Wednesday 19 November 2014

The Victorian Dog Veterinarian - Edward Mayhew

Today a paperback book landed on my doormat.It cost me £85 instead of £6. 

This happened as a result of some shady skulldugery by a major internet retail site which caused me to make a rather expensive mistake. However, being a half-full person I don't hold anything personal against the book and settled down to what I hoped to be an absorbing read.

The book isn't in the "humor" genre, and yet it raised several wry smiles. The reason? 
"I don't believe it! He did what?"
The book in question is a reprint by Forgotten Books of "The Dog: Their Management, Being a New Plan of Treating the Animal Based Upon a Consideration of their Nature", written by the Victorian veterinarian, Edward Mayhew.
An illustration by Edward Mayhew on how to drench a horse
Courtesy: RCVS Knowledge Library
Already a digression, but according to this article by the RCVS Knowledge Library blog, Mr Edward Mayhew was the brother of Henry Mayhew – the founding editor of Punch magazine. It seem Edward also inherited his brother's sense of humor as demonstrated by some charming watercolors poking fun at everyday life.

"Never mount a horse in a crowded place" by Edward Mayhew
Courtesy: RCVS Knowledge Library

 Mr Mayhew spent his early life working in the theatre and his veterinary career did not start until his 30s (quite late for a Victorian). In the February of 1845 he graduated from the London Veterinary College, and it nine years later in 1854 he published the book in question about the latest techniques for treating dogs. It is difficult to gauge how popular Mr Mayhew was, but a brief obituary in The Veterinarian (November 1868) could be interpreted as damning him with faint praise.
"He was well known as the author of several veterinary books."

So, what does Mr Mayhew have to say?
A quick dip in to the introduction reveals that Mr Mayhew was fully aware of the limitations of veterinary knowledge in the 1850s.
"Canine pathology is not fully comprehended, nor the action of the various medicines upon the poor beast yet clearly understood."
Also by Edward Mayhew, a glimpse into the groom's room.
RCVS Knowledge Library

However, he goes onto say that never was there a shortage of opinions on how to cure dogs.
"I seldom send a diseased dog into the Park for exercise, when my servant [My emphasis – I wonder, is the modern day equivalent a veterinary nurse?] does not return to me with messages which strangers have volunteered how to cure the animal."
People were nothing if not generous with their knowledge.
"I hear of medicines that never fail…Persons, often upper rank, honor me with secret communications which in their opinion are of inestimable value…sportsmen command me to do things which I am obliged to decline."
You understand I'm not bitter about the price of the book...right?
Another quick flick through the book and my eye lights on the chapter on "Operations". 
Perhaps mercifully for the dogs Mr Mayhew remarks there are very few operations that are performed on the dog. Bizarrely, he then goes onto a detailed account of how to amputate a toe (without anesthetic) for a severely ingrown claw. But let Mr Mayhew explain in his own words:
"There is no absolute necessity to muzzle the dog, provided the master is present and will undertake charge of the head …to keep the attention of the dog fixed on himself."
But apparently, the dog was not so much a problem as the owner.
"I have removed a joint or two from the leg without the animal uttering a single cry; although the master, unused to such sights, has been seized with sickness so as to require spirits for his restoration".
Well, that's quite enough of that for now, time for tea. Please come back next week for extra helpings. 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

How did Piccadilly, London, Get its Name?

What links starch to Piccadilly and the Royal Exchange, London?

In the 16th century, starch – along with other fashion essentials such as silk and lace-  made its way from France to England. This is significant because starch was used to stiffen those stupendously impractical neck ruffles so strongly associated with the Tudor age. In a way, impracticality was the point, because wearing a ruff marked you out as someone who didn't work with his hands and could afford servants and a laundress, and generally had more money than sense.

The relevance to our story is that these exotic starched ruffs gave their name to one of the most famous streets in London, Piccadilly. This road runs from Hyde Park corner to Piccadilly Circus, and is one of the widest and straightest roads in London.

Until the 17th century the road was known as Portugal Street. A tailor, Robert Baker, in the late 16th and early 17th century, owned a shop in the Strand. He made a small fortune making stiff collars with scalloped edges. These starched pieces of neck wear where known by many names, mostly on a variation on piccadills, peckadills, picardillos, or pickadailles, from which the word Piccadilly arose.
It was exquisite lace collars like this that made
Robert Baker a rich man

In about 1612, Mr. Baker used some of his money to buy a tract of land where he built a mansion that become known as Piccadilly Hall. With the restoration, in 1660, this area took off as a place patronized by the fashionable elite, and Piccadilly was born.

However, one drawback of wearing starched piccadills is that the starch dissolved in the rain, turning into a sticky, wallpaper paste-like mess. Of course, no fashionable man wanted to look stupid in the rain and so had a keen eye on keeping out of the weather. Perhaps with this in mind Sir Thomas Gresham built the Royal Exchange, London.
The New Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange became one of the world's first shopping malls and contained around 150 small shops, and was a convenient place for City merchants (around 4,000 of them at the time) to congregate together and do business in the dry. (Gresham's building was destroyed by fire, and the current Royal Exchange was built in 1840.)

Funny isn't it, how starch from the humble potato has had such an influence on the City of London!

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Welcome guest Regan Walker: The Longbow

The Longbow at the Time of the Norman Conquest 

by Regan Walker

Many know of the success of the longbow in the 14th and 15th centuries at the start of the Hundred Years War and at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, but was the longbow used in England before the Norman Conquest? While it’s a subject for debate, there is evidence it the longbow was in England long before William the Conqueror stepped his foot onto English soil. So I thought to share some of my research for The Red Wolf’s Prize, my new medieval romance.


Prior to the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the Welsh made use of the longbow in repelling English attacks. The Welsh made use of the bow against Ralph, Earl of Hereford in 1055. There is also a story about Welsh longbow men penetrating a four inch thick, solid oak door with their arrows at the siege of Abergavenny Castle.
The English quickly grasped the strategic power of a 6 foot longbow and it became known as the “English” longbow.

Traditionally, it was believed that prior to the beginning of the 14th century, the weapon was a self bow between four and five feet in length, known as the “shortbow.” This weapon was drawn to the chest rather than the ear, and was much weaker than the longbow. However, in 1985, Jim Bradbury reclassified this weapon as an ordinary wooden bow, reserving the term “shortbow” for short composite bows.

In 2005, Strickland and Hardy took this argument further, suggesting that the shortbow was a myth and all early English bows were a form of longbow. In 2012, Richard Wadge added to the debate with an extensive survey of iconographic and archaeological evidence, concluding that longbows co-existed with shorter self-wood bows in England in the period between the Norman Conquest and the reign of Edward III, but that powerful longbows shooting heavy arrows were a rarity until the later 13th century.

The Bayeux tapestry shows only one Saxon bowman with a short bow. The rest of Harold's forces use the shield and battle-axe. The Norman archers from Louviers and Evreux who, according to tradition, won William's victory for him, also used the short wooden bow.

It is believed by some that Southern Wales was the home of the longbow based on the historical writings of the late 12th century cleric Silvester Giraldus Cambrensis. Cambrensis was Archdeacon of Brecknock, servant of King Henry II and his son, Richard the Lion-Hearted, and co-adjutor in administration with the Bishop of Ely of Richard's realm during the Third Crusade. But the one accomplishment he is best remembered for is his chronicle, The Itinery Triugh Wales.

In his chronicle, Cambrensis describes the archery of the Southern Welsh. He notes that a tribe called the Venta were "more accustomed to war, more famous for valor, and more expert in archery, than those of any other part of Wales."

In The Red Wolf’s Prize, it is the Welshman Rhodri who brings the bow to Talisand and fashions smaller bows for the women, including my heroine, Serena.

But even before the Welsh had the bow, the longbow was in England. The earliest, found at Ashcott Heath in Somerset, dates to 2665 BC. There is also evidence that the longbow was introduced into England from the Scandinavian countries, though it is not clear when. The best answer is probably sometime during the many Danish invasions well before 1066.

E.G. Heath, author of The Grey Goose Wing and A history of Target Archery, notes that several well-preserved longbows were recovered from Saxon burial galleys found at Nydam Moor in Denmark in 1863 that have been dated to between 200 and 400 A.D.
Dr. Elizabeth Munksgaard has verified that the Nydam bows in the National Museum of Denmark number seven and are self-wooden D-shaped bows between 5 feet 7 inches and 6 feet long. One of the bows has a nock of horn.
The Longbow Challenge at Warwick Castle, England.

Thank you, Regan! 
What a treat. 
I remember visiting Warwick Castle and seeing a demonstration of period archery. The archer told us that the insulting gesture of holding up two fingers in a "V" shape, was an offshot of the skill of English archers. The gesture showcased the strength in their bow-drawing fingers and was effectively an insult to the French that they shot. 
Grace x

Anyhow, without further ado, here is an excerpt from Regan's latest release. 

Red Wolf Excerpt:
 The Red Wolf meets Serena, disguised as the servant, Sarah

Renaud lingered at the high table in the hall until he glimpsed the servant girl with the brown plait carry a pile of linen through the entry heading toward the stairs to the bedchambers. Slowly rising, he nodded to Geoff and followed after her.
Quietly, he stepped through the open door of his chamber. The girl had her back to him as she freshened the bed, the stack of clean linen resting on a nearby chest. He did not acknowledge her but went directly to the trestle table, poured a goblet of wine and sat, pretending to examine a drawing of the lands surrounding the manor. 
She turned. “I can come back later, my lord.” She spoke meekly, barely looking at him as she hurriedly finished with the bed and began a hasty retreat to the door.
He replied in the English tongue, as he did to all save his men. “Nay, you may stay. Your work will not disturb me.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her back stiffen. Slowly, she retraced her steps and resumed her work. Her movements were rushed as if she were trying to complete her assigned tasks in haste. Was she nervous at being alone with him? Even with that, Renaud thought she was graceful as she walked to the shelves near where he sat. She held her head high, unusual for a servant in the presence of her lord. Though her long plait was the dull color of country earth, her profile was refined and her features delicate. He rose and silently moved to stand behind her where she dusted a carved box.
She must have sensed his approach.
“My lord?” she said, turning to face him.
Blue-violet eyes held his gaze only a moment before looking down at the floor. Set in her ivory face they reminded him of violets in the snow. So mesmerized was he that, for a moment, he forgot his question.
“Your name is Sarah?”
Keeping her eyes focused on the floor, she said, “Yea, my lord.”
“How long have you been at Talisand?”
“All my life, my lord.” Her voice was soft, a low purr, and with her words a flowery scent drifted to his nose. He was captivated and wanted to touch her. How long had it been since he’d had a woman? And this one was causing his manhood to stir.  
Turing back to the shelf, she resumed dusting the carved box, as if to put an end to the conversation. His gaze shifted to her hand as she set down the box. Delicate fingers and ivory skin. It was not the hand of a kitchen wench.
“Let me see your hand.” She started at his request, and though he could see she wanted to resist, she did not fight him when he reached for her hand and brought it close to his body turning her palm upward.
It told him much.

Twitter: @RegansReview (
The Red Wolf’s Prize on Pinterest: The Red Wolf's Prize by Regan Walker