the Museum, and when combined with the evidence from the Little Carlton site, we can observe the material manifestation of one of the most important processes in the history of the Western world – England’s conversion to Christianity.

Acclaimed Oxford archaeologist John Nowell Linton Myres noted the unusual abundance of urns at Acthorpe Top, calling it one of four key British sites, which between them give us many times over the total of urns from all other Anglo-Saxon burial grounds put together. All the urns at South Elkington contained burnt bones, flints, pebbles, and some grave goods. In contrast, the “cemetery” area of the Little Carlton settlement housed 30 burials, with bodily remains orientated in a West to East direction. Radio-carbon dating places these burials between AD 650 – 710, whilst analysis of the patterning of the urns at South Elkington dates them somewhere between AD 400 – 600. What can we interpret from these differences in burial methods? The bulk of all archaeological evidence from the Anglo-Saxon age is funerary, which is handy as we therefore know how these objects came to be in the ground – they were intentionally put there. But this presents an interpretation bias of its own, and how much can we infer about a people by how they buried their dead?

Unlike the people of Little Carlton, with their unusually high levels of literacy suggesting their importance as a royal, administrative or religious site, the evidence from the South Elkington-ians indicates a simple people (for more on this, see Richard Gurnham’s “Chapter 6: The People of the Cremation Cemetery”, in the Early Louth section of this website). Among the urns found, there was no sign of even a rudimentary ceramic industry - each urn appears to have been made by an individual hand. The few Saxon-style stamped wares present are probably due to Saxon elements in the original group of immigrants and the influence of limited 6th century trade, rather than a sign of any contemporary migration of other peoples. There are few goods of any great quality, but the presence of grave goods at all, such as the glass beads found in Urn 71 (housed at the Museum), and stem of a clay pipe in Urn 30, is an important indication – it defines these people as pagan, or at least following pagan traditions. The objects are all badly burnt or melted, suggesting that the bodies were cremated wearing their clothing and ornaments, confirming their pagan origin.

An urn from South ElkingtonYet, in AD 597, St Augustine’s mission from Rome under the auspices of Pope Gregory I started the process of conversion to Christianity. As more and more leaders of the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms converted (Christianity offered the assistance of a divine power, with promises of earthly victory, redemption and a paradisiac afterlife) the practice of placing goods in graves ranged from becoming unfashionable to being outlawed. In many places, pagan shrines were destroyed, their stones used in the building of new Christian churches. Archaeological evidence from across the country indicates a 7th century phase of transition, between the occupations dates of our two Lincolnshire settlements. Pagan-style burials - cremated whilst clothed, with grave goods, and remains placed in urns buried outside of the main settlement - gave way to the graveyards of new local churches, burials in a west to east orientation, without particular dress or goods.

However, it seems not everyone was convinced by the new religion. At some sites across the country, there is interesting evidence of a combination of practices. At Finglesham (East Kent, first excavated in 1989), a west-east orientation of burials has been found in a pagan burial place. At Sutton Hoo, the great pagan ship-burial, most likely of King Raedwald of East Anglia, contained silver baptismal spoons, seemingly confirming Bede’s statement that Raedwald syncretised Christian practices into his pagan beliefs. There is also evidence of increased superstitious behaviour regarding the dead in this period, with higher incidences of decapitation and stoning of corpses. Richer graves were more likely to contain Christian amulets, which indicates conversion took place first and more quickly among the upper echelons of Anglo-Saxon society. Meanwhile, it seems everyday people doubted the power of Christianity over the potentially unquiet dead, denied their pagan rites. Kings may have made their conversions, but some of the buriers evidently weren’t quite convinced, and nudged a pagan amulet or two into the graves when no-one was looking! They seemed to need the double insurance of protection from the old gods and new.

Nevertheless, as we know today, Christianity won out. Its late 7th – early 8th century victory can be seen in the burial style at the Little Carlton site. Here we have not only totally Christian characteristics, but the site also seems to have had particular religious significance. We can therefore see, from the comparison of just these two excavations, that the Lincolnshire evidence tells a story on its own, as a part of this vast socio-political change. So, don’t underestimate those plain looking pots beneath your feet in the Ludalinks Gallery, and if you didn’t catch the Little Carlton exhibition at Louth, some of the items will now be displayed at St John the Baptist Church in Great Carlton. See for yourself these great local finds, that hold such significance in the archaeology of Christian conversion!

Bibliography and Further Reading:

  1. - “An Anglo-Saxon Urnfield at South Elkington”, G. Webster
  2. - “The Anglo-Saxon Pottery from Elkington”, JNL. Myres
  3. - “Anglo-Saxon Pottery of Lincolnshire”, JNL. Myres
  4. - The Anglo-Saxons, ed. J. Campbell, particularly Picture Essays:
    • - “The Archaeology of Conversion: Cemeteries”, S. Chadwick Hawkes
    • - “Sutton Hoo”, J. Campbell
7th June 2018

'Louth Flood 2007'

Louth Flood 2007The horrendous flood in May 1920 resulted in 23 deaths in Louth. This flood is commemorated by a permanent display in Louth Museum.

A collection of photos donated by the late David Robinson reminds us of the Louth flood in 2007, only eleven years ago. Heavy rainfall in the last week of June 2007 led to the River Lud bursting its banks. This photo of the children’s playground in Spout Yard shows just how dramatic it was. Many homes were flooded, leading to misery and problems that lasted for months.

The Flood Alleviation Scheme in Louth, which was led by the Environment Agency and cost £6.5 million, was formally opened in July 2017. Its aim is to protect residents from flooding. Large scale-flooding in Louth is one of those sights I hope never to see again.

3rd May 2018

'The Ash Bin in 1939'

The Ash Bin in 1939We have recently been given a rent book for a small house in Union Street, Louth, covering the years 1939 to 1945. The rent was five shillings (25p) per week. The “Notes for Tenants” at the back of the book caught my eye. Along with instructions about drains, coppers (for heating water) and not tarring the walls are rules about what to put in the bin.

Today we receive a lot of messages about what we should and should not put in our waste bins. In 1939, the principal material to go in the bin was ash from the fire, and that’s why it was called the “Ash Bin”. Every house would have had at least one open fire, producing substantial quantities of ash.

In 1939 there was no mention of plastic waste, and perhaps surprisingly none of paper and cardboard, which would everyone would have known was valuable fuel for the fire. Other waste to be burnt was vegetable refuse, fish and meat offal, and tea leaves.

We forget that bins were made of metal and had to be kept dry to prevent rust. Householders were urged not to put wet tea leaves in the bin, to keep the lid on the bin to exclude rainwater, and to raise the bin on bricks so it didn’t stand on wet ground.

3rd April 2018

'Portrait of D N Robinson, OBE'

Portrait of D N Robinson, OBEWhen you come to Louth Museum and go up the stairs your eyes will be drawn to the portrait of our late honorary life president David Robinson which has recently been put up. This magnificent portrait of David was painted in 2011 by Andrew White, a local artist who is best known for his painting of “The Last Supper”. It seems almost as if David is still presiding with us. David was instrumental in shaping the museum into the form it is today, and he made a generous donation to the museum in his Will. Our museum database tells me that 936 accessioned items in the museum (approx 10% of the whole collection) were donated by him, and we still have a vast quantity of his donations waiting to be accessioned. Future generations of those interested in Louth’s heritage will appreciate David’s foresight and generosity.

1st March 2018


FlummeryThis Victorian ceramic mould with a design of roses would have been used to make jelly or flummery. Many thanks to Derek Smith for taking this excellent photo.

Flummery was a cold pudding, popular in Britain from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. It was originally a starch-based pudding made by soaking oatmeal in water, boiling the strained liquid with sugar and flavouring such as rosewater, and allowing it to set in a mould. The pudding would be turned out onto a platter, and served with cream or honey.

The term flummery also came to include semi-set desserts such as fruit custard or blancmange thickened with cornflour, various dishes made of flour, milk, eggs and sugar, and jellies that contained gelatine from calves’ feet as the setting agent. In Australia, after World War II, flummery was the name used specifically for a mousse dessert made by whisking evaporated milk, sugar and gelatine, which became established as an inexpensive alternative to traditional cream-based mousse.

The origin of the word is obscure, but as 'flummery' also means 'complete nonsense', the name of the pudding may have arisen from the custom of giving end-of-meal desserts some sort of comic title to indicate 'unimportant or trivial thing', as is the probable derivation of 'flan', 'trifle' and 'fool'.

6th February 2018

'Edward Elger, Porter Dealer in Westgate'

Sherd of Edward Elger Porter potteryOne of the pleasures of working in Louth Museum is the variety of items we have, and the team of people who have detailed knowledge of diverse topics.

This small sherd of pottery found in Grainthorpe in 2008 bears the partial inscription "E E___ PORTER ___ LOUTH".

I started searching for 19th Century porter sellers in Louth with the initials EE, but didn't get very far. Then I spoke to Andy Cooper, who has an impressive collection of Louth bottles. He instantly suggested E Elger. Sure enough Edward Elger was a porter dealer with vaults in Westgate.

Edward Elger died in August 1844 at the age of only 43, which explains why bottles bearing his name are rare. His young wife Ann gave birth to their only surviving child a few months later; she sold the business, and moved to Cleethorpes where she ran a successful boarding house.

Elger's business in Westgate was briefly continued by George James Marshall, but the following year Marshall moved to the George Hotel, and the Westgate premises were converted into a private residence. The 1845 description of the property was "a frontage of 48 feet on Westgate, abuts the River Lud to the North and has commanding views of the beautiful pleasure grounds of Mrs Leeke, Henry Pye and others." As Richard Gurnham pointed out to me, William Brown in his sketches for the 1844 panorama, helpfully wrote the name Elger on the side of the white house at the junction of Westgate with Breakneck Lane, so that gives us the exact location! It is now Number 38 Westgate, a listed building.

8th January 2018

'Lloyds Bank in Mercer Row'

Lloyds Bank in Mercer RowOne hundred years ago in 1918, Britain was at war. But on the home front, things continued to function and to develop. In Louth the frontage of Lloyds Bank at 24 Mercer Row was rebuilt by Mawer Bros, and is clearly recognisable today. This bank had formerly been the Capital & Counties Bank, and the incentive for the new look in 1918 was the take-over by Lloyds Bank.

The first bank on this site had been established in 1754 by Boston corn merchant and banker William Garfit. The Garfit family lived in Kenwick Hall from 1888 to 1925. The Capital & Counties Bank took over from Garfit & Co in 1891. This bank in Mercer Row claims to be the oldest branch of Lloyds Bank still operating from its original building.

While researching this I realised that Lloyds Bank never had an apostrophe in its name; in contrast Lloyd's of London, the shipping insurers, always does!

Ruth's blog 2017
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