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Making History
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Begins Tuesday 18 October 2005 , 3.00-3.30 p.m
Sue Cook and the team answer listeners' historical queries and celebrate the way in which we all 'make' history.
Series 12
Programme 1
18 October 2005

Listen to this programme in full

Katherine Naish

A listener who shares the name Naish was intrigued to see that the 'throne chairs' designed for the wedding of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761, and kept at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, were designed by a Katherine Naish. Who was she and how common was it for a woman to rise to the top of her art of craft in the 18th century?

Katherine Naish was an upholsterer and chair-maker who took over from her father, Henry Williams, in 1759. Based in London, he had been chair-maker to the royal household for over 40 years. In the 18th century a widow would sometimes take over her late husband's business interests, but it was unusual for a daughter to take over her father's company. Naish died in 1772.

Making History consulted the following:

Charles Noble, Keeper of the Collections at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Chatsworth House

Lucy Wood Senior Curator of the Furniture, Fashion and Textiles Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London
Victoria and Albert Museum

Dr Anne Anderson at Southampton Solent University
Southampton Solent University

Seaweed Industry of South Uist

What were the origins of the seaweed industry in the Hebrides?

There is evidence that seaweed has been used for fertiliser in the Hebrides for hundreds of years, but in the 1740s the idea of burning seaweed for potash (used in glassmaking amongst other things) was brought in from Ireland. Potash had traditionally been sourced from Spain but the wars in Europe and North America at the end of the 18th century temporarily stopped this supply and the industry on South Uist (and elsewhere) was given a much needed boost. The industry continued to be an important part of the local economy right up until the 1960s.

Making History consulted Donald John Mackinnon, who himself worked in the industry, and James Symonds of the Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield.

University of Sheffield

"Brockley Jack"

A listener recalls a story from his school days in the 1930s which linked the Brockley Jack public house in South London with the activities of a highwayman known as 'Brockley Jack'. Making History consulted Gillian Spraggs, author of Outlaws and Highwaymen, the Cult of the Robber in England from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century (Pimlico, 2001).

According to Gillian Spraggs, the inn certainly existed by 1810, when it was called the Brockley Castle. At that time Brockley was a very small, isolated hamlet. Much of the country round about was wooded. It is not far from Blackheath and Shooters Hill, both places that were notorious for robberies for several centuries, so there were highway robbers operating in the area. Brockley became 'suburbanised' in the 1850s, and by 1883 the area had become fairly well built up. By the end of the 19th century the name of the pub had changed to the Brockley Jack and was an old, rambling inn that flourished on the custom of visitors who came to drink there because of its picturesque building. In order to cater better to the hordes of customers, in 1898 the owner rebuilt the inn as a handsome but fairly run-of-the-mill Victorian public house. With the 'romantic' old building gone, his custom fell off - a cautionary tale. There is an oil painting of the old building, reproduced here:

Painting of the old building

The sign in the tree just says 'The Brockley Jack', and the painting is said to date from 1885.

One of the first written references to the Brockley Jack Inn is in The History of the Borough of Lewisham, by Leland L. Duncan, published in 1908. Duncan says of it: "...once an old-world, wayside, wooden hostelry, which is said to have been frequented by Dick Turpin and other highwaymen".

The first reference to 'Brockley Jack, highwayman' that Gillian can find is in 1963, in The English Inn by Denzil Batchelor. This just says of the inn: "named after a highwayman".

Since Duncan, in 1908, knew nothing of 'Brockley Jack' the highwayman, Gillian Spraggs argues that he was probably invented some time between then and 1963, as an embroidery on the story that the inn was used by highwaymen and as a way of attracting custom to it.

Gillian Spraggs' website

The Manchester Floods of 1872

What caused the terrific floods of 1872 which ripped open the graves in Philip's Park Cemetery in Manchester?

Making History listener Stephen Rimmer took reporter Judy Merry to meet his auntie, Dorothy Gibson. Dorothy tells a family story that she first heard in the 1930s about a dreadful flood that washed away many graves in a Manchester cemetery. She always thought that this was a story but Stephen had seen evidence for it when visiting an exhibition about Manchester's sewers in the city's Museum of Science and Industry. Indeed, the museum exhibition and copies of the Manchester Evening News of the time prove that the family story was based on real events.

Manchester Evening News 1872

Shortly before 12 o'clock noon on Saturday 15th July the waters of the Medlock began to rise, and reached its greatest height about 3pm, when it was found to be over 21ft, in many places, above its ordinary level. The saddest calamity was the result. The City Cemetery, established by the Corporation of Manchester, runs east and west from Bradford Road, where is the principal entrance, and has for its south boundary the River Medlock, which separates the cemetery from Philip's Park. The two were united by several bridges.

The visitor arriving by Bradford Road enters the Protestant portion of the cemetery, at the furthest, or east or west end of which the Calico Printing Works of Messrs Wood & Wright, the Bank Bridge Works, hide the further, or Roman Catholic portion of the cemetery.

Crossing the road, it is seen that the Medlock, where it bounds the 1W burying place, inclines to the south, from the east boundary wall of the cemetery, until reaching the promontory where there is a weir, it makes a sudden bend to the north.

The flood water in the Medlock at 12.50 on Saturday refused to follow the channel inclining to the south, and overflowed its banks, running in almost a straight line to the weir. At this time the river was about 12ft above its usual level.

The weir backed the water upon a portion of the cemetery where there was grave space for 250 graves, some 60 of which had been used for an average of five interments each.

The descending water and the returned water from the weir eddied here in such a manner as to destroy these graves. The coffins were lifted, broken by being dashed against the weir, and the released bodies, in all stages of decay, were carried down the stream. Some of them floated down through Manchester into the Irwell, and thence into the Mersey - as many as 19 being counted by an observer at Knott Mill. Others floated to Ancoats Bridge, Pin Mill Brow, where they were stayed among other debris, and taken to Fairfield Street Police Station. Others were secured in the cemetery, and re-interred the same night.

Others, again, floated into Philips Park and into the adjoining cellars and gardens. In the garden of one beerhouse in Bradford, four naked bodies floated, and that of a child was found when pumping out a cellar.

Altogether, there could not have been less than 50 or 60 bodies which had been disturbed from their last resting place.

At Medlock Vale the fields and cottage gardens were inundated. Ash Bridge was washed down, and a great part deposited in the middle of a field opposite Medlock Vale House. Another bridge, almost entire, lay near the same place on the river bank, having being washed down near Daisy Nook.!!

A crude woodcut was printed at the time depicting animated skeletons stood in their canoe-like coffins crying for help as they were being washed downstream in the deluge.

The Roman Catholics removed their low-lying cemetery to what is now St Joseph's cemetery in Moston (c1875), the nearby Gardener's Arms being the highest point in the City.

Various "Letters to the Editor" from the Manchester Evening News in 1987 about a question from a Mrs B Hughes asking if the "coffin" incident did really happen were replied to by a "flood" of answers:- "...the flood swept in torrents ... carrying with it coffins from newly-opened graves as far as Granby Row." JC.

"...not only coffins, but gravestones were swept down the stream as far as Ancoats and. Ardwick. My pals and I lived on the Ardwick side of the river, and on the days we went to the cinema, to save us going all the way round Beswick we forded the river (Medlock) by the means of these gravestones that were washed down by that mighty surge of water." FC.

"In Ancoats and Ardwick, water level reached as high as bedroom windows and rafts were used to rescue people." JEB.

"I can confirm this as true as my own mother's coffin was one of those involved. My father told me about the disaster." AD.

Making History consulted Bill Luckin, Research Professor at the Bolton Institute. 

Bolton Institute

Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
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Making History

Vanessa Collingridge
Vanessa CollingridgeVanessa has presented science and current affairs programmes for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Discovery and has presented for BBC Radio 4 & Five Live and a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday, Scotsman and Sunday Herald. 

Contact Making History

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Making History
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Making History is a Pier Production for BBC Radio 4 and is produced by Nick Patrick.

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