HMS Dart and the capture of Dutch ships in 1799, and the Désirée in 1800

    HMS Dart and La Désirée, 1800

HMS Dart was built in Redbridge, Hampshire, on the fringes of Southampton in 1796, and broken up in Barbados in 1809. She had the same bow and stern and could anchor from either end. She was so sharp in her construction that the midship section resembled a wedge. This resulted in poor stability, and she was unsafe in a wind. Hence her fairly short career as this version of the ship. There were later Royal Navy ships given the same name.

The Zuiderzee in the centre of the map. About 580 sq miles are now reclaimed land.

Around the end of August 1799, Dart captured the sloop Jonge Jan off the Dutch coast. Dart also shared with gunboats DefenderCracker, and Hasty in the proceeds of the capture of the Hell Hound. Notices calling for claimants for the prize money were placed in the London Gazette on 7th January 1803. On 7 October 1799, the DartDefenderCracker, and Hasty, and the schuyt Isis cut out four gunboats from their moorings in the Zuiderzee. Three of the gunboats were schuyts, [A schuyt is a flat-bottomed sailing boat used in the Netherlands, originally for fishing or carrying light cargoes. In the 17th century, they were rigged with two masts like a ketch, but by the 19th century, had adopted a single mast like a sloop] but one was a new, purpose-built gunboat armed with two 18-pounder guns in her bow and two 18-pounder carronades in her broadside. The three schuyts also carried four guns and carronades each. The vessels had crews ranging in size from 20 to 30 men. The British suffered no casualties [ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 3, p.141 ].  The behaviour of Messrs. Hall and Winter, midshipmen, were particularly commended.  Rob Hall was also a midshipman on the Dart, and at least the City of Cork thought he deserved an award. He was twenty-one years old.

The following year Rob had been promoted, and had been gazetted a lieutenant on 14 June 1800. Less than a month later, HMS Dart took part in the Raid on Dunkirk, which was being blockaded by the British. The Channel ports were well suited for the French frigates that attacked shipping in British waters whenever they could escape the blockade.

HMS Dart, captured Désirée on 8 July 1800, in a night raid into Dunkirk harbour. Désirée was armed with 40 guns, those on the main deck being 24-pounder guns, and had a crew of 250 men under the command of Citizen Deplancy. However, a number of her crew were on shore. Dart lost one man killed and 13 wounded, including two officers badly wounded. Although several other vessels that participated in the raid had some wounded, Darts capture of Désirée was the raid’s only real accomplishment. This capture resulted in Campbell’s promotion to post captain and command of the frigate Ariadne. French casualties were heavy. One account states that all the French officers, save a midshipman, were killed, and that casualties amounted to almost 100 men killed and wounded. Lloyd’s List reported on 11 July that the “Grand Desiree”, prize to the Dart, had arrived in the Downs, and that the French captain and about 50 men had been killed, and nine wounded.  The French commander was capitaine de frégate Lefebvre de Plancy, and French records show that he was mortally wounded in the action.

The Royal Navy took Desiree into service, and many British vessels shared in the proceeds of the capture.In 1847 the Admiralty issued the Naval General Service Medal, with clasp “Capture of the Désirée” to all surviving claimants (only 21 surviving men) from the raid.[ Fonds Marine, p.235., and The London Gazette. 27 September 1800. p. 1123 ]

Captain Sir Robert Hall 1778 -1818

This is the start of a slight Hornblower moment or two. Robert Hall is Mary Roche’s (neé Verling) son by her first marriage to “Captain Hall”. She is 4 x Great-Granny  He is John Roche’s step-son.

The starting point for this post was coming across a couple of cuttings from the Irish Times, and the Irish Independent.

City of Cork Freedom Box

Irish Times, Saturday 22 January 2005.  A rare Irish silver freedom box, right, giving the Freedom of the City of Cork dating from 1808 is up for auction at John Weldon next Tuesday (25th January 2005)  with an estimate of €10,000-€15,000. The square box is hallmarked Dublin 1808 and is inscribed with the City of Cork arms and an inscription. It was presented to a Captain Robert Hall on August 22nd, 1809 for gallantry for his part as a midshipman on board The Dart in battle with four Dutch gunboats in 1796 and with a French frigate in July 1800.

The inscription reads: ” With this box the Freedom of the City of Cork in Ireland was unanimously given to Capt Robert Hall for his gallant conduct in his Majesty’s Navy the 22nd day of August 1809 “.

Irish Independent; 3 Apr 2015 – A Cork Freedom Box, made in Dublin in 1808 and given to the naval officer Captain Rob Hall for gallant conduct in the Napoleonic wars, sold at John Weldon Auctioneers on March 24 for €5,500.

So some local recognition of a local naval hero. But we need a little more. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (edited) we can get the following:  HALL, Sir ROBERT, naval officer; baptized 2 Jan. 1778 in County Tipperary (Republic of Ireland); his father remains unidentified, while his mother is known only through the probate of his will, where she appears as “Mary Roche, heretofore Hall”;  Robert Hall’s early years have not attracted the attention of naval biographers. It is known, however, that he was gazetted a lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 14 June 1800, a commander on 27 June 1808, and a captain on 4 March 1811.

HMS Dart and La Désirée

The Canadians go on at some length about Rob Hall’s career and achievements in Canada, but seem to have missed his early “gallant conduct”. The information with the presentation of the freedom box is for his “gallantry for his part as a midshipman on board The Dart in battle with four Dutch gunboats in 1796 and with a French frigate in July 1800”. So what was this early gallant conduct. It turns out to be the capture of Dutch ships in the Zuiderzee in 1799, not 1796, and a French frigate in 1800.

Rob Hall, later Sir Robert Hall [ 1778 -1818 ] is Mary Roche (neé Verling) son by her first marriage to “Captain Hall”. He is John Roche’s step-son, and John Roche O’Bryen’s step-uncle. He seems to have had a distinguished  naval career, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography closes its entry on him as follows ” An affable, gallant, and cultivated officer, Hall in his Canadian posting had proved himself a conspicuously fair-minded, innovative, and efficient administrator. His heirs were a natural son, Robert Hall, born in 1817 to a Miss Mary Ann Edwards, and his mother Mary Roche, who was his residuary legatee. The son, baptized on 2 Nov. 1818 by George Okill Stuart, rector of St George’s Church in Kingston, became a vice-admiral in the Royal Navy and died in London on 11 June 1882 after having served for ten years as naval secretary to the Admiralty. “

I really like the fact that he acknowledged and provided for a bastard son, and was happy for it to be acknowledged in the family, and according to the Pedigree of the Verlings of Cove by Dr. Gabriel O’Connell Redmond, ” An obelisk was erected to his memory in Aghada Wood by his stepfather John Roche of that place.”;  so they certainly weren’t ashamed of him. There is more work  to be done on the early life, but there is certainly evidence that his step-sister Mary Roche seems to have been born in Ireland in 1780, and died in 1852, according to the obituary notice “Mary O’Brien, relict of the late Henry Hewitt O’Brien, aged 72,”. Her probate notice spells the name O’Bryen, but notes the will spells it O’Brien. So it seems highly likely that Mary Hall (neé Verling) had re-married as a widow with a son under the age of two, and that John and Mary Roche brought up three children. Mary’s son Rob Hall, and then Mary Roche junior, and, finally, John Roche junior, who was one of the parties to his sister’s [Mary Roche junior] marriage settlement in 1807.

So back to the Canadians.

It is known, however, that Robert Hall was gazetted a lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 14 June 1800, a commander on 27 June 1808, and a captain on 4 March 1811. He attracted attention for sterling service in the defence of a fort on the Gulf of Rosas, Spain, in November 1808 while in command of the bomb-ketch Lucifer. On 28 Sept. 1810 he enhanced his reputation when, as commander of the 14-gun Rambler, he captured a large French privateer lying in the Barbate River, Spain.

This does provide one slight problem if the inscription on the freedom box is correct. The inscription reads: ” With this box the Freedom of the City of Cork in Ireland was unanimously given to Capt Robert Hall for his gallant conduct in his Majesty’s Navy the 22nd day of August 1809 “. If the inscription is right, then the Canadians are wrong because they don’t make Rob a captain until 1811. If the Canadians are right, then the City of Cork has promoted him early.

More from the DCB.  In September 1811 Hall was appointed to command a flotilla entrusted with the defence of Sicily against naval forces operating from French-occupied Naples. He achieved a major success at Pietrenere (Italy) on 15 Feb. 1813 in a raid on a convoy of about 50 armed vessels, French supply ships escorted by many Neapolitan gunboats. With only two divisions of gunboats carrying four companies of the 75th Foot he neutralized the enemy’s shore batteries and captured or destroyed all 50 ships. In recognition of this feat he was made a knight commander in the Sicilian order of St Ferdinand and of Merit. Permission to accept this honour was granted by the Prince Regent on 11 March, at which time Hall was described as a post-captain and a brigadier-general in the service of Ferdinand IV of Naples.

The DCB goes into rather greater detail once Rob Hall arrived in Canada. It is probably considerably more interesting to Canadians so there is a link to the full entry here. My version is edited from the full version.  On 27 May 1814. Hall was designated acting commissioner on the lakes of Canada, to reside at Quebec; his actual headquarters would be the naval dockyard at Kingston, Ontario. [Kingston is at the junction of Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River, and was the main naval headquarters for the British Great Lakes fleet].  He was not immediately available and did not report for duty in Kingston until mid October. His new assignment involved a dual responsibility: to the commander-in-chief on the lakes, Sir James Lucas Yeo, for the building, outfitting, supply, and maintenance of naval vessels, and to the Navy Board in London for the administration of the navy yard at Kingston and its dependencies on the Upper Lakes and Lake Champlain, and all naval victualling and stores depots in the two provinces.

Burning the White House, 1814

The British and the Americans were in the middle of the War of 1812 [which actually lasted from 1812 – 1815]. Robert Hall’s arrival in Canada was at an interesting time; almost eight weeks earlier, a British attack against Washington, D.C., resulted in the “Burning of Washington”. On August 24, 1814, after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington and set fire to many public buildings, including the White House, and the Capitol. It marks the only time in U.S. history that Washington, D.C. has been occupied by a foreign force. The new commissioner’s immediate concern was the implementation of Yeo’s plans for a decisive campaign against the Americans in 1815. These involved the completion or construction of five frigates, two ships of the line,  a number of gunboats, and brigs, To this ambitious program Hall made an important addition: a scheme to rid the naval units of transport duties He sent this proposal to the Navy Board, but all plans for a campaign in 1815 became redundant when the Governor  was notified of the ratification of an Anglo-American peace signed at Ghent (Belgium) on Christmas Eve 1814.

The peace posed immediate and serious problems for Hall and his staff. The yard and its dependencies had incurred expenses of some £40,000 in wages alone in 1814, the building of  the St Lawrence had been immensely costly, and a huge outlay was required to pay for the ships under construction. Prudence dictated the maintenance of a strong fleet for the time being. In March 2015,  Hall was dispatched to England for consultations with the Admiralty about the future naval establishment in the Canadas.

Hall remained in England for more than a year, during which time the British government was engaged in negotiations with the United States which eventually led to the Rush–Bagot agreement of April 1817 to demilitarize the lakes. On 29 Sept. 1815 Hall was named commander on the lakes and resident commissioner at Quebec, thus combining the two senior naval appointments in the Canadas. The first authorized him to style himself commodore; the second confirmed him in the post of commissioner. He was knighted on 15 July 1816 and, distinguished with the additional honour of a companionship in the Order of the Bath, returned to Kingston on 9 September 1816.

He was seriously ill with a lung infection in October 1817, recovered sufficiently to return to duty for a few weeks at the end of the year, but died of this disease at his quarters at Point Frederick on 7 Feb. 1818. An affable, gallant, and cultivated officer, Hall in his Canadian posting had proved himself a conspicuously fair-minded, innovative, and efficient administrator. His heirs were a natural son, Robert Hall, born in 1817 to a Miss Mary Ann Edwards, and his mother Mary Roche, who was his residuary legatee. The son, became a vice-admiral in the Royal Navy and died in London on 11 June 1882 after having served for ten years as naval secretary to the Admiralty.

Why it was a good idea to join the Navy.

There seem to be some professions that run through the family again, and again. One that I hadn’t really paid much attention to until recently was the navy. It is an almost completely Irish thing, and is largely members of the family who were born, brought up, and lived in co. Cork.  Starting furthest back [great grandpa x 5] Henry Hewitt was a Customs Officer, specifically at one time Captain of the Beresford Revenue Cutter. Then the Verling family pick up the strain.  Bartholomew Verling of Cove, co. Cork and Anne O’Cullinane,[also great grandparents x 5] had five children, both daughters married naval captains, and of the three sons, Edward was a “Staff Captain R.N”, another Garrett “died at sea”, and the eldest son John Verling didn’t appear to go to sea, but his second son was James Roche Verling (1787 – 1858) who was a naval surgeon, and attended Napoleon Bonaparte on St. Helena. John Verling and Ellen Roche also had a daughter Catherine who married Henry Ellis “Surgeon R.N.”. 

Cobh Harbour

Edward Verling, the “Staff Captain R.N”, had three children The eldest son Bartholomew Verling (1797 – 1893) was another naval surgeon, and Mary Verling married Capt. Leary R.N. Edward Verling’s sister, another Mary Verling married first a Captain Hall, and the secondly John Roche of Aghada [great grandparents x 4]. Mary Roche (neé Verling) had the distinction of being the mother of a Commodore, and grandmother of a vice-Admiral, albeit a bastard grandson. Finally, their nephew, another Bartholomew Verling (1786 – 1855) was Harbourmaster of Cobh, and also the Spanish Consul there.

So a lot of boating. What this did pose was the question why the navy? The logical answer was why not?  It is estimated that around a quarter of the Royal Navy crew present at Trafalgar were Irishmen.  It was regarded as a profession certainly at officer level, and was well paid. In 1793 a captain’s pay rate ranged between £100 – £336,[£128,000 – £433,000 at today’s value] and by 1815 this had risen to £284 – £802.[£212,000 – £600,000 at today’s value]. After 1806, a naval surgeon’s salary  was set at 10s. per day for less than 6 years experience, up to 20s. per day for over 20 years  experience £182 – £ 365 [£164,000 – £328,000 at today’s value]. So, apart from the minor problem of being killed, it was very well paid. But in addition to the pay ( especially if you were an officer) was the prize money paid for capturing enemy ships.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, captured ships were legally Crown property. In order to reward and encourage sailors’ efforts at no significant cost to the Crown, it became customary to pass on all or part of the value of a captured ship and its cargo to the capturing captain for distribution to his crew. Similarly, all warring parties of the period issued Letters of Marque and Reprisal to civilian privateers,[essentially legal pirates] authorising them to make war on enemy shipping; as payment, the privateer sold off the captured booty.

This practice was formalised via the Cruisers and Convoys Act of 1708. An Admiralty Prize Court was established to evaluate claims and determine prize money, and the scheme of division of the money was specified. This system, with minor changes, lasted until the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

If the prize were an enemy merchantman, the prize money came from the sale of both ship and cargo. If it was a warship, and repairable, usually the Crown bought it at a fair price; additionally, the Crown added “head money” of £ 5  per enemy sailor aboard the captured warship. Prizes were keenly sought, for the value of a captured ship was often such that a crew could make a year’s pay for a few hours’ fighting. Hence boarding and hand-to-hand fighting remained common long after naval cannons developed the ability to sink the enemy from afar.

All ships in sight of a capture shared in the prize money, as their presence was thought to encourage the enemy to surrender without fighting until sunk.

The distribution of prize money to the crews of the ships involved persisted until 1918. Then the Naval Prize Act changed the system to one where the prize money was paid into a common fund from which a payment was made to all naval personnel whether or not they were involved in the action. In 1945 this was further modified to allow for the distribution to be made to Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel who had been involved in the capture of enemy ships; however, prize claims had been awarded to pilots and observers of the Royal Naval Air Service since c.1917, and later the RAF.

The following scheme for distribution of prize money was used for much of the Napoleonic wars, the heyday of prize warfare. Allocation was by eighths.

  • Two eighths of the prize money went to the captain or commander, generally  making him very wealthy.
  • One eighth of the money went to the admiral or commander-in-chief who signed the ship’s written orders (unless the orders came directly from the Admiralty in London, in which case this eighth also went to the captain).
  • One eighth was divided among the lieutenants, sailing master, and captain of marines, if any.
  • One eighth was divided among the wardroom warrant officers (surgeon, purser, and chaplain), standing warrant officers (carpenter, boatswain, and gunner), lieutenant of marines, and the master’s mates.
  • One eighth was divided among the junior warrant and petty officers, their mates, sergeants of marines, captain’s clerk, surgeon’s mates, and midshipmen.

The final two eighths were divided among the crew, with able and specialist seamen receiving larger shares than ordinary seamen, landsmen, and boys. The pool for the seamen was divided into shares, with:

  • each able seaman getting two shares in the pool (referred to as a fifth-class share),
  • an ordinary seaman received a share and a half (referred to as a sixth-class share),
  • landsmen received a share each (a seventh-class share),
  • boys received a half share each (referred to as an eighth-class share).

An example of how large the prize money awarded could be was for the capture of the Spanish frigate Hermione on 31 May 1762 by the British frigate Active and sloop Favourite. The two captains, Herbert Sawyer and Philemon Pownoll, received about £65,000 apiece,[£ today’s value] while each seaman and Marine got £482–485. [£854,700 – £860,000 at today’s value]

Robert Hall would definitely have benefited from prize money. He was involved with the capture of the French frigate Desirée in Dunkirk in 1799, and later he captured a large French privateer lying in the Barbate River, Spain in 1810.

A memorial to Joseph Hume 1856

Willis’s Rooms, St James’s

There are three parties in the field desirous of raising a memorial to the late Mr. Hume. In April last, a body of working men met and took steps towards raising funds : in September, there seems to have been a simultaneous but independent move by a section of the House of Peers; and a number of persons who held a meeting in Marylebone, over which Sir Benjamin Hall presided. Earl Fortescue and Lord Hatherton were instrumental in collecting the signatures of thirty Peers to a circular convening a meeting held a short time since in Willis’s Rooms ; and at an earlier date Sir Joshua Walmsley and others got together the signatures of 250 Members who express a desire that the monument erected should be one set up in the House of Commons. On Saturday last, representatives of all the parties met at Willis’s Rooms. Earl Fortescue occupied the chair. Earl Granville, Lord Panmure, Lord Hatherton, and the Duke of Somerset, represented the Peers; Sir Benjamin Hall, Sir Joshua Walmsley, Mr. William Ewart, Mr. Edward Ellice, Lord Robert Grosvenor, represented the Commons ; and Mr. Wall, the Secretary of the Working Men’s Association, represented that body. In the course of the proceedings, each party described the share it had respectively taken, and a common understanding was arrived at. It was resolved that Mr. Hume had a claim to a “lasting record of the gratitude of his countrymen” for forty years of disinterested services ; that a subscription should be opened for the erection of some public monument in his honour ; that no sum subscribed should exceed ten pounds; that a committee should be entrusted with the promotion of the subscription ; and that Sir Benjamin Hall, Colonel Sykes, and Mr. Roebuck, the trustees of the Working Men’s Association, should be the trustees of the Committee.

The above text was found on p.5, 23rd February 1856 in “The Spectator” 

[Close by the St. James’s Theatre, on King Street, St James’s (almost opposite Christie’s) are “Willis’s Rooms,” a noble suite of assembly-rooms, formerly known as “Almack’s.” The building was erected by Mylne, for one Almack, a tavern-keeper, and was opened in 1765, with a ball, at which the Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden,(a rather curious choice of words) was present. Almack, who was a Scotchman by birth, seems to have been a large adventurer in clubs, for he at first “farmed” the club afterwards known as “Brooks’s.” The large ball-room is about one hundred feet in length by forty feet in width, and is chastely decorated with columns and pilasters, classic medallions, and mirrors. The rooms are let for public meetings, dramatic readings, concerts, balls, and occasionally for dinners. Right and left, at the top of the grand staircase, and on either side of the vestibule of the ball-room, are two spacious apartments, used occasionally for large suppers or dinners.] from Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

M.P.s object to Sir George Grey’s Police Bill 1856

City of London Police

Initially I just liked this because it seemed to be a group of independent-minded M.P.s objecting to government centralising power. The more one looks into it the odder the group. M.P.s like Michael Bass, and Joshua Walmsley have a trade background, Lord Henry Lennox is the son of the Duke of Richmond, and even more oddly a government minister at the time, and John Roebuck rather magnificently just seems to object to everything.

Sir George Grey’s Police Bill has called forth a good deal of opposition from municipal authorities. On Wednesday, one hundred gentlemen, including twenty-eight Mayors and nine persons deputed by Corporations, and twenty-four Members of Parliament, met at Herbert’s Hotel, Palace Yard, to protest against the Government bill ” for securing a more efficient system of police for the counties and boroughs in England and Wales.” The Lord Mayor of York occupied the chair. The Mayors of Birmingham, Cambridge, Halifax, Rochester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Leicester, Brighton, Leeds, Sheffield, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Winchester—Mr. Roebuck,[John Arthur Roebuck (1802 – 1879) M.P for Bath 1832 -1847, then Sheffield  1849 -1879. Apparently, in general, he took up an attitude of hostility to the government of the day, of whatever party, which he retained throughout his life. In one of his pamphlets Roebuck denounced newspapers and everybody connected with them, with the result that John Black, editor of The Morning Chronicle, challenged him to a duel which was fought on 19 November 1835, but neither party was injured.] Mr. C. Forster,[later Sir Charles (1815 – 1891) Liberal M.P for Walsall 1852-1891] Mr. Bass, [Michael Thomas Bass, (1799 – 1884) was a brewer, and Liberal M.P for Derby 1848 -1883. He built the Bass Brewery into the largest brewery in the world. His obituary in the Brewers Journal said that he was known more “in the House of Commons for his regular attendance than for any feats of oratory.” His proposed legislation against organ grinders on the grounds that they were street nuisances was unsuccessful] Colonel Smyth, [ John George Smyth (1815–1869), Tory M.P for York 1847-1869, and a Colonel in the 2nd West York Militia] Lord Henry Lennox, [Lord Henry George Charles Gordon-Lennox (1821–1886), Tory M.P for Chichester 1846-1885. He held office in every Conservative government between 1852 and 1876, and was a close friend of Benjamin Disraeli.] Sir Joshua Walmsley, [see elsewhere in the blog] Members of Parliament — participated in the proceedings. The shape the objection to the measure took was that it was aggressive, encroaching, unconstitutional ; that it would create a police force that would become the tool of the Government of the day ; that it would wrest power out of the hands of the people and place it in the hands of the Government ; that it would virtually repeal the Municipal Corporation Act ; and that, if conceded, the downfall of local and municipal influence would speedily follow. The resolutions adopted accordingly characterized the bill as “subversive of local self-government,” and expressed a determination to meet it with a strenuous opposition. It was also arranged that a deputation should wait on Sir George Grey.

The deputation appointed at the meeting waited on Sir George Grey on Thursday, and stated the objections they entertain to the centralizing principle of the bill. They declined to offer any suggestion as to its amendment, and demanded its entire withdrawal. Sir George said he was obliged to them for their opinion ; he agreed with Mr. Roebuck that the House of Commons is the proper place to discuss the bill ; he could not withdraw it. On retiring, the deputation returned to Herbert’s Hotel and repeated their resolves to meet the bill with a strenuous opposition. Mr. Roebuck advised them not to make the constituencies only, but the Members, “uncomfortable.” Thus, Southampton might strongly intimate to the Attorney-General that a word from him would go far to stop the bill.

The above text was found on p.5, 23rd February 1856 in “The Spectator” 


How to get an accurate comparison of monetary value between a historic date and today.

Where I am giving a historic figure, and a modern-day equivalent. For example, the first price of a modest villa in 1854. The house containing on the ground floor a front and back parlour, hall and kitchen, and on the upper storey a landing and three bedrooms. The cost of erection was estimated, ” in the near neighbourhood of London, at £160.” [ a modern day equivalent of £115,000] The figures are calculated using the following comparators, and the one I have chosen to use is the “economic status” figure. This is the reason why.

It’s always a struggle to make any sort of comparison between historic monetary values, and those of today. One of the standard, and I think slightly lazy, versions is to apply a change to RPI; which I think is fairly inaccurate. The Bank of England has an inflation calculator which says “Our inflation calculator shows how the cost of goods and services changes over time. You can check the effect of price changes over any period from 1209 to 2016.”   There is an American, Australian, British academic site called “MeasuringWorth” which provides a wider, and, I think, better, range of comparators. They say ” MeasuringWorth has two missions. The first is to make available to the public the highest quality and most reliable historical data on important economic aggregates. The second is to provide carefully designed comparators that explain the many issues involved in making value comparison over time.We do this as a public service. We are not incorporated nor directly connected to any institution. We never run ads. We do not receive any government funds.”

Donate to MeasuringWorth here, if you like.

I find their figures probably more accurate, and using their definitions, I use  “Economic Status” as the direct comparator. So, for example;  £6,000 in 1870 would be £4,480,000 using the economic status calculator. But according to the Bank of England calculator, it would be £669,483.87. This is the reason why, in the words of MeasuringWorth:

“Economic Status measures the relative “prestige value” of an amount of income or wealth measured using per-capita GDP. When compared to other incomes or wealth, it shows the relative prestige of the owners of this income or wealth because of their rank in the income distribution.

Economic Power measures an amount of income or wealth relative to the total output of the economy. When compared to other incomes or wealth, it shows the relative “influence” of the owner of this income or wealth has in controlling the composition or total-amount of production in the economy. This measure uses the share of GDP.

The average earnings of an accountant were $2,250 and in terms of what goods and services an accountant could buy in 1931, he (there were few women accountants) received a historic comparative purchasing power of $31,700 in current dollars (using the CPI index).

His contemporary standard of living was over twice that amount, or $70,700. This is about 40 percent more than the average household bundle today, showing a high buying power.

Finally, with his $2,250 salary, the accountant enjoyed an economic status of close to $170,000 in current terms and an economic power of close to $420,000. The interpretation is that his wage enabled him to go to the same country club as someone today earning $170,000 and that he would be perceived to have the same economic influence as someone with a current annual income of a almost half a million dollars.”

So using Jane Austen, to give some examples from 1813.

Pride and Prejudice comparison

Pounds in 1813

Bank of England Inflation Calculator

Economic Status

Economic Power

Mr. Darcy’s income per year


£‎ 636,000

£ 8.3m

£ 39.7m

Mr. Bingley’s income per year


£‎ 318,000


£ 19.8m

Georgina Darcy’s inheritance


£ 1.9m

£ 24.9m

£ 119m

Mr Wickham’s inheritance from Mr. Darcy


£‎ 63,500


£ 3.9m

Mr. Bennet’s income per year


£‎ 127,000

£ 1.6m

£ 7.9m

Annual cost of the. Bennet girls


£‎ 32,000


£ 1.9m

Earldom of Wiltes – The Premier Earl. A Catholic view 1936.

Danby Hall, Yorkshire


As is well known, the premier Dukedom in England is held by a Catholic, and, until the death of the seventeenth Earl of Shrewsbury in 1856, the premier Earldom also. But for a somewhat curious decision of the House of Lords in 1869, after a ten years’ trial, the latter distinction might still be held by a Catholic. In 1859 Mr. Simon Thomas Scrope, of Danby, the male representative of the great medieval house of Scrope, claimed the Earldom of Wiltes, which had been conferred upon the eldest son of the first Lord Scrope of Bolton in 1379. The Earl of Wiltes, who among other distinctions was Lord of the Isle of Man, Constable of Bamburgh, Chamberlain of the Household, and a Knight of the Garter, resisted the Lancastrian usurpation and was executed and afterwards attainted, both acts being of doubtful legality. The decision of the House of Lords caused considerable dissatisfaction, for, as Lord Houghton pointed out, it unsettled the titles of several peers, and a protest signed by thirteen peers was laid before the House. It has even been suggested that the odium theologicum [“theological hatred”] may have had something to do with a decision which ran counter to that given in the case of the Earldom of Devon in 1831. Simon Thomas Scrope was the grandfather of the Mr. Stephen Scrope whose death has just been announced. Had his claim succeeded, the present head of the family, Mr. Henry Aloysius Scrope, Mr. Stephen Scrope’s elder brother, would be twenty-second Earl of Wiltes and premier Earl of England.

The above text was found on p.30, 26th December 1936, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

The Scropes Of Danby

The following is a book review from the Tablet in 1899. They had supported the Scrope family claim to reviving a long extinct peerage from the court case in 1859, when Simon Thomas Scrope (1790 – 1872) claimed the Earldom of Wiltes. His son, another Simon Thomas Scrope (1822 – 1896) was Fr. Philip O’Bryen’s god-father.

Danby Hall, North Yorkshire

The Scropes Of Danby: A Great Historic Peerage: The Earldom of Wiltes. By John Henry Metcalfe. The Chiswick Press. 1899.

WITH an unbroken male descent from the Conquest, the present head of the House of Scrope, Mr. Scrope of Danby, can look back upon a line of ancestors who have played a varied and conspicuous part in the making of England. During the three hundred years between the reigns of Edward II. and Charles I. the Scropes were in the heyday of their power ; honours fell thick upon them, and they were always to the front in every department of the national life. During this period this single family produced “two Earls, twenty Barons, one Chancellor, four Treasurers, and two Chief Justices of England, one Archbishop and two Bishops, five Knights of the Garter, and numerous Bannerets, the highest military order in the days of chivalry.” The family was ennobled in two branches, Scrope of Bolton, and Scrope of Maskam and Utsall, and its feats of arms whenever the men of Wensleydale were led to battle are still commemorated in many a ballad and folk-song. Perhaps the most distinguished of its individual members was William Le Scrope, Lord Treasurer of England, and Guardian of the Kingdom during Richard II’s absence in Ireland. Fighting under John of Gaunt in France, he was knighted at an early age for valour in the field, and in 1388 was appointed Seneschal of Aquitaine. The next sixteen years were to tell an unbroken story of splendid service royally rewarded, until it may well have seemed that, in Shakspeare’s words, he ” held the realm in farm.” Governor of the Castle and town of Cherbourg, Constable of the Castle of Queenborough, Governor of Beaumaris Castle, and Chamberlain of Ireland, he entered upon the last decade of his life. In 1391, the Castle of Bamburgh was made his for life ; three years later he received the town of Marlborough in lieu of a fee of 200 marks which the King had granted him on “retaining him to abide with him, the King, during his whole life.” In the same year he became the Sovereign Lord of Man, having acquired the island by purchase from the second Earl of Salisbury ; the next year he was made a Knight of the Garter and Vice-Chamberlain of the Household; in 1396 he became Lord Chamberlain ; then he went as Ambassador to France to negotiate the King’s marriage and sign the treaty of peace ; in 1397 he was created Earl of Wiltes and sent as Ambassador to treat for peace with the King of Scotland. Honours continued to come even when the shadow of death already lay across his path, and in the last year of his life he was appointed to the high office of Lord Treasurer of England, Custos of the Castles of Rochester and Leeds, and, finally, Guardian of the Realm during the King’s absence in Ireland. The landing of Henry of Bolingbroke was followed by quick disaster to the King’s cause. The capture of Bristol Castle left the Earl of Wiltes a prisoner in the hands of the invaders, and without the pretence of a trial he was hurried to execution and his head sent to London to be set upon a spike for exposure on London Bridge.

The Earl left no issue, and in the troubled times that followed, during which the family estates were confiscated, no claim to the peerage seems to have been put forward, and it is quite likely that the unusual terms of the original patent soon came to be forgotten. Early in the present century the original charter was accidentally discovered. The discovery in the case of the Devon peerage of a similar charter led to a successful claim to the earldom, and probably suggested to the Scropes that they should take steps to assert what now seemed an evident right.

The charter of King Richard conferring the Earldom of Wiltes ran thus : “To have to him and his heirs male for ever (et heredibus suis masculis in perpetuum).” The usual limitation in such cases is, of course, to “the heirs of his body,” but there are six instances in which there have been grants of English Peerages with limitation to heirs-male—the Earldom of Oxford, Wiltes, and Devon, and the Baronies of Hoo and Hastings, Richmont Grey, and Egremont. The claim was laid before the House of Lords in 1859, and dragged on for ten years. Mr. Metcalfe’s account of this most interesting and important case is disappointing, and at times misleading. It quite fails to give any right idea of either the strength or the weakness of the claim, or even of the constitution of the Court which determined it. After mentioning the time occupied in hearing the case, Mr. Metcalfe says : ” During this time the greatest of the law lords who heard it, Lords Wensleydale and Cranworth, died, and Lords Westbury and Romilly took no part in it. The decision, therefore, rested with Lord Chelmsford, and a new Scotch law lord, Lord Colonsay. Virtually the decision was that of Lord Chelmsford.” As a matter of fact three Peers agreed in rejecting the claim, though on slightly different grounds, and each delivered a separate judgment. Why Lord Redesdale’s judgment should be thus ignored is not apparent. Nor does Mr. Metcalfe seem to appreciate the force of Lord Chelmsford’s objections. Thus we read :

Mr. Fleming, the Claimant’s Counsel, often said that if an instance could be found in which Henry IV. actually spoke of Sir William le Scrope as Earl of Wiltes, it would be of the greatest importance. The letter of Henry IV. containing the words the production of which as evidence during the hearing of the Wiltes case would, according to Mr. Fleming, have carried so much weight, was, at the time, not only in a volume of autographs preserved in the Public Record Office, on vellum —see Rymer, viii., 181—but actually in print in Royal and Historical Letters during- the Reign of Henry IV., edited by the Rev. F. C. Hingeston, M.A., and published by Longman, Green, and Longman, in 1860 !

The document here cited undoubtedly shows that Henry IV. spoke of William Le Scrope as Earl of Wiltes ; and there is evidence that he was so described by one of the King’s ministers on another occasion—but even if this had been known at the trial it would have in no way affected the judgment of Lord Chelmsford. It is one of the inconveniences of Mr. Metcalfe’s book that it does not give the text of the judgments, else the reader would see for himself how Lord Chelmsford would have treated this new evidence. He first addressed himself to the question whether a patent granting an English peerage to a man and his heirs male was a valid patent,. and answered it thus

In considering the patent of creation of the Earldom of Wiltes, I will assume that it is in entire conformity with King Richard’s intentions, and that he had every motive for creating the dignity with the particular limitation assigned to it. The question then presents itself in the simplest and clearest manner whether it is competent to the Crown to give to a dignity a descendible quality unknown to the law,-and thereby to introduce a new species of inheritance and succession. The question put in this way seems to answer itself. The Crown can have no such power unless there is something so peculiar in a dignity, so entirely within the province of the Crown to mould at its pleasure,. that a limitation void as to every other subject of grant, is good and valid in the creation of a Peerage.

This was certainly an extraordinary decision in face of the fact that only a few years before the House of Lords had deliberately affirmed the direct contrary. Lord Chelmsford was, of course, aware of this, but contented himself with saying : ” I cannot agree that the determination of one Committee for Privileges must be a binding and conclusive authority upon another.” There was no law to compel him to respect the decision of Lord Brougham in the Devon case, and so he acted on his own view. And so we have this odd result, that the Earldoms of Devon and Oxford (De Vere) are both held to-day by virtue of a patent which in the Scrape case was declared to be invalid. But there is another and important passage in Lord Chelmsford’s judgment, of which Mr. Metcalfe gives his readers no glimpse. He was of opinion that the grant of the Earldom might have been perfectly valid so far as the original grant was concerned, and yet be wholly void in relation to his successors:

It could only be after his death, and if a successor appeared to claim, the title, that an objection to the extension of the dignity beyond the life of the original possessor would possibly arise.

The twofold ground of the decision appears clearly enough from its closing words :

Whatever may have been the right to the Earldom of Wiltes of William Le Scrope during his life (and as I have already acknowledged, I see no reason why the title to this extent should not have been conferred by the grant), yet as the prescribed course of succession was one unknown to and unsanctioned by the law of England, and which nothing but an Act of Parliament could establish, the Earldom of Wiltes ceased to exist at all events upon the death of William Le Scrope, and the claim of a right of succession to the dignity necessarily fails.”

It is apparent, therefore, that the new evidence to which at the time of the trial Mr. Fleming, a great authority, attached so much importance would not in fact have had any weight with Lord Chelmsford. It proved only that William Le Scrope was reputed an Earl even by his enemies, but Lord Chelmsford was ready to admit the fact. There is little doubt that Lord Chelmsford was wrong on both points. The validity of the patent ought not to be open to question in view of precedents and the decision in the Devon case ; and it is still more clear that the patent was either good or bad, that if it was made void by illegal limitations as far as successors to the title were concerned, it was also bad and useless from the beginning. Assuming, as we may confidently do, that if the case were reheard to-day the validity of the original patent would be allowed, it only remains to point out that the peerage could be forfeited only by either a legal judgment for treason or by Act of Parliament. The unfortunate Earl of Wiltes was never tried at all, and certainly no Act of Attainder was ever passed against him after his death. The first Parliament of Henry IV., summoned by ante-dated writs in the name of Richard II. when that monarch was already in captivity, might well be regarded as merely an assemblage of rebels ; bat that point need not be pressed, for all they did in regard to the Earl of Wiltes was to pass an Act of Indemnity and so lend sanction to the execution and the confiscation which followed. An execution without trial and an unlawful seizure of estates were thus shielded from all question, but it never occurred even to the usurper to accuse of treason a man who had died for his faithfulness to his anointed Sovereign.

Lord Chelmsford laid stress on the fact that no successor came forward to claim the title. If the patent was valid, the title could not lapse merely because no one claimed it; and the fact that the estates, which alone made the earldom a tolerable burden, had been confiscated is at least a plausible explanation. At any rate the burden of proof does not rest with the claimant; he is entitled to ask how peerage was ended, and when.

Lord Redesdale took the bold ground that the case was res judicata. He justified this contention by appealing to the record of the proceeding already referred to. Henry IV. and the Lords Temporal on the petition of the Commons approved of what had been done in the case of the Earl of Wilts, and, as it were, passed a sponge over the transaction. But in the record William Le Scrope is described not as Earl of Wiltes, but simply as a Knight. Lord Redesdale argued that the Earl, if his title had been good before his execution, would have claimed trial before his peers, and that in any case, after his death, the House of Lords would have raised the question as affecting one of their own privileges. It is enough to point out that the Earl was executed without trial of any sort, so that the question of privilege which concerned the form of trial did not arise. Moreover, Lord Redesdale proves too much, for it is absolutely certain that William Le Scrope was recognized as Earl of Wiltes during his life. Nor does the fact that he was misdescribed in the record count for much. In the same record Lord Scrope of Bolton is described simply by his name, and as a knight ; and in the rolls of 6 Henry IV. appears a petition from Lord Scrope of Masham, who is described as ” Stephen Le Scrope of Masham, chevalier,” and yet he was admittedly a Peer, and attended Parliament in that capacity. However the Earl of Wiltes may have been described on an occasion when no one would be likely to be particular about giving his due to the enemy of the new King, it is certain that judicial proceedings after a man’s death could have no legal results, and of the only other way of destroying the right to the Earldom, an Act of Attainder, there is no trace. Lord Colonsay took much the same ground as Lord Redesdale, and also insisted on the ,general argument that the peerage would have been claimed before unless those apparently entitled in the past had known that they had no valid claim. But it is time we got back to Mr. Metcalfe’s book.

Although its value would have been greatly increased by a more detailed reference to the judgments of the three Peers who decided the case in 1869, the volume is a thoroughly interesting one, and abounds in interesting matter illustrating the history of the family ; and in the shape of ” Notes” at the end of the volume the author has collected a great deal of curious information, which is not without its side-lights upon the history of the Metcalfes. Certainly every one who reads the volume is likely to associate himself very warmly with the author’s hope that the Crown may yet be advised to restore to the present owner of Danby this ancient dignity of his House, the premier earldom of England. Only why, publishing in 1899, does Mr. Metcalfe suggest that this act of grace might suitably take place in “this Jubilee year,” 1897?

The above text was found on p.14,7th October 1899,  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


The Leicester election annulled in 1848

Election Committees Leicester (Borough).

The committee appointed to inquire into the allegations contained in the petition agains the return of Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Richard Gardner, the sitting members for the borough of Leicester, met again yesterday at 11 o’clock in Room 3.  Members- Mr. K. Seymer (Chairman);- Sir J. Trollope, Mr. D. Morris, Mr. W. Christie, and Mr. Fergus.

Mr. Macaulay, on behalf of the petitioners, said, that Messrs. Sansome and Parker, the persons who had so often been brought before the committee by name, had promised to meet the petitioners’ agents since the last sitting of the committee, but had failed in their appointment. The learned counsel left it to the committee to form an opinion on the non-fulfilment of the appointment, and then called

Mr Harrison, a clerk to the petitioners’ agents, who deposed to having spoken to Mr Parker and Mr Sansome who had promised to attend to any appointment.   A time was mentioned but they did not attend. A time was mentioned but they did not attend.  At the time the appointment was made nothing was said as to the purpose  for which they were wanted.

Mr. Macaulay, then summed up the evidence he had adduced in support of the petition. Mr. Crowder, Q.C., replied at great length; and the committee, after deliberating with closed doors for a considerable time, came to the following resolution:-

” That Sir Joshua Walmsley, Knight, and Mr. Richard Gardner, were not duly elected burgesses to serve in the pre.sent Parliament for the borough of Leicester.”

” That the last election for the said borough was a void election. “

” That Sir Joshua Walmsley, Knight, and Mr. Richard Gardner were, by their agents, guilty of bribery at the last election. “

” That it was not proved that those acts of bribery were committed with the knowledge or consent of Sir J. Walmsley and Mr. Gardner.”.

The inquiry terminated at a quarter-past 5 o’clock.

The Times, June 1, 1848

Liverpool riots 1909


A disturbance arose in Liverpool on Sunday during the passage of a procession of Catholics of St. Joseph’s parish through a part of the city in which an Irish population predominates. [St Joseph’s was in Grosvenor Street, off Rosehill. It was Liverpool Scotland ward, which returned the only Irish Nationalist M.P.outside the island of Ireland, between 1885 and 1929.]  A disturbance a fortnight ago, reports The Manchester Guardian, resulted in the arrest and conviction of two members of the Orange party on a charge of smashing windows in the house of an Irish family. The party is said to have threatened reprisals, and yesterday there was serious rioting, followed by thirty arrests.

During the week notice was issued calling upon Orangemen to gather in force and prevent any “illegal procession “ taking place, the assumption being that the Catholics would carry in the procession the host, but this, it is said, was never intended. It is also asserted that a contingent of Orangemen arrived on Saturday night from Belfast. But whether this is true or not, it is certain that nearly an hour before the time fixed for the procession to start the Orangemen invaded the neighbourhood of St. Joseph’s Church in great force. Consequently, when the procession started, it was thought wise to confine it to the immediate neighbourhood of the church. The Orangemen seemed determined to prevent even this, and the two bodies came into collision. Bricks, bottles, and other missiles were soon flying, and the fight continued for a considerable time, in spite of the efforts of between 500 and 600 police, including a mounted contingent. Those arrested include both Catholics and Orangemen. A number of people were treated for cuts on the head and other injuries. The police assert that many Orangemen carried naked swords beneath their coats, which they brandished in a menacing manner when the two parties came into collision. During the whole evening the district remained in a ferment of excitement, although the police patrols prevented any further organised attacks. The prisoners will be brought up at the police-court this morning and charged with rioting.

Another message says that the police made charges upon the crowd, which would otherwise have got beyond bounds. Some took refuge in passages and backyards from the cover of which they pelted the police with stones. Several were struck and injured by other missiles. Meanwhile, quite a number of houses were being wrecked, and windows were smashed in a wholesale fashion. In one case a house was fired. Upwards of fifty arrests were made, many of the prisoners being injured. About a dozen policemen were also injured, and treated at hospitals.

For two or three days the rioting was followed by brawls and disturbances in the quarter affected. On Tuesday there was a conflict between the children of St. Polycarp’s Anglican Schools and of the Catholic Schools of St. Anthony’s. This caused a disturbance between their respective mothers. Uneasiness among the mothers increased during the afternoon, and they began to apply at the schools for the release of the little ones to get them home in safety. In many cases excitement outran discretion, and mothers forced an entry into the schools and dragged out the children by force. The result of this was that some fifty schools in the Scotland-road district were promptly closed by the Education Committee.

The above text was found on p.39,26th June 1909, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .