Below is the original report from The World newspaper
a few days after the events in Paris on the 14th July, 1789. 

(By Express on Saturday Evening.)

THE ACCOUNTS we have published, we trust, have asserted the usual good authority which THIS PAPER has to boast. Each succeeding day confirms our statement of the preceding one.

The POPULAR PARTY are now completely triumphant.

A NATIONAL REVOLUTION, brought about in a period so short, has had no parallel in the History of the World: and though fatal to some, the lives that have been lost in this great accomplishment, are, in point of numbers, inconsiderable.

The Comte d’ARTOIS is fled, as we before stated: his route is said to be towards GERMANY.

A Messenger, dispatched by the QUEEN to the EMPEROR, was stopped by the populace, and a great quantity of Diamonds which he had about him.

Previous to the flight of the Comte d’ARTOIS, he and the Prince de Conde had a Rencontre, in which the former was wounded.

Various CONVENTS in PARIS are now laid in ashes! The Wine the Popular Party drank – The Nuns they very civilly left to the Friars.

The OPERA HOUSE has been cleared of its Performers: The Insurgents rushed in while they were practising, and turned them all out, saying – “These were the days of mourning, and not of joy!”

At eight o’clock each morning, bread is delivered out by the Popular Party. After that hour, none is to be had.

(By Express Yesterday.)

The popular tumult spreads far and wide: but the triumph of the PARTY is now Complete.

Three Hundred Thousand Men are in arms.

After committing various acts of violence, the Party attacked the Bastille, which they soon broke open; and, similar to the Riots in the year 1780 with us, all the prisoners were set at liberty. Here, at this moment, scenes as novel and as interesting took place, as ever history recorded. Here Friends long lost again met each other! Here CAPTIVITY regained its freedom – and DESPAIR found instant consolation!

Among the number, after a confinement of nearly 25 years, was Lord MAZARINE. His joy was inexpressible. He immediately set off for ENGLAND.  The people in the Pacquet thought him mad: When he reached the English shore, he fell down and kissed the earth.

Libertas et Natale Solumn, were never more feelingly expressed!

He has thus paid all his debts at once!

As soon as the PARTY had destroyed the Bastille, they seized the Governor Monsieur DE LAUNET, and carrying him forth, beheaded him in the sight of the people, and putting the head, all bleeding as it was, upon a pole, bore it before them.

Monsieur DE FLESSELLES, ancient Intendant de LYON, late Prevot des Marchands at Paris, is beheaded likewise.

The KING has retired to COMPEIGNE.

Marshal Broglio is obiged to retire before the people.

The FRENCH GUARD have joined the people. The Corps of Invalids have followed their example.

And if the further circumstance were wanting to complete the catastrophe, a price of 500,000 Livres Tournois is offered to him who brings “The person of the Queen alive of dead!”

The QUEEN’s CHILDREN are also objects of popular pursuit – but they are not to be found.

The DUKE OF ORLEANS also, is not to be found. But he is rumoured to be in the MAISON DE LA VILLE.

From the MAISON DE LA VILLE, issued all the ORDERS of the Troops – but from the what Person, nobody could tell!

The popularity of the DUKE OF ORLEANS, increases more and more.


Rob Lucas HuzzarRob Lucas


Described by BBC Radio 4 as “…a modern-day highwayman …imbued with the spirit of Europe’s opulence and theatricality of the 17th and 18th centuries.” I’m the creator of HUZZAR and live among the dreaming spires of Oxford where I studied British history and now operate my own 18th century inspired fashion label, PIMPERNEL. I was Adam Ant’s  Wardrobe Designer on his Album ‘Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter’, and spent many years as an antique arms and militaria consultant, so I’ve handled as many old swords and duelling pistols as I have dressmaking pins! I’m inspired by just about anything historical or just damn stylish.

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Turner’s oil painting to remain at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Turner's oil townscape of the High Street, Oxford. Painting in 1809/10.

Turner’s oil townscape of the High Street, Oxford, painted in 1809/10 (Painting at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) (Photograph courtesy of Natalie Garbett)

In 1809, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) stood on the High Street of Oxford, his view bordered either side by the high collegiate buildings of University College, the Warden’s House of all Souls and the University Church. In the faint distance, Carfax Tower rises subtly through the haze of the low horizon. It is easy to picture him there, sketch book in hand, with perhaps that very same demeanour of concentration and genius that Timothy Spall so endearingly portrayed in Mike Leigh’s 2014 film – ‘Mr. Turner’.

Turner's Oxford

Over two-hundred years later, his oil townscape of the same view hangs in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Having been on loan from the Lloyd Collection since 1997, it is now to be sold in order to help settle the Lloyd Estate’s Inheritance Tax debt. Dr. Alexander Sturgis, Director of the museum said: ‘If the Ashmolean does not acquire the painting, it will be sold on the open market. All major oil paintings by Turner that have been offered at auction in recent years have been bought by foreign buyers.

Turner painted over thirty watercolours of Oxford, yet his High Street painting is the only townscape of Oxford he ever completed in oil, with Dr. Sturgis describing it as “The young Turner’s most significant townscape, and the greatest painting of Oxford that has ever been made.”

Commissioned by James Wyatt, an Oxford print seller who intended to have the completed painting engraved to produce and sell prints at his shop at no. 115, High Street, it was displayed at his shop in 1810. It was then shown at Turner’s own gallery before being exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1812. With its local and such illustrious history, its loss to Oxford would have been a sad one.

Timothy Spall as Turner, in Mike Leigh's 2014 film 'Mr. Turner'.

Timothy Spall as Turner, in Mike Leigh’s 2014 film ‘Mr. Turner’.

£860,000 was needed from the museum to purchase and keep it in same city that inspired its creation, and with the combined help of the Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and by friends and patrons of the museum, £800,000 was raised. However, being £60,000 short of the purchase price, the museum then appealed to the general public in order to prevent it selling to a private collector, and its possible loss to an overseas buyer.

Stephen Deuchar, the Director of the Art Fund which contributed £220,000 towards its rescue stated how: “This most important picture simply must be saved by the Ashmolean, we’re pleased to have supported the campaign substantially ourselves and fervently hope that anyone else who loves Turner, Oxford and the Ashmolean, will now do the same.”

Within four-weeks, those admirers of Turner, Oxford and the Ashmolean that Stephen Deuchar hoped would swiftly step forward…did just that, and within four-weeks the much-needed £60,000 was raised by the generous locals of Oxford and the museum’s visitors.

Dr. Sturgis  expressed how “The Museum has been overwhelmed by public support. With well over 800 people contributing to the appeal…We are so grateful to the members of the public who have made donations; to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund; and to the Friends and Patrons of the Museum. There are big plans for the painting once we acquire it. It will be lent to regional museums so as many people as possible from the surrounding area will be able to see it; it will be at the heart of a new series of educational activities for schools and young people; and, not least, it will have pride of place in the Museum’s Nineteenth Century Gallery which will be refurbished and reopened in early 2016.

Now, Turner’s oil, complete with its dreaming spires, bustling scholars and busy townsfolk is now permanently ensconced within the city it was always intended for – OXFORD.

If you would like to learn more about the painting, Curator Colin Harrison is giving a special talk –  ‘Turner’s High Street, Oxford: a Unique Townscape‘, at the Ashmolean Museum on Wednesday 8 July, 11am–12pm.


Rob Lucas HuzzarRob Lucas


Described by BBC Radio 4 as “…a modern-day highwayman …imbued with the spirit of Europe’s opulence and theatricality of the 17th and 18th centuries.” I’m the creator of HUZZAR and live among the dreaming spires of Oxford where I studied British history and now operate my own 18th century inspired fashion label, PIMPERNEL. I was Adam Ant’s  Wardrobe Designer on his Album ‘Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter’, and spent many years as an antique arms and militaria consultant, so I’ve handled as many old swords and duelling pistols as I have dressmaking pins! I’m inspired by just about anything historical or just damn stylish.

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Bonaparte Defeated – A Great Victory at Waterloo!

wellington's dispatch 19th june 1815

ON the 18th day of this month, Bonaparte’s army was gloriously defeated near Waterloo. His grace the Duke of Wellington communicated the following dispatch to Earl Bathurst reporting on the VICTORY:

“To Earl Bathurst.

Waterloo, 19th June’ 1815.


Buonaparte, having collected the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th corps of the French army, and the Imperial Guards, and nearly all the cavalry, on the Sambre, and between that river and the Meuse, between the 10th and 14th of the month, advanced on the 15th and attacked the Prussian posts at Thuin and Lobbes, on the Sambre, at day-light in the morning.

I did not hear of these events till in the evening of the 15th; and I immediately ordered the troops to prepare to march, and, afterwards to march to their left, as soon as I had intelligence from other quarters to prove that the enemy’s movement upon Charleroi was the real attack.

The enemy drove the Prussian posts from the Sambre on that day; and General Ziethen, who commanded the corps which had been at Charleroi, retired upon Fleurus; and Marshal Prince Blücher concentrated the Prussian army upon Sombref, holding the villages in front of his position of St. Amand and Ligny.

The enemy continued his march along the road from Charleroi towards Bruxelles; and, on the same evening, the 15th, attacked a brigade of the army of the Netherlands, under the Prince de Weimar, posted at Frasne, and forced it back to the farm house, on the same road, called Les Quatre Bras.

The Prince of Orange immediately reinforced this brigade with another of the same division, under General Perponcher, and, in the morning early, regained part of the ground which had been lost, so as to have the command of the commumication leading from Nivelles and Bruxelles with Marshal Blücher’s position.

In the mean time, I had directed the whole army to march upon Les Quatre Bras; and the 5th division, under Lieut. General Sir Thomas Picton, arrived at about half past two in the day, followed by the corps of troops under the Duke of Brunswick, and afterwards by the contingent of Nassau.

At this time the enemy commenced an attack upon Prince Blücher with his whole force, excepting the 1st and 2nd corps, and a corps of cavalry under General Kellermann, with which he attacked our post at Les Quatre Bras.

The Prussian army maintained their position with their usual gallantry and perseverance against a great disparity of numbers, as the 4th corps of their army, under General Bülow, had not joined; and I was not able to assist them as I wished, as I was attacked myself, and the troops, the cavalry in particular, which had a long distance to march, had not arrived.

We maintained our position also, and completely defeated and repulsed all the enemy’s attempts to get possession of it. The enemy repeatedly attacked us with a large body of infantry and cavalry, supported by a numerous and powerful artillery. He made several charges with the cavalry upon our infantry, but all were repulsed in the steadiest manner.

In this affair, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Brunswick, and Lieut. General Sir Thomas Picton, and Major Generals Sir James Kempt and Sir Denis Pack, who were engaged from the commencement of the enemy’s attack, highly distinguished themselves, as well as Lieut. General Charles Baron Alten, Major General Sir C. Halkett, Lieut. General Cooke, and Major Generals Maitland and Byng, as they successively arrived. The troops of the 5th division, and those of the Brunswick corps, were long and severely engaged, and conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry. I must particularly mention the 28th, 42nd, 79th, and 92nd regiments, and the battalion of Hanoverians.

Our loss was great, as your Lordship will perceive by the enclosed return; and I have particularly to regret His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, who fell fighting gallantly at the head of his troops.

Although Marshal Blücher had maintained his position at Sombref, he still found himself much weakened by the severity of the contest in which he had been engaged, and, as the 4th corps had not arrived, he determined to fall back and to concentrate his army upon Wavre; and he marched ill the night, after the action was over.

This movement of the Marshal rendered necessary a corresponding one upon my part; and I retired from the farm of Quatre Bras upon Genappe, and thence upon Waterloo, the next morning, the 17th, at ten o’clock.

The enemy made no effort to pursue Marshal Blücher. On the contrary, a patrole which I sent to Sombref in the morning found all quiet; and the enemy’s vedettes fell back as the patrole advanced. Neither did he attempt to molest our march to the rear, although made in the middle of the day, excepting by following, with a large body of cavalry brought from his right, the cavalry under the Earl of Uxbridge.

This gave Lord Uxbridge an opportunity of charging – them with the 1st Life Guards, upon their débouché from the village of Genappe, upon which occasion his Lordship has declared himself to be well satisfied with that regiment.

The position which I took up in front of Waterloo crossed the high roads from Charleroi and Nivelles, and had its right thrown back to a ravine near Merke Braine, which was occupied, and its left extended to a height above the hamlet Ter la Haye, which was likewise occupied. In front of the right centre, and near the Nivelles road, we occupied the house and gardens of Hougoumont, which covered the return of that flank; and in front of the left centre we occupied the farm of La Haye Sainte. By our left we communicated with Marshal Prince Blücher at Wavre, through Ohain; and the Marshal had promised me that, in case we should be attacked, he would support me with one or more corps, as might be necessary.

The enemy collected his army, with the exception of the 3rd corps, which had been sent to observe Marshal Blücher, on a range of heights in our front, in the course of the night of the 17th and yesterday morning, and at about ten o’clock he commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont. I had occupied that post with a detachment from General Byng’s brigade of Guards, which was in position in its rear; and it was for some time under the command of Lieut. Colonel Macdonell, and afterwards of Colonel Home; and I am happy to add that it was maintained throughout the day with the utmost gallantry by these brave troops, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of large bodies of the enemy to obtain possession of it.

This attack upon the right of our centre was accompanied by a very heavy cannonade upon our whole line, which was destined to support the repeated attacks of cavalry and infantry, occasionally mixed, but sometimes separate, which were made upon it. In one of these the enemy carried the farm house of La Haye Sainte, as the detachment of the light battalion of the German Legion, which occupied it, had expended all its ammunition; and the enemy occupied the only communication there was with them.

The enemy repeatedly charged our infantry with his cavalry, but these attacks were uniformly unsuccessful; and they afforded opportunities to our cavalry to charge, in one of which Lord E. Somerset’s brigade, consisting of the Life Guards, the Royal Horse Guards, and 1st dragoon guards, highly distinguished themselves, as did that of Major General Sir William Ponsonby, having taken many prisoners and an eagle.

These attacks were repeated till about seven in the evening, when the enemy made a desperate effort with cavalry and infantry, supported by the fire of artillery, to force our left centre, near the farm of La Haye Sainte, which, after a severe contest, was defeated; and, having observed that the troops retired from this attack in great confusion, and that the march of General Bülow’s corps, by Frischermont, upon Planchenois and La Belle Alliance, had begun to take effect, and as I could perceive the fire of his cannon, and as Marshal Prince Blücher had joined in person with a corps of his army to the left of our line by Ohain, I determined to attack the enemy, and immediately advanced the whole line of infantry, supported by the cavalry and artillery. The attack succeeded in every point: the enemy was forced from his positions on the heights, and fled in the utmost confusion, leaving behind him, as far as I could judge, 150 pieces of cannon, with their ammunition, which fell into our hands.

I continued the pursuit till long after dark, and then discontinued it only on account of the fatigue of our troops, who had been engaged during twelve hours, and because I found myself on the same road with Marshal Blücher, who assured me of his intention to follow the enemy throughout the night. He has sent me word this morning that he had taken 60 pieces of cannon belonging to the Imperial Guard, and several carriages, baggage, &c., belonging to Buonaparte, in Genappe.

I propose to move this morning upon Nivelles, and not to discontinue my operations.

Your Lordship will observe that such a desperate action could not be fought, and such advantages could not be gained, without great loss; and I am sorry to add that ours has been immense. In Lieut. General Sir Thomas Picton His Majesty has sustained the loss of an officer who has frequently distinguished himself in his service, and he fell gloriously leading his division to a charge with bayonets, by which one of the most serious attacks made by the enemy on our position was repulsed, The Earl of Uxbridge, after having successfully got through this arduous day, received a wound by almost the last shot fired, which will, I am afraid, deprive His Majesty for some time of his services.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange distinguished himself by his gallantry and conduct, till he received a wound from a musket ball through the shoulder, which obliged him to quit the field.

It gives me the greatest satisfaction to assure your Lordship that the army never, upon any occasion, conducted itself better. The division of Guards, under Lieut. General Cooke, who is severely wounded, Major General Maitland, and Major General Byng, set an example which was followed by all; and there is no officer nor description of troops that did not behave well.

I must, however, particularly mention, for His Royal Highness’s approbation, Lieut. General Sir H. Clinton, Major General Adam, Lieut. General Charles Baron Alten (severely wounded), Major General Sir Colin Halkett (severely wounded), Colonel Ompteda, Colonel Mitchell (commanding a brigade of the 4th division), Major Generals Sir James Kempt and Sir D. Pack, Major General Lambert, Major General Lord E. Somerset, Major General Sir W. Ponsonby, Major General Sir C. Grant, and Major General Sir H. Vivian, Major General Sir O. Vandeleur, and Major General Count Dornberg.

I am also particularly indebted to General Lord Hill for his assistance and conduct upon this, as upon all former occasions.

The artillery and engineer departments were conducted much to my satisfaction by Colonel Sir George Wood and Colonel Smyth; and I had every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of the Adjutant General, Major General Barnes, who was wounded, and of the Quarter Master General, Colonel De Lancey, who was killed by a cannon shot in the middle of the action. This officer is a serious loss to His Majesty’s service, and to me at this moment.

I was likewise much indebted to the assistance of Lieut. Colonel Lord FitzRoy Somerset, who was severely wounded, and of the officers composing my personal Staff, who have suffered severely in this action. Lieut. Colonel the Hon. Sir Alexander Gordon, who has died of his wounds, was a most promising officer, and is a serious loss to His Majesty’s service.

General Kruse, of the Nassau service, likewise conducted himself much to my satisfaction; as did General Tripp, commending the heavy brigade of cavalry, and General Vanhope, commanding a Brigade of infantry in the service of the King, of the Netherlands.

General Pozzo di Borgo, General Baron Vincent, General Muffling, and General Alava, were in the field during: the action, and rendered me every assistance in their power. Baron Vincent is wounded, but I hope not severely; and General Pozzo di Borgo received a contusion.

I should not do justice to my own feelings, or to Marshal Blücher and the Prussian army, if I did not attribute the successful result of this arduous day to the cordial and timely assistance I received from them. The operation of General Bülow upon the enemy’s flank was a most decisive one; and, even if I had not found myself in a situation to make the attack which produced the final result, it would have forced the enemy to retire if his attacks should have failed, and would have prevented him from taking advantage of them if they should unfortunately have succeeded.

Since writing the above, I have received a report that Major General Sir William Ponsonby is killed; and, in announcing this intelligence to your Lordship, I have to add the expression of my grief for the fate of an officer who had already rendered very brilliant and important services, and was an ornament to his profession.

I send with this dispatch three eagles, taken by the troops in this action, which Major Percy will have the honor of laying at the feet of His Royal Highness. I beg leave to recommend him to your Lordship’s protection.

I have the honor to be your lordships most obedient humble servant. 


You can listen to author Brian Cathcart briefly introducing his new book, ‘The News from Waterloo,’ followed by a reading by  Hugh Grant of the above Dispatch by clicking the image below.

News From Waterloo cover small


Rob Lucas Huzzar

Rob Lucas


Described by BBC Radio 4 as “…a modern-day highwayman …imbued with the spirit of Europe’s opulence and theatricality of the 17th and 18th centuries.” I’m the creator of HUZZAR and live among the dreaming spires of Oxford where I studied British history and now operate my own 18th century inspired fashion label, PIMPERNEL. I was Adam Ant’s  Wardrobe Designer on his Album ‘Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter’, and spent many years as an antique arms and militaria consultant, so I’ve handled as many old swords and duelling pistols as I have dressmaking pins! I’m inspired by just about anything historical or just damn stylish.

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Rakish Highwayman ‘Wanted’ t-shirts in the new Huzzar store

Rakish Highwayman -t-shirt

A Rakish Highwayman wanted poster t-shirt in black.

WANTED! T-shirt with the Rakish Highwayman emblazoned on the front. Some of you asked, so we listened. So now you can wear your very own wanted poster. Wear it with pride to either support or condemn that most scandalous of gentlemen, viz. the RAKISH HIGHWAYMAN.

Also available are other items, including a range of mugs to enjoy your favourite brew while reading the latest scandals from the Rakish Highwayman. Rather have some ale? Then have a look at the beer stein – perfect for raising a toast to those making their way on the rattling cart to Tyburn!

Click either image to check it out, and do return here to let us know what you think.
HUZZAR t-shirts

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The Rakish Highwayman rides out… (video)

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In the General Evening Post (London) July 2.



General Evening Post 3

Copyright Rob Lucas 2014
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product  of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or business establishments is entirely coincidental.
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Dr. Johnson’s Georgian Jamboree

Historic Punch

An Evening of 18th-Century Junketing, in aid of Dr. Johnson’s House: featuring guest speakers Dr. JONATHAN FOYLE, the  acclaimed TV architecture historian; and the estimable  Antiques Roadshow expert Mr.LARS THARP; with bawdy Georgian ditties supplied by peerless musician Mr. DAVID OWEN NORRIS.


Silent Charity Auction, Charity Raffle, & lashing of fortifying punch, laced with the most excellent HENDRICK’S GIN. Organised by the fabulous team – Lindsey Fitzharris, Adrian Teal and Rebecca Rideal, and will be held on Friday, 25th July 2014 from 6pm.  Tickets can be purchased here.


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In the General Evening Post (London)


HUZZAR broad sheet weekly2


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On the drink of collapse

Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence. VICKY LEECH explores the history of gin – the drink that brought down the 18th century, and brought up many stomachs. 

WilliamHogarthGinLane HUZZAR

Gin Lane, William Hogarth

IT WAS IN BATTLE that gin was first served to Englishmen. It was with the help of “Dutch courage” that the English fought the Spanish on behalf of the Dutch in the eighty-year war. Holland’s juniper drink has passed through many mythologies from the very noble to the downright dishonourable: passing from battlefield brew to medicine, from a fashion in royal courts to a poison on the streets of London. With every distillation in the history of gin, the drink becomes a little purer and its history a little darker.

Gin is a liquid reflection of Britain’s capital and its rise from squalor to style. A foreign drink that came to epitomise Britain’s capital city…

The Dutch King William of Orange arrived on English shores in 1688 with a malt spirit, distilled with herbs and juniper that soon began to intoxicate England. What had begun as a rural medicine for stomach ailments and ulcers had gradually become popular in Holland’s high courts. A known favourite of the new king and his wife Mary, gin became the drink of choice amongst England’s aristocracy.

In 1689 the increasing religious and political unrest between England and France led to the law and fashion turning against imported spirits, and impoverished drinkers learned to tailor their tastes to substances more readily found at home. Parliament banned imports of French wines and spirits while also cancelling domestic monopolies. One result of the ban was that independent gin distilleries sprang up across London and the price of gin plummeted far below the cost of beers and ale and well into the affordability of the ‘inferior class’. This ban on foreign drinks proved a restriction solely for those who could afford neither to smuggle nor bribe for brandy: cementing gin as the drink of the working class (and latterly those both classless and workless).

18th century case gin bottles

18th century case gin bottles.

‘Geneva’, Gin’s original sobriquet, is produced by pot-distilling a grain mash from barley or offshoot grains before redistilling the mixture with herbs to extract a unique, dry and herbal alcohol. Compounded by fashion and increasingly low prices, the gin craze swept across an overcrowded and impoverished London. As the capital’s penniless underbelly became increasingly down and out, their gin in turn became cruder, and at times turpentine was known to replace juniper as herbs vanished from London’s more and more urban streets.

The Gin Craze coincided with an era of unprecedented poverty and social unrest. Record migration had transformed the city into the largest urban space on the planet, and the reigning political idea that a poor, dependant public made for a biddable workforce made certain that London’s lower classes remained poor. Besotted by Geneva, London’s public became anything but biddable, and unrest bubbled in the streets. Abstracts place the consumption of gin in England and Wales as 1.23 million gallons in the first year of the 18th century, rising to 7.05 million gallons by 1751 – colossal compared to the meagre 3 million gallons of beer (England’s national drink) consumed at that time.

Gin, the opiate of London’s 18th century masses, made for a convenient government scapegoat. Instead of properly addressing the causes of the social turmoil, government passed the Tippling Act of 1751 – England’s first act of prohibition. The Tippling Act suffocated the distilling industry and as the price of gin rose, London’s public became less drunk. It was convenient for the government to ignore the causes of the social unrest that were driving the public to drink, instead blaming gin for the collapse in life expectancy and an increasingly enfeebled English workforce.

A Midnight Modern Conversation by William Hogarth.

A Midnight Modern Conversation, William Hogarth. Perhaps over some gin punch.

Four successive acts were passed after the Tippling Act, but none took real hold or managed to curb London’s taste for gin. The Gin Craze “epidemic” (1720 -1751) was the first time that England’s government felt forced to regulate the sale of an alcohol – a tribute to the way the clear, glassy drink was felt to have on the country.

Like a disreputable twin to Britain’s beloved national drink, beer, gin made use of any poor-quality grain that was deemed unfit for brewing into ale.

Gin has always been different to other drinks. Gin-soaked drunkenness was seen as utterly other to the crapulence brought on by other drinks. Intoxication brought on by beer, an ancient, familiar drink, was long regarded with a wholesome sort of fondness reserved for childishness or well-meant folly: a drink born of England’s rural fields that had quenched public thirst in plague years when water had been deadly to drink. Gin’s own brand of insobriety came to be seen as base and oddly feminine in comparison with its wholesome brother: a creeping, crippling drunkenness that was thought to steal a man’s backbone and a woman’s moral femininity. Gin came to be known as “mother’s ruin” and was closely linked to the growing death count in the city amongst the down and outs. Sold along with gingerbread at public occasions such as parades and executions only furthered gin’s morbid urban mythology. Few spirits have come to possess such a rich reputation (and surely none a character quite as dark).

Eight Types of Drunkenness Huzzar

Eight Types of Drunken women. 1795 by Richard Newton.

Furthermore, it took a long time for gin to shake its quality of foreignness: it’s almost as if London, the mongrel, much-conquered city presided over by a foreign king and so far less English than the land that surrounded it, looked into this clear drink and in it saw something of itself which it disliked but could not leave alone.

HUZZAR Thomas Rowlandson the Dram Shop.jpg

The Dram Shop, Thomas Rowlandson.

The surge in gin’s popularity was strictly localised to the capital city – thus another parallel with the more wholesome beer began to arise: gin took on the persona of dank, sullied and knowing urbanity, while ale was free to remain a drink of fields and health.

Rumour has it that it was around the time of “The Tippling Act” (1751) that gin began to be referred to as “Madame Genever” by tavern owners who hoped to avert the attention of authorities from their covert cocktails (a name which persists in historical studies of the spirit to this day but which is ironically enough to drive anyone to drink).

Jean Jacobe Shweppe Receipt

Receipt of soda water from Schweppe, London 1798.

In the latter half of the century, wartime victories and new, imperial wealth led to less fear among the aristocracy of their workforce rising up and new public health measures (such as inoculation and a decrease in the marrying age) led to a newly rising population that dispelled fears about an enfeebled workforce. Jean Jacobe Shweppe began the tradition of ‘long drinks’ when in 1770 he brought carbonated water to the party. As with gin, carbonated water was originally intended as a medicinal aid for digestive ailments, but has, through its combination with the spirit, surely caused more trouble than it’s helped.

Paired with tonic, gin once more served the military forces of its adopted country, England, in 1850 as an anti-malarial for the British troops in India. The drink became an unprecedented hit with the troops who immediately began to take their health well in hand. In this way, gin became united with the Empire’s colonial effort, further cementing the drink as part of the British national identity, and slowly rising to the choice of the colonising, patriotic upper classes.

Gin rose to become a drink of both the rich and the poor – a means of escapism across the Atlantic where, in America, it was brewed in secret bathtubs and served as an accompaniment to jazz.


Jack Tar admiring the fairer sex, Thomas Rowlandson. Quite possibly with the aid of gin.

Even amongst Britain’s moneyed, gin retained a measure of its dark beginnings – lending its drinkers a broken, romantic air. Gin became the drink of the tortured, the interesting: the drink of Gatsbys and Bonds. It was, after all, into his “gin joint” that the dashing Humphrey Bogart rues Ingrid Bergman’s intrusion at the very start of Casablanca. Gin went from being regarded as a cure for the body, to a poison for the body politic, to a prescription for social ‘cool’.

A drink made of flawed grain come sophisticated – gin draws on its dark past in its own constant reinvention. It is the drink of timeless, historic characters. Like London.

Vicky Leech Huzzar Profile Pic copyVicky Leech

A lover of history and a good turn of phrase, when not duelling or dressing up with Dandies Vicky likes to pen a novel or two and relax with a little trip to Gin Lane. A notorious libertine, her debauched romances and adventure novels are never found in the possession of a decent lady (indeed, they are often to be found under her pillows).

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Happy New Year all you children of the 18th century revolution


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