Posts Tagged ‘Lancaster Castle’

‘The details are unfit for publication.’ Lancaster Gazette, 1858.

The Furness peninsula on the west side of Morecambe Bay is now a mostly quiet rural spot to the south of the Cumbrian Lakes. But throughout much of its history, when it was in Lancashire, it was full of industry; principally iron ore mining and iron furnaces (called ‘bloomeries’). This story concerns one nineteenth-century iron miner called Christopher Grisdale and how what he did affected a family who worked in one of the furnaces.

The area we are concerned with encompasses Dalton-in-Furness and Ulverston. It is flat country with views of the higher Lakelands to the north and northeast and across the bay to the Cartmel peninsula to the east. Iron mining started here in the early middle ages, but the mines were small, the iron extracted by hand with little machinery and the ore carted away by pack horses.

A horse gin working a mine shaft

A horse gin working a mine shaft

Things started to change in the later 1700s when demand for iron soared to supply the Royal Navy and the nascent industrial towns. New mines were opened and older mines were enlarged, particularly in the Lindal and Marton area between Dalton and Ulverston.

A number of mining techniques were employed in the Lindal and Marton area. Mostly a system of shafts and levels was used. A vertical shaft would be sunk, and the ore would be removed from a horizontal level to its outer limits. Material would be lifted out by a horse gin or steam engine. Sometimes the ground above would be allowed to collapse into the excavated level. The shaft would be extended downwards, and the process would be repeated at a lower level, and so on. This process was known as top slicing, and resulted in large surface depressions above the mine workings, many of which can still be seen.

Cornish miners were brought in and the mines soon moved from using ‘horse gins’ to bring up the ore to using steam-powered winding engines called whimseys. New furnaces were built, two of which were at Newland just east of Ulverston and, in 1747, at Orgrave Mill near Holmes Green between Dalton and Ulverston. The Newland furnace was one of eight charcoal furnaces in Cumbria, ‘it became the home of the Harrison Ainslie company, an important entrepreneurial business which eventually owned all of the iron furnaces in what became known as the Furness area. Newland was the industrial heart of the region’.

‘It produced 28 tonnes of iron per week, and to do that it required 56 tonnes of charcoal each week, which meant a huge volume of timber. Seven or eight men worked there, tough, unrelenting hard graft until the last production run finished in 1893.’

Newland Furnace and Foundry, Ulverston

Newland Furnace and Foundry, Ulverston

Iron miners generally worked as small companies; gangs of men managed by a mine captain, paid monthly as a unit, and the money shared amongst themselves as they saw fit. Miners were easily identifiable by their greasy red appearance, with face, hands and clothes stained red by the iron oxide. Mining was dangerous, and miners were often injured or killed by rockfalls, railway accidents, falling off wet ladders, etc. Nevertheless, or possibly as a result, they tended to be strongly religious, and the area had several Methodist and Baptist chapels, as well as the church.

Ulverston Iron Ore Miners

Ulverston Iron Ore Miners

But not all the ore was smelted locally. Most had to be transported elsewhere. A port was lacking (Barrow-in-Furness hadn’t yet been developed as such), so in 1794-5 a canal was cut, one and a quarter miles in length, connecting Ulverston with Morecambe Bay. It was ‘said to be the shortest, straightest, and deepest in England, and is navigable for vessels of 300 tons burthen, which can be moored in safety in the capacious basin constructed for the purpose’.

After the completion of the canal Ulverston had a considerable coasting trade, exporting iron and copper ore and coppice wood, hoops, slates and gunpowder; but since the opening of the docks at Barrow the port is quite deserted and its shipyards silent. “In 1774,” Mr. West tells us, “there were seventy ships belonging to this place. Coals were then imported, and sold at £1 5s. 6d. per caldron.”

The streets of Ulverston ‘were often ankle deep in red mud, as iron-ore carts passed through regularly en route to the Canal and the iron furnace at Newland – ladies complained they could not get to Church without getting their petticoats filthy’.

mapChristopher Grisdale was born in Dalton in 1828, the illegitimate and only son of Elizabeth (‘Betty’) Grisdale. Betty too had been born in Dalton in 1807, one of two children of Dalton-born Christopher Grisdale and his Yorkshire wife Ruth Hatterton. To link in with a known Grisdale family, Christopher Senior, who was born in 1776, was one of several illegitimate children of an Agnes Grisdale, and it’s nigh on certain that this Agnes was born in 1730 in Heversham, Westmorland to John Grisdale and his first wife Elizabeth Holme. John was later to move to Cartmel (in about 1739) and was thus the first Grisdale to inhabit this coastal area. I wrote about this family in a story called ‘Grisdale Cockle Fishermen of the Cartmel Peninsula’.

The Christopher Grisdale we are concerned with (the one born in 1828) was working on a farm near Dalton owned by Thomas Huddleston in 1851. I can find no mention of him before this so I don’t know where and how he was raised or what became of his mother Betty. Thomas Huddleston was related to George Huddleston, one of the principal shareholders in the Ulverston Mining Company and, as we shall see, a powerful local JP and magistrate.

Sometime after 1851 Christopher stopped working on a farm and started working as a miner in one of the local iron mines – most likely in the Lindal/Marton area between Ulverston and Dalton. In 1n 1856 he married Charlotte Jolley in St Mary’s church in Ulverston; a child soon followed though I have yet to determine her/his name.

Let’s here make mention of another local family – the Fells. Christopher Fell had worked in the Orgrave Mill iron foundry near Dalton, but by 1858 he worked in a foundry in Ulverston, probably at Newland. One of his many children was Margaret who was aged just seven on the 13th of June 1858 when she had the misfortune to meet iron miner Christopher Grisdale in Ulverston. Here are the facts of what happened. On 19 June 1858 the Westmorland Gazette reported:

Villainous Assault – At the Magistrates’ Office, Ulverston, on Wednesday, before G Huddleston, Esq., Christopher Grisdale, of Ulverston, labourer, was charged with assaulting Margaret Fell, daughter of Christopher Fell, a child of seven years of age, with intent, on Sunday last. The offense being clearly proved, he was committed to take his trial at the ensuing sessions.

The Lancaster Gazette reported on the same day that Grisdale had ‘carnally to know’ Margaret, i.e. attempted to rape her. On 3 July the same paper reported the trial:

Criminal Assault – Christopher Grisdale, 30, miner, was indicted for attempting at Ulverston, on the 13th June, 1858, carnally to know Margaret Fell, a child under 10 years of age, the second count charged him with assault, occasioning bodily harm; and the third count charged him with indecent assault.

Mr. M’Oubrey appeared to prosecute, and Mr. Higgin for the defence.

On an objection made by Mr. Higgin to an omission on the wording of the first count, the count was withdrawn, and the case was taken upon the second and third counts.

Town Bank School, Ulverston

Town Bank School, Ulverston

This was one of the discreditable cases of which we fortunately have but few in this part of the county. The evidence for the prosecution showed that the little girl, Margaret Fell, who was only seven years of age, was playing near the Town Bank school, Ulverston, on the afternoon of Sunday the 13th June, when the prisoner, whom she had not known before, but who is a married man, with a wife and child, came up, and under the promise of giving her a half-penny or a penny she went with him, and partly having hold of his hand, and partly carried by him, was taken into a field near to the house of Mr. Gregson Fell, and there committed the gross assault with which he was charged; and then set her on the road home by another road. On arriving home she complained to her mother of injury. Supt. Cooper was informed of the circumstance, and under his directions the little girl was examined by Mr. Seatle, surgeon, who found her injured by violence. The details are unfit for publication.

Mr. Higgin addressed the jury in defence of the prisoner. The chairman summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the first count, and the court sentenced the prisoner to be imprisoned in the House of Correction, with hard labour, for 15 months.

Prisoners arriving at Lancaster Castle Prison

Prisoners arriving at Lancaster Castle Prison

So Christopher Grisdale had violently tried to rape little Margaret Fell – “The details are unfit for publication”. What I find rather amazing is that Grisdale received a sentence of only 15 months in prison for his crime – the ‘House of Correction’ probably being Lancaster Castle. This is only a few years since people were hanged or transported to Australia for petty theft or poaching; crimes against property, however small, were nearly always punished more severally than crimes against other common people.

We might normally expect to find Christopher Grisdale somewhere in the records again after his release, but I can find him nowhere, or his wife and child. Had he died in jail? If so we might expect to find his death recorded. Had he died or emigrated? Lots of questions, no answers.

Perhaps there was a sort of justice because although she had no doubt been traumatized, Margaret Fell survived, and went on to marry William Wilkinson in 1875; she had three children and died in Bradford in Yorkshire in 1938 aged 87.

 

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‘A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.’ Proverbs 26:3

In the spring of 1838 a twenty-eight year old girl called Deborah Grisdale died in the Lancaster Lunatic Asylum. Without consulting the asylum’s records I can’t say why she was there or how she died, but I can say something about such asylums and, at the end, I’ll tell where she came from.

Inside Bedlam

Inside Bedlam

‘For as long as the Church controlled the insane, they endured dreadful torments. They were imprisoned, chained to a wall (or if they were lucky to a bed), flogged, starved, insulted, tortured, immersed in iced water and otherwise brutalised. It also seems safe to assume that sexual abuse would have been commonplace in view of twentieth century disclosures about monasteries, seminaries, church schools, orphanages and state mental asylums. Throughout Christendom the insane were kept in insanitary conditions in mad-houses and exposed to public ridicule. The most famous place in England for such people was the hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem (“Bedlam”), where visitors were charged a fee to see the inmates, and were allowed to provoke them and laugh at them. A few inmates came to their senses, some died of old age, some died of neglect, starvation, exposure or torture, and many died of “putrid fever” or other infectious diseases that flourished in such conditions.’

Bedlam

Bedlam

The state of these asylums was memorably described by local magistrate Godfrey Higgins, who investigated York asylum in 1814. He found ‘evidence of wrongdoing on a massive scale: maltreatment of the patients extending to rape and murder; forging of records to hide deaths among the inmates; an extraordinarily widespread use of chains and other forms of mechanical restraint; massive embezzlement of funds; and conditions of utter filth and neglect.’ On one visit he forced his way through a hidden door to expose a tiny room crammed with thirteen elderly ladies, practically naked and covered in their own excrement. Higgins ‘became very sick and could no longer remain in the room.  I vomited.’

 

In a Victorian lunatic asylum

In a Victorian lunatic asylum

In Lancashire prior to the 1800s the ‘mentally ill’ were imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. In the early 19th Century, pressure from various quarters (particularly from the Quakers) was growing to build county asylums that would provide suitable accommodation and more humane treatment for those suffering from mental disorder. In 1809, one year after the County Asylums Act of 1808, a decision was made to build a new asylum in Lancaster. Designed by architect Thomas Standen, it opened in 1816 as the ‘County Lunatic Asylum for the County Palatine of Lancaster’ – it was here that Deborah Grisdale was sent.

‘The mentally ill inmates, who were classed as ‘lunatics’, were transferred from Lancaster Castle to the Asylum in the outskirts of Lancaster. Despite an attempt to move away from previous mistreatment, inadequate treatment still occurred in the first few years of the Asylum’s existence… During the renovation of the original section of the asylums into housing in the early twenty-first century, there were reports of shackles and padded rooms being found in the cellars of the remains. It is clear that chaining was still seen as a form of treatment of the mentally ill for years after the creation of Asylums.’

Lancaster Moor Asylum

The 1816 Lancaster Asylum

The important thing to keep in mind is that both in the old ‘madhouses’ and the later ‘asylums’, such as in Lancaster, one didn’t have to be mad to be sent there. They were long used as dumping grounds for any people who magistrates found in any way problematic. The list below from a later nineteenth-century asylum shows the lunacy of many of the reasons for which people were sent to a lunatic asylum. It will make you laugh and weep.

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Women in particular could find themselves labelled insane and locked up in madhouses for a range of conditions – from postnatal depression to alcoholism or senile dementia, and even for social transgressions such as infidelity (‘moral insanity’).

Emma Riches

Emma Riches

In the 1850s, Emma Riches, a 27-year-old mother of four, was admitted to the Bethlem asylum (the original Bedlam). ‘Her newest baby was four weeks old when Emma was admitted… with ‘puerperal insanity’, or what we would now call postnatal depression… She had suffered from the illness after the births of each of the children, and been admitted to the same hospital before.’

Emma’s notes record: ‘She never speaks nor appears to notice anything… She cares for nothing, will not eat unless she is forced to do so, nor dress nor undress herself.’

‘There is no clear indication of how Emma was treated by doctors, beyond a remark that the drugs they tried were ineffectual. Nurses are likely to have attempted to persuade her to sew or help out in the kitchens. Uneducated, Emma could not have read books to pass the time or provide an escape from the tedium of her asylum – where she would have been without all of her four children. A second photograph shows her restored to health, wearing her own smart clothes again and about to be discharged back to her family. After almost a year in hospital, her postnatal depression had passed.’

Without going to Preston to look at the asylum’s records, I don’t know why Deborah Grisdale was sent there. In 1835, when she was twenty-four, she had given birth to an illegitimate baby boy in her home village of Allithwaite on the Cartmel peninsula, she called him Jehoshaphat after the fourth king of Judah.

Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.

Should we read anything into this choice of name?

Was Deborah committed for postnatal depression of even ‘moral insanity’? Or was she truly mad? As I said I don’t yet know. All I know is she died in the asylum aged ’28’ in 1838.

Deborah Grisdale was born in 1811 in Allithwaite on the Cartmel peninsula in Lancashire (now in Cumbria). She was the second child and only daughter of cockle fishernan Thomas Grisdale and his wife Mary Armistead, She was named after Thomas’s own mother Deborah Grisdale (nee Grisdale). I wrote about the family in a story called ‘Grisdale Cockle Fishermen of the Cartmel Peninsula’. Of Deborah’s three siblings only one lived long enough to have a family and leave descendants: the first Isaac Armistead Grisdale.

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

And what of Deborah’s illegitimate son Jehoshaphat? After his birth in 1835 we next find him in 1841 living with his grandparennts in Allithwaite and then in 1851 working as a farm servant in nearby Seathwaite in Egton cum Newland.. Then he seems to disappear. Did he change his name? Did he join the army? Who knows.

The extended Asylum

The extended Asylum