The quest for preservation
There was a constant search for a successful method of preserving food for those who did not have easy access to fresh supplies, such as on long sea voyages when the diet for most seamen was hard biscuit and salted meat (pork and beef) kept in wooden casks. By the end of the 18th century a method of preserving food in airtight glass bottles had been perfected by the Frenchman Nicolas Appert, and ‘bottling’ fruit is still popular for preserving home-grown produce. Glass was fragile and heavily taxed, and so the search went on for better methods. In the early 19th century, canning was developed as a means of preserving food, but it only became cost-effective after the Napoleonic Wars, using thick tin-plated iron canisters, referred to now as tins or cans – the tinning prevented corrosion (nowadays, cans and canned food tend to be called tins and tinned food in Britain). These were bulk containers, not intended for household use. By the 1840s, the Royal Navy was ever more reliant on canned meat, Continue reading
STOREHOUSES OF HISTORY
There are so many churches in Britain that their role as storehouses of history is often overlooked. Many date back to the early medieval period, and some were built before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Frequently altered, repaired and enlarged, the very fabric of these buildings is a record of constant use over the last millennium. Within and outside every church, various monuments also have their own history, and objects with no other obvious home are frequently stored in the local church or placed there for protection, so that some churches are like small museums. Most churches have at least one interesting story to tell, but the ruined Holy Rood Church in Southampton, Hampshire, probably has more than most.
THE AUSTENS IN SOUTHAMPTON
Medieval Southampton was completely enclosed by fortified town walls, large parts of which survive today. For a brief period Jane Austen was at school in Southampton, then a small port at the head of Southampton Water, and although she nearly died of typhus there, this did not deter her Continue reading
Mansfield Park was published in May 1814. This was one of two naval novels that Jane Austen wrote – both Mansfield Park and Persuasion have significant naval themes and characters.
Title page of Mansfield Park
Her inspiration and knowledge came from two of her brothers, Frank and Charles, who were in the Royal Navy, and also from those officers who were her neighbours or within her social circle. One of those neighbours was Benjamin Clement.
THE CLEMENT MEMORIAL
The chancel of the church of St Nicholas in the village of Chawton in Hampshire has a stained glass window commemorating Benjamin Clement and his wife. The dedication within the glass at the bottom of the window reads: ‘In memory of Benjamin Clement, Captain RN. Born March 29th 1785. Died Nov. 5th 1835. Also of Ann Mary his wife. Born Septr. 22nd 1787. Died Aug. 30th 1858.’
The memorial window of Benjamin Clement
It is thought that this couple, along with Ann-Mary’s sister, Catherine-Ann Prowting, are referred to in perhaps the very last letter Continue reading