The House on the Flood: 1829

 

Among the numerous things borne down the Medway by the late flood one article created some amusement. The men on board a barge near Maidstone saw at a distance a thatched tenement gaily sailing down the stream.

“Hallo,” cries one, “here comes a house to let. We may as well make a freehold of it.”

“Yes,” replies another, “and at all events the tenant will have no ground rent to pay, and its well supplied with water.”

“Ah,” says a third, “and what’s better, we shan’t have any window-tax to pay, for the d__l of a peep hole can I see in it.”

As the building approached, the men formed different opinions as to its use, one swearing it was a watch-box; another that it was some new-fangled machine going by steam; and the third, who had read “Gulliver’s Travels,” said that probably it was a baby-house from the land of Brobdingnag. At last it came in contact with the barge, and by the assistance of tackling, and some exertion, the little edifice was dragged on board. It had a door, but it was locked. They knocked, but there was no sound of any one within. A consultation was then held as to whether “breaking into the house in the day-time, no person being therein,” would be a felony on this occasion? It was proposed that it should be taken ashore as it was, in the expectation of seeing an advertisement of “Ten Guineas Reward. Stolen or Strayed, a House and Appurtenances;” &c. It was then suggested that it would be more honest for the finders to advertise it in the usual form: “Stopped a House, supposed to have strayed from the Owner, &C. &c.” However, at last it was agreed to take off a little of the thatch, to find whether the furniture was damaged. This operation was proceeded in, and in a few minutes the interior was exposed to view. A general shout of merriment ensued when it was discovered that the little freehold was nothing more than one of those conveniences which are generally placed in the most retired part of a garden, and frequently grace the borders of a river.

Maidstone Gazette.

Morning Journal [London, UK] 9 September 1829

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Despite the jocular tone of the boatmen, the hazards of those conveniences which frequently grace the borders of a river was well-known by the sanitary experts, for example Dr. R. Thorne Thorne, who in an 1867 report to the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, told of privies on the edge of the River Ter discharging their contents within feet of where villagers collected their drinking water. His description of sanitary nuisances during a typhoid outbreak in the village, is perhaps a trifle too pungent for this lax post-Koehler world.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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