The Time Traveller's Guide to
Restoration Britain

On 27 December 2016 it was 100 days until the publication of the UK edition of The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain. Throughout that period I tweeted one miscellenous detail from the book every day up to publication day, 6 April 2017. These of course were in the old days of Twitter, when 140 characters was the limit. A few entries in the following list are longer, and were shortened for tweeting. The whole selection is presented here - although I have to confess, some of these never made it to the public before publication: for some days my spreadsheet simply reads 'missed it'. Anyway, it gives you an idea of the sort of details that characterise the book.

  1. The suicide rate in the freezing, cruel, hierarchical late 17th century is half of that of the modern world.
  2. When Sir Robert Vyner's black page boy dies in about 1664 he has the body dried in an oven & keeps it as a curiosity.
  3. Charles II's illegitimate offspring include six dukes and an earl. Part of the English aristocracy is privileged purely on the grounds that it is the result of the king's lust.
  4. After the Great Fire the king declares that St Paul's Cathedral will be rebuilt - but it partially collapses in 1668.
  5. In April 1691 Edmond Halley invents a new diving suit to recover treasure from a ship off the south coast.
  6. Although Charles II's most famous mistress, Nell Gwyn. remains a commoner, she is given a freehold house in Pall Mall, and her eldest son is created duke of St Albans.
  7. Laxatives are often prescribed by 17th-cent surgeons - including for broken limbs and gunshot wounds. 1 week to go!
  8. In 1674, 795 Londoners die of measles. The following year, just one person does.
  9. Plague is only the 5th biggest killer in 17th century London. More people die from tuberculosis.
  10. William Dampier accidentally circumnavigates the world in 1679-91, due to some unsavoury friends, and then turns from pirate to author. 10 days to publication!
  11. A new wig can set you back anything from £2 to £10 - but is cheaper if you use your own hair.
  12. Edmund King saves Charles II's life in 1685. The king promises him £1,000 - and dies before the money is paid.
  13. For gout, in 1698 the archdeacon of London recomments drinking a pint of fresh cow's urine daily.
  14. In 1600, 1 in 20 people pay for medical help on the point of death; by 1690 half do. Two weeks to go!
  15. If 'urban' means towns of more than 5,000 people, Wales is 100% rural during the Restoration period.
  16. Downing Street is structurally so weak that only four houses survive and these require heavy rebuilding.
  17. The first public concert of music to a paying audience in England is held in London on 30 Dec 1672.
  18. In 1674 Carew Reynel suggests cutting a canal right across England, so ships can sail from North Sea to Irish Sea.
  19. The dramatis personae of the play Sodom includes King Bolloximian, Queen Cuntigratia, General Buggeranthus and Fuckadilla.
  20. During the Frost Fair of 1684, a whole ox is roasted on the frozen River Thames. 20 days to publication!
  21. In Oxfordshire, three different measurements of the mile are still in use in 1677. Three weeks to go!
  22. Isaac Newton determines the depth of a film of air between a lens and a flat sheet of glass to 1/100,000 of an inch.
  23. The 1st surveyor of printing, in 1663, is against public reading newspapers as 'it makes them too familiar with… their superiors'.
  24. The Chinese scholar Shen Fuzong visits England in 1687. He helps catalogue the Chinese books in the Bodleian.
  25. Married women's possessions in 17th-cent England are all legally their husbands' property.
  26. Approx 375,000 live-in servants earn less than £3 per year in the late 17th cent.
  27. Whitehaven in Cumberland has just 9 cottages in 1631. By 1700, the population has reached 3,000.
  28. The Great Fire destroys 1/5 of London in 5 days - but it takes just 5 years to rebuild most of it.
  29. Schoolboy football in Latin: 'Nisi cavesiam occupabit metam!' (if you don't watch out, he''ll score)
  30. For every 1,000 children born in England in the late 17th century, 17 mothers die in childbirth. 30 days to publication!
  31. Mummia - ground up Egyptian mummy - is used in the late 17th cent for skin treatments & internal bleeding.
  32. If the 12d price of a chicken had increased as much as carpenters' wages since 1660, you'd pay over £66 for one today.
  33. Roger Pratt has no architectural training. He designs Coleshill House after a conversation with Inigo Jones.
  34. You pay postage by volume in the 17th century - 2d per page if sending less than 80 miles, 3d if further.
  35. Starving playwright Thomas Otway dies at age 33, having begged for bread and eaten it too quickly.
  36. John Evelyn praises William Wotton for reading Latin, Greek and Hebrew at age 5 & Arabic & Aramaic at 13
  37. In the 17th-century, your working day in summer might begin at 4am. Luckily alarm clocks have just been invented.
  38. Smoulderings from the Great Fire are still noted 6 months after the fire - on 16 March 1667. 40 days to publication!
  39. If you are homeless, the local constable will have you stripped from the waist up and ‘whipped till your back be bloody’.
  40. In 17th century golf, each club only lasts about 10 holes, & balls go out of shape, so you need a new ball every hole.
  41. Slavers who take blacks from Africa to the West Indies like to be followed by young black servants as they stroll around Bristol or Liverpool.
  42. No fewer than 3,000 oxen are led into the city of London to be slaughtered every day in the 1660s.
  43. According to the 17th-century statistician, Gregory King, 2,500 English mariners are lost at sea every year.
  44. Edward Chamberlayne declares in 1676 that ‘a foreign slave brought into England is... free from slavery’.
  45. In 1667 a baptised black woman, Dinah Black, a servant in Bristol, is sold to a slave trader. The buyer intends to take her back to the West Indies, but Dinah refuses to go. The aldermen of Bristol decide she cannot be compelled and order her to be taken off the boat.
  46. The annual homicide rate in late 17th-century England is only about 4 deaths per 100,000: half the rate it was earlier in the century and 3 times as many people are killed in Scandinavia and 6 times as many as in Italy.
  47. The duke of Buckingham is challenged to a duel by the earl of Sandwich about the duke’s refusal to pay his losses on a game of cards.
  48. Christmas is abolished by the Puritans, completely. 'Old Father Christmas' becomes a popular figure as a result.
  49. Alice George marries at the age of 30 and then has 18 pregnancies with 15 live births. 7 weeks to publication!
  50. Life expectation at birth in the late 17th cent is about 33; today it is 81. Fifty days to publication!
  51. Pepys's wife has to hide to avoid seeing their workmen first one Valentine's day as that would mean he would become her valentine for the year.
  52. Whitehall is said to be the largest and ugliest palace in Europe. It burns down in the 1690s.
  53. More books are published in Britain in 1660-1700 (41 years) than in the 175 years from 1484 to 1659.
  54. Some 17th-century lords feel justified in complaining how much they have to pay in bribes to secure an MP's election.
  55. Before 1660 the term 'doctor' normally related to clergymen; afterwards it becomes synonymous with physicians.
  56. By 1663 there are no fewer than 82 coffee shops in London - despite a fear it makes your infertile.
  57. Pepys discovers his neighbour's cesspit has overflowed when he steps in 'a great pile of turds' in his own cellar.
  58. The horse population of England almost doubles over the four decades 1660-1700.
  59. Robert Wolseley fights a duel with the Hon. William Wharton in 1689 on the grounds that he doesn’t like the man’s poetry: he kills him with a wound to the buttocks.
  60. In 1680s live cats are placed inside 5 November bonfire figures, which are dressed as the pope. 60 days to publication!
  61. Hugh Audley starts with £200 and through money lending dies worth a reputed £400,000 in 1662.
  62. In 1695 Gregory King predicts the future population of England will hit a ceiling of 11 million in the year 2,300.
  63. Early English 'umbrelloes' cost a fortune - about £2 each - when most workers earn 10s or less per week.
  64. Most of the stonework of London before the Great Fire is blackened with the soot in the smoke and smog of London.
  65. The Theatre Royal, London, is built in 1663 for the princely sum of £2,500; it burns down in 1672.
  66. In places the blackened corpses of tar-covered highwaymen remain in gibbets 20 or 30 years after their execution.
  67. The volume of medicinal drugs imported into England in 1700 is roughly ffity times that of 1600.
  68. On some of the steeper streets in London you’ll see carters and carriage drivers whipping their horses, and all the street boys and passers-by joining in, thrashing the poor beasts.
  69. The Great Bed of Ware measures 10ft 9in square and sleeps 12 people. Chances are that one of them will snore.
  70. In the late 17th century, 37% of all children born do not make it to the age of 15. 10 weeks to publication!
  71. The term ‘Grand Tour’ is first coined in 1670 by Richard Lassels in his book An Italian Voyage.
  72. Isaac Newton knows the Bible better than anyone, and writes several theological treatises alongside his scientific works.
  73. Robert Hooke, the great scientist and architect, has a long affair with his niece, who lives with him as his housekeeper.
  74. Lady de Lisle entertains a clergyman and his friend fleeing from Sedgemoor in 1685. She is beheaded for treason as a result.
  75. More land is enclosed over the course of the 17th century than any other century - about 1/4 of the whole of England.
  76. Thames Street, one of the busiest roads in London, has pinchpoints just 11ft wide before the Great Fire of 1666
  77. The 3 greatest manuscript libraries (the Old Royal, Robert Cotton's and Dr Vossius's) are all closed to researchers in the late 17th century.
  78. The Infanticide Act (1624) presumes an unmarried mother is guilty of murder if her baby dies. The sentence is death.
  79. The Chamberlen family know about obstetric forceps from the early 17th century but keep them a secret for more than 100 years.
  80. 'Rum' is short for 'Rumbullion' the orginal name for the drink. Also known in the 17th cent as 'Kill water'. 80 days to publication!
  81. Sir John Brownlow has 153 pictures at Belton House in 1686 - a substantial art collection by the standards of the time.
  82. Lord Bedford's personal supply of tobacco in late 17th cent is 30lbs per year - 1.25 ounces per day. He lives into his 80s.
  83. And then we come to the stockings. Gentlemen, you will get used to wearing them, I assure you.
  84. Just one wooden building in Northampton survives the great fire of 1675 - a pub that the drinkers doused in beer.
  85. The duke of Beaufort has 12 country residences in 1680, the duke of Norfolk 10.
  86. John Locke meets Alice George in 1681 when she claims to be 108 years old (& possibly is). She lives another 12 years.
  87. In 1700 there are 3 sheep per head of the population in England; in modern world, there are three people to every sheep.
  88. In the late 17th century 6% of the population of London die of problems arising from their teeth.
  89. Several bishops propose in 1666 that Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan, aged 78, be burnt as a heretic.
  90. Restoration women are burned to death for coin clipping; their menfolk are hanged for the same crime.
  91. Dr Thomas Willis, holder of 2 medical degrees, FRS and FRCP, prescribes powdered human skull for apoplexy.
  92. In 1660 your table place is laid with a knife and napkin: forks still very rare, to the horror of visiting Italians.
  93. When gentlemen travel together, they often share a bed at an inn. Just hope that the fleas bite your bedfellow, not you.
  94. Horse hire in Restoration England will set you back 1d per mile or 12d per day. 94 days to publication!
  95. Restoration men are on average just 5ft 7in, women 5ft 1in. Unless you are small, you'll have difficulty fitting in.
  96. The coldest March ever recorded in Great Britain is that of 1674; the coldest May, 1698; the coldest July, 1695; & the coldest September 1694. So wrap up warm!
  97. The last death sentence for witchcraft in England is passed down in 1685; Newton's Principia Mathematica - the basis of modern science - is published just 2 years later.
  98. In 1688, 160 peers have an average income of £2,800; a few £20,000. Most maidservants earn about £2 per year, plus board.
  99. At the time of the first Great Fire of Edinburgh (1700) some buildings in the city are 11, 12 or even 13 storeys high.
  100. London is relatively more dominant in 1660-1700 than ever before or since: about 420% the size of the next ten largest English towns.