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Calendars of the Coaching Days

Maurice Myers

<plain_text><page sequence="1">CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. By MAUBICE MYERS. (Read before the Society on March 28, 1905.) I have to introduce to the notice of the Society a series of pocket calendars, printed partly in Yiddish and partly in Hebrew, and published in London at Alexander's printing works. The earliest copy I have inspected is dated 1772; the British Museum does 219</page><page sequence="2">220 CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. not appear to possess any specimen. The chief interest of these Almanacs, which were the predecessors of modern publications of a similar character that have long been familiar to the Jewish public, is the varied information they convey in the quaintest of jargons; but chiefly the particulars of the times at which the coaches in those days used to start, the places whence they set out, and the fares to their different destinations. The portion of these little volumes devoted to a calendar proper is sufficiently interesting to warrant a hasty glance over its pages before turning to the later section dealing with the coaches. The Jewish Festivals and Church Holidays are all recorded with both completeness and impartiality. For instance, on the first page of the Calendar for 1772 we find noted T?D the Atonement Fast, fDIDI D*P, the first Day of Tabernacles, as well as or Holy Cross Day, and pnDND for St. Matthew's Day. Against the 22nd of September we find the words ^h'OTi 1TO, that being the anniversary of the Coronation of George III. At the bottom of the page there is information as to the time of the New Moon, and a sentence on the lines of " Old Moore." It reads THK JpntD ihn BPK tmn W7 *TOyVl ?u This month is half dry and wet weather," a fairly safe prognostication. The weather prophecies are given for almost every month of the year:? Heshvan: Jprttt TOK vhxp W$ EHin Kislev: JpriD IttK vb#\&gt; bps EHin ^3K3 EW Tebeth: iDyii nny? ?? D^p nnyr ddpk nin mn Shebat does not seem to have any weather at all. Adar and Adar Sheni are to be " Kalt und trocken." Nisan is also weatherless. Iyar is to be " Halb trocken und halb Feuchtigkeit." In Sivan the weather improves to " Heiss und trocken." In Tamus it is " Sehr Heiss und trocken." In Av it is " Sehr warm und trocken." In Ellul it is " Halb trocken und Wind." It may perhaps be unfair to term these weather notes prophecies. They may merely be statements as to the general weather of the various months in average years. The general holidays and noteworthy events are equally interest</page><page sequence="3">CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. 221 ing. We meet with DWlpn ^3 for All Saints' Day. The fifth of November we are reminded is the anniversary of pjntD "HIB pj (Gun-powder Treason). And the ninth of the same month is " Lord Mayor's Tag." Other entries are " Paulus Bekehrung," the Conver? sion of St. Paul; "Prinz Wales Geburtstag" for the Prince of Wales's Birthday; pjlta for the Fire of London. Each page contains some extra historical details. For instance, we are told that the first of Kislev is the day on which Jehoiakim burnt the Scroll written by Baruch from the mouth of Jeremiah. "And some say it is on the fifth, and some say it is on the seventh, and some say it is on the twenty-fifth." We are also informed that the Princess Dowager was "Geboren" on November 30th?a truly useful piece of information for the Jewish pedlars, for whom the calendars were primarily intended. But if their historical cravings were not satisfied by being told the birthday of the Princess Dowager they could refer to the p*0fcOp, where they would learn that the year 1772 was 3876 years h^iob (from the Flood) or 3045 years from the death of Miriam and Aaron. Or if they were good London citizens they could look up the p^KIp \iy{? (London Chronik), and in 1810 they would be informed that it was 159 years since D"6&amp;Cip "jta (King Charles) was DSPp^ (beheaded), or 62 years since " Die Rebellion in die North." But by far the most interesting portion of these calendars is the information as to the coaches, the " Anweisung der abreisende Coachen." The information is given in the following style:? " Ton London nach Ipswich, 1 Cross Keys/ Gracechurch Street, yom beth, veyom gimmel, Shobbos zu Morgens, f?nf Uhr; die fare ist ^ shilling." Some of the calendars also give the distance from London. We come across all the old coaching-houses, such as the " Saracen's Head," Friday Street; " The Swan with two Necks" printed indifferently with " und " and " mit" ; the " Bull and Mouth " ; the " Half Moon," Southwark ; the " Bolt and Tun," Fleet Street. The coach to Ilford, we are told, starts from the " i Angel,' hinter St. Clement's Church, Strand." The coach to Salisbury starts from the Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill. The horses that now pull Messrs. Cassell &amp; Co.'s</page><page sequence="4">222 CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. carts tread perhaps on the same cobble-stones from which the fiery coach-horses once used to send the sparks a-flying. The vehicles that till recently bore Mr. M. H. Spielmann's Magazine of Art might have started from the same spot as one of his ancestors began his journey from London when bound for the " West Countree." One is rather staggered to find from these calendars that in 1772 one could go to Sheffield by "Flying Machine," which seems to have been a sorb of express coach. The time-table covers thirteen pages, and the variety of the places mentioned may perhaps be taken as some sign of the extent of the peregrinations of the small Jewish travellers of those days. However, in the 1772 calendar I can find no mention of Manchester, though Birmingham is spelt in Yiddish characters as " Brummagem." Even in those days, it would seem, our people went to Margate. Besides the time-table of coaches there is a list of the " Haupt Fairen von England." On the first of May there are fairs at Harwich and Lancaster, on the second at Coventry, on the fourth at Chesterfield, Guildford, and Ipswich. Of course, this information wras highly important to Jewish itinerant tradesmen. Some of the calendars also give a list of " Holidays welche gehalten w?ren in die Exchequer, die Bank, Stamp Office, Excise Office, Customs House, East India House, und South Sea House." Then, orthodox pedlars who travel, as the calendars put it, " Yon London zu alle Platzen in die Medinos," are provided with the formula for blessing the New Moon! From these brief details it will be seen that the calendars were very useful compilations. They were apparently modelled on similar English publications of the period. Thus Rider's Royal Calendar of 1772 gave a list of fares, distances to provincial towns, prog? nostications of the weather, and so on. It is probable that the class of persons that used these calendars were the founders of most of the oldest provincial Jewish communities. The peddling was reduced to a system, not all the travellers being independent, but many working for employers. Contemporary writings do not speak very kindly of these itinerant Jews, but they enable us to gain some idea of the extent of their operations. Thus we are told that they had connections wherever* dockyards were situated as well as in</page><page sequence="5">CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. 223 several other large trading towns in the kingdom. Portsmouth (where, by the way, I had an ancestor at the time of the sinking of the Royal George in 1782), Chatham, Woolwich, and Deptford are mentioned as places where they used to circulate, and it is also mentioned that some of the Jews had vehicles of their own for the transport of their goods. They seem to have had a monopoly of the itinerant jewellery trade. Henry Mayhew, in his " London Labour and London Poor" (London, 1861-62), says:? " The pedlar jewellery trade is principally pursued by Jews, and to a great extent (especially in a small way) by foreign Jews. The Jews are, I think, more attentive to the wants of their poorer brethren than other people; and instead of supplying them with trifling sums of money which must necessarily soon be expended; they give them small quantities of goods, so that they may immediately commence foraging for their own support. Many of these poor Jews when provided with their stock of merchandise can scarcely speak a word of English, and few of them know but little respecting the value of the goods they sell; they always take care to ask a good price, leaving plenty of room for abatement." Mr. Lucien Wolf, in his " History of the Families of Yates and Samuel," attributes to these pedlars the foundation of the congrega? tions at Portsmouth, Falmouth, Bristol, Plymouth, Hull, Yarmouth, Liverpool, Exeter, Bath, Birmingham, Canterbury, Cheltenham, Coventry, Kings Lynn, Norwich, &amp;c. These places formed the centres of, so to speak, master-pedlars, and from them their peri? patetic co-religionists commenced their journeys " on the road." The Gentleman's Magazine occasionally records events which cast a sidelight on this traffic. The following are three such references :? Gentlemans Magazine, 1754, page 44. "Nov. 20th. "I was going from my mother's house to Brecon, I met Jonas Levi a Jew within two fields of crickhowel, where I turned back and followed him to the place where I took a stake and laid it down; I was then before him, and then turned back and met him and with that stake 1 knocked him down and hauled him to the wood where he was found. I threw the first stake away, and was in such confusion that I could not find it again, but took another stake and struck him again, and no other blow; neither was there anybody else with me; nobody knows anything of it but myself</page><page sequence="6">224 CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. till this moment, and there I robbed the box of all that was therein of any value, after I killed him, I robbed him of a guinea in gold and two shillings and sixpence in silver, as witness my hand, " WILLIAM PRICE." Gentleman's Magazine, 1760, page 43. "The body of a travelling Jew known by the name of Little Isaac, was found murdered in a wood near Plymstock, Devonshire. Since which, Edward Jackson, a Militia-man, has confessed that he met with this Jew near to Plymstock, and after drinking a pint of Beer together, they both went out, and after walking about two miles, the deceased stopt to rest himself, and putting a long stick he had in his hand behind his back to rest his box upon, Jackson took the stick from behind him and knocked him down, and when he was on the ground gave him two more blows, which finished him. Then taking his watch out of his pocket, and some goods out of the box, he hid the box in a wood. When he offered some of the things to sale, being asked how he came by them, he said he found them in a box, and would show it to Mr. Sherenbeare; which he accordingly did taking him into the wood where he had left it, and presently after said his conscience troubled him and he confessed the murder." Gentleman s Magazine, 1758, page 91. " His Majesty's Ship Lancaster being paid at Spithead, amongst the trades-people that carried goods on board, were a great many Jews, who had large quantities of valuable effects with them; the Jews not meeting with the success they desired, were resolved to go on shore; it blew very hard, and they had a sailing boat which they hired for that purpose ; about 20 Jews and a few other people got into her with their effects, but they had not gone far when by gibbing the sail, they were over set. The ship's boats immediately put off, and took up nine or ten of them. Nine Jews were drowned and two died after they were brought on board." Jews do not seem to have taken much part in the actual coach traffic. There was a Mr. Alexander who owned the " Three Nuns " in Whitechapel, but I doubt whether he was a Jew. Reference must of course be made to the great " Turnpike Levy," who is reputed to have made a large fortune by the farming of turnpike tolls. Mr. Athol Maudeslay, in his " Highways and Horses," says that Mr. Levy farmed tolls to the amount of ??500,000 a year and post-horse duties to the amount of &lt;?3l)0,000, though these figures</page><page sequence="7">CALENDARS OF THE COACHING DAYS. 225 seem incredible. Mr. Jonas Levy, who bore the cognomen " Turn? pike," a Member of the New Synagogue, was Yice-Chairman of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. I have, I fear, only been able to deal somewhat sketchily with my subject, but I trust you have been interested in this brief description of these calendars of the coaching days, which we may with justice catalogue as " queer, quaint, and curious." VOL. V. P</page></plain_text>