Today I learned some strange things and I want to share them with you

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  1. The north-west of England in the 18th century was a hotbed of religious non-conformism. In particular, it was the birthplace of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, whose founder George Fox had a vision on Pendle Hill in Lancashire. The word “Quaker” was a pejorative nickname at first, an attempt to ridicule the piety of these strange non-conformists and the way they cowered before God, but it was eventually proudly worn by the Quakers themselves.

    One sect that split from the Quakers in Lancashire were the Shakers, named in rhyming fashion for their continuation of an ecstatic style of worship at a time when mainstream Quakers were moving away from such charismatic practices.

    Shakers dancing. Engraving, 1840.

    Perhaps most notably, the Shakers believed in genuine equality between the sexes; their first real leader was Mother Ann Lee, who led the emigration of the Shakers to America in the 1770s and established a colony in New York.

    The most enduring legacy of the Shakers isn’t their religious teaching, though, but rather their furniture. With a social code that emphasised hard work and craftsmanship, and an aesthetic belief that prioritised simple, elegant forms, Shaker furniture was prophetic in many ways of 20th-century modernist designs, and remains popular for that reason.

    The Shakers’ commitment to gender equality and craftsmanship is perhaps best embodied by Tabitha Babbitt (1779–1853), a wonderfully named craftswoman who invented both the circular saw and a method for the mass manufacture of false teeth.

    Read more posts from:

    1. 2023
    2. January 2023
  2. In the 19th century the temperance movement emerged in Britain, initially advocating abstention from spirits but later, with the rise of “teetotalism”, the total rejection of all alcoholic drinks.

    Central to the movement were so-called “temperance bars”, which served only non-alcoholic drinks and aimed to offer an alternative to the temptations of the boozy pub. Countless non-alcoholic drinks that survive to this day were launched and marketed in this period, from Dandelion & Burdock to Vimto.

    The exterior of Fitzpatrick's temperance bar in Rawtenstall, Lancashire.

    Nowadays only one temperance bar remains in the UK: Fitzpatrick’s in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. Lancashire, with its strong traditions of working-class self-improvement and religious nonconformism, was the heart of the temperance movement in Britain. It was a natural location to move to for the Fitzpatricks, an Irish family who owned a herbalist business. They established the bar in 1899 when the temperance movement had already peaked, with countless temperance bars and hotels across the region.

    In an ironic twist, the owner of Fitzpatrick’s was arrested for drink driving in 2012, having been found with twice the legal alcohol limit in his blood at 2:30am in Burnley.

    Read more posts from:

    1. 2022
    2. November 2022