Sunday, 20 March 2016

A few extracts from "News from the English Countryside 1851 - 1950"


Ratcatching Extraordinary

On Tuesday night week, three farm labourers residing in a farm house at Hardmead, Bucks, were awoke while in bed by a number of rats running over their faces.  They procured a light and brought up two dogs.  The latter immediately began to kill the rats, who were unable to get out of the room; they jumped at the window, but could not break the glass.  Twenty-two old rats were in a short time destroyed in the room.  It appeared they had come down in a lump through the ceiling, the habit of rats after a full meal to cluster together having in this instance caused them, from their great aggregate weight, to break through the slight lath and plaster.  Northampton Herald, 5 February 1853.

A Man of Business

At the village of Great Bowden there is a man who carries on the following profressions: Grocer, tea-dealer, tobacconist, druggist, boot and shoe maker, clock cleaner, rings and kills pigs, baker, ringer, sexton and parish clerk.  Northampton Herald, 5 November 1853.


Public Sale of a Wife

Yesterday forenoon, a disgraceful exhibition, the attempted sale of a wife, took place in front of a beer-house at Sheer Bridge, Little Horton, near Bradford.  The fellow who offered his wife, Martha, for sale was Hartley Thompson.  She was said to be a person of prepossessing appearance.  The sale had been duly announced by the bellman.  A large crowd had assembled.  The wice, it is said, appeared before the crowd with a halter, adorned with ribbons, round her neck.  The sale, however, was not completed; the reason for this being that some disturbance was created by a crowd from a neighbouring factory, and the person to whom it was intended to sell the wife (Ike Duncan) was detained at his work beyond the time.  The couple, though not long wedded, have lewd a very unhappy life, and it is said they and their friends were so egregiously ignorant as to believe that they could secure their own legal separation by such an absurd course as this - a public sale.  Manchester Guardian, 23 November 1858.

(The last recorded instance of a successful wife-sale was in 1901 - the lady was sold for a pipe of tobacco!)


Rat-Killer Extraordinary

Recently on a farm at Rushley-green, in the occupation of Mr J M Balls, a man named Dowsett killed 89 rats by nipping them with his teeth after catching them with his hands as the rats emerged from holes in the barns.  The Chelmsford Chronicle, 25 January 1884.



  1. Going rate on wives may have increased since 1901!

  2. Really interesting stuff, I wonder if husbands were ever sold, killing rats with his teeth no thank you I will stick with a gun :-)

  3. The wife, it would appear, was normally seen as the villain of the piece. . . No rat-biting for me either!

  4. Met a 'rat' hunter at the pub on Saturday, he called himself a hunter and wore a mink badge, didn't know mink were still around, my daughter thought he told a lot of boring stories, but he wore gaiters, proper English gear...

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