The Old Bill

Richard Foster recounts stories which stem from that basic piece of a historian's research - a bill.


0101Financial Returns2005080820051206

What do the Tory agent's accounts in the constituency of Westminster tell us about the election of 1774? And how do they compare with the accounts for the same seat in the 2005 election?

0102Scale Of Charges2005080920051213

From the detailed accounts of Thomas Green, a harpsichord tuner in 18th century Hertford, we detect his instrument's eclipse by the new-fangled piano as it percolates down from the aristocracy to his regular customers.

0103Ringing The Changes2005081020051220

The churchwardens accounts of Prescot in Lancashire with their detailed costs of continually putting up and taking down the altar, reflect the turbulent changes from Henry VIII's break with Rome to Cromwell's Commonwealth.

0104Arresting Accounts2005081120051227

In the 17th century the parish constables of Manchester were volunteers and it cost them 2d to keep someone in a cell overnight.

Are there any parallels between their lives and the career-constable of today?

0105 LASTA Clean Bill Of Health2005081220060103

Thomas Arthur, an Irish doctor, kept his fee books from 1619 to 1666 in a neat Latin hand leaving to posterity an incomparable record of the state of his nation's health.

0201Painting For Profit20060911

The accounts of the 18th-century painter and engraver Arthur Pond provide a detailed picture of the developing Georgian art market. Returning British colonists wanted pictures for their country houses, and Pond was happy to supply them - either originals or old masters. For a portrait, he required 10 guineas for head and shoulders, 12 guineas if you wanted hands as well.
To compare his world with the art world today, Richard Foster meets portrait painter Jonathan Yeo - who numbers Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch among his sitters.

0202The Cost Of Loving20060912

When Lady Georgiana Spencer of Althorp House, Northampton, married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, in the summer of 1774, the bill for her trousseau was £1486 2s 11d. It included no less than 65 pairs of shoes (£46 12s 6d) and 318 pairs of gloves! Like her descendant, the late Princess of Wales, Georgiana was a celebrated beauty and fashion icon of her day, with a particular penchant for turban hats with a feather, and the colour green.

To make a comparison in today's world, Richard attends an upmarket wedding at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, and at the high end of the fashion market meets Elizabeth Emanuel - who designed the famous dress for the Princess of Wales for her big day in 1981.

0203A Wooden Performance20060913

Soon after the famous actor and theatre manager David Garrick bought a house at 6 Adelphi Terrace in 1771, Dr Johnson observed: 'He now lives rather as a prince than as an actor'.

The surviving bills of Chippendale, Haig & Co for the furnishing of Garrick's house prove the good doctor's point - the total cost was £931 9s 31/2d.

Thomas Chippendale had expanded his furniture-making business to offer a complete interior decoration service, and his bills detail every room of Garrick's house.

What is the modern equivalent of Garrick's trendy and ostentatious decor? Richard accompanies a contemporary interior designer on a similar project.

0204Material Assets20060914

In the 1620s, cloth merchant Roger Cutler just about managed to keep his head above water as competition from the Low Countries cut into his export trade. The records reveal that blue was the colour of the day, and Suffolk was famous for its blue cloths.

Richard Foster finds the Baltic connections alive and well as he drops into a Polish deli in Ipswich, but Suffolk ships now export rye to Europe rather than cloth, and in the local museum, curator David Jones discusses why the woollen trade began to fail in Roger Cutler's time.

0205 LASTPaying The Piper20060915

Making ends meet as an orchestral musician has never been easy, as Richard finds out when he investigates the Royal Philharmonic Society accounts in the first half of the 19th Century. The rate of pay depended to a certain extent on how well the season went, with the leaders in the violin section seeing their pay drop from £52.10s to £27 after a particularly bad season in 1840.
Roger Wright, Controller of Radio 3, describes the balancing act of running orchestras in the 21st Century and rewarding creativity, while Chris Banks, curator of music at the British Library, outlines the changes in orchestral life between then and now. For instance, no conductor fees appear until 1845, when the role of conductor began the climb to its present star status.