Friday Squid Blogging: Harrowgate's 1886 Giant Squid

I have no idea how to explain this.

Posted on January 29, 2010 at 4:25 PM • 16 Comments

Comments

jgrecoJanuary 29, 2010 4:37 PM

Giant squid are great with children!

I noticed that the depicted squid seems to have at least three tentacles, where normally squid only have 2 (and 8 arms). Truly a remarkable specimen. :)

benJanuary 29, 2010 5:10 PM

Rubber and compressed air?

Harrogate (as it is now called) was a spa town with lots of rich tourists.

Now it is a rich commuter town.

David Atkinson January 29, 2010 5:34 PM

I used to live in the building overlooking that lake - it's a model boating lake and only ankle deep. I'd love to know the story behind this.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 30, 2010 4:24 AM

@ Romeo Vitelli,

"Charles Darwin called it the "The queerest place with the strangest people in it leading the oddest lives...".

And he should probably know. After all he was partial to eating just about anything you could get in the pot...

At University he belonged to a social group that dined on "exotics" including all the big cats bears etc.

Mind you the Victorians where a funny lot even by modern (Californian) standards.

There where more religions than you could possibly count, enlightend people went to various debating clubs, Mesmerisum and electroshock medical treatment common, "taking the (Epsom) salts" daily and "taking the waters" (Spars) you did to purge the system (not surprising on a diet of exotics etc). Philosophy in it's various forms was one of the founding corner stones of criminology Physiology being another so ear lobes and bumps on the head where under investigation and Eugenics (closed stud book breading) actively encoraged (still practiced to day by the Kennel Club of GB, much to many dogs harm).

And the English language got around 40,000 new words some of them like "flematic" putting names on things that realy did not need it (it is a description of how you would feel with a bad head cold, not that you could say it if you where in that state ;)

The Industrial Middlands (coal water etc) where being studied as microcosoms of society by various people and gave rise to such things as the "Chartist Movment" and "Communisum". Oh and the Map was a good solid red of the British Empire...

Fortunes where made pearages where purchased, and large mansions in places like Harrowgate, Scarborough etc where built.

As well as in the less accessable parts of Scotland (the ruins of some still standing and the wallpaper of the time still intact due to the lead oxide and arsnic paints stopping them rotting).

Just North of the educational epicenter of the Victorian world (Edinburgh) is the Kingdom of Fife, where the last dual in British History was fought and some bloke called Smith had the presumption to write in turgid style about Coal or as he put it "The Wealth of Nations", which still blights the world economies to this very day.

On the practical side man was harnesing the forces of nature (steam) to do his bidding, the "Great Civic Works" of the likes of Joseph Bazzlgett eliminating death by water bourn plagues (get to Fowlness on the river Thames to see some of it preserved).

Due to the work of a man called Snow who had made the link between foul and pure water and plague. The likes of Florrence Nightingale where starting to use mathmatics to show how plague and other illnesses spread, and Medicine started to move from the "bloody art" of the "Barber Surgeon" to enlightend science.

If you where one of the enlightend Gentelmen (or Ladies) of the time life was good. Morality was a spoken creed not an actuallity and many used abused and disgarded those who where not so fortunate. Some where actually less than dirt poor (you could earn a meger living out of "Mud Larking" sifting through the effluant on the banks of the Thames etc for rags and bones, human and animal waste to be used by industry)

However at all the "lower social orders" life was tough and painfull where as a "Penny worth of your finest" (Opium) could be purchased, the drug of the masses was "Mothers Ruin" or Gin. Real Social reform was on the way via the Quakers (not the faux reform of more mainstream churches) Bournvil and Cadbury where two such families who untill very recent times had an enlightend outlook on the health wealfare and education not just of their workers but their families as well.

However the morality of the times was more of a spoken creed than an actuallity. The gentility by day and bestiality of base passion by night there where many Dr Jeckles and Mr Hydes, the idea of vampires was bassed on the depraved acivities of Byron who was said to "suck the very life blood" out of the young laides who more than willingly suplicated themselves to his uncontrolable base passions. However the activities of the "reserectionists" and "anatomists" had given rise to a tribal fear that the feral science of electromagnatisum would unlease monsters from the dead and Dr Frankestien was just one notable work. But science had a more positive litery side through the likes of H.G.Wells.

Saddly though some applications of science where at best perverse and still haunt us today. At UCL the wheel Jerremy Bentham out of his box to over see the workings of the University. But few remember his solution to crime (The Panopticon) which would make the likes of Gitmo seam tame.

Belive me when I say by todays standard they where "R'ht peculier 'himes" in general and Harrowgate and other spar towns where just Oh so much more wierd.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 30, 2010 11:29 PM

Sorry, I forgot to put in my earlier post about "enlightend Victorian Gentelmen", the main point.

They often payed to have displays put on in public places to spread the enlightenment (as they saw it as individuals).

The fashion appears to have started (along with Xmass trees) by Albert Consort of Queen Victoria who gave us amongst other things the museums in South Kensington London. One of which was the "Great Exhibition" that gave us "The Crystal Palace" which was later moved to a hill and parkland in South East London which became known as Crystal Palace. Where you will also find other Victoriana including a collection of dinosors (all incorrect) that where as one enlightaned Victorian saw them.

So "educational displays" all be it somewhat fanciful where quite common in Victorian Parks, most where tempory or removed but some still remain.

And this idea for "Great Exhibitions" was not unique to Britain they where happening all over the world. A look at the history of "Ferris Wheels" will show equaly as well what was happening at "World Trade Expositions".

I also forgot to mention one Jules Vern in amongst the enlightend authors of the period who put the ideas of science into their work and where in many ways the start of popular SciFi in the English Speaking world. Oh and the odd man of science who went the other way such as "Lewis Carol" (AKA Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Logician, Mathmatician, Christ Church Oxford don and inventor of Proportional Representation).

And there also were hidden away ladies of learning as well such as Ada (King nee Byron), Countess of Lovelace the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron (the afor mentioned Mad Bad and Dangerous to know model for vampires). Friend and corespondant and confidant to Charles Babbage of Difference Engine fame/noteriaty, (who had a significant run in with the orginal Peeler
/Policeman).

I hope this tiny view of the Victorian era puts the picture in a contempary setting and explains it a bit in amongst all the other Victorian "wierdness".

ytFebruary 1, 2010 5:51 AM

@Clive Robinson: are you by any chance from northern England or Scotland?

Also, you might enjoy this blog consisting of archival newspaper articles from the 19th and early 20th century (although it primarily focuses on American newspapers): http://mrparallel.wordpress.com/

Clive RobinsonFebruary 1, 2010 7:54 AM

@ yt,

"are you by any chance from northern England or Scotland?"

Technically or by accident of where I was born I'm from what was once farming country in southern England. My ancesters and some of my relatives are from North of the border. And in the mix is the blood of Londern lightermen and some Austrians/Germans.

However some on meeting me think I've swaped a few genes with a giant redwood ;)

And on good days others think a bear only having a mildly bad hair day 8)

Bryan FeirFebruary 1, 2010 11:44 AM

@Clive Robinson:

Assuming you mean 'phlegmatic' for the bad head cold feeling, it's not really a new word as such... though it had certainly fallen into disuse as the old four humours theory of medicine and temperaments fell into disrepute. Phlegmatic ranks right up there with words like sanguine, melancholic, choleric, bilious...

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