Monthly Archives: May 2017

Subject of a Pauper’s Poem

“Long Live the donor, who is the owner, We drink his health today, For English cheer is good old beer, And a pint of it, hooray!”  

This verse, signed “A Pauper”, was written on a hoarding in Church Street, Market Deeping in January 1909.  The owner of the disused building was George Grant Hildyard who had used his influence on the Board of Guardians of Bourne Union Workhouse, to obtain an allowance of beer for the inmates on Christmas Day.  He also visited the Boys’ Home every Christmas and provided them with a treat. On Coronation Day in 1911 he contributed Jamaica coffee and 40 pounds of strawberries towards festivities at the workhouse and the same year, provided pork pies and daily newspapers to brighten the lives of inmates.

His generosity to local people included donating 8cwt of coal to each “old man of the parish” every Christmas, providing soup two days a week for needy families and paying for all the school children of Deeping St James and Market Deeping to visit a travelling menagerie.

Mr Hildyard was a nephew of the late Reverend William Hildyard, Rector of St Guthlac’s.  He was educated at Stamford Grammar School and studied law at Cambridge in 1871, where a contemporary recalled that “As an undergraduate he was singularly corpulent with a curious eruption on his face.  He was quite a blameless, indolent and retiring person.”  After practising as a solicitor in London, he became a partner in Stapleton & Hildyard, solicitors in Stamford, retiring to live in Market Deeping at the age of 48 in 1900.  His home was the bay fronted building in the Market Place, now occupied by a dress shop and florist.  His habit of always gardening in bare feet, fits the image of a kindly and eccentric man.

He travelled widely and published “Notes of a Voyage to the West Indies on the Steam Yacht Argonaut in the Winter of 1902-3”, also giving a magic lantern show in the girls’ schoolroom about his tour in the West Indies.  He collected curios from all over the world and when an Arts & Industrial Exhibition was held at Bourne in 1911, George Hildyard lent a number of oddities for display, including grapeshot picked up by himself whilst in Portugal, on the site of the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Busaco,  a pair of Canadian snowshoes, some volcanic dust from Martinique and a carved paddle from Africa.

Following his death on 12th November 1916, aged 63, he was described as one of Market Deeping’s most respected inhabitants and greatest benefactors. He is buried in the old cemetery, in a plot which he chose for himself.  In his Will he left £500 to the church and ensured that donations of coal every Christmas would continue.    Although not as well remembered as his uncle, whose name lives on at William Hildyard School, George Hildyard’s benevolence was much appreciated by local people in his lifetime.

 As the pauper suggested, maybe we should all raise a glass to him.

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Grasshopper Ointment and other unlikely treatments

At our meeting on 11th May, retired GP, Dr Eric Somerville will be giving a talk entitled “Quacks and Quackery  – but no Ducks” about quack medicine through the ages.  Dr Somerville used to work at Thorpe Hall Hospice and is well qualified to guide us through dubious treatments of the past.   

In the early 1900s, local newspapers carried many advertisements for patent medicines, often endorsed by clergymen to add respectability to their claims.  “Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People” were one of the best known, claiming to cure paralysis, scrofula, consumption of the bowels and lungs and St Vitus Dance, among other ailments.  Manufactured in Canada, they arrived in the UK in 1893 and were regularly advertised in the Stamford Mercury.  Apparently their only useful ingredient was ferrous sulphate, though at a weaker level than standard iron pills from a doctor.

“Albert’s Grasshopper Ointment” was also on offer as “a certain cure for bad legs and every known disease”.  No grasshoppers died in its manufacture!  It was a pale green colour due to the inclusion of copper acetate and may have been named to imply that people suffering from housemaid’s knee or bunions would soon be leaping around again.

 The Christmas edition of Tit-Bits magazine in 1936 offered Brain Sparklers for women “when days drag and life is wearisome”.  There was no indication of what was in them, but readers were assured “They cannot do you any harm.  They are what your doctor would advise”.  It added that they were equally good for men.

There was also help over the festive season for people concerned about their appearance.

“Why have an odd-shaped nose?  Re-shape your nose as you wish, while you sleep.”  An ear-moulder was also available, and one shilling cheaper.

Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills were widely advertised in newspapers as “The Old Folks’ Friend” and included recommendations by aged individuals.  In 1908, Mrs Bursnell of Skillington near Grantham aged 103 stated “I feel as bright and nimble as ever I did.  I have been getting up in the morning just after five, digging in the garden.”    A cynical reader in the 21st century might wonder if her age was exaggerated, but censuses and newspaper reports prove that Hannah Bursnell really was 105 by the time she died the following year.  Whether her longevity was due to Doan’s pills is another question…

Dr Somerville’s talk starts at 7.30pm in the Conference Centre, Deepings School.  Everyone is welcome.  There is a charge of £2 for non-members.