Black Country Muse


The Last Hanoverians, and the Notorious Victorians.

1816 - 1836. Reigning Monarchs. George III, George IV, William IV.

The years following the defeat of Napoleon, were hard indeed, for the working men and women of the industrial regions. Demand for raw materials and goods fell away rapidly, and poverty and starvation stalked the land. The Elgin Marbles arrived, 1816, after a delayed start, only to kick off a controversy that still exists today. Samuel Coleridge published his epic poem, " Kubla Khan ", (1817) someone tried to assassinate the Prince Regent, he had never been very popular anyway, Constable painted " Flatford Mill ", and from Derbyshire to Manchester, there were riots, in protest at the low wages. Good news for the young workers though, their daily grind was set at just 12 hours. George III died in 1820, and the Prince Regent became George IV. He was crowned, to universal disdain, refusing to admit his wife to the event. She, Queen Caroline, died in 1821, and his popularity sank to an all time low. In 1829, there occured an event, that affected everyone, Robert Peel formed a Police Force in London. This was rapidly followed by others, proper Law and Order had at last arrived. George IV died in 1830, to be succeeded by his younger brother, William IV, he was 65 at the time, and nobody expected him to last long, he didn't disappoint them, dying in 1837. Unrest continued throughout his reign, and the Police, in the Black Country, understrength, had to call in the Militia on a number of occasions. One notable feature of his reign, was that Ladies Skirts grew shorter, Dress'es had large and volumious sleeves, and they all began to wear gigantic ribbon festooned Hats. Oh yes, and that Cholera, which began in India in 1826, arrived here, in Pandemic proportions, in 1832. Inspections of Factories began in 1833, and not before time either. It was announced that Slavery would be banned in the expanding British Empire, but strangely enough, not in the UK, that didn't happen until 2010. While Charles Babbage was inventing the " Analytical Engine ", (1834, and from which the Computer was born ) the Houses of Parliament were burning down. Accidently before you ask. The Poor Law was amended, so that every able-bodied man, down on his luck, could only get assistance by going into a Workhouse. The Municipal Corporation Act, in 1835, bought Civic order to the nations towns and cities. The same year, whats believed to Englands oldest photograph was taken, but not in time to capture the return of Halley's Comet. As the upper class'es danced away the hours with the " Lancers ", (1836) the Chartist Movement demanded sufferage and ballot voting, and the sad news arrived, of the death of Davy Crockett at the Alamo. ( A lesson, if one was needed, of staying out of other peoples arguments.)

1837 - 1861. Reigning Monarchs, William IV, Queen Victoria.

The young 18 year old Princess, having had a sheltered upbringing, was thrust into the deep end with the death of her Uncle William. She was crowned in 1838, the year that the Steamship " Sirius," became the first to cross the Atlantic under her own power. The next year, saw the first running of the Grand National, Ross and Crozier set off to explore the Antarctic, Scottish inventer Kirkpatrick Macmillan, builds a bicycle, and Queen Victoria gets the hots for her cousin, Prince Albert. It may have a lot to do with his habit of wearing very tight trousers. She has several run in's with the Tory Government, ( she thinks she can interfere in everything, and so did he. ) and when she can't get her own way, throws a tantrum, and leaves them all off her 1840 Wedding list. Sir Charles Barry starts work building the new Houses of Parliament after that fire. The 1st Afgan War ends, Nelsons Column goes up,, so too does the price of bread. The Penny Post begins, and it's calculated we have 1,331 miles of railway tracks. Although it would be some time before a Train arrived on time.The first of 7 assassination attempts occurs on the Queens life. (Dispite what you may read, Victoria wasn't all that popular) It all went quiet for a bit, then in 1842, riots and strikes swept the industrial areas, in Dudley and surrounding areas, about 3,000 miners went on the rampage, and someone in London took a pop at the Queen. Some of the rioting ringleaders were hanged, the rest transported. Victoria makes her first trip by Steam Train, that was late as well, and Grace Darling pulls off a spectacular sea rescue. The next few years saw a Tunnel under the Thames, The SS Great Britian was launched, the first Public bath and wash houses were constructed, Railway milage doubled to 2,236 miles, the Oford-Cambridge boat race begins on the Thames, Famine in Ireland,(1846) the Bronte sisters publish " Jane Eyre," (Charlotte), and " Wuthering Heights ", (Emily) and as a relief to the poor workers of the Black Country, women and children 13 to 18, had their working hours reduced to 10 a day.(1847) Despite a War in India, and Revolution on the Continent, the first ever Public Health Act was passed, followed by the Public Libraries Act. All that was needed now, was for the population to be taught to read, which was resisted by the upper classes. We managed to settle a few international disputes over the next 3 years, and the Queen continued to not get on well with the Government, almost turning foot stamping into a national sport. This may have been the reason Prince Albert took all the credit for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Queen, not fancying another painful birth, surprises everyone in 1853, by agreeing to use Chloroform for the birth of child number 7, Albert may have used something similar at the conception, ( 2 still to go ) and then getting the rest of her brood vaccinated against Smallpox. The Crimean War ends in 1855, only for more trouble to pop up in 1857 with the Indian Mutiny, and a war with China over Drugs. They didn't want them, but we insisted. It stopped after we sank all their Junks, and Bombarded a few forts. Revolution in the Iron trade, as Henry Bessemer improves steel making, by blowing hot air through it, and William Siemens pioneers ductile steel for boiler making, which was good news for Industry and the Railway Companies. There were less boilers exploding after this. Following a successful casting, the famous " Bong " of Big Ben is first heard in 1858, but it cracked and they had to start again. As a sign of things to come, the first successful Oil Well is sunk in America, the SS Great Eastern is launched, although not without bankrupting Isombard Kingdom Brunel, and the South Foreland Lighthouse is the first to be lit by the new fangled Electricity. Well, at least now the keepers could read Dickens new Book, " A Tale of Two Cities ", in the dark. In 1860, twenty thousand miners in the Black Country went on strike, causing so much trouble, the Yeoman Cavalry were called out to support the Police. Dickens was at it again in 1861, this time with " Great Expectations ", and as if in answer, Daily Weather Forecasts began to be published in "The Times ". Mrs Beeton teaches the nation how to cook and manage a household budget, and Linoleum begins to cover the floors of many kitchens. Sadly, Queen Victoria's days of being a baby factory draw to an abrupt end, as Prince Albert and his tight pants take a last breath. She retires into seclusion, the Government sigh with relief, and life, such as it was, for the poor old peasant, marches painfully onwards.

1862 - 1901. Reigning Monarch, Queen Victoria.

During her years spent on the Isle Of Wight, and shacked up in Scotland with her " Gilly ", John Brown, she managed to miss quite a bit. Or maybe, if the rumours were to be believed, she was having a right good old highland fling. She missed the American Civil War.The Football Association was up and running in 1863, and they started digging the London underground. ( Yes, the first Trains were all Steam ) The Queen missed the thrill of using the first Carpet sweeper, 1865, and the Atlantic Telegraph Cable was finally laid. All hell broke out in Europe in 1866, and Alfred Nobel invents Dynamite for " peaceful purposes ". The Irish play up and cause outrage with a few bombs, we respond by hanging several " finians ". Livingstone sets off to explore the dark continent, and promptly gets lost. Diamonds and other valuable items were found in South Africa, land was grabed, and the Zulu's got a little miffed. (1867) Disraeli gets to be Prime Minister, " Mrs Brown " likes this, but he gets some serious stick from Parliament and resigns. Louisa May Alcott writes " Little Women ",(1868) which would not have been Victoria's favourite read, as she was barely 5 foot tall, and a bit stout with it. In 1869, much to the relief of my relatives, you could no longer be imprisoned for debt, which would have also come as a bit of a relief to some of your ancesters as well, most of whom never had two pennies to rub together anyway. Ignoring all the riots and revolutions abroad, and the plight of the countries poverty striken mass'es, the inventive Victorians rolled on, making money after all, was what they had been invented for. The Severn Tunnel,(1873) the London Sewage system,(1875) and bashing balls, from one end of a court to the other at Wimbledon.(1877) Reports came in, that in Gornal, and Sedgeley, in Staffordshire, there was so little work, that the population was starving, and had resorted to eating their shoes to keep body and soul together. Queenie comes out of hiding in the same year, but only after she gets proclaimed Empress of India. In the next 10 years, we manage to upset the Zulu's, this time seriously, the Boers, and the fuzzie wuzzies in Sudan take umbrage as well, and the Redcoats are sent to restore order. Not entirely going to plan, there were a few setbacks. For those who could read, " Ben Hur, Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn, King Soloman's Mines ", and for the more racy, " The Arabian Nights ", were all published. Engineering was in the news, Cleopatra's Needle was duly erected, but the mighty Tay Bridge in Scotland, pride of Dundee, collapsed in a storm with a train on it. 1887 saw the old Queen out on a rare public appearance, her Golden Jubilee, Huge crowds turned out, most asking who the fat bird in the carriage was. She became a bit more popular in the final years of her reign, mind you, so did Electric lights, Celluloid film, indoor toilets, and most popular of all, Mr Dunlops Pneumatic Tyre. No more sore backsides from riding bicycles with very hard saddles and no means of shock absorbtion. 1888 saw Jack the Ripper appear, kill 6 women, and then disappear into the night. On a lighter note, the Football League was founded, and the national sport now became a game, where 22 grown men, kicked a bag of wind around a large green field. New things came along thick and fast in the next decade, Rubber Gloves, the Forth Bridge, Wireless Telegraphy, Famine and Earthquake, the Internal Combustion Engine, The Telephone, Mr Gillette and his Razor, and Karl Benz builds a four wheeled Motor Car. In 1897, the people turn out in force, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, this time they knew who she was, and two years later, (1899) we are back at war again, this time with the Boers in South Africa, and it wasn't popular. On 22nd January,1901, just before the Navy launched it's first Submarine, ( no, not steamed powered, that came later ) the old Queens heart finally gave out, and she was laid to rest in Windsor, next to her beloved Albert, with momento's of John Brown,(???) descretely placed in her left hand, as she had requested. She had reigned for 63 years,7 months, and 2 days, the longest in our history. Will it ever get beaten, and will anyone care ?